on the eve of 2019

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As 2018 draws to a close, what another long, strange trip it’s been.  As is the case with every year, there were beginnings and endings.

This was a year where once again I found mankind in general a wee bit disappointing.  Especially with the political vitriol. From coast to coast, print media to Internet to social media to television, it began always with the swirling inanity / insanity coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

One New Year’s Resolution? Just because he tweets, it doesn’t mean I have to read or listen. And for those of you who don’t like my opinion over the dictatorship in place, well cheerfully and with respect, you can stuff it.  I didn’t vote for him, I have never liked him, he’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing meets charlatan and circus big top ringmaster.

I was a Republican for most of my life, perhaps when sanity returns I will be once again. Truthfully I think both political parties are screwy right now.  I think Republicans and Democrats need to get back to the business of doing what is best for the entire plurality, not just selective factions.  Our government was founded by the people for and of the people and it feels like a dictatorship meets turf wars.  The anger that fuels this country is sick and twisted, and building a wall ain’t gonna change a thing.

In 2019, you don’t have to like my opinion or anyone else’s but we should be going back to the Founding Father’s and our rights to our own opinions. And respect for that lovely thing called the First Amendment. As a SLAPP suit survivor I know of what I speak, don’t I?

Our rights to expression and freedom of speech and the press are neither selective nor subjective. They are freaking inalienable and if you don’t like what someone says, it’s a big world with lots of opinions. And the right to have opinions. So if you don’t like something, move along, nothing to see here. (And that includes this blog.)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is why I support groups in this country like the Institute for Justice.

And can we talk eminent domain? Eminent domain is a vile thing. 2018 saw the rally to Save Stoneleigh (Natural Lands/Villanova/Former Haas Estate/Amazing) from eminent domain (and I will note I had the first big regional editorial on the topic May 18, 2018 in the Philadelphia Inquirer.)

Well, we saved Stoneleigh and on Christmas Eve Eve we learned that Scrooge, I mean the Lower Merion School District, has started yet another eminent domain attempt. Is this the third time is the charm for Copeland and Lower Merion School Board and Lower Merion School District? 2017 was the attempt to go after Ashbridge Park, then Stoneleigh, now two other nearby properties that Villanova University was poised to purchase?

newyears0What remains to be seen is if Villanova will take this lying down.  I hope they don’t. I hope Villanova University files suit against Lower Merion School District.  Some may find my opinion surprising, but I think Villanova is a preferable neighbor when compared to Lower Merion School District and they aren’t wasting taxpayer money like the school district does every time they go on their vision quests of arrogance and greed.

Also 2018 saw all sorts of craziness when it comes to the Mariner II pipeline.  Sinkholes, ruined wells, lessened property values, and raping and pillaging of Chester County.  And a Governor of Pennsylvania who doesn’t give a crap but was the lesser of two evils in the twisted mid-term elections of 2018.

Finally, right before Christmas the residents of Chester County received a gift from District Attorney Tom Hogan when he filed criminal charges against Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners/Sunoco Logistics. What will happen now that DA Hogan has done this is of course anyone’s guess, but for 2019 I hope justice prevails.  What has happened since this news broke is residents of Berks County pressuring THEIR District Attorney to follow Tom Hogan’s lead.  Hopefully Berks, Bucks, and Delaware Counties ALL follow Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan’s lead, right?

thisAdelphia Gateway are you listening? If one pipeline is on our District Attorney’s radar, doesn’t it make sense he will keep tabs on all of them?

And speaking of pipelines, there is this thing (see screen shots on left) which floated by my Twitter feed.  So Mariner II/Sunoco Logistics/Energy Transfer Partners are you ok with this? A homeowner essentially being threatened?

How is this O.K.? You bar people from parts of their own properties, and how is this O.K.???

How is any of this O.K.?  We as residents are not benefitting here. What is raped from the land is shipped away from here to places like Scotland to make plastics, so what do we gain? And doesn’t that in fact make the eminent domain takings of land for pipelines more like eminent domain for private gain? And don’t forget about the bullsh*t fake public utility status and how is it politicians all looked the other way for that again?

not ok2018 with the march of the Frankenpipe has done what exactly to benefit us? The workers aren’t even local guys – you can see it when you drive by job sites.  And with all the work stoppages due to issues and fines, how is this pipeline safe? How are any of the pipelines safe?

As we move forward into 2019, we also need to look at Chester County municipalities and development fever.  East Goshen, East Whiteland, West Whiteland, West Goshen, Tredyffrin, Easttown, and finally Caln Township come to mind immediately.  So hey now? Elected officials? Who is it exactly you are representing again? From ginormous digital billboards to overly dense developments residents do not want (and destruction of open space and historic structures), who are all of you collectively working for? Us? Doesn’t feel that way.

newyearsdwarvesAnd elected officials in Harrisburg? Do we need an act of God before you update the Municipalities Planning Code to offer Pennsylvania residents some protections, land and historic preservation?

Personally, it has been an interesting year.  Lots of wonderful gardening and spending time with friends and family.  It has been a year of reconnecting with friends I had not seen in a long time, and also closing the door on some other relationships.  Cleaning house and recognizing who your friends are is not a bad thing.  Introspection is good, and we do not need to be “friends” with everyone on social media.

I have rediscovered how local politics can be a blood sport out here, but can we say one of the roots of the cause can be when folks deal out good old-fashioned shady assed behavior?

I’m no fool, and I have my battle scars from just a few years living here. I’m outspoken and I’m a blogger. I don’t think you’re supposed to be either in the minds of some people. You are simply supposed to be some form of a Stepford wife. Or a bobble head.

d4a9539112f1d85988f92f91aac1ed48--christmas-images-christmas-holidaysI have done my time over the years of being the subject of gossip for being outspoken and a blogger and this whole theory of knives and knitting needles. And I have been the target of behavior that is so incredibly malicious and hurtful directed at me mostly because I was different from the way they were, or even because I just did not like them.

I think adult social bullying is the worst, and I truly think that a lot of people don’t even realize they are doing it.  Suffice it to say, human beings can be so incredibly cruel to one and other.

I think 2018 will go down in the history books as a year where everyone, everywhere was totally mean to each other. As I have said before, I do believe a lot of this has to do with the stage that has been set in Washington DC. People are so angry from coast to coast, and here in our little corner of the world you see it as well.

fc6e8139e3044880e3a378d28541fe042018 will end with two people still missing whom we have come to know through the people who care about them.   Geoff Partridge of Villanova and Anna Maciejewska Gould of Malvern. Today is #MissingMonday and I hope these people are located.

2018 saw a year where our family lost a beloved pet.  As a matter of fact many dear to me lost pets this year.  The unconditional love and joy they bring us are like nothing else in this world. Remember the pets who have gone over the Rainbow Bridge with a prayer to St. Francis and support local animal rescues.

Although 2018 has been a tumultuous year from coast to coast and locally, it is not without bright spots.  People are good even in the midst of bad.  There are those who offer hope and bright spots when others have disappointed you.  God may close doors, but always look for that window he left open.

573ec8d3396cb6b83fdbbd77c649bad0--ww-posters-ww-propaganda-postersI will tell you honestly I am not a big New Year’s Eve party person and much like St. Patrick’s Day, I would rather be at home.

When I was younger people would look at me funny when I said this. I suffered through many a New Year’s Eve at loud parties that did not suit me.

One of my favorite New Year’s Eves was in the late 1980s.  I was taken to a funny as hell off-Broadway show called Lesbian Vampires of Sodom. Bizarre title and it was (in my opinion) one of the great NYC theater experiences.  I laughed from beginning to end. Pure camp, very funny.

The show was at a small and legendary playhouse in the East Village – the Provincetown Playhouse on McDougal Street. Sadly, after being ruled eligible for preservation status, NYU essentially demolished one the most historic theatres in New York City a while back. The history didn’t matter there, either.

This New Year’s Eve long ago was a New Year’s Eve where some of my girlfriends were seriously pissed at me for leaving the fold and NOT going to a New Year’s Eve party with them.  It was an eventful evening for a few of them that New Year’s Eve. I remember one of my friends met her future husband at the party I blew off for off-Broadway and the East Village of NYC.

But seriously? Usually I am fast asleep waaaayyyy before the ball drops in New York City’s Time’s Square. And at least in my 50s it’s quite alright to stay at home. Even from the Mummers Parade.

I have rambled far long than I intended to today.  My humble apologies, but sometimes the words come pouring out.  I will close by wishing all of you have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve.  Cheers to 2019, and farewell to 2018.

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cedar hollow inn ….new year’s eve

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We forgot about New Year’s Eve again this year and made last minute reservations through Open Table at The Cedar Hollow Inn in Malvern. I was very glad they had a reservation but my experience has left me with some reservations.
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We got there and there was ample parking, and we were actually able to park right in front. That was terrific on a cold night. But the hostess seated us in restaurant Siberia.

Our romantic date night New Year’s Eve dinner was at the last deuce before the kitchen and the bathrooms, and if you went the other direction you headed towards the bar.

For what we paid for dinner, and considering the fact that there were ample tables available in the dining room away from the kitchen door, bathrooms, and pathway to the bar I don’t understand why we were seated there. We were not the last table to be seated for dinner, but we were the last the last reservation for two people.

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The photo above was taken just before the last group was seated for dinner. It was not packed, so one would have thought there were a couple more choices for tables where you weren’t marooned in the center of the room or stuck in Siberia like we were.

The waitstaff was very pleasant, and the service was decent. I liked that they did not hover over you.

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The inn is known for quite the selection of craft beers, and their wine list wasn’t half bad either. I had a perfectly acceptable Gewurztraminer. I can’t drink red wine, so I am always on the hunt for a decent white by the glass that isn’t Chardonnay. Chardonnays are fine but they’re a little boring when there are so many other varietals available.

My sweet man had the lobster bisque soup as his first course. He enjoyed it very much although he said it was a little heavy on the Cayanne pepper.

I had a spinach salad which was off the charts terrific. I love a good spinach salad and so few places make them anymore. And it wasn’t swimming and dressing which I really was grateful for.

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The entrées were served very quickly (almost too quickly) after the first course. He had the salmon, which didn’t look like salmon to me but I didn’t taste it and I had the venison.

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My sweet man liked his fish okay, but again somebody in the kitchen had a heavy hand with spice. There was some kind of a quinoa that that the fish sat on and it was too heavy with whatever hot pepper they used.

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I must say that I loved the venison. Venison is something a lot of restaurants do not get right, and they did a very respectable job with it. It wasn’t tough it wasn’t undercooked or overcooked, it was just right and it wasn’t too salty.

The venison (two delicate chops) was served on thinly sliced potatoes that were described as frites on the menu but really weren’t, but that was okay. They were also served with roasted brussels sprouts which is one of my most favorite things as far as a winter vegetable.

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/def/31333820/files/2014/12/img_9903.jpg The desert was a chocolate cake with some kind of a raspberry filling. It was very prettily displayed and served with a tiny dollop of whipped cream, a few fresh raspberries and spun sugar ornament. It was a very decadent dessert and so rich that it wasn’t finished. A smaller slice probably would’ve been better, and they should have let the cake sit out about 15 minutes before serving because it was just too cold. A cake like that should be firm and the chocolate not melting, but it shouldn’t be ice cold.

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The Cedar Hollow Inn appears to have a very loyal following for the bar. There were a lot of people in that area of the place and they were setting up for music and New Year’s Eve festivities once dinner service was complete.

Another thing I noticed is they started to clean up from the dinner service and convert the dining room to an extension of the bar area before everyone was even finished dinner.

And again, the menu prices were not inexpensive, and as a diner I really would prefer that a restaurant wait until the diners are finished before they break down and change up a room. If the bar was so packed to overflowing when we were finishing dinner I would’ve understood it, but they weren’t. And given our close proximity of our table to the bathrooms and the kitchen we got to see everyone in the bar as they went past the entire time we were there. I think when I was about 25 I would’ve loved that, but not on my romantic New Year’s Eve dinner as a bit more of a grownup. It was like eating dinner on a subway platform in a way.

I don’t want you to think that I did not enjoy my experience there, there were just aspects of the experience that I found lacking. I enjoyed my dinner tremendously, but I am not sure how much my sweet man enjoyed his. My dinner in as far as the meal was just terrific and his was just okay. If you’re going to get dressed up and go out for New Year’s Eve dinner you want it to be more than just okay for the guy who is treating you to a nice dress up occasion, right?

The Cedar Hollow Inn I am sure has suffered greatly with all the hot mess construction around it and highway construction nonsense over the past few years. But I don’t think they are doing things as well as they could. They have a truly decent kitchen I think, it just needs a little tweaking. They don’t have a large menu which I like, but I think they need to be more consistent all across the board. And if you’re going to make delicate shellfish and seafood flavors pop you have to be careful about how you spice.

The place is very clean and neat on the inside, but the dining room is kind of bland and the tavern/bar part a little dated. I think both the tavern/bar section and the dining room need to meld together decor wise a little more.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think the place should retain its country charm, I just think the charm should be displayed differently and with less beer mirrors. Truthfully, they should go around and study the decor of other country inns in Chester County. I am glad they aren’t all gingham and plaid curtains, however. Or overly heavy Victorian in decor with really cheap scented candles burning outside the bathrooms.

I am still very glad I went this evening. And I really did enjoy my dinner and I did enjoy my date night. And I am glad I finally have the opportunity to dine at the Cedar Hollow Inn. I hope 2015 is their year! I saw potential this evening.

Happy New Year’s Eve!

improving martha

chesterHappy 2013 to one and all!   Let’s start the new year with a recipe!

So this holiday season I broke in a new hot crab dip recipe.  Not everyone in my house like artichoke hearts, so I had to find a recipe without them.

I received Martha Stewart’s cookbook Martha’s American Food as a Christmas present.  Truthfully it is a cookbook well worth purchasing or giving, but I have a habit of fiddling with recipes (even ones uniquely my own).  And I hate to say it because some giant hand bearing a whisk might pop out of the sky and smote me, but I improved Martha…or one of her recipes I should say.

She had a hot crab dip recipe, but looking at it I felt it needed some tweaking and additions, so I did that.  My friends have all been asking for the recipe, so here it is.  Note that my tweaks/additions appear in RED ink:

crab dipHot Crab Dip

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter PLUS 2 Tablespoons

1 RED onion finely chopped

2 garlic cloves minced

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour (NOT whole wheat)

1 1/2 cups of HALF AND HALF(Martha calls for plain milk)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons dry mustard

few dashes of Tabasco sauce

6 oz shredded mixed cheddar (some cheese companies offer a shredded blend of mild and sharp cheddar. Martha calls for 4 oz)

6 oz of soft cream cheese (from the tub but not whipped)

Grated zest of one lemon and juice of that lemon (Martha calls for 2 Tablespoons, I just use a small lemon and call it a day)

2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce(Martha calls for 2 teaspoons)

16 oz lump crabmeat, checked for shells (Martha calls for 10 oz, but most crab I buy comes in 16 oz containers, so that is what I used)

4 Tablespoons rough chopped Italian Flat Leaf Parsley (Martha calls for 2 tablespoons)

2 Tablespoons fresh dill rough chopped no stems

2 Tablespoons minced FRESH chives

4 Tablespoons minced celery

Salt and pepper (fresh ground)

8 oz loaf of rustic bread sliced into small bites  crust removed

English cucumber slices (for serving with dip when finished)

Flat bread or thinly sliced French bread baguettes. (for serving with dip when finished)

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

In a generously sized saucepan (medium to large) melt the 1 stick of butter over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, celery stirring occasionally until soft and translucent (4 to 5 minutes)

Whisk in flour and cook while whisking constantly (or it will stick and burn) (about 3 to 4 minutes – Martha says 4, I found it took a little less. (medium to medium low heat)

Whisking constantly slowly incorporate half and half in a steady stream (I am not Shiva so I don’t have 8 arms or whatever so I did put my measuring cup down occasionally – Martha of course doesn’t do that). Stir and simmer over medium-low heat until thick and smooth (about 4 minutes).

Incorporate cheddar cheese, stirring well so it melts all evenly and then repeat with cream cheese. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, Tabasco, and Mustard powder. Incorporate well.  Add a little salt and pepper to taste. (you won’t need much). You don’t have to over think or over cook this – you just need cheese completely melted and incorporated.

Remove from heat.

In a large mixing bowl combine crabmeat, fresh herbs**, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Stir in the cheesy-oniony mixture and fold together, check for salt and pepper (to taste – I cook with less salt these days so I found little adjustment necessary).

Pour this creamy and goopy deliciousness (it does taste good even at this point) into a buttered one quart oven proof dish.

Set aside.

In a small fry pan melt that 2 tablespoons of butter remaining.  Toss in bread you cut up as per ingredient list, add salt and pepper and cook a little bit (couple of minutes tops) – bread will be goldeny and butter with a light coat of salt and pepper.

Arrange bread bits on top of crab dip in the casserole dish and bake in your pre-heated 400 degree oven for about 25 minutes – keep an eye on your oven because this stuff can boil over at the end.

Remove from oven and let stand at least ten minutes before serving because when it first comes out of the oven it is like molten lava with a crispy golden crust on top.

Serve with flat breads, crackers, or thinly sliced French bread baguettes.  Place a cucumber on top of cracker, bread slice, or flat bread and then dip on top of that.

I do not think I forgot anything, hope you enjoy this.

**Please note that if you like Cilantro, when you add your herbs to the crab as above, you can add 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh cilantro too.

 

 

 

 

 

the last post of 2012

As I sit here this morning dear readers, I am feeling a bit contemplative.  It has been DSC_0038a busy year, full of change.

I began 2012 with this as a new blog as I transitioned full-time out here to Chester County as yet another refugee from the Main Line, which was no small feat after thirty plus years in one area.  But they say change is good, and it has been for me.

I have found as an adult where I belong.  I love being in Chester County and discovering new haunts, barns to pick treasures from, meeting new people, photographing and writing to my heart’s content. I also just love the abundance of beautiful open space and scenery, although I worry about that given the zeal and rate at which some developers are tearing up the landscape to build plastic Tyvec boxes for all the equally plastic Barbies and Kens and their giant SUVs.

I have through this blog and my natural curiosity about life accidentally stumbled upon hot button topics in Chester County, but such is the nature of life. From troubled now former zoning hearing officers in Tredyffrin to watching my friend and fellow blogger Pattye Benson be picked on via Tredyffrin’s Muicipal Website by an elected official who deserves to be shunned and put out of office, to the whirling nastiness and negativity and shoddy politics that is West Vincent, to my recent discovery of a manure pile known as horse rescue, it has indeed been a trip.

2012 was the year I really went for it with my writing and my photography.  I was part of a photography show and had a slew of photo by lines to be proud of.  I honed my writing skills and had a blast writing online content for Philly.com when they had need of my services. And I ended 2012 with my first magazine byline for writing with Main Line Parent Magazine. And I had a recipe published in a nationally released cookbook – The Epicurious Cookbook. I also rode in a giant flag shaped hot-air balloon on 9/11.

2012 is the year I took a chance on myself for once.  Change is hard, and always uncertain.  But after entertaining breast cancer for a large chunk of 2011, why not?

And that is one of life’s greatest ironies: having breast cancer made me face my fears and dreams all in one fell swoop.  In a weird messed up karmariffic kind of way, having and surviving breast cancer freed and released me to try new things and just live my life better.  It is perverse but true.

For me, breast cancer was a beginning not an ending.  Some I know were not so lucky with breast and other cancers  My neighbor Myrna was the last cancer death of 2012, a childhood friend name Joanna was the first. Also sadly in 2012, I watched one of my oldest and dearest childhood friends bury her beloved younger brother before Thanksgiving. He had an unexpected heart attack and died in his sleep.  But as I also know three amazing women who have done awful battles with thyroid cancer this year (and survivied), and one who defied the odds to bear a child while suffering from MS, I know that even in the darkest hours of our existence we do indeed have to have faith.

DSC_00542012 was also a year of some heartache as I said good-bye to one of my beloved dogs. He was a special little guy my little Peanut, and was even eulogized by a writer I know who also loved him. As 2012 draws to a close I find myself in the position of being a cancer survivor with a dog on chemo.

As this has been a year of change, it has also been a year of letting go of people.  As you get older, you discover that certain people are only meant to be in your life for a finite amount of time.  Some you let go of, some let go of you.

I learned in 2012 that sometimes people can’t handle the change you are going through.  On one hand you know they are happy your life is moving forward, but then they become a little different towards you as their role in your life changes.  Some people you just simply stop hearing from because you no longer live in close proximity to them,  or your paths no longer cross as often in other ways.  It is a bit of a bummer, but it’s life.

I also learned in 2012 when it comes to people a lot are just completely clueless and often unintentionally ignorant.  Some are limited by their own self limitations and inability to accept that not all 40 something women are Stepford PTA Wives who have no thoughts of their own and bake brownies with one hand and meet their man at the door with a martini in the other hand.   I met a few of those women in 2012, and I hate to say it, but no thank you, I would rather be me.  Besides I don’t like martinis.

I also learned that sometimes it would be nice if human beings would have a sense of personal accountability.  I am not saying that because I am perfect, because I am far from that.  I am flawed just like every other human being on the planet.

This year I have been blessed to not only have amazing friends, but to have met so many neat people who are new to my life.

I guess what I am saying is that I finally believe how much of a journey life is, as well as a constant evolution. And part of the impetus of this last post of the year is because someone I know is upset because someone else they know has been diagnosed with breast cancer.  But I wish they would realize once they get past the shock of the news that it doesn’t mean it is a death sentence.

Facing breast cancer was very hard, do not misunderstand me.  But it is like you are faced with a fork in the road and you have to make a choice.  I chose life.  I chose to live my life more fully and learn to be more positive.  It is hard to open yourself up to change.

As I sit here on this snowy morning listening to the winter wind swirl and blow around outside I am reminded of the truism to count life’s blessings.  But for the Grace of God go all of us.  Look at all people lost in Superstorm Sandy, and look at what all those people in Newtown, CT have lost and had to face after that madman shot up Sandy Hook Elementary School.

And yes, our lawmakers are playing with a fiscal cliff of their own creation and ruination, but that doesn’t mean life stops, does it?

In conclusion, as 2012 lives its final hours and final couple of days I wish all of my readers a very happy and healthy and safe New Year’s.

Life is what you make of it. Live it.