Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Short Story-Turkey Surprise

Published in The Post-Journal, What's Happening Western New York


                                  
Menu:  Roasted Wild Turkey, Mashed Potatoes & Homemade Gravy, Cornbread & Wild Rice Stuffing, Corn on the Cob.

Ummm...Sounds so good doesn't it? Well, let's "talk turkey".

One year I had the privilege to be involved in a very unique experience.  It was a first for all of us. The first wild turkey my boyfriend, Kevin had shot, a new stuffing recipe, the first crop of corn of the year in the stores. I should have expected...something.

I received the call at work. "Go get Josh," Kevin said excitedly, "I shot a turkey.  He can help me clean it."   I should have known I was in trouble when we first got there.  There lay the poor little gobbler-headless.  While my son and Kevin admired the poor creature and discussed the excellent hunting techniques involved in the kill, I wandered a little ways off.   I'm not a hunter, and even though I have been around hunters most of my life, I still don't feel very comfortable actually "meeting" my next meal.

While I was browsing through the trees, I spotted something blue lying in the leaves a few feet away.  "Oh good," I thought, "Bluejay feathers."  I walked over, bent down to pick up...the turkey's head.  "EEEyoo", I cried.  Then I looked around to make sure no one had noticed.  I non-chalantly walked back over to the guys and pretended to admire the turkey.

Okay, now came the part where we had to figure out how to clean it.  Well, obviously first we had to get the feathers off.  What  followed next was a 10 minute discussion on how to do just that.  Josh, Kevin and I all had different ideas, so we did the adult thing...called my grandma.  Grandma told us to dunk the turkey in boiling water and the feathers would come right out.  She was right, they did, all over my clothes, the table, Josh, Kevin, the cats...  Then the wind decided to kick up and help us out by blowing the rest of the feathers all over the place. Hopefully the neighbors didn't notice the feathers in their trees.

We got that step done and Kevin had the honor of removing all the lovely things inside a turkey.  No, they aren't in a neat little white bag like the ones in the store.  He was "game" about it and with alot of  "This is disgusting" from Josh, and a few "Don't you ever shoot another turkey!" from me, we cleaned it up, rinsed it off and I took it home to put into my freezer until Sunday.  We planned a real nice dinner with Kevin and I, his son Chalan and my son Josh.

Picture this...a log cabin in the woods on a sunny afternoon. The turkey is cooking.... it smells so-o-o good.  The corn is bubbling away on the stove, the potatoes are mashed and waiting for the gravy. Absolute perfection, right? It should have been....

We finished up the details of the meal and while Kevin carved the turkey, I made the gravy (only a little lumpy) and we sat down to dinner. We all helped ourselves to the food and dug in to eat.

Remember, this was our first taste of wild turkey. It was good, similar to tame turkey, but a little "wilder" tasting. I buttered my corn and took a big bite. I love corn, and we all know how wonderful that first ear of corn tastes.  I looked over at Kevin with a smile in my eyes, the corncob in my mouth and he said with a grin..."You have a worm on your corn."  I suppose Chalan really didn't mind the corn I spit at him. I'm just thankful that it was a whole worm.

Being the good sport I am, I just threw that cob away and bravely took another one.  I checked this one really really well.  With the worm memory still kind of fresh, I took a bite of the mashed potatoes.  Musty.  I had just bought them the day before!  What was this, a jinxed meal??  Well, with all that to contend with, we finished up eating, complimented the cook (which wasn't me) and that should be the end of the story.    Wrong.

Kevin was slicing off some more breast meat to send home with Chalan, when he called me over. "Do you know what this is?" he asked.  It was some dark jelly looking stuff near the breast.  "I have no idea", I said, "just don't cut into it." We didn't know, maybe it was supposed to be there.

The next day I received a phone call at my office from the turkey hunter himself, laughing hysterically.  At first he wouldn't tell me what was so funny. "You know that jelly-looking stuff we found in the turkey?" he asked.  "Yes...." I said hesitantly, with this funny feeling in my stomach.  I should have known I was in trouble by this time, but being the optimist I am, I let him go on.  "It was full of... " more hysterical laughter, "parts of grasshoppers, little red berries and grass." "Oh..." I said, "Grasshoppers???  Parts???"  Flashbacks of the worm danced through my head.

By this point I was laughing.  None of us had thought to remove the gizzard when we cleaned the turkey.  How were we to know???  I suppose my grandma thought one of us dummies would have had sense enough to take it out.

Menu: Roasted Wild Turkey garnished with Grasshoppers and Berries, Cornbread  & Wild Rice Stuffing, Musty Mashed Potatoes with Home-made Lumpy Gravy, Corn on the Cob with Freshly Boiled Worms.

Well, at least the poor turkey had his last meal ...and the last laugh.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Forgetting

As if I didn't have enough going on, my little brain is worrying that I'll "forget" things.  Not the everyday stuff, the things that went on in my life with Kevin.  I know how stupid that is, and I'm almost positive that is this something everyone goes through after a loss.  It doesn't take away that fear though.

I don't want to forget his stories-some were so funny and some were very sad.  I don't want to lose that mental picture of the first time he played guitar for me.  We were here and he just casually walked out with a guitar in his hand and played "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" by Bob Dylan.  I hadn't even known that he could play or sing.

There were so many facets to Kevin that so many people never knew.  He didn't share himself easily with people.  He was smart, far smarter than anyone could imagine.  He had the best laugh, straight from the belly.  He was funny, when he actually laughed like that, he would cover his mouth and get this surprised look, like "Is that me?"

He often talked to me about obscure things, things he questioned.  Like love.  He said that he didn't understand what people meant when they said they "loved" someone.  He said that using the word just didn't make it real to him.  He asked the age old question-"What is love?"  I think, because of his illness and mine, that he did finally understand what love truly is.

He absolutely could not stand it when people said "I love you" as a good-by.  It drove him nuts.  That and using the word awesome to describe something miniscule.  He always liked Garth Brook's interpretation of what awesome was and yes, I think he would describe Shania Twain as awesome-especially if she had a note from me :)

Or the time he was in the outhouse (pre-plumbing days) and there was a bird that has a call that sounds like "birdie, birdie, birdie" and he finally yelled out "I know you're a goddamn birdie, shut up!"

The time he rescued a little blue bird from the cat, tossed it in the outhouse to keep it safe from Eb and the little bird promptly flew down the hole.  Guess what, he tilted the outhouse back and got that little blue bird out of the...well, you know.

See, I don't want to lose the little things. 

Then there are all those things I didn't do.  Things I didn't say or in my mind, say often enough.  Things I could have done differently or better.  

Grumpy old Swedish fart-face that he was.  I miss him and wonder sometimes, how I can get through without him.

I wander, looking, searching, wanting that connection again.  Wanting him to just come home to me.




Kevin

video

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Short Story-Facade


          The almost hairless face in the mirror was disconcerting.  Okay, not completely hairless; there were a few hardy stragglers along the eyebrow line.  Tweezers came out and they disappeared.  The black, battered makeup case was open on the counter, harsh fluorescent light on.  All set. Let’s do this. 
No one know, no one suspects.
            Avon mineral foundation was applied with care, and the chore of drawing in believable eyebrows began. Gripping the brown brow stick tightly, feathery strokes were applied.  Bobby took time out to gnaw on a fingernail while gazing in the mirror.  Brown-black eyelashes were glued on next  and the face in the mirror batted the long lashes like a coy little girl. Blush, lipstick, the face is complete. 
“Looks good, looks okay,” Bobby thought.
The wig reflected in the mirror was of fairly good quality.  It was a golden brown with subtle red highlights and sparkled a bit in the light.  It was synthetic, not real hair though.  The synthetic wigs always looked good after a shake, not like the real hair wigs that needed to be washed, curled and sprayed like real women’s hair.  Putting the wig on, Bobby gently adjusted the new bangs on it. The bangs semi hid the eyebrows and made the green eyes stand out. A smile at the face in the mirror-now complete.
Walking into the loft bedroom, Bobby paused a moment to listen to the birds outside the window and sighed at the next task-putting on the artificial breasts.  Getting them on straight always took so much time.  Unzipping the spring green cases, each breast was inspected for tears and cleanliness.  These kind were nice.  You could wear them with regular bras and didn’t have to wear those bras with the sewn in pockets.  The manufacturers tried real hard to make them attractive but they still resembled brassieres from the 50’s in many ways.  It was probably the extra wide straps. Lacy or not, two inch wide straps showing were very telling and people would know right away.
“I certainly don’t want anyone to find out about this.” Bobby contemplated.
“Crap! Damn!”  Fifteen minutes and three tries later, Bobby finally got them positioned evenly-sort of.  Ah well, the new pink chemise would correct any unevenness.  It was a color called “Shag Pink” and had thin spaghetti straps and a fitted, lacey bodice.  Bobby pulled the chemise on carefully and shimmied it down over the breasts slowly so as not to dislodge them.  Another glance in the mirror and a small twitch straightened the wig.  Bobby’s shaky hands smoothed the chemise over bony, thin hips.
The dress laid out was a deep sea green color and had an almost medieval style to it.  The sleeves were long and flared at the end and the cut was somewhat form fitting.  Well, should have been form fitting.  The big oval mirror in the corner of the loft told the story. “They say you can never be too thin or too rich,” Bobby said to the mirror.  “Well, I still have the too rich part to hope for.”    Dr. Levine  was not going to be happy about this at all.   “Listen, Bobby” he had earnestly said, “you have to eat more protein; this is tough on your body.  I know you’re strong but you aren’t that strong.”
Bobby picked through the jewelry box on the old dresser to find the turquoise nugget necklace and slipped it on.  Turquoise was the healing gem and it simply made Bobby feel better to wear it.
Bobby knew it was vitally important to keep up the image people needed to see.  The façade was working well too.  Bobby smiled at the memory of the wink from the guy at the Kwik Fill yesterday.  Maybe all this time and effort to “keep up appearances” was really worth it.  It’s nice to be desired even if you couldn’t follow through with it. 
“I wonder how that guy’d feel if he knew the real me?” Bobby mused. “Probably break his neck backing away.” 
            Bobby stood in front of the mirror and took inventory from head to toe.  Bright pink polish peeped out of the open toed high heels. “Not bad at all,” Bobby said to the mirror, “considering what I have to work with.”
            Clip-clopping down the loft stairs, Bobby rubbed noses with the cat on the way out the door.  Ebenezer sneezed in indignation and stalked off into the kitchen to see what the dogs had left in their bowls.  Not that he’d deign to eat dog food, he just seemed to like sitting in front of their bowls to freak them out.  Bobby imagined the scene being played out behind the closed door.  Two Golden Retrievers laying side by side staring at the black cat staring at them, not daring to go any closer.  Eb would keep this up until he got bored and moved on to other cat duties, like sleeping in the hamper or laying in the sun that streamed through the skylight at mid day.
Bobby carefully climbed into the battered black pickup truck, perusing the seat for stray dog hairs and backed out the driveway.
The doctor’s office wasn’t busy that morning so Bobby got right in.  Gazing up at the water stained ceiling, Bobby wondered why all these places looked so much alike.  Pale green walls, tiny windows and claustrophobic.  Shifting nervously on the paper covered bench, Bobby waited for Dr. Levine to come in. 
Bobby liked Dr. Levine because he was different from the rest of the doctors.  He understood the need to try to appear as normal as possible during the entire process.  Levine didn’t make Bobby feel freakish or strange like so many others did.
No one did it on purpose, that was the sad part.  How could Sandra know that all that cleavage she showed made Bobby feel so jealous? Alicia couldn’t know how her pretty real hair and eyelashes made Bobby cringe and cry inside. Rose couldn’t understand that the normalcy of her life was like a dagger in the heart. They couldn’t know, and no one knew how angry at life Bobby felt at times. The anger was always a surprise because it was so irrational.  Dr. Levine said it was the hormones making Bobby act so crazy and say and do stupid, hurtful things to people, but Bobby knew that the hormone therapy wasn’t the real reason.
No one knew what it felt like to have everything change, literally over night. Seeing other people so happy and well, normal was so very difficult when you feel like your life has been taken away. It wasn’t something one could prepare for mentally either. This had brought out the nasty side we all have but can most of the time hide. Bobby’s head dropped in shame remembering how horribly people had been treated through this. Would it ever be the same again?
The door opened.
Dr. Levine came quickly in the door, long gray pony tail bouncing on his back.  He smiled a bright smile and said “All of it went very well, Bobby. It all came together this time. We’re done!” 
He walked over to the bench and bent down to say teasingly, “Miss Roberta, we can schedule your breast reconstruction in about 6 weeks! The eight rounds of chemotherapy, the radiation and the surgery did it! The cancer is gone! You can have, as you call it, your real life back.”
Yes, but is there anything left?, she wondered.

Short Story-Forget Me Not (light hearted)

Forget-Me-Nots are my grandmother’s favorite flower. She planted a wonderful bright garden of the blue blossoms in a quiet secluded area not far from her lakeside cottage. The flowers naturalized and spread over the knoll and into the wooded area not far away. As soon as I was old enough to venture out alone, I began the regular custom of gathering the blooms for her every spring and through the early summer months. It was not a chore I minded. Each spring I waited in anticipation of seeing those cheerful little blossoms for the first time and the smile on my grandmother’s face as she arranged them in old brass teapots, canning jars and small glass vases all over her house.
            I had waited impatiently for the rain to cease that day, and at the first sign of clearing, I grabbed the basket and lightly tripped up the muddy path to the wild little garden. I tried to dodge the puddles but sometimes I just couldn’t resist jumping into the middle of one.    Quite a few people just might question the fact that I am 53 and still splashing in puddles, but I doubted my grandmother would.  Hadn’t I seen a tell tale pair of wet sneakers on the back porch just last week? No, Grandma wouldn’t mind the wet feet at all. She and I had often come back together soaking wet and laughing. I hadn’t heard her laughter for awhile.
            “Your aunt Faye says I’m getting wacky,” she told me with a sigh as we had a cup of coffee together later that morning.  “I suppose she’ll be wanting to put me in of those old fart homes soon.” I could see the worry in her blue eyes at the thought. 
“You aren’t wacky, Gran, you’re 94.” I reassured her. “At 94 you can do just about anything and get away with it.  Tell her you’re just getting eccentric in your old age.”
She snorted and said, “What do you know about it anyway?”
“What I know is that I talk to frogs so I’m certainly not going to call you wacky.” I countered. “No one else is going to make you feel that way either if I can help it.”
“You still going to those wicker meetings “ she asked. “at that convent over in Sherman?” I choked back a laugh and delicately wiped the coffee off that had squirted out of my nose.
“It’s Wiccan, Grandma and it’s a coven not a convent. And, no I haven’t been there for awhile.”
“Well, good” she said. “Those nuns can be nasty creatures. Always got their panties in a knot about something.” Gran leaned in close to me and whispered, “Watch out for those priests too. That celebracy thing they do just isn’t natural.  Men need sex, it’s that simple. Just ask your grandfather.”
Oh dear. My 94 year old grandmother was talking about sex. My 94 year old grandmother was talking about sex with my grandfather who had been dead for two years.
I worded my next question carefully, not really knowing what the answer might be or if I really wanted an answer. “Have you had sex lately, Gran?”
 She turned her gray head towards me in amazement. “What’s wrong with you? Of course I haven’t! Your grandfather’s been gone for two years!” she replied indignantly. “What kind of woman do you think I am?” She stood up and walked over to the sink with her cup and saucer.  Staring out the window, I saw her shoulders droop a bit. “I do miss him so, Beth.”  I glanced over at the picture she carried from room to room.  It was a close up of my grandfather on his 95th birthday, a couple of years ago. I knew she missed him; we all did.
Staring out the window, she touched the small vase of flowers on the sill, stroking the little blue faces, deep in thought. I waited and watched, wondering what to expect next. Was she truly losing it? Suddenly she turned and resolutely said, “I need a man and you’re going to find me one.”
My 94 year old grandmother wanted a boyfriend.
I panicked, I’ll admit it. I would do anything to make my grandmother happy but a boyfriend? “Uh, uh…Gran…ummm,” I stammered.
 “What?” she cried, hands on her hips. “You think I can’t still keep a man happy?” She leaned over me, nose to nose. “I could teach you a few things there little girl.” Wide eyed, I gulped and sat back in the chair.
“Yes, ma’am.” was all I could manage.
Then I realized what she had said. My 94 year old grandmother had still had a sex life at 92!  I didn’t even have a sex life at 53!
A light I hadn’t seen in a long time came back into her eyes and she seemed to sparkle. 
“We can do that thing-a-ma-gig I saw on TV.  Eat Hominy, or something like that,” she stated excitedly. “You can bring that suitcase computer you have over so we can be profilers. We could put an ad in the paper, too.”  I closed my eyes, rubbing my now throbbing temple.  My grandmother had had sex more recently than I had.
“It’s EHarmony, a laptop computer and a profile. We absolutely can not put an ad in the paper for a man!” I told her wearily.
 I wasn’t sure what to do at this point. Humor her, calm her down, I told myself.  “Why don’t I take you over to the Senior Citizen center next week? You haven’t been there in a long time.” 
“Oh, piddle,” she said. “Those old crones are boring and the men walk around with their diapers hanging out of their pants half the time.” She looked me straight in the eye. “No men with diapers, you understand? No droolers either. Nothing worse than kissing a man who drools.”
Oh no. Now kissing!
Great. I had to figure out a delicate way of asking an old man if he peed his pants. I had to make sure he didn’t drizzle, too.  I shaded my eyes and sighed.  Why hadn’t I stayed home this morning?
“It isn’t just for the sex thing you know,” she told me.  “I miss having a man around the house.”
At this point I wasn’t so sure my aunt wasn’t right.  I had the feeling though, that the wacky one was me because I was actually going to help my grandmother find a man.
I arrived early the next morning with the computer and we commenced filling out the questionnaire after I set up an email account for Grandma. What should have taken 25 minutes took over 2 hours since Grandma wanted to make sure she got all the answers “right”. 
“Okay, Gran. Listen.” I said. “It says ‘We tend to focus on what we most want in a partner. However, it may even be more important to know what we want to avoid! Examine the list of items below and select Ten qualities that you can’t stand to have in a potential mate.’” I read from the website.  “Number one: Vanity… I can’t stand someone who is overly interested in their physical appearance. Two: Dependence… I can’t stand someone who bases their happiness on me. Three: Depressed… I can’t stand someone who is …”
            “Does it say anything about snuff?” Gran interrupted.  “I don’t mind chewing snuff but he has to spit outside like your grandfather did.” I scanned down the list.  Nothing about…
“Oh, and he’s got to take his muddy boots off on the back porch. I won’t spend my time mopping the kitchen floor and cleaning up after him.” She stated emphatically.  Boots, mud…
“What about coffee? Does it say anywhere that he has to know how to perk coffee? I miss having coffee in the morning with a man.”
My head hurt.
            We struggled through the rest of the questionnaire and finally I hit submit with a prayer of thanks and a sense of sadness for her.  After all, what were the chances she would find any matches? I truly didn’t think there would be many nonagenarians joining a match making website.
            I poured another cup of coffee as Grandma went into the other room to find a photograph for her profile page. She knew just the right one she wanted.  “I don’t look so old in that picture.” Gran said.  “Your grandpa said it was a sexy picture, too.” 
I sighed and opened the newspaper laying on the table.  I perused the headlines.  Nothing much happened around here of any interest.  Turning the page I saw it. A quarter page ad that read:  

WANTED!   MAN FOR COMPANIONSHIP!  94 year old widowed female looking for a new friend. I am a looker!  Must be clean and neat in appearance.  Sean Connery types preferred.   Extra bonus if you have a grandson for my divorced granddaughter. She is pretty good for 53.  Sex is possible if I like you and you still can. I don’t know about my granddaughter.  Come to 4662 Lakeside Drive to see me! Bring flowers.

“Grandmother!” I shrieked, “what have you done?”
“What?” she innocently asked from the other room.       Picking up the newspaper I rushed into the living room to shake it in her face. “You actually put an ad in the paper??” I shrieked, chest heaving in indignation. “How, how…uh…you don’t even drive! How’d you pay for it?” I managed to gasp out. 
            Gran continued to casually leaf through the photographs in her aproned lap.
“Oh, this nice young woman at the paper helped me out with it,” she said. “She said she’d be happy to drive over and pick up a check. I think her name was Eileen.  She giggled a lot.”
“Yeah, I’ll bet she did.” I replied.  I could just imagine the hilarity going on down at the newspaper right now.  That little witch Eileen knew exactly what she was starting. We had been nemesis since our high school days and Sam Benson had taken me to the prom instead of her.  Neither of us had seen him in 35 years but she never forgave me that slight. Seething inside, I tried to think of something, anything that I could do to fix this.  Nothing came to mind short of suicide or murder.
            I spent the next few days feeling like Marlene Dietrich, hiding my face all over town.  It’s a small town and I knew everyone had read the advertisement.  No one actually said anything to me, but I heard many muffled laughs and snickers as I passed by. My grandmother had always been somewhat of a character but she had really done it this time!
            Saturday afternoon I took a drive over to talk to her about her EHarmony listing.  Just as I had expected, no one had responded to her profile.
“Why can’t we change it?’ she plaintively asked. “Maybe you put something in wrong.” 
            “No, Gran,” I softly stated. “I think it’s just that you’re very special and there aren’t many men out there that can meet your needs.” 
It broke my heart to see the dejected look in her eyes again.  She had been so excited and hopeful the last few days when I talked to her on the phone. She had even put a blue rinse in her hair.
            “Well, hell’s bells,” she huffed. “Guess that’s that, isn’t it.”  Gran sat down at the table and fiddled with the teapot full of drooping blossoms. “I thought the ad might work,” she sighed. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said I’d have sex.”
That was still a visual I preferred not to think about. 
“Come on, Gran, let’s walk up and get you some new flowers.” I said, patting her shoulder. “That’ll make you feel better, won’t it?” 
Suddenly, she looked old and frail as she said, “You go ahead.  I think I’ll take a nap.” She walked slowly out of the kitchen towards the darkened hallway that led back to her bedroom.  That proud blue head hung down on her chest as she shuffled away.
            There was a knock at the back door.
            In a flash, my grandma primped in front of the hallway mirror, and raced to the door. Swinging it open with a wide toothed smile, I heard her gasp “Oh, my goodness.” 
Peeking around the door frame I saw him.  He wasn’t Sean Connery by any means but he was very handsome and dapper.  Standing on the back steps was a tall, thin gray haired old man, dressed in an antique tux holding the biggest bouquet of Forget-Me-Nots I had ever seen. 
“As I recall, Miss Myrtle, these are your favorite flowers.” he growled in a husky voice.
“Oh, my.”Gran said again.  I had not seen her at a loss for words ever in my entire life. “Frank?” she squeaked out.
            “Frank?” I squealed.
Oh no. It can’t be. Frank had dated my grandmother before she met my grandfather.  Gran always said she broke his heart when she started dating my grandfather 77 years ago. 
“I was only 17 and I couldn’t help myself.” She had told me once.  “I liked Frank a lot, but when I saw your grandfather…well there was no one else for me after that.”
            Uh-oh. My brain suddenly made a connection through time.  Frank…Benson.
It really wasn’t possible, was it? I heard a car door slam, footsteps coming up the sidewalk.  I closed my eyes.
No, no, please, let it not…oh please let it be…Oh crap, what do I have on??
 My eyes popped open at the words, “Grandpa, you didn’t tell me you knew Beth’s grandmother.”  Sam smiled and held out nosegay of violets towards me.
 “Your favorite flowers, I believe?”
            
           




Friday, November 12, 2010

What I really thought...

Note to Readers:    You may or may not have read my press release about the Beechwood Restaurant.  At the very wise advice of an acquaintance, Jason Sample, I severely edited the version that went out to the public.  My thoughts and opinions on this, while valid, possibly could have done more damage than good.  People do not like having their shortcomings, their mistakes, etc., pointed out to them.  My goal was to generate an interest in the restaurant, our cuisine, and our services, not to piss anyone off. The original, while passionate, would have done that.  But, I'm still entitled to my opinion so here it is.  If someone from the restaurant happens to check out this blog (unlikely), they will know me well enough to know I wrote this because I believe in Chef Mills, what he is trying to do and....well, you know.  So, here it is.


         Not so very long ago there was a man from this area that had a dream.  It wasn’t a huge dream.  It was small really, compared to many, but it was his.  So, working towards this dream, he went to culinary school at the age of 30 years old, graduated with honors and became a chef in various establishments through the years. Gradually working his way back home to Chautauqua County, he decided to make that dream he had fostered for so many years a reality. 
          Opening a small but lucrative coffee house and café in Jamestown, Chef Timothy Mills successfully demonstrated his talents and knowledge of fine and eclectic cuisine.  Timothy’s Café become a downtown icon of sorts, offering entrées not often found anywhere else in the county. Timothy’s Café was a place to get a cheerful “Good Morning” and an absolutely fabulous cup of coffee, latte, or cappuccino; a breakfast pannini, a bagel, or an extraordinary breakfast wrap.  Guests would check out the lunch specials in advance, whether in person or on his website, knowing that there was a limited supply of this fantastic food available.  Why?  Because Chef Timothy prepared each entrée à la minute-loosely translated as “by the minute” or more to the point-by the order.
          As time went on, Chef Mills spent four years serving the general public, conducting exclusive private dinners at the café, catering on site and off until one day, opportunity knocked in the form of an establishment in Lakewood coming up for sale.  A very well-known restaurant and pub for decades and a historic landmark, it seemed the logical next step towards that dream of his. 
Taking possession of The Beechwood Country House Restaurant in February 2010, Tim and his wife Sarah, friend and employee Chelsea Newton, and various others spent many, many hours doing grubby, dirty work refurbishing, remodeling and restoring this landmark to an acceptable operating condition once again. With high hopes and confidence, Tim and Sarah Mills opened The Beechwood Country House Restaurant in May under new ownership.
 Happy ending, correct?  Not really.
          Once opened, many people visited the Beechwood at first, even without a liquor license. The Beechwood Country House Restaurant was a successful family owned and operated establishment for more than 50 years.  Many in the area had been patrons of the Beechwood for as long as they could remember. Fond memories of family lunches and dinners, Christmas parties and the like, were collectively shared by numerous individuals.  It was still the same cozy, homey place that everyone knew and remembered.  The knotty pine paneling was still there, as well as the fire crackling in the fireplace.  The “regulars” were delighted to see that the restaurant had not changed too much inside.
          Ah, the keyword-change.
          “Change” by definition is “to make or become different” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.  Is that a bad thing?  No, it isn’t, yet most of us do not easily accept change.  It’s disconcerting, unsettling and well, frightening at times.  However, change can also be exhilarating, refreshing and pleasurable.  Woodrow Wilson said, “If you want to make enemies, try to change something”.  How true that has been found to be with the opening of this restaurant.
           It is a sad fact that many of the past Timothy’s Café customers have not often frequented the restaurant.  Perhaps it is simply because it is not as convenient for them as the establishment on Third Street.  Maybe it’s because the menu and atmosphere has changed just enough that they feel uncomfortable.  Some of the former Beechwood customers have not always come back a second time, even after enjoying a fabulous meal.  Why?
          The “old crowd” from Timothy’s Café are frequently disappointed that they can’t get certain specialty salads and sandwiches, or the multitude of flavored, freshly brewed coffees popular at the café.  In comparison, the former Beechwood group is displeased because the fare is not what they are “used” to at the Beechwood.  There is no free relish tray or the big bowl of mints on the counter. There is no longer a Gorgy salad available.  No one is pleased it seems, despite how many changes and additions that Chef Mills has made to the menu trying to accommodate everyone’s desires.
The former owners and operators of the restaurant did an excellent job for many years, so it is understandable that people want to see and eat the same types of food that the restaurant was known for.  It is understandable that many customers had their favorites from the café as well, and looked forward to continuing to enjoy them.  However, it is this author’s opinion that the local community and a number of patrons from the previous Beechwood and the former Timothy’s Café have not given Mills and the “new” restaurant very much of a chance. 
No, it is not the same old Beechwood food, nor is it the same Timothy’s cuisine.  Why in the world would anyone think that it would be the same as either?  It is a new kind of establishment with a new owner, new décor, new…everything!  How refreshing to see tradition and innovation entwined! 
One drawback for many is the lack of a liquor license.  That will come in time but not without patronage from past patrons of both establishments and the community.  The expense of running a restaurant is not one that many are familiar with. Overhead, food costs, payroll, taxes, etc., are not things one thinks about when ordering dinner in a restaurant. The process of getting a liquor license is also an expenditure that most people have no idea about.  Both are phenomenal expenses for a restaurant owner and an almost impossible enterprise without public support. 
What many don’t recognize is that absolutely everything prepared in the kitchen is prepared fresh, not pre-bought frozen entrées.  Mills uses freshly made pastas-not factory produced.  Each and every entrée is prepared à la minute-as it is ordered.  There is not a big pot of sauce simmering on the stove all evening waiting to be ladled over the pasta.  There is no warmer keeping the chicken hot, it is fried up or grilled to order.   Every item on the menu is prepared after that yellow slip goes into the kitchen from the server’s pad.
Guests are treated with respect and courtesy, the cuisine is fantastic as well as artful and creative. Chef Mills and the staff at the new Beechwood Country House Restaurant are always willing to accommodate dietary needs when possible and truly listen to their customers. 
So, former Beechwood and Timothy’s Café customers, take note!  Just because everything seems so different, how much have things really changed?  Is the lack of one or two particular items on the menu or the lack of an alcoholic beverage truly all that important when there is so much more offered as a scrumptious alternative?
Life can often get awfully dull and humdrum, and so can food.  Do yourself and your palate a favor and give the new owner and chef of The Beechwood Country House Restaurant a chance. Experience and embrace some change in your lives!  You won’t be disappointed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Press Release-Local History and Creative Innovation Entwine

Released to the Chautauqua Star and the Post-Journal on November 8, 2010

Local History and Creative Innovation Entwine

The Beechwood Country House Restaurant-an eclectic, unique restaurant providing the area with fine cuisine and carrying on a tradition

Not so very long ago there was a man from this area that had a dream.  It wasn’t a huge dream.  It was small really, compared to many, but it was his.  So, working towards this dream, he went to culinary school at the age of 30 years old, graduated with honors and became a chef in various establishments, high-end and low through the years. Gradually working his way back home to Chautauqua County, he decided to make that dream he had fostered for so many years a reality. 
Taking possession of The Beechwood Country House Restaurant in February 2010, Tim and his wife Sarah, friend and employee Chelsea Newton, and various others spent many, many hours doing grubby, dirty work refurbishing, remodeling and restoring this landmark to an acceptable operating condition once again. With high hopes and confidence, Tim and Sarah Mills opened The Beechwood Country House Restaurant in May under new ownership.
The fireplace crackles for all to enjoy!
Absolutely everything made in the kitchen at The Beechwood is prepared fresh, and are not pre-bought frozen, jarred or canned entrées.  Mills uses his own freshly made pastas-not factory produced.  Each and every entrée is prepared à la minute-as it is ordered.  There is not a big pot of sauce simmering on the stove all evening waiting to be ladled over the pasta.  There is no warmer keeping the chicken hot, it is fried up or grilled to order.   Every item on the menu is prepared after that yellow slip goes into the kitchen from the server’s pad.
Guests are treated with respect and courtesy, the cuisine is fantastic as well as artful and creative, and the ambiance is marvelous. Chef Mills and the staff at the new Beechwood Country House Restaurant are always willing to accommodate dietary needs when possible and truly listen to their customers.  Mills and staff also strive to help out the local community in unique manners. 
Jeff & Beth Kresge enjoy their boobs!
In October, Chef Mills created a unique dessert to raise money for the local Cancer Services program in Chautauqua County.  The “Beechwood Boobie Bombe” brought smiles to the fine patrons that purchased them.  The price of the dessert was worth every penny to watch Chef Mills flambé it tableside with flair and finesse!
Though operating without a liquor license at present, there is no lack of beverages to choose from-smoothies, Kona Mocha Frappuccinos, Italian sodas, soft drinks, lattes, cappucinnos, espresso, a multitude of herbal and traditional teas as well as their fantastic coffee.  The process of getting a liquor license is long and expensive.  With luck, and with support from current patrons and new, Mills hopes to have the license by the new year.
The Beechwood Country House Restaurant is also available for private holiday parties and banquets.  Chef Mills, with his many years of experience, caters affairs on site or off.  A traditional sit-down Thanksgiving Dinner is also being offered by reservation only as well as home made pies for the holidays.  Call 716-526-4214 for reservations or pie orders.  Check out the lovely pies on the website as well as much more at http://thebeechwood.webs.com, or find The Beechwood Country House Restaurant on Facebook, Twitter, MerchantCircle and Ubanspoon.
Life can often get awfully dull and humdrum, and so can food.  Do yourself and your palate a favor and have a savory, unique culinary adventure at the NEW Beechwood Country House Restaurant. Experience and embrace some change in your lives!  You won’t be disappointed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Published in "Survivor", The Post-Journal, October 30, 2010

My Story

I don’t know or remember where I heard this in reference to being a “survivor” but the gist was that you don’t know you’ve survived cancer until you die from something else.  A pretty morbid thought, isn’t it?  And sad, too.  Hearing this took away something I valued a lot-hope, and reinforced the FearFear has become my shadow and is akin to someone you don’t particularly like, but have to put up with.  Fear is there every minute of the day; greets me first thing in the morning and haunts my dreams.  Fear whispers, “It might come back, you know”. Fear is something that every single person that has had any type of cancer knows intimately.
I wasn’t afraid in the beginning, which always seemed odd to me.  I was determined to win the battle and “it” was not going to stand a chance.  Looking back, I don’t know where I found the strength to go through what I did with such hope and well, attitude.  None of it seemed to weaken me, or my resolve to survive.  I do know now, there were many, many times that I faked this good, positive attitude for someone else’s sake.  There were times of emotional confusion for me that I couldn’t even explain to myself.  The only one that truly saw the heartbreak, the sadness and the grief for what I had lost was my significant other, Kevin.  When my hair started to fall out, he cried for me.  But, bald or not, I was his and he stood by me through it all. 
I went through the chemotherapy easily, if you can say anything about chemo is ”easy”.  I never got sick from it and felt fairly normal most of the time.  Until I looked in the mirror of course.  I remember wondering, “Is this stuff even working?” because I ,like all of us, heard the horror stories about chemotherapy.  Well, it was working and in August 2008 I had a bilateral mastectomy.
I remember that day so well.  I was taken down to the surgical holding area and left there alone for about two hours.  My family had no idea where I was or what was going on.  I am glad that I had that time.  I remember I crossed my arms and held each breast in my hands.  I felt their weight, their warmth and I said good-by.  Memories of that first time my mom made me wear a bra were there…the first time they were touched …hugging my son to them…all there.  I said good-by to my breasts.
Before the reconstruction, I would often “feel” them-the weight of them.  It was a strange feeling, which I think was very similar to the phantom pain that amputees feel.  Each time it happened, I felt sad for a few minutes, remembering what was. I still feel a sense of loss.  My “new” ones are nice.  Or, rather will be when all the surgeries are done.  But, they aren’t the same.  They are cute and perky and always will be unless insurance companies are willing to pay to have reconstructed breasts “aged”.  I laugh a bit, thinking about being my grandmother’s age (95) and having nice firm tata’s. 
Cancer took much away from me-friends, my self-esteem, and at times, it took my life because “it” dominated every minute of the day if I let it.  I faltered at times, but I tried to be strong for myself.  I believed.  I believed in myself, in the power of love and mostly, I believed that I was strong enough to win.  I still believe that.
So, I truly AM a survivor! 

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