Road trip


Route 100 along the Brandywine River, southeastern Pennsylvania

A quick spin through Wyeth country yesterday, after visiting my grandmother in West Chester. I borrowed a Pennsylvania atlas from my father and John and I explored landscape half-familiar to me from many years ago.


Brandywine Battlefield

The British were marching to Philadelphia in September of 1777 and George Washington's Continental Army tried to stop them. They lost the battle but, as you know, won the war.


Gideon Gilpin House, 1745, at Brandywine Battlefield Park

Gilpin was a pacifist Quaker like many farmers in the Chadds Ford area. After the battle, foraging soldiers plundered his crops and livestock, so he turned his farmhouse into a tavern along the road to Philadelphia.


Tether your horse here

 We are visiting my family in Swarthmore, PA, in the relatively warm, southern, snow-free climes of the mid-Atlantic.

Pizza on the grill and Scattergories last night. Plus, in honor of their hibernating bees, a tipple of a new find – the odd but delicious honey liqueur known as Barenjager. I bought it at the NH State Liquor store on I-95.


Gilpin Tavern from afar

I wanted a photo with landscape and a Pennsylvania fieldstone farmhouse in it. When I set up the shot I noticed that tree was enormous. This site says it is the Lafayette Sycamore and it's 391 years old.


Looking up at the sycamore

A plaque explained that the tree "had lived here" at the time of the signing of the Declaration. The historic tree is one of two Lafayette Sycamores in PA, according to this site.


At the big old tree

John rested the camera on a limb of the sycamore, set the timer and ran into the shot.


Gideon Gilpin House, another view

The Marquis de Lafayette stayed with the Gilpin family before the Battle of Brandywine. He was wounded during the fight but "managed to organize a successful retreat."

The young French volunteer saw his first military action at Brandywine when he served with General Washington. When General LaFayette returned to America on his triumphal tour of the Brandywine Battlefield in 1824, he greeted Gideon, then an old man, at his home.

The house is on a small hill overlooking what is now U.S. Route 1, running from Key West to Kent, Maine. At home in New Hampshire, by chance Route 1 is also known as Lafayette Road.

Brandywine Valley online

Snowy Monday


Junco on new snow

Rain, rain and more rain yesterday turned to heavy, sticky, birch-tree-bowing snow last night. Pale sun through silver haze this morning.

We are color deprived. We are taking our vitamin D pills. We love the fireside. We listen to the plow speed by and scrape the road.

The eaves are fanged with icicles.

We eat meat, and hot things cooked in big pots. We look at pictures in magazines. We can't finish a book. We know what we should do about the housework but we don't get around to it.

At night, before sleep and dreams, we watch movies gorgeous and foreign with colors, warmth, brightness, feeling, intelligence. Our palette is gray, white, brown, and dull endurance. We are boring.

We are drinking too much coffee. We wear too much black. We don't care who won the Oscars.Though of course we want to see Slumdog Millionaire.


Chickadee ISO breakfast

Doctor appointment this morning and physical therapist this afternoon. Frozen shoulder continues to distract with pain.

Monday follow up on school district ballots – which has proven to be unusually challenging and humbling. As a first time school clerk, the learning curve has been steep. And there have been moments when I wondered why doing my civic duty seemed like such a good idea last winter, when I put my own name on the ballot. 

Don't you hate when something goes wrong and there is a slow dumb dawning of a clue that it is your responsibility and therefore your fault?

Tidying up loose ends, hopefully in the next two days, is going to feel really good. To the extent I'm having feelings here in the cold white end of February.

Last night the wet snow slid off our metal roof heavily, piece after piece, landing with a heavy shaking thud. And so I dreamed of artillery and bombs, but I couldn't come up with a dream story for the battle. I only knew I was in it.

In a month or so the forsythia is going to decorate the roadsides with sprays of bright yellow and unfreeze our arctic hearts.

Every mile is two in winter. – George Herbert

Lobsters, pot roast and Indian spices


Gift shop at Ray's Seafood Restaurant, Rye Beach (closed for the season)

Behold the noble and savory lobster, icon of the New England seacoast, and his charming friend the seahorse, bright in the February sunshine.

It's 33 degrees today and wicked windy. We drove the coast back from the gym. I was dazzled by the sunshine off the water. Must remember to purchase a new pair of sunglasses since my old ones broke.

Archetype: lobsterman in sou'wester

John is making a pot roast today, even though it's just the two of us. He bought it a couple of days ago. Gotta use it up. He was explaining what makes a good pot roast and I wasn't really listening until he said "connective tissue."

"Connective tissue? Please don't use those words about something we're having for dinner."

We got the call this morning from the phone chain that the kids have landed in Italy and all is well. We're hoping for lots of pictures and stories.

It's cold outside but we've been traveling to warm places cinematically.

Last night we watched a Netflix direct-to-tv movie Before the Rains. The cover shot turned out to be a bit misleading in terms of the ratio of tropical sexiness to tragedy.

"Sorry," said John, who picked it out. "I didn't think this movie would be so sad."

"That's okay. I'm still enjoying it, I think mostly because of the cinematography, and the setting. I didn't know there were mountains like that in southern India."

The actor who plays T.K. was especially good.

We also recently watched and enjoyed a much more upbeat Indian flick, Monsoon Wedding. Lots of fun, sometimes funny and incredibly sweet. Highly recommended.

For rent


For rent


View to Greater Boar's Head across overturned benches


Heart of the strip

Cheerfully bleak in the winter morning sun: Hampton Beach. I drove through yesterday after dropping off the high school kid.

I'm heading up the Spaulding Turnpike this morning, with pencils and timer. It's a route I am coming to know well.

Off season


Hampton Beach, this morning

The End of Alone

At our desk, on the road, or on a remote beach, the world is a tap away. It's so cool. And yet it's not. What we lose with our constant connectedness.

Gift of Warmth: $40,455

In today's Seacoast Sunday…

Fuel-aid drive raises $40,455
By Amy Kane

Record numbers of Seacoast residents sought help with heating bills this winter, and the Gift of Warmth fund-raising campaign has helped make their homes a little warmer.

As the campaign concludes, donations from generous individuals and businesses in the area have reached $40,455.

The Gift of Warmth is an annual campaign run by Seacoast Media Group, publisher of Seacoast Sunday, the Portsmouth Herald, the Hampton Union, the Exeter News-Letter and other publications and Web sites in New Hampshire and Maine.

Funds raised through the Gift of Warmth campaign are being distributed through the Rockingham Community Action fuel-assistance program. The money is being used to pay the fuel costs of individuals in emergency situations or to help those who might not otherwise have qualified for aid under federal guidelines.

"We are so grateful to the people who contributed," said Sharon Brody, director of fuel assistance at RCA.

"Because of Gift of Warmth, we were able to tell people a delivery will be there today or tomorrow. Often, it was a one-time thing, but at least it's something," Brody said.

Brody and the staff at fuel assistance have received 5,585 applications so far this season, compared to 5,240 at this time last year.

"The need is greater than it's ever been," she said.

According to Brody, more people applied this year who had never asked for help before. Many were even apologetic. "They had always been self-sufficient," she said. "We said, 'Don't feel you've done something wrong.'"

RCA accepts applications for this heating season through April 30. The staff will also make referrals if other aid is needed — for food, Medicaid, and literacy services, for example.

"We are concerned about people's needs, that's the bottom line," Brody said.

According to Celeste Lovett, manager of the Fuel Assistance Program at the N.H. State Office of Energy and Planning, there is a 27 percent increase this year in New Hampshire households certified to receive fuel assistance.
Many applied early, due to initial high fuel costs.

Lovett expects overall totals at the end of the season to be 10 to 15 percent higher than last year.

"It's hard to say what drives the numbers," Lovett said. "Low-income people always have difficulty paying for fuel. The more difficult economy may be a factor."

Of certified households in New Hampshire this year, 27 percent were new and had never applied before. Usually that number is around 24 percent, Lovett said.

Numbers of first-time applicants are increasing now, in early-to-mid-February.

"It may be related to job loss," Lovett said. "These are numbers we're going to watch."

Lovett said the most important message to share is encouraging people to apply.
"If people have a hard time paying for fuel, they should contact their local community action agency. Don't self-screen; make the call."

For information, to apply for assistance or to make a donation, contact the Rockingham Community Action fuel-assistance program at 1-800-639-3896.