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

always love for loch aerie

My friend Catherine Quillman, who is a Chester County artist, author, and historian sent me a note the other day. Yes , she is one of those people like myself who occasionally sends real notes. (Only hers are always so much better because they usually involve a little piece of her art or a cartoon she has drawn.)

Anyway she sent me this old art advertisement she came across and it’s about Loch Aerie. It was done for Chester County artist Christopher Schultz in 1994 when he was selling a print he made of Loch Aerie that was slightly fanciful.

What makes this old advertisement so special is I don’t think Catherine knew I used to own one of these prints! I had bought it off a yard sale group and it lived on my guestroom wall until I found a C. Phillip Wikoff print I liked better. (I also found that print on a yard sale group.)

So when I heard the current owners of Loch Aerie (the Poiriers ) had rescued her, I decided I would give the Loch Aerie print to them as a housewarming/welcome to the neighborhood kind of thing. And I did just that. But this advertisement is part of the provenance of the print so I will give them this too!

Local history and local artists are always intertwined and this is just a cool thing! Thanks Catherine for always thinking of me!

friend time

This weekend we had a socially distanced dinner with some of our high school friends outside on the porch at Stonewall Golf Club and it was so lovely. This afternoon I sat on our deck with another one of my friends from high school and we did wine and cheese. We have a long patio table on the deck and my friend and I sat at opposite ends of the table and enjoyed a beautiful afternoon and caught up.

One of the cheeses was amazing. A new discovery out of New York State from Nettle Meadow Farm. Kunick cheese. And the wine if you are interested was an Alsatian Pinot Blanc from Trimbach. (But I digress.)

My point is we have become so seclusionist that we might talk to each other on the phone or message or text, but that whole human connection is missing thanks to COVID19. After this weekend , I kind of feel like a new woman.

I did not realize how truly important human, in-person connection is until you have it after months of not having it.

Now COVID19 is not going anywhere fast, so we have to keep being safe. But we definitely have to have small doses of seeing the people in our lives.

My family and I have been sticking to ourselves. We sort of see neighbors occasionally at a distance but it hasn’t been much else than that. And the more you stay home, the more afraid to go out you become.

I am completely leery of being out in public and when we are out it’s masks, wipes, hand sanitizer and praying that person in the grocery store not wearing the mask will actually get it and stay 6 feet away. But people are so inconsistent in public, or inconsiderate (take your pick) that it makes you want to stay home.

And the more you stay home, especially if you are immunocompromised, the more anxious you are being around even your friends. It’s a vicious cycle. And then there is the artificial existence of social media. My friend commented on that, along with all the comments you see go by on Facebook that makes you want to correct for grammar and spelling that totally made me giggle because it’s true.

The COVID19 world is hard. And not just in your own sphere. I had a nice lady message my blog’s Facebook page. She was from Chester, England. COVID19 is making her feel isolated. She thought we were Chester County as somewhere in the UK. She was looking to connect with people to feel less alone. That kind of resonates, doesn’t it?

Anyway I just didn’t realize the own hum of my existence of being lacking and shut off until this weekend. And then because I had a couple little doses of friend time, I feel almost rejuvenated. I feel up, and alert, and positive.

We need to stay connected to keep our sanity through this. It can’t just be a virtual life we live on social media.

Hope you all had a great weekend. Thanks for stopping by.

soak in the beauty of chester county

Along 401. Awesome Halloween display!

Last evening on the way to an outdoor socially distanced dinner with friends, I was struck again by the beauty of Chester County. And why we need to preserve more of it and develop less all across the county.

That is all.

things that make a house a home

I know very little about this antique Oriental rug other than the pattern seems to be what would fall possibly into Caucasian category. But I am not an expert, I just pick up rugs I think are homey or would fit in my home.

It’s not a very big rug, it’s just under 35“ x 45“. Just a little scatter rug. It’s a little worn in spots and it’s fringe is virtually gone as it was the wool of the rug itself. And it’s wider at one end than the other. But I love it and it’s one of those things to me that helps make a house a home.

Old oriental rugs are one of my earliest memories of things I liked in houses even as a little girl. My mother will tell you a story of me sitting on a giant oriental rug playing with a very fat Persian cat. Neighbors of ours when I was little.

Other major oriental rugs that hang out in my memory is like the giant one that used to be in the dining room of the Ardrossan estate in Villanova. I don’t know if it’s still there because when I was in my 20s it was very threadbare on the edges then and you had to watch not to catch your heel in the carpet. I have seen pictures of the dining room in the past few years and I don’t think that’s the same rug that I remember. The rug I remember had reds and deep blues in it. But I digress.

My mother likes oriental rugs as well, but styles she likes aren’t the same as I like. She always liked paler shades that you were afraid of walking on and as a matter fact she trained our dogs growing up to walk around the edges of the rugs.

I always like the stronger shades of color. I like the rugs that you think of seeing in an old British library with a fire dancing in the fireplace surrounded by beautiful mahogany wood paneling on the walls and books and a soft old Chesterfield sofa. You know, the kind of room you would expect to see Winston Churchill reading a book in.

And I’m not the person that you’re going to see in fancy oriental rug galleries buying rugs. All the rugs I have found have been picked out of places like the Smithfield Barn at a recent offsite sale, downsizing sales like those held by Caring Transitions, garage sales, Church auctions. (One of the best places to pick up really cool sometimes threadbare in places old oriental rugs is the Saint Davids Fair Auction which is not happening this year because of COVID19.)

The rugs I look for and some of my friends as well aren’t these perfect museum quality high end auction house rugs. They have been well loved and in many cases we’ve had to get slight repairs done before we could use them as well as getting them cleaned for moths.

I once gave Pixie from Zakian a bit of a start when I picked up a rug sight unseen from an estate sale around Charleston, South Carolina. One of my closest friends picked up the rug for me and shipped it to me. I figured because the rug was wool and had been in a southern climate in a very old house that looked slightly decrepit in photos that I shouldn’t bring it into the house until it was cleaned and that it probably might have moth damage.

Well, it arrived and it’s a good thing the moving box stayed on the porch until Zakian Rugs fetched it for cleaning. It was full of live moths when unwrapped for cleaning and repairs. Yes live moths.

I picked up a runner one time from a local auction house and they told me it was clean and I wasn’t sure so I sent it right out for cleaning, and that was loaded with moths. So old rugs can be a gamble. But when they are cleaned and repaired they are lovely.

Again, I don’t go for the rarest of the rare or the extraordinarily valuable antique rugs. I don’t even pretend to know enough to know what I should buy, nor can I afford them. In addition so many of them are overpriced. I choose the ones that need a little love.

It’s kind of like old patchwork quilts. I love them as well. The ones I choose aren’t the museum quality rare quilts from quilt dealers all over the country. I choose the ones I can pick up again at church auctions and tag sales and the more. I like to restore and patch them so I can use them.

I have written about old quilts before, and they are one of the other things that I think make a house a home. A lot of people have to have shiny new bedspreads and high-end designer quilts, I prefer the look of patchwork quilts. I have one that I picked up on eBay from someone in Maine that I have been working on for two years that I’m almost finish repairing all the threadbare patches. I picked up a neat one and another offsite sale for the Smithfield Barn a few months ago. It’s on my guestroom bed and it’s red and white and I just love it!

I think now more than ever especially with the year that 2020 has been our houses need to be homes. So try an old patchwork quilt, or a little tiny old oriental scatter rug, or even a vintage tablecloth. Don’t live in a beige, beige world. Add color and character instead of something brand new and always man made fibers.

Thanks for stopping by!

lovely life’s patina

One of the things that COVID-19 has done is it has disrupted our every day lives and our routines.

My friend Amy and I have our “Fran days” named after her mom where we put everything aside and do something together and have lunch. A lot of times we schedule those days to support Meg Veno at her lovely Life’s Patina events. Until today, this was one of the things that COVID-19 had interrupted for us around here.

Amy and I have been friends since high school and we even grew up in the same neighborhood, so I feel really blessed to have her in my life all these years later. So when we heard that Life’s Patina was going to open by appointment for their Fall Barn Sale we decided to make our appointment and go. Our slot was today and it was just wonderful!

Sensory overload, so much to look at! Something for everyone! And how lucky were we to also have such a beautiful day to be there…and guests today also received an awesome goody bag!

It was so nice to see friends and acquaintances and to see what Meg and her team had done. I love the Life’s Patina Barn on Willowbrook Farm and actually the very first time I was in it was during it’s renovation that led to Life’s Patina.

Being at Life’s Patina today made this surreal life we have all been living seem a little more normal. I actually liked the feel of a smaller, more intimate shopping experience with less people. Everyone was socially distancing and everyone was wearing masks and there were hand sanitizer stations all over the place. They did a great job!

Enjoy my photos of the day and if you go you need an appointment it’s not just open as normal this year. A lot of the time slots are sold out, so check the calendar and stay tuned for other opportunities to visit Life’s Patina this fall. And you can also shop online!

peter’s peasant soup

Every time around this year and even into the winter my late father would make a soup. It was a pure peasant soup. It would be based around what he found fresh down on 9th street at the Italian market and from the local merchants there.

The soup would have cabbage, potatoes or turnips, onion, celery, carrots, tomatoes, fresh herbs, beans, and something cured like a small salami – a cured sausage. He liked soppressata. He would cut it into little chunks or rounds.

We were over at a friend’s house the other day and they have this amazing kitchen garden like I dream about but have no room for. So they gave us a bunch of fresh vegetables including Swiss Chard and fresh kale. Today’s vegetable box from Doorstep Dairy had a beautiful purple cabbage. So I knew I was making soup even though it’s somewhat humid out.

My father would often use a beef stock base but a lot of the time it was a chicken stock base. So last night’s roast chicken carcass went into the instant pot this morning to make bone broth. I also tossed in a little salt and pepper and zaatar spice blend.

While bone broth was cooking and cooling I chopped up all the vegetables. I threw them into my big Great Jones “Big Deal” pot. I really love their cookware and I have a few pieces now. I added a few cups of water, maybe four. I added salt and pepper and some fresh herbs. This morning I had picked basil, thyme, sage so that is what I used.

I left the vegetables almost completely covered on low and just let them cook down for probably 60 minutes. The tomatoes I used were a bunch of fresh cherry tomatoes from the garden. Probably about enough to fit in a pint container but I halved them. When the bone broth was finished (I just hit the setting for broth or soup) I fished out all the bones and the gizzards and disposed of them and added the broth to the pot.

Then I added a chopped up a small whole dry salami that I had purchased at the Tasty Table Market & Catering in Berwyn. After that I drained two cans of beans and tossed those in. You can use whatever canned beans you like. Things like cannellini beans, pinto beans, even black-eyed peas.

Now the soup sits on a simmer until some point this afternoon when I will start to cool it down and put into containers. Some I will freeze and some I will use now.

I have to tell you the soup smells really good. And it’s also a smell that I have memories of. Of course I’m a little more about cleaning up the kitchen as I go along then my father was and when he would make one of these soups it would look like a bomb exploded in the kitchen afterwards.

This soup is always best when it sits for a couple of days and then you heat it up because it gives a chance for the flavors to completely meld . All you do is serve it with a little crusty bread for the table and some grated cheese on top. It’s a basic peasant soup and it’s loaded with vegetables and you don’t really need anything else.

I hope you can follow along as to how I made this. There is no formal recipe it’s just some thing that my father made and his mother made and who knows how many other relatives in his family made.

I used my small Instant Pot to make the bone broth if you are curious about how much chicken broth to add. The small Instant Pot makes 3 quarts of broth. Now the soup condenses and cooks down because I let it simmer on a very low setting for a few hours.

Buon appetito!