A Celebration for All Ages

My family and I kicked off the holidays in splendid style this past weekend with a visit to the Brandywine River Museum. I hadn’t been to the museum in a few years and was looking forward to getting into the spirit of the season, so I was excited to take in “A Brandywine Christmas.” 

At the top of my son’s must-see list were the model trains. Head Engineer Dave Jensen, Curator Steven Clarke, and museum employees like Joe Bauer, who’s been donning his blue-and-white-striped engineer’s cap each year for over a decade, spend six days—even Thanksgiving Day—setting up the railroad for holiday visitors. Comprising 28 separate sections, more than 2000 feet of track, 150 locomotives (as many as 5 running at once), and 300 freight cars, this O-gauge masterpiece will delight kids and grown-ups alike.

Joe handed my son a list of things to find—including a lighthouse, a Christmas tree farm, a Renaissance fair, an oil well, a waterfall, the Herr’s Snack Factory, two lumberjacks, seven refinery workers, eight Santas, and more! Train buffs will appreciate that this year’s display, evocative of the 1950s (there’s even a drive-in movie theatre), includes rare Japanese model trains made by Sakai, Stronlite, Ajin, and IMP; youngsters will enjoy seeing their favorite “Thomas the Tank Engine” characters chugging around the tracks. It’s really a sight to behold!

After taking in the trains, we visited the museum’s other galleries. In addition to its impressive permanent collection of landscape and genre painting, still life and portraits, American illustration, and three generations of art by the Wyeth family, the museum is also showing two special exhibits through January 6, “Pop-Up! Illustration in 3-D” and “Golden Impressions of Andrew Wyeth by Donald Pywell.”

Pop-Up!” features the work of paper engineers who create art for pop-up books; from the whimsical ABC Dinosaurs to the stunning Beauty and the Beast, pieces from the late nineteenth century to the present bring to the fore an art form that would perhaps otherwise go unappreciated. “Golden Impressions,” an exhibit of jewelry by local goldsmith Donald Pywell inspired by paintings by Andrew Wyeth, is similarly impressive. Necklaces, earrings, brooches, and bracelets, hand crafted over three decades by Pywell as gifts for Wyeth’s wife Betsy, are shown in displays designed by Chadds Ford artist Mark Cole that are themselves works of art.

In addition to the exhibits, the museum will be presenting its much-anticipated Annual Critter Sale on December 1 and 2, featuring hand-crafted “critter” ornaments made by museum volunteers; the sale will take place in the museum’s lecture room (admission is free). Also on December 1, from 10am to noon, author Paige Singer and illustrator Rob Dionne will be at the museum signing copies of their newly published children’s book, Teasel and Twigs: ‘Tis a Christmas Critter Tale. Proceeds from both events will benefit the Museum Volunteers’ Art Purchase Fund. 

On our way out of the museum, we perused the artisans’ booths in the outdoor courtyard. Quilts, jewelry, wooden bowls and ornaments, calligraphy, and other wares—all locally made—are available for purchase each weekend. The museum’s indoor gift shop, featuring a wonderful assortment of items (including some of those phenomenal pop-up books), is open during regular museum hours. After a brisk but beautiful stroll on the museum’s grounds along the Brandywine, my family and I returned home to a treat of hot tea sweetened by the local Swarmbustin’ Honey we purchased in the courtyard, marveling at how the museum truly has something for everyone to enjoy.

“A Brandywine Christmas” will be on display at the Brandywine River Museum, located on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, through January 6. The museum is open daily (except Christmas Day) from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Admission is $12 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 65 and over, $6 for students and children ages 6–12, and free for children under 6 and Brandywine Conservancy members. To find out more about the benefits of membership, visit the museum website!

—Michele Kornegay

A Brandywine State of Mind

I was a Jersey girl before I moved to West Chester. Although I was born in Pennsylvania and lived in the state through my college years, after graduate school I ended up in northern New Jersey, just outside of Manhattan. I honestly thought I’d stay there forever. I loved the hustle and bustle, the proximity to the “action,” and my job on Madison Avenue.

But when my husband was offered a position in Media, he just couldn’t turn it down. It was a great opportunity, one of those once-in-a-lifetime chances that you just can’t refuse. The only hitch? I didn’t want to leave New Jersey. So he made the commute, staying with a friend three nights a week and driving back and forth to our home on the other days. (I should mention here how wonderful my husband is.)

This arrangement worked for awhile, but with time it grew old. I missed him, he missed me. The stress of it all wasn’t good for either of us. During one of those weeks when we just didn’t want to be apart for three whole days, my husband’s host suggested that we have a mid-week rendezvous at Sweetwater Farm Bed & Breakfast, a Georgian manor and cottages situated on 50 acres in Glen Mills.


Looking back, I can say that our two-day stay at Sweetwater Farm played a big part in convincing me that I should give up New Jersey for the Brandywine Valley. The tranquility and beauty of the B&B and the graciousness of the innkeepers provided a tonic for what ailed me. My stress melted away as I strolled the grounds and took in the splendor of the area. I said goodbye to the big city and embraced a more relaxed lifestyle here.

Fast-forward 12 years to today. Stress has a way of creeping in, no matter how hard you try to keep it at bay. Kids, work, money—and aren’t the holidays just around the corner?—all of it was recently bringing back that old feeling of anxiety. And again, Sweetwater Farm came to the rescue—only this time it was courtesy of Grace Winery, which opened just a few years ago on the grounds of the B&B.

I headed to the winery this past weekend to try their offerings. As luck would have it, the day’s tasting was being held in the vineyard. The week’s earlier cold temperatures had given way to a glorious warm fall weekend,  so being outside among the vines was a wonderful escape from reality. Three chardonnays, two rosés, a merlot, and a glass of mulled wine later, I can honestly say that whatever stress I was once feeling is now gone.

The wines are light, crisp, and not too sweet–just the way I like them. The atmosphere is festive yet relaxed, with couples and groups of friends coming in and out for tastings. The hosts who poured the wines, Alex and Kathryn on the day I visited, are knowledgeable and friendly. Ordinarily tastings are held in a converted barn on the property, an amazing structure that perfectly blends the old and the new. (The day I visited, the barn was being used for a wedding party; yes, you can rent out the facilities for group functions!)

Before the stress of the holiday season rolls in—or even while you’re in the midst of it—I suggest you pay a visit to Grace Winery, which is open each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday for tastings ($7; check the website for hours). For the remainder of the year, tastings will be held in the barn, with the exception of December 8, when the winery will be closed. If you have family or friends coming into town, consider lodging them at Sweetwater Farm B&B. Who knows? Maybe they’ll end up wanting to move to the Brandywine Valley, too.

—Michele Kornegay

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Delaware County�s Brandywine CVB  |  1501 N. Providence Rd.  |  Media, PA 19063
Phone: 800-343-3983  |  Fax: 610 627-9207