HAPPY CINCO DE MAYO!

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May 5, 2021 · 4:04 am

Healthy Cooking: Greens for Spring, Val Wilson

spring greens, healthy cooking, stir fry recipe for spring, U.P. holistic, U.P. wellness publication

Once the long winter months are over, we start to see the first signs of spring appear in nature. Everything starts coming up green! Not surprisingly, the signature color of spring is green and we can reflect that in our cooking to feed our bodies healthy vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Most greens have a few things in common: Chlorophyll, which helps heal skin and helps cleanse toxins out of the body; glucosinolate, which is a sulfur-rich compound proven to reduce cancer risk by preventing or delaying cancer cells at various stages of development; Vitamins, A, C, B6, and E; Vitamin K, which is very important for bone health; and the minerals iron, calcium, magnesium, and manganese.  

Each green has it own taste, and you can combine a variety of greens to create a delicious dish. Collard and kale taste similar to cabbage. Carrot greens have a sweetness similar to the root part of the carrot. Daikon greens are more bitter to the taste. For the following recipe, you can use your favorite greens. Dandelion has a nice bitter taste. Bok choy is a light cabbage with a sweet taste. Nappa cabbage is wonderfully sweet. Arugula and watercress are both bitter and pungent.

Mixed Greens Stir Fry 

1/2 onion (thin half moons) 
1 carrot (cut in matchsticks) 
3 large collard greens (cut up) 
1 cup chopped carrot greens 
1 cup chopped daikon greens 
1 T. olive oil 
1 T.  tamari 
1 T. lemon juice  
2 T. toasted sunflower seed for garnish

Sauté the onions in a little olive oil and a dash of tamari until translucent. Add the carrots and greens. Add the olive oil, tamari, and lemon juice. Cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the greens have wilted, and the carrot is soft. Serve with toasted sunflower seeds sprinkled over the top. 

Chef Valerie Wilson has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. You can attend virtually. Visit http://www.macroval.com for schedule, cookbook purchases, phone consultations, or radio show, and follow her on. Facebook at Macro Val Food.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Spotlight On…. Steward & Sheridan, PLC with James Steward

elder law, U.P. wellness publication Steward& Sheridan PLC
James Steward, Steward& Sheridan, PLC

What does Steward & Sheridan, PLC offer, and what is your role?

Our practice area relates to estate planning as a major starting point in many cases, and, whether or not we’ve done that for the particular client, we also handle Medicaid application work related to long-term nursing home stays. So maybe that client or other person who contacts us ends up in a nursing home, and it looks like they’ll have to stay longer than their Social Security benefits provide for, and they should consider the possibility of Medicaid benefits, especially if married. Rules are very different for couples. Medicaid nursing home stay expenses are quite high, $11,000/month. Most over 60 need to consider possibly needing longer-stay nursing home care at some point. This can be taken into account with the estate planning process, and provide some protection for the person’s assets. It’s important to have these discussions early so decisions can be made, or at least evaluated, as there are quite a few different options that should be addressed.

We also offer probate and trust administration—dealing with the assets, paying the bills, and distributing to the beneficiaries, which sometimes can be simple, and other times not.

Clients meet with me or Angela Hentkowski. We’re the only actively practicing certified NELF (National Elder Law Foundation) attorneys located in MI’s Upper Peninsula. We’ve both been certified for quite a while. There’s a level of expertise and knowledge that goes into that rather than someone who just occasionally goes into these areas. Our knowledge base addresses elder law, and we keep up with it on a very regular basis, as things change quite often.

We have many clients with disabled beneficiaries—their children or grandchildren. In many cases, a disabled person will need to rely on government programs to provide services, particularly medical services, so in most cases it’s best to establish a special type of trust that will be there for their lifetime but can be used for the beneficiary. Advanced planning is needed to put this into place.

How did you get into this line of work?

The firm I was in forty years ago needed somebody to do the probate and trust work. I was interested even in law school, so I started doing that work way back then. That depth of experience is very helpful in today’s world.

In 2010, a substitute statute replaced Michigan’s 1978 probate law, making it more comprehensive, and it has been modified since. I worked on the 2010 MI trust code substantially, and a bunch of other statutes and statutory amendments. Over the years after that, I was directly involved in the probate planning section.

I was also directly involved with membership in committees related to the elder law and disability rights section of Michigan’s state bar. Angela and I have been very active because we feel it’s important to keep up on what’s happening and be part of the process so when changes are being discussed, we have input into those considerations.

Medicaid is largely driven by federal stature that the state is supposed to follow but in many cases does not, resulting in litigation. Recently, Angela and I were directly involved in litigation on Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Services applying a federal statute in a way we felt was wrong. This went through the Court of Appeals. Some situations become way more involved than you want them to be. It’s necessary to have knowledge of statutes that apply and their wording, especially in Michigan, because sometimes Michigan feels it does not have to follow federal requirements.

What stands out about your firm?

We have a depth of knowledge and explain stuff. When we meet with a client the first time, we review their total assets because that’s driving elements. They must be taken into account regarding options we’re recommending or pointing out, as well as the family situation, including whether or not there’s a disabled child or grandchild, and whether or not the client is a veteran of the U.S. military. That can open up additional benefits the client may be eligible for in the future. As people get older, those disabilities can change, so that’s something to consider.

We always start with the client’s concerns, their family situation, and what they’d like to accomplish regarding the distribution of their assets. We spend quite a bit of time discussing factors going into making it all work, I think more so than most attorneys, so clients get a better sense of the overall complexity, and why an estate plan is needed. So there’s an ongoing discussion. It’s important for clients to revisit their estate plan every several years so it still fits their situation. People live longer now than their parents and grandparents did. The chances of disability are much greater than when they didn’t live as long. The chance of outliving one or more of their children is greater. Quite often people don’t think of this. That’s something we worry about all the time because we keep seeing it.

You don’t have to be wealthy to need estate planning.

In the U.P. in particular, your family may have a camp or other real estate that’s been in the family a very long time. Many will a property or camp to all of their children. That’s often asking for long-term problems. Everybody’s got to get along and do what they’re supposed to do. Forever. And if the kids ever have any credit issues, or divorce, now the property’s at risk.

I developed a special type of trust over many years specifically to deal with that. It’s something others don’t have. We go over its pros and cons with the client to see if it fits with their present and long–term goals.

We also helped with the correction of a Michigan Health & Human Services interpretation of federal Medicaid law in the Hegadorn case. This was a big deal that took many years to get done. It ended up being a unanimous decision by the Michigan Supreme Court, which is somewhat remarkable.

What do you find most challenging about your job?

One challenge is keeping up with all the changes. Another is dealing with the state of Michigan not following Federal rules for Medicaid. Also, sometimes a client believes they can find out this info on the internet and do their own plan. The thing is you don’t know what you don’t know. You can find some info online that may or may not be correct, and you don’t know how it all fits together. That’s our job—figuring out how it all fits together and making that work.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Helping people, and helping them prepare for the future. In some cases, helping them deal with a medical crisis, nursing home practice, and especially issues affecting the spouse, and otherwise trying to protect for the benefit of their ultimate beneficiaries.

Most people don’t want to make donations to the government that they don’t plan for. And if they don’t plan, the risk of this is much greater, just as with your income tax return. We’re always working with what the law provides and what’s permitted to minimize this.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Inner Nutrition: Art & Anti-Racism, Charli Mills

art and anti-racism, U.P. wellness publication

In my Hancock, Michigan home, I have a unicorn and rodeo room. Both testify to living an artist’s life. I’m a literary artist, catching stories, mastering craft, and playing with words. To me, it’s the serious business of imagination, the pursuit of unicorns across the wild West.

I painted the unicorn room shell pink, and encircled the walls with purple vinyl script—Read, Write, Dream, Breathe, Play. On the wall facing my meditation pillow, I hung a giant story board for structuring novels, and a massive collage I created to tell the visual story of my work in progress. Watercolor unicorns, a unicorn quilt a friend made, a blackboard with cut-out unicorn poetry, and a German masterpiece of a rainbow unicorn-horned tyrannosaurus rex chasing Jersey cows in a pastoral scene fill the walls.

Art is my expression. It’s part of my being, my chosen profession. Art gives me purpose.

While the unicorn room feeds my inner life, the rodeo room represents its outward illustration. Not only is it space to reclaim my cultural heritage in healthy ways, but it’s also a place to honor the lost voices of women from the frontiers and fringes of life. My professional genre is women’s fiction, and I breathe new life into women who were overlooked, forgotten, or remain invisible. The art I selected for this room can best be described as feminist cowgirls. No cowboys allowed. Except for my husband, who has his desk in this room. (It’s all about balance.)

So, what does art have to do with anti-racism?

Everything! Art manifests on the outside all that we feed on the inside. Sometimes artistic expression draws out the dark to let in the light, and other times it pulls in the light to chase out the dark. It’s a dance with shadows that can exhilarate the artist. No matter what it compels, the point is, art speaks to us and moves us. One piece of art can give voice to millions. Art is powerful.

When we suppress or segregate art in our homes, we mimic the paths of systemic racism. For generations, the women in my family decorated their homes with the art of the West – men on horseback, men in the mountains, men with guns on the frontier. Have you ever thought about why you choose the art you do? If it moves you, good. But ask why, and be willing to feel vulnerable in exploring your answer. Discomfort signals that we’re holding unseen bias that can be systemic and generational. When I declared my writing genre, it floored me that I had surrounded myself with masculine art. Discrimination can feel familiar and iconic.

We can take a step further in the visual clues we choose to decorate our walls, journals, and desks. In my ongoing journey as an anti-racist, I took a Seven Day Bias Cleanse developed for young people through MTV and research partners. While the event is no longer active, MTV has evolved it into a more in-depth discussion called Look Different. During the cleanse, one activity asked participants to print and display a photograph of a Black woman working in a science lab. The lesson explained how we believe unstated biases (such as, there are no Black female scientists) because we can’t imagine the opposite reality. Art can transform what we believe through what we see.

That’s when I realized how fun it could be to use art to visualize anti-racism. It put me on a mission to find a unique piece for my rodeo room – a Black cowgirl. I found one on Etsy. I saved up money over several months to afford the largest print from the artist. She’ll join a diverse group of women, including a brown-skinned cowgirl tattooed with words such as “I’m enough” and an older cowgirl declaring, “Don’t call me ma’am.” The art in the rodeo room becomes an artist’s statement for what I write. These visual pieces bridge my artistic expression and the affirmations I choose to activate as I work and create. The simple act of art can amplify both artists and the reality of anti-racism.

When the 2021 inauguration team announced twenty-two-year-old Black poet Amanda Gorman as inauguration poet, I felt in my bones that the desire for unity could become a reality in America. An artist was asked to empower the message of coming together across vitriolic divides. A nation asked art to initiate healing. The artist used words to move hearts. What we hear, what we see, we can achieve.

Consider the spaces around you.

Art does not need to be big, but you want to have visual cues to influence your work as an anti-racist. Ask local art galleries to support Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) artists, and buy their work even if all you can afford are note cards or bookmarks. Give art as gifts. Cut out images from magazines or digital printouts to decorate your daily journal, a vision board, or altar space.

As an anti-racist, unleash your creativity. Let art show you the way.

Charli Mills grew up out west where she once won a rodeo trophy for goat-tying. Now she wrangles words from the Keweenaw as a literary artist, writing about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history. She makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com.

Works Cited
MTV. Look Different. 2021. https://www.mtvact.com/features/Look-Different

Armenti, Peter. “Amanda Gorman Selected as President-Elect Joe Biden’s Inaugural Poet.” Library of Congress. 14 January 2021. https://blogs.loc.gov/catbird/2021/01/amanda-gorman-selected-as-president-elect-joe-bidens-inaugural-poet/

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Senior Viewpoint: Social Isolation Coping Tips from Marquette’s Senior Center, Akasha Khalsa

social isolation coping tips, senior viewpoint, Marquette Senior Center

For many older adults, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic has caused a great deal of stress and isolation as separation from their families and friends is still necessary for their safety. Grandmothers and grandfathers must stay removed from their grandchildren despite the ache, uncles and aunts are unable to stop by and visit, and this situation has been quite hard on everyone.

Maureen McFadden, a social worker at the Marquette Senior Center, said she has seen a great deal of clients who have developed anxiety during the pandemic, and that issues relating to isolation affect perhaps half of the approximately 1300+ people the senior center serves. Knowing the struggles faced by her clients, McFadden focuses on three crucial areas to help cope with any sadness or anxiety stemming from the isolation as we gradually move toward herd immunity through vaccinations.

Firstly, she recommends that older adults engage in at least fifteen to twenty minutes of physical activity each day so their bodies get moving to keep them physically and mentally healthy.

Some older adults may be hesitant to attempt exercise.

Perhaps they worry about slipping on ice if they exercise outside, or falling inside the home. If this is a concern, McFadden recommends exercises that can be done while sitting in a chair.

If interested, seniors can seek instructional guides for chair exercises at their local senior center or public library. Such organizations will often mail guide materials directly, or offer curbside pickup.

Along with exercise, McFadden focuses on a second area to promote wellbeing: socializing safely. If seniors plan visits with friends or family members during this time, McFadden recommends following CDC guidelines for a safe interaction. This includes social distancing, wearing a mask, and meeting outside when weather permits.

There are also alternative platforms for social interaction which older adults can access with a basic understanding of technology, or with the help of a family member or friend. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is currently offering a service called GetSetUp Michigan, which includes free virtual small group classes on topics such as how to schedule and host Zoom videoconference meetings, and how to get started with Gmail, as well as information on COVID-19 vaccines.

“We’ve noticed that a lot of people have been kind of branching out of their comfort zones during this pandemic, and they want to try to use this technology,” McFadden said. “So, the GetSetUp Michigan is a really wonderful free resource for older adults because it helps teach them those independence skills in regards to technology.”

These skills enable seniors to attend social gatherings online.

For example, the Marquette Senior Center currently hosts virtual tai chi classes through Zoom. Plenty of other centers offer similar services. Those interested can reach out to local public libraries and senior centers. If desired, older adults can also reach out to religious organizations to see what kinds of events or outreach programs they may have planned.

Last but not least, McFadden said seniors must focus on nutrition. Some may have varying issues acquiring meals due to a number of barriers. She recommends utilizing resources such as Community Action Alger-Marquette or Meals on Wheels to get access to proper nutrition.

“We have to make sure we’re feeding our bodies well during this time, especially if you’re suffering from a financial instability due to the pandemic,” McFadden said.

Keeping these three central concerns of exercise, safe socialization, and nutrition in mind will help seniors cope with the difficult and stressful situation in which we find ourselves. Luckily, many resources are available, and older adults are encouraged to take advantage of them to assure their own wellbeing.

Akasha Khalsa is a student at Northern Michigan University, where she studies English literature and French. She is currently employed as a desk editor for the North Wind Independent Student Newspaper.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Chef Val’s Virtual Cooking Class – Creamy Pasta Casserole with Mushroom Sauce

healthy cooking, vegan organic anti-inflammatory cooking, U.P. holistic, U.P. wellness publication
Chef Val

Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine’s Healthy Cooking columnist will be teaching through the Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI on Tues. March 30th, 7 to 8 PM – through Zoom 

Casseroles are great winter time comfort dishes. Chef Val will teach how to make a whole foods casserole featuring brown rice pasta. The recipe features a white sauce with two different types of mushrooms-maitake and white button. All the health benefits of the ingredients will be discussed as Chef Val teaches how to make the casserole. The recipe is vegan, whole foods, plant based, organic, anti-inflammatory and delicious!

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Green Living: Electrified Beauty Steve Waller

green living, environmental sustainability, U.P. holistic business, winter sports, U.P. winter recreation

U.P. snowmobile trails are legendary. Sleds contribute huge economic benefits. They get us outside in winter to enjoy the season’s unique beauty. But there is a new opportunity available, a way to reverse the most ridiculous mismatch for our frozen forests.

Snowmobiles zip along at 60+ MPH with 150 horsepower, gas engines, a price tag of $10,000-$20,000, not including the trailer or tow truck, to push a ±200 lb. human across our winter wonderland. It’s ridiculous because a single horse, fueled only by grass, grain, and water can haul a log weighing 1,500 pounds. Horse loggers have done this for centuries and still do. Using 150 horses just to move a snowmobiler is severe overkill.

But I get it. The thrill, the feeling of power, speed, being on the edge, sticking that turn without going airborne into a tree, the shiny colors, the windproof heated gear, the chance to enjoy friends, good food, and an occasional beer. Sleds bring the roar of a combustion engine to our snowy silence, emitting 88 grams of carbon monoxide per kilometer, and 22 times the amount of nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons emitted by a passenger car. But a new machine now cures the ills of those gas guzzlers.

Introducing— electric snowmobiles!

Acceleration? Zero to sixty in 3.5 seconds standard configuration (2.9 sec. performance configuration). 120 HP standard configuration (180 HP performance configuration); all under 600 lbs. Significantly more power than leading sled engines. Zero throttle lag. Unaffected by elevation, temperature, and riding style. Peak performance in all conditions. Range— 80 miles. DC fast re-charge to 80% in 20 minutes. AC 240V L2 charge in 2 hours. An advanced thermal management system ensures the battery will always be in its sweet spot—even when temperatures get as low as -40˚F. No starting problems ever. No pulleys, no oil, no maintenance, period. Save up to $2,500 in maintenance while spending less time in the garage, and more time riding.

Electric sleds are here. They outperform your existing fossil sled. For about the same price, you can end your recreational gas burning, and ride the hottest machine—cleaner, faster, more reliable, and absolutely quieter. Even those who live in the forest are more tolerant of sleds that don’t disturb our quiet winter. Electric snowmobiles have no emissions.

I know, you are going to freak out about charging. Everybody new to electric vehicles freaks out. “Range anxiety” is why you don’t already own an electric car. You worry about running out of energy. But thousands of electric car owners are beyond worry. They love their electric cars. Still, where do you charge your sled? What if you run out of charge?

The typical fossil sled has average fuel consumption of around 10-20 mpg so tank size matters. But how often do you ride 200 miles without stopping? If you can add 80% of charge to your sled in 20 minutes, you can get 60 more miles of charge in less time than you can drink a beer. Electric outlets are more abundant than gas stations. Your electric sled will be the center of attention. At $0.15kWh, a 27kWh sled battery costs $4 for a full charge from empty.

Electric sleds are another piece of our new way of life.

CO2 must go. Everything needs to be electrified—cars, sleds, ATVs, furnaces, trucks, stores, industries, mines, everything. Recreational gas burning must end. Electricity can and will fill the gap better, more cleanly, and more powerfully. The transition is happening now. The U.P. has finally started installing solar farms, bringing clean, stable, cost-effective energy to all of us. Feel the power. Ride electricity.

Sources:
https://taigamotors.ca/snowmobiles/
https://www.uky.edu/OtherOrgs/AppalFor/draftl.html#:~:text=A%20team%20of%20horses%20can%20pull%20a%20load%20of%20about,DBH%20and%2032%20feet%20long
https://elischolar.library.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1012&context=yale_fes_bulletin
https://mountainculturegroup.com/montreal-company-unveils-worlds-first-electric-snowmobile/

Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.

Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!

U.P. wellness publication, St. Patrick's Day

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March 17, 2021 · 4:02 am

Positive Parenting: Mindfulness for Parents during COVID-19, Angela Johnson

mindful parenting, holistic wellness, U.P. holistic wellness publication

With COVID-19 here and affecting nearly every aspect of our lives, it is not surprising that many families are reporting heightened levels of stress. The pandemic is placing additional pressure on parents in many different way—from working from home, job insecurity, or complete job loss, to homeschooling, heightened behavior issues, and a lack of social connection. Although no two families are experiencing these challenging times in exactly the same way, we are all in some sense struggling through this together.

However, the struggle need not be for naught because as Einstein once said, “In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” Mindfulness is one of these great opportunities, as it is a powerful tool scientifically proven to reduce stress—the very thing we need! By turning our attention inward, we can still the waves of restlessness and worry in our active lives. Mindfulness teaches us how to do this.

As a parenting educator and meditation teacher, I feel especially called to share mindfulness with families now more than ever. I focus on both formal (meditation) and informal (everyday activities) mindfulness practices to help people learn to be more peaceful and fully present to their lives. I will share a few of these practices with you here.

Parents, this is a little reminder that you have to take care of yourself first and foremost. Peace begins within. Then it spreads.

Let’s begin with a couple of definitions . . .

“Mindfulness is paying attention to your life, here and now, with kindness and curiosity.” —Dr. Amy Saltzman

“[Mindfulness is] the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” —Jon Kabat-Zinn

Here are some exercises for you to begin your practice today:

Sitting Meditation

Meditation is both a state of deep present-moment awareness, and a practice intended to bring about that state (Ananda Sangha Worldwide). There are many different meditation approaches and techniques ,but ultimately, the universal intent of all is to learn to experience life more from your center, and less from external input. The benefits from this practice are overwhelming, from stress reduction to lower blood pressure and better sleep. I recommend using a guided app or taking a class to get started. Make sure you practice in a quiet space. Sit up with a straight spine, as relaxed awareness rather than sleep is the goal. Close your eyes, gently lift your eyeballs and focus, and breathe. For the best results, a daily practice is recommended, even if for only a few minutes each day.

Mindful Breathing

The mind and breath are interconnected so that when the breath slows, the mind automatically follows. Therefore, taking the time to bring awareness to your breath can have an immediate calming effect. Try it and see for yourself.

You might also place a reminder somewhere in your home or at work that says “breathe,” or get in the habit of taking a few deep, intentional breaths at the start of your day, or when you get in the car, or before responding to your child’s behavior . . . the options are endless. Our breath is always with us, so it is just a matter of intending to notice it, follow it, and then feel the relaxation that results.

Walking Meditation


Walking meditation is an ideal practice for bridging the gap between outward activity and inward peace. It is best to walk outside in fresh air. Any amount of time is good. As you walk, focus on the natural flow of your breathing. Smile. Listen. Look. Feel your feet as they touch the earth. Walk tall, and with strength. Notice and enjoy the fresh air on your face and the natural beauty of the day that surrounds you. Be present with your body, mind, and soul on this walk, in this moment.

Mindful Nature Play

This one is especially enjoyable to practice as a family. Go outside in nature and play. Follow your child’s lead (inner child or actual child). Get down on his or her level. Be present to him or her, to this moment, and to the natural beauty surrounding you. Be free and have fun. Climb a tree. Build a fort. Roll down a hill. Follow a bug. Feel your connection to all that is and you will find peace.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating will not only bring you pleasantly into the present moment, but will also enhance your gratitude and enjoyment of food. Begin by taking one minute at mealtime to take slow bites and savor. Notice the smell, the texture, the taste. Think of where your food came from. Feel your connection to the earth in each bite. Be silent and grateful for this moment

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

Angela Johnson, Great Start Collaborative (GSC) Director for Marquette and Alger Counties, works at Marquette-Alger Regional Educational Service Agency (MARESA). The Great Start Collaborative (https://www.maresa.org/early-on/marquette-alger-great-start-collaborative/) works in communities throughout the state to ensure Michigan is making progress toward four priority early childhood outcomes.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Spotlight On…. The Brownstone Inn with Co-Owner Deb Molitor

the brownstone inn

Tell us about the Brownstone Inn.
The Brownstone Inn is a family business serving comfort-style food in a really beautiful area—Au Train, Michigan, at a nearly-historic site. Twenty-nine years ago, we resurrected a sweet old business that hadn’t had much care, and ever since we’ve worked to keep it consistent historically and add modernizations where it doesn’t show.

It had been a restaurant with an inn that had rooms upstairs and cabins that were rented until the mid-60s. The upstairs became a large apartment for subsequent owners. We got to raise our two kids here. They got to grow up in this village called a restaurant, which is an unusual way to grow up. Community came to us in a lot of ways.

I grew up on a family farm. It was really similar in a lot of ways—everyone worked together. There was a lot of care for everyone who worked for us, and a lot of their children worked for us over the years.

Some of our staff members here have been with us since we opened. Without the really talented, experienced staff we have, as well as a community that’s super-supportive, we wouldn’t be able to do this right now. People that would not go out because of health concerns order takeout and tip our staff. Those outside the area don’t see it, but there’s community here, and it’s super-important to us.

Our menu is based a lot on the kind of food both of us grew up with, having really talented moms in the kitchen.

Our chef, my husband Jeff, has his own sense of it, creating layers of flavors and textures. He’s an artist who has to have every color in the crayon box. And he uses them all. He wants a nicely composed food plate, and gets excited about anything fresh. At times, we’ve had Hawaiian fish flown in, which is amazing, but the core of our menu uses local products as much as we can. Sourcing is not easy, but we’ve made that a point over the years.

Having a place with a bar in the dining room, we had to decide early on which way to go. My husband was all about the food. Plus there’s a highway out there. It didn’t feel responsible to focus on a bar in this location. That shaped the clientele and the people who work for us.

We were able to expand into the upstairs and create private dining space for weddings, funerals, memorials, anniversaries, birthdays…. You get to know people in another way when you’re part of their celebrations. Some have come every year for their anniversary for twenty-nine years.

What prompted you to get into this business?
It was a big compromise. I was working at a non-profit mental health organization with emotionally disturbed adolescents in California. Coming from a farm background, I was not super-comfortable raising my kids in Santa Barbara. Jeff had finished culinary school and my parents told us the Brownstone was on the market. It was always my favorite part of the U.P. I had spent a lot of time in the U.P. visiting with friends in the 70s. I always felt like I had to get to Au Train Bay. Then I felt like I was in the U.P. For me, it was the doorway, and it never occurred to me I’d be back here.

The U.P. has become home, and I want to make sure my grandkids who are not up here have access to that.

What do customers enjoy most about the Brownstone?
They like the way the building feels. They come in and go Ahhh! It’s old and you can see the dents, and that there’s been a lot of living to it. It’s something the building exudes. It’s warm and accepting, and customers like the food. We’re known for our whitefish and steak, and the burgers are really popular.

We always do our best to be responsive to those with limitations—vegetarians, and those with food allergies.

A lot of our customers have relationships with our servers—baby blankets are made and Christmas cards exchanged. People will come in and ask about someone who waited on them before and through the years. They’ll find out a younger server they had has graduated from college. People notice and care.

Our local customer base is from Newberry to Michigamme, Gladstone. People on their way to Marquette make a point of stopping; they plan the trip so they can have lunch here. For young people going to college here, we become a stop a couple times a year. Typically, we have lots of residents, but this year, it’s been heavily tourists because it feels safe in U.P., and they feel safer here because of the care we’re taking. Our staff was insistent on coming back safely masked. We sanitize all customer contact surfaces. We are distanced. We control the number of people coming in the door, and have balanced it by taking reservations when requested. And we’ve done a lot of takeout.

We close for November to have family time and clean up the space. Our hours for the rest of winter have not been determined yet. They’ll be on our website.

What do you enjoy most about running it?
The relationships and the community and feeling appreciated and successful overall in keeping people comfortable and happy and fed. That’s a primary motivation – feeding people.

What do you find most challenging?
Keeping up with all the tasks that are part of the business. If it were just food and people, staff and customers, that would be easy. Getting enough help is a chronic issue. That’s another reason why I’m so grateful for the staff we have.

Future plans for the Brownstone?
We’re continuing the takeout and working on creating a deli menu featuring smoked items. We’re considering possibly offering lodging. It’s all under discussion. Stay tuned.

Anything else you’d like our readers to know about?

Our intense gratitude to the community that supports us. We’re in an intensely beautiful location but not a downtown one. Without the community responding the way it has, it would not work. This really was a dream.

Excerpted with permission from the Winter 2020-2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.

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