just tacky

I used to live in Lower Merion Township.

Growing up, it was a marvelous place.  Nice people, clean streets, pretty houses. It was safe.  Kids could even ride their bikes on their neighborhood streets and play kick the can and other games with neighborhood kids on warm summer nights.

“Back in the day” as they say, there was still big money living there, only it wasn’t so tackily or arrogantly displayed.  I mean, you knew there were people with lots and lots of money, only it was considered somewhat déclassé to discuss it and to be so showy.

Well, anyway,  that all  has long since flown out  the window as a policy of polite behavior in polite society, and it is part of the reason why a lot of people are leaving the Main Line.  Yes there are rubes to still buy into the myth, but there are a lot of people leaving and considering getting out of dodge.

Yesterday I saw something that literally left me slack-jawed.   A press release out of my former township basically bally hooing that they have more money within their boundaries than anyone else.

In an economy where people are struggling to make ends meet, losing their homes, losing their jobs, I find such an announcement somewhat staggering.  Also interesting to note is as much as Lower Merion would like to ignore it, they have a fair amount of Sheriff Sale action in the Magic Kingdom too, and not just in the low rent district.

But in Lower Merion they have long denied this economy was a problem.  Just look at the crazy salary and benefit package they ended up giving the township manager, Douglas Cleland.  Look at the taxes all the way around. Everything is relative, and while they are patting themselves on the back, the simple fact remains that a heck of a lot of residents feel like they work to support the township.

And for this great amount of wealth they support and applaud in Lower Merion, one would think they could do the basics like keep the roads in good repair.  But they don’t.  And when you go into the business districts, well there seems to be a lot more trash around than there used to be and sometimes you can smell  certain smells on the street like you do in more urban areas. And there is crime they don’t want to talk about and a school district always teetering on disaster.  (LMSD seems to be having contract issues too, and they just made another large land purchase too.)

There are a lot of lovely places where people can choose to make their homes along the Main Line and into Chester County.  And they don’t have municipalities that feel the constant need to point out the top 2%.  And of course there is the thought process that  maybe Lower Merion should think about these residents with vast resources who don’t feel like being pointed out.

Lower Merion, you aren’t the Hamptons.  Here’s the press release:

Lower Merion Near the Top of CNN Money’s Top-Earning Communities in America

Township ranked fifth for median family income and home price  Posted Date: 8/21/2012 5:05 PM

CNN Money, an online combination of CNN, Fortune Magazine and Money Magazine, has ranked Lower Merion Township near the top of its recently published “Top-earning Towns” list – part of its ongoing “Best Places to Live” series.

Next to a photo of a student entering Pembroke Hall on the campus of Bryn Mawr College, CNN Money puts Lower Merion’s median family income at $153,309, and the Township’s median home price at $553,498.

“Part of Pennsylvania’s wealthy Main Line corridor that popped up along the rail line of the same name, Lower Merion got its start when railroad executives built massive summer homes here,” the online newsmagazine wrote. “Today, it’s an elite suburb of Philadelphia and dotted with colleges, including women’s liberal arts school Bryn Mawr, which is also one of the township’s largest employers.”

Overall, Lower Merion is ranked 5th among the 25 national locations listed.

“We have a terrific community here in Lower Merion, and a wonderful quality of life,” said Lower Merion Township Manager Doug Cleland. “Our residents already know that, of course, but it is nice to see the national recognition.”….

“Residents bring lawn chairs and blankets to twilight concerts at the Bryn Mawr Gazebo all summer long and enjoy their pick of sledding hills in the winter months,” CNN Money wrote about the Township. “The area’s 682 acres of parkland and top-rated schools in the state form a well-rounded nest for well-heeled Pennsylvanians.”

Lower Merion is the only Pennsylvania community ranked among the top 25. Ranking 2nd, 3rd and 4th, respectively, are the towns of Greenwich, Conn., Palo Alto, Calif. and Newport Beach, Calif.

There are lots of places with outdoor concerts in the summer around the area, not just next to a very contentious library re-build at Ludington Library in Bryn Mawr inhaling car and truck fumes from Lancaster Avenue.  And you could of course consider they might be speaking of sledding on the roads since Lower Merion is not always so speedy with the snow plow.

Anyway, did not mean to go off on a tangent outside of Chester County, but I just found this whole thing distasteful.  And predictable.  Personally, I prefer communities that don’t have to brag about things like how much money residents have.  I prefer communities that have local governments that just do a decent job.

Can’t say that about Lower Merion.  After all, how many years later, and there is still no new train station in Ardmore or a real “redevelopment” there is there?  Wouldn’t it be best for all concerned if Congressman Jim Gerlach who gave Lower Merion $6 million for a transit center just took the money back?  Over half has been spent, there is no station and yet little boroughs like Malvern can complete a train station makeover complete with pedestrian tunnel and Paoli can get a shovel in the ground?

Face it when it comes to dollars and cents, some local governments may see dollar signs but have no sense.

the best kind of summer afternoon

The best kind of summer afternoon involves sunny skies, low humidity, me and my camera.  Today was one of those days and I loved every minute of it!

My friend Pattye Benson asked for my help with the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s 8th Annual Historic House Tour that is slated for September 22nd.

So off I went to photograph to my heart’s content.  What a glorious afternoon and what a fun tour this will be!

Interested in the tour?

8th ANNUAL HISTORIC HOUSE TOUR
9/22/2012
12 Noon – 5 PM
Ticket Price $35
Prepaid Tickets only, no sales at the door

See Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust Website for more details and how/where to buy tickets!

This was much more fun than being packed in like sardines over at the Helicopter Museum to be sandwiched between foaming at the mouth tea partiers and equally foaming at the mouth Obama lovers to listen to V.P. candidate Paul Ryan blather.

Yeah vote in November, but before you have to think about that, buy tickets to the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust’s 8th annual Historic House Tour.  It is all for a great cause and historic preservation!

Keep it local, folks.  Hearth and home and history will be here long after politicians have come and gone.

 

 

 

 

 

do you love ludwigs corner horse show?

….Well if you do, they need volunteers. And after the year they have had at the hands of helpful West Vincent government types, they deserve the help!

It will be more fun than the mad cattle car crush to go see VP Candidate Paul Ryan tomorrow at the Helicopter Museum (and if you are going and have never been to one of these things they are hot and crowded.  Be prepared to stand for HOURS and for the candidate to be LATE.  This is a large group appearance so it will be hell to be in that crowd and to live anywhere near the museum.)

So anyway….If you love horses and love Ludwigs Corner, please consider volunteering Labor Day Weekend.

Please complete the Volunteer Form and e-mail it to mhflick@comcast.net.

Volunteer Flyer

Questions: Please contact MH Flick. 610-914-5270

Mailing address: Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Attn: MH Flick PO Box 754 Uwchland, PA 19480

Find us on Facebook: facebook.com/LudwigsCornerHorseShowVolunteers

And from Chickenman:

This year the show benefits the following:

http://www.ludwigshorseshow.org/Home/Beneficiary/tabid/61/Default.aspx

Ludwig’s Corner Fire Company
Talk about supporting the public! When your house is on fire, these are the ones that come to save your family and property. Attending the
Horse Show benefits…YOU!

Horsepower of Life

“Enriching the lives of families living
with cancer”  What more needs to said?  A local non-profit that works with
families that have that huge hurdle to overcome.

Ludwigs Corner Horse
Show  Website: http://www.ludwigshorseshow.org/

gnocchi for dinner

Well I already told you how to make my Bolognese made with ground turkey, right?  Lucky you all, I will give you the quick and dirty on easy as pie homemade gnocchi. After all, they are  just  Italian dumplings, kids.

But before we get to the gnocchi of it all, I messed with my sauce today.  Did not have mushrooms, so I omitted those.  Diced up a handful (four) sun-dried tomatoes though to add another layer.

I make gnocchi when I have leftover mashed potatoes.  I learned how to make potato and ricotta gnocchi from my great aunts by feel, so the ingredients are an approximation, maybe might need tweaking (or not.)

2 cups flour (all-purpose)

1 1/2 cups mashed potatoes (they were plain mashed.  You can use sweet potatoes, and pumpkin as well as ricotta to make gnocchi but that is another conversation entirely.)

1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese (I like the Parmesan-Romano blend)

Italian seasoning and garlic powder

Salt and pepper to taste

1 -3 tablespoons olive oil

Mash the flour, grated cheese and potatoes together.  Add the egg, olive oil,  and Italian seasoning and a little salt and pepper.

Do not overmix, but gather your dough into a ball, break off pieces you roll into uniform dough tootsie rolls with your hands (you know so they are round?)

Take a small sharp knife and on a board covered in parchment slice out even little bits of dough.

Lay out on lightly floured board for a couple of hours to dry a bit. I refrigerate mine right on the baking sheet.

Boil water with salt and oil, cook your gnocchi until they all float to surface (5 minutes or so.)

Scoop out gently with strainer.

Add sauce.

Eat yourself into a pasta coma.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

old things, new uses

I am learning not to take in what I can’t use.   Mind you, saying that, I like a lot more around me than my sweet man.  He is definitely guy minimalist, and well I like layers.  (He will tell you I like lots of things on the walls which is entirely true.)

So yesterday we went out to my favorite barn, the Smithfield Barn on Little Conestoga. He found a couple of tools and I found a couple of little things too.  Now I am also guessing the lore of the barn is spreading, because they were doing a brisk business. (saw the name of a high school friend in the guest book for the barn too!)

I was sick of my spoon rest in the kitchen – a plastic souvenir plate was the latest one and it was  beat up and ready for recycle day- and looking for a replacement.  No, I don’t use traditional spoon-shaped rests I like using funky dishes I find.  Orphans from garage sales mostly.

Yesterday at the barn for literally a couple of bucks I got a funky old pressed (molded) milk glass plate shaped like a big strawberry but is actually a bunch of grapes embossed on the bottom. Circa 1950s to 1960s I believe.  (Ironically I saw them way too much expensive  on EBay and Etsy too )

I also found another pretty glass dish (Depression era I think) that probably had a life once holding pickles or  relish or something, a funky vintage locket that I think is from  somewhere around  the depression (some sort of mystery base metal and a fabulously long chain), and a really super cool wooden box that looked like a book.

Made in Germany for I *think* a shipping line whose name I am trying to decipher, when I got it home and cleaned off a couple of layers of dirt gently, I could see what was faded on the lid of the box: one of the Yardley Cries of London ads, which were based on the Wheatley’s Cries of London Series. “Fresh Gathered Peas, Young Hastings” to be precise.  I will note there are a LOT of reproductions of these “Cries of London” series, so although I think the series is fun, I would never pay much for any of them unless I knew for sure what I was getting.

The box is pretty beat up, not sure if it could be restored, but wow is it fun.

Plus I got a hostess gift for where we were going to dinner last night.  Wish I had taken a photo – very cool leather box that was lacquered on the inside.

I was also checking out the depression glass Kris had at the barn yesterday. There was some really pretty pink and green pieces, but they were more than I wanted to spend.  Kris said she has had a hard time finding it reasonably priced lately.  Wonder if it is the Miller effect?  You know that ridiculous blonde who always pays too much on that new show Market Warriors?  She is the worst treasure hunter ever and can’t dicker worth a damn and she is obsessed by glass.

I am not sure I like the show Market Warriors because they don’t make much sense. And the auction houses they chose after they went to Renningers and Brimfield made less sense.  They should be going to auction in regions closer to where they are buying.  BBC’s Bargain Hunt is a much better show.  American Pickers is a fun show BUT since they started those guys seem to be a little big for their britches and well I am beginning to wonder what kind of advance team goes out and scouts ahead of time?

I am a firm believer that price in some of these collectibles is driven by what people see on TV.  However, one of my favorite shows of that genre is Cash and Cari. Host Cari Cucksey has an estate sale and repurpose/antiques/collectibles business in Michigan and it is so nice to see her show because the sales are what you used to see around this area, but not truly any longer.  You know the ones with reasonable pricing as in things are priced to move?

Some of the “estate sale” people around the Main Line and Chester County are not so true.  And some who shall remain nameless actually bring things into the sales – they are not in the houses at all and that is not ethical.  They aren’t all or even close to Garage Sale Chic Chester County  or Susan Vitale whose sales are well worth it.  (Well Susan Vitale used to have one of the best known antiques stores on the Main Line so you know she knows what she is doing!)

If you are doing a garage sale or estate sale, price to sell – not like you are in a store front setting. Sales by Helen is one of those. Don’t quite know how she got so big and why most are willing to pay her prices, but I am not.  I find Helen’s sales overpriced at best.

There aren’t too many Smithfield Barn weekends left, so I encourage you to go have a pick.  But don’t fear, when you move into the fall there are great opportunities to be found at places like St. David’s Fair or the white elephant tables at Historic Harriton House’s Annual Plantation Fair.  And a whole new season of Clover Market in Ardmore.

When you go treasure hunting, buy what makes you happy.  Unless it is a velvet Elvis painting, you probably won’t go wrong. Happy hunting!

fun books

Saw these books up at Chester County Book & Music Company yesterday – there are a whole bunch about different Chester County communities, but the ones on East Goshen and Yellow Springs are way cool.  And speaking of CCBM, have you taken their survey yet or joined the Save the Chester County Book and Music Company Facebook page yet?

And oh yeah, I wrote a little something about Chester County Book & Music Co for philly.com.  Hope you all like it!

is there any better late summer salad than this?

Made this the other day.  Totally easy and delicious.  Summer salads don’t get better than this but if you are going to do it have a high quality balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and really fresh mozzarella and tomatoes that have not been refrigerated.  Otherwise, don’t bother.

 

yes, it’s chili night

Here I am supposed to be writing an article and what am I doing?  Cooking and writing about cooking.

Well it is chili night, so I thought I would share.  Not bragging, but mine is good.

Chop up a large onion and 3 cloves of garlic.  Cook down a bit in canola or Smart Balance oil is a large pan or a dutch oven. Salt a little bit to taste.  Maybe 3 tablespoons of oil.  Chop up 1 large or two small red sweet peppers and 1 jalapeno (both peppers should be seeded and the jalapeno should be diced.)

Add a dash or two of dried oregano, chili powder (I use Jayshree Seasonings’ chili powder blend – their spices and blends are worth ordering), smoked paprika, regular paprika.

When onion starts to get that translucent look to it, toss in 1 1/2 of high quality ground beef (as in Black Angus, low-fat content – it makes a difference).

When the beef is starting to brown, taste what you have cooked so far and adjust the salt and add a couple more dashes of chili powder.

Add two 15 oz cans of beans (kidney, white, black, whatever – I use whatever I have EXCEPT not chick peas)

Add a can of tomatoes chopped or tomato puree (depending on the packaging approximately 26 oz or so)

Add a 6 oz can of tomato paste.

Stir it altogether, and once again adjust chili powder and salt as necessary (I like spicy chili).

Chop up some fresh basil, oregano, and cilantro. Stir it in.

Adjust flame to simmer and let chili burble away for about an hour, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to pan.

Serve as you wish.  I like having crumbled queso fresco, additional chopped cilantro, and sour cream handy.

Freeze the leftovers.

Enjoy!

fifty shades of excellent!

I was up at Chester County Book & Music Company today and found this awesome book (see photo).  Yet one more reason why I love the place!  I am so glad that someone is mocking Fifty Shades of Soft Porn Grey. It is absolutely delightful as a matter of fact!

Yeah, and you all who have bought the book and hate it, well what did you think the book was going to be like if you listened to some of those people?  As my teen nephew wisely said, “consider the source”.   (and if a 14 year old knows better, I rest my case.)

I say recycle Fifty Shades of Grey to the circular file and replace it with Fifty Shames of Earl Grey.

 

 

happy 100th julia child!

Julia Child would have been 100 today.  PBS Digital Studios did this fun tribute.

In celebration of her 100th birthday, Julia Child Remixed by John D. Boswell,  for PBS Digital Studios. Please support your local PBS station as they have many cool programs!

Visit pbs.org/food to join in the celebration, check out  recipes and more. You can leave your own tribute to The French Chef by cooking a Julia recipe and sharing it on Facebook and Twitter with #CookForJulia.

Special thanks go to the Julia Child Foundation for their support. The French Chef episodes used courtesy of WBGH/Boston. For more, go to http://www.wgbh.org/JC100

Follow them on Twitter: @pbsds.

I keep wondering what Julie Powell will say today – she is the author of the Julie/Julia project which I loved. It is a shame all the links are broken to what was her original Salon blog – I guess the original is gone now?   Her book was turned into a lovely movie with Meryl Streep. After the movie, she came out with another book called Cleaving.

Anyway, I grew up watching Julia Child on TV in black and white and I also have a couple of her books, including a vintage copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and her memoirs My Life in France.

Incidentally if you can master a few Julia classics, you can cook.  She gives you bones.  Her roast chicken recipe is still the best on the planet.  My own roast chicken recipe uses hers as a base. – where my recipes are my own that I share, the basic techniques for my roast chicken recipe were learned from her basic roast chicken recipe.  You see, a lot of chefs forget the basics, which as a related aside is why I love Ina Garten so much (The Barefoot Contessa). Like Julia Child, she is a big believer in basics. And in order to develop your own recipes, professional or home chef, you have to master some basics.

Happy Birthday Julia ChildBon Appétit!