random acts of early morning memories…

Yes, me circa 1981/82

Memories are funny things. Sometimes they arise unbidden in the early morning in the time between sleeping and awakening.

This morning I had the memory of the spring break I spent in Rocky a River, OH. It was freshman year and my parents had told me something along the lines of it was too expensive to fly me home and no one I knew was driving back to Pennsylvania from Ohio, so I went home with a friend. To Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland.

Cleveland at that time was nicknamed the mistake on the lake.

This was the spring of 1982 and in 1978 Cleveland as a city had defaulted on their loans from local banks. I think it was the late 1980s before a lot of that debacle was resolved.

People in the Cleveland suburbs did not think the city was super safe at that time, so I did not see much of the city then, and have never been back. One thing I did see was something on the inside which was reminiscent of the Galleria in Milan, Italy. It is called The Arcade. It is a famous landmark because it was built in the 1890s as the first indoor mall. When I saw it in the spring of 1982 it really hadn’t been restored much and was kind of rundown but it was so cool. I found photos on the Internet of it today:

I also remember being taken around to see the mansions along Lake Erie. Most of what I remember were these giant Tudor houses with lakefront views that were so gorgeous. Being from the East Coast, to me lakes aren’t as big as the Great Lakes. Looking at the Great Lakes is like looking at an ocean. One of the houses behind great gates was owned by the people who founded Bonnie Bell Cosmetics.

There were also other attractions like this really amazing walking trail and park along the Rocky River. I don’t remember the name of the park or recreation area but the views were crazy beautiful and there were also waterfalls.

Something that has never changed in me is liking to look at old houses and cool old buildings and pretty bits of nature. I’m only sorry I really wasn’t into photography back then.

I also remember it was a time I was utterly homesick and had really wanted to go home for spring break, not stay in Ohio. At night, as I lay in bed in the guest room of this girl kind enough to host me, I used to fiddle with the little transistor radio on the nightstand. If I fiddled with the dial ever so slightly I could briefly pick up KYW 1060, otherwise known as Philadelphia’s news radio.

I don’t know why I remembered all of this. The girl who hosted me is someone I haven’t seen or heard from since freshman year. We were in different sororities and by sophomore year she was one of those people who essentially ditched all of her friends from freshman year and clung to her sorority. Which was kind of awkward for a while because I seem to recall we were in the same dorm sophomore year. But she was someone whose mom had died before freshman year and sometimes I remember her seeming so sad. But that spring break long ago we had fun, and it was nice to be and see where she grew up.

Other memories today were triggered by news on a Facebook Page about the fate of the Dorrance Estate on Monk Road in Gladwyne. Most people refer to it as the Burch Estate as they are the current and/or most recent owners, but to me it will always be the Dorrance Estate. The land is subject to development now. There have been a couple of plans. The current proposal involves creating 27 houses.

Ok that is much better than the last plan, but it still seems so dense to me. But then again I remember the way Gladwyne was when we first moved to suburbia in the mid 1970s. And what I realize this morning when I was speaking to a friend is that Gladwyne back then was a lot like parts of Chester County. In my humble opinion, somewhere no matter what happens to that land, the Dorrances are rolling in their graves over whatever happens on Monk Road.

I remember being on this estate as a kid when we lived on Monk Road for a year. The first year in suburbia was spent in a rental house because our home in the city sold faster than was expected and they needed to find a house at least temporarily in the township my parents wished to reside in (Lower Merion.)

That was a magical year for the now former city kids. We started taking riding lessons and were able to be free range kids in the summer. Well, except for having to go to tennis camp. My mother had decided I needed to know how to play tennis so off I went to the Tennis Farm in Bryn Mawr. The plus side of that (because I truly hate and am bad at playing tennis) is that I made some lifelong friends that summer at that camp.

The Dorrance Estate was way down at the end of the road. The Dorrances at the time also had a pack of Labrador retrievers with two other dogs that would periodically get off the estate. And there was the swimming pool for the staff and the Dorrances’ pool. I went swimming in the staff pool that summer because I was friendly with a girl whose family lived and worked on the Estate and resided in one of the tenant properties.

At that time, Mr Gwinn’s property at the other end of Monk Road was still intact and hadn’t gotten chopped up for McMansions. Mr. Gwinn had many horses and a giant carriage house along with the stables that housed a glorious old sleigh that he would take out on snowy days before the roads were plowed. I still remember he and his wife throwing parties. His nickname was “The Squire”. His wife was a beautiful lady and I remember a summer party they had where she was outside greeting guests in a long Vera or something similar summer hostess gown. Cotton, bright pattern, long and very 70s. It could have been Lillie Pulitzer too. Part of “the Squire’s” property is still intact, but sadly a few years ago his house was torn down. The years had not been kind to the house, and there was a lot more gong on then would make it realistic to save it. But I am told some of the outbuildings remain.

But I also remember the estate and adjoining property that existed before Waverly Heights Retirement Community was built. I remember the horses and ponies that used to stick their heads over the fences for pats and apples and carrots.

The irony is back in the day, Gladwyne to an extent was a lot like parts of Chester County.

When you have random memories like that it makes you realize that with few exceptions do any of us really end up where we thought we would be when we were kids? When I was really little and we lived in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia, I thought that we would always live in the city even when I grew up. Then when we moved to the Main Line suburbs, I swear my friends and I were among the last generations that were groomed to stay there…..

…..Yet that’s not where life took me and many others in the end.

Do I feel I am where I belong? That I am where I am supposed to be? Yes, definitely.

But every once in a while, especially as I get older, these random memories surface. Sometimes I unpack them and dig around in them for a while, and other times I just let them pass on by.

Thanks for stopping by.

Circa 1976/77 Gladwyne, PA taken on Monk Road. Me in tennis whites.

summer sauce

I made this yesterday and everyone keeps asking for the recipe. There isn’t one per se but here’s how it evolved:

2 lbs of ground sausage sautéed in olive oil with 2 sweet onions, 6 mild/medium chili peppers, 2 long hot peppers, 5 cloves garlic minced, 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes from the garden halved, sea salt to taste.

Next I added a huge handful each of fresh basil and oregano from the garden and a 10 ounce package of fresh crimini (baby bella) mushrooms chopped up.

Cook on medium low and stir a lot until sausage is cooked through.

Add two cans (28 ounce) of canned tomatoes- what I had on hand was crushed, add 1 small can of tomato paste (6 ounce size), and a good dash of red wine or red wine or balsamic vinegar.

Reduce heat and allow to burble on the stove, stirring frequently for at least another hour. Adjust for salt and pepper if needed. I didn’t find it needed it.

This is the kind of sauce that if I had fresh eggplant, that would have been peeled and chopped up and added as well.

It’s not complicated and it’s easy to make your own homemade sauce. The chili peppers came out of the garden as well and the end result was a flavorful but NOT a spicy sauce. It just tastes fresh. It will be dinner later this week over spaghetti or some shape pasta. Serve with a salad and you are good to go.

Easy summer dinner.

Leftover sauce can be frozen.

drivers need to learn underpass heights…

Ship Road Underpass . Reader submitted photo.

Whether it’s the railroad underpass in Radnor Township at the train station on King of Prussia Road, or the underpass at Old Lancaster Road in Lower Merion Township, or any of the multitude of railroad underpasses and tunnels that dot Chester County, why can’t drivers read and comprehend the height limits?

It’s crazy. In the past one could argue back in the day that these railroad bridges and underpasses weren’t marked. BUT THEY ARE MARKED TODAY!

Malvern Borough 2018. A friend sent photo to me.

LOOK at the photo above and below! The underpass is MARKED CLEARLY! How can you miss the giant yellow painted steel beam with the height on it??

Photo found on Google attributed to Abel Bros Towing.

Someone told me once that the giant painted yellow steel beams are a few thousand a piece installed? I think they are a great idea in these locations because it keeps the truck from hitting the structure it hits the beam. Mind you it doesn’t necessarily stop trucks from getting stuck under the underpass or tunnel but it does help with the initial hit.

Every time a truck does this everything comes to a halt. Why? Because engineers have to look at the bridge to make sure it’s structurally sound after each accident.

How do companies allow truck drivers who don’t know the height of what they are driving? If they have a hard time remembering, why not have a big sticker on the dashboard that says your truck is X feet X inches tall?

I think a lot of this has to do with driving apps like Waze. Waze doesn’t include tunnel heights or even warn of tunnels and/or underpasses that I know of, do you?

How many years of hits from trucks can these old railroad tunnels and underpasses take?

I have gotten stuck on Ship Road before when they were removing a truck from under the railroad underpasses / tunnels there. You really get stuck because when you end up behind one of these trucks then everybody wants to turn around immediately and not pay attention to any of the other vehicles around them.

It’s just one of those things that keeps happening in our communities. And it’s not because these places aren’t marked. They are marked. And in a lot of places they are also marked with giant yellow steel beams with the height attached.

I don’t get this any more than the people that destroy Chester County’s iconic covered bridges by also not reading the height limits and running into them.

Please note that both Ship Road photos are from last week.

Thanks for stopping by.

Ship Rd last week. P.k. Ditty photo.

civilian bravery followed by questions in the wake of yesterday’s fire on pottstown pike.

Ginny Kerslake photo.

This morning the Daily Local has an article about a vicious fire that could have been deadly yesterday along Pottstown Pike/ Route 100.

Daily Local: Firefighters battle apartment fire in Uwchlan

By Pete Bannan Pbannan@21st-Centurymedia.com 7 hrs ago Comments

UWCHLAN — Fire erupted at an apartment house in the 500 block of N. Pottstown Pike Wednesday.  

Lionville Fire Company was dispatched just before 3 p.m. for the report of a possible subject trapped in the former two-floor motel annex.

Firefighters reported heavy fire on the second floor of the building….The cause of the fire is under investigation

I think at least FIVE fire companies responded. And given HOW busy 100 is, many, many kudos to the first responders because that is difficult location no matter how you slice it. I am also told access to this property is somewhat dicey? I wonder if they could even get fire trucks across the little driveway bridge off Route 100 that I am told crosses a creek there? People say it’s not great?

The reporter/photographer for The Daily Local is someone I have known for years. He covers a lot of fires and one time he covered a house fire next door to where I lived many years ago. I will never forget that fire because the firefighters had to work so hard to keep the flames engulfing an old Victorian house owned by an absentee landlord from jumping to the roofs next door, including my own.

What the reporter/photographer doesn’t mention is a selfless local Chester County resident who stopped to help BEFORE first responders arrived on scene.

And I am NOT saying this as a chide, I am not sure anyone knew. But I know so I am going to tell you.

The person who stopped and risked her own safety was my friend, Ginny Kerslake. Yes, the same Ginny Kerslake who ran for Chester County Commissioner in the recent Democratic primary this past spring that the Chester County Democrats chose NOT to endorse. (And yes THAT is most decidedly a dig at the flawed endorsement process of a major political party.)

This is what my friend Ginny shared with us yesterday shortly after the fire erupted:

Avoid route 100 just north of Township Line Rd.

As I was driving past I saw black smoke and then the flames. Called 911 and banged on the apartment doors right next to the house to alert residents. A woman used my phone to call the woman who lives in the house – luckily she was out somewhere but her husband who smokes may be inside where the fire is. I really hope he’s not. First responders on scene. It’s frightening to see.

I left once there was nothing for me to do but get out of the way. I’m home now hearing lots of sirens and hoping for the best for everyone there.

Ginny acted in a selfless and heroic manner in my opinion. She put herself in danger to try to help others before first responders arrived.

Ginny is a modest woman and doesn’t seek accolades or personal glory for the amazing things she does. However, yesterday what she did was brave and heroic and she deserves our praise and thanks. In a world where so much is ugly, I am honored to have a friend who truly will put her own needs and life aside for the greater good. Ginny exhibited a selfless act of bravery in the true spirit of community.

I don’t think Uwchlan Township even realized what she did.

That above was the Uwchlan Township Police Department press release post incident. They obviously did not realize that Ginny Kerslake was in part responsible for getting people out of the structure(s).

I remember yesterday when PulsePoint reported the incident. They said “commercial structure” so I was not sure where they meant.

You undoubtedly have driven past this now fire location before if you are traveling Route 100.

The above photo with the arrows is one I shared in the fall of 2017 when a billboard was being proposed for the derelict and boarded up farm market or whatever it is next door. I used the arrows to remind people of not only the location on Pottstwon Pike/100 but also the proximity to the location which had the fire yesterday.

And this location is what was once known as the Dogwood Motel. Now it appears to be apartments of some sort. And this location once again represents the very limited supply of “affordable housing” in this part of Chester County. Like the mobile home parks we see scattered about including in townships in close proximity like East Whiteland and further away near or in other municipalities like Wallace Township, Honeybrook, Phoenixville, and the Downingtown areas, the old Dogwood Motel represents a very limited supply of affordable housing.

And as Chester County continues to get bombarded with new developments, the affordable housing supply continues to dwindle. And we are not simply referring to section 8 housing, we are referring to low income housing for those of modest means in all categories including our elderly who live on fixed incomes in a lot of cases. With all of this new development, taxes and rents increase often pricing life-long residents quite literally out of their homes.

No, I am not being a drama queen, it’s true. And people of low incomes and modest means are the invisible people society doesn’t wish to see.

This location at 514 N. Pottstown Pike is run down and has been for years. A search through Chester County records indicates the property is owned by people who seem as if they lived locally at one time, but now reside in Florida. I am not positive but if I am reading old deeds correctly they bought it possibly in a Sheriff’s sale decades ago? Here is are screen shots from Chesco Views:

The Daily Local indicates there is some sort of investigation post-fire. That is normal. Of course other questions would now include if the property owners are the equivalent of absentee landlords who is responsible for day to day maintenance on this property? And who at a township level and county level is responsible for seeing that this structure and other low income rental properties are safe and up to code?

It is thanks to first responders and ordinary people like Ginny Kerslake who is not a first responder that no lives were lost.

But what happens now to all of the residents who call this location home? I can’t answer that question but myself and many others are wondering.

If anyone does any LEGITIMATE fundraisers for the residents here, please post a comment on this blog’s Facebook page.

But for the grace of God go any of us in a situation like this.

Ginny Kerslake photo.

are we safe co-existing with sunoco/energy transfer?

Photo taken by my friend Tom last evening after explosion or whatever it was from Energy Transfer/Sunoco

Last evening around 8 PM social media exploded from Facebook to Next Door with Chester County residents concerned about an explosion.

A friend of mine said today:

“It’s no longer about feeling angry and powerless about these pipelines, today I no longer feel safe in my home.”

What do you say to someone who is your friend when they say this? How do you console them? The short answer is you can’t.  How can you?  These pipelines are one problem after the other. Inadvertent returns or whatever you want to call it when drilling fluid rises up and floods a street, gets into a water well, and so on. Sinkholes. And now an explosion?

Residents of streets like Mary Jane Lane and in Hamlet Hill in West Chester actually felt their homes shake. Shake.

Oh and how dis Sunoco/Energy Transfer respond? See here:

For real? That’s it? That is the best they have got? Do they really think we are such rubes? I think we all know the difference between say an electrical transformer blowing, a car backfiring, and and actual explosion sound where HOUSES SHAKE????

It’s appalling. And will someone kindly explain how when people called this noise into 911 it didn’t even end up on PulsePoint? And only a lone police officer responded? There is a fire station right there, correct? With first responders who are response trained? Was this officer also trained in responding to pipeline emergencies? And before ANYONE FLIPS OUT I am not criticizing the fact this officer showed up, I am GRATEFUL he at least arrived on scene but where was everyone else? And now as the dust settles, I am being told by residents that the county says it is West Goshen’s responsibility yet supposedly the West Goshen Emergency Management Coordinator who is also purportedly the fire marshall over there did NOT know a thing until they saw it on social media this morning?

Who is playing God with the potential safety of residents?

All day long helicopters have been circling over there. My friends recorded them above their homes and I saw them myself when over at the Giant on Boot Road. They all can’t be from the helicopter museum, so who were they?

Saw this earlier:

And this:

Once again I am struck with the fact that residents and homeowners and even people who are just driving by pipeline sites are just constantly exposed to risk.  We can’t live our lives in fear, but how about credible information?

Yes no one was hurt BUT this is scary, scary stuff. And as residents we seem to be forced to absorb an inordinate amount of potential danger when it comes to these pipelines. And we don’t benefit. There is no reward for the risk, just risk.

We have friends who have left this part of Chester County because of the pipelines. We have other friends who received NO as in ZERO disclosure of the pipeline easement when they bought their home in West Whiteland. They only found out purely by accident. Now they have their dream home and not so dreamy pipeline in their front yard.

Officials claim they are looking into all f this and to them I say try harder, look faster. Last night was an unwelcome reminder of the risk of those pipelines. Every day we see the destruction.

Sunoco says Mariner East 2 system ‘backfired’ during maintenance but no risk to public. Residents report loud explosion; company says no liquids leaked from line By Jon Hurdle

a wine tasting on a lavender farm

I wrote about visiting beautiful Mt. Airy Lavender earlier this summer. The place is amazing and their products awesome. It is also a bucolic and lovely event venue.

We returned yesterday evening to the farm located in Wagontown for a wine tasting. We went to meet the lovely Gretchen Voelcker, owner and creator of Luna Hart Wines.

Our winemaker Gretchen

Founded by Gretchen Voelcker, Luna Hart Wines is a boutique wine company specializing in small batch, handcrafted wines in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Gretchen makes select wines in which she explores the techniques and nuances that continue to stoke her passion for wine.  

Nancy Saha, Gretchen’s grandmother (whom I adore)

Santa Ynez is part of the Santa Barbara wine country and home to other vineyard like Fess Parker. It is an amazing area, and as per my research each year over a million cases of wine are produced in the Santa Ynez Valley. The area features I am told well over a hundred wineries, most of them are boutique operations and family owned and operated. I prefer small businesses and have tasted many lovely wines from one of the most beautiful regions of California.

Why Luna Hart? Other than the wines are quite good? Because her proprietress and winemaker is from Chester County.

Gretchen Voelcker, the winemaker and creator of Luna Hart Wines grew up in Europe and right on the farm hosting the wine tasting event.  

While she and her family lived in Europe during her high school years and continuing with summers during her college years, she visited many different wine regions in France ultimately falling in love with the craft of winemaking and developing her own passion for wine.

When you speak with Gretchen as I did, you can see the passion for her chosen profession right of her face. She completely lights up while discussing how passion for wine began while living in Europe and visiting the many wonderful wine regions and vignobles in France.  Another passion was fueled by her love of nature and all things outdoors bringing her to California where she has had the fortune of working with gifted winemakers, mentors and role-models. 

After studying Business & French at Georgetown University and earning a degree in plant science from University of California, Santa Cruz, she moved to Santa Barbara County.

Gretchen worked at Rideau Vineyard for six years, starting as an intern and eventually became the assistant winemaker.  Now she is with Martian Ranch and Vineyard where she is the winegrower, producing minimal interference wines from biodynamically grown Estate grapes.

Gretchen has definitely produced some fabulous high quality wines and last evening we sampled four. Our favorites? A 2016 Cabernet Franc and a 2017 Grüner Veltliner.

The 2017 Grüner Veltliner was my pick because I am allergic to most red wines, and I prefer varietal whites over a bland Chardonnay. People laugh when I entertain because I don’t include Chardonnays. This wine is reminiscent of three wine styles to me: Alsatian, Austrian, and German.

My husband’s pick was the 2016 Cabernet Franc. It was a bold wine and lovely at first sip, and even better as it opened up. He is not a Merlot or Syrah guy generally, although he also said the 2018 Syrah presented was quite nice and fresh and fruity.

I also sampled the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc which was nice, but as I said the wine that hooked me was the 2017 Grüner Veltliner.

We purchased and bought home a few bottles of the 2017 Grüner Veltliner and 2016 Cabernet Franc.

You can order from Gretchen’s Website for Luna Hart and like many boutique and family vineyards, there is a wine club as well.

There is a lot of pretentious and not so enjoyable wine out there. Luna Hart is a label to watch. Gretchen is a talented winemaker and I look forward to tasting and purchasing more of her wines. Another one which interested me but sold out was the 2016 Aurora White. It uses in part a viognier grape and one of my all time favorite white varietals is a viognier.

Many thanks to beautiful Mt. Airy Lavender for hosting this event and a special note about how lovely the place looked and the food was terrific especially the salmon. A lot of times people skimp or do not truly bother with food at a wine tasting which I find to be a mistake. Wine is an experience generally paired with food so if you do a proper tasting the food should be sufficient and complementary.

If you are interested in hosting an event there, go to their website for further information.

Have a great Saturday!

there is still decency in this world.

It’s been a crazy 24 hours. A local business I wrote about after a less than satisfactory visit as fairly as I could decided to go Kamikaze on me for saying they were less than fabulous.

It doesn’t matter that my review was mild compared to some reviews out there. Apparently I am public enemy number one. My lot in life as a blogger, especially as a female bloggeress, is I am a baaaad person for having any opinions.

Female bloggers especially are supposed to be seen and not heard. We are supposed to stick to safe, pre-approved topics like trips to Disney and diapers, what we are making for dinner, and similar topics. (You know, the theory of bobble-headed, barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.)

Never, ever are you supposed to write about how you honestly feel about anything. Never are you supposed to utter a contrary opinion about the sad state of affairs of national politics. Or criticize LuLa Roe. Don’t ever criticize LuLa Roe.

Oopsies. I am just bad I guess?

No, not really. And if a local restaurant wants to crucify a now former customer, that’s on them.

The way their owner and staff reacted on their social media pages is unacceptable and it casts a pall on the entire business community that they are part of. And I am entitled to that opinion and many concur with that opinion. And people who wrote comments stating they thought the restaurant’s behavior towards me or any less than satisfied customer had their comments removed. Or snarky comments were left in response assuring people they could just call or stop in so why then did no one return my call? Their victim? Because I have stopped being their mere former customer and am a victim of their poor behavior aren’t I?

This behavior sends and reinforces a clear message that the customer is always wrong. Is that the message you want people to associate with the businesses in that area?

I feel sorry for these people in a way but not enough to allow them to just harass me via the comments of their followers. My opinion won’t make or break this business but sadly, their attitude and the poor way they have responded might. And that is on them. Sadly.

Anyway, where I was going with this today was in the middle of this swirling mass of bull twaddle something so incredibly nice happened.

Someone left me the beautiful bouquet of flowers you see in the photo above.

Why?

Because I had helped them with their garden and they wanted to show me what had grown.

I think this is one of the nicest things that anyone has ever done for me. And it’s so simple. It’s sharing your garden with a friend. And this is a friend I made because of gardening.

This of course reinforces to me the type of people you want to fill your life with. And the ones you should pass on by.

A quote from Gertrude Jekyll comes to mind:

“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”

She also said:

The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.”

Through gardening I have truly been blessed to meet some amazing people. And now having been in Chester County a few years, I can also say that I am very fortunate to have met some wonderful people just by living here.

Yes life throws you the occasional curve ball and grows a few weeds that require pulling, but the universe has this weird balance to it. Part of that balance is when something unpleasant happens, there is a reminder that for the most part people are good and decent and we should ignore the static.

Thanks for stopping by.