West Chester Coffee Blog

Coffee. 1990 61X81 cm Oil on canvas.

Coffee. 1990 61X81 cm Oil on canvas.

In 1984, when I was 23 years old, I headed off to Rome to study abroad for a year. The first thing that I remember doing on the very first day that I was there is ordering a cup of coffee. That moment can really be considered a dividing point in my life, Life Before Good Coffee (LBGC) and Life After Good Coffee (LAGC). Prior to that moment, coffee was just something you would have in the morning to get you moving. After that moment, it became ritualized. Not just any cup of coffee would do. Each morning I'd stroll up Via del Corso on my way to school, and along the way I'd take in a dozen or so cups of cappuccino. Aah. La dolce vita!

When I returned to Philadelphia in 1985 a stark reality slapped me square in the face. The thing that had become a daily sacrament was replaced by something unfit to clean the bathroom floor at the 30th Street Station. I either made my own cup of coffee or there was none to be had. Life took a serious down turn for a while. In fact, you will see a cup of coffee in many of my paintings from the late 1980's, like the one above. This manifestation of me crying on the inside. 

By the time Mary and I were married in 1991, I had heard rumors that good coffee could be found in Seattle. This left us with only one option; we packed up the wagon and headed west. For the next 20 years or so we lived in a relative state of coffee stability. In the Pacific Northwest every wide spot in the road had a drive through espresso stand. Really. As a wildlife biologist, I often worked in some very remote areas in Washington. There was never a place so remote that I couldn't find an espresso stand and get something good to start my day off well.  

It also happened that during that 20 years, the idea that "coffee was something more" seem to spread throughout the county. In our return to the east coast in 2011, Starbucks could be found from coast to coast and everywhere in-between. Albeit, the Great Plains can still be considered the great plain. I actually had to put some effort into finding a Starbucks in that part of the county but it could be done. 

Here in West Chester there is a Starbucks on the corner of the main junction downtown. It is always full of people. That is not all; Starbucks has competition. There are many cafes and restaurants around West Chester offering something better than could be found here in 1985. Some of these places seem to know what the coffee ritual is all about and some of them think that running Folger's through an espresso machine will do. 

Emily and I are here to help sort out the good and the bad for you. We plan to visit as many places in West Chester that have coffee to offer beyond the roadside diner drip swill. Every weekend or so, we plan to visit a different coffee shop and report to you what we think about it. Our first stop will be the Starbucks on the Corner of High and Gay in Downtown West Chester. 

I mention Starbucks a lot in this short blog post. In the Pacific Northwest Starbucks was considered a dirty word amongst coffee snobs, me being one of them. However, there are many reasons to like Starbucks and what they do. More on that in our next post. 

Russell and Emily. 

The Sun Sets on Summer


It's that time of year again where a great moan can be heard across our great land as kids are pushed out of bed and shoved onto a bus and taken back to the place where joy is surgically removed from their being. For parents on the other hand it is the one time of year that we feel really good about paying our property taxes. Some parents are so happy to get their kids out of their hair for a while that you could probably get them to pay a little extra.  

Yes, the kids are back in School. Both Russell and Mary are working, which is an oddity. It is actually the first time that Mary and I have been fully employed at the same time since we were married. Our first full paychecks come next week. It will be nice to shovel money into the hole instead of shoveling it out. One difficulty that my new job has for us is that I am in Maryland for training until Thanksgiving! I'll post some photos of Fredrick, Maryland when I get the chance. 

Our final weeks before school started were mostly lazy. They involved playing with the puppy, soccer games and a visit to the zoo. Check out photos of it all here.  


While we were at the beach...


...some one turned 15 years old. Holy cow, time does fly by.  

One of the nice things about picking up and moving across the county is that all of your possession get picked up and reorganized. I use the term "reorganized" rather loosely. You look in a box of stuff and find that long lost sock that you've been looking for the last six and a half years.  

One of the things that I found a few months ago was a little tiny Rite-in-the-Rain note book. In it were these notes from August 1998. 


0300 - Contractions began

0500 - Called nurse. Told Mary to take a hot bath which she did. When contractions get 4 minutes apart call the hospital.

2130 - Went to hospital. cervix was not dilated at all. Midwife gave Mary morphine so she might sleep.  

2400 - Went home. 


0230 - Mary slept good for a hour and half, then woke up vomiting. Was up the rest of the night. 

0700 - Called midwife. Told us to come in for a checkup.  

0745 - Christine checked Mary's cervix. She was about 1 cm. She gave Mary a drug for nausea and we went home. Need to call back at 1100. 

1100 - Called midwife. Mary was resting much better now. Midwife asked us to come back to hospital.  

1230 - Got admitted. Got blood samples and such for first serval hours. Around 1450 Mary took a whirl pool bath which really relaxed her. Came back to room and we both napped until about 1530.  

1550 - Christine broke Mary's water and gave her potussin. to induce labor. 

1600 - Contractions became much more intense. 

1730 - Epidural given. 

1830 - Epidural worked great. Mary is sound a sleep. Even with contractions. 

1930 - Diana, the nurse left, and Mary Lou the other nurse came on duty.  

2310 - I saw the baby's head. 


0030 - Emily born. 8lbs 12 oz, 21 inches. 7 hours labor.  

It seems like just yesterday. Happy Birthday Emily! Check out these photos of how to give your big sister a birthday kiss. 


A little catching up

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Wow, it has been over a month since my last blog post! I have been filling all of my free time mostly looking through a microscope trying to identify various and sundry little plants that most folks would call weeds. I'll do a blog post about all that later.  

For now, I'll give you an update on everything else. For the kids, the last day of school will be next Monday, June 17th. For them, there is nothing else. Next year, Emily will be in 10th grade, William in 7th and Paddy in 3rd. 

Paddy is looking forward to spending the weekend with Uncle Kevin and Uncle Rico. This is actually a birthday present from last year! Kevin was so busy with nursing school last year that he hasn't been able to take him until now. We know he will have lots of fun up in the big apple! 

Around the first week in July, we will all be going down to see Grandma and Grandpa in North Carolina. Emily, Mary and I will be there for about a week then we will return and leave the boys there. Then cousin Ian will come out from Washington State and all three grandson's will be at Grandma and Grandpa's house for a week or so.  

When the boys get back from North Carolina, we will go spend a couple of weeks at the Delaware coast with Pop-pop. Then back to West Chester for the start of the new school year. It seems to short all ready!

We have also had lots of stuff going on over the past month. Paddy played soccer this spring. A few weeks ago he asked if the Philadelphia Union had players that were teenagers. I told him that yes, they do have a few teenagers. He then said that he was going to be on the Union team when he becomes a teenager. I told him he better get practicing if that is going to happen. So, very day, he works on his soccer skills. 

William and I went on a school trip to the Baltimore Aquarium yesterday. Needless to day William was very excited! It was the first time that either of us have seen it. I particularly enjoyed seeing the exhibits from the Pacific Northwest as I was the person that issued the shellfish transfer permits that allowed them to take them out of Washington State. I was glad to see they made the trip across the continent okay. 

Check out photos of it all here.  



Spring time on Fisher Branch


Actually, the title is a misnomer as spring was pretty much MIA on our trip to visit Grandpa Gene and Grandma Linda this past weekend. We drove down on Thursday in hopes that a 580 mile drive in a southerly direction would hold some warmer weather than we have been having here in West Chester. However, the day before we left the mountains got 5 or 6 inches of fresh snow! Fortunately, a quick look at the weather forecast showed that things should turn around fairly quick, and it did. A little. By Friday most of the snow was melted, and we had a mix of cool rainy and luke warm sunshine through Monday.  

The tardy nature of Spring 2013 is not just a figment of my imagination. Last year we came down for a visit at the same time last year. Spring seemed a good two weeks ahead of this year. Check out the photos from last year here.

Whatever the weather, or whether spring is early or late, it is always good to get together with your family. We even got to see Aunt Teri for a day. Grandma and Grandpa are doing good and Lilly and Max still bark at everything. One thing that is a little different on the ole farm is that Circe and Aster have become escape artist and seem to find their way to the blueberry patch every morning.

Check out photos from our trip here

Russell, Mary, Emily, William, and Paddy. 

Emily's New Smile

Today was a big day for Emily. As you can see, she is sporting a new smile as her braces were removed! To say she is happy would be a vast understatement. Mary and I think she is just beautiful. Just the mere fact that she let us photograph her should speak volumes. Adding to her happiness is that fact that she had a lot of wooden nickels. Each visit to the orthodontist would earn a few nickels. If they brushed and maintained their braces well, she would get more nickels. Emily saved enough nickels to earn 2 $10 gift cards to Barns and Noble, where she intends to spend the entire thing on Hobbit stuff, and a $10 gift card to Starbucks. I told her the nice thing to do would be to give the Starbucks card to me as I have suffered through this as much as she has. She dismissed my suggestion in its entirety. 


Kid Cookery


For some reason, all of the kids have taken an interest in doing more of the cooking around here. Emily and William take basic cooking classes in school. When I say basic, I mean basic. Emily said that one day the made Top Ramen. Yum!

I asked Emily if they have covered taking care of their mise en place and she said that they were no where close to such concepts. Humm...what is a dad, who is a longtime student of French cooking, to do? Looks like it is time for some home schooling. 

One dish that the kids like, looks fancy, and if pretty easy is pull off is fish in papillote. This is simply cooking fish in a parchment paper envelope. the basic principle to keep in mind here is that things need to cook quickly in a hot oven (425 degrees), so the veggies need to be cut small and and the same size. The only other tricky part of the disk is cutting the heart shaped paper big enough and in the right shape, to hold your dish. Emily did a great job and got an A+ in her home school cooking class. She even let me take a few pictures of her at work. 

Paddy got the job of putting cookie dough on the cookie sheet. He did this well and didn't eat too much of the uncooked cookies. The only problem was that we couldn't account for all the cooked cookies once he was done. Humm?

William hasn't done much cooking in the past couple of weeks because he has been busy working on another major paper house project. Last year he completed a model of the Westminster Abby. This year, he wanted to make Grandma Linda and Grandpa Gene a model of the White House for their Christmas pressent. After many, many hours of painstaking X-acto knife cutting of tiny windows, he completed it and it looks great. See photos of both of these project here

Happy Holidays!

Russell, Mary, Emily, William and Paddy

A Week At The Beach


Last week we finally got our act together and went on a long over due family vacation! We dusted off all the camping gear and headed to the Delaware Seashore State Park. Our activities were completely predictable. Mary and the kids swam at the beach. Russell rode on his bike. The gnats bit hard. We went to the boardwalk at Rehobeth Beach. Ate ice cream. Swam on the beach some more. See photos here

School's Out!


With out doubt, the biggest event in our household is that school has ended, well, at least for the kids. Mary is done at the end of this week. All in all, this past school year was good for all the kids. They all made great strides academically and socially. Emily wrapped up middle school and will be a freshman at Henderson High next year. Like most teenagers, we have great difficulty working any kind of emotional response out of her, but we have managed to discover two things that she is happy about; 1) Henderson High is only two blocks away so she will never have to ride a bus to school ever again, and 2) one of her electives next year is photography, which she is very excited about. Emily’s main summer will be a science-fiction writing camp that is held over at West Chester University. Emily still likes writing a lot and is looking forward to exploring some ideas that she has floating around in her head.

William wrapped up elementary school and will head off to middle school next year. Of our three kids, William probably had the most personal growth. He did great academically. His only downfall was a brief period of not following through with homework assignments. But the motivation of a trip to the beach and camping this summer, helped turn that around. Next year William will be in 6th grade at Peirce Middle School. William’s big plan for the summer is a marine biology camp, which is also held at West Chester University. He is very excided about this camp because they will get to study live squids and other marine creatures.

Paddy finished up first grade. His big achievement for the year is that he reads like a champ! At the beginning of the year, he could read almost nothing. Now he picks up books like Diary of a Whippy Kid and plows through it. We aren’t sure what Paddy is going to do this summer. We have not committed him to a summer camp yet. He may go to an intensive swimming lesson session for a couple of weeks so he can get his “green” armband for the pool. If he gets that he can go down the big slide at the pool, which would be the most awesome thing in the world.

Me and the boys also plan to go visit Grandpa and Grandma in North Carolina for a couple of weeks as well. See some photos from the last couple of weeks here.


Congratulations Emily!


Emily started taking fencing lessons at the beginning of the school year. Last week she moved up to the intermediate level where she can start fencing against other opponents. Here she is going through her intermediate evaluation with her instructor in front of the rest of the club (and dad). Now Mom and Dad just need to make sure she doesn't use these new found skills on her brothers!

The Kids

Emmy's new head

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on what the kids have been up to so I thought I’d do that now.

First and foremost, they are very, very, very excited that there is only one full week of school left. Next week is the full week, then the last week in May they have one day off for an in-service day for the teachers, then the first week of June they have two full days, and three half days. The last day of school is June 8th! They don’t know it yet, but after school lets out they go to work at the North Franklin Street work camp for the rest of the summer.

In the last post about the kids, Paddy was playing basketball and taking swimming lessons. Basketball season is over and he has now moved on to baseball. He is still doing swimming. He doesn’t seem to care much about which sport he is doing at any given time, just as long as he is doing it. The one constant is that he talks trash at all of them. Next week he is going on a class field trip to the Herr’s potato chip factory. He is very excited about that.

William, on the other hand avoids sports at all cost, especially if it requires communication with another human. His primary mission in life is to collect every fact about every animal that has ever lived on planet Earth, and remember it. At the rate that he is going he will done with that project by the start of the next school year. Yesterday (May 17) his school went on an all day field trip to Washington DC. When we arrived we mapped out the most direct route from the bus to the Museum of Natural History. We’d have William tell you about it but his head exploded. He was doing pretty good until he came upon the exhibit with a real giant squids (there were two, a male and a female!). Lets just say he is a pretty happy boy today. See photos from our trip here.

Emily is also pretty happy, for two reasons. First, we finally hooked up her hand-me-down iPhone. She now has a gizmo with a phone, email, text message, and internet that she can carry around with her. Second, and probably, the main reason she is so happy, we let her dye her hair. It is now black and purple. These were not freebies for her. To get them we asked her to pull up her grades, which she did. Next year, at Henderson High School she will be in all honor’s classes. We are very proud of her. She is also doing well in fencing. She will be moving up to the intermediate class soon and will be learning to fence with an epee (a type of sword).

See more photos of the kids over the last month or so here.

Happy Spring time!


A New Beginning!

The last blog post on our old site was way back on February 11th about me meeting Sebastian le Toux, the famous soccer player. The post prior to that was January 8th about birthdays that occurred in December. So really, we need to do some catching up for the first three months of 2012! 

As with all kids, ours are growing like weeds. Emily quite literally so as she is as tall as Mary now. She has gotten into fencing and seems to really enjoy it. This past week she got her own sword and outfit with helmet. She has chosen to do epee, which is one of three types of swords used in fencing. I wanted to post a photo of her in her new equiptment but she said she didn't want any photos taken of her. I would have fought her about this but then I realized that she is learning to use a sword, i.e. a weapon, and that I better rethink that a little. I'll get a photo when she is at practice. Don't tell her about my plans...


William is doing great. He and I have been working on models. The first one that we did was a WWII B-17 Flying Fortress. We finished that and moved on to a German U-boat. Those were "level 3" models in terms of difficulty. And we must say that they came out looking great. William, feeling a bit cocky, wanted to move on to "level 5" the hardest level of all. So now, the model that we are working on is the Cutty Sark, Level 5. These are good projects for William as it makes him slow down and be patient. We spend a great deal of time painting the models and try to make them look as authentic as we can. With the Cutty Sark we have learned that when they say "Level 5" the really mean "Level Eleven"! Here are photos of Will with his B-17.

Paddy has accepted sports into his life. He is currently doing basketball and swimming. He did soccer in the fall and is signed up for baseball in the spring. You would think that all the running around would wear him out. If you think that you would be wrong. It doesn't wear him out. It wears Mary and I out. It only seems to get him warmed up. 

Paddy's basketball team is something to see. It is, from what I can tell, the smallest team in the YMCA league with only six players. The other teams of 9 to 11 players. One of the players on Paddy's team has no legs or arms past his knees or elbow. Yet, he runs up and down the court and fights for the ball just as hard as anyone else. He will get the ball take it down court, shoot and score. He may be short in stature but he is ten feet tall in determination. One of the other little guys has a neurological disorder that causes him to trip and fall a lot. My knees hurt just watching him. Three of the other guys have clearly played basketball before. They look like pros at times.

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Then there is Paddy, who is still struggling to understand the basic concepts of the game. When he started he just didn't know how to dribble, he was totally unaware that it was required at all. He is now to the point where he has scored a goal three times...in practice. Paddy's real gift to the team is that he can talk trash. Matter of fact, he can talk trash like nobody's business. And he does a lot of it.

For example, at the beginning of the game the teams line up in front of each other so that the players know who they are supposed to guard. One game the referee pointed out Paddy to his opposing player. When he did Paddy leaned forward, took his hand and and formed a peace sign with his index and middle finger and pointed it back and forth to his eyes and his opponent's eyes and said, "yo bro, I'm watching you. Uh-hu, that's right, I said you." Paddy did watch him. He watched him score a lot of points. 

Despite Paddy being the weak link in the team's abilities, they win. Actually the always win, every game, and usually by a lot. Once they are up bay 10-20 points, they start doing a "P play." This is where they feed Paddy the ball and hope he scores. He came close one game. He got the ball, shot, and it circled the rim but fell the wrong way. Our hope is that he scores a goal before the end of the season. Here is a photo of the team in action. Paddy is number One!

I am still looking for work. I've had one interview out of 36 applications! I haven't heard back from the job I had the interview for and I'm still in the running for four jobs with the Federal Government. Mostly there are very few jobs in my career path available here. Most of the environment type jobs are looking for people that have experience with freshwater wetlands. Having spent 11 years in Marine Resources in Washington State is not the best match for such things. However, positions do turn up that I am qualified for and we are sure one will come through at some point. The good news is that Mary's job is stable and she is enjoying what she is doing. It pays just enough for us to get by, which ain't bad!

How is that for our first post on the new website? Let us know what your are up to in your neck of the woods. 

Russell, Mary, Emily, William and Paddy