have you taken a “master’s” class yet?

I had not taken a cooking class in years before this morning. The last cooking class I took was in a beautiful private home in Bryn Mawr. But it was less hands on and more lecture. This cooking class today, an Italian Baking Class, was totally hands on and fun!
The Italian Baking Class is one of the series of baking classes offered by The Master’s Baker in West Chester, PA. The classes are moderately priced and worth every penny!

We arrived at 11 a.m. Parts of our groups were friends, and others like myself, had just signed up by ourselves. I am a decent home cook, but there are plenty of thing I want to learn how to make. Like focaccia. I am not a facile yeast bread person. So this was a great class for me to start with!
We were taken back to the kitchen and were set up in what is normally the large decorating room and split up into pairs. Then the fun began with Pastry Chef Patricia Polin.

The hours flew by as we made Focaccia, Parmesan Rosemary Grissini (like a breadstick), Dolci di Amalfi (almond lemon olive oil cake), and Biscotti.

We learned a lot about the baking process. We baked using a scale- measuring the ingredients by weight.

I loved everything I made except my Biscotti. They are not super attractive because I was impatient cutting them before the twice-baked stage.

It was a lovely group of ladies and I will definitely be taking another class when I find one I want. I highly recommend taking one of the Master’s Baker classes. I am told plans for the future include mommy and me (mother and child) classes, and more!

The Master’s Baker is a fabulous specialty bakery (wedding cakes, custom birthday cakes, and special orders only, no regular bakery cases and street traffic, etc). They are located at 319 West Gay Street, West Chester, PA 19380. We are customers of theirs, which is how I learned about the class I took today.

how is this a properly contained construction site?

A reader sent me this photo just now as they went by the location of where this is. Yes, a construction site where a house was torn down, but the foundation which is wide open, remains.

The photo came with a note:

They tore the house down and the foundation is sitting there wide open with that little pink ribbon keeping people out

The reader asks how is this safe and I wonder, where is the constitution fencing? There is not much to deter the curiosity seekers, and this could be dangerous couldn’t it?

The location I am told is S. Cedar Hollow Rd and Paoli Pike. Again, I am not there personally, this photo was sent to me. Here is hoping whichever municipality it is, they get the site a little more secure.


Dear Mr.Mattia at Keller Williams,

One of my first jobs decades ago was a cold-caller for some high level securities brokers at then Prudential Securities. They taught me that soliciting was an art form.

As a matter of fact, when I did the cold calling equivalent of mailings for them, each letter and each envelope was personalized. You see, it’s bad enough to be solicited by strangers, but somehow the blow is softened if that stranger takes the time to not only personalize the envelope but the letter inside. Makes you feel like you’re more than just a name on a purchased mailing list.

Today we received a solicitation from you. You, apparently, are that friendly neighborhood realtor whom we’ve never heard of. And no, you haven’t sold anything in our extended neighborhood. The envelope was addressed to us personally in all caps and was hand written. Stuffed inside was a business card and a dear occupant generalized letter that wasn’t even personalized to the people you’re soliciting.

I personally hate these kinds of letters from total strangers. I get that you can buy a list anywhere, but Lordy if you want to “earn” the business of anyone maybe try something else.

I find these letters offensive, and that is probably because of the industry I came out of. I’m sure Keller Williams tells you it’s a great idea and a great marketing plan. It’s not. People choose important relationships like this based on references and often personal connections. What you sent out is what people recycle, not retain.

I know a lot of really fabulous realtors in Chester County, and you know what? They work their tails off. They get out there and they meet people. And they do not waste postage dripping drivel on anyone.

Please don’t solicit us again.


not our pipeline

Pipeline and sinkhole. Just The Fact Please photo. November, 2017

Before I moved to Chester County, I was somewhat ambivalent about Sunoco and their pipelines. Among other things, I grew up with a father who was for years, in-house PR for a then major oil company.  And part of that was during the Exxon Valdez era.  But oil companies had deep pockets and what did I know? Nothing was near where we lived and those oil company deep pockets were always giving box loads of stuff to schools, bought full page ads in school newspapers for the kids of employees, etcetera.

When you first hear about problems with pipelines, pipeline construction, or even fracking, it is like this fuzzy thing out of focus ahead of you in the haze. It can’t possibly affect you. Until it does. And in my opinion, it is.   I have friends who hail from Western Pennsylvania who literally have been warning people for years.  And they are just nastily labeled “fracktivists”. Guess that is the new label for “concerned citizen”? Because I have got to tell you, the people I knew who once lived in Western PA are…wait for it…MOMS.  You know how dangerous moms are, right?

Then it seems like in an instant but a couple miles in either direction from where you live as far as the crown flies in any direction, stuff starts to happen.

Well issues.


You feel like local municipal officials and politicians are just covering their ears saying “na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na” in order to NOT have to listen to residents.  Respected environmental activists are labeled as being alarmists.

Then all of a sudden the  PA DEP seems to wake up and temporarily halts work on Sunoco’s Mariner 2 Pipeline.  Only as per residents in some affected Chester County neighborhoods and State Impact by NPR  that might not quite be true as they report on January 9, 2018:

When Danielle Otten woke up Monday morning, she didn’t expect to see men working on the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site that sits about 40 feet from her backyard, along Devon Drive in Uwchlan Township, Chester County.

For one thing, work in the area had stalled after drilling dried up and damaged nearby water wells this past summer. And just last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a court order halting construction along the 350-mile long pipeline after Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners continued to violate its permits, causing damage to private water wells, streams and wetlands…..When DEP issued a stop work order to Sunoco last week, it appeared that all work would halt aside from drilling and erosion controls that had to be continued in order to prevent additional environmental damage. But a spokesman for the DEP now tells StateImpact that when it comes to anything other than earth disturbance or water crossings, the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction.


In Chester County, as a resident, you can’t avoid the truth of the pipelines. And the risks and dangers. So many of us are on wells. And so many with wells are already having issues. And then there are those other pesky things…you know like sinkholes and so on?

The jarring visuals you see with your own eyes like the beautiful swaths of lands torn assunder are burned into your brain.  Once you see it, you can’t un-see it and you wish you could.

Swing sets and play houses of small children sit in macabre juxtaposition to giant earth moving machines and huge pieces of pipe.

Giant walls, pipes, and earth moving machines also sit across the driveway from senior citizen apartment complexes and grocery stores.

Pipeline so close and on top of churches and schools in addition to residential neighborhoods and please, tell me, how is that safe?

Next to firehouses too? So basically, Sunoco puts those supposed to protect us at risk as well?

You have friends and former neighbors who have Sunoco gobbling up their land for the pipeline.  You count your blessing like we did that we moved long ago from certain parts of Chester County because otherwise this view could be your very own backyard:

Uwchlan Safety Coalition photo

Only you can’t help but wonder if your slice of heaven will remain unmolested by pipelines? Like Medieval Feudal Lords, you are never quite sure what they will swoop in and take, are you?

You are, as residents of Chester County and elsewhere, supposed to bend over and accept these new vistas:

My photo, taken July, 2017

When you say “no I think this is bad” there are people who will  jump all over you. “It’s perfectly safe. You don’t know what you are talking about.”

Perfectly safe? Is that why CBS This Morning ran and over FIVE minute segment on the national news this morning from coast to coast?

Sunoco is raping our land. They are depleting it, irrevocably changing it and in my opinion putting us all at risk.  It is not OUR pipeline, it is THEIR pipeline being forced upon us all and we are not benefiting from it.  This isn’t OUR infrastructure, it’s Sunoco’s infrastructure. What they take is being shipped OVERSEAS.

As another friend Ginny said to others:

Sunoco cannot replace the large, mature trees they are chopping down for this. Nor can they restore the fragile and important wetland there if they wreck it, just as they couldn’t restore the private wells that they wrecked in Marchwood this summer with this pipeline. 

Living with hazardous liquefied natural gas lines is not a part of living in suburbia. In fact it is reckless to put these lines through densely populated areas, right alongside houses, schools, apartment buildings, shopping centers, seniors homes, etc. 

And now, Sunoco also wants Chester County Library’s freaking lawn? (See Dragon Pipe Diary)

When does it stop?  When did Corporate America’s rights become more meaningful than ours in Chester and Delaware Counties and elsewhere in Pennsylvania?  Why are we as residents being forced to live with something that destroys and takes and give nothing back in return? Why don’t residents matter? Why do we spend so much time feeling like our elected officials have forsaken us on this issue?

And why is it when you mention anything about not liking or distrusting pipelines some fool will always hop up and cry foul partisan politics? I mean do they really think we are such imbeciles that an issue which is non-partisan and affects EVERYONE is an example of partisan politics?  Take off the dunce caps, because opposition to Mariner East is clearly bi-partisan.

Pipeline, East Goshen. My photo. Summer/Fall 2017

Today in addition to the CBS News report, Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety is a nonpartisan, fact-based, grassroots coalition of locally-based safety groups, made up of concerned Pennsylvanians from across our Commonwealth issued a press release:

Well guess what? I believe these folks, and this pipeline and it’s march across Chester County and elsewhere terrifies me.  These people protesting are our neighbors and friends. And there are quite the growing numbers of experts, environmentalists and others who believe these residents.

There is also a very important petition circling. It is directed at our rather elusive Governor Tom Wolf on Change.org asking him to protect our communities under the PA Health and Safety Statute.

Please sign and share this petition today.

Here are some articles:

Dragonpipe Diary: Sunoco’s destructive plans for the Chester County Library lawn

State Impact PA Despite DEP order to halt Mariner East 2 construction, some work is still allowedJANUARY 9, 2018 | 5:34 PM Susan Phillips

State Impact: Water problems persist along Mariner East pipeline route despite court interventionOCTOBER 12, 2017 | 5:03 PM BY JON HURDLE

State Impact: DEP issues violation to Sunoco for another spill of drilling fluidAUGUST 30, 2017 | 6:40 PM BY JON HURDLE

grist: BRIEFLY Stuff that matters PIPE DOWN

Daily Local: Pennsylvania DEP shuts down construction on Sunoco gas pipeline By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal,com POSTED: 01/03/18, 5:25 PM EST

Daily Local: DEP accuses Sunoco of unauthorized drilling By Bill Rettew, brettew@dailylocal.com POSTED: 01/02/18, 3:49 PM EST

Daily Times, Phil Heron: Editorial: Economic benefits alone won’t resolve pipeline concerns

Look at the end of the day, did we come to Chester County for this view below? I don’t think so. We need to protect what is ours.  And what is ours, is not necessarily theirs.


Uwchlan Safety Coalition Photo

where is the customer service, iris usa?

UPDATE: heard back from company, finally. They are replacing the broken containers. That is what I wanted and what is right and fair.


I had ordered six 30 quart weatherproof containers made by a company called IRIS USA.

I might as well have just thrown my money away!

IRIS makes terrific containers. But they do NOT package their products well for shipping. I ordered a set of six and I will in the end have only TWO which are usable because they were shipped with no padding or packing, so they broke before they reached me. Some had broken lids some head broken bottoms where is a little black hinges were broken off the containers. I have a whole pile of plastic shards.

I can’t believe that a company like this doesn’t get that you can’t ship containers without any padding or packing especially in the winter when the colder temperatures make the plastic more brittle !

I have been in contact with their social media customer service people on Facebook who assured me days ago that someone would contact me from their company and make good on the containers that I did not get to use because they arrived broken.

Yet days later, nothing. Not even an email.

Yesterday I was told via a Facebook message that everyone is extraordinarily apologetic that no one has bothered to connect with me and they will look into it further. Yet all I am hearing is crickets.

I contacted them via email and have heard nothing, I resent the email a second time today.

I also called their corporate offices and all I got was a voice mailboxto leave a message for customer service, not an actual person.

Customer service to me is a big deal. I’m not asking for free stuff I’m just asking them to make good on the order that I initially placed. My order was for six containers, and given four were broken, I just want the four broken ones replaced. Otherwise I am throwing money away.

If you see their containers in regular bricks and mortar retailers, they make great containers. But don’t order them online from IRIS since they don’t know how to ship them properly, and their customer service is not what it should be.

The photo that is the last photo on this post is what the containers are supposed to look like. The other two photos show what I actually received. I had bought these to help better store some of my Christmas decorations.

Buyer beware.

Thanks for stopping by.

like alice down the rabbit hole

A few weeks ago, one of my friends was telling me how she had discovered family.  Now for her, that is no easy feat, as she was adopted and it was a closed adoption. She did not know where or who she came from, other than she was born in Philadelphia.

So she did one of those Ancestry.com DNA tests.  Through that, family of her birth mother contacted her. She found out where she was from and her mother had traveled to Philadelphia to have her baby, and gave her (my friend) up for adoption.

I am not adopted, but having a curious mind I would love to learn about the melting pot that is my family.  I am Italian, Irish,and Pennsylvania German.

So I have ordered a DNA saliva kit to send away through Ancestry.com.  It’s not here yet, but when you buy it (and it’s on sale right now through the holidays) you get a temporary membership.  I am not sure what I will do after the trial membership is up, but right now I am like Alice falling down the proverbial rabbit hole.

On my husband’s side, I have traced back so far to a third great grandmother on his maternal grandfather’s side.  I even have seen a photograph of her marriage record in 1830 in the Kennett Friends Meeting.  I am assuming it was the meeting house which was founded in the Borough of Kennett Square around 1812 but I am not sure because in the 1820s there was a split into other meetings. Something to do with factions of very liberal Quakers and very conservative Quakers.  Some went to the Old Kennett Meeting House, and others to the Parkersville Friends Meeting House (also apparently known as Kennett Preparitive Meeting of Friends.

My husband’s family on his mother’s side via his maternal grandfather goes back well into the 18th century so far.  His mother was born in New Jersey, but her family has deep roots in Chester County and the State of Delaware I am learning. On his father’s side, I have gotten as far back as his paternal grandparents and turn of the 20th century. I have not so much for his maternal grandmother as of yet.

My family is more of a tale of immigration. On my father’s side, maternal and paternal grand parents (my great grand parents) came to the United States from Italy in the 1870s.  I have been unable thus far to track prior to them arriving in the United States.  It was really cool to see some of them on ship passenger lists! I have discovered some emigrated to the US and were in Alabama for a while of all places!

On my mother’s side, we have Irish and Pennsylvania German.  I have hit a brick wall with the German side (maternal grandmother’s parents or my great grandparents) because although they have unusual last names for me, in Lancaster County and the coal regions of PA, my maternal great grandmother from the German side is like a German equivalent of Smith.  I only just figured out my maternal grandmother’s maternal grandparents’ names (I think!). I think I have located a 2nd great grandmother born in Germany in 1853. We have miners apparently, tobacco farmers and tobacco shop owners.

On my mother’s side, we also have the Irish.  That would be her paternal grandparents, my great grandparents who died long before my mother’s parents married. I have been able to go back to 2nd great grandparents.Two sets, both from Ireland.  Starting in 1825. And that is as far as I have gotten.  No ship’s passenger lists as of yet to see WHERE my Irish hail from, although I was told long ago some from Northern Ireland, although all were Catholic. I found a blacksmith in my tree!

I know what I am from, but to see it laid out is kind of cool.  I will now wait and see what the DNA test will tell after I take it and send it back.

If you are interested both Ancestry.com and 23andMe are running specials.  You can also buy the kits from either of them right off of Amazon.com.

I will note I am NOT being compensated by any of these DNA/Geneology outfits to write about this.  I have always wanted to do it, so I finally just did.  I should also mention I tried Geni.com a few years ago, but did not find it as easy to use, or as interesting or staisfying.  One of my cousins on my father’s side used that site to compile information.

Back to the Christmas baking. Thanks for stopping by.