sometimes people should just stop picking at other people. this is one of those times.

I swear there is a meme for everything and this one is pretty much perfect. Why am I posting this? Because some people just floor me on social media. Facebook especially.

Backstory: a few years ago when I had my first knee surgery, I was literally just home from the hospital and practically still drooling from the anesthesia. Sitting in a daze in bed, I was mindlessly looking through social media on my tablet. I noticed this one woman posting comments on my Facebook timeline that I just didn’t want to deal with. So I didn’t say anything, I just deleted the comments. After all, your personal Facebook page is like your virtual house, right?

So the woman whose comment I had removed posted another comment in the same vein. There I was practically drooling like you can do after surgery and anesthesia and I wondered what alternate reality I was living in that this woman wouldn’t just get I probably didn’t want to deal with this? I made a decision. I deleted the new comment and quietly unfriended the woman and went to sleep.

Unfriending this person was not something I wanted to do. But when I was still sitting in bed the next day scrolling through Facebook still somewhat dazed post surgery, I knew it was the right decision. Why? Because she took the argument of the deleted comments and moved them essentially to another woman’s Facebook page (whom I also knew – ironically I introduced them to one and other) and sat there talking about me like I couldn’t see it. Kind of like they were talking on the phone only it was all playing out on Facebook. It was crazy and I decided, sanity and maturity should prevail, and I just blocked both of them so I wouldn’t have to see their online brand of crazy in the future.

Still part of me felt bad. I had known the one woman for many years. But knowing her was sometimes exhausting. The other woman was always just kind of sad always striving to belong. Also exhausting. I sent both women a note explaining why I had decided to distance. I figured I’d make one last attempt at salvaging the relationships. I explained to them I just had surgery and I didn’t want to deal with any of this right now. But if they wanted to talk about it, explain what they didn’t understand, and I would try to listen. Need list to say, that didn’t happen never heard from either, and I went on about my life. I wish I could say I missed either woman, but I don’t.

I especially don’t miss people who act like this while experiencing a global pandemic. Life is kind of stressful enough right now. What I didn’t expect was that they would do this again to someone else. I sadly thought this behavior was because of me. But it’s just them.

A very nice woman who is a very close friend has literally just had a similar experience with these two over the past couple of days. My friend had posted on HER Facebook timeline that it really bothered her that people including the President keep referring to COVID19 as the “Chinese Virus.” She said she found it offensive. In my opinion she’s not wrong.

No matter what your opinion is, my friend said it on her timeline. It’s kind of like when a lot of us don’t judge the women in menopause posting the Nametest things all of the time that says they wish they were pregnant again or what movie star they think they look like. Their thing, not ours.

To be clear, viruses do not know borders and even the CDC Director Robert Redfield agrees with this point. To keep saying that over and over puts Chinese Americans and other Asians in Jeopardy much like what happened with the Italians and Japanese during World War II and the internment camps in this country. Or the Irish need not apply campaigns and signs you would see in shop windows in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s kind of like referring to the influenza pandemic of the early 20th century as the “Spanish flu”. The virus didn’t actually originate in Spain that might’ve been one of the first places that documented it in newspapers. The COVID19 virus exploded in China, but there is no absolute that it is the true country of origin for the virus.

Well the woman I removed from my timeline a few years ago, of course had to argue with my friend. My friend politely asked her to kind of stop, and sadly that didn’t happen. So my friend just quietly unfriended her and blocked her and removed the comments. Below is the comment that finally made my friend have enough.

Now you would think that would have been the end of it. But sadly no, the other woman I had removed from my circle of friends a few years ago for chiming in where it wasn’t her concern did so again. Seriously:

So my friend unfriended and blocked the other one too. I truly am stunned at how pig ignorant people can be. It’s like these women have this whole tag team of nastiness, which is truly sad.  I wonder if either one of them gets it yet that more and more people distance themselves from these two all of the time. They are having social distancing practiced on them as a matter of keeping one’s sanity.

My friend wasn’t “slamming” the President. She was specifically referring to a term in this whole coronavirus world we live in that she found offensive.

Given the times we currently live in and everything that everyone is going through, wouldn’t you think that these two women would have better things to do than to argue and spread vitriol? What do they gain with these little Facebook games?

I am really sorry that this happened to my friend too. I remember how upsetting I found it briefly at the time. It’s like this whole sense of betrayal when people are so nasty. Then you realize no one is worth that crap.

Look, OK, we probably all have a more than small dose of cabin fever at this point. We are living our lives in a way we’ve never had to live them before. But when I look at what those who live through World War II have to say it just sort of gives you a whole new perspective.

 I can’t make people be kinder to one another. And I’m sure some will have comments about what I have written today. It’s just one of the many things I am thinking about because face it, we all have so much time to think right now. And perhaps that is part of the problem. I don’t think some people are comfortable with their thoughts.

But I don’t understand with all that we have to deal with why these two women persist in doing this? All they are doing is isolating themselves further from people within their community and showing the world how unhappy they are. And that’s the thing that we are also discovering through all of this staying at home and self isolation: we are not islands unto ourselves after all. Humans need human contact and community, and it takes a global pandemic to realize it. So try being nicer, right?

I have always maintained that social media is both a blessing and a curse. It would be nice if right now with our every day lives up-ended indefinitely if we could try to make it more of a blessing than a curse.

If something annoys you or you don’t agree with it, you don’t have to leave a comment every time. Sometimes you can just scroll past it. That way people don’t fight and friendships remain intact during a very difficult time.

Try to be kind today.

the simple things we take for granted

Life is so quiet. It’s like snowstorm quiet without the snow. We naturally miss the little things, the simple things that we take for granted except now. It’s the freedom to move about and do what we want, when we want. But just like when there is a big snowstorm, we can’t. We have to think, we have to pause. And some people just can’t pause. They simply don’t know how.

There is also that underlying current of what is next? But not all the time. Only when I turn on the news. The media is so on overdrive I wonder when people will stop listening? It’s a balancing act for all of us and them and it can be information overload can’t it?

An amusing thing is apparently Facebook software wants people to stop listening. Yesterday they kept removing people’s posts saying they went against “community standards”. They did it with one of mine. I had shared an article from The Morning Call about a news conference Governor Tom Wolf had held. A friend of mine had a post removed she posted that was an obituary!

Reuters: Social media giants warn of AI moderation errors as coronavirus empties offices


SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Alphabet Inc’s YouTube, Facebook Inc (FB.O) and Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) warned on Monday that more videos and other content could be erroneously removed for policy violations, as the companies empty offices and rely on automated takedown software during the coronavirus pandemic.

I think what bothers me the most about what’s going on with COVID19 or coronavirus are the people not taking it seriously. I have seen so many “group selfies” that makes me wonder what it is they don’t get about social distancing? And these people have been both young and those who could be categorized as senior citizens who should know better or people who just don’t think this will touch them for whatever reason.

And I know some people are having a hard time being home with their kids. It occurred to me the other day why it is so hard. It’s because a lot of these people have their kids so scheduled every day of the week, they (and the kids) don’t actually know what to do when they’re not scheduled.

Now more than ever it has true meaning to say you are blessed to have your family, friends, and your health is totally true.

And sorry not sorry, I don’t view it as a world crisis that the liquor stores are closed. People, your liver will thank you for the break.

Someone asked me today what I’m doing. It’s pretty much my normal life. I am cooking, cleaning, reading, writing, working from home, sewing, and gardening. All the things I do normally as a not so closeted nester, things I like to do. I am by nature a homebody. I like being home.

I do miss seeing my friends and doing things with them but like the rest of my family they’re all still out there just everyone’s in their own space right now.

One thing I miss is my friend Amy and I were due for a “Fran day”. Those are little outings we do named after her mother. We have lunch and we poke our heads in a couple of antique stores like Frazer Antiques and Brandywine View Antiques, or visit the Surrey Services for Seniors Thrift Shop in Berwyn. Sometimes depending on the season , we go to a thing at Life’s Patina. Her mother loved days like that. So it’s like keeping a piece of her with us.

We both used to be on the corporate hamster wheel and it’s something that we also both decided we wanted to do for ourselves now that we can sometimes.

That’s another thing I’ve been thinking about. In this country, we often don’t take time for ourselves and our families. It’s a cycle of work home sleep eat repeat. Busy busy busy. So now we have the time. Should we just try to see the positives in that? 

This virus is kind of beyond our control except for the things we can do with washing our hands, social distancing and just staying the hell home. (See staythefuckhome.com )

Someone has this website up NCOV19live it has a worldwide map.

So for the time being why NOT garden more? Or do something creative at home. Seriously. You’ll feel better. Especially gardening.

Me? I am going to finish a pillow.

Happy hump day #COVID19 style.

We can do this.

coronavirus/covid-19 frustration

Wegman’s on 29 in Malvern RIGHT NOW

I placed a grocery order the other day. Not a panic, I want to clear the shelves grocery order, but a normal one for normal groceries. Through Instacart.

Nothing had been canceled, I thought my order would go as planned.

NOPE. People have once again cleaned out the Wegmans in Malvern on 29 again of food and it is only 1 PM and supposedly they had just restocked.

This is crazy town. This is also food hoarding I think. Now I understand WHY during World War I and II there was food rationing.

Hell I did not even need toilet paper. Just ummm….regular groceries, a few spices and so on.

They don’t even have frozen Mac & Cheese!

My poor shopper. I told her just to cancel the order. She couldn’t do it and couldn’t get through to Instacart as an employee. I finally just sat on the phone for close to an hour to get an order that basically couldn’t be filled, cancelled.

Sorry not sorry I think that’s crazy town. I got a nice guy in a totally offshore call center at Instacart to cancel. But I had to sit on the phone for just shy of an an hour. (55 minutes)

Look I am not going to apologize for getting groceries delivered. I live on the fringes of the immunocompromised as a breast cancer patient. Besides how many people do this on a regular basis? And in the present moment it seems to make sense…given coronavirus.

What doesn’t make sense however, are the people who are just panic buying everything in sight to the point where you can’t even get basic groceries. What the hell is wrong with those people? I have also heard tales of people in the grocery stores shopping and getting food ripped out of their hands like it’s the bridal sale at Kleinfelds in New York.

More from the Wegmans in Malvern

Here is what a friend of mine named Gwen said today:

One thing that this pandemic has driven home to me is how very lucky I am–how lucky most of us are. We’re upset that concerts, games and other events are being cancelled. Many folks don’t have access to those things ever. We’re upset that we have to wait a day to buy whatever we want. People in refugee settlements or living in poverty may always be hungry or without basic staples.

I worry about what will happen if our health care workers get sick and if our hospitals are overburdened. But I’m not the doctor, nurse or aide who has to leave my child or aging parent to take care of others who are sick. And many people rarely have access to or can afford care. I have a warm home in which I can shelter in place and food to eat. I have a job that lets me work from the comfort and safety of my home. I have people to help take care of me if I do get sick. I have access to care. In the most important ways, I am wealthy beyond measure.

Very true. And thank you for putting it into perspective.

My Instacart message …after I got my order canceled SMH…

Now let’s talk other things. This morning I wrote that we live in municipalities with small township buildings in a lot of cases. Even in larger township buildings there isn’t (in my humble opinion) enough room to even practice “social distancing” for meetings. Even for the boards and township employees who sit up front.

Municipalities should be voluntarily rescheduling ALL public meetings and hearings for the next month to six weeks. They don’t know even among the employee and elected officials ranks who would or might be immunocompromised or even who they might have been exposed to. Same with whichever attorney or individual who might have business before a municipality.

Coronavirus is real and if they are closing schools and sporting events as a precaution then township buildings should follow suit. No one is going to die if applications before boards and commissions are paused for 4 to 6 weeks, but if people are potentially exposed to sick people in boardrooms is that really a risk municipalities in Chester County want to take?

Contact YOUR municipalities and ask them what they are doing. I am not being an alarmist, this is no joke. And also if any of you have family members who were lost in the Spanish Influenza Pandemic of 1918 you know it’s no joke. Better safe than sorry. (See: Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Wolf has ordered the closure of schools and other public venues in Montgomery County, which has the most coronavirus cases in the state.)

Oh my soooo many people were upset with me. Comments like:

 It doesn’t help to bombard municipal workers with questions. They are getting advice from the County, the State and the CDC. It is rather overwhelming. Please resist the urge to make it worse.

Respectfully, I disagree. There is so much information that is out there that is conflicting or as clear as mud. Last time I checked government still works for us, and to whom are we to direct concerns if we have them? Shelter in place and pose questions to the cat and dog perhaps?  It doesn’t hurt to ask politely if you are wondering about something. You don’t have to call, you can e-mail.

Plenty of municipalities are postponing and rescheduling events and meetings. Plenty are not. A lot of municipalities broadcast live, and Tredyffrin for example, has offered residents an email address to mail public comment questions and statements to so they get on the record. But then there are the municipalities who record NOTHING and offer the barest of bare bones meeting minutes, or who record audio only and release after a meeting is over, or record meeting but only post after a meeting is over. Not naming names they know who they are.

What is happening now is why municipalities need to catch up with the times and modernize. You all have access to PEG channels or YouTube technology and you can indeed broadcast a meeting live on YouTube. East Goshen does it. And East Goshen has gone the extra step to say how many people can fit in their small boardroom with proper social distancing.

Then there were the people annoyed with me for mentioning the Spanish Influenza outbreak in conjunction with the coronavirus. People, that is historical FACT. There was quite literally a parade for World War I in Philadelphia that was NOT canceled and it caused the Spanish Influenza to go pandemic in the area because the crowds were not broken up.

Chester County PA has just announced they are moving to only essential services. No prison visitors or visitors to long term care facilities. Closing the libraries, courts, and parks and trails for 14 days. There is more but they are speaking faster than I can type. The are declaring an emergency county-wide. This is no joke. This is hunker down and ride it out as best we can.

It would be nice if people would stop hoarding groceries or accumulating things people need everyday so they can price gouge and make a buck off of the troubles of others.

Covid-19 is nothing we have seen before. Life has to be somewhat draconian until it’s figured out. This thing is going to affect us.

I agree with the Chester County Health Officials who urge us not to look at this as a punishment but an opportunity to be together. Life throws us curve balls. Maybe we could rise to the occasion here? I am confused and worried just like everyone else. But the ONLY thing we can control right now is how we react. We need to be calm and hunker down.

Thinking of all of you.

Wegman’s Malvern, PA

the time between dawn and sunrise.

This morning between dawn and sunrise.

This is a post to probably won’t interest a lot of my readers because it’s personal. It’s about memories to come floating forward in the quiet of morning twilight, that time between dawn and sunrise. Have you ever had those?

I have had a bunch of those memories surface recently. This morning I remembered clearly what it was like looking outside my first bedroom window as a really little girl. My parents’ house was a construction site for much of the time we lived in Society Hill because it was such a wreck when they bought it. I used to look out the window which was in the rear of what today you would call the “master suite”.

My sister was still in her crib, and I was in this little room off the bathroom that would eventually become something like a dressing room. I remember clearly looking out the window at night and even in the morning. I would see the roofs of Bell’s Court and into St. Joseph’s Way and beyond. I also remember looking out that window at night at all the twinkling lights in the house is behind us. I remember wondering what all the people in those houses were like, what they were doing.

I had a memory not too long ago of singing songs from the Beatles’ Songbook on the front steps with a babysitter. It was fun. Only my mother didn’t approve. I remember her telling my babysitter not to do that because she didn’t want to have a kid sitting on the front stoop. She didn’t care if we did something like that out in the backyard but she never wanted us sitting on the front steps for some reason.

Another random memory is getting pushed off a high bar of the jungle gym in the St. Peter’s playground. The girl who did it said it was “an accident“ but it wasn’t. She was sort of a frenemy back then. I remember hitting the ground and the wind got knocked out of me. I never much liked the jungle gym after that.

I also remember what it was that made my parents and a friend’s parents want to leave the city. My friend and I were riding bikes in Bingham Court which was some thing we used to do often. If we weren’t riding bikes we were rollerskating. What made the parents decide on suburbia was the day we got mugged riding bikes. We didn’t really have anything worth stealing so what they did was smash my friend’s glasses into her face.

But that was like a defining moment in the lives of two families. Up until that point we often used to roam around and ride bikes by ourselves. We were like 10 or 11.

Other memories that have come back in these weird in between hours was like the memory of discovering an old quarry with a friend. It was in Gladwyne. I’m sure it’s still there unless someone filled it in, and could they even do that? It was down this sort of a dirt road off of a kind of a gravel driveway that was long and windy.

When you came upon the quarry it was cool and quiet except for the sound of birds. There were woods and scrub trees growing up top on the far side of the quarry and around the other sides of the quarry. We never went swimming or anything in the quarry, we just hung out. It was was a cool place.

Other memories from that year in Gladwyne was the was the clop, clop, clop of horses’ hooves on the road. A lot of people still kept horses in Gladwyne back then. It’s where I learned to ride. That sound is still sort of magical to me. Sometimes I would even wake up to that sound because Mr. Gwinn’s was across the road and other people kept horses down the road. The sound of horse is going by like that is very soothing.

I don’t know what the point of these memories floating free but it’s so different then the way we are today, isn’t it? Kids just wandered. Everyone was ok. Essentially when we could be outside, we were outside. We weren’t inside watching TV or playing video games or doing stuff on our tablets or phones.

When I fully wake up, the former child I once was is gone and the adult is back. I am in our bedroom in our house. I get up and I look out the window into the woods. Yes, I still like looking out the window even at almost 56. I really love the view we are blessed to have. It’s just beautiful. And every day I hear birds.

Appreciate your day. And your life. Thanks for stopping by.

a beautiful children’s book 26 years in the making

Giants “A Children’s Grief Story

When somebody tells you that their newly published book was 26 years in the making it really makes you want to stop and think

Giants A Children’s Grief Story by A.E. McIntyre and ElisaBeth Steins is that book. I will let the author A.E. McIntyre speak for himself:

I am proud to announce that Giants “A Children’s Grief Story,” is now available for purchase. This story is 26 years in the making.
Thank you to my incredibly talented childhood friend and artist Beth Steines whose illustrations brought this story to life. In 1994, I wrote the original draft of the story, one night in my college dorm room. Then I just filed it away.
Then in 1998, while attending a poetry class at WCU, Giants was mocked. The other students lampooned it, and thought I was trying to sound like a child. At the time, I didn’t have the courage to say, that indeed, the little boy inside of me had in fact written the story. So then I filed it away.
Then, three years ago, my brother died and it all came back to me once more. So on a bike ride I thought, “I need to write a children’s story about grief,” almost forgetting that I already had. It was then, when a friend Kelly encouraged me to write a second half to the original story.
No one but Beth and I, my editor and Beehive Book Design have read the complete story until now…while the original version of “Giants,” is in the beginning of my book, “Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall, A Life from Moment to Moment.” And then, I filed Giants away again.
Then, two years ago, my daughters school friend lost her father, and once more, I committed myself to trying to turn Giants into a reality. Soon after, Beth signed on as my illustrator. Giants was originally intended for children, but really, it’s a book for adults too. And I am trying to honor all of those adults out there, who also lost their parents too soon.
Very recently, a dear friend of mine passed suddenly, and much like the boy in the story, I found myself facing the same questions about God and Heaven, and whether my friend was now at peace with God? And then I realized, the questions this little boy must face, are the very same questions, that each of us must face, when we lose loved ones, even as adults.
Now… Knowing how hard this is in adulthood, now……imagine for a moment just how hard it is to lose a parent when you are just a child. Thank you!

I wish this book has been around when my niece and nephew were very small children and their father died in 3 1/2 weeks from a vicious pleural mesothelioma a few days before Christmas in 2010.

If you are interested in ordering this book please follow the link to Amazon.

I think this book is a beautiful thing.

have you visited magnolia cottage shop in malvern/frazer yet?

I have written about Magnolia Cottage Shop before, but it really is quickly becoming a favorite place so I thought I would post some photos. I went to pick something up there today and I just love it. It’s nice to have a store that has a wonderfully curated selection of gifts with all sorts of antique and vintage mixed in. 

Magnolia Cottage Shop is located at 288 Lancaster Avenue in Malvern/Frazer. Their phone number is 484- 320-8022.

The owner really goes out of her way to have fun things that you just don’t find every place else. One of the things she carries which I really like are the Wickit Good Candles. They are a hand poured craft candle with Chester County roots but are hand-crafted at the Jersey shore.

Wickit Good Candles have wonderful scents that are not overpowering and overwhelming. I like a candle that gives you a waft of a beautiful fragrance, not something that smacks you in the face and smells like grandma’s old potpourri.

For those planning bridal showers and even baby showers in the spring, this is a great store to pick up presents that are fun and have whimsy. 

They also have monogramming available for things purchased in the shop which I really like because they are bringing in these bags which will make awesome shopping totes or beach/pool bags. I don’t know about you but I’d rather carry my vegetables from the farmers market in a cute bag!

And I am my mother’s daughter in that regard…. I just love monograms and personalization.

So if you haven’t had the opportunity to check out Magnolia Cottage Shop, also keep in mind that they do things like offer small group workshops, classes, demonstrations and even some Young Rembrandts Chester County children’s art classes!

farm boy fresh…hooked

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Today I finally made it to Farm Boy Fresh in Malvern.

“Don’t take my picture!” he said “Look at this apron!”

Oh Chef, the thing is this, pristine aprons to me mean y’all aren’t having fun creating your food.  (Besides, I am the home cook who can kill an apron almost as soon as I put it on!) So a little smudge of something on your apron is a good thing.

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I have been wanting to get to Farm Boy Fresh and as today is Thursday, it was chicken basket day, so instead of just writing about how amazing everything looks, I went for a little look see myself. (I wrote about them earlier this month.)

Yes, seriously, we have a classically trained chef who trained with people like Emeril Lagasse right here in Chester County.  Living his best life with his wife on their lovely farm and cooking breakfast and lunch….inside the Sunoco Station at Routes 30 and 29 in Malvern.  Yes, where Three Crazy Ladies was.

While there, Chef Paul Marshall was telling me about the chicken he uses when he was preparing my order and a couple of others.  He uses Poulet Rouge.  I had not heard of that type of chicken in years.  As in I saw them on a farm once in France when I was like 14. They are a russet red chicken with long legs and a bare neck.  Seriously.  I realized those were the chickens I saw ummm…. decades ago.

I did a little reading when I got home and these chickens do indeed have longer legs and they are less round than some chicken breeds can be.  They are known for their flavor and apparently they have thinner skin.  I actually found a farm down south that raises them and you can buy them and other heritage poultry and meats from (Joyce Farms).

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I am not sure if this is where the chicken today came from, but the chicken I had today was so good it was like a religious experience.  Did you ever have lunch that smelled so good and looked so good that it was like there was no time for social media and food photos and you just ate a meal without taking it’s photo?  You know the way it used to be before we were Instagramming, Tweeting, or Facebooking?

That was today.

The chicken was hot, juicy, and fresh and there was that lovely fluffiness of perfectly cooked chicken that had not only a good dredge with flavor, but buttermilk. And a little bit of a flavor profile that gave it just a little reminiscence of a kick but not spicy.  Super subtle.  Served with the chicken was this slaw that I am guessing was Napa cabbage (my favorite) and I am not sure all what else, but it had Asian influences and seemed to be more of a vinaigrette and essentially I could have dined on that alone it was so good.

IMG_1919I also bought a yummy blueberry chia muffin, chocolate chip cookies,  and a jar of hot pepper jelly.

You know what else I liked?  I got to hang out and talk to the chef.  I have a friend from high school who is a chef (Carlo DeMarco of 333 Bellrose in Radnor), and have met others over the years through friends and family and they are a lot of fun to speak with.

Since I like to cook, I like to learn, and all of the chefs I have met are happy to talk food and share.  Chef Paul Marshall is no exception.  He was so nice and very interesting and I also loved hearing him speak about his wife Julie who apparently grew up in the area.  That was awesome.  You have to totally and immediately appreciate and respect someone who obviously adores their spouse, and their eyes light up when they speak of them.

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My friend Sherry Tillman, who created First Friday Main Line and owns Past*Present*Future in Ardmore can tell you that I am a food geek.  Whenever we were doing out food events years ago like Foodapalooza, she always knew she had someone to go to the participating restaurants and photograph the food and chefs and speak with them. That is my idea of fun.

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Soon at Farm Boy Fresh there will be amazing high boy farm style tables so you can eat in and not just take out.  It is totally quirky to have an amazing chef cooking in a gas station, but you know what? That juxtaposition just works. This is fun.

Farm Boy Fresh is a welcome addition to the lunch and breakfast places in Chester County.  It’s so great to meet someone that just loves what they do.

Go get yourself some breakfast or lunch.  Farm Boy Fresh is located at the Sunoco at 7 Lancaster Avenue in Malvern (the corner of Route 30 and Lancaster Ave in East Whiteland Township)

I will note for the record that I was not compensated for this review.  I went in to buy lunch and I will be back! I am Farm Boy Fresh hooked!

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historic preservation is inspiring and infectious, why can’t we have more not less?

This was something the greeted me this morning when I popped open my tablet. An update from Meg Veno at Life’s Patina about the restoration in progress of the Jenny Lind house in Historic Yellow Springs Village this morning she was talking about antique fire backs and it triggered a memory in me, reminding me of my late father upon seeing these fire backs.

When I was very young, as I have written before, my parents bought a wreck of a house from the redevelopment authority in Philadelphia. Literally a wreck. It was their first house and they had lived in an apartment close by as newlyweds.

An 1811 double front townhouse turned into bad apartments in the depression (if memory serves.) This was the early 60s and most of Society Hill was a slum. I remember my father hunting for fire backs for all the fireplaces (and almost every room had one except for the back building.) Because the homes were in such a general condition of disrepair, you would salvage for missing parts quite literally from other homes being torn down.

This was the original “sale sign” on the house my parents bought in the ‘60s in Society Hill

Yes above you see the actual sale sign that was hanging on the house my parents bought from the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority in the early 1960s. I will note that in today’s world, realtors and others get the actual date of this house I was born in wrong. Sometimes it’s just buy a couple of years, other times it’s been by decades. I don’t know how they can’t do their research. I keep the sign with me as a souvenir of my childhood there.

I have distinct memories of Society Hill when I was really little and it was like a giant construction site. There were so many houses that were beyond repair being torn down, other houses being restored, and in some cases entire blocks being leveled for new construction. Including next door to our house.

From Philadelphia government archives. Photo dates to 1957

From Philadelphia government archives. Photo dates to 1930s

If you look at those photos, the one immediately above the one that was taken in the 1930s when the house was part of an entire row of homes built in the same early 19th century. The photo above that is from 1957 and a bunch of the houses had already been demolished. I will further note that the house at the end of the row in the 1957 photo (269 S. 4th) was torn down by the time my parents bought their house (271 S. 4th.)

When I was a little girl until they started building, right next-door to us was a big old empty lot with a giant sycamore tree in the back corner.

The two screen shots above are from the PhillyHistory.org amazing photo archives. This next screenshot is from Philadelphia Architects and Buildings and was taken in the 1980s:

When I look at that photo I get wistful because the little street tree is a pin oak tree my father planted when I was a little girl. I also have that memory of him planting the street tree and taking care of it throughout the years. Just like I have memories of my mother scrubbing down by hand the white marble steps. It was the only way to keep them clean.

The next screenshot is a Google shot my parents’ old house today. I have no idea who owns it I know it’s sold a couple of years ago. I presume it is still single-family. It would kill me if it was put back to apartments after all these years.

And look to the left of my parents home townhouses built in the early 1970s. I don’t think it was late 1960s, but maybe they were at least in planning. Look at the difference between what you see being built today and what was built then. It has a better size and scale to fit into the existing neighborhood. The design while modern, nods to the past. It is a shame we can’t get that today with new construction, isn’t it?

Society hill in the 1960s was a very different place than a place you see being gentrified today. It was like this unspoken word-of-mouth saying that when houses were being either taken down or strip to the studs, people from the neighborhood that were in the middle of restoration projects always got a pick at salvage basically.

Meg’s photo of her firebacks took me back to when my father was restoring the fireplaces in our house back then. I have no idea if the fireplaces are still wood-burning, but they were when I was a child. And I remember my father going in and out of houses being torn down or houses that had been torn down and all were left were piles of rubble looking for hardware and firebacks and even some mantelpieces. The mantelpieces in this house I was born in were predominantly marble. A lot of them were black marble with beautiful veining.

The mantelpieces my father picked up out of homes being torn down were wood. Some of those had future use in other houses.  Daddy hated the waste so he literally collected hardware, doors, etc. Everyone did in those days.  Of course yes there were scavengers that just stole from everyone but I don’t remember them actually living in Society Hill.  They would just appear like carrion crows every now and again. I do remember my father chasing a contractor out onto the roof of the 4th floor for using interior mouldings as window trim. (But I digress as I ramble)

The PhillyHistory.org is a treasure trove of photos. You can see how bad a lot of the houses were on the inside, let alone the outside. I haven’t been able to find archival photos of my parents’ house from before they bought it but here’s a screenshot I took from one of the neighborhood homes of these archives that will give you an idea of the restoration that was necessary:

It’s crazy when I think about the way it was to what it has become as an area today. One thing no one ever talks about is how Society Hill got the name Society Hill.  Cue USHistory.org :

Named after the long defunct Free Society of Traders, this area of Philadelphia extends from Walnut to Lombard Streets, from Front to 8th Street.

 

The Society for which Society Hill is named is now defunct. The Free Society of Traders, a stock company to whom William Penn made liberal concessions of land and privileges, encountered virgin territory and woodlands stretching westward to the Schuylkill. They found some Dutch and Swedes living here as well. Though by 1683 the Society’s assets already included a sawmill, a glasshouse, and a tannery in Philadelphia, but two score years later they were bankrupt. The Assembly put the property of the Society in the hand of trustees in order to pay its debts.

 

Home to many members of the federal government when Philadelphia served as the nation’s capital, the area also attracted the locally wealthy and international nabobs as well. As the land juxtaposed the river and the seat of government, it was the most valuable in the city. From greed and speculation, lots were divided and divided again. The result: the serpentine walkways, abrupt angles, and tiny alleys that today make the area so appealingly intimate.

 

Over decades the area lost its cachet and ultimately became a dilapidated slum with a massive food distribution center located on Dock Street

 

But an interesting thing about when Society Hill came back to life is a lot was abandoned and derelict and empty.  It wasn’t a case of just displacing people to allow gentrification. That happened in many other areas of the city, however.  I am not going to say the Redevelopment Authority was full of angels.  There were always stories growing up.

PLAN PHILLY/WHYY: GENTRIFIED: STORIES FROM RAPIDLY CHANGING PHILADELPHIA
From slums to sleek towers: How Philly became cleaner, safer, and more unequal
By Jake Blumgart Jim Saksa March 12, 2018

Harry Schwartz, 84, remembers when his neighborhood, Society Hill, was one of the poorest parts of Philadelphia. But by the time he moved there as a young lawyer in 1969, things had changed. City planners had fixed up crowded blocks of crumbling old houses and razed a congested, old wholesale produce market to make way for majestic modernist towers. Schwartz and his pediatrician wife were attracted to Society Hill’s architectural gems, tucked among its cobblestoned, walkable streets. Soon, they found themselves surrounded by a community of artists, activists, and young professionals like them.

They loved it. Society Hill allowed them to bike to work and walk to friends’ houses for Julia Child-inspired dinner parties…The reinvention of Society Hill in the 1960s is widely considered one of the first instances of gentrification — although no one called it that at the time….“What happened in Society Hill in our experience, and I speak only from that, was not displacement,” says Schwartz, who moved in about a decade after city government spurred the redevelopment of the neighborhood. “But rather [by the time they moved in 1969], re-occupation and restoration.”

 

It was different.  And it was a time where progress didn’t hurt so much and people were actively participating in historic preservation.

There is this website I have discovered called Preserving Society Hill.  They have these oral histories transcribed. Some I have read have made me very emotional reading them. These are the people of my earliest years, the faces of where I lived. Some I still know today.  It is boring for all of you to hear me talk about this website, but for me, I am reading interviews given by people whose houses I played in or who my mother was in the babysitting co-op with and so on.

I will share a snippet of one given by Mrs. Burnette.  She and her husband who is an architect were friends of my parents and my sister and I went to school with their daughters.  They lived on S. 3rd Street.  I loved their house and still am connected to the daughters today:

DS: Tell me more about the condition of the house. Had it been open to the elements? Had it been vacant for a long period of time?

MB: I think it had been vacant for a while, because it was – as I remember, it was just large and dirty. [Laughs]

DS: Large and dirty. Were there animals or anything inside?

MB: No, no, it didn’t seem to be that way.

DS: Pigeons?

MB: No. Of course, it’s surprising that we went up into the attic and cleaned (5:00) the attic first of all. I remember being up there with a broom and sweeping out the attic and finding an old shoe. But the rest of it was pretty open. I don’t know if the Redevelopment Authority had come in and cleaned some of it out. Has anybody else said anything about that?

……DS: The Redevelopment Authority – you bought it from them.

MB: Yes. As I remember, it was $9,800.

DS: Gosh!

 

Another oral history was given by my friend’s father Philip Price.  What an amazing man he is!

Philip Price, Jr.’s account of his experience restoring 321 Spruce Street seems to include more lawsuits than do those of other narrators. A fire on the third floor had done a lot of damage to the house when Phil and his wife Sarah bought the place in 1965. The house was in “absolutely appalling” condition, but Phil and Sarah wanted to live in Center City and “enjoy the challenges of moving into a redevelopment area.” They also bought the property next door, 319 Spruce, where they would enjoy planting a garden. They did a complete rehab of the house: electrical, plumbing, roof, painting, nine fireplaces all restored to working order, and ultimately shutters required by the Redevelopment Authority.

One lawsuit arose after Phil and his contractor discovered that the chimney shared by the unrestored, unoccupied house next door at 323 Spruce was about to fall off the houses and crash onto the sidewalk – so imminently that Phil had the chimney removed immediately and wrote a letter to the other owner describing what had happened. The other owner sued Phil, but Phil prevailed

Truthfully this Preserving Society Hill website is a gem to me.  Even some of my childhood playmates are interviewed with the oral histories. If you lived in Society Hill when we did you will love the memories evoked. It’s why I love oral histories and think they are so important. I have always said communities should commit to oral histories.

But what is also so great about the oral histories I am reading on this website is I am not mis-remembering things. Like all of us who got jumped or mugged. Yes truly and as kids. They stole my friend’s bike right out from under us in Bingham Court which was down the street from our house.  My friend wore glasses and they smashed them in her face.  Then there was the Halloween a whole bunch of us got mugged for our Unicef collection boxes. And we were with parents. I remember we were wearing these giant paper costumes by Creative Playthings too – parents loved them because you could bundle kids up underneath.

Society Hill was tough but it was wonderful.  I loved the history of it and still do.  It was proof that historic preservation does and can work.  This is my touchstone when I think about historic preservation anywhere.  Society Hill brought together people from all walks of life, backgrounds, races, religions.  Oh and guess what else? Most people had walled gardens they created as they were restoring their houses.

So Meg Veno? Thank you for inspiring me today and evoking happy memories that made me take another ramble down my own memory lane.

We need more preservation.  We need development to fit with where we live when it happens. It is possible.


“cooking with soup”

This cookbook. I know my readers must be so tired of me going on about my love of vintage cookbooks but this is one right out of my childhood. The edition you see above is the first edition which was from the 1960s put out by the Campbell Soup Company.

I got this at an estate sale this past weekend. As a matter fact I haunted the person holding the estate sale to make sure I would get this cookbook!

This is another one of those great shortcut bearing mid century cookbooks that had two recipes I remember from my childhood. 

One of the things I love about this cookbook other than it’s as it was when it first came out in the 1960s, are the notes found in the cookbook. The lady who owned this cookbook left notes and recipe recommendations throughout the cookbook. As a matter fact I have been peeling off now rusted paper clips of where she had marked recipes she found especially good!

One of the recipes I wanted was the original tuna n’ noodles casserole recipe. Growing up, that was the our parents are going out and leaving us with a babysitter meal. I swear my mother practically made this every single time we had a babysitter.

The other recipe was their short cut version of turkey tetrazzini. And I actually did want that recipe because we had a frozen turkey that we cooked at the end of last week and I have to figure out what to do with the leftovers.

This cookbook is like a little time capsule. It goes back to a time when everyone and everything was probably a little more innocent. Is it necessarily the healthiest cookbook in the world? No, but sometimes I wonder how hard it would be to update these recipes for a more modern kitchen.

I still think this is a cookbook that every kitchen should have a copy of. And the 1960s edition that I have is found easily on Amazon and eBay and with used book dealers just as the 1970s version.

Add a little vintage to your kitchen! You’ll be glad you did!