the fortunate ones

IMG_3471

So a couple of years ago my childhood (and adult ) friend Karen sent me a copy of her sister- in – law Gayle’s then new-ish novel If I Stay. Yes, that Gayle as in Gayle Forman.

When we moved house, the book got lost. I told Karen that recently and the other day a package arrived. It contained if I stay, Where She Went, and I Was Here.

I just finished re-reading If I Stay. It was just as powerful the second time around. I was struck once again not only of the beauty of the book and it’s power, but how accurate Gayle’s teenage voice was. Reading If I Stay again puts you the reader right back there in those teenage years. It’s amazing, actually. If you haven’t read it, don’t just discount it as writing for teens and young adults because it is so much more than that.

Gayle Forman’s books got a couple of friends and I thinking how fortunate we are. You don’t really get older or even just grow up without going through stuff. You get older, you get baggage, you get the bumps of life along the way, but how lucky are we all to just be alive? We are indeed the fortunate ones.

Given the premise of the book and the accident in a winter setting it also made me think of the tragic and deadly accident on Route 100 on Valentine’s Day that tragically took the lives of two teens out with their family. What happened could have happened to any of us. But for the grace of God go we all.

There is actually a community meeting tomorrow about this. As per The Daily Local:

Calling itself the Chester County Coalition Against Driving Under the Influence, the group is scheduled to hold a town hall-style meeting at the Westtown-East Goshen Police headquarters meeting room on Old Wilmington Pike, south of West Chester.

The object of the meeting is to begin the process to create awareness, change laws, and establish solutions for the DUI issue in the county, according to one of the participants. Those speaking will include WEGO Police Chief Brenda Bernot and West Whiteland resident Kimberly Fellows, the mother of a DUI homicide victim.

Westtown East Goshen Police are located at 1041 Wilmington Pike in West Chester. The meeting starts at 7 pm tomorrow February 19 and Kim Fellows, one of the speakers, is a friend. I am very proud of her for choosing to be a speaker, she is very brave I think.

And GIANT kudos to another lady I have been fortunate to meet and start to get to know since moving to Chester County, the amazing Joy Vining-Crozier for getting this all together and for being a driving force for good here in Chester County. This new coalition is coming together thanks to her goodness and hard work.

These ladies deserve our support. They are angels among us in the flesh.

Now, back to my books. I am looking forward to reading the other two books Where She Went and I Was Here. (Hint hint hint to Chester County Book Company: get Gayle Forman to Chester County for a reading and book signing!)

Thanks for stopping by. Be safe out there. Life is precious

local biz shout out: uhler’s seed and feed

IMG_3468

Supporting local small businesses is important in any community. It is often difficult to do that along parts of the Route 30 (Lancaster Ave/Lincoln Highway) corridor because of a lack of town centers. So often, unless you know the stores are there you spend years just driving by.

Such was the case with us until recently when we discovered Uhler’s Seed and Feed. Uhler’s Seed and Feed is at 160 Lancaster Avenue, Malvern, PA 19355. (610) 644-1945 is the phone number.

Traditional feed and seed stores barely exist anymore even out here in Chester County. A lot of it has to do with how hard it is for these types of businesses and plant nurseries to compete with big box stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot and Walmart.

Uhler’s is family owned and operated still and it’s wonderful! We started going to them because we feed our birds in the winter and they have the best selection of seed at the best prices and are so knowledgeable. They also have an amazing selection of very good birdfeeders. You can get a custom mix of birdseed if you choose as well, which you can’t find a lot of places anymore.

I have been noticing them the past couple of years because of the plants and things I see outside during the growing season. They are going to be one of my go to places the spring because this is old school. I am a person who does her own gardening. I know what I need, I know what I like, I know what I want to buy. And an old-school seed and feed store it like this is terrific. I can’t wait!

They also sell Deer Out which I have been buying online until now – it’s a deer repellent that is made up of natural things and has a minty scent that isn’t too offensive, and it works!

Another thing about this business I like is it is currently run by three generations of women. They are awesome to every customer who walks through the door.

You can like them on Facebook but they are pretty busy in their store so you won’t see them on social media much. But go in person to check them out! They are awesome and their pricing is terrific!

Uhler’s is right on Route 30 down across Lancaster from where Lincoln Court is. They are on the stretch of Route 30 between Route 352 and 401. They are on the same side of the road as McKenzie Brew House.

So we are crystal-clear I am not receiving anything for writing this review, I am paying it forward because they are a local small business and they deserve the recognition.

Check them out!

snow food: mushroom and pea risotto with chicken and sausage

IMG_3463

Okay who doesn’t love risotto? I(I guess if you don’t love risotto then you don’t want to read this post….)

Anyway comfort food doesn’t have to be the same old same old. Risotto makes some awesome snow food. However, if you don’t have the time to devote to making risotto, don’t because the enemy of a risotto his time and adding the ingredients wrong. Risotto is a dish that requires babysitting from start to finish.

Here is my go to recipe. I will alter the ingredients depending on what I have in the kitchen on hand at the time. Usually a risotto is what I do with leftovers.

If I don’t have chicken or sausage I might use ham or shrimp or something else. Sometimes I do it with just mushrooms and pick a bunch of mushroom varieties, not just one. In other words …..lots and lots of mushrooms (yum). If I do it an all mushroom risotto I also add roasted sweet peppers and a small log of goat cheese about 4 – 5 ounces or a similar size container of crème fraîche in addition to the Parmesan.

6 cups chicken stock (hold back one cup until towards end of recipe)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 vidalia or sweet onion, chopped
12 ounces baby Bella mushrooms, sliced thin
2 grated medium sized carrots
3 medium-size ribs of celery diced small
1 teaspoon each of thyme and sage and tarragon and basil and smoked paprika
3 cloves of garlic minced
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
1½ cups arborio rice
3/4 cup dry white wine
1 fresh tomato (medium and round) diced
1 cup fresh or frozen peas
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
Zest and juice of ½ small orange
1 pound of sweet sausage cut into small chunks (you can also use ground sausage without the casing)
1/2 a roast chicken shredded- no skin from chicken!

Put the stock in a pot over low heat. Or if you’re pressed for time you can warm a couple cups of the time by microwaving in a microwave proof measuring cup. Meanwhile, put the 1/4 of the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. You may have to add a little more than a quarter cup just depends on your pot.

When it’s warming up but not hot, add the garlic and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften. This might take 5 to 7 minutes. Add the mushrooms, celery, carrots and season with salt and pepper. Add herbs.

Cook, stirring occasionally, maybe an additional 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the sausage, and when of the sausage starts to cook and turn color, add your shredded chicken. I originally started making this recipe to use up leftover chicken. Adding small bites of sweet sausage only makes it better!

Add the rice and stir until it looks sort of translucent and begins to stick together, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring once or twice, until it’s mostly absorbed by the rice.

Start adding the broth about 1/2 to 3/4 cup at a time, waiting until each stage of broth is pretty well absorbed into the rice before adding the next bunch of broth. Stir frequently and keep an eye on the heat so the liquid simmers gently NOT boils into oblivion. When I start adding the broth, I cover the pot a couple minutes at a time in between stirring.

After you add 5 cups of broth you were ready for the next step which is when the rice is tender, (after about 30 minutes of adding 5 of the 6 cups of stock), add the frozen peas along with last 1 cup of stock and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes.

Turn the heat to low and stir in Parmesan cheese.

Turn off the heat and stir in an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil and the orange zest and juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning, and serve hot, garnished with parsley.

The feeds 4 to 6 and trust me there won’t be much in the way of leftovers. Even teenagers will eat it! Any leftovers you have should be stored in the refrigerator in a covered container. It’s only good for a few days after cooking so don’t let it hang around more than that.

Thanks for stopping by.

IMG_3464

this weather…

My high school friend Tina lives in Spencer Massachusetts. Where she lives has the distinction of having some of the most snow or the most snow in New England. She sent me this photo today and it is the side of a 14 foot tall greenhouse – she and her husband own a large plant nursery.

Just OMG.

IMG_3465

“teachable moments”

IMG_3459ABC NEWS Photo

The first Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition occurred the year I was born, 1964. Babette Beatty was the model. The photo there above? That is her last year during the 50th anniversary of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition. And that photo was considered scandalous back then.

However, the first woman to appear in a bathing suit on the cover of Sports Illustrated was named Pamela Nelson in 1954

IMG_3460

So 2015 bought a new interpretation of the bikini shot on the cover. I’m sorry but who cares? The magazine does this every year, and either you subscribe to the magazine or you don’t, buy a copy or you don’t. But this year apparently the Puritans are coming so look out.

This cover shot this year is being described as a “teachable moment”. No they don’t mean “wear sunscreen”.

Once again Sports Illustrated has done what they do every year, almost every year: create a controversial cover. It’s what they strive for all year long , and that’s how they sell magazines. And I have to be honest and say that I have seen skimpier bathing suits and skimpier while being more covered up outfits on girls starting as young as 12 in the real world. And that’s the point isn’t it? This isn’t the real world it’s a freaking magazine.

This morning I thought I was entering Censorship USA when I peeked in on a Facebook group. There was this mom declaring a mother’s jihad on Sports Illustrated. She said (and I quote):

Ok Mommies of Girls! I have a job for you! Every time you see the new Sports Illustrated in a grocery store checkout line or anywhere else your daughter may see this – – – PLEASE turn it around! Your daughter, your sons, and the kids behind you should not have to see this unrealistic image that object defies girls. Thank you. Rant over……Oh course this is a teachable moment. I’m not saying that you shouldnt seize this opportunity. However, a journey starts with one step. We may not be changing the world when we simply turn a magazine around but it’s something that we can actually DO. Sure we can complain aimlessly about these faults in our society but there are simple everyday things we can DO, like have a convo, turn the TV off and again- simply turn a magazine around. Don’t underestimate the power of a small action.

Ummmm…..I had visions of when strollers attack.

Of course this will throw me out of the mommy club but I don’t really care I think they are being ridiculous.

Seriously? Teachable moment? Give me a break! I don’t buy Sports Illustrated, I have no interest in the swimsuit issue, can’t see it from my window when I wake up and who cares? Turn on the TV you see far worse. Frankly kids can learn far worse from their friends and the Internet and even other parents. Go to your local beach or swim club in the summer and you often see far worse.

If women want to give their daughters weird self body image issues keep turning around magazines. And I’m sorry if that sounds mean or uncaring or even careless, but I think the whole premise is ridiculous. It is what it is and we don’t have to bring it into our homes as a matter of personal choice.

But that doesn’t mean that we go all censorship on things and start turning around magazines we personally find objectionable in a store. In my humble opinion but also teaches a poor lesson, does it not? Why not just ignore it? Why do you have to create some false premise of a teachable moment because you don’t like it?

The world is made up with a lot of different people, different tastes, different religions, different styles, and while we want to set the best example possible for our children we not only need to be realistic but we also need to teach them that the world is a very diverse place right, wrong, or indifferent.

Journeys do start with small steps and teachable moments but it is how you teach and how you present that makes the world of difference.

This whole thing reminds me of a story a friend of mine who is a grandmother told me a year or so ago. She knows someone who has a grandchild living with a parent and female stepparent. The child is a teenage girl and she is a lovely girl. A truly good girl. Yet the stepparent prefers that this cute teenage girl dress basically like a refugee from a weird polygamist cult. All covered up at all times, not at all like a teenager.

So maybe this stepparent is trying to teach a teenage girl modesty but the message I’m seeing loud and clear is that the teenage girl should be ashamed of her figure, and that the adult here trying to “teach” the child has serious self body issues. And that is the message I am seeing if mommies go on the rampage turning around copies of the swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated in the grocery store checkout line.

Should women be objectified? Of course not. However and let us not forget that these models chose to be in this magazine for this issue. It’s good for their careers and they make a lot of money. That is their choice. I know this is a contrary opinion for me who is a New Age Victorian times, but the truth is I just don’t care. I don’t know anyone with daughters who have to worry about their daughters running away to become a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. Kids aren’t that dumb and even they realize this is somewhat of a fantasy and unrealistic issue of the magazine.

If kids male or female ask about the issue why can’t we just say it’s just a magazine it’s not the real world? Why do we have to go into all the drama and angst of turning the magazine around in grocery store aisles and check out lines ? Are we all supposed to start running around with a pile of the “Glamour Don’t” black bars in our purses to slap on things we find objectionable in magazines in the grocery aisle? Doesn’t that make more of a big deal of these magazine, make it more of a forbidden fruit?

Okay I know the Puritans with their pitchforks and brooms will be at me now for my opinion it’s just I’m so tired of hearing about the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue and the fact that the model is basically showing off her Brazilian and need for sunscreen. And I laugh because a lot of the people complaining about this are the ones that don’t check out the outfits on some of the tween and teen girls on even the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon or ABC Family….or reruns of Gossip Girl and the original 90210.

I just don’t think we should teach girls to be ashamed of their figures and their bodies. You can teach them about appropriate behavior and how to dress more appropriately and how to behave… and at some point as I’m learning you have to let go a little bit or they will go where you don’t want them to. They are after all, teenagers, and once upon a time we were too.

Happy Valentine’s Day thanks for stopping by.

acquiring art

IMG_3455

So I have been following this online conversation in a social media group I belong to. Someone posted that they were looking to start getting art on their walls. They said:

Hi everyone…..have been thinking about trying to find some real affordable artwork to hang in our house. Does anyone have any suggestions on any show rooms or places to go in the area to purchase?

A lot of the answers came back suggesting local artists. But then there were a bunch which came back were along the lines of go to a craft store buy canvases and paint and let your kids play Picasso.

Ok look, nice idea for a playroom or a kid’s bedroom but that is a made for HGTV idea that makes me crazy. People trying to find affordable art aren’t necessarily wanting to do the art themselves or have a house full of finger paintings on canvas. I am not anti-child art , I just think inexpensive doesn’t need to always mean loving hands at home.

We live in an area that is rich in artistic talent. All you have to do is go to fairs, festivals, local art shows. Sometimes at the shows the artist prices are higher so take their business card and contact them after the show. Events like Clover Market have tons of local and beautiful vintage art.

For years I was the publicist and photographer for a small arts-based nonprofit called First Friday Main Line (The photo at the bottom of this post is actually one that was taken during the First Friday Main Line of my framed photography on exhibit in a shop in Ardmore called past *present* future and some of my work is still for sale there). Anyway, one of the things about Friday Friday was “art in unexpected places.” Because there were not art galleries in Ardmore, the local artists would exhibit out of stores and restaurants. And it gave people the opportunity every month to buy reasonably priced art at one of these events.

So art is truly all around us. And you can also find terrific art at barn sales, at garage sales, in consignment shops , grift shops, and even the local yard sale groups on Facebook.

The thing about art is it should speak to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive or well-known or even highly collectible. It is simply that you have to like it because it’s going to be hanging on your walls. Not all of us are born with the bank account and can afford an art consultant or trips to upscale galleries. So seriously? Look for your art in unexpected places.

I love the Yellow Springs Art Show. This year it starts April 25th. this is a show that gives you a really good look at a lot of amazing local artists, and a lot of what I would term the modern Chester County School. It is not a show I buy from a great deal to be honest because the prices can be very high. But if you really like a piece of the show it never hurts to ask the artist if that is their best price.

I also really love my friend Sherry’s store in Ardmore called Past*Present*Future. Sherry is an artist by training so her store is a fabulous mix of all types of art including wearable art and beautiful handmade jewelry.

Now some of my other go to places for seeking out art include Smithfield Barn, estate sales, holiday church sales, fall festivals and some local Chester County favorites. Resellers Consignment in Frazer and Frazer Antiques and Consign-It Furniture in Kennett Square. Chester county is also loaded with artisans who repurpose old and vintage items into new pieces of art. So you have a lot of choices out there. And eBay and Etsy are other places to discover inexpensive art.

Another way to acquire art is when you travel. Going through New England? Or through New York State? Or down south? Out west? There are artist colonies everywhere you go and often you can pick up something lovely that you might have to frame when you get home for pennies on the dollar.

Don’t be intimidated by buying art. Go out and see what you like and experiment. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to get things you like on your walls.

Thanks for stopping by today!

IMG_3457

stop the crazy

2015/02/img_0835.jpg
Brian Williams, now a suspended NBC national news anchor lied. Is it awful? Yes. Can I see it from my window? No. But this whole giant example of ego and stupidity is making as much news around this country as that poor girl Kayla Mueller who was killed by Isis and isn’t that truly almost criminally sad?

So, it is when I read things like the SECOND article linked below from ConservativeHQ.com I am astounded because it just reads crazy, full on crazy. And when we are facing so many things that are so much more important in the world today, why is it that a news anchor losing his job has so much importance in the news? Should this guy who reads the news really be the news?

Someone sent me this ConservativeHQ web article today and I think it is cuckoo for cocoa puffs for lack of a better description.

The whole hypothesis is Brian Williams a national newscaster who lied on an anchor desk is responsible for things like Enron. Or a symbol of those responsible for things like Enron. Either way, I love a good dose of pretzel logic on a hump day don’t you?

Brian Williams screwed up. In a glorious career-fatal way. But Brian Williams on or off and anchor desk for NBC news is not going to affect my quality of life.

Brian Williams has a giant contract has been been put on suspension as I suspect they are trying to undo that contract because he’s not going to be credible on air any longer.

I don’t mean to be rude, but somewhere somehow we all have to stop and take a freaking breath and get out of the extremes. Once again I will say that the politics of extremism are ruining this country.

All of these extremists conservative or liberal give a bad name to American politics. And allowing their voices to continue to grow means the bulk of us who are somewhere in the middle lose again and again and again.

This article actually has some points to consider which get completely lost in the hyperbole of crazy. They aren’t necessarily wrong about Comcast and NBC and how networks produce the “news”, but they go so far off the rails with the rest of it that THAT thought which is actually important, gets lost.

(And speaking of how networks produce the news who has seen the commercial the Comcast has produced for the local NBC 10 News? What’s up with the female reporters and female anchors and the dresses chosen for them for the commercial ? Are they being dressed for a new season of Breaking Amish or Conservative Barbie has an adventure or something? I really wish HBO series The Newsroom had not been ended. I would love to see their take on all of this.)

Brian Williams is NOT a symbol of anything other then how lying and stupidity can tank a career. Wow can’t wait to see what these people do with Colonel Mustard in the library can you?

But again , and seriously, somewhere people in this country need to stop and hit the pause button. The two major political parties are essentially controlled by forms of extremism, and that trickle down effect is running this country into a constantly and consistently angry hole.

Before you read crazy, read the student journalist editorial I have posted before it. At least the future of journalism is not completely bleak.

Williams’ drama doesn’t belong in the newsroom Katherine Waller, Staff Columnist | Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 12:23 am

This week posed a threat to NBC Nightly News’ Brian Williams’ career. Reports testified that he had falsely accounted being on board a military helicopter in Iraq during 2003 that was hit with an RPG and had to make an emergency landing. He is under additional scrutiny about false statements regarding events he witnessed while covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina….It looks like that handsome face and perfect TV voice can no longer disguise who he really is: a liar…..I’m not saying that trustworthy news sources do not exist. After all, I am a student journalist myself…..News organizations need to value why they can’t just tell people what they want to hear….Seeing everyone get so upset over Brian Williams’ questionable truths makes me wonder why everyone is so surprised. In a business that has become about selling information, selling an ideology and selling people, why are watchers shocked

Brian Williams: Symbol Of The Corruption Of America’s Establishment Institutions George Rasley, CHQ Editor | 2/10/2015

Monday, two more examples of NBC News anchor Brian Williams’ despicable stolen valor lies about his experiences covering the Iraq war in 2003 surfaced, but Williams was not fired.

It was announced late Tuesday he was being put on six months unpaid leave and, most astonishingly, that Steve Burke, the Chief Executive Officer of Comcast, which owns NBC said Williams “deserves a second chance and we are rooting for him.”.

…..In our view it is not because some guy in the personnel department of NBC is going over Williams’ contract with a fine-toothed comb before handing him his pink slip six months from now.

It is because the establishment institutions of America, the media like Comcast and NBC, business, and especially politics, have become so mired in a culture of lies and corruption….This is the “anything to win” culture that led to the ENRON scandal….