•    Theatrical Legend on West Grand River and Walnut   

    The Opera House has stood proudly on the corner of Walnut Street and West Grand River since 1881 in downtown Howell. Time has passed, and this beautiful legend has seen technology flourish, traffic increase with each decade, and many moons of human existence end, with new life and beginnings always to follow. Although time passes and things change within society, this three-story late Victorian building, complete with original gas light fixtures, stands tall through the ages.

    In its original state, the building featured retail space on the first floor with the theatre and balcony above, and was designed by renown Detroit architect Almon C. Varney. From 1881 until 1924, when the theatre was closed by the fire marshal, The Opera house was a true entertainment destination for people near and far, offering live shows, jugglers, and political speeches from presidential candidates and industrialist Henry Ford. The theatre is comprised of 800 seats and the cost was $11,000 to build in 1881. Interestingly, the Opera House has served many functions throughout its lifetime including a temporary home for the Livingston County Circuit Court in 1889. The Opera House theatre still features its original ticket window that was hung proudly in 1881 with its antique brass hinges from an era now closed.

    Although seasons passed and the theatre seats sat empty and silent for over 85 years, this theatrical legend awaits a new beginning. In 2000 the Livingston Arts Council purchased the building and began renovation piece by piece. In May, 2007 the first floor renovations were completed and this expansive space is now available for private parties, wedding receptions and local events. The Opera House is host to community events such as Art Harvest, sponsored by the Brighton Art Guild each October, and from November – April, the Howell Winterplace Market on Sundays.

    The Opera House: Past and Present

    • Honorary Recognitions
    • Outstanding Community Initiative Award, 2002
    • Michigan Registered Historical Site, 2006
    • Significant Historical Building, 2007
    • Historical Preservation & Design Award for Preservation Stewardship, 2008
    • Listed on the National Historic Register

    Totally Townies thanks the Livingston Arts Council for their dedication to this architectural gem, and for the historical information provided on The Opera House.

  •    Giving to Others – The Ultimated Soul Food   

    There is something about the smell of dinner baking in the oven on a cool, fall evening that brings comfort and genuine warmth to our kitchen. Weather it is a pot of spaghetti simmering, or a plump squash roasting in the oven, coming in the door to the scent of garlic, herbs and dinner prepared with love, gives a family a reminder of their connection and the gifts in their lives. Having food on the table, and never going to bed hungry is truly a gift. I know this is not something every family is blessed with and I feel it is our calling to give thanks for all we have, and to give to others who need help.

    This week Totally Townies solutes the St. George Pantry, which is located on West Main Street in downtown Brighton in the basement of St. George Lutheran Church. The St. George Pantry is open twice per month on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays, with the only requirement for using the service being the need for food. On an average Saturday morning from 9am – 12 noon,  2,400 pounds of food are provided for nearly 100 families. Gleaners Food Bank provides bread and eggs to the pantry and OLSHA donates 500 pounds of food per month. Simple Fresh Market has agreed to supply the pantry with much needed fresh produce, and each week bushels of squash, watermelons and seasonal fruits and veggies are brought in by truck. Since the pantry opened in March, the number of Brighton and Whitmore Lake families fed each Saturday has increased by 190%.

    In honor of the individuals who give their time, energy and resources to help those in need within our community. We’re featuring a simple squash recipe that encourages parents to cook with their children – having fun at home together sets the foundation for a bond that will last a lifetime. Cooking together is a labor of love. When a child and parent learn together, a moment in time is forever captured within their souls. Just as a child learns from her parent, a parent learns through her child. When we give our children the chance to experience whimsy in their homes, we’re giving them the chance to flourish. To flourish as a family is one of life’s ultimate treasures and one that cannot be purchased or saved for a later date – it must be savored and experienced in the present.

    Teaching a child to cook requires patience and an unhurried approach. Below is one of our favorite squash recipes that couldn’t get much easier. Squash is high in vitamins and low on cost – the average squash at the Brighton Farmers’ Market rings in at $1.00 this month. With the arrival of cooler temperatures in October, the season of squash has found us with our mouths watering, our bellies growling, and our grocery dollars stretched just a little further.

    Super Simple Squash

    One thoroughly washed squash, fully intact with skin on – your choice – butternut or spaghetti squash work best with this recipe
    A good amount of butter (approximately ½ stick…but we’re not fussy enough to measure)
    A healthy pinch of salt to taste
    Optional spices include fresh herbs such as basil or thyme, or garlic

    Bake the squash for 60-90 minutes on 350 degrees, uncovered with stem and skin on in your favorite baking dish. The squash is done when you can place a butter knife through the center and feel no resistance. Your kitchen will smell heavenly – giving you a Better Crocker-esc pride that certainly can boost a weary spirit. Remove the baking dish from the oven and with a fork or knife, remove the skin from the squash. This will be easy at this point and the skin will almost fall off with some gentle encouragement. The squash will be extremely hot and you may opt to allow it to cool for several hours before removing the skin. This is especially a good option if you have little helpers along with you on your squash adventure. Once the skin has been removed, and the squash is comfortable to handle, scoop out the seeds and dump all of the remaining squash into a serving bowl, add butter, salt and some good clean hands for mixing. Children love different textures – squash may be something your fingers have never had the privileged of squishing. Go ahead, make a little mess.

    From our home to yours, we hope you enjoy this bit of kid-friendly kitchen inspiration. Let our homes and hearts be places of cheer and welcome for those we love and those we meet. Let us be grateful for the harvest of the season and for the gift of living simply. Fall is a time when the harvest is abundant and rich – let us give to those we see who are in need, and seek to find those we have not yet met.

    •    A Little Love Makes a Lot of Difference   

    •    A Cozy Home – It’s Attitude and Atmosphere   

      “Let’s make our house cozy today, Mom,” said my five-year-old daughter on a quiet, rainy morning last week. This comment delighted me but at the same time surprised me. I wondered what caused her to say this, and if it was something she heard me say. Although I was not expecting her to suggest we make things cozy that morning, the idea now makes perfect sense to me. I also love that warm, snug-as-a-bug feeling when we’re enjoying a morning together.

      On an average day, our house is not clean. On most days of the week, there are dozens of books on the floor, and a village of Polly Pockets in the middle of the kitchen. We have a child-sized art easel and Play-Doh center as permanent fixtures at our breakfast nook. Although clutter and commotion have become the norm, I like to think of our home as warm and inviting. Creating a cozy house has nothing to do with decorating, finances, or housekeeping skills. Cleaning house is not my specialty, and I have learned to accept and embrace this notion. Certainly, I could clean more, and could probably learn to be very good at it, but I don’t  want to put cleaning and chores above savoring the gift of time with my children. I love that our house is messy, fun, and filled with laughter.

      Creating a cozy home and environment is all about atmosphere and attitude. Some ideas we have adopted for our own cozy-appeal include lighting our favorite candles, dimming the lights, turning on lamps and overhead lights off. I have intentionally learned to leave the cell phone and computer in another room when spending quality time together – focusing on email, texts and anything online clearly communicates to children that they are less important. My girls and I often sit on the floor, read stories by our old, worn, window box with wavy glass. We pick up inexpensive Chinese take-out, when possible, as a treat for dinner to ward off the stress of a frantic dinner rush. We laugh, we snuggle, and this week we’ve watched the leaves on the trees rustle outside, wondering how they change from green to gold in such a seamless transition.

      Below are 5 tips for creating a cozy atmosphere in your own home:

      1. Turn off technology. Leave the cell phone in your purse, or another room, and schedule time to check emails, facebook, etc. There is not a text or facebook post that can ever be more important than your children. You are the best gift you will ever give them – treasure the time.
      2. Leave the dust as it will always be there tomorrow, and when you dim the lights on a chilly evening in October not a person in the house will notice.
      3. Laugh, sing and dance. Children love to laugh and so do adults. It is when we learn to take ourselves too seriously that we lose our spark for the unexpected wiggle, giggle and rhyme.
      4. Stress less about dinner – clip coupons and get take-out when possible, or make pancakes for dinner and eat on the living room floor with candles burning while you listen to old fashioned movie soundtracks, such as The Sound of Music or Saturday Night Fever.
      5. Live with a grateful spirit. Our mood as parents sends a clear message to our children. When we are happy, calm and attentive, they are encouraged to feel at peace. Adopt a family prayer, or time of thanksgiving that you practice daily. Faith in God is a constant thread in my life, which encourages and gives me strength when challenges arise.

      Although my daughter loves when we have the candles lit, our vintage butterfly lamp all aglow, and her favorite Wiggles CD playing, I know that her feelings go deeper than these sensory experiences. What she enjoys is the feeling that comes into our home when we “make our house cozy,”  and she also enjoys what it does to her Mom. When we step aside from the busy-ness of our world to savor the moment we have been given, we feel beauty and joy. As we make hot chocolate together before reading a story on our old woven rug, we are able to leave the rest of the world outside  and cherish the opportunity to simply be together and to nurture our human need for love and connection.

      Our house was built in 1875, and we adore it. Our house is old, well-loved and filled with character and blissful imperfection. I have never been happier than I have been in this house because it is in this house that I have been able to bloom as a mother. I have learned to mother – to sing with my children, to dance and be silly with them, to pray for and with them, and to make messes that I know will someday be gone.

      I have learned that when I focus on the needs and voices of my children, we all bloom – we grow together as a family and we grow as individuals. The days of early childhood pass so quickly, and perhaps with the transition of my oldest daughter starting school, I am more sensitive to how quickly the doors of preschool life closed. However, as there is always the promise of autumn leaves turning from green to golden, the promise of hot chocolate with extra whipped cream and a story of love awaits the girls big and small in our home.