an essay worth reading

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Someone had the essay below from Vogue posted on their Facebook timeline. In addition to the fact that it is a beautifully written piece that literally makes you feel you are with the writer in his journey from city dweller to his now Woodstock, NY home, I get the whole move-to-the-country thing and how it fits me personally. Mind you I am not as deep in the country as the author, but I can’t help but feel a sort of parallel after a fashion. Similarly age, and life changes including where I live now versus where I used to.

Having moved a few short years ago from the Main Line to Chester County,I get it the whole change of venue and lifestyle. When I initially told people I was moving a lot were like “Why? You guys could live on the Main Line.”

They didn’t get that I didn’t want to and much like the feelings of the author watching where he lived in NYC change, I was ready and wanted to live a more country existence . Change is inevitable, but as the area I once called home had changed, truthfully so had I.

What I had grown up in and amongst no longer existed on the Main Line. Everything was going from being a beautiful place to a place that no longer fit me. Glorious gardens and beautiful houses were being replaced one by one with Tvyec monogrammed infill development and the Main Line was evolving from being suburban to becoming what I continue to see happening: a crammed, noisy, traffic filled urban existence with a homogenous feel that is less than special.

And the people were changing in addition to the landscape. A lot of the the people on the Main Line had gone from being the gracious, civilized, and genteel people I grew up with, to being a whole lot of overly ambitious crass and not so pleasant social climbers whose favorite game was constant one upsmanship. And dermatological fillers. I also didn’t care about designer, car, and more general people name dropping. My friends still there are not those people, but if they are honest they are now the exceptions rather than the rule.

Living out here in Chester County completes the adult me. I am happy. And many of my Main Line friends still treat me like I live in Iowa. Some of them have never been out to see where I live although invited. The constant chorus of “It’s so far” …..yet amazingly enough I can always go back there. The funny thing is when I do go back, I now look at where I used to live through the eyes of a stranger…..and can’t wait to get back to my little slice of heaven in Chester County.

I look at where I used to be and where I am now and well, I can just breathe and be myself. There is something very luxurious about that, and living on the Main Line can’t buy that feeling as far as I am concerned. And as I have said before, many of the people I enjoyed in various stages of my younger self now live out here as well.

I am posting the article below. I love, not like living more in the country. Give this essay a read. Thanks for stopping by on a rainy morning!

Vogue Magazine: A Die-Hard New Yorker Leaves Manhattan and Embraces the Country Life OCTOBER 6, 2014 6:00 AM by JONATHAN VAN METER

At the risk of sounding appallingly pretentious, it was Cate Blanchett who made me realize it was time to leave New York City. It was a year ago, last October, and we had just finished a leisurely interview over a late dinner in a London restaurant when we found ourselves standing on a rainy street corner, not quite ready to say good night. She asked what I was doing the next day, and I said I had no plans because I have no friends who live in central London anymore. Like my friends in Manhattan, most of them have moved somewhere less ruinous. Blanchett, who’d left London herself a few years earlier, looked a little wistful and said, “It’s a different place.” Having recently turned 50, I muttered something about being older—maybe that’s what had changed. “No,” she said firmly. “The world’s changed. It’s very difficult to know where to be.”…..That was the moment, right there, the speech delivered toward the end of the story by the passing character in the protagonist’s life that turns on the light and shifts everything. As I said goodbye and walked away, my heart pounding, I was filled with a rush of certainty about something I had been puzzling over for years: Where should I be? I hopped in a cab and called my boyfriend, Andy, back in New York: Quit your job, and let’s move upstate.

contrasts

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Yesterday was a study in contrasts. Started out my morning in Chester County, and headed up to New York City for the day.

New York City in October is very alive and bustling. A cacophony of sights and sounds and smells. I worked in New York for a few years when I was younger and fall and spring were my favorite seasons. It is such a contrast now to go from the quiet of Chester County to the very definition of urban.

From the east side to the west side, New York City is a sea of constant motion…and taxi cabs. It’s beeping and honking and massive waves of people bustling across giant intersections.

It is one of my favorite places to take photos, but yesterday there wasn’t time for that. I appreciate the beauty and the urban canyons of Manhattan, but I truly am a Chester County person now….I love getting back to the trees and fields.

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From New York City it was back to Ardmore for the last First Friday Main Line. The event was the Happy Howl O’Ween dress up your dog contest.

Since 2006 First Friday Main Line has been there to bring art and music to every day life ; bringing local artists, musicians, and small businesses together. Inspired by the Old City (Philadelphia) First Friday, First Friday Main Line has had people discovering art in unexpected places.

Because Ardmore doesn’t really have gallery spaces, the art and music were tucked in alleys, store fronts, restaurants and on the street. All of this was done by Executive Director and Ardmore business owner and resident, Sherry Tillman. These were never Lower Merion Township as in municipal sponsored events. Many municipalities are deeply involved in the First Friday celebrations of their communities, but the extent of Lower Merion’s involvement was basically collecting permit fees.

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First Friday Main Line was something I was deeply involved in until the spring of 2013. I did the publicity and event photography and it was an amazing ride, including a Congressional Commendation in 2010 for our Operation Angel Wings initiative.

But change is inevitable. Sherry called me a couple of months ago to let me know she was putting First Friday on hiatus. I had stopped actively participating because of my move to Chester County and new life here. I was sad to hear her news, but understood. She wanted to focus on different kinds of art events and get back to creating on her own. Sherry is an artist in her own right.

Coming back to the last First Friday Main Line was a bittersweet, yet sentimental journey. I had spent so much time in Ardmore between First Friday Main Line and the community activism I was part of a few years ago. (Lower Merion Township had once to seize part of the historic business district via eminent domain for private gain.)

Coming back to the area I once called home is now like being a stranger in a strange land. What once was home, is now just a place I used to live. The contrast was very pronounced to me this visit. I loved seeing all the old and in many cases beloved familiar faces, but I see everything now through different eyes in a thanks for the memories kind of way. I no longer belong to these old places, I belong to Chester County.

Part of the contrast which was sad to see is just well, how grungy and almost worn around the edges Lower Merion Township seems to look. And that isn’t just the business districts. When I was a kid Lower Merion really was a beautiful place to live. Now it is just an expensive place to live, which is not the same thing.

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What I observed was a lot of the sense of community and neighborliness no longer seems to be self evident. A lot of strangers bustling by, and I wonder are there still people stepping up to foster a true sense of community? Or maybe it’s no longer that kind of place?

I have to be honest I do not miss the congestion and traffic of the Main Line nor do I miss the constant development. I felt really old passing by locations where I remember the house and the people who lived there, only now planted on those spots were condos and McMansions and such. All of what replaced what was in these spots are built out to the last possible inch with no real attempt at human scale let alone compatible style. In fact, no real style at all, these projects between Wayne and Ardmore scream nothing more than “new”. Sad.

Down the street from where my parents used to live, I read recently about a house which has a property which is now the subject of potential development. I knew it as the Woodruff House.. The super family which once lived there is long gone and sadly mostly passed away. Realistically, the development will probably happen. There is no zoning and planning to prevent it even if it is a ridiculous and vastly inappropriate spot for infill development.

But it has been almost 40 years at this point since Lower Merion Township had a comprehensive plan update, and the lack of planning is showing. What worries me about what is happening on the Main Line is the same developers snapping up whatever they can there are also in Chester County.

Take Downingtown, as in the borough. If they don’t watch it, they will make the same mistake that Malvern Borough did with Eli Kahn and Eastside Flats, which should really be seen from the rear too. An article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer recently:

Archdiocese sells Delco property, 2 others for $56.2M By Harold Brubaker, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: October 04, 2014

…..In addition ……..the archdiocese said that it had an agreement to sell a 454-acre property in Northampton County for $5.5 million, and that it had sold 55 acres in Chester County for $3.7 million.

The $3.7 million from the sale of excess land at the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, a behavioral-health center for clergy and women religious, was deposited into the archdiocesan priests’ pension fund. That fund previously had a $76.3 million deficit.

The buyer was Woodbine Partners L.P., a partnership of Chester County developers E. Kahn Development and J. Lowe & Associates.

Stephen Sullins, Downingtown’s borough manager, said the expected mixed-use development was significant for the town, which covers just two square miles.

“It looks like it is going to expand our tax base somewhat. We’re looking forward to some new jobs,” Sullins said.

Yep, Eli Kahn.again….Eastside Flats which still look vastly out of place in Malvern and unfinished although they are finished and the project is for sale (See Philadelphia Business Journal, July 2, 2014) .

And remember that very telling Patch article a couple years ago that told a very different tale of how much money Malvern Borough would actually make off of this project?

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$60,000: East King Revitalization’s Impact on the Borough The new apartments and businesses won’t be a windfall for the borough. By Pete Kennedy (Open Post) Updated June 29, 2012 at 1:38 am

During a discussion…at….Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.

“That’s it?” Yeager replied, expecting a bigger payoff from the several new businesses and hundreds of new residents that will be moving to the east end of the borough.

Downingtown can afford a development misstep even less than Malvern Borough. And I love Malvern, but if there is some benefit to having that Christ awful development once you get beyond having Christopher’s there and Kimberton Whole Foods moving in, I haven’t seen it. And the development looks like giant Lego buildings (with about as much finesse) plunked down in Lilliput.

There are a lot of empty store fronts in Eastside Flats and the borough itself, and last time I was there to have lunch at Christopher’s there were cigarette butts all over the sidewalk in front of the nail salon. Of course I also wondered why such “high end” and new real estate could only get a nail salon? And have you ever see Eastside Flats from the rear? It shows it’s backside to a lot of Malvern residents over the tracks and wow, a little landscaping might help. But do developers like this care about the existing residents?

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My travels yesterday merely reaffirmed the true contrast between urban, suburban, and Chester County. And suburban doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be the mini-me to urban, and well for us out here in Chester County, we shouldn’t want developers to spin their tales of the Emperor’s New Clothes out here and give us the awkward new urbanism fairy tale or hybrid cross of what they are shoe horning in everywhere else. Maybe that is NIMBY (not in my back yard) of me, but heck I have lived with bad projects and bad planning in my back yard–it’s one of the things I was happy to leave behind on the Main Line when I moved to Chester County.

I still believe Chester County is incredibly vulnerable to these projects, and these tiny towns and boroughs need to think carefully before jumping to the extremes of these very dense developments. Places grow and evolve and not all development is bad, but there is just way too much of it. The pace needs to slow.

The open space and gracious rolling farm lands,fields, and forests which make up Chester County are worth preserving. So is the way of life which accompanies it. Thanks for stopping by today. I know this post has rambled along, and when I started out with my original thought of contrast I wasn’t quite sure where this post would lead me.

Enjoy the beautiful day!

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caffeinated heaven: hiline coffee nyc rolls out MORE fun!

photo1I believe in living life caffeinated.  I love coffee and have a definite attachment to my French Press and Nespresso machine.

Although I love my Nespresso machine I am less than enchanted with Nespresso capsule prices.  Which is why a few months ago I ordered from HiLine Coffee for the first time. And I just keep going back for more.

Why?  Good, small batch coffee.  And the guys that started this company went to Penn.  So there is that Philadelphia-area connection too!

Like myself, these fine gents (Ted and Gene) eventually discovered Nespresso machines.  Like me they found the capsule price points a source of irritation.  So these enterprising guys decided to build a better bread box….err coffee capsule.

Voila!  HiLine Coffee was born!

coffeeThe prices on the capsules are so reasonable and the coffee is amazing.  I just received my box of new flavors and I am like a kid in the proverbial candy store.

Their new collection is named after different parts of New York City, so how fun is that?  I had Wall Street Dark Roast today and it is strong and bold, but has no burnt taste like many dark roast coffees can have.  Next up to try is the Chelsea Light Brown Roast.

Seriously, give this company a try. If you love coffee, and own a Nespresso machine, this company gives you more choices.  I will *note* that there are other companies introducing Nespresso compatible capsules but HiLine  does the best job price-wise and with being truly Nespresso machine compatible.

I have tested other capsules and they are too small, and the capsules just don’t dispense coffee correctly.  HiLine has spent the time to really do a good job. So if you want coffee that is so good you wonder if you are sitting at Bubby’s in Tribeca for brunch or want espresso good enough to make you wish you were sitting in Café Reggio in Greenwich Village, then this is your company. And they have excellent customer service, so no Soup Nazis there!

HiLine can be found on the web on Facebook, their own website, and on Twitter at @HiLineCoffee .

Tell them you heard about their product on Chester County Ramblings.  Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the occasional money-saving secret code!

Please note in spite of what the Diva of Domesticity known as Martha Stewart says, I am as a blogger qualified to review coffee capsules.  No, my palette wasn’t trained in Paris but I know what I like!

 

mmmmm coffee

DSC_0008I love good coffee.  Good coffee to me is not Starbucks which always tastes bitter and burnt.  Folgers simply never passes my lips and Keurig machines are o.k.

But if you are really interested, what I prefer is a French Press, an old school stove top espresso machine, and a Nespresso machine.  Truthfully I am so picky about my coffee I only order it out at certain places, because the brown water so many people pass off as coffee is just gross.

I have a Nespresso Pixie- my sister gave it to me as a Christmas present and we (the Nespresso machine and I) have been inseparable ever since.

Now the thing about Nespresso is it is controlled by Nestlé and you can only buy their coffee capsules which are do not misunderstand me, excellent.  But they are going up in price and I would like to be able to get capsules that are sometimes a little less expensive and a different brand of coffee – preferably small batch hand roasted kinds. Not flavored. Flavored coffee is simply gagalicious and I don’t mean that as a compliment – it is right up there with flavored or any kind of non-dairy creamer.

Well I was cruising around on Amazon.com looking and came across this company in NYC that was new called HiLine Coffee Company. So I went to their website to read about them

HiLine Coffee Company:

Our mission is to sell high quality coffee in Nespresso compatible capsules while offering great value and more choice to our customers. We believe Nespresso manufactures the best single-serve coffee machines and we like their espresso too; however, we feel it’s time to offer consumers a new choice of capsules to use with their Nespresso machines…We’re Gene and Ted, the founders of HiLine Coffee. We share a love of coffee going back more than a decade, when as undergraduates and best friends at Penn we stumbled upon La Colombe, a café near Rittenhouse Square. Just like many remember their first great wine, we remember our first great coffee.

 

So I figured how bad could coffee be from a couple of guys from Wharton? After all, a few years ago there was a coffee company I was crazy about that was also created by a guy from Wharton whose coffee I missed as the stores went away – New World Coffee.

I ordered a few sleeves and oh my I tried it today.  

One word: fabulous.

The flavor was bold and rich and not the least burnt.  It had that great espresso taste I love.  You see that is what hooks people on Nespresso machines: they can actually produce consistently good cups of coffee and espresso.

So look if you are a coffee junky like me and you own a Nespresso machine for $5 a sleeve for coffee produced in small batches, why not try it?  The coffee is good, and trust me I am picky about my coffee.

Read about the HiLine Coffee team by CLICKING HERE. They are on Twitter @hilinecoffee and on Facebook too.

Seriously? If they keep producing a product this good they will be the next hot thing sooner rather than later and you read it here first.HandsomeRoasters9photo-sa-fig-12-caffe-reggio-1

If  you do not own a Nespresso machine but want amazing coffee for your French Press or stove top espresso pot or whatever I buy from a place called Handsome Coffee Roasters from Los Angeles – like HiLine their coffee is super fresh and flavorful and roasted in small batches – all of their coffees are good but I recommend trying their “Roaster’s Choice”. I was introduced to   Handsome by a friend who designed their webpage whose girlfriend is a barista.  

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And if you want to check out one of the best coffee houses anywhere which is also steeped in tradition, check out Cafe Reggio in New York City in the Village around the corner from The Blue Note at 119 MacDougal Street.  They are the first place to ever make a cappuccino in the US and have been doing it right since 1927.

 

the art of custom cabinetry, woodworking, and furniture

custom-kitchen-lg-aCabinet makers, custom furniture builders, and artisan wood workers are a dying breed.  It takes real artistic talent combined with years of work. Some people call themselves cabinet makers and so on, but they really aren’t. Seriously, it is an art form.

I love custom woodwork and cabinetry.  It’s luscious and beautiful.  baker

I do not often promote businesses and if I do I must have personal experience with them.  I am going to introduce you to one.

Sherman & Gosweiler Fine Cabinetry and Woodworking. They have been in business  since 1976 and I LOVE their work! If you can dream it, Dick Gosweiler can build it.  Whether it is an urban space like a chic Manhattan apartment or townhouse; a penthouse on Rittenhouse Square; a second home in Bay Head or the Hamptons; or even a simple mahogany-bookcasesfarmhouse in Chester County this is who you want.

In addition to making your dreams for your home come to life this company also can olengdo period reproductions.  One of my particular favorites are the mantelpieces and mantelpiece surrounds they have done over the years.  I mean don’t you just hate to see people put gobs of money into either a new house or an extensive renovation only to cheap out on a stock mantelpiece and/or mantelpiece surround for a den or living room or great room?

On my wish list for my home someday I would love one of their mantelpieces.smuckler

Anyway, just was thinking about house stuff and thought I would throw this up here.

Sherman & Gosweiler have a website and a Facebook fan page. If you need their services they can be reached at (610) 270-0825.  They are located at  401 East 4th Street in Bridgeport – that is their physical shop, but they travel pretty much anywhere for installations and whatnot.

What they say about themselves is as follows and utterly true:cherry-dining-table

Since our inception in 1976 we have always had the same philosophy: To craft beautiful and functional cabinetry delivered on budget and on time.  We are committed to making the entire experience easy and pleasurable for our clients. From creating a great design to a trouble-free installation, we are available to answer your questions and coordinate with other tradespeople on the job. Let us show you why scores of interior designers, architects, builders and hundreds of homeowners have put their trust in us.