•    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.

  •    Happy Anniversary to The Vitamin Company   

    After 20 years in Brighton, The Vitamin Company is more vibrant than ever. With a friendly and knowledgeable staff, The Vitamin Company is a wonderful addition to the downtown shopping district. Totally Townies solutes the Vitamin Company’s commitment to natural, farm fresh foods and appreciates their support of Calder Dairy Farms. Milk in recyclable, old fashioned glass bottles is delivered every Wednesday to the store and sells out quickly.

    We love real milk. Milk that comes from cows that are not treated with hormones and are free to eat, drink and graze freely makes for milk that we’re proud to purchase and are proud to pour from our own fridge. The Calder Dairy pasteurizes its milk, but does not homogenize it, leaving the cream on top, and the vitamins and nutrients throughout.

    Homogenization was developed simply to give milk a balanced consistency, eliminating the need to shake milk before drinking. Milk in its natural form has a layer of cream that floats to the top. This cream is absolutely delicious, and gives milk a balanced, full-bodied taste. In addition, this cream provides natural fat, which is essential for all people, especially children. Real, natural, fats provide the body with good cell, hormonal and brain function. Homogenization also changes the molecular structure of milk, which strips many of the nutrients from milk and prevents the delivery of important nutrients to the body.

    The Calder Dairy was established in 1946 and began their work as a bottling facility for milk from local dairy farms, until a Brown Swiss Cow was purchased to keep the grass neat and tidy. Soon after, this bold new addition to the family farm had a calf, and today Calder Dairy milks 138 cows. All of their cows are fed a high quality, home-grown, forage and grain diet and enjoy life on the farm to the fullest.

  •    Zucchini Love Soup   

    Michigan produce is rising into its mid-August glory. The tomatoes are ripe and juicy, the onions are thick with rings of flavor, and the zucchini is in abundance – green, yellow, or gold. Zucchini is everywhere. Being unafraid of trying strangely unique things in the kitchen, I’m always picking up new vegetables at the farmers market. This week I saw my first purple bell pepper and of course, ended up with a wagon loaded to the brim with farm-fresh chicken, lamb, beets, eggplant and of course, zucchini.

    The problem is that many great cooks are timid about actually cooking with zucchini as a delicious side dish, and prefer to keep it locked into the arena of bread baking. While I adore zucchini bread, I have found that this wonderful little gem can add  zip to any weeknight meal or lunch. Another bonus –  when purchased in season, it takes a back seat to almost none when it comes to stretching the budget. Although no two zucchini are exactly alike, the average price per servings is less than a dime. Amazing and delicious!

    Here is a semi-homemade creation that is perfect for a quick lunch or an easy dinner when you don’t have a lot of time or energy but still want to eat at home with your family. I love semi-homemade recipes that look and taste great, maximize the use of fresh, locally grown, ingredients, but are manageable on a weeknight with small children. I still find the idea of starting from scratch to be romantic and beautiful…but for us, that’s not often possible. If it is for you, please send me your favorite summer soup recipe, and your secret for creating that kitchen romance in your everyday life. If you’re a busy family like we are, try this almost-homemade-meal and let me know what you think.

    Lastly, cooking is fun, I believe it should not be fussy or complex, so our recipes can be adapted or altered according to your own creative flair…Get to the market with your wagon and get cooking.

    Zucchini Love Soup


    Olive oil


    Fresh Garlic

    1 onion chopped

    Fresh basil

    1 zucchini, complete with skin and seeds, chopped

    Sea salt

    1 can of Campbell’s Golden Mushroom Soup



    Start with a large pan on medium heat, add a generous pour of olive oil, 1 teaspoon butter, chopped onion, fresh garlic and let simmer until you can almost envision yourself in the Italian countryside wearing a red-and white gingham apron, or about 4 minutes. Add a sprinkling of sea salt, fresh basil, and zucchini. Let simmer for another few moments and add can of Campbell’s Golden Mushroom soup. Add ½ can milk and ½ can water….stir, smell, taste. Turn down heat, put down your Italian apron, and ladle into bowls, serves 2 adults. You can easily double the recipe by adding 1 extra can of soup.

    Thank you to our friend Andrea for sharing her garden-fresh zucchini with us!

  •    Nothing Like The Pitter Patter of Raindrops on The Roof   

    There is something about saving, re-using, and re-cycling that I just love. Creating something new and fabulous out of something old and almost forgotten is a skill that should not be taken for granted. Totally Townies treasures a resourceful lady, complete with a purse full of ideas and trinkets, and of course, lots of spunk. A lady must always keep her purse stocked for the unexpected – one never knows when we may call upon the service of an old fashioned pen and paper for a poetry session in the morning sun, or a cork screw for an evening of chatter with friends. It is amazing to see how many times we think we need so much, when in reality, we need so little. Sometimes, the simplest things are the best. Today we are celebrating the old world charm of the rain barrel, or rainwater tank.

    Rain barrels collect and store rain water, or runoff, typically from rooftops via rain gutters. These barrels are the perfect spot for harvesting rain, and the rain barrel we call upon is built from an old expansion tank from a 1908, Crane, coal-converted boiler that was recently removed from our home in downtown Brighton (great work, Kris…you are a heavy lifter!)

    The expansion tank (shown here) acts as a reservoir,  and the majority of the water is held in a larger tank inside the garage and is transferred via the PVC pipe to the expansion tank. We are thankful for the gift of self-sufficiency that could be created on West Main Street for our greens, herbs and flowers.

    If you are interested in learning more about rain barrels, please check out www.michiganrainbarrels.com

  •    Garden Crafts for Artists Big and Small   

    Totally Townies loves this perfect summer garden craft for artists of all ages. Saving seeds from this year’s harvest reminds us of the renewing power of nature. Start planning next year’s garden by checking out what grew well this year. Start by checking your garden for open-pollinated or heirloom plants, as these will be the easiest to grow. Seeds can be taken from any plant that produces them, but the easiest seeds to harvest are from beans, peas, peppers, watermelons, pumpkins and herbs, such as basil and lavender. Harvest the seeds from dried flower heads or overripe fruit and let the seeds dry completely before storing in a cool, dry place.

    Supplies needed: Scissors, Glue, Sturdy Paper, Markers or Crayons, and of course, a spirit filled with gratitude – mother earth is an amazing gift for us all…enjoy!

    Thank you to Disney Family Fun for this great idea.

  •    Howell Winter Marketplace   

    We like to keep it simple…Totally Townies is starting with the basics – The farmers’ market – fresh veggies straight from the fields, natural soaps, hand-knitted goodies, and all sorts of artisan breads and sweet treats. The Brighton Farmers’ Market is open from the beginning of May through the end of October. Totally Townies invites to you experience this Saturday morning ritual for yourself. We will be there, with our coffee in hand, wagon in tow, and smiles on our faces in the spring. Until then, you can support local farmers by shopping on Sundays at downtown Howell’s Opera House at The Howell Winter Marketplace . The Opera House is open from 10am – 2:00pm on Sundays for this indoor market. Enjoy!

  •    About Buying Local   

    The best health food is food that is grown closest to you – food that is locally grown, and grown with the least amount of interference and chemicals. When we purchase food that has been trucked in, shipped in, or has happily come to peak freshness on a jet liner, we are missing out on an opportunity to support local farmers and local businesses. Local Harvest is a site devoted to promoting local farmers, farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and sustainable growing. Click here to access a map that allows you to enter your zip code and find local growers, markets and CSA farms in your area. Totally Townies would like to thank Local Harvest for this wonderful source of information, and also encourage you to live local.