Aside 16 Oct

The Great Halloween Camp Out
Newbury Pack 99

When: Saturday, October 26th 2:00 pm to Sunday, October 27th 10:00 am.

Where: Chickagami Park, 17857 Tavern Rd., Burton, OH 44491

What: Tree ID with guest ecologist Cider Press Kickball Frisbee Golf Campfire Cookery Mummy Races Pumpkin Carving Trick or Treat Haunted Hike Scary Skits, Songs, and Stories at the amphitheater

What to bring: tent (optional), sleeping bags, toiletries, change of clothes, cold/rainy weather gear, hiking shoes/boots, folding chairs, roll of t.p. for mummy race, pre-scooped out pumpkin for carving and tools/knife, food to cook for your dinner, cooking/eating equipment, water for drinking, water bottles, flashlights, candy for trick-or-treat, snacks and drinks.

We have reserved the cabins and have room for approximately 40 to stay over. There are also a few tent pads near the cabins if you prefer to sleep in a tent.

Please RSVP so we know how many people plan to attend and specify if you are camping or not!
RSVP number of people attending and/or camping overnight!
Liz: (440) 742-1585 liz_brower@yahoo.com

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A Glimpse at the Origins

4 Feb

King Ferry, NY

Lizzie’s Cafe refers to a once in a lifetime opportunity I had in Central New York to open my own cafe/bakery.  I was twenty three years old, one year out of college, working as a substitute teacher, and for a ceramic artist, and on an organic farm, while raising my four-year old son.

A certain series of events and particular circumstances led to the opportunity to fulfill a long-time dream.  I could never in any amount of space describe what happened as it was exactly, but in short, I was helping the artist Michael Rubenstein move his studio from one of the landlords’ properties to another, when a restaurant located next to the new studio was purportedly closing.  Within one month, after deciding to rent it, I had cleaned it up, moved in, and started business.

It would take about 300 pages to accurately describe the details of the previous sentence, not to mention, another 500 to tell the rest of the story, so I will leave it for another writing endeavor.  Instead, I’ll put up some pictures.

Sisters

All I can say is it could not have been as successful as it was in the beginning without Sarah.  One brain, two bodies, same wavelength.  Everything we did was perfectly complementary.  If I did muffins, cookies, cakes, and sweet rolls, she was doing dinner rolls, brownies, pies, and sticky buns.

I was scheduled for the soft opening on August 15th, 2007 but I had to push the day back to the 16th or 17th.  We cooked and prepped for almost 48 hours straight.

Our very first customers, as promised, were Anton, Laurie, and the gang from Early Morning Farm.  I was in a state of shock, and I’m sure it was not our best performance as we served up blueberry whole wheat pancakes and merry berry pancakes, bacon, eggs, hash browns and such, coming out at all different times, taking probably a half hour or more to get it all out there.

I’ve never felt the pressure like I did on those days, neither eating nor sleeping.  I was so hungry at one point, I started consuming spoonfuls of raw zucchini muffin batter.  I actually gave myself food poisoning and was in fetal position on the bakery floor, not sure if I could run the place on the second day.  With pain as bad labor cramps, I just did it.

Early publicity.

Everything was always fresh, homemade, and delicious.  The menu was extensive in the beginning, items were way under-priced, and impossible to sustain once the season slowed and Sarah left for school.  We got quite a reputation for the homemade bread, which I had to start making myself when Sarah had to go back full-time.  We made white, wheat, rye, raisin, cheese, and various focaccias.  This is, for the most part, the menu:

Lizzy’s Cafe Menu and Bakery

If it was not for certain influential and supportive people, this never would have happened.  My sister, mom and dad, my family from Ohio who came all the way there for a visit and helped me scrub and polish for hours, landlords Bill and Cheryl Heary, Mike Rubenstein, dedicated staff and volunteers, namely Eileen Welsh, Pat and Lizzy Mills, JoAnn Davis, Gene Toby, and all of my loyal and kind customers, made this dream come true.

Memory Collage

I am so lucky.  Many generous, loving, inspiring people have left their impression on me.  I am grateful for all of the amazing experiences, as well as those that were horrid, I’ve ever had, and I hope I can use my experience to influence and inspire others as I live each day.  Peace!

A Christmas for Carol

5 Jan

Grandma Brower

My grandma had many names; most recently before she died, we called her Pea, as in sweet pea, which was the flower she would use as her signature in her paintings.  It originated from my cousin Dayna, who, as an infant, attempting the word “grandma,” simply resorted to “pea.”  Her full name was Veronica Anne Curran, and then Brower, after marrying my grandpa, James John Brower.  However, it seemed most people knew her as Carol, which was the nickname given to her soon after her birth, which happened to have been five days before Christmas.  So there you have it, a short history of Pea and Pa Brower.

Now, due to a nasty case of procrastination (caused somewhat from a typewriter and later remedied by a new laptop), dating from last spring until right now, I was not able to post this in time for my grandma’s birthday, which is December 20th, if she was still alive.  After spring and summer of 2011 came and went, I promised myself I would make October 18th the due date, which is my grandfather’s birthday (he just turned 80!), and I would send him the heavily revised version of this short piece of creative non-fiction as a birthday present.  Luckily, I didn’t tell him to expect it, because I couldn’t meet the date.  The due date became Thanksgiving, which also came and went.  Grandma’s birthday was approaching, but Pa had to go to the hospital because of blood pressure, which forced me to work on the piece a bit more seriously, and I gained significant progress.  He turned out to be fine, just a little bit of low blood pressure, so I went back to procrastinating.  Anyway, without further ado, and before I myself pass on…

Pea’s Legacy

by Liz Brower

For as long as I knew Grandma, she made her own clothes, and countless pieces and ensembles for others.  The basement was her sewing factory, the length of one wall stretching with shelves crammed full of bolts of fabric.  Hanging baskets rainbowed with thread and bobbin dropped from the ceiling, and the floor was stacked with boxes of buttons for us grandkids to run our hands through like treasure.  The pool table was perfect for holding a piece of sleeve or pant leg as Grandma stuck brown pattern paper and material together with straight pins.  Down there, I learned everything one needs to know about sewing from measuring and cutting, to threading the machine and hemming, to button holes and ironing.  Most of the time, though, was spent messing around doing kid-stuff with my sister and cousins, or lying indolently on the cool basement floor in hot summers, while Rush Limbaugh or the Talk of Akron made noise along with Grandma and her sewing machine.

From the time I was born, to the time Grandma and Grandpa moved away, she sewed for me.  When I was a baby, she made blankets from the softest yellow checked cotton fabrics with silky edges that I rubbed holes through.  Later, in spite of a distance of over two-thousand miles and crippling fibromyalgia, Grandma took my measurements and constructed a two-piece handkerchief hem dress in sea-foam green that I saw in a magazine.  Gold-streaked gossamer with tiny handmade straps overlay a fitted, strapless bodice.  Grandma placed her trademark “darts” in the front and a tiny sliver of a zipper in the back.  Cascading across the front were hundreds of rainbow sequins that she topped with clear seed beads.  I will always appreciate this fact not only because of the elegance and beauty of the design, but because I knew how difficult it must have been to use her hands for such precision.

When I was a girl, Grandma took great pleasure in constructing annual holiday dresses for me and my sister.  For Christmas, it was dresses with black velvet tops sewn to shiny gold or silver skirts puffing out around our stockinged legs, and a giant bow of matching reflectiveness attached square across the chest or planted on top of our heads with a barrette.  The Christmas dresses reflected the flashy opulence of the nineteen eighties—quite literally, when the flash mounted on the old Konica would go off, sending beams of light into the eyes of lookers-on.

Grandma began a Saint Patrick’s Day dress tradition that as far as I can tell, no one has ever recreated.  Each year, on March 17th, I attended grade school in a custom Irish costume.  I was a walking be-shamrocked creation from head to toe.  In the morning, there was with the business of getting into costume, starting with some white tights and a knee length drawstring skirt that kind of flared out at the bottom, covered in appliqued shamrocks outlined in puffy paint.  Grandma would also make a vest from cotton print fabric, on which she would also sometimes applique with the shamrocks and puff paint.  To top me off, she would tie a silky shamrock scarf on my head to complete the peasant look.  Dressing up “Irish” was always fun, but not all dresses were for amusement.

Easter dresses were always pink and floral, and back then it seemed to me that Sundays in spring were always warm.

My favorite dress was a little yellow eyelet jumper with broad, white trim.  Grandma loved pockets—hers were usually full of hard candies or cough drops and used tissues—so this dress had two big ones waist-high.  The second time I ever wore the dress, I went out back to find some more of the blackberries we had been eating the day before, and decided I had better load them up in the pockets so I’d have a way to get them back to the house and then maybe Grandma could make a pie, or maybe so I could eat them by the fistful, instead of one at a time.  Either way, by the time I had picked enough for the juice to stain my fingers purple, I had two, huge black splotches seeping through where the berries had turned to mush in the pockets.  I don’t remember her reaction exactly, but I thought she took the dress away to launder it and remove the stains with some sort of magical potion bottle of stain remover, but I never saw it again, much to my chagrin because I would have worn it with the black spots.  I hope she wasn’t mad.

One of the things Grandma used to do, which always makes my sister and I laugh now, was to make outfits from matching cotton printed tops and bottoms for summer time.  Sometimes, she would use the same material for my sister and me, and our older boy cousins.  You could spot us at Sea World, the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, or a Holiday Inn, milling around conspicuously in the same green and white jungle print short pants, like the von Trapp children in The Sound of Music.  Grandma had no trouble whipping up these matching outfits just in time for a vacation or day trip to some high-traffic public place.  Our favorite were the “shark shorts,” which had all of these dressed up cartoon sharks wearing sunglasses and other unexpected things.

Sewing a zipper is a pretty impressive feat, and Grandma was very accomplished at sewing in a zipper, which she did often when it came to making windbreakers.  Everyone in the family had windbreakers, and plenty more than one.  I think Grandma had one in every color for every occasion.  You could see all of us together in our windbreakers at the places Grandma loved to take us, like Squire’s Castle in the North Chagrin Reservation where we would have a picnic, the cottage on Lake Erie where we would catch sunfish and bluegill, by the side of the road picking berries, or at The Bomber’s Squadron by Cleveland Hopkins Airport, having lunch, watching the planes take off and land.

In a way, it was Grandma and her sewing that bound us together in those days.  The family was closer and spent more time together, and we looked forward to Grandma’s road trips, barbeques, Easter egg hunts, and glorious Christmases.  Everything seemed simpler and everyone seemed happier.  Of course, these memories were formed from my naïve, childhood perspective, but I still think there is some truth to these thoughts.

She said to me in the kitchen one day, while I compulsively opened the goody cupboard and mentioned a clothes shopping trip, like a typical spoiled eleven year old at Grandma’s house, that rich people are not rich because they buy expensive shirts.  I stopped and thought about it for a minute, and I realized that she didn’t mean you become rich by refraining from expensive shirts, but that there is a certain virtue to being frugal and self-sufficient.

At a time when everything is commercially mass-produced and branded, I have only the deepest respect and love for Grandma and her sewing, for her ideals and originality.  Grandma and her clothes were one of a kind, and she made them out of love, for all of us.

The Only Cookie You Need

29 Dec

Peppermint Bars

My sister specifically requested that I only make one type of cookie this year because this particular cookie, for her, is the sum of all holiday cookies.  Once she experienced refreshing and decadent peppermint bars, every other cookie dimmed by comparison.  We first discovered these gems at Montezuma Winery, during our years in central New York on Cayuga Lake.  My family arrived to pick up a few bottles of Cranberry Bog, which is the perfect wine for a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, and these attractive and festive cookie bars caught our eyes at the tasting counter.  They were as good tasting as they were good looking.  I managed to pry the recipe from a friend who was working there in the tasting room.  Over the years, and several moves later, I lost the recipe, but I found this one at allrecipes.com by Courtney Scheiderich, and they come out just as fantastically as I remember.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 5 drops red food coloring
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup finely crushed peppermint candy canes
  • 1  cup semisweet chocolate chips (I use closer to 2 cups, which is highly recommended)
  • 1/3 cup coarsely chopped peppermint candy canes
***Tip for crushing/chopping candy canes:  Put about 5 canes in a durable zip lock bag and tap the canes with a rolling pin until they are as fine or course as you would like for the 2/3 cup.  Put 3-4 canes in the zip lock bag and tap with the rolling pin until they resemble coarsely chopped pieces for the topping.  Be sure to sprinkle on right after you spread the chocolate.

The

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. *Very important step in any successful cookie, so make sure butter is room temp.
  3. Beat in egg, peppermint extract and food coloring.
  4. Add flour and salt till well blended. Stir in 2/3 cup finely crushed candy.
  5. Spread evenly into greased pan. Bake for 25 minutes or until firm. *Check at 20 min. if you like a more gooey texture.
  6. After removing from oven, immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips. Cover with a cookie sheet for 1 minute or until melted. Spread chocolate evenly and sprinkle with 1/3 cup coarsely chopped candy. Cool completely before cutting.  *Because these are very rich and candy-like, you can cut them as small as 1 inch squares.

It’s not too late to surprise your friends and family with peppermint bars for the New Year.  The recipe is really quite simple, and with any luck, you’ll be able to get away with making only one kind of cookie for next year’s holidays!

Liz Brower

Improvisation: The Art of Letting Go

20 Dec

When life gives you Trolli® SOUR BRITE TM CANES, instead of The Original Bob’s ® Candy Canes (in   natural peppermint), don’t get sour—resort to sweet improvisation.

I went to the store to buy Great Lakes Christmas Ale, as advertised, but I didn’t see any.  That was because they didn’t have any.  The truck is coming tomorrow, though.  But, I’m not going to the store tomorrow.  It’s no problem, really.  I’ll get it another day.  I sound like my mother right now.

On the same trip into town, I needed to pick up regular old peppermint candy canes.  Two stores were all out, so I gave up.  I still needed to get Rosie, the tarantula I just bought for my son (me) for Christmas, home, before she froze to death.

The plan, as it was all perfectly imagined in my head, was to create a mock cup-of-hot-chocolate cupcake.  For my son’s school holiday party, I would dazzle 23 third-graders for a nanosecond with chocolate cupcakes topped with swirly white frosting, mini marshmallows, and chocolate syrup, with a candy cane crook for a handle, resembling the familiar frothy hot beverage.

The plan failed.  I bought the wrong flavored cake mix, and then I couldn’t find the right candy canes.  In a state of desperation, I let a kind and patient store employee talk me into buying these really hideously packaged candy canes with bi-chromatic worms wearing Santa hats all over the box.  See for yourself. 

She must have thought I had Aspergers, so after a little deep breathing, I started to see her point about there being 50 in a box, and kids don’t even like peppermint, and they won’t notice what the cupcakes look like.  Eventually, the obsessive grip I had on the plan began to loosen.  New possibilities opened to me, like rainbow sprinkles falling on teacups.  Although nothing measured up to my expectations, I accepted this reality gracefully, after only two tantrums, and re-routed my creative energies to discover a solution both unexpected and surprisingly pleasant.

Modernization: A Double-edged Sword

17 Dec

I put my five-dollar Royal portable typewriter back in the case on the floor of the closet.  My 1980s Konica FS-1 sits decoratively on a stack of art books, turning gray with dust, eight exposures left on a roll of Ilford Delta 400 black and white film.  I gave away my 2002 Dell Inspiron 8100–it still runs, slowly.  The cd player lies quietly next to some plumbing under the kitchen sink.

In two days, I upgraded it all to a Dell XPS with an i7 processor, a Nikon D3100, and the Sansa Clip.  I’ve always had a proclivity for collecting old things, eschewing wires and gadgets, which have always felt a bit like tether straps to a more complicated, congested way of life.

These are essentially luxury items, and, in the grander scheme of the universe, pieces of garbage, but also technological tools people need to survive.  When I didn’t have them, I didn’t feel like I needed them, yet I felt like I might be judged for being voluntarily ignorant and backward.  Now that I have them, some of my consumerism-induced fears are placated, but my overall anxiety seems to have increased and I still am not sure that I really fit into this new media world order.

The experience of walking into an electronics store and discovering that I didn’t even know what any of the things were that were for sale was harrowing.

This is my private embarrassment, of both having, and not having.

Hello World!

16 Dec

So, I made some promises.  They appear now on my Feb. 4th post.  Everything you ever wanted to know about Lizzie’s Café!

Salut!