31 December 2012

( renowned barto painter julie longacre: celebrating 15 years of her community art show )

by jennifer hetrick

since 1984, berks county artist julie longacre has kindly brought her well-cherished paintings out into the open at her art show she hosts every other year at the fire company in bally. her latest show joined the community this past december.

longacre is most known for her awe-stirring local landscapes and historical renderings, often asked to do commissions of nature-struck scenes and heritage-rich buildings around the region.

“i found that people felt more comfortable in a room full of paintings with family and friends rather than going to a gallery in a more formal setting,” longacre reflects about why she chose to bring a show to her hometown community, on her own terms, several decades ago. “i wanted a show where everybody felt not just comfortable but at home—i support them, and they support me.”

longacre has had her pieces in galleries and exhibitions and appreciates those opportunities but likes to bring her works directly to her own people who value her artistry and heart so much, as her paintings are highly sought after, and this fact only grows.

in the summer, she celebrated 70 years of time spent mingling the love of painting, family, and appreciating many a moment on this earth, so she shared lots of cake with show-goers also, to tie even more festive angles into the event. longare estimates that 1,200 people attended this latest show, and while it has always had a great turnout, this one appeared to see the most door-swinging seconds before guests perused the aisles of her many years of expression on canvas.

 after working in color for so long with her paintings, julie longacre 
realized she had a large amount of black and white paint leftover 
years ago & soon delved into a long stretch of time spent exploring 
the possibilities & perspectives in black, grey, & white pigments 
in her works; this piece is inspired by trails near her second
 home in cape breton, nova scotia, where she spends 
about three months out of every year, although 
not in one consecutive span of time

many know that longacre is also an author. at her show, she released a sketch in time, which is a collection of her handwritten journal entries, with paintings whisked into the pages. the hand-bound book is now for sale at yellow house hotel along routes 562 and 662 in douglassville, longacre's dairy bar on route 100 in barto, schwenkfelder library & heritage center on seminary street in pennsburg, and gehman's store on route 100 in bally.

her previously published books are known by the titles of the dirty old ladies' cookbook, plentiful with heartily pennsylvania dutch-swept recipes, and the place i keep, which incorporates not only pictures but poems.

“i could see farms all around through the windows in the house where i grew up in gilbertsville,” longacre notes about what has had a strong draw on her inspirations translated through the paintbrush so often moving in gracious strokes by way of her fingertips. in her lifetime, longacre has felt a powerful sense of gratitude and gravitation to agricultural sweeps and the buildings so integral to farms, like barns.

“friends know the angles of what i like and send me photographs,” longacre says. while it’s hard to describe in easy language, good friends have learned from her paintings what sorts of views catch her vision well, and they’ve helped to support her art through mailing her pictures they’ve snapped here or there in their travels along roads around the region.

chase longacre, 7, of hereford township, excitedly helped
to hang his grandmother's paintings for the first time in december

“an illustrator can draw anything he sees,” longacre explains of words she penned in her latest book. “a painter can paint anything she feels.” longacre, with a great respect for understanding the distinct role of her experience as a woman and of her fellow women, has given a lot attention to the intellectual shapes that play a part in how she has come to examine lives in the world throughout her years taking in what it is to be a person today.

“painting is soothing. it’s therapy. and in another way, it’s demanding,” she says, knowing she is often driven to paint what catches her artist’s eye, having trouble giving herself any option to say no to the creative ingredients in her that respond to a persistent pull and push to recreate the scenes of compelling beauty around her even in today’s busy, all-too-rushed days.

“my paintings interact with the light in a room,” longacre points out in what is unique to her pieces and how magnetically painting tugs at her heart. “and most people choose a lifestyle or career, but this was a matter of a career choosing me. art always won out. it was almost as if it were challenging me, with no other choice.” and yet she knew to embrace it for all the positives in the opportunity to create through paint, showing living through her eyes.

to glimpse more, visit www.julielongacre.com.

( schuylkill on the move keeps the educational footfalls pushing onward )

by jennifer hetrick

hikes in the beloved persuasion of the outdoors are all the more fruitful with schuylkill on the move, as the group weaves educational aspects, often historical and environmental, into each of the scheduled trail-escapades it offers every month.

the initiative known eye-stirringly as schuylkill county’s vision is behind schuylkill on the move’s existence, but thanks largely in part to a partnership with the schuylkill county conservation district. environmental education coordinator “porcupine pat” mckinney with the conservation district is one of the hiking group’s main leaders who began organizing hikes almost 20 years ago when it had the moniker schuylkill county nature club in its early days.

schuylkill county judge john domalakes, environmental education specialist for tuscarora and locust lake state parks, robin tracey, and naturalist mike centeleghe contribute in helping to lead hikes for schuylkill on the move.

hikes can sometimes have up to 50 or 60 people on them, often with visitors traveling from different counties around this portion of pennsylvania. but of course, the locals are known for valuing this healthy mix of learning while on foot, too.

those who have had the delight of hearing domalakes speak while guiding hikes know well that he passionately carries a great amount of regional historical details in his mind on a regular basis and thrives happily on sharing what he can with others as the group makes its way down trail paths throughout schuylkill county but also often at history-rich hiking spots around surrounding counties.

one hike schuylkill on the move ventured out on in the past year served as a charcoal pits hike on blue mountain in the weiser state forest stretch in port clinton off of route 61. mckinney and domalakes explained how a charcoal tender who would have preferred or enjoyed a solitary life would live in a small hut, no more than a couple of phone booths’ wide, handling the burning mounds of wood once the trees were cut down centuries ago, unfortunately not being replaced with newly planted ones since environmentalism with newly planted ones since environmentalism and sustainability took a bit longer to sweep into the picture of humans and their living. 

“porcupine pat” mckinney & john domalakes discuss the former charcoal pits 
on the blue mountain in port clinton, standing over the lightly visible indents 
in the ground where they were once a part of the hillside

in december, the group visited to the former mahanoy plane site in frackville, exploring the long ago let go national anthracite industry marker. the plane served as a part of the reading railroad system with coal transportation from 1862 to 1932. still visible coal chutes and parts of the operation, made of stone, are a reminder of this once bustling stretch on the hillside in frackville.

the schuylkill river trail’s sections in hamburg just over the border 
in berks county are well-liked by schuylkill on the move goers

mckinney and those who help him to run schuylkill on the move do their best to offer at least one hike per month but do have a few months per year of more than one hike in a 30-day period—a gracious gift to those who value the unique approach to the group in tying together healthy time out in nature while learning about the particulars of the county.

he estimates that throughout the past two decades, he’s led hikes at 50 different locations around the region. in winter, hikes are generally shorter because of the biting winds of the chilly season. in the months with more forgiving of temperatures, tracey is known to lead longer hikes up to 10 miles.

“we are designated impoverished and rank 64th out of 67 counties with regards to health and wellness,”  mckinney says about schuylkill county. this is yet another reason schuylkill on the move is such a special part of this sweep of pennsylvania. “and we have areas that are devastated, we have abandoned mine lands that are reverting, but people in schuylkill on the move love how the mountains are here with these rolling hills.”

upcoming hikes—

sunday, january 27 from 2 to 4 p.m.: “frackville foray.” hike leader john domalakes showcases the grave of frackville founder daniel frack and then an impeccable overlook of the mahanoy valley. meets at saint ann roman catholic church on north line street in frackville. (3 miles; easy)

saturday, february 16 from 1.30 to 3 p.m.: “tuscarora trek.” robin tracey leads a walk on the old log trail to enjoy winter scenery. meets in the upper beach parking lot of tuscarora state park. (2 miles; easy)

saturday, march 9 from 2 to 4.30 p.m.: “tree trail—locust lake.” robin tracey returns with a hike on a trail that features the beautiful terrain in the locust lake state park. meets in visitor parking lot. (3 miles; moderate)

for the full 2013 hikes schedule, reach pat mckinney at porcupinepat@yahoo.com.

07 December 2012

( chris’ cranberry creation-- an autumn recipe )

kindly a courtesy of gillian slater


1 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries, cleaned
1 cup of water
1 cup of sugar
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored, and chopped
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup chopped pecans


cook the cranberries, sugar, and water in a saucepan over low to medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the skins pop open. add the apple parts, zests, and juices, and cook for 15 to 20 more minutes. remove from the heat, and add the nuts. adding the nuts last will prevent them from becoming too soft. let cool, and serve chilled.

this is most suitably served with vanilla ice cream. i personally use it on my turkey as a replacement for gravy. i’ve always been weird that way (the good kind of weird, according to editing fingertips !)

i first made this with my mother (chris of this recipe’s making) during my sophomore year in college. a novice in the kitchen, i wanted to undertake this recipe at the hands of her careful guidance. the first thing we did was chase dad out of his domain, the kitchen. this was girl-time. she had made this a year before when i immediately fell in love with the recipe. though back then, i could hardly be bothered to concentrate because i decided that i wanted to make this for my then-boyfriend who i was over the moon with at the time. mom kept telling me to focus so my cranberry creation wouldn’t burn and turn into super sour baby mush. in the end, the cranberry medley of palate affection became so very worth the nagging.

05 December 2012

( spokes to spark the heart—a love of the almighty bicycle )

by jennifer hetrick

it’s easy to keep pedals pushing forward when you love bicycles as much as the laird family and their dedicated employees in their stretch of the historic downtown schwenksville scenery. in 2005, joe laird bought tailwind bicycles from a good friend, the man who first opened the shop in 1977.

“i remember dissecting bicycles on my parents’ porch when i was a kid,” joe reflects. “it seemed like it was always coming back to me.” a passion for the persuasion of pedaling on two wheels has had a healthy hold on joe for decades, and it translated to his family, too.

his son owen plays a large role in the shop as master bicycle mechanic and store manager. his daughter rachel joined the shop in february of this year and brought to it her skills in bookkeeping, sales, social networking, and coordinating community bike rides.

joe himself tries to ride at least two or three times each week, and as might be expected, has several quasi-museums of classic bicycles, with some dating back to the early 1900s and others stemming from the 1940s and 1950s.

when joe and his team propped a buy-sell-trade sign outside of the shop, the front door began swinging even more than before with new footfalls saying hello to tailwind bicycles.

“we had so many people coming in for used bikes after we put that sign out,” rachel says. “and we’re not buying walmart or department store bikes.” only very decent-quality and well-made bicycles are taken in trading efforts.

and bike rentals are greatly appreciated, too, especially thanks to the perkiomen trail visible from the back of the shop. bicycles for rent cost $30 a day.

rachel points out that she’s noticed summer camps renting out bicycles frequently, but retired-age people are also great admirers of the chance to spend a day renting a bicycle to wheel away on the trail behind the storefront.

and while the bicycle rentals were something offered at the shop for years, a jump upward in interest for the opportunity has been very obvious and well-gleaned by the laird family and their employees who thrive from riding on their own and seeing others enjoy the recreational perk, too.

joe remembers when a man once brought in several very dilapidated children’s bikes that looked hopeless, with especially dry chains. after bringing those little bikes back to life, the man reacted in such glee and thankfulness, joe recalls. he soon brought his wife back to see the shop and enthusiastically bought two new bikes as well.

when so many people abhor the idea of going to the gym, riding bikes out in the fresh, open air makes a lot of sense to a good amount of souls out there. and just how much bike-riding is loved today is clear—despite how such busy weeks and rushed days encompass so many a life—by the spokes stirring fast on so many trails around the area when the weather is warmest and even sometimes when it’s chillier.

joe’s skill in custom-fitting and sizing bikes is a lot of why bicyclists value the shop so much; when people have painful bodily issues based on not riding so comfortably and ergonomically, joe brings in his background with understanding the skeleton, its muscles, and how to properly adjust a bike to each person’s best fit, helping them with improved mobility.

at tailwind bicycles, gratitude for time out on a matching set of wheels is easy to hug in the mind but also while taking in the open air around trees and out in the world away from so much structure elsewhere in life.

to find out more and to see about getting old bikes fixed up for a second existence, visit tailwindbicycles.com and search for tailwind bicycles on facebook.