prayers for barclay friends

Most of us in Chester County woke up to those devastating news. Barclay Friends in the Borough of West Chester went up in flames as many of us, myself included, were sleeping. I have a friend whose mom was there, thank goodness she is now home and safe with her family. There are many, many displaced seniors as a result.

It is the eve of Thanksgiving and I think we must be grateful for the absolutely amazing first responders we have in Chester County. Firefighters, EMTs, police, and so on. I am not one to toss around the word blessed lightly, but we are so blessed with these heroic individuals because this could have been so much worse without their expertise and valor.

Daily Local : At least 20 injured, 100 flee into night as fire roars through West Chester senior living center (Photos)

Prayers go to the families with displaced seniors and the staff of Barclay Friends . I am happy to post legitimate fundraising efforts one Barclay Friends gets this sorted out to where they can do that. I am also happy to post efforts of groups who will be collecting clothing and other basics for these seniors. And if someone is planning to get Thanksgiving dinner to these displaced seniors.

These senior citizens could be anyone’s family members, and at least one is a family member of a friend.

I will admit I am so terrified at how fast Barclay Friends went up in flames. All media reports this morning indicate fire investigation is already beginning.

Also, and VERY important: you will note my photos come from social media. I am not going anywhere near that scene and neither should any curiosity seeker. Let the professionals do their jobs and stay out of the area in the Borough of West Chester.

Prayers up on this.

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the fall into winter garden

I start this morning with a picture of one of my November roses. I have a handful of rose bushes still blooming, and yesterday I was able to cut a small bouquet.

Another oddity given the weather, is this morning I picked fresh raspberries from my raspberry bush. Yes, really!

I have not only planted a “layered” garden, I have done my best to make this garden four seasons. The beauty is different in the fall and in the dead of winter, but if you open your eyes and look around you see it.

I planted a lot of the red twig dogwood shrubs throughout my garden. Some have a variegated leaf some a solid green leaf. Once they start to shed their leaves, the other part of their attractiveness shines through. These shrubs get brilliant red stems that give you the most glorious color from late fall through the winter. There are few things as pretty as seeing a red twig dogwood against freshly fallen snow!

And my hydrangeas – they also provide their own four season attraction. The hydrangeas keep their flowers through most of the winter until winds and what not start to knock them off. (I finish dead heading them in the spring which is NOT the same as pruning. ) It becomes more like a dried flower still life versus the crazy vibrant colors of the growing season.

A lot of my herbs overwinter nicely in this garden as they have enough protection in the beds. I will never get things like basil to overwinter outside, but I have even had tarragon over winter here, which I hadn’t had before. My two big pots on the front walk are filled with lavender and thyme. I will not cut them back I will leave those herbs exactly as is. I finally figured out the trick to lavender was NOT cutting it back if you found a spot where it can overwinter.

I have a much more laissez faire attitude to my garden in the fall then a lot of people. First of all I have a lot of garden and I have to accept that I can’t do everything. So much to the surprise of many, I kind of let my fall garden do what it wants to do. I do not dead head everything. Among other things if you leave the seedpods and whatnot on your shrubs and perennials, it’s food for birds.

But I have discovered if I let my fall garden do what it wants I have this whole other display. It’s almost like looking at a whole other garden. Instead of nothing, I have interest.

We do rake and blow the leaves, and our forest and woods are mostly oak trees, so we put the leaves on the flower beds.

A garden in fall and winter doesn’t have the lush beauty of spring and summer and the riot of color. It’s more subdued and it’s also more structural. You are, after all, looking at the plants without their spring and summer finery.

I do spray everything for deer around now, and I will have to do so again even in the dead of winter. That is the trade-off for having a garden in deer country.

I planted the last of my fall perennials that I picked up on sale and one more shrub. After this weekend I just have some bulbs to plant. But I hadn’t felt like planting them because honestly it was too warm.

I plant mostly daffodils and Narcissus. I gave up on tulips years ago as they are just squirrel food. I like Brent and Becky’s Bulbs for mail order bulbs. Most local nurseries do not get the variety I like, and they are simply more expensive. I have also used a company out of Connecticut called Color Blends.

Today I bought the ceramic vintages birdbaths in and put them in their winter homes in the basement. I bought in one concrete birdbath top, leaving the largest one for my sweet man to flip over and cover for me. It’s just too heavy for me to move.

The kitchen herbs that I have in pots that I do not overwinter inside I will take out of the ceramic and clay pots and put into the flowerbeds. As a result I have a healthy bed of thyme (makes an awesome ground cover), and returning sage and other things like oregano and even some rosemary. I just dig them in and they get covered with leaves and what survives is meant to be and that’s the way it is.

My house looks sort of like a jungle because the Boston ferns have come in from their hooks in the backyard and once a week they get a good water and misting every other day.

During the winter months I will keep myself busy with my ivy topiaries, clivia, and my ferns. I used to do a lot of amaryllis bulbs but I really don’t have the room anymore and the last few years of bulbs I have purchased I have been disappointed in.

Anyway, the time has come for the gardens to sleep. We will be getting a hard freeze over the next couple of days. I will get in the balance of my bulbs, and look to my gardening magazines and catalogs for inspiration for next year. But I will also enjoy my garden in fall and winter. I hope you will too.

Thanks for stopping by.

swedish meatballs….my way

I love old school recipes.  One from my childhood is Swedish meatballs.  Not because we had any Swedish heritage – it was just one of those dishes my mother would make for us.  Over the years I have tweaked a basic recipe to suit me.

The weather has finally turned crisp and fall-like so I thought tonight would be a good night to dust off the recipe and prepare Swedish meatballs.  My recipe is NOT made with heavy cream and I add mushrooms and a couple of other herbs/spices. But the flavors work and you get that old school Swedish meatball flavor…enhanced.  Some add caraway seeds to either the gravy or meatballs, I add celery seed to the gravy

I also do something that I doubt anyone else does – I will prepare the meatball mix ahead of time the day I am cooking and refrigerate until it is time to make the meatballs.  That allows the spices to meld and perfume the meat mixture better.

Panko bread crumbs are superior to regular bread crumbs in my opinion, but the most important thing to remember is to use PLAIN breadcrumbs. This is not the recipe for flavored breadcrumbs.

Some use mashed potatoes, I like wide egg noodles.

I hope you enjoy my recipe if you try it. Watch the salt you add because of the sodium in most broths.

Swedish Meatballs My Way

  • 1 pound meatloaf mix
  • 1 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped x 2 or 1 cup
  • ½ teaspoon Garlic Powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon White Pepper
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • Splash of buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 8 oz package baby bella mushrooms slices thin
  • 1 egg
  • 6 tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 tbsp. butter
  • 3 tbsp. flour
  • 2 cups beef broth or bison broth
  • 1 cup evaporated Vitamin D canned milk (also great for homemade macaroni and cheese) or half and half
  • 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a medium sized bowl combine ground beef, panko, parsley, allspice, nutmeg, onion, garlic powder, white pepper, cumin, paprika, mustard powder, dash of buttermilk, salt and egg. Mix until combined. Put in refrigerator and chill a couple of   I do this because meat mixture flavor deepens.
  2. Roll into  20 + small meatballs. In a large dutch oven heat olive oil and 2 Tablespoons butter. Add the meatballs and cook turning continuously until brown on each side and cooked throughout. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil.
  3. Quickly sauté ½ cup minced onion and baby bella mushrooms
  4. Add 4 Tablespoons butter and flour to skillet and whisk until it turns brown. Slowly stir in beef broth and milk. Add Worcestershire sauce and Dijon mustard and dill and bring to a simmer until sauce starts to thicken. Salt and pepper to taste. Add a small dash of nutmeg (I mean small!) and celery seed.
  5. Add the meatballs back to the skillet and simmer for another few minutes. Serve over egg noodles or as the Brits call it, a “good mash” or plain mashed potatoes. I prefer egg noodles.

heaven on earth is home

It looks like a painting. But it is real life.  Taken a short time ago over in Westtown.  I made my last trip probably to Pete’s Produce for the season.  (They have the most fabulous pumpkins this year, but I digress.)

Heaven on earth is where we call home here in Chester County.  Traveling through the scarred battle zone of raped land of the Sunoco Logistics Pipeline horror show to get to Pete’s really made an impression today.

We as residents need to do a better job advocating for Chester County herself.  Election Day will be here in a blink.  The power of your vote is one of the greatest ways to be heard.  Those who are NOT stewards of the land need to GO.

We need more land preservation and land conservation and less development.  We need to see what can be done to save what is left of our beautiful landscapes, including from the damn pipelines.

We have an agricultural and equine heritage that needs to be saved.  We have waterways and woods and wildlife and even the humble honey bee depending on us.

We can’t just talk about it and we certainly can’t depend upon the Chester County Planning Commission.  Pretty pie-graphs and surveys just take up space on a website.  What are they doing, really?  What are the Chester County Commissioners doing, really?  Planned photo ops are good for politics, what do they actually do for all of us? The all like to say they are helping plan our future in Chester county but I ask again exactly whose futures are the planning? Mine, yours, or theirs and those who make lots of political contributions?

I was down on the Main Line a few times over the past few weeks.  I realized once again how I truly now dislike where I used to call home.  And it is not just the great pretenders to what now passes as the “social” scene.  It’s the density, the roads, the overall frantic pace and congestion.  I realized how I literally exhale when I start to feel the open sky, fields, and forest of Chester County every time I am coming home.

But we are at such risk of losing that. We are at serious risk of losing Chester County.  From the history to the land, forests, fields, water (wells, streams, lakes, everything), to the old farm houses and barns to other historic structures — we have to act.

As my friend Mindy Rhodes has wisely said via M. Jankowski “If not you, then who?”  and John Lewis  “If not now, then when?”

Think about it.  Start with who you vote for.  And what you vote for.

gossip girls

Émile Charlet (Belgian, 1851-1910) Gossip Girls. Sold at Skinner Auction May 2017

I wrote about gossip in 2013. As I said then, there is within human nature the desire to gossip or chatter about others. Anyone who says they haven’t done it isn’t being honest with themselves.

I have met men who were terrible gossips, but truthfully it is an especially female weapon.   It is used in my opinion most often to wound and hurt instead of the person really addressing what is wrong.

Why are women so cruel to each other?  Some say it is a basic evolutionary drive of women that men don’t have.  Some say it is low self-esteem. I think it is also that some people are just have nothing better to do.

What is it about human nature that makes some people relish the distress of others?  And why would you do that to someone who has only shown you kindness in some cases?

Why is it in the human dynamic to be cruel to one and other?

Today I learned of a recent conversation involving me.  It is the second one recently.  I marvel at how people who have never met me or have maybe met me once or twice love to talk about me. I am not that fascinating and what boring, tiny lives they must lead.  They want to know what makes me tick.  Part of the answer? Not them.

My radar has always gone up when I meet people who are way too personal too fast, too helpful, are always telling everyone how helpful they are.  These are the people that collect names of those they feel are socially helpful like kids collecting baseball cards….or savages and scalps (take your pick.)   These are the people who take a million selfies and the selfies fall into three categories (a) a core group of those who exhibit slavish devotion (b) themselves wherever and (c) with people they really don’t know, but it’s good to be in a photo with them.  These are the people who are, in the end, out for themselves.

I choose not to be around people like that.  They are toxic and basically, they just use people until they have no more use.  I want people who are shall we say of higher moral quality than that.

I have friends from every stage of my life.  They come from grade school through to the present.  My type of friend is loyal. Not phony.  Not a friend recycler (the people who literally recycle their friends every few years.)  I don’t want the friends who constantly play the “do you know” game, because I don’t really care.  I know lots of people and so what?

I avoid social climbers.  For example, they will never, ever in a month of Sundays get why you volunteer, truly.  (HINT: it’s not so someone will take your “society” photo)

A few years before I left the Main Line I saw a new breed on the scene.  I watched them as I like to observe.   Pushy and obvious, labels don’t make the person even if you sport the labels.  This new breed wasn’t even necessarily of the giant bank account.  They just wanted to belong so very desperately, completely not getting that people smell that desperation and stroll past it.

I have been off the Main Line for many moons at this point and some of these types are still fascinated by me, or news of me and why? I’m just a person – and these are never people that are discussing me because I’m interesting, it’s because they are trying to stir malice with gossip.   They don’t know me, but more importantly, I choose not to know them.  They exist for people to know them or of them.

I also am the subject of bizarre gossip because I am a blogger. And in this case people who have literally never met me as in ever.  They read what I write and decide based upon that who I must be.  Again, people I choose not to know.

These acts of random gossip mean I will probably never want to have a conversation with you.  I make my choices, and am for the most part not a follower.  I never have been — truly it is nothing new.  I was never a girl in a clique even in high school.  The fact I joined a sorority in college was somewhat unusual.  But I joined my sorority because the girls in it were fiercely independent and did not wear their starter pearls with t-shirts. (And they are still cool.)

I judge people on their merit.  If someone causes me to feel even minor aversion, it is usually with good reason.

We all were not put on earth to hang out with each other.  It would be exhausting.

People gossip to feel superior.  People gossip out of boredom. People gossip out of envy and an effort to belong.

Put your intellectual curiosity to better use…or better yet, address the subject of your cross examinations personally.

 

christmas is coming!

I had an appointment in Wayne so I stopped at Valley Forge Flowers, more specifically The Barn at Valley Forge Flowers.

I love Christmas and I noticed they were literally decking the halls so I had to go in and check things out. They have some fabulous Christmas ornaments and holiday hostess gifts if you are in the market for them.

Especially take note of the fabulous German ornaments in the section known as The Cottage at Valley Forge Flowers. And like a complete dork, that’s the one photo I neglected to snap!

Please note that my opinions are my own and I have not been compensated in any way or given preferential treatment for writing my little review of a fabulous shopping experience. I am just a happy customer!