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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Last Night! New Year's Eve in Blue Hill, Maine

Photo by Tom Leigh Courtesy of the Last Night Committee





Toss out the old year! Ring in the New Year in Blue Hill! 

It's both admission free and chem-free. That's right; free entertainment, food, and fun for the entire family.




Maine is renowned for its unique line-up of homegrown events that bring communities together to foster traditions that are often lost in the glitter of blinding bright lights in our fast-paced, modern culture. A prime example is an event that started in 2003 with a steel band performance by Flash! In the Pan on New Year’s Eve at the Blue Hill Town Hall. Their performance that particular “last night” sparked inspiration that’s since evolved into an annual fun-for-the-entire-family event that attracts visitors from miles around. One has to personally experience a New Year’s Eve in Blue Hill to honestly feel its significance. Having done so, myself, I can attest that the entertainers, businesses, and volunteers turn the entire town, from end to end, into an unforgettable celebration. Plus, everything offered at the festivities is donated, from its food and drink at the firehouse right down to its performances by musical entertainers, poets, storytellers, actors, puppeteers, etc. hosted around town.

As Nigel Chase expresses, “It is such an amazing sight to see so many people walking the streets in the bitter cold…” as they migrate from venue to venue throughout the night. Nigel is a member of the Last Night Committee, which is a subcommittee of Peninsula Pan, Inc, the official organizer for the event and a non-profit organization supporting steel drum music and education in Down East Maine. He’s pleased with how Last Night! has evolved and very proud of the many personalities and performers who step up and share their talent for free—on an evening which they would be paid for elsewhere. Over the years, even Noel Paul Stookey, the Blue Hill resident, so well known as the singer and songwriter who’s the “Paul” in the legendary folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary, has stepped up to volunteer his time and talent.

Its venue may change from year to year but Last Night! Is becoming a solid New Year’s Eve tradition in the Blue Hill community. This year’s Last Night! program is set to begin at 5:45pm on December 31 at the Congregational Church of Blue Hill with a performance by Wade Dow and his band, a local favorite for country music. From 7-10 pm multiple venues will host music, dance, poetry, fortune tellers and more.  Then from 10pm-midnight the Blue Hill Town Hall will be open for late night revelries with live music and dancing.


Here are some of the many acts lined up for 2012's Last Night! celebration:

· Planet Pan, Steel Drum Music

· Wade Dow, Country Music

· Clarion Steel, Steel Drum Music

· Quit Bixby, Tarot Card Reader

· Brooklin Band, Traditional Town Band playing holiday music and marches

· New Trad Trio, Jazz

· Leslie Good, Tarot Card Reader

· Barbara JOY Hare

· Arnold Greenberg, Poetry

· Timbered Lake, Folk

· OC and Sarah, Folk

· Rhythm Rockets, Steel Drum Music

· New Surry Theater, Radio Drama

· Archipelago, Folk

· Isle of Jazz

· VITA, Singer Songwriter

· X-Presso Jazz

· Greek Dancing with Eleni Koenka

· Salsa Dancing with David Koenka

· Joel McGraw

· Jay and Bjorn Peterson, Western Swing

· Bluegene, Folk

· Loose Cannon Jug Band

· Four Cryin, Out Loud 

If you’re looking to ring in 2013 in a way that’s somewhat reminiscent of days gone by while, at the same time, filling your heart with hopes and dreams for a better future; plan to attend Last Night! on December 31, this year. You’ll find a warm glow of community spirit alive and well even on a cold winter’s night in the small coastal town of Blue Hill, Maine. For complete information and schedule, as the date draws closer, please visit http://www.flashinthepans.org/penpan/index.html.

Photo by Tom Leigh Courtesy of the Last Night Committee
During the winter months and after the summer tourists have departed,
Blue Hill, Maine is a sleepy little coastal town. except on Last Night!
Each December 31st the town is wide awake with the sounds of a community
singing and dancing as they welcome in a brand new year.

Photos by Tom Leigh. Courtesy of the Last Night Committee.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties




Sunday, December 9, 2012

Wreaths Across America, a Tradition Born in Down East Maine


Today, December 9, 2012, is the second Saturday in December which means Wreaths Across America has started its annual journey from Harrington, Maine to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. Its mission is to “Remember, Honor, and Teach”.

Evergreen wreaths were originally hung in homes or on doorways by pre-Christian cultures as symbols of hope, renewed light, and victory. Catholics and Protestants of the Christian world adopted the tradition during the sixteenth century to celebrate the hope and everlasting light of Christ. Where its tradition came from doesn’t really matter as much as the sentiment a wreath has woven into its circle of boughs.

Each holiday season the state of Maine ships millions of wreaths and trees (that share a similar history with the wreath) to other states across the nation. But, it is the convoy that departs from Worcester Wreaths to carry wreaths to Arlington National Cemetery and 500 other locations nationwide that fills my heart with joy and brings a tear to my eye. This is the tradition of the wreath I choose to celebrate. I’m extremely proud my son and grandson have both had the opportunity to be part of Dedham/Lucerne’s Fire Department’s escort of the wreaths from the Ellsworth’s town line to Holden’s as Wreaths Across America travels down Route 1A on the first leg of its journey. Tomorrow at noon (EST), I will be feeling pride again as I take a moment to remember all fifty USA statehouses and Washington, DC place wreaths to honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

Wreaths Across America was established because Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreaths, remembered. He remembered a trip he had made to Washington, DC and Arlington as a boy and he remembered what he has today is because of those who paved the way. When his company had an overabundance of wreaths in 1992, he delivered the extra wreaths to a section of Arlington that was experiencing declining numbers of visitors. In 2005, it was a photograph of one of Worcester’s evergreen wreaths with its bright red bow adorning a headstone in the snow that brought immediate fame and attention to the Wreaths Across America tradition. A tradition Morrill Worcester started in a quiet little town in Washington County, Maine, because he remembered.

The 2012 journey to Arlington includes VIP guests. Besides Maine’s First Lady, six media communications students from Hancock County Technical Center in Ellsworth are traveling with the wreaths. They will be collecting video, audio, and photography of the escorted caravan as it meets with veterans, gold star families, and delivers wreaths. You can follow their entire journey through their posts online at:

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I’ll let some I took today complete my story, though it is difficult even in a picture to express what miles of escorted wreaths actually looks like. It's one of those things you best enjoy if you're experiencing it. You may notice, as you browse, Blae and I both have cameos in this blog since my husband took some of the photos. 

© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved


© Daniel VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

© Daniel VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved

© Daniel VanWart 2012 All Rights Reserved



© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
© Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved

Watch for Maine to be mentioned on the national news when the caravan of wreaths rolls by Washington, DC and reaches its destination on December 15th!

For More information about Wreaths Across America:


To Learn More About Holiday Traditions:







Coming Up...
My next blog post will  feature 
"Last Night!" a unique New Year's Eve tradition in Blue Hill, Maine.
Stay tuned!

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties


Look for upcoming contributions by Gail J. VanWart in Washington County, too: 
County Wide News
County Wide is a journal of fact and opinion published since 1977 by 
County Wide Communications,Inc. at 25 Main Street, P.O. Box 497, Machias, Maine 04654.
Phone (207) 255-NEWS for a free online subscription to County Wide News or E-mail countywideonline@hotmail.com



Monday, November 19, 2012

Hurray for the Pumpkin Pie!


Yes Indeed, Hurray for the Pumpkin Pie! 

Since Maine and Thanksgiving are both rich with tradition, this blog will be nosing around my kitchen and an old tradition of making a pie from scratch. My friend Natalie Bolton in Colorado, of Wise Penny Marketing & Design LLC, is the author of the pie crust recipe. The pumpkin pie recipe that follows it is directly from the pages of an 1890 cookbook my grandmother once used here on the farm. Pairing the pumpkin pie filling from scratch with Natalie’s homemade pie crust, just might make your Thanksgiving dessert extra special. It can also be a way to use up some leftover Halloween pumpkins instead of just tossing them away as waste. 

Make Your Own Pie Dough in 15 Minutes or Less


Before you run off to the store to purchase a packaged pie crust, wait! You can make a low-cost, delicious and beautiful pie dough yourself in about 15 minutes or less.

Here's what you'll need to make a single 9” pie shell:

1 c. all-purpose flour
¼ - ½ t. salt (adjust according to your preference)
1/3 c. vegetable shortening (I like using the sticks as they're easy to measure)
3 T. ice water

I've found that one of the keys to making a great crust is to start with cold ingredients. So, at least an hour before you begin, put your shortening and flour in the fridge.

Now, once you're ready to start, gather your ingredients and mix your flour and salt thoroughly in a mixing bowl with a fork:

Next, add your cold shortening to the flour mixture . . .



and mix in with quick strokes using your fork or a pastry blender. DO NOT OVERMIX – it should not be smooth. You want to end up with bits of shortening still in the mix.


Next, add about 2 T. of ice water and start to work it in:



As the mixture comes together, set aside your fork and start shaping the mix into a ball gently with your hands. Add water by small amounts, up to another 1 T. water, until you are able to incorporate all the flour into the ball. If you add too much water and it gets too sticky, add a bit more flour.



Ta-da! Your dough is complete! If you have time, wrap the dough in plastic and set in the fridge for half an hour or so before preparing to roll it out. (You can leave it in the fridge overnight if you want, but I find that leaving it longer than that makes it rather crumbly and more difficult to roll out.)

Now, in order to roll out your dough and get it into the pie plate as easily as possible, you need to be able to transfer it smoothly. I find the best way to do this is to roll it out on a sheet of plastic wrap or waxed paper.

To do this, take a square of plastic wrap, smooth it carefully and tape each corner onto your clean countertop:



Sprinkle a bit of flour onto the surface, place your dough in the middle, and begin to roll out. Smooth the edges as you go to keep the circle as round as possible:




When your crust gets near the edge of the plastic wrap, place your pie plate carefully on top to make sure you have enough crust to go past the edges of the dish:



Next, remove the corners of tape from the countertop and slide your hand carefully beneath the plastic:



Place your other hand on top of the dish and flip it over. Remove the plastic wrap carefully and gently press the crust into the edges evenly. Now you can use your thumb and forefinger to make pretty fluted edges like this:



At this point, if your recipe calls for a baked crust, preheat your oven to 400ยบ and use a fork to prick all around the bottom and sides of the crust . This helps keep the crust from puffing up during baking. (You can also use pie weights or pour beans on the bottom, but I find removing them can a bit of a challenge.)



Place your crust in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Depending on the heat of your oven, you may need to bake for up to 20 minutes to get the desired browning – my oven tends to be hot and I don't like it too browned, so I usually only need about another 2-5 minutes of baking:


Now you have a lovely 9” baked pie shell

Pie crust recipe, instructions, and photography by Natalie Bolton


Next up: Pumpkin pie!

PREPARE THE PUMPKIN

Cut a firm fresh pumpkin into long strips, remove the soft pulp and seed, pare the strips and cut them into small pieces. Place the pumpkin in a kettle with very little water, cover the kettle tightly, and stew slowly, stirring frequently and adding water if necessary if pumpkin is in danger of becoming too thick, but always remember the less water you need to use makes for a better pie. When the pumpkin is soft, drain in a colander and mash (these days we can toss it into a blender). After it is pureed, it is ready to use to make pies, cakes, breads, pudding, or just plain mashed pumpkin garnished with brown sugar and spices.


The old cookbook says,  “The quantities given below will make three good, deep pies.”

PUMPKIN PIE

One quart of stewed pumpkin
Three pints of milk
Six eggs
One tablespoonful of salt
One and a half tablespoonful of ginger
One teaspoonful of cinnamon
One cupful of sugar

Beat the eggs very light, add them to the pumpkin, and stir until mixture is creamy; then add the salt, sugar, cinnamon, and ginger. Stir thoroughly, and when the mass is well mixed add the milk, a little at a time. Taste the mixture and add additional sugar and spice if needed. Line three pie-tins, divide the filling among them, stirring it all the time it is being poured into the plates; and bake half an hour in a quick oven. Do not be afraid to use the quantity of ginger given, for much of its strength is evaporated in the baking. This is a most reliable recipe and will produce most delicious pies.

Note: A quick oven these days is about 425°F.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For even more traditional Thanksgiving recipes and fun, check our the The Yankee Chef™

Coming Up...
My next blog posts will  feature Wreaths Across America, a touching tradition of remembrance which began in Harrington, Maine and 
"Last Night!" a unique New Year's Eve tradition in Blue Hill, Maine.
Stay tuned!

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties

Look for upcoming contributions by Gail J. VanWart in Washington County, too: 
County Wide News
County Wide is a journal of fact and opinion published since 1977 by 
County Wide Communications,Inc. at 25 Main Street, P.O. Box 497, Machias, Maine 04654.
Phone (207) 255-NEWS for a free online subscription to County Wide News or E-mail countywideonline@hotmail.com


Sunday, October 21, 2012

We're Golden in Maine!

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
They say some of the best things in life right under our noses can, at times, go unnoticed. It is often more tempting to jump into a car and take off on a trip in our fast paced world than it is to slow down a few minutes to appreciate what is right in front of us in our own backyards.

Blae, my faithful Border Collie, pointed that fact out to me and my husband as we walked the farm this past week while developing our pollinator plan for the future. Since pictures are worth a thousand words—and words often can't express nature's beauty accurately—Blae and I thought we'd let the photos we took on our farm this past week speak for themselves in this blog post. We hope you enjoy them.

What's in your backyard?









© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Blae, with his "Dad"
 Enjoying the Shades of Autumn on Peaked Mountain Farm


© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Kiwi Leaves Decorate our Woodshed.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Hues of Gold Enhance the View of Lucerne Inn
from Peaked Mountain Farm.

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Painted Leaves Surround our Fields

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Peaked Mountain is Framed in Gold

© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart All Rights Reserved
Autumn's Golden Backdrop on Peaked Mountain Farm


To learn more about Peaked Mountain Farm and the Lucerne Inn:
(You'll see be looking back at Peaked Mountain from the Lucerne Inn sight.)



© Copyright 2012 Gail J. VanWart  All Rights Reserved

Gail J. VanWart is a regular contributor to theSCENE:
a publication of Courier Publications LLC in Rockland, Maine with distribution in Waldo and Lincoln Counties

Look for upcoming contributions by Gail J. VanWart in Washington County, too: 
County Wide News
County Wide is a journal of fact and opinion published since 1977 by 
County Wide Communications,Inc. at 25 Main Street, P.O. Box 497, Machias, Maine 04654.
Phone (207) 255-NEWS for a free online subscription to County Wide News or E-mail countywideonline@hotmail.com