a tale of two cities…err chester counties

A friend commented today that whomever thought all this new construction was a good idea has hopefully made buckets of money ruining the area.

Among other things I blame the Chester County Planning Commission as well as the various municipalities.

Now these aren’t thoughts I wouldn’t expect from this person but are they wrong? So much construction and so many unfortunate, truthfully ugly apartment buildings. It’s just too much.

Start in Easttown and move west. From fakakta apartments they want to build essentially in the shadow of traditional and lovely Devon Horse Show neighborhoods via rezoning, to the supersizing of Berwyn Village.

Move onto East Whiteland. Apartments everywhere in various stages of development. Ugly, architecturally unfortunate buildings utterly devoid of charm.

And West Whiteland. Oh we can’t forget West Whiteland. A sea of apartments and wait until they develop at Ship Road and Lancaster Avenue which will create the urban canyon corridor from hell.

Here we are at King of Prussia west. And it literally sucks.

The tale of two cities errr ….Chester County.

Here we are in one of the most beautiful counties in Pennsylvania. But due to greed and urban sprawl, how soon before Chester County is referred to as formerly one of the most beautiful counties in Pennsylvania?

We are getting towards the end of 2020 and even in this brutal year of the global pandemic known at COVID19 the development has continued it’s relentless march across Chester County.

I have to ask when will it stop? Single family, multi family, fake carriage homes, apartments, town houses whatever it is ALL TOO MUCH.

thanksgiving grace wanted.

It’s almost Thanksgiving. Our little turkey is resting in the refrigerator and the cranberry sauce has been made. I am trying to figure out which dishes I’m going to use and what the table will look like. I don’t think I’m going to get out all of my little ceramic turkeys this year, but I still want my table to look pretty.

Someone remarked to me that they are just navigating this COVID-19 world the best they can, and trusting God has it all in hand.

I replied that part of it was people had to be willing to listen that it was time the world was a little different, time for us to take things a little less for granted.

Thoughts like this was also partial impetus for me to write my “broken people” post on this blog the other day.

There are so many people that want to blame everyone for what is going on with them. And they don’t realize that you do have to take ownership of yourself, and with ownership comes grace. Or hopefully that’s how it works.

And as you know I do not really ever get religious in my writing. And as an adult although still Catholic as I was born Catholic, I am more spiritual than religious.

And these are just some of the things I’ve been thinking about. I mean if you think about it and try to be positive in a year that has been so filled with negative, maybe part of the lesson here is teaching us all grace, or how to find grace.

Because of COVID-19 things will undoubtedly get worse before they get better.

So maybe, instead of worrying about the big things that for now seem to be out of our control, we look for the blessings we have.

It’s all about that magic of ordinary days.

Open your eyes, shut up about the politics, and realize that we are here and should try to be present with our loved ones and not get sucked down the rabbit hole of unpleasant minutia.

Try to love and appreciate people for who they are, not who you want them to be. As human beings we are all flawed. And if someone can’t be present for you at this time, let them go on their journey, everyone needs to find their own path no matter how old or young they are.

2020 has been a brutal year and so many regards. But when we look back, what will be the lessons we take away from it? And with a year like this we have to have learned something right?

I am grateful for my little family unit and love it very much. In the distant recesses of my mind, are the memories of Thanksgivings past, most of which contained a lot more people than this year will.

And if I’m being honest, all those Thanksgivings past were not like Hallmark movies with perfect tablescapes and happy endings. Some of them were quite stressful and not so much fun and that’s OK.

So this year, as you gather round your tables in your smaller pods of Thanksgiving people, give thanks for what you do have. And drag out the good dishes. Don’t let COVID-19 diminish your Thanksgiving. Just because we’re sort of doing it differently doesn’t mean it won’t be a great holiday!

Thanks for stopping by.

further adventures in search of christmas spirit

Today we went to visit our friend Lisa who owns Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford.

Three floors of festive fabulous and Christmas magic!!! Enjoy a sneak peek in my photos and go visit! Masks required and hand sanitizer stations throughout the store.

Brandywine View Antiques is located at 1244 Baltimore Pike in Chadds Ford, PA. Wednesday through Sunday 10 AM – 4 PM.

christmas magic…at life’s patina

We walked into the beautiful big old barn and it was truly magical at Life’s Patina today. Beautiful and Christmas festive in every nook and cranny. There are only a certain amount of people allowed in the barn at any one time and everyone must be wearing masks, and there is hand sanitizer everywhere you turn around. It’s a magical and safe experience in a COVID-19 world.

Meg and her merry band of elves outdid themselves! From little balsam wood houses that light up, to Christmas mice in velvet dresses and tree skirts for feather trees it was amazing! Sparkling ornaments everywhere and among my favorites? Very lovely mercury glass pinecones and marvelous modern reproductions of old German Kugel ornaments.

Mixed in with Christmas magic were all sorts of vintage and antique items. One of the things I liked best was downstairs in the barn on the big long farmhouse table was a vintage Grenadine bottle.

We loved every minute we were there, and preview guests were also given amazing gift bags to take home.

I love Christmas, everyone who knows me knows how much I love Christmas and I loved today’s experience. You really should go if you can. Simply magical!

By appointment only. Life’s Patina at Willowbrook Farm, 1750 North Valley Road, Malvern, PA.

on thanksgiving will we be thankful or grateful?

Thanksgiving is only a matter of days away. What will it look like? What will people act like? We are now well into November, 2020 in he year of COVID19. Never in any of our wildest imaginations would we think that as an area, a region, and even a nation, we would be facing additional shut down times and continued surges of a deadly virus.

Yet here we are. Here we are.

Someone in Pennsylvania the other day how COVID19 is surging in Pennsylvania compared to other states. Why is that? Did all those election rallies and events across the state in the days preceding the election have anything to do with the recent surge? No I’m not a public health expert and I don’t pretend to be, but common sense would dictate perhaps these events had a hand in this surge?

Look for history to be your guide. Look no further than the last global pandemic, the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was one of the hardest hit cities. Why? Because the virus surged after the Liberty Loan/Liberty Bond parade that was not canceled although it should have been. So it’s not being politically negative to wonder how many people attending events that were political not social distancing and in many cases not wearing masks helped spread this new global pandemic of our time COVID-19? National Geographic has a fascinating article about the 1918 global pandemic.

While we were talking about politics, I will mention how I was treated recently because I correctly reported that a local and well known political figure who held a political office long term until this year had contracted and been hospitalized with COVID19.

I did not “virus shame” this person, I did not wish this person ill. I did comment accurately that this is why people should pay close attention to this virus because even those who don’t necessarily believe in the strength of this virus could contract it. I did not personally speculate on whether or not they may have contracted the virus at a specific time at a specific activity. And I wished this person well and meant it and still mean it because I wouldn’t wish COVID19 on anyone. And I say that even as people occasionally literally wish me dead because I am a blogger.

But because this person is a supporter of the man baby currently living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue who has an almost cult-like following, some came out of the woodwork to purportedly defend the honor of the public figure and former elected office holder who was hospitalized due to COVID19, calling me despicable among other things. I did not impugn their honor. I did not virus shame. Hell, I was virus shamed personally when the virus first broke out and I didn’t have COVID19 nor did any of my family.

We were asked to voluntarily quarantine just as the virus was breaking out because I personally happened to be at an event where one of the first victims of COVID19 in Chester County (a stranger I did not actually meet) was also in attendance. The event was held before anyone even knew the virus was breaking out in Pennsylvania. So it was the final time of no masks and no social distancing.

We reported as we were asked to to the county. We followed the instructions we were given by Penn Medicine and when we came off of the voluntary quarantine, my husband was followed around while he was picking up my breast cancer meds and then as he stopped at other stores running errands. I was not with him. This person then decided to post this on social media. They had to comment how if we had been exposed he shouldn’t have been out. If we were inside the self quarantine time we were asked to keep they would’ve been correct. But the quarantine time we were asked to keep was over. It is my belief they chose to follow my husband around and try to virus shame me because I am a blogger. And vocal on issues at times. This person seemingly disappeared from social media after this.

I have been very honest all along about how I feel about COVID19 and how it has affected me and people I know. Way back when we were on self quarantine it was just before lockdown. So we came out of self quarantine to go into lockdown formally. I have also had Covid testing done. Why? Because I had surgical procedures in 2020 that were not exactly voluntary. They were due to squamous cell skin cancer which is in between basal cell and melanoma. It’s a very anxious process to have any kind of procedure or be in hospital settings in 2020, which is why I haven’t virus shamed anyone.

However, here we are with this damn virus and almost the end of the year. And this virus is intertwined in the political life of this country as well. And the reason that is can be laid directly at the feet of the current president. All along he has downplayed the virus, and he also maligned with his nicknames for the virus. Then he contracted the virus, and it’s still like he didn’t take it seriously.

Then we had the election, which he has lost. But he has yet to concede. And while he doesn’t concede and move on that causes the entire country to be stuck in this cycle. And that is wrong. These are the acts of a very selfish person at a minimum, and other things to consider which are very dark to contemplate indeed. And while all of this is happening it is sadly destroying the party of Abraham Lincoln which I find sad.

Maybe it’s time we leave the politicians and those who play them on television and twitter to their own devices? Maybe it’s time to remember we were once neighbors, friends, and even in some cases family? I mention family because I actually know people whose families are torn apart by both Covid and politics.

Maybe it’s time to remember what Thanksgiving is all about.

The American Thanksgiving – and I say American because there’s a Canadian Thanksgiving as well – was first held in October 1621 after the Pilgrims’ first harvest in their new world. Thanksgiving as we know it finally evolved after Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed an act of Congress making the date of Thanksgiving a little more concrete of a thing. And I bet a lot of people don’t realize that the first Thanksgiving had lobsters not turkey on the menu. So were swans. They aren’t actually sure about turkey. My brother-in-law likes to celebrate Thanksgiving with lobsters in keeping with the first Thanksgiving.

Our Thanksgivings are going to look very different this year. Because of COVID19 there won’t really be huge family gatherings, it will be more like little family pods. That’s how my family will be doing it. I imagine that is how Christmas will be.

Yes, it’s going to be different but we should still be giving thanks that we can have holidays with loved ones, even if we will mostly be doing it in our own homes in small pods. There are many people in this country who won’t be sharing Thanksgiving with family this year. A lot of people have lost friends and family to COVID19 and other conditions in 2020. There are so many people in this country who have lost jobs and businesses and more because of this year. And it’s not just because of COVID19- also what comes into play is the wanton destruction and looting of property that had absolutely nothing to do with protesting to address and end the specter of racial injustice and flat out racism in this country.

I just hope when Thanksgiving day actually arrives people can pause and remember what Thanksgiving is about. I hope people can use Thanksgiving as a re-set to focus on home and family and what is really important. And put politics into perspective: yes who governs us is of paramount importance, but the reality is for most of us is they don’t care we exist, they don’t know we exist, it doesn’t matter that we exist. So cult-like devotion is pretty disproportionate in the big picture of life as we know it.

Come together for Thanksgiving, people. Our future as a country depends upon it. And we need to come together to deal with COVID19 as much as anything else.

I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Love me or hate me these are just my thoughts. I will close with wishing everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving.

finding christmas spirit

Soon little ceramic elves will be peeking from book shelves. Gnomes and Santas too. Maybe some nutcrackers. The tree will come to life with vintage and other ornaments. And Christmas baking season will begin.

But what will Christmas in the year of COVID19? Will we celebrate in tiny family pods? Will we celebrate. And what about that grinch holed up in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC? What about all the people who continue to be affected by COVID19 including now our former Chester County Sheriff?

So yes, finding my Christmas spirit has been a little challenging this year. There has been a little bah humbug in the air. Usually about now we are planning a Christmas party. But not this year. We won’t even see our entire family this Christmas. Too many people from too many places. That bums me out.

All of our Christmas celebrations will be quieter this year undoubtedly. But we do need to find our Christmas spirit!!!

Yes, even though I had recently discovered a couple of cool little Santas for a table, my Christmas spirit has been struggling.

Until yesterday. Yesterday my friend Kristin had her business’s open house. It was very different than previous years. We were timed, it was super small, we had to wear masks, and there was hand sanitizer. But there was still Christmas magic every which way I looked. She said sometimes we just have to believe and she’s so right!

Yesterday at the Smithfield Barn we were treated to a vintage Christmas. Totally magical so keep an eye out for more small, socially distanced pop-ups. Also check out what my other favorite elf Lisa has planned at Brandywine View Antiques in Chadds Ford! And you can’t forget Life’s Patina starts spreading holiday cheer next week and Meg is another favorite elf who always seems to know what I am looking for!

Also things that you won’t see this Christmas would be the open house I usually have for my friends to promote another friend’s business. But as luck would have it my friend Alice has two fabulous websites to showcase her products:

A Single Strand and ABW Designs.

Also to be considered is Past*Present*Future in Ardmore. Owned by my friend Sherry, you can shop safely with a mask in the store or buy things online! An artist by training, she has an amazing I and hers is a store that you go in and marvel at everything she has collected for her customers. It’s a beautiful place! And if you’re more comfortable shopping remotely right now you can do that too.

Another place would be Magnolia Cottage Shop in Malvern/Frazer and the lovely folks at Frazer Antiques. And also Old Soul Decor in West Chester which is re-opening in a brand new space Thanksgiving!

The last three places I am mentioning today are also special to me an run by friends as well. Clover Market has pivoted to online due to COVID19 and Janet has curated an amazing collection of things and they offer free shipping! Shopping Clover 🍀 has never been easier.

Second to last would be King’s Haven in Paoli which is not just an amazing interior design destination, but has a remarkably beautiful collection of art and gifts. All due to my talented friend Lauren.

Finally, there is Framers Market Gallery in Malvern, Newtown Square, and Haverford. Yes Jayne and Dave are friends, but I am a devoted customer and not just for the framing business. They rep some amazing local artists! And to me one of the best gifts you can give anyone for Christmas or the holidays is the gift of art!

Yesterday I realized part of finding our Christmas magic means #ShopLocal and #ShopSmall as well. So I hope you find lovely presents at some of these places and they are all places I am just a regular customer of. They won’t even know I have mentioned their business until I hit publish on this post. As a customer I like to pay it forward.

So I know this is going to be a holiday season like no other. But we do have to believe in the magic of the season.

Shop local, support small businesses wherever you live!

a micro example of issues in our region

Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough. Still don’t like them how many years later, although I do support the businesses. So who owns Eastside Flats now because I am uncertain at this point who owns the development and who manages it? It’s not the original developer.

Does everyone remember a couple of different things that put Eastside flats in the news early on? The amazingly and shockingly low amount of ratables Malvern Borough would receive for approving a development still out of scale and character for the Borough of Malvern? And the other kerfuffle when The Whip Tavern said no to Eastside Flats in Malvern Borough?

But then everyone heard Christopher’s was coming to town. It was like that one thing changed a lot of perception about this behemoth of a development. I have always felt like Christopher’s was a kind of anchor that drew people to Eastside Flats and other people and other businesses quite possibly. I know they are what initially made me personally give Eastside Flats a chance.

Christopher’s made Malvern more of a destination, which in turn benefited other businesses and the borough itself. And if there was a community event, Christopher’s in Malvern was right there for the community the way Christopher’s in Wayne always has been.

And for years Christopher’s did things like featured local artists on their walls. And they had wonderful staff. If you told one of the Christopher’s waitstaff you had a particular food allergy or a series of food allergies, they all knew the menu so well that they could bring you a flawless order that wouldn’t make you sick. They did this for a friend of mine one time when we went in for lunch. She had a lot of food allergies and they took care of her so perfectly. (it’s because of all these things that I will continue to go to Wayne once life returns to a more normal pattern.)

Recently, Christopher’s closed their Malvern location thanks to the COVID19 of it all, to return solely to a Wayne which leaves a giant, gaping, empty hole in the streetscape,and also, well they will be missed. In addition to being a wonderful business, Christopher’s offered food that wasn’t formula pub food and you didn’t just go there because it was a bar. You went there because it was a restaurant and it was a nice experience for all ages. It wasn’t huge or cavernous and cold as a space it was kind of just right. But can you imagine what the rent nut was to cover in Eastside Flats?

COVID-19 has caused America’s hospitality industry from coast to coast to take a direct and brutal hit. The largest in history for that industry. Restaurants and other hospitality industry businesses are closing left and right from coast to coast. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that not only are they getting no assistance, it’s the rents they are being charged.

But I have to ask, what kind of rent do these commercial landlords think they will get? After all, we are in a struggling in the present economy at a minimum, and nobody wants to look at what the other potential downside is, correct? I also think overall the economy has not been as strong as we have been led to believe. And people will argue with me about that but that’s just how I feel.

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages. Berwyn is in Easttown Township and a present is suffering from potential development implications of its own, but I think they need to look at what’s going on in Malvern Borough right now.

These new developments come in and even with old developments they will offer a lower rent to get somebody in the door. Then those rents get jumped over time to the point that the businesses have to look at their own financial viability and decide if they want to put food on the table of their families and staff or food on the table of whoever the commercial landlords are.

I know plenty of people who have over the years owned other restaurants or brick and mortar stores in various communities who had to make the painful decision to close because after their initial honeymoon when they first came to town and did business with their respective commercial landlords, they couldn’t justify the rents any longer.

And commercial property owners don’t really necessarily care about the empty storefronts in our communities, it’s about what they can make. So they won’t look at continual lease turnover the same way a community might. If one of their property sits empty, I am told they apply those losses to the bottom line of profits from other properties, so for them, it’s business as usual if a place is empty, right? Greedy is as greedy does right? And a lot of these commercial landlords aren’t local. So they don’t get what happens locally nor do they really care do they?

So now we are here in 2020. In October 2020 which has to be one of the most stressful and heartbreaking years a lot of us have experienced in our lifetimes. And a global pandemic known as COVID-19 is bringing the economy down like a house of cards, card by freaking card isn’t it? Drive Route 30 alone from further west to east to the city line. You really see the empty store fronts. This is no joke.

When it comes to local restaurants, not all of them have the space to put things outside and not all of the communities have the wherewithal to let the businesses put tables outside. And because this virus is not under control, and there’s no shot for it, everything is two steps forward and seven steps back is what it feels like. We are in the midst of additional outbreaks now. Which of course then makes businesses fear they will have to shut down again.

Someone said to me that essentially politics is driving all of this. And you can’t just blame it on one party or the other. Especially out here in these smaller municipalities. They don’t really have political savvy or Wiley Coyoteness. And yes, in Philadelphia they do (cue Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the giant mess there), but out here? The politicians don’t necessarily run much, they are kind of run, aren’t they?

So when I heard about Christopher’s closing, I mentioned it to a chef in search of a space. And they didn’t want just any space they wanted the right space. And this is a chef who will blow a lot of culinary minds. They have the international and national credentials, they have the knowledge base and experience. So I told them about Eastside Flats. Selfishly, I want them to open a restaurant in our area. A lot of people do. They are also the kind of person who would bring people to the community just the way Christopher’s did and say Alba and General Warren do. It would be win-win to our communities and existing fine dining.

I asked this person the other day whatever had happened with them investigating Eastside Flats. And I think suffice it to say, unrealistic rents on the part of the commercial landlord happened. Did I mention this is a person with business experience? They essentially told me that what was being quoted for rent wouldn’t be sustainable during a normal period, let alone a global pandemic. Essentially, a business needs to sustain itself and with what whomever over there at Eastside is currently thinking, it just wouldn’t happen, that they wouldn’t even be able to break even. It’s a typical commercial property dilemma, and the dilemma is the only party who would be making a profit would be the commercial property owner and what small business in their right mind wants to assume that risk?

I am not an economist, but I remember hearing somewhere once that most restaurants only start to turn a profit in the 3 to 5 year mark if they are lucky and survive that long. Profit is revenue minus costs, both fixed and variable, right? Starting a restaurant is fantastically expensive correct? Also what fits into the equation is also not confusing profitability with revenue generating, yes? Even if a restaurant is generating high revenue, they’re not necessarily reflecting a similar profit, correct?

So I think Malvern Borough and other municipalities need to wake up. Stop just bending over for absentee commercial landlords and developers. Recognize that compromise is something that they have to negotiate so we get quality non-formula and not just chain or franchise businesses in our communities. We need a retail mix that has better planning, essentially. In a lot of other areas municipalities have retail coordinators who help recruit businesses to the communities in which they work and help the negotiation process between potential businesses and commercial landlords. Even business district authorities and business associations will do this. And the simple reason for that is nobody is as invested in the community as the community itself.

Eastside Flats is kind of looking like a ghost town. And they just let a huge opportunity for our community and for them walk away because of unrealistic rent expectations. They might not like my opinion but the first amendment allows me to have it.

So that is your food for thought so to speak for the day. How are your communities being impacted by commercial landlords during COVID-19? And how will the hospitality industry survive and what will it look like after this? And when you are formulating your response try to leave the politics out of it because politicians and political parties come and go but these are our local businesses.

Also if you are interested Bon Appétit Magazine has a terrific article from the end of September on how you can help those in the restaurant industry.

Thanks for stopping by.

fed up with chaos? why yes, actually.

I will state after experiencing this person in East Whiteland at Routes 30 and 352, I wouldn’t vote for the invisible John Emmons for Congress because of people like this. (Not that anyone has seen the man, he’s kind of like the male equivalent to Kristine Howard. You are just supposed to vote for them just because.)

I have carried pickets in protest in my day, but I never stood on a crazy busy street corner in East Whiteland yelling at cars, practically in traffic. Not exaggerating, look at the photo.

I know the photo is grainy I was a passenger in a car and I was not expecting that woman and her friend and their signs. They were startling, alarming, and unpleasant.

Offensive. Something about “DemoCRAPS”. Yelling, smiling, are they unhinged?

This woman and her pal are a completely unnecessary traffic hazard at this intersection and the person I was driving with almost got hit trying to not be too close to this person turning the corner and some fool coming out of the Linden Hall development decided to just kind of gun it through the intersection when they did NOT have the right of way.

I do not care if someone wants to exercise their rights and look like a fanatical jackass campaigning for whomever, in this case John Emmons. What I do care about is not being subjected to additional hazards on already busy roads.

John Emmons train your protestor volunteers better. They should be well in from the curb.

And not for nothing else, that woman on the corner where she was positioned without a face mask was technically not socially distancing from drivers and cars and how is that fair to all of us who are merely driving by on the road?

Oh and I voted for Chrissy Houlahan. Gladly. John Emmons would be my cup of electoral tea the first day of never.

Sign me disgusted with chaos and fanaticism…this country is is such distress it hurts your heart these days to be an American.

new bridge progresses on horseshoe trail in chester springs

All photos taken by a friend of mine. Photos were taken over different days Considering how this used to flood with the old bridge, I am sure this is a welcome sight even if it is a major inconvenience for people who live around there. See last two photos for water starting to run underneath the bridge.
This is what the bridge looks like with the water starting to run underneath it