like visiting an old friend: going back to baldwin’s book barn

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Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night, have a passing thought, go back to sleep?  Well, my weird passing thought in the wee small hours overnight was I had not been to Baldwin’s Book Barn on Lenape Road in literally about 20 years!

I am and always have been a bibliophile. A bookworm. A book hoarder. I love my books.  They have moved with me thoughout my life. Even books from my childhood. Books from my parents. Cookbooks. History books. Gardening books. Fiction by Laura Ingalls Wilder to Daphne DuMaurier to Elizabeth Goudge to Marguerite de Angeli to Dickens to Robert Frost and the list goes on.  I married another bibliophile.  We love out books and they are all over the house in various bookshelves.

Growing up I loved the book store at Bryn Mawr College known as The Owl.  The college disbanded the beloved Owl years ago to make way for progress. There is still The Title Page in Bryn Mawr (which was started originally by ladies who were at The Owl), and that is amazing, but for those of us in Chetser County, and book nuts in general, there is nothing like Baldwin’s Book Barn. Nothing.

And yes, when I popped awake in the middle of the night last night, my mind was on a big stone barn full of books…Baldwin’s Book Barn. What’s not to love? A giant Chester County stone barn built in 1822 filled to the rafters with books? Used books, out of print books, rare books, fun books, paperback books, bags of specially priced books….it’s book Nirvana…and it’s Chester County tradition.

As per their website:

William and Lilla Baldwin established their used book and collectible business in 1934 in nearby Wilmington, DE. In 1946 they moved to “The Barn”. The old milking house was converted into a residence for the Baldwin Family and the stone barn became the bookshop and for some years, a country store museum. We are located deep in the heart of the enchanting and historical Brandywine Valley. Baldwin’s Book Barn is one of America’s truly distinctive bookstores. Step inside and you are transported to another time and place. Today, our store is stuffed to the rafters with a treasure trove of 300,000 used and rare books, manuscripts, maps as well as fine paintings, prints, estate antiques, and other valued collectibles.

Store Hours: 10AM – 6PM Every Day
Except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day
Baldwin’s Book Barn
865 Lenape Road, West Chester, PA 19382
Phone: 610-696-0816        E-mail: info@bookbarn.com

So when I woke up woke up this morning and my husband asked what else I would like to do today, I said “let’s go to Baldwin’s Book Barn.”  So to the Book Barn we went. And it was like visiting a fondly remembered old friend.

Ahhh the smell of books greets you still even with the door just cracked!!!  And the door still creaked the same was going in. Still the same smell of woodstove fires. And still the same floor to ceiling books! I will note they still have a terrific Wyeth section and Chester County section.

We went from bottom to top, top to bottom. I bought a couple of cookbooks. It is nice that some things remain the same in this life.

I will note as an aside as I overheard this, that they could use firewood for their woodstove cut to 14″ or 15″ lengths if you can GIVE them any.  There are enough woodstove folks in Chester County and so many people with firewood, how about paying it forward a little?

Here are some photos I took.  I will note with amusement that I never knew Paris Hilton wrote a book. I had a lovely time and won’t wait 20 years to go back. Go buy a book!

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fall dinner….mmmmm

Fall cooking. The humidity is finally gone and the temperatures have cooled enough that I don’t feel like my kitchen is a sweatshop.

I have thawed one lonely beef shank we found in the freezer, but it’s not enough for dinner, but I decided it was going to be dinner and decided to get it a companion. So off to Worrell’s Butcher Shop in Malvern Borough I went. They had beautiful fresh beef shanks!

I continued along King Street to Kimberton Whole Foods in Malvern. There I picked up the produce I wanted to add to this recipe plus a few other things. (I would’ve gotten adorable little pumpkins there to except they were $2.99 a piece and I thought that was a bit expensive for pumpkins that were literally very small, but I digress.)

So the ingredients – 2 to 3 beef shanks, Crimini mushrooms, Shitake mushrooms, leeks, shallots, celery, carrots, 2 red hatch chilies from my garden , red wine, two 8 oz. containers of Pacific vegetable broth, one 14.5 oz. can of Muir Glenn fire roasted diced tomatoes, sweet paprika , smoked paprika, 4 cloves of garlic diced, dash of cumin, salt and pepper, fresh rosemary, two bay leaves, fresh thyme.

First I start by dredging the beef shanks in a little flour and kosher salt. I toss into a Dutch oven on the stove with olive oil heating. I brown each of the beef shanks ( I ended up with three for this recipe.)

Then I add about a third of a bottle of wine and let that simmer as I am slicing up my vegetables.

As I am adding my vegetables beginning with the garlic, shallots, and leeks I also add one of the 8 oz. containers of vegetable broth.

After I add the garlic, shallots, and leeks I add diced up Hatch chilies, followed by carrots, celery, and the mushrooms.

Next I add the fresh herbs and a little more kosher salt. (I don’t start with a lot of salt I can adjust it later so I really am being judicious with it.)

Then I add a dash of cumin, smoked paprika, sweet paprika, black pepper, the can of tomatoes, and finally another third of a bottle of wine.

Now my beef shanks are ready for the oven. They will cook in a low oven for 3 to 4 hours.

People like to serve these over mashed potatoes, I also like to serve them over rice. And I like brown basmati rice, or a wild rice mixture.

My apologies that this recipe is it more exact, but it just isn’t. I think people need to judge for themselves the amount of herbs and spices and salt and pepper they want in a recipe.

Anyway beef shanks and mushrooms are a wonderful and hearty fall meal. Slow cooking it means the meet will be fork tender.

Bon Appétit!

oh chester county day! (and other houses seen along the way!)

Just a couple of photos now… there will be more later…

It was a fabulous day but the poor twisty country roads were no match for some of the “tourists” from other areas. The driving on some of the roads was a bit insane, complete with beeping like it was Broad and Shunk or something.

the farmhouse rots?

Yesterday I wrote about the old historic farmhouse in East Whiteland on Church Road.

This morning I happened to drive by as a passenger in a car.

Simply put, how in the hell is this farmhouse being preserved exactly? Does this perhaps more closely resemble demolition by neglect versus historic preservation? The freaking place is collapsing, it’s clearly visible from the road so WTF?

Also note the “planting” photos. Cheap trees planted too closely together. Wonder if any are on the invasive species list like the developer special Bradford Pear? Whatever these trees will be mostly dead in a few years, wait and see. (sorry not sorry, my opinion as an experienced gardener. I find it ludicrous that these developers clear-cut forest and field, only to plant poorly.)

If Toll Brothers can get up the sales office for their Great Valley Crossing Development don’t they have time or shouldn’t they have time to save the historic farmhouse like people were told would happen?

if this is progress, we soon will be living in stepford

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99 Church Road, Malvern, East Whiteland ,Chester County a few weeks ago

A few years ago in 2013 I asked rather tongue in cheek if a Toll Brothers development was what Stepford might look like. Now Toll Brothers might not like my opinion but since the whole Crebilly scenario erupted, I daresay my opinions are mild when Image result for stepford wives outsidecompared to some. (Had to get that whole opinion/First Amendment thing out of the way.)

Sadly I am only half kidding about the Stepford of it all.

We are becoming a place where people no longer say what town they are from.  They reference where they live by development. Not by road, town, township, borough, or city. By development.

Ok, so that is how you identify? That is your entire self-image? Your development or subdivision defines who you are?

Every time someone does that, I pause.  I can’t keep track of ALL of the developments, especially in Chester County, can you?

As I said in 2013,   Can you imagine what that next  Appledumb, Mountainfake, Potters Field, and Byers Remorse will look like? (Can’t keep track of all the municipalities and doofy names of developments or developers so pardon the comedic license.)

99 Church Road in Malvern was sold off to become “Great Valley Crossing” a Toll Brothers Community.  Here is the Toll site: Great Valley Crossing.

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Welcome to Naked Acres, err…Great Valley Crossing

Once before the plans were approved this property at 99 Church Road came up in an East Whiteland meeting.  They showed up in subsequent meeting minutes which have disappeared from public view on East Whiteland’s website, but I saved a screenshot:

5-14-14-ew-supervisors-meeting

The date title of this screenshot was 5/14/14, so I don’t know if that is 100% accurate or the date I saved the screen shot.  What I do know is this screen shot was from Supervisors’ Meeting Minutes before Mott stepped down.

I read with some amusement the description of this now christened Great Valley Crossing.  Here is a screen shot:

Heaven starts at $649K++. Choose from four models with jumped up, preposterous names.

Oh the “model” names. It’s like you are buying a car.  So not only will you be identified only by the development you buy into, but will be known by your house model.  Where is the “Tara” model???

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Oh Mr. Developer Rhett, I would like to live in the “Tara” Model. “Twelve Oaks” is so 1863!  (FYI: Tara & Twelve Oaks were mythical plantations featured in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.)

Relaxed atmosphere of “country living”? Oh.Come.On. Have these marketing geniuses sat in traffic in Chester County lately?? Sadly, it’s less like country living and often more like King of Prussia mall traffic at rush hour. You can’t even garden the way you want to in a lot of these new developments. It’s all controlled and maybe soon the husbands can rejoice that out here in New Stepford, the developments will define wifely attire too?

(Hold me back, New Stepford is a comin’ ! Individuality is BAAAAAD!)

And as THIS development goes up and others are in the pipeline, for how many years will the Great Valley School District remain “award-winning”? Hows about we try “over-crowded” on for size?

Here are the plans for this development I found on East Whiteland’s website. Follow the link.  All developments are magical through marketing until ALL OF THE PEOPLE WITH ALL OF THEIR CARS move in.  Then everyone complains. “Too much traffic” “I thought our taxes were supposed to go down?” “Where is the open space?”

And speaking of marketing, East Whiteland is marketing itself as “The Heart of The Great Valley”.  How much of the ACTUAL Great Valley is still left? Great Valley has gone from having fascinating and important history with regard to this great nation to being a series of corporate centers, strip malls, and developments.

Speaking of history, I discovered this really cool report on the PA Historical and Museum Commission website. It is called The Great Valley Historical Agricultural Region, 1750-1960.

Completely fascinating. Have also uploaded here: great_valley

Here are some shots from 99 Church Road circa 2012:

99 Church Nov 201299 church Nov 2012 b

Also found this aerial shot on Google:

99 Church Rd

This is another 41.50 acres of open space/farmland that will never, ever come back.  And as per a comment on a blog post from 2016, the  development’s “open space” is actually unusable flood plain land, apparently? So these houses are clustered on what land can actually be developed?  And what will the “roads” of this development look like? Will they be wide enough?

And let us not forget in just this part of Chester County, there is OTHER development happening the Great Valley School District…not just East Whiteland, although East Whiteland has the lion’s share. (Refer to this post from early August, 2018)

I will ask again, and keep asking: Chester County residents, do you want the entire county to look like this?  Didn’t some of you move out here to escape this in the first place?

Signing off from Happy Dell Acres (no, not a real place that I know of but I feel like I have to give the area where I live it’s official dumb development name.)