swiss pines november, 2018

I always read about Swiss Pines and the magical gardens before I moved to Chester County but I never realized where it was located until I lived out here a while.

Where it is— where it lies in ruins is along Charlestown Road.

I am really bummed out that I will probably never ever get to see the gardens and that they will probably just continue to rot into oblivion.

I actually wrote about Swiss Pines before. Why it has always interested me was because of the wonderful Japanese woodland gardens.

My personal gardens have so much of a shade garden and woodland garden component to it here in Chester County, that Swiss Pines is exactly the kind of place I would love to explore to learn what they did. Gardens like this are always inspiring.

But I am losing hope that the gardens will ever be restored and re-opened. I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t think I am. My fear is someday it will all just be bulldozed under for more development.

Today when we drove by, the bamboo seemed larger and more oppressive than usual. (It can get really tricky on Charlestown Road in front of those gardens especially as we go in the winter because something is always falling into the road.)

Even in their state of ruin, the gardens of Swiss Pines still beckon. When you drive by you catch little glimpses of what lies on the other side of the bamboo. Remnants of paths and little footbridges, Japanese garden ornaments. Way overgrown plantings.

I think Swiss Pines is a treasure. Right now, it remains a tantalizing mystery disappearing into the overgrowth.

going to france for dinner via chester county

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We have this sort of unofficial supper club with some of our Chester County residing Shipley friends. Last night, we were treated to dinner at the home of one of these friends.  We all went to France via Chester County because another guest at the table was renown local chef, (an actual honest to goodness amazing French Chef)  Sylvie Ashby.

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Chef Sylvie 

Chef Sylvie lives in West Chester. She was born and raised in Normandy, France. She always wanted to share the love and passion for French cooking and comfort food the French traditional way by only using seasonal fresh produce and meats from the local markets.

Last evening’s dinner was one of my favorite meals ever.  I grew up on bœuf bourguignon or beef Burgundy or bœuf à la Bourguignonne is not some ordinary stew, as delicious as they may beef.  It is elevated far beyond that and if done properly like last night, the meat does not disintegrate but melts in your mouth. Last night, it was probably hands down the best I have ever had.

We started with hors d’oevres of belgian endive boats piped with a light and fluffy goat cheese, goat cheese toasts, and one of my favorite purely French treats I have never made, gougères!Related image Gougères are these fluffy puffs of warm pastry made with Gruyère cheese.  (Check out this recipe for gougères from Alain Ducasse.)

After our main course of bœuf bourguignon we had a marvelous salad with fresh greens and a delightful vinaigrette with an amazing blood orange infused olive oil from a Taste of Olive in West Chester. And the bread? Amazing as always from La Baguette Magique in West Chester.

The beef and cheese were also locally sourced.  I forget whose goat cheeses we had, and

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Chef Sylvie Courtesy Photo

I do not know the farm name for the beef but for some reason I think it was from down near Landenberg.

And dessert? Channel your inner Julia Child, it was Floating Island! Floating Island is a light as a feather dessert consisting of meringue floating on crème anglaise.  The crème anglaise is custardy and delicious.  Chef Sylvie finished the dessert with a light caramel drizzle.

This dinner was a true mini vacation to France.  I love when we get together to have dinner with our friends, and we loved being introduced to Chef Sylvie.

And guess what? You too can hire Chef Sylvie to bring the taste of France to your home for intimate gatherings.  Chef Sylvie specializes in French country cooking, bringing France to the comfort of your own home for private dinner parties.  And her prices are emminently reasonable. She also will cater events like birthday parties, Girls ‘night out, Crepes bar party, Book Clubs, Wine Clubs…her website is cuisinedesylvie.com . You can also find her on Facebook Cuisine de Sylvie.

One thing I did not ask her is if she teaches cooking classes.  I think that would be super fun!

Stay safe in the snow and ice!

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gossip down the lane….

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Some days I feel as if I wear the Scarlet Letter. No, not the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, although in a sense it’s similar. The Scarlet D for different. Yes, yes, shocking and sad as it may be, apparently once again I am failing Stepford Wife school? Whatever shall I do, gentle readers?

“People will question all the good things they hear about you but believe all the bad without a second thought.”

Today I learned among other things that apparently I wish to control local social media. That is pretty amusing a comment and perhaps I should be flattered but mostly I am amused at the preposterousness of the statement. Yes, the adult gossip girls are at it again and to them I say thanks but no, I prefer a healthy balance between the tom foolery of social media and my real life.  My real life is far more satisfying and amazing. I wish their lives were  as well.

Where do these people come up with this stuff? And how is it they feel so free to trash talk and gossip about people they don’t know and have never had an actual face to face conversation with? Or they feel free to be nice to you to your face when you help them with things, and then just gossip and trash talk you when your usefulness has finished?

Sadly, there is in human nature the desire to gossip or chatter about others.  Anyone who says they haven’t done it isn’t being honest with themselves. I have written about it before because it is an interesting study in basic human nature or human flaws, take you pick.

Gossip is described as:

Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts, views and slander. This term is used pejoratively by its reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted, and it also describes idle chat, a rumor of personal, or trivial nature….The term is sometimes used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, as (for example) through excited discussion….

What is it about human nature that makes some people relish causing distress of others?

Why is it in the human dynamic to be cruel to one and other?

Have I lived the perfect life? No. But I like to think I am honest about who I am and I do actually try to be nice to people. Are there some people it is virtually impossible to be nice to? Yes indeed. And if you know me, you know I don’t suffer fools gladly.  I try to avoid those people.

Truthfully, those who are mean and spiteful gossips  “spreading the love” fall into the category of those people you choose not to have in your life after a point or at all in the first place.  Psychologically I can only wonder what they are punishing the world for, but the truth of the matter is none of us are getting any younger. Sooner or later you have to let crap go and move on. And you also have to accept people are different from you and as human beings we are not designed to be carbon copies of one and other.  We are truly allowed to have different opinions and to be different people.

Maybe have an actual tea party instead of sharing the tea? Mean Girls is after all,  so 2004 already.

I have met men who were terrible gossips, but truthfully it is an especially female weapon. It is used in my opinion most often to wound and hurt instead of the person really addressing what is wrong, even within themselves.

Why are women so cruel to each other?  Some say it is a basic evolutionary drive of women that men don’t have.  Some say it is low self-esteem. I think personally some people are just mean and have nothing better to do.

An article in Women’s Day Magazine asserts the reason gossip exists is to figure people out:

“Psst…what’s the latest?” We’ve all done it: passed on a juicy piece of  gossip or listened eagerly to someone else’s dish. And although we may have felt  a twinge of guilt, we kept gabbing anyway.

The truth is, 80 percent of our everyday conversations are purely personal,  with more of them being gossip than anything else, according to a 2009 study by  Nicholas Emler, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Surrey in  England. The main reason we keep going back for more: “It’s irresistibly fun,”  says Frank McAndrew, PhD, a professor of psychology at Knox College in  Galesburg, Illinois….But that’s just part of the story. Why we do it…..The short answer: to figure each other out. Since we don’t ever really know what  other people are thinking, collecting information from and about them—in effect,  playing amateur detective—is as close as we can get to being inside their heads.

And then there is this whole theory of gang gossip. and it thrives on social media.

And again, I am not perfect, have gossiped a day or two in my life. So maybe I am just evolving as an adult, but I have noticed how women use gossip and words as a weapon.  Some of it has been directed at me, some of it  directed at people I know.  And in each and every case, not for any positive gain.  So at the end of the day I have to ask: maybe we should all try to be nicer to each other and stay out of the pain of others?

I know a lot of women I have encountered in one way or the other since I moved to Chester County do not know how to take me.  I speak my mind, and I do not really play girl games.  I found those games childish at the junior high lunch table, and pretty much have maintained that sentiment all of my life.

I just do not get these women who are all about things like female empowerment, yet everything they do is about tearing a woman down.  They want you to love them and what they do, and they hope on a certain level they can control everything and everyone around them.  And when you disagree with them you are a bad person. And above all else you cannot be different.  You must be Stepford-esque as that is their sole comfort level when you get down to brass tacks.

These women will take to their local Facebook groups and beat their collective breasts about one thing or another, and it is especially humorous if someone points out they are incorrect about something.  Then you are MEAN and you can’t be MEAN to them. (You see we didn’t get the memo that only they are permitted to be mean.)

If you disagree with those who would be queens of one local society or another you are gossiped about and even flat-out lied about.  It’s one long tall tale spread out across social media and you are supposed to accept it as gospel and never challenge it. Truthfully, it is sometimes easier not to challenge the idiocy because they move along to the next bit of inanity, but sometimes you just can’t.  And you commit the cardinal sin of using the brain God gave you. Then it’s game on with them. They must at all costs beat you back into submission (or so they think.)

Some women are cruel to each other over some sort of unconscious fear or need for control being triggered by someone they perceive as a threat for whatever reason.  (Even if that reason to most of us makes no sense whatsoever. ) Some women just behave badly because they feel they can, that it is their divine right. Some just have poor interpersonal skills and some are just keyboard tigers who barely open their mouths in real life, but online have a completely different persona since they think they can just hide behind a keyboard and their words do not matter.

I was in a sorority in college that was an actual sisterhood and pretty cool.  Since then as I have aged, I keep encountering these groups of women who think they are a sisterhood, but if they were they wouldn’t behave the way they do.

These women don’t realize that when they complain about kids being bullied in school that HELLO where do they think the kids are learning the behavior?  They want to lead the march against cyber bullying, yet they do it.  If it wasn’t such a sad bit of commentary on human nature, it would truly be funny.

Women on women meanness is nothing new.  It is written about all of the time. I am not breaking any new ground here. It just causes me to marvel. Probably because hypocrisy never sits well with me. They all decry negativity, yet what are gossip and rumors anyway?

Gossip is driven by people who need to feel better about themselves by tearing down or spreading crap about others .  It is destructive to the fabric of a community, which is why when these are situations when you need a community to come together, they sometimes won’t.

The flip side some say that socially we probably could not function without gossip.  Maybe that is true since it is human nature to try to share with others in the hopes of finding commonality, or an attempt to fit in better.

People spread rumor and gossip to feel better about themselves, exert power, try to gain control, to get attention and to seek revenge.  It’s all about the drama.  To quote Bernard Baruch (and the quote is often attributed to Dr. Seuss) : Those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind, don’t matter.

I can’t control what people say or think about me, I can only control who I am.  And at the end of the day, if these creatures want to tear me down or anyone else, that’s on them and it’s their loss.

We are just days before Thanksgiving.  Couldn’t we all put our time to better use?

Just what I am thinking about today.

Pax.