Monday, May 12, 2014

The Maine Event!

Mikayla is going to be one happy kiddo the next three weeks.   I think the same pesky individuals who grouped three mid-western states together at the letter “I” (Illinois, Indiana and Iowa for those who don’t remember) got together and decided to do the same thing with the letter “M” in New England.  Which means there will be no seafood shortage anytime soon around here! (Thus the happy Beanie)  This week we make our way out of the Louisiana bayous and head north and as far east as we can go to Maine!  So tie on your lobster bib, brush up on your knowledge of how to pick blueberries, tuck a copy of “Paul Revere’s Ride” in your pocket and be up early to catch the first rays of sun on US soil on top of Cadillac Mountain (for most of the year) with us this week as we make our way through Maine!

If you’re anything like me and the first thing your brain associates with Maine is ‘lobsters’, I’m here to tell you Maine is so much more than crustaceans!  Now don’t get me wrong, since as I told the kiddos tonight as we put up the wall Homarus americanus (the American or Maine Lobster) makes Maine the leading lobster producer in the nation – recently averaging 67 million pounds of lobster annually valued at more than $300 million.  Maine lobsters have one obviously distinguishable feature – their claws!  The spiny or rock lobsters found in warmer waters have a different body shape and no claws at all, which make Maine lobsters the only ones that can launch the claw vs. tail debate!  Lobster is so important to the state it even has its own festival that boasts  to have “the world’s greatest lobster cooker, 20,000 pounds of lobster, a sea goddess coronation, a big parade, top notch entertainment, an international crate race, fine art, talented crafts people and vendors, US Navy ship tours, cooking contests, marine tent and MORE!”  So don’t worry, there’ll be plenty of lobster this week!

If, as my bestie Kristina says, “If it goes in the sea, it doesn’t go in me” and lobster isn’t quite up your alley, maybe you’d rather feast on some wild blueberries.  Maine produces more lowbush blueberries than any other state.  Maine designated Vaccinium angustifolium, aiton  as the official state berry in 1991.   Found mostly on hilly and rocky terrain, the native berries were, until recently, harvested exclusively by hand using a special rake invented over 100 years ago by a Mainer by the name of Abijah Tabbutt.  Not a fruit fan?  You might be surprised to learn that one of the other bumper crops in Maine is actually the potato!  Potatoes in Maine are grown almost exclusively in Aroostook County which is the largest County in the US east of the Mississippi and could actually contain Rhode Island AND Connecticut within its borders.  And we’ll be talking about it again later in the week, but if you’d rather have sweets I have two words for you; Whoopie pie (the official state treat!)

During my Maine research I was stuck time and time again by the sheer beauty of the state.  I tried to do my best to tell and show this to the kiddos tonight.  Nearly ninety percent of the state is blanketed in forest, the highest of any state in the Union.  The forest products industry directly contributes some $1.8 billion to the state’s economy each year and employs over 7,300 of the state’s residents.  Maine is the second largest paper producing state and accounts for nearly 5% of Maine’s gross domestic product.

When you’re done checking out the gorgeous forests the Maine coast, consisting of over 1,500 miles (the actual shoreline is nearly 3,500 miles long – longer than any other continental states besides Florida and Louisiana!) and 3,100 coastal islands, is worth checking out.  Head there to see some puffins, visit the many harbors or in the Southern part of the state work on your tan at the beaches where you can see tons of lighthouses (including the oldest commissioned by the US government, the Portland Head Light) or eat at a lobstershack.

To take in the beauty of Maine a trip to Acadia National Park is in order.  It is the oldest National Park east of the Mississippi and the only National Park in New EnglandCadillac Mountain, which I mentioned earlier as a place to watch the sunrise is also the tallest mountain on the US Atlantic coast.

If you’re a bookworm, you’re in luck!  Some of Maine’s most famous people are authors.  My personal favorite is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  As we put up the wall tonight I took a few minutes to read to the kiddos one of his most famous works, “Paul Revere’s Ride”.  If the creepy is more your style, Stephen King also hails from and resides in Maine.  If you’re an outdoors enthusiast I bet you have at least one Maine related product in your possession that bears the L.L. Bean logo.  Founded by Maine native Leon Leonwood Bean who wanted to come up with a waterproof boot, the company is based in Freeport, Maine and specializes in clothing and outdoor recreation equipment.  Personally, my favorite Maine native is Grey’s Anatomy star Patrick Dempsey – mmmm, McDreamy!

So I have I got you on board to join us for Maine this week?  If that’s not enough we started off the week feasting on three of the things I mentioned above, lobster potatoes and blueberries!  I made Lobster Rolls and paired it with some Maine Potato Salad with Egg and Pickles.  And for dessert, Maine’s official state dessert, Blueberry Pie!  It was quite the feast that filled everyone up before we started hashing out all of the Maine fun I talked about above.

We’re squeezing a lot in over the next few days because Grant’s Dad and brother are coming in to celebrate Noah’s birthday this weekend (my baby’s going to be 6 on Sunday!) but I promise to do Maine proud.  Tomorrow we’re going to get hands (and feet) on with some lobsters and try out another potato recipe.  So until then…

Maine Fun Fact of the Day:  An unsuccessful attempt at establishing a permanent English settlement in the New World was at the location now known as Popham Beach. Sir George Popham led the expedition in 1607.

So no horse this morning at the store (there was a line) but her own container of Nutter Butters was an OK trade

I think Honda designed this in the back of Sasha just for me...

Rainy afternoon - no problem for these two

Blueberry Pie

OK, so I didn't make this one myself, though I promise I am perfectly capable of making (and had planned to do so) a blueberry pie. But the recipe I have tagged above calls for 5 cups of fresh blueberries and it not being blueberry season right now, that didn't seem super practical to my wallet at the grocery store this morning especially since blueberries are going to show up two more times around here this week. So Marie Callendar whipped this one up for me and I stuck it in the oven.  Sometimes you do what ya gotta do

Maine Potato Salad with Egg and Pickle 
(Grant liked this so much he asked me if it came from the store)

Lobster rolls!

(kid size, though Mikayla requested a full one)

Thanks Marie!

Maine Wall is up!

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