The War on Words – Feb. 2017

A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Media Watch

• From the Philadelphia Inquirer: “But a claim that only Democratic lawmakers were targeted does underscore the need for future attorney generals to administer justice without fear or favor.” The correct term is attorneys general.
• A letter to the Wilmington News Journal from “an alumna of Middletown H.S.” was signed “Joshua.” We are assuming, then, that he is an alumnus of Middletown High. An alumna is a female graduate, an alumnus is a male.
• The News Journal’s story on the annual New Year’s Day Hummers Parade in Middletown noted that one float was “a rift on two events.” That would be riff, meaning a witty comment or part of a comic performance. The same story also referred to the “Philadelphia Eagle’s season.” Reads as if it’s referring to just one Eagle.
• An obituary is a final commentary on the life of the deceased, and as such it should be treated with care and reverence. Unfortunately, these brief biographies are usually a collaboration between the deceased’s family and the funeral home, and this sometimes produces misspellings, bad syntax and misused or misplaced words. The notice is printed by most papers (including the News Journal) with little or no editing. As a result, even common obituary terminology is sometimes mangled. Recent examples, with corrections in parentheses:
— Readers were invited to send online “condolances” (condolences).
— The deceased was described as being “formally (formerly) of Newark.”
— “He will be gratefully (greatly) missed.”

Readers Write

A reader sent us a notice she received about an event featuring a presentation on “The Importance of Reigning in Your Operating Expenses.” Reigning (to govern or rule over) is often confused with reining—the correct term here—which means to hold back, as with the reins on a horse.
Another reader, noting our recent item on incorrect movie titles, submits The Secret Life of Pets. She asks: “Should this not be The Secret Lives of Pets?” Yes, it should.
Yet another says that her pet peeves include the misuse of the verbs lie and lay and sit and set. The two sets of words present similar problems for some speakers and writers. Here’s a brief tutorial:
• “To lie” means “to be at rest.” “To lay” means “to place or put somewhere.” An object must always follow this verb.
So, you lie on the bed, or you tell the dog, “go lie down.” And you lay the book (the object) on the table. The usual mistake is to use lay where lie is needed: If you say, “I’m going to lay down,” I might ask you: “What are you going to lay down?”
• “To sit” means “to occupy a seat.” “To set” means “to put in place,” and, like lay, it must be followed by an object. You sit in the chair and you set a dish on the table. Again, the most common mistake is to substitute set for sit, as in the command “set down.”

Department of Redundancies Dept.

• Gary Kubiak, Denver Broncos coach: “It’s our job to do our job and stop them.”
• On The Dan Patrick Show, I heard these comments: “empty out the bowl,” and “they listed off the reasons . . .”

Random Notes

I wrote the phrase “have rung” in an email, and my system (Outlook) “corrected” it to have rang. Amazing. The system could double as a sports radio talk show host.
Speaking of radio, I heard a venerable WDEL personality utter this sentence: “Did I over-exaggerate that?” Shades of swimmer Ryan Lochte, who, in his Rio Olympics debacle, said he “over-exaggerated” a story about a robbery.
The word of can be problematic. It is unnecessary in such phrases as “not too big of a deal.” On the other hand, it needs to be inserted in such phrases as “a couple (of) teams are in contention.”

Word of the Month:

Pronounced kak-i-STOK-ruh-see, it’s a noun meaning government by the least qualified or worst persons. Use it as you see fit.

Follow me on Twitter: @thewaronwords

Need a speaker for your organization?
Contact me for a fun PowerPoint presentation on grammar:

Buy The War on Words paperback at Ninth Street Books,
the Hockessin Book Shelf, on Amazon, or by calling 302-655-6483.

A Taste of Honey

Two new establishments are bringing an Old World beverage—mead—to today’s market

“I rose up in the morning and I felt a dire need
To dream away the dreary day
And drink a cup of mead.
Ignoring the sting of honey bees
I drank and drank some more.
Awoke the very next day and
My [expletive] head was sore.”

— 12th century English drinking song

Yes, they used expletives in the 12th century, and probably a lot of them after a long night drinking mead, the exquisite and potent honey wine that is making a comeback in the 21st century.

Throughout history, people have found a way to turn just about anything into a cocktail, including grain, grape, potato, rice and even something sweet like molasses or honey. And mead, made from honey, is one of the oldest recorded alcoholic beverages, dating back to 7000 BC in Northern China and 2000 BC in Europe.

To most people, the word “mead” conjures images of fur-clad Vikings sitting around a fire while they throw down the sweet drink from cups made of ox horn, or England in the Middle Ages, with bawdy inns and Robin Hood and his merry men draining pewter mugs of the stuff as they sing “I rose up in the morning…” and plotting against the Sheriff of Nottingham.

Like most great discoveries, mead probably was created by accident; some fermenting agent got into some honey, time passed and—voila!—it was cocktail hour. But because honey was hard to acquire (those darn bees), the drink, although still made and enjoyed, was soon passed in popularity by beverages that were made from fruits and grains and other non-stinging sources.

But now, two establishments in Delaware are trying to bring the ancient concoction to modern drinkers.
“It’s one of the oldest and most popular alcoholic beverages on earth, but not many people have ever tried it and a lot of people have never even heard of it. We hope to change that,” says Terri Sorantino, who, along with partner Dr. Jeffrey Cheskin, has opened Liquid Alchemy Beverages on Brookside Avenue in Elsmere.

Sorantino and Cheskin discovered mead by accident. Four years ago, the couple was on vacation in Maine and stopped at a café that served mead, which neither had ever tasted. Intrigued, they sampled some and immediately fell in love with it. And on the long drive back to their home in Old New Castle, they decided to bring mead to Delaware, and maybe make a little money, too. Even though they both have thriving careers—Cheskin is a chiropractor and Sorantino is a nutrition counselor—they wanted to invest in a food or beverage business where they could be creative and be their own bosses, but they knew the craft beer market was flooded. So, their trip to Maine proved to be serendipitous.

Dr. Jeffrey Cheskin and Terri Sorantino of Liquid Alchemy Beverages fell in love with mead the first time they tasted it. (Photo by Jim Coarse)
Dr. Jeffrey Cheskin and Terri Sorantino of Liquid Alchemy Beverages fell in love with mead the first time they tasted it. (Photo by Jim Coarse)

Growing Up with Mead

“You’re always looking for something new and different, something that sets you apart from everybody else,” says Sorantino. “As soon as we tried mead, we knew that we had found what we were looking for.”
Whereas Sorantino and Cheskin were amateurs who stumbled onto mead and its possibilities, Jon Talkington is a brewing professional who grew up with it—even as a kid he used to home-distill mead in his kitchen, as well as beer and wine.

“I’ve been making mead for over 20 years,” Talkington says. “Both of my grandfathers made different kinds of stuff over the years and I just picked up on it. They both lived on farms and made apple jack and cider and brewing has just been a part of my life ever since I can remember.”

That early exposure to the benefits of fermentation led Talkington, a native of Ohio, to become a brewer at Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, the undefeated and undisputed king of local craft breweries.

Talkington has worked at Dogfish Head for the last 12 years and he’s also a professional wine maker, so it was a relatively easy and natural move for him to make mead. And, like Sorantino and Cheskin, he saw that there was a market niche he could fill with the ancient drink.

Talkington has teamed with business partner Robert Walker Jr., who has worked at Dogfish Head for the last six years and currently has the title of Inventory Fulfillment Specialist. In the next month or two they will open Brimming Horn Meadery in Milton, with Talkington as the beverage specialist and Walker as the business specialist.

As the name indicates, they will emphasize mead’s Viking tradition in their marketing and décor at Brimming Horn. That’s why their meads are called things like Freya’s Kiss, Bjornbar and Viking Berry, as well as one with the gotta-try-it name of Goat’s Blood (made from grapes and cherries).

“I first learned about mead like a lot of other people did, from reading history books and mythology,” Talkington says. “Mead is mentioned in Beowulf, so you know it’s been popular for a long time when it becomes part of a mythology like that. And that mythology is a big part of mead’s appeal today. At the same time, we’re not just marketing this as some kind of trip back through history. It’s also like a sweet wine, and there are enough different kinds to appeal to all kinds of tastes.”


Sorantino-Cheskin and Talkington-Walker have something in common when it comes to making different kinds of mead —both teams get most of their inspiration not from the brewery, but the kitchen.

“I love to cook and Jeff loves to experiment and that combination is a key,” Sorantino says. “We also get a lot of our inspiration from cooking shows on The Food Network. We’ll see somebody do something with a recipe, with different fruits and spices and flavors—like when we saw someone making a popsicle out of blackberries and lime—and then we’re like, ‘Hmmm…I wonder if that would work with mead.’ And then we’ll experiment and make a small batch. Sometimes it just doesn’t work, but some of our best meads have come from that approach.”

Says Talkington: “I’ve always cooked and I’ve always enjoyed trying different recipes and making my own recipes, and that’s a big part of my approach to making mead—don’t be afraid to experiment. That’s one of the real pleasures of doing this, when you can come up with a recipe of your own that really works. It’s a very creative process that just also happens to taste great.”

Variety is a key to making not only good mead, but also marketable mead. Basic mead is made from just fermented honey, but despite what one might think, it’s not thick and syrupy. Regular mead—at Liquid Alchemy Beverages it’s called “Sweet-Nothing” —definitely has sweetness about it, but there’s no mistaking the alcoholic bite. And that’s just one of many varieties available, and most batches of mead are some combination of fruits and spices and grains and, of course, honey.

“It’s like wine,” Cheskin said. “Some people like red and some like white. Some like a dry wine and some like a fruity wine and some like a spicy wine. It’s the same thing with mead. The key is to find out what works and what doesn’t and that’s all part of the process and part of the fun of doing this. It’s a great feeling when you have an idea and it ends up tasting delicious.”

Both Liquid Alchemy and Brimming Horn use local fruits as much as possible, but they also go exotic at times, which is why one of Liquid Alchemy’s meads will contain cinnamon from Sri Lanka and blackberries from Hockessin.

“You want the best of both worlds, so to speak,” Talkington says. “You want the freshness of local produce and you want to support local businesses. That’s very important because we want to be part of the community. But we also want to bring other worlds to Delaware. If you do it right, it makes for a great combination.”

Getting the Word Out

For Sorantino and Cheskin, one of their biggest challenges is to get people to sample their wares at their renovated warehouse. Their meadery is in the middle of a street lined with industrial garages and warehouses, and even though they completely redid their place and it has a warm, cozy feel to it, the location isn’t ideal for starting a new business. To compensate, they’ve gotten involved with local food fairs and festivals and other events where they’ve been able to introduce mead to a different and mostly younger crowd.

“That’s the most important thing of all—getting the word out,” Sorantino says. “Every time we go to some festival or event we get more and more fans of mead. People are intrigued by the idea and they love the taste and they love the idea that it’s different. And then they want to know where they can get it.”

“There’s a reason this drink has been around for centuries,” she adds. “And that, of course, is part of the allure of mead—its history and place in literature, that feeling of connecting with the Old World. What we’ve tried to do is bring the past into the present, and we’re having a lot of fun while doing it.”

For more information, including hours or operation and different varieties of mead, log onto and

Olive Oil: The New Wine?

Find out about EVOO, give a tasting party. Learn to love this liquid gold.

I know someone whose first sip of wine was a 45-year-old Port. My inaugural taste could boast no such vintage; it was from my aunt’s bottle of Manischewitz, which was first cracked open three Thanksgivings prior. For years, my wine consumption was limited to gifted bottles or summer sangria made with cheap wine. Eventually, business interests took me to wine dinners, where the origins of a Syrah and a Shiraz, a Grenache and a Garnacha, became important to me. Once I could carve out a budget for great wine, bottles from five continents began rotating through my once-dusty wine rack. Although I’m not yet an oenophile, I cannot imagine going back to “factory wine.”

Similar to my wine choices, what occupied my cabinet for years was store-brand olive oil, the quality of which reflected the budget I’d devoted to it. Once again, professional interests led me to a palate-awakening, and for me there is no turning back to generic olive oil.

If you can tell a Merlot from a Cabernet, or even if you can’t, olive oil may be the next horizon for broadening your palate. From tasting parties to sommelier certifications to health magazines, there are many routes to learning why olive oil is worthy of the same enthusiasm as wine. With U.S. consumption increasing by 250 percent in the last quarter century (compared to worldwide growth of 73 percent), there’s a good chance this “liquid gold” has seeped or will be seeping into your kitchen soon.

Things to Know

Some things to know when shopping for “good” olive oil: extra virgin is the best; it can cost a dollar or more per ounce; reading the fine print is important, and it should impart an unmistakable flavor. That $6 store-brand olive oil probably tastes like any other oil in your cabinet…nothing distinctive, even if it does say “Imported.”

Process and timing is everything. For superior quality oil, olives are gently picked (often by hand), taken to press hours after picking, mashed into a paste, and “cold” pressed until “extra virgin olive oil,” with an acid level no higher than .08 percent, pours out. “Virgin” olive oil is limited to two percent acidity—same process, riper olives. Refining with heat or chemicals can turn imperfect, bruised or old olives into edible oil, albeit devoid of flavor and aroma. “Pure” and “light” oils are all or part refined oil.

Where its olives are grown is part of an oil’s pedigree. Your olive oil is most likely imported from the Mediterranean, where archaeologists have found evidence of olive oil production going back at least 6,000 years. By some estimates, America imports 97 percent of its consumption.

This is not to say there is anything innately inferior about American olives. They grow in California, Texas and the “Olive Belt,” stretching from South Carolina to Mississippi. However, it is a relatively new industry in the U.S. The self-proclaimed “oldest” American olive oil producer is only 80 years old. The largest domestic producer of olive oil has grown its market share somewhat quickly thanks to mechanized harvesters, a newer technology not yet widely used overseas.

Every nation thinks its olive oil is the best, and marketers capitalize on the reputation of a country to sell oil to American consumers. In other words, the phrase “Made in Italy” is on a lot of oil, but you need to know more to determine quality.

Indicators of Quality

Italian olive oils, for example, may have origin labels that are a reasonable indicator of quality. Protected Designation of Origin (PDO/DOP) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI/IGP) labels are guarantees of authenticity, regulated by the European Union. A PDO oil has an attribute that is unique to its geography (in wine lingo, terroir), whereas PGI indicates region alone. The E.U. applies such labels to wine and other agricultural products, like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and champagne and cognac.

Olive oil lovers like to talk about traceability and authenticity. One in 20 people I meet at tastings asks me, “Did you see that 60 Minutes episode…?” about how the Italian Mafia counterfeits extra virgin olive oil. The product is adulterated with inferior oils, possibly oils from outside of Italy, colorants and deodorizer… if there is even any extra virgin content at all. This is a national crisis to Italians, who use 10 times as much olive oil per person as Americans. For them, olive oil authenticity is a matter of national pride, and it has a direct impact on the economy.

I am fortunate in that I can respond confidently when asked about the source of the oil I sell. For the past four years, I have worked for a Wilmington company that is the exclusive American importer of a single-source oil from a family-owned Italian farm and frantoio (olive mill). Olevano Olive Oil is pressed from hand-picked olives grown in Wilmington’s sister city, Olevano sul Tusciano, in Salerno. When I mention the surnames of the Wilmington owners, Delle Donne (Tom) and Fierro (Al), to locals, and describe how it’s their cousins in Italy who pick the olives, Delawareans often recognize some connection to the family, and thoughts of fictional Corleones hijacking our oil supply are quickly forgotten.

Marketing and regulation aside, country and region can be a reflection of your flavor preferences. Oil from northern Italy—Tuscany, for example—can seem lighter in mouthfeel than other oils, but no less flavorful. Further south toward Umbria, peppery olive oils dominate. Southern Italian olives, such as those from Campania and Puglia, produce full-flavored, fruity oil.

Planning a Tasting Party

Armed with what you now know about process and origin, you may be ready to dive into the world of what Rachael Ray calls “EVOO” (extra virgin olive oil). Tasting parties are a trendy way to experience good EVOO, and sites like offer party planning tips.

Buy several bottles, or have each guest—ideal party size is three to eight people—bring a bottle, aiming for a variety of origins or attributes (filtered or unfiltered, buttery or peppery, grassy or fruity, consecutive harvests, distinct varietals). Serve room temperature, in order from mild to strong flavor, and observe the swirl and the nose, before loudly slurping (yes, really) and swishing the oil in your mouth, just like wine. Skip the official cobalt glass in favor of wine glasses, which tasters can hold in their palms to temper the oil, or you can opt for single-use plastic tasting cups for beginners.

Search “what wine pairs with olive oil” for beverage ideas. Don’t forget the “spit cup” and palate-cleansing bread or tart apples, and give guests pen and paper to write notes. After the tasting, try your favorite oils on bruschetta, buffalo mozzarella and even vanilla ice cream.

Visit Fusion Taster’s Choice in Wilmington, the Olive Orchard in Rehoboth Beach or visit a vendor (like me) at an arts and crafts festival, for low-key tasting opportunities. No time to taste? Buy your oil where the foodies shop, like Capers and Lemons or Janssen’s Market.

When it’s time to cook, remember “smoke point.” Exceeding any oil’s smoke point creates bitterness and devalues EVOO’s health benefits (in fighting diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis), but is not hard to avoid. At its lowest reported temperature, EVOO’s smoke point is close to that of butter. If you wouldn’t fry a cutlet in butter, don’t fry it in good EVOO. Low acid makes EVOO more versatile than some would have you believe, but pros still suggest saving the expensive stuff for dishes where its subtle flavors will shine: salad dressings, drizzles, dipping, quick sautés or braises.

As a gastronaut, you may even set your sights on becoming an “olive oil sommelier.” offers a course through the International Culinary Center in New York City. The first of three courses costs $1,200; you’ll taste 100 oils from 25 countries over a three-day weekend, learn the history and process of making EVOO, how to judge the quality and attributes of an oil, and more. Sommelier candidates complete two additional levels of coursework. Alternatively, for $350 plus airfare, you can get a “Master of Olive Oil” certification in Los Angeles (

Whatever level of expertise you aspire to, tasting olive oil is perfectly positioned to be a palate-pleasing pastime for trend seekers.

Guides on the Path to Physical Fitness

Personal trainers deliver results (not miracles), but it takes commitment from both parties

Some of their clients are workout warriors and some are couch potatoes. Some want to bulk up or stretch out and some just want to lose a few pounds so those new pants fit in time for the class reunion. Some know what to expect from the process and some are clueless. And some are willing to put in the work while others expect miracles, and they expect them now.

“All sorts of people come through that door, but all of them have at least one thing in common—they’re looking for help,” says Scott McCarthy, a personal trainer at Balance Fitness on Fourth Street in Wilmington.

That’s where he and other personal trainers come in. According to the U.S. Department of Labor statistics, there were 279,100 personal trainers in the United States in 2015, a number that’s expected to increase to 338,000 by 2018 because of population growth and the increasing interest in health and fitness. In Delaware in 2015, there were 1,060 personal trainers and fitness instructors, all of them willing and able to help turn soft tissue into firm muscle—assuming their clients are willing to pay the price.

“Training and working out are two different things,” McCarthy says. “We’re not just out there counting reps for people. We’re like guides who help them find their way to personal fitness. Some people already know their way and don’t need a guide, but there are lots of people who need somebody to help and encourage them. And that’s our job—helping people who need help.”

Of course, there are some misconceptions about personal trainers. For one thing, they don’t tape ankles and cut up orange slices at halftime—those are athletic trainers. And not all their clients end up looking like Arnold Schwarzenegger in his greased-up, body-building prime.

A personal trainer at the YMCA coaches a client on the treadmill. (Photo courtesy of the YMCA)
A personal trainer at the YMCA coaches a client on the treadmill. (Photo courtesy of the YMCA)

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

“I’ve been doing this for 18 years and I’ve seen and heard it all,” says Nic DeCaire, who runs Fusion Fitness Center on Main Street in Newark. “A lot of people think we just sit around all day in sweat pants and watch you lift weights or run laps. They don’t realize that we offer a complete regimen for physical and mental well-being and that we’re with them every step of the way. It’s a commitment on both ends, from the trainer and the client.”

One thing all trainers emphasize is that a training regimen is a marathon, not a sprint. Not all clients grasp that basic concept and that’s why it’s one of the first messages a personal trainer delivers —expect results, but not miracles.

“If the commitment from the client isn’t there then there isn’t much we can do to help them,” says Charlotte Maher, a personal trainer at Fit Studio on Rockland Road in Wilmington. “But those cases are pretty rare, because most people we deal with are here for a reason. They want to lose weight or tone up and it’s probably something that’s been in their minds for a while. So, when they finally take the step to hire a personal trainer. they’re serious about it. And we make sure they understand that it takes a commitment and a lot of work to reach their goals, but it’s worth it.”

Those goals vary from person to person, and personal trainers must be willing and able to customize their regimen according to those goals. Most fitness centers deal with clients on a one-on-one basis and in group settings, but no matter the regimen or the setting, it all starts with talk, not action.

“The first step when they walk through the door is a consultation, where we discuss their goals and learn about their medical and fitness history,” says Matt DiStefano of Core Ten Fitness on Orange Street in Wilmington. “A lot of people haven’t been part of a fitness program for a long time and they need to ease into things, and sometimes we have to convince them of that. They want immediate results and it just doesn’t work that way. For those people, patience is a big key, because this is not like ordering something at a restaurant.”

That’s why it’s helpful if prospective clients know what they’re looking for from a personal trainer. If they don’t know for sure, then the trainer must lead them in the right direction. And it doesn’t matter if the client is male or female; the regimen is basically the same, depending on why they hired a personal trainer in the first place, although Maher has noticed that men tend to focus more on their upper bodies.

Clients and members work out at Core 10. (Photo by Jim Coarse)
Clients and members work out at Core 10.
(Photo by Jim Coarse)

“This is not a one-size-fits-all kind of business,” Maher says. “That’s the reason the first thing we do is sit down and talk to them and find out what their goals are. If they have really big goals, then we have to put a time slot to that—it’s not something you can accomplish in six weeks or by just coming to the gym once a week.

“That’s why it’s so important that our clients are honest with us about their medical and workout history, and also the goals they have going forward. We have to decide whether those goals are realistic ones, and if they’re not, we make sure they realize that without discouraging them. Sometimes it can be a real reality check for them. And sometimes they can be stubborn about it, but the majority of our clients understand that we’re professionals who know what we’re doing and they trust us.”

Once those goals are identified, the training process can begin, and all personal trainers agree that it’s important to start slowly and build the training regimen from there. That means basic stretching and cardio-vascular exercises to begin with, then more extensive weight and conditioning training after that. But it always depends on the conditioning and health of the clients when they begin the program.

“We’re really about general well-being, and everybody has different goals and needs,” says Mark Myers, who oversees the personal training program at the Central YMCA in Wilmington. “And one thing we all emphasize is the need for balance. If you want to build up your biceps, that means building up your triceps as well. You never focus solely on one muscle group or one activity. Even if your main goal is to bulk up and add muscle, we also emphasize flexibility, which helps you avoid injuries. It’s really a total package and sometimes people have to be convinced about that because they’re focused on one particular thing.”

You Are What You Eat

Diet is a big part of a fitness program and that’s something trainers constantly preach to their clients, even the ones whose primary goal isn’t to lose weight. Trainers stress the old you-are-what-eat philosophy as part of a balanced approach to fitness.

“We’re not nutritionists and we don’t pretend to be experts in that area,” Maher says. “But we do refer clients to a dietician if they have a serious weight problem that can’t be fixed just by working out. We’ll set up a consultation with [the dietician] and that will become part of the overall fitness program, especially if losing weight is one of their main goals.”

But, DiStefano says, that doesn’t mean his clients can’t have a slice of pizza or a couple of cold beers on occasion.

“It’s like anything in life—moderation is the key,” he says. “If you work hard and eat right five days a week you can enjoy yourself on the weekend and that’s something I tell my people all the time. You don’t want to deprive yourself of the little pleasures of life just because you’re in a training program. It’s all about that balance.”

There is one group of clients who come to personal trainers with specific goals in mind—competitive athletes who are looking for an edge, including teen-agers who hope to excel in their sports enough to earn a roster spot and maybe even a college scholarship.

“It’s different than it was when I was growing up and we played all the sports, depending on the season,” says Stephen LeViere of LeViere’s Fitness, which operates the training program at Kirkwood Fitness on Naamans Road. “Most kids nowadays really specialize in a specific sport and that’s their only focus. If you’re a baseball player or basketball player, that’s what you do, all year round. It’s either your [high school] season or you’re playing in an AAU tournament or getting ready to play in an AAU tournament.

So, their training is geared toward something very specific, something that will give them an advantage and make them better than the guy next to them. If they don’t, they know they might not get that scholarship or even make the team.

“For example, I get a lot of football players in my May program before training camp opens in August, so they can be in better shape than anybody else in camp and they can stand out right away, instead of having to play themselves into shape or, worse, having to battle injuries.”

LeViere says he sits down with these eager athletes and determines exactly what he or she is hoping to achieve, just like he does with all his clients. Of course, the kind of sport, the position they play, and the size of the athletes help determine that, as does their present health and conditioning.

Weight training is an essential part of most fitness regimens. (Photo by Jim Coarse)
Weight training is an essential part of most fitness regimens. (Photo by Jim Coarse)

Gauging the Body’s Response

“But no matter who it is or what sport it is, you have to start with the foundation, and that is how well they can handle the stress and rigors of the game they play,” LeViere says. “You can’t play and you certainly can’t dominate if you’re injured. So, we start with simple presses and compound movements and simple squats with not much weight. And we don’t do jumping or running until we see how their body responds.

“Once we determine that, then we can start ramping up and focusing on the specific muscles they need for their sport, whether it’s speed or agility or strength or power.”

Another challenge for personal trainers is convincing clients to stay with their training regimen after they reach their goals. Many clients get what they want (the pants fit!) and then slip back into the unhealthy lifestyles that made them seek out a personal trainer in the first place.
“It happens frequently and you hate to see that,” DeCaire says. “But most of our clients stick with it because they feel so good about themselves because they’re physically and mentally fit, maybe for the first time in 20 years. That doesn’t mean they have to stay at the same level or maintain the same training schedule. If you’re training to run a marathon you can scale back some after you run your race. But most of them love their new selves and they want to keep those endorphins coming and they make this a life-time commitment.”

“That’s what makes this job so rewarding, when you see that total transformation in a person,” he adds. “When they start their training program they usually do it because they’re not happy with themselves, they’re not happy with the way they look or the way they feel. We help them regain the self-esteem they’ve lost and it’s a great feeling to know that you helped somebody turn their life around in a positive and healthy way.”

The War on Words – Jan. 2017

A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Media Watch

• Headline in The News Journal: “Taking a Counteroffer Is Never Cut and Dry.” The correct term is cut and dried. The term originated in reference to herbs in herbalists’ shops, as contrasted with growing herbs.
• From an online story on San Antonio Spurs Coach Greg Popovich’s comments on Donald Trump: “Not basically because the Republicans won or anything, but the disgusting tenure and tone and all of the comments . . .” The italicized word should be tenor, and we’re assuming it was the reporter’s fault, not the erudite Popovich’s. The same story also referred to “race bating.” That’s baiting. Bating is an obscure word that refers to a hawk’s wings as it attempts to escape the perch.
• From reader Larry Kerchner, of Wilmington: A CNN commentator, talking about the Oval Office meeting between Obama and Trump: “President Obama was the epiphany of class.” The word, of course, is epitome. Amazing.
• Ohio State Football Coach Urban Meyer: “The amount of teams that were worthy of this . . .” Meyer has the same problem as many Americans: they fail to recognize that plurals require the word “number.” It’s similar to less and fewer, in that less refers to amount, and fewer (which doesn’t seem to be in some people’s vocabulary) refers to number.
• And here, in a category all its own, is a random list of misused words and phrases by sports talk personalities—overheard in just one week of listening. Corrections in parentheses:
He was very laxadaisical during the game. (lackadaisical)
His peripheal vision is not good. (peripheral)
He has always been over-evaluated. (over-valued)
He should have ran the ball. (run)
I would have went the other say. (gone)
After that game, I had to go lay down. (lie)

Winner, Winner, Chicken (Steak, Seafood) Dinner

Wilmington lawyer John J. Klusman is the winner of our contest to find the sign, menu, flyer, etc., with the most errors. John was among the “2016 Legal Leaders” who received a notice from ALM Media, a company with offices in New York City, that contained at least nine errors. They ranged from misspellings, misplaced or missing punctuation, to incorrect time references. The winner will receive a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Our thanks to all who entered, and stay tuned for future contests.

Notes of All Sorts

From the bio of Matt Meyer, successful candidate for New Castle County Executive: “Wilmington Friends School Alumnae of the Year.” Really? Then Friends made a mistake. Alumnae is a group of female graduates. Alumnus is the term for a male graduate.
From reader Jane Buck, who found this in Auto, an online site offering advice and features of interest to travelers: “(Regarding arguments over reclining seats) I, as the flight attendant, have to put on my uncomfortable kindergarten-cop hat and try to diffuse and cajole the arguing passengers.” She meant defuse, which means mollify, soothe, resolve. Diffuse, on the other hand, means to spread or cause to spread over a wide area.
Question from daughter Danielle, prompted by her annoyance with Jim Gardner, Philadelphia 6ABC anchor, and his reference to people “waiting on line” at polling places on Nov. 8. “Should we retire this term, used only regionally,” she asks, “now that the Internet has given a whole new meaning to being ‘online,’ and go strictly with the more accurate ‘waiting in line’?” Having never used the term “waiting on line,” our answer is yes.

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

(In which we chronicle the continuing misuse of that most abused punctuation mark, the apostrophe.)
This proud Penn State alumnus was embarrassed to note, during ESPN’s coverage of fans displaying slogans and messages prior to the Nittany Lions’ victory over Wisconsin, a sign that read, “Saturday’s Belong to Penn State.”

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Word of the Month

Pronounced ahn-we, it’s a noun meaning a feeling of listlessness and dissatisfaction arising from a lack of occupation or excitement. Boredom.

Quotation of the Month

“Writing is hard work. A clear sentence is no accident. Very few sentences come out right the first time, or even the third time. Remember this in moments of despair. If you find that writing is hard, it’s because it is hard.”
—William Zinsser, On Writing Well

Getting Out Indoors

Say farewell to cabin fever with this collection of classes, exhibitions, performing arts, and more

Ushering in post-holiday doldrums and cooped-up blues, winter is arguably one of the dreariest times of year. But fear not: we’ve compiled a list of fun indoor options to get you off the couch and out of the house. From concerts to children’s activities to beer-or-wine-and-yoga sessions (yes, you read that right), we’ve got every taste covered.

Floral Fun at Longwood Gardens
At Longwood Gardens, winter is far from bleary, thanks in part to the annual Orchid Extravaganza, on view this season free with Gardens admission from Jan. 23-March 27. The Conservatory transforms into a tropical oasis featuring Longwood’s largest and most diverse display of orchids ever.

For a personal challenge, try the Botanical Illustration Studio. Use your artistic skills to illustrate plants and flowers from Longwood’s greenhouses and grounds. The studio time gives you a chance to receive individual attention, constructive suggestions, and encouragement. Work at your own pace on your project, large or small, surrounded by fellow artists. This is a six-session course, on Mondays from 12:30-3 p.m., Jan 4-Feb. 8.

Johnny Gallagher

Johnny Gallagher at The Queen
Wilmington native Johnny Gallagher—musician, award-winning actor and Broadway performer—will come to World Cafe Live at The Queen on Friday, Jan. 22, to showcase his singer-songwriter skills.

His debut album, Six Day Hurricane, is set to be released Jan. 15 via Rockwood Music Hall Recordings. The first single of the album, “Two Fists Full,” is available through Soundcloud.

The show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15-$25.

For those up for a jaunt to New York City, Gallagher can be seen on Broadway in the Roundabout Theater Company production of Long Day’s Journey Into Night starting in March.

The Musical Box: Recreation of Genesis’ Foxtrot
In 1972, the English rock band Genesis toured to promote their fourth album, Foxtrot. The first concert on the tour began a trend of combining music and theatre.

The Musical Box—a Sunday, Jan. 17, performance at the Grand’s Copeland Hall—undertakes the reproduction of the original concert to give people an illusion of being at the actual Genesis show. Visual reconstruction of the show is based on photos and slides of the original concerts, magazine articles and first-hand experiences. Tickets are $32-$39.

FSBT102 Cinderella large
Photo courtesy of First State Ballet Theatre

Cinderella at the baby grand
First State Ballet Theatre—Delaware’s professional ballet company—presents Cinderella, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 20-21, at the baby grand in Wilmington. The classic fairy tale with the ultimate happy ending is told with wit and elegance. Tickets begin at $14 for students ages 18 and under. Senior, group and military discounts are available. The performance starts at 7 p.m. on Feb. 20 and 2 p.m. on Feb. 21.

Wine, Cheese & Honey Pairings at Penns Woods Winery
Penns Woods Winery in Chadds Ford, Pa. is teaming up with local cheese and honey artisans to bring exclusive wine, cheese, and honey pairing events on select dates (Jan. 9, 10, 16, 17, 23, 24, 30 and 31). Indulge in a sit-down pairing of five premium Penns Woods wines matched with various cheeses and honey from local farms. Admission is $28; reservations are required. Live music is on Jan. 9, 16, 23, and 30 from 2-5 p.m.
Contact Penns Woods at 610-459-0808 to make a reservation.

Great Balls of Fire!
From Feb. 6-May 30, the Great Balls of Fire! exhibit at Delaware Museum of Natural History explores the pop culture fascination of a catastrophic impact from an asteroid or comet. If there was a dinosaur-killer in earth’s past, is there a human-killer in our future? The exhibit asks: What are the chances and how do we assess the risks? For that matter, what are asteroids, comets, and meteorites, and where do they come from?

ChicagoThe Musical at The Playhouse
ChicagoThe Musical has it all: a universal tale of fame, fortune and “all that jazz,” one show-stopping song after another, and fantastic dancing. The award-winning show is coming to The Playhouse Feb. 23-28. Based on a 1926 play of the same name by reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, it’s based on actual criminals and crimes she covered. A satire on corruption in the administering of criminal justice, the performance explores the concept of the “celebrity criminal.”

Photo courtesy of Delaware Art Museum
Photo courtesy of Delaware Art Museum

Poetry in Beauty: the Art of Marie Spartali Stillman
Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927), one of a small number of professional female artists working in the second half of the 19th century, was an important presence in the Victorian art world of her time and closely affiliated with members of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. Poetry in Beauty, the first retrospective exhibit of Spartali Stillman’s work, runs through Jan. 31 at Delaware Art Museum. In addition to approximately 50 of her pieces, works from public and private collections in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, many of which have not been exhibited since Spartali Stillman died, will also be on view. After the exhibition, her art will be transported overseas and on view at the Watts Gallery in Guildford, England, through June 5.

Winter Classes & Fun at CCArts
Center for the Creative Arts in Yorklyn offers a bounty of fun and productive wintertime activities. First up, “Ballet for Adults” runs Tuesdays (10-11 a.m.) from Jan. 12-March 15. Study under Ballet Master Val Goncharov in these adult classes. Tuesdays (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.) from Jan. 12-March 1, try your hand at oil painting. Learn basic techniques through demonstrations, discussions and application. Tuition is $184 for members and $204 for non-members. For a one-day class on Saturday, Jan. 9, “Glass Fusion” (9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.) will explore the art of melting glass into designs to create one-of-a-kind pieces. Create a sun-catcher, pendant, tray or dish using glass that will be provided. Tuition is $40.

Additionally, try out “Yorklyn Live,” a CCArts Open Mic Night every third Thursday. It’s free, with a cash bar and food. Lastly, a Dinner Theater called “Blind Love” on Saturday, Feb. 6, is about how a blind man sees what a fool does not. People can come for dinner, drinks and dessert. The show is at 7:30 p.m. and tickets, which can be purchased online, are $35.

Call 239-2434 for more information about these activities.

Hagley Fun
Robots: they’ve explored the far reaches of space, the depths of oceans, and the inner workings of the human body. Now children ages 4-14 can explore robots themselves at Hagley’s Invention Convention, from Jan. 16-18.

The weekend includes robotic demonstrations, hands-on engineering challenges, and in-person conversations with professionals who use robots in their daily work. Visitors will discover how the Wilmington Police Department uses bomb robots to dispose of explosive devices, and guests also will take part in tinkering tables, create-an-invention fun, and a hands-on science fair. Invention Convention will be in Hagley’s Soda House and Library. Admission is $8 and $6 for children. Hagley members and children ages 4 and younger get in free.

Additionally, Hagley features the exhibit “Driving Desire: Automobile Advertising and the American Dream” through autumn. It explores the relationship between automobile advertising and Americans’ car buying decisions. Driving Desire is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Yoga in the Paradocx Tank Room
Uncork, relax and unwind at Paradocx Vineyard in Landenberg, Pa., on two Sundays—Jan. 10 and Jan. 24—for Yoga in the Tank Room at 11 a.m. Your focus will be drawn away from the everyday hustle and bustle with this unique yoga class in the winery tank room. Each class is designed to relax the mind—and open the senses to encourage a mindful wine-tasting experience. Tickets are $25, and the event includes a 60-minute yoga session with wine tastings of four wines to follow. (Bring your own yoga mat.)

Photo courtesy of Winterthur Museum
Photo courtesy of Winterthur Museum

Winterthur Book Club & Exhibition
Embrace learning and quality time at Winterthur’s Pages of Time: Mother & Daughter Book & Craft Club. On the first Thursday of each month through May, from 6-8 p.m., this is ideal for book worms and crafty girls in 4th-6th grade. Discussions will revolve around historical fiction books, and there will be tasty snacks and crafts related to the book each month. Tickets are $25 per member adult/child pair; $35 per nonmember pair for the complete seven-month series. Winter dates and books include: Jan. 7, Betsy Zane: The Rose of Fort Henry; Feb. 4, Seaman: The Dog Who Explored the West with Lewis and Clark; March 3, The Smuggler’s Treasure. Call 800-448-3883 to register and for more dates.

Made in the Americas: The New World Discovers Asia, an exhibition running March 26-Jan. 8, 2017, examines the profound influence of Asia on the arts of colonial Americans. This scholarly exhibition is the first Pan-American study to explore how craftsmen across North, Central, and South America adapted Asian styles in a range of media—from furniture to silverwork, textiles, ceramics, and painting.

Delaware Theatre Company Acting Classes
Attention, aspiring actors: ready to take a step in the right direction? Have fun while exploring characters and scenes in a six-week course at Delaware Theatre Company, Sundays from Feb. 7-March 13 (5:15-7:15 p.m.). Take on the actor’s role of examining scripts, finding characters’ objectives, and exploring various acting techniques to bring out your richest performance. Though no experience is required, students should be ready to participate, to jump in and work together—and have fun. The course is $180, and open to adults ages 18 and up. Classes are also available for children and teens.

Photo courtesy of The Delaware Children's Museum
Photo courtesy of The Delaware Children’s Museum

Touch Tank: Lunch and Learn
Join the Delaware Children’s Museum staff daily from 12:30-1:30 p.m. for feeding time at the Touch Tank Aquarium. Learn about the food marine creatures eat, the habitat they live in, and special facts about the vertebrates and invertebrates who share the tank. Or stop by Try Science: Be a Physiologist, Jan. 9-10, from 11 a.m. to noon, to learn about the body’s parts that work to keep it running. Children can become junior doctors or nurses as they take a hands-on and entertaining look at the organs and systems inside a very unusual patient—the DCM’s 7-ft. doll, Stuffee.

Beer & Yoga at Victory Brewpub
Victory Brewing Company’s Kennett Square brewpub is hosting Beer & Yoga on Saturday, Jan. 9, at 9 a.m. After the yoga session, enjoy food and beer pairings. Instructor Diane Rogers will guide participants through the yoga process. Tickets are $30.

The War on Words – Jan. 2016

A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

The Top (Bottom?) 10

Herewith a list of the top 10 misused words. Said list is based on indisputable empirical evidence (in other words, my personal observations):
1. fewer/less – Fewer, which applies where numbers or plurals are involved, is simply not in some people’s vocabularies. Less is used for quantity. You have less money because you have fewer dollars.
2. i.e./e.g. – I.e., which means “that is,” is often mistakenly used in place of e.g., which means “for example.”
3. affect/effect – The first is almost always a verb (“It didn’t affect me”); the second, a noun (“It had no effect on me”).
4. your/you’re – The first is the possessive (“Your hair is beautiful”); the second is the contraction (“You’re beautiful”).
5. their/they’re/there – The mix-up occurs with the first two—the possessive (“Their business is booming”) and the contraction (“They’re doing big business”). There is less troublesome but much more versatile. It can be used as an adverb, adjective, noun, pronoun, or even an interjection. It’s often used to indicate place (“Let’s go there”).
6. it’s/its – This understandably confuses some folks because apostrophes often indicate possessives, but in this case the possessive (“Its branches were bare”) has no apostrophe, while the contraction (“It’s cloudy today”) does.
7. lie, lay – This is another case where one—lie—is rarely used. Lay means to place; lie means to recline. So: “I am going to lie down”; “I will lay the gun down.”
8. alumnus/alumni – Again, the first, which means a male graduate of an educational institution, is rarely used (and never on sports talk radio). Instead, the semi-learned among us go with alumni, which is the plural. If you want to be safe, go with the colloquial “alum.”
9. infer/implyInfer, which means to deduce, conclude or assume, is often used by wannabe sophisticates in place of imply, which means to suggest or hint. Think of them as opposites.
10. A tie: compliment/complement and bring/take. Compliment refers to praise or accolades. Complement means to supplement or accompany, as in a wine that complements an entree. Bring is often used where take is meant. The choice depends on your point of reference. In most cases bring suggests movement toward the speaker (“Bring it to me”) while take suggests movement away from the speaker (“Take it to your brother”).
Next month: the most common redundancies.

Your Assignment, Dear Readers,

. . . should you decide to accept it, is to make note of every time someone utters the words “happy New Years” in your presence. Report back. Extra credit for photos of signs that wish you a “Happy New Year’s” or “New Years.”

It Never Ends

“Couldn’t care less” continues to be misused, even by editorial writers, such as those at the Philadelphia Daily News: “[Politicians] could care less about the hurt it [a spending cut] will cause.” Think about it: that’s the opposite of what the phrase is intended to convey.

Getting Political

The presidential campaign continues to supply us with material. Reader Larry Kerchner says one of the Republicans came up with a Department of Redundancies Dept. candidate by claiming he is going to “unify everything together.”

Fun Fact

According to The New Yorker, octogenarian crooner Pat Boone, an aspiring English teacher at the time, insisted on announcing his first big hit onstage as “Isn’t That a Shame.” (The title was “Ain’t That a Shame.”)

How Long, Oh Lord, How Long?

(In which we record the continuing abuse of that most misused punctuation mark, the apostrophe.)
Citing a new car reliability survey, USA Today’s Chris Woodyard reports, “. . . Fiat, Dodge, Chrysler and Ram finished generally near the bottom of the pack, as brand’s go.”

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Words* of the Month

Pronounced BAY-thas, -thos, it’s a noun meaning an abrupt descent from lofty or sublime to the commonplace; anticlimax

Pronounced ZEN-uh-fyl or ZEE-nuh-fyl, it’s a noun meaning one who is attracted to foreign things or people.

*Several readers noted that we had no Word of the Month in December. So, to make amends, we’re offering a bonus word this month.

The War on Words – December 2015

A monthly column in which we attempt, however futilely, to defend the English language against misuse and abuse

Media Watch

• Philadelphia Eagles play-by-play man Merrill Reese, in September: “The team must find a way to make a 360-degree turn.” He meant 180 degrees, but unfortunately the Eagles continued to play badly, which would amount to a 360.
• From The News Journal, courtesy of Larry Nagengast, O&A contributing writer: “‘It hasn’t changed a wit since Pete du Pont created it 30 years ago,’ Perkins said.” The word is whit, meaning the least bit; an iota.
TNJ again, this time from a column by Carron Phillips: “(David Simon, author of The Wire) was a former journalist in the city of Baltimore.” Either he is a former journalist, or he was a journalist. And “the city of”? Redundant.
• From The Newark Post: “Lang said the building shrunk by 20 to 25 percent.” The past tense of shrink is shrank. Then again, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids has confused an entire generation of moviegoers.
• Xfinity headline: “The problem with mens’ growing waistlines.” Amazing how many people think mens is the plural of man. There is no such word, unless an apostrophe is inserted between the n and the s.
• From the New York Times: “Sen. Marco Rubio has been laying low for much of the summer . . .” Similarly, Peter MacArthur on WDEL: “The toy was found laying in 18 inches of water.” Lay means to place; lie means to recline or rest. In both cases, the correct word is lying.
• Actor William Shatner, in a USA Today interview, speaking of negative inclinations: “The older you get, either the further buried they become or they become extant.” He meant extinct. Extant means virtually the opposite: existing. (In fairness to Capt. Kirk, the writer may have misheard him.)
• Lini Kadaba in The Philadelphia Inquirer: “A good mood ‘has a positive affect on creativity,’ he says.” That’s the verb. Effect is the noun.
• A reader heard a KYW radio report about a hostage situation in which the reporter said authorities had moved into the building in order to talk with the hostage-taker “verbally, instead of on the phone.” We’re guessing the reporter meant “in person.”

Department of Redundancies Dept.

Courtesy of Sports Illustrated, here’s a double redundancy that never occurred to me: The Los Angeles Angels. In Spanish, los means the and angeles means angels.

Getting Political

Continuing our mining of the presidential campaign for War gold: MSNBC reporter Peter Alexander, prefacing a question to a Joe Biden aide: “Based on your loyalty to he and his platform . . .” To is a preposition; it calls for the objective case—him!
Also, Terry Plowman, editor of Delaware Beach Life, notes that a presidential candidate’s town hall meeting has devolved into simply “a town hall.” Says Terry: “I always think it sounds weird when a TV reporter says something like, ‘Hillary Clinton will hold a town hall this morning.’ I get a picture of Superwoman holding a building in the air.”

How long, Oh Lord, how long?: You can get a personalized but grammatically-challenged clock like this one at a shop in the Boothwyn Farmers Market. (No apostrophe needed in Kellys.)

Notes of All Sorts:

My newest pet peeve: “Reach out to,” as in, “I’ll reach out to my friends in the industry.” Whatever happened to “contact,” “call” or a simple “ask”?
And what’s with all the extra prepositions in such phrases as focus in on, welcome in, met up with, over top of, adding on, underneath of and off of.
Ever notice? People have a problem with the participle of the verb “to drink.” It’s drunk: I have drunk, I had drunk. May sound strange, but it’s not drank. (Similarly, shrunk and shrank—see Media Watch.)

And a Reminder

The War on Words, a paperback collection of columns from 2007 to 2011, makes a great stocking stuffer. Get it at Ninth Street Books in Wilmington, Hockessin Bookshelf, or call O&A at 655-6483. Cost is $9.95 plus $3 shipping. Credit cards accepted.

Quotation of the Month

“It would be an excellent thing for the purity and vigour of English if an Act of Parliament were passed making it a criminal offence to distort, mispronounce and murder our English words.”
—S.P.B. Mais, The Writing of English (1935)

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An Inspiring Challenge

This Wilmington-based nonprofit helps at-risk young people gain construction and vocation experience

Anyone taking a tour of the Kalmar Nyckel at its Wilmington shipyard off East Seventh Street will certainly be drawn to a spacious, uniquely-shaped structure to the right of the shipyard. The edgy, contemporary building is made entirely of reclaimed materials like salvaged pickle barrels. And the builders? Aspiring local carpenters between the ages of 18 and 21 from at-risk, underserved backgrounds. About 150 students have worked on the building since construction began in 2008.

The building is home to the Challenge Program, a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower these young people with the carpentry and vocational skills needed to get jobs in the workforce. Furniture made by the students can be found in such places as Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen and Taverna in downtown Newark, the Trolley Square Brew Ha Ha!, and a handful of other eateries and cafés between Philadelphia and Lewes. They also continually work on low-income housing in New Castle County.

Says Executive Director Andrew McKnight: “I’ve always been interested in this experiential education model, along with building stuff and filling a need.”

The program goes back to 1995, when McKnight piloted it with the same goal that he has now but with a different focus: boats. He originally taught at-risk young adults classes on building small wooden boats. In the process, he developed a relationship with the Kalmar Nyckel Foundation. For a time, students worked on the tall ship, too.

But McKnight soon realized that in order to be effective, he needed to spend more time with each student. So he began incorporating more practical and long-term projects like housing and barn construction, which he says made more sense to the youth. After a number of years, McKnight implemented woodworking, and he eventually salvaged enough timber to build tables, bar tops, stools, paneling, and more for restaurants. That work started in 2007, and has been a major program focus since.

All different levels of skill are welcome—some participants have experience, others have none. In six months of training, students learn woodworking, basic carpentry skills for construction, safe operations of tools, safe jobsite training, and much more.

Pictured is a CP Furniture log table and benches installed at Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen on Main Street, Newark. (Photo by Carlos Alejandro)
Pictured is a CP Furniture log table and benches installed at Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen on Main Street, Newark. (Photo by Carlos Alejandro)

And while construction training is important, the key to student success is on a more personal level, according to McKnight. “It’s all about case management,” he says. “The construction is really just a tool, a carrot, to being able to teach the kids to stabilize themselves and allow them to become work-ready. We want to find students who want to work and be successful, not just forced here by their P.O. [parole officer]”

Being able to hold a job has very little to do with skill, and everything to do with attendance and dependability, says McKnight. “Skill is a distant fourth place. Do they have a good attitude? Show up on time every day?”

The weekly work schedule is Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with four hours of paid classroom training included.

The eight program employees also assist students with earning high school diplomas and GEDs and offer job placement services.

The Challenge Program is split into two halves. The previously mentioned open-space Construction Training and Education Center—filled with every kind of tool—is used as the classroom and training shop, and is led by three instructors.

A couple of hundred yards away, a subsidiary program called CP Furniture is where students practice the skills they’ve learned in class.

McKnight says the program is largely funded by the state and various big-name sponsors like Bank of America and Barclays, but it now earns close to half of its income through custom contract work.

Within the next year, he wants to start rolling out a line of CP Furniture pieces, rather than working on custom projects. The program will stop taking custom jobs in January or February 2016 so students can focus on the line.

“CP Furniture is going to make more money so the Challenge Program can function,” says McKnight. “That way, we won’t have to depend so much on grants, and can keep good people around—and afford cool tools and machinery. The more resources we have, the cooler the jobs, the cooler the toys, the better caliber employee we’ll have.”

One student, Kyle Hamilton, 21, heard of the program through a friend, and decided to apply during an unsure period in his life when he was unemployed and didn’t know what his next step would be. As O&A was about to go to press, he was finishing up the last few weeks of his six-month apprenticeship and was planning to transition into a carpentry job that program staff helped facilitate.

“With these skills, I can pretty much go to another construction site and be able to move up,” says Hamilton. “I feel like I have the knowledge and confidence to find my way around. And now I’m already on to the next step.”

Currently, participants are custom-building a bar front for Grain, and pieces for Heirloom restaurant in Lewes as well as Metro, a Middletown eatery. Students also are working on a modular house as well as pieces for the corporate offices for health-focused, Philadelphia-based restaurant chain Honeygrow.

One great aspect of the program, says Hamilton, is that the staff’s main concerns are finding something better than what students are currently doing. So if students don’t have opportunities lined up right after they finish the program, “something could be figured out,” says Hamilton.

“I hope more people hear about the Challenge Program, I really do.” It’s an opportunity, but it can indeed be a challenge, he says. “You have to wake up and be here at 8 a.m., but if you’re willing to show up and finish each day and show the extra effort, it’s worth it.”

Same Hagley, Fresh Perspectives

Joggers, cyclists, hands-on thinkers, car enthusiasts—and sometimes even dogs—are welcome at the 200-year-old establishment as it undergoes creative changes

But within the past five years, board members and directors have spent considerable time determining how to keep Hagley relevant to a wide audience.

“We were challenged to shift the focus—identify what’s needed, what stories aren’t being told, what’s the learning that kids need to advance, what do we need as a society in terms of advancement, and what does Hagley have to offer?” says Hoge-North.

In considering changes, three key words immediately came to mind, she says: technology, innovation and engineering, both because that’s what Hagley represents, and what is currently in high demand in the globalizing world.

“That’s what advanced America to a superpower, and if we’re going to stay there, we need more people who know how to do this stuff,” says Hoge-North. “When you look at what happened here, people were constantly pushing ideas, reinventing, trying new things to advance technology.”

Traditional Hagley options are still available—tours of the house, gardens, etc. But a 60-minute lecture about gunpowder doesn’t exactly cut it for most anymore, she says. For those who want a little more, Hagley is at the beginning of a five-year transformation to what Hoge-North calls “hands-on, minds-on activity,” which incorporates a variety of options for diverse crowds, who, hopefully, will carry the Hagley story forward.

Walking tours, like H2 Oh!, offer a fresh view of the 200 year-old property. (Photo courtesy of The Hagley Museum & Library)
Walking tours, like H2 Oh!, offer a fresh view of the 200 year-old property. (Photo courtesy of The Hagley Museum & Library)

Interactive Hagley

One way to change the way people see Hagley is through guided walking tours, says Hoge-North. The tours were brainstormed and are led by Hagley’s 80 part-time staff members.

Guests can choose from five topics. They then walk similar paths but learn completely different stories based on the topics they choose.

For “Workers’ World,” for instance, each guest is given an identity of a real person who lived and worked at Hagley. As they walk through the property, guests learn the story of that individual. Another tour is “Rocks and Roll Mill,” which takes guests through the property as a geologist would, asking questions like, “How is the Brandywine Valley formed, what’s so special about this blue rock that we named our baseball team after, and why did the du Ponts settle here?” says Hoge-North.

The tours are included in regular admission prices, are about an hour-and-a-half long, and require about a mile of walking. Additional tours include H2 Oh!, What’s for Dinner?, and Sights, Sounds and Smells. Tours run September through November and April through June on Saturdays and Sundays at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

A new tour is being prepared now for spring 2016 that will focus on explosions and the dangers of working at a live gunpowder mill in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

New this past summer were Bike & Hike Nights on Wednesdays. The grounds were open until 8 p.m. and guests were encouraged to cycle, run or walk and on specific evenings, and even bring their dogs. Hoge-North says those nights are unique because they are the only times guests are allowed to explore the entire property on their own. Look for these opportunities again next summer.

Additionally, Hagley members get a walking pass and are invited to come early in the morning before the museum opens, year-round. Hoge-North says many trails will be expanded within the next two years.

Hagley millrace in the Spring. (Photo Courtesy of the Hagley Mueum & Library)
Hagley millrace in the Spring. (Photo Courtesy of the Hagley Mueum & Library)

Fun weekend activities are also part of the facelift, she says. Last year, Hagley launched indoor-outdoor Science Saturdays. These cater mainly to family groups, with teams of family members challenged to solve simple engineering problems. Groups are taught basic principles and then asked to solve the problem. Like the walking tours, Science Saturdays are included in ticket prices.

In December, look for Twilight Tours, which capture the beauty of Hagley during the evening, highlighted by Christmas lights and decorations. Twilight Tours are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and guests are asked to sign up in advance.

Hoge-North notes another small but important tidbit: “This year we changed our hours for the first time in 50 years,” she says. “Now we’re open until 5 p.m., and next summer we might experiment with 6 p.m.”

Rev The Engines!

Hagley’s biggest day of the year, which may come as a surprise to some, is the annual car show, which draws upwards of 6,000 car enthusiasts and participants. Sept. 20 marked its 20th year, with the theme “Fins, Chrome and the Rocket Age,” which looked at the influence of the Space Race on car design.

The annual show started two decades ago because a couple of local car groups asked to hold an event on the property, and that morphed into the Hagley Car Show of today.

For more car fun, starting Oct. 2 through October of next year, a new special exhibition will run in the visitor’s center. Called Driving Desire, it displays automobile advertising from 1895 to 2011. The exhibition asks visitors what role marketing has played in forming ideas of the American dream, specifically relating to automobiles. “Is this something we need, or did ‘they’ create it and we bought into it?” says Hoge-North.

Guests also can look forward to curator talks and a road rally next June.

There is a strong connection between cars—their invention, innovation, technology—and Hagley, says Hoge-North. She also points out that the du Ponts had an automotive history within the family. DuPont Motors produced marine engines during WWI, and later, high-end automobiles.

“Big Plans” for the Future

This year is the first in a five-year unfolding strategy for “big plans—really big plans,” Hoge-North says.

The plans include a new, year-round opportunity to walk through Hagley. Guests, whether solo or in a group, can choose their own “intellectual pathway” she says.

“For our general visitors, they miss a lot because they’re not part of a guided experience. So for them we’re installing new features that help people choose specifically what they want to learn about.”

If a guest wants to understand the workings of waterpower or black powder, for instance, repurposed buildings will be the start of his or her visit. Inside, people will be taught about the processes of their specific interest, then head out to the property to look at the real thing. This is a multi-year project beginning in 2016.

Additionally, a “makerspace” called Spark Lab is slated to open in February 2017. There, guests will be taught about the process of innovation, and they’ll be able to experiment, work on creative projects, and experience a balance of guided programs and the simple fun of tinkering with things.

“We want to show that everyone can be an inventor,” says Hoge-North. “You don’t have to even have a college degree.”

Finally, between 2016 and 2017, a playground will be built that incorporates simple machines, like the wheel, to help children—and adults—understand the building blocks of how all engineering works.

“Ultimately, what we’re looking for is to inspire people to be creative, to think innovatively, and to build confidence,” says Hoge-North. “Everybody can do it, and we’ll help them by giving them examples of what’s been done before.”