Category Archives: Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media)

A Merry Nutcracker

Flowers Dew Drop

Grace Hodges (C) as the Dew Drop Fairy,  wth Ellen McCullough (L in yellow) and Geraldine Leech (R in orange) as the Flowers

An unseasonably warm December morning lent an air of merriment to Swarthmore this Saturday. The sky was topaz blue and the sun was shining. Even Charlie, the venerable white horse who pulls the carriage for Swarthmore’s Home for the Holidays celebration, seemed to have a spring in his step. Though local shops displayed helpful signs reminding us how many days until Hanukah and Christmas, no one actually seemed to feel pressed for time.

Lucky ticket-holders to Lori Ardis Ballet Company’s performance of The Nutcracker exemplified the holiday mood, nodding to each other with a twinkle of anticipation in their eyes.

Once inside, we were greeted by Mrs. Ardis herself. Just before the performance began, she stepped into the spotlight to share a joyful explanation of what we were about to see, so that even the smallest audience members were informed and enthralled. Then the lights went down, and the Christmas tree was illuminated.

At LABC, we are regularly spoiled with beautiful technique and clever choreography. This company has proven again and again how resilient they are, how well they work together as a team, how much endurance and discipline they have. From the tiniest Ginger to the Sugar Plum Fairy, we have come to expect nothing short of perfection.

But the wonder of The Nutcracker is in the heart as well as the feet.

Choreographers Lori Ardis and Amber Flynn keep the joy in The Nutcracker by re-choreographing the entire ballet to take advantage of the unique talents of the dancers playing the roles.

Every. Single. Year.

Their herculean effort paid off in spades this season, with a performance filled with excitement, wonder and humor. (Would you like to learn more about this mother-daughter choreography team? Click here for a short interview!)

From the first note of the party scene, this year’s production capitalized on the personalities of the dancers. First act highlights were William Hodges as Drosselmeyer – leaping and swirling his cape, even breaking the fourth wall at times to bring the audience into the joke, the Gypsy dance performed with towering energy by (real life siblings) Will and Ellen McCullough, and Anna Si’s hilarious performance as the mother of seven small and very energetic children.

Mia Davis is a dancer I’ve watched grow up on the stage of LABC. Her genuine smile has warmed the stage from the corps throughout the last five productions I’ve had the pleasure to see. It was a joy to watch her wear Clara’s iconic pink dress. Mia’s Clara was curious, kind and played younger than other dancers we’ve seen in the role in recent years. Nowhere was this more apparent than in her quite realistic interactions with her younger sister (the Fritz role) danced with gusto by Elizabeth Si. The two had great chemistry and had the audience tittering on more than one occasion.

And Kevin Gardner was the perfect Nutcracker prince to suit her. In spite of his obvious athleticism and the extraordinary physical demands of the fight scene with half a dozen very energetic mice, followed immediately by a pas de deux with a series of complicated lifts, Gardner’s performance appeared to be effortless. His kind smiles for Clara were sigh-worthy, and his bearing was never anything short of regal.

Act Two found Clara and the Nutcracker Prince regaled with dances from all over the Land of Sweets. Each dance was spectacular, and the members of the audience found themselves smiling and leaning forward, until, that is, the Arabian dance.

Anni Si and Donn Guthrie took the stage with so much power the air went out of the room. These two have partnered many times before and their trust in each other was exploited to the breaking point in this sumptuously crafted pas de deux. The power struggle played out between them was palpable, and just as a deft lift had our hearts in our mouths, with Si suspended nearly at the ceiling, Guthrie would remove one hand, holding her aloft with the other, as if the two had only been toying with us all along and he could have lifted her with his mind.

When they left the stage, my heart ached with sympathy for the dancer who would have to perform afterward.

I should have known that Ardis and Flynn would hand those dancers the keys to the kingdom. And Will McCollough and the very expressive Eleanor Runiewicz knew just what to do with them. Assisted by four small sheep, McCollough and Runiewicz had us all in hysterics as the shepherdess lost and found her sheep again and again to everyone’s delight.

Mother Ginger, played with panache by Denise Hodges, delighted us when her hoard of adorable children burst from her skirt and danced with such vivacity they left us all cheering for more.

The lovely Maia Virgil danced the Sugar Plum Fairy with a gentle sweetness that was appropriate to her character’s name. Cavalier, Donn Guthrie, partnered her and the two were absolutely charming to watch.

All the costumes worn in the production are made by staff and volunteers. The costuming triumph of the night was the Flower dance. Gorgeous swathes of tulle were made into wing-like petals that floated and sank as if they were dancers in their own right. Lucky Flower dancers Geraldine Leech, Ellen McCullough, Anna Si and Linnea Si wore the glamorous smiles to match. And among them, Grace Hodges, as the Dew Drop Fairy, sparkled and flew. Grace has always been a force of nature on the LABC stage. It was thrilling to see her in this exciting role.

When the lights came up and it was all over, the audience lingered – searching for the right thing to say to each other, to Mrs. Ardis who was there to bid us farewell, and to ourselves.

But I believe our universal sentiment was summed up in the words of one small attendant, who simply whispered to herself, “Wow.

Tickets for this year’s The Nutcracker are completely sold out. If you’d like advice on how to score those tickets for next year, be sure to check out my interview with the choreographers here for tips!

Did seeing the Nutcracker at LABC make YOU want to dance too? Swarthmore Ballet Theatre, LABC’s training ground, offers classes for children and adults. Stop by their website here to learn more.

Full disclosure: I’m the mom of two Gingers and a Mouse/Party Child/Page in this production. Click here to find out what it’s like to have a child enrolled in ballet classes or in a production.

Mia & Kevin

Kevin Gardner and Mia Davis were exquisite as the Nutcracker Prince and Clara


Anna Si (aloft) with Donn Guthrie performing the Arabian

Candy Canes

L to R Amelia Dunning, Julia Friel (in split), Charlotte Caywood (standing) Caroline Grogan (photo by Quinn Guthrie)


Clara's sister

Elizabeth Si, Ava Manaker, Wilhemena Mcelhenney. (photo by Quinn Guthrie)


Kevin Gardner (photo by Doug McCullough)


Eleanor Runiewicz, Will McCullough (photo by Doug McCullough)


The Whole Cast (photo by Quinn Guthrie)

Leave a comment

Filed under Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media), Uncategorized

402 Cornell Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081

My new listing is finally revealed!

Please check out the details here for

402 Cornell Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081 !


1.5 portico

Join me at the Open House, Sunday, 8/3/14 from 1-3pm to see it in person! Contact your agent now for more details! If you don’t have an agent, contact me at


Leave a comment

Filed under Home Buying Advice, Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media), Swarthmore Real Estate

New Guess-the-Address Contest 7/25/14!

Charming Swarthmore Borough Twin coming up in the $300,000 to $325,000 range!

I am very excited to be introducing this home to the public very soon! As the sellers make a few last-minute preparations, I get to have my fun teasing you here!

You know how this works – if you are the first to guess the address of this new listing I will buy you a one-year subscription to The Swarthmorean newspaper!  You can post a reply on this page, or email your answer to

About a hundred years ago

This lovely home was built, although

You wouldn’t guess it by the master suite

Or the kitchen counter’s swank concrete!

A clue for those with a discerning eye,

Who might look up while passing by:

Have you seen this transom & portico arc

A block away from a wonderful park?

Clue 1 transom

The transom style window and portico are just the beginning of the charm of this lovely home! Happy guessing! And stay tuned for more clues!


Filed under Home Buying Advice, Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media), Swarthmore Real Estate

2014 Swarthmore Spring Market Wrap-up!

Days like this make my heart smile!It was certainly an exciting spring in the Swarthmore market! Our “spring” season stretches from January through June. (Of course there will still be summer settlements of homes that went pending in the spring and those are not included here.)

Here is a rundown of how this spring played out:

The Swarthmore condo market:

There were 11 condo sales in Swarthmore Borough this spring. Of the 11 condo sales this spring, 3 sold at the listed price and 1 sold higher than the listed price. Our condos seem to be slowly but steadily making up the value losses they took in the recession years. As you can reference in my post about last year’s market here, condominiums took a bigger hit than the rest of our market in the downturn. Last year there was a run on condos and we ended up with a limited inventory. It’s great to see sellers marketing their condos again and buyers continuing to purchase them.

What a beautiful view...

510 Riverview Road received 5 offers and sold for $28,000 over the asking price!

The Swarthmore single family home market:

There were 21 single family home sales in Swarthmore Borough this spring. Of the 21 single family home sales this spring, 5 sold at the listed price and 6 sold over the listed price. The theme of light inventory and robust buyer activity continued where last year left off. The multiple offer situations, particularly in the early part of the season were unprecedented. Two of the most noteworthy were my own listing at 510 Riveview Road which listed for $449,500 and sold for $477,500 with five offers and Heidi Foggo’s listing at 438 Riverview Road which listed for $934,900 and sold for $981,000 with multiple offers. Our own Becky Hansen brought the buyers! (Please see here for my blog post about the benefit of working with a local buyer agent who really knows the micro-market when entering a multiple offer scenario.)

I am proud to report that of the total 32 transactions, 16 sides were handled by D. Patrick Welsh agents! Our tiny boutique is comprised of just 10 local professionals. In context, the Suburban West Realtors Association that serves our area has 4,700 members.

Overall the market was robust and we’re seeing continued activity in spite of unusually hot and stormy weather.

If you are not working with an agent and would like to talk about buying or selling a home in town, please feel free to contact me!

Leave a comment

Filed under Home Buying Advice, Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media), Swarthmore Real Estate

2014 Swarthmore 4th of July Bike Races Canceled due to inclement weather!

Last year's bike race...

Last year’s bike race was filmed by ABC News!

Sadly, the coming storm has forced Swarthmore to cancel tomorrow’s bike races.

Here is the updated schedule for tomorrow:

Bike races canceled.
Awards: 10:30 am (still on!)
Bell ringing: 11:15 (still on!)
Parade: 12:00 noon (still on!)
Horseshoes: 12:30 (still on!)

There may be updates – I will try to stay current.


Leave a comment

Filed under Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media), Swarthmore Real Estate

Captivating Cinderella!

Emma Sniegowski as Cinderella

Emma Sniegowski shines as Cinderella (Photo courtesy of LABC)


This Saturday was a gorgeous day – just the right kind of day for playing at the park or having a picnic!  It was exactly the wrong kind of day for sitting in a dark theatre. Nonetheless, when we arrived at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre we were not the only patrons who felt lucky to be there!

Lori Ardis Ballet Company performances are almost always sold out weeks in advance. If you want to take in this unique Swarthmore experience, you will have to plan accordingly.  I arrived about an hour before Cinderella tickets went on sale to the public for the first time. A line had already formed but I was able to secure five coveted tickets for the opening performance!

When we arrived, we were told that children could choose to sit on the floor, close to the stage. Two of my little helpers were delighted to be so near the action! I am happy to report that not one child seated on the floor made a peep during the entire production. Like the rest of us, they were mesmerized.

The lights dimmed, and Mrs. Ardis set the stage by telling the first part of the Cinderella story in a way that all members of the audience could understand. Then the Prokofiev swelled and the performance began.

Emma Sniegowski was a lovely Cinderella – her technique was beautiful and she had a modest demeanor and gentleness to her quality of movement from start to finish that really embodied the character.

Denise Hodges, Olivia Labows and Arbour Guthrie as the step-mother, and step-sisters Haughty and Flighty provided great comic relief.  Guthrie in particular, as Flighty, was exquisitely funny.  From the tips of her pointes to the ends of her ponytails she exuded an infectious happy-go-lucky goofiness.

When William Hodges as the dance master and Eleanor Runiewicz as his assistant joined the family to teach the step-sisters how to dance the silliness that ensued had the audience laughing aloud.

After the step-sisters left, Sniegowski was joined by Lucy Hall’s delicate yet dynamic fairy godmother, and a bevy of little dragonflies. The audience would have been captivated if the tiny dragonflies had simply come out and run around in circles, but Ardis and Flynn had much higher expectations. The eight little dancers whirled and leapt with a frenzied energy and in perfect unison. Precision was necessary for safety, given the size of the stage and the number of performers – demonstrating Ardis and Flynn’s confidence that these very young performers would be consistent in their performance. The little mice and horses were held to the same high standards and were also a joy to watch.

Then the fairies and their helpers arrived. Each performed beautifully.  The standout was Anna Si as the Summer Fairy. When she arrived on the stage, one little audience member sighed “She’s beautiful!” Si is beautiful and she was beautifully costumed too.  Her graceful arms and glamorous smile were reminiscent of a young Patricia McBride. During the ball scene, Si dropped the glamour and had the whole house giggling as she performed as the mischievous instrument played by hapless musician William Hodges.

Other favorite dancers at the ball were Daniel Cho and Grace Hodges in the Waltz, and Mia Davis and Ellen McCullough as the dancers with oranges. But truly, every performer was wonderful to watch. And of course, Cinderella and her Prince rewarded us with the stunning pas de deux we were waiting for!

After the Ball, the Prince searched the world for Cinderella. The princesses danced and tried on shoes with elegant abandon, while Tony Venuto kept us all laughing as the punctilious courtier.

Cinderella got her Prince at the end, but not before step-mother, Denise Hodges, tried to force her foot into the magic slipper while throwing coquettish gazes at the Prince, Donn Guthrie, to the audience’s delight!

All in all, it was a wonderful, light-hearted performance! Lori Ardis and Amber Flynn’s choreography was carefully crafted to show off the very talented dancers, and highlight their acting skills.  As I blogged after seeing The Nutcracker at Swarthmore Ballet Theatre last winter, I am again blown away at the care given to each detail of the production. Every dancer, large and small, was fully committed to his or her role and the resulting performance was beautiful because of it.

Tickets to this production of Cinderella are nearly sold out – there may be a few seats left for performances at 11am and 7:30pm this Saturday, June 7th – ticket sales begin 30 minutes before each performance.  The best way to remember your tickets to the next production is to sign your children (or yourself) up for classes!  You can visit for more info!

The program notes that Lori Ardis Ballet Company is a non-profit educational organization. All dancers in LABC productions are provided with costumes and at least two hours per weekend of professional level ballet rehearsal at no cost. Donations to the Ballet Company are tax deductible.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media), Uncategorized

Welcome to Swarthmore!

This wonderful family became Swarthmoreans today! I'm so glad to welcome them home to Swarthmore!

This wonderful family became Swarthmoreans today! I’m so proud to welcome them home to Swarthmore! (They allowed me to share this photo from their visit to last year’s Swarthmore Charity Fun Fair! It puts me in the mood for this year’s celebration!)

Leave a comment

Filed under Home Buying Advice, Life in Swarthmore (& Wallingford, Rose Valley, Rutledge & Media), Swarthmore Real Estate