Cancer Free! (And Time for Tea!)

Hello, Hello from Willowbrook!

Mother Nature painted Willowbrook White! The snow came in the night and was gone by afternoon, but it created a visual delight! Just the day before, I took a short video to capture a spectacular sunny day. Click HERE to see the change that 24 hours can make!

But first: for those of you who are new readers, I’m Terry, owner and caretaker of Willowbrook Manor English Teahouse and Farm Stay.

This email comes to you because you either signed up for this newsletter, made a reservation at Willowbrook Manor, are a friend of mine, or are a follower of my mother, author Liz Adair, who has her own corner here in The Willowbrook Word. There is a giveaway at the end of each newsletter, so make sure to read to the end. (If any pictures come to you sideways, click on the link at the top of the page to view this in your browser.)

Tea and Tulips  ~

The tulips are springing up early this year! So if you are planning to attend the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, you might want to come early to mid April. Regardless of the time of year, Willowbrook Manor provides an English tea experience that soothes the senses. Tea and Tulips runs every Friday and Saturday during the month of April, and I would love to have you attend! Home-made sweets, savories, salad and scones are served with a pot of delicious Willowbrook tea. The cost is $53/person and Saturdays typically sell out, so make your reservation soon. For booking click HERE.

After months of winter,  the vibrant colors of blooming tulips just makes you feel good! The Skagit Valley Tulip Festival embodies a celebration for the coming of spring. For more information about the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival and to explore the brand new website, click HERE.

Its Gala-Time Again!

Perhaps you remember my newsletter about the 2023 Tulip Festival Gala and the giant tulip crown. Well, this year’s Tulip Festival Gala is under a month away and promises to be even better than last year! Our theme is The Roaring 20s. I’ve already got my flapper dress and feather boa. If you live close enough to come to the Swinomish Casino on the evening of March 22nd, you will want to purchase tickets HERE. Let me know if you are coming, so I can look for you!

Story Time ~

The ‘Production Kitchen,’ as I call it, is the beating heart of my teahouse. It is where the delicious sweets and savories are lovingly made and carefully served up on three-tiered tea trays during our seasonal tea events.

There is a backstory to the baking equipment, and I wrote about it in my very first newsletter back in 2019. With the substantial growth of my newsletter family, I thought I would share it again.

How it all began ~

“My mom can bake the pies!” That is what I told my boss when Hennesy’s Restaurant lost their pie maker. I was a junior at Ferndale High and worked evenings and weekends at Hennesy’s. It was much like me raising my hand at school to volunteer my mom to make cookies for a field trip. It felt natural to have her be the solution to the pie problem. And that is how it all began.

A Family Thing ~

My mother and grandmother had a little catering business called Liz and Lou Catering, so they were already set up with a commercial kitchen. Making a few pies for the local hometown restaurant was an easy thing to throw into the mix (no pun intended). The pies they made were so dang good that the word got out, and more and more restaurants switched to Liz and Lou pies. Notice the darling picture above of my little brother Clay squeezing lemons.

Everything from Scratch ~

The bakery was a family operation, and everyone had a job. This picture from the Bellingham Herald shows the assembly line for making pie crust. (Mom’s pie crusts were melt-in-your-mouth delicious!) Everything was made from scratch, which was impressive as there were up to 25 different pies that you could order. Mom also made individually-wrapped carrot cake and cinnamon rolls for convenience stores along her delivery route.

Liz was the ‘pastry queen’ for a decade and a half, but all good things eventually come to an end. I will let her explain the ‘why’ and ‘how.’ I will share the ‘when.’

Moving Day ~

My own little family had settled in Sedro Woolley (mid ’90s) after dental school, and the house in town had room for the Hobart and Vulcan ovens. This picture is from the day my dad loaded up the equipment out of the shuttered pie kitchen. It was no small feat to move that Hobart Mixer. It’s built like a tank and HEAVY. Moving day was truly a labor of love. I was giddy with the prospect of baking lots and LOTS of bread!

Years before, Dad had purchased the Hobart mixer at a school auction for just $100! It mixed up a mountain of pie crust during its tenure in Mom’s bakery. The Vulcan double ovens baked thousands and thousands of pies, cakes and cinnamon rolls. What an honor to care for these two pieces of my mom’s bakery equipment and continue the baking tradition.

From Pies to Scones ~

We moved from that house in town to the property that is now Willowbrook in 1999. Since we didn’t have anything built, we put everything in storage (including the heavy Hobart and Vulcan) and camped for three and a half months while we built the garage. The garage housed our family of eight for five years, and the industrial baking equipment was part of the kitchenette. It took us two years to build the manor, doing much of the work ourselves. I must say, it was a happy day when we got the Hobart and Vulcan settled in the manor’s production kitchen (2004).

When you come to Willowbrook for tea, poke your head into this little kitchen that houses a piece of my family heritage. I feel a tender connection to my parents as I use these machines. Whenever I serve my sweet-cream scones, I tell guests that they are baked with lots-n-lots of love. That is why they taste so good!

Time for Liz ~

This is where my mom gets to share a sweet story from when she ran her bakery. Here she is:

Liz Sez ~

I’ve had several brilliant careers in my fourscore-plus-three years. One of those careers was owner of a wholesale bakery. The kids and I made pies for about twenty-one restaurants in two counties as well as carrot cake and cinnamon rolls for convenience stores.

My sweet husband, Derrill, built the little shack next to our old farmhouse into a commercial kitchen for me. He’d haunt restaurant supply auctions, and during the bakery’s existence (fifteen sleep-deprived years), he got miraculous deals on a commercial six-burner range, two commercial convection ovens, a walk-in refrigerator, a sheeting machine for rolling pie crusts and cinnamon roll dough, and—drum roll, please—a thirty-quart Hobart mixer that was probably older than I was at the time. I guess it’s still older than I am, and that’s a bit scary because it’s still in use.

One day, my delivery person couldn’t take pies around, so I did both the baking and delivery. Midway through, I stopped at the Dairy Queen for a coke to help keep me awake, because I’d been up baking since two a.m. Sitting in the drive-up window, fidgeting with my rings, I suddenly became aware that they felt different.

I looked down, and there where the diamond usually sat in my engagement ring was a diamond-size ball of pie dough. The stone had disappeared.

I was devastated. When I got home, I cleaned the bakery better than I ever had when I was anticipating the food inspector. No diamond.

I put my engagement ring in a drawer and waited, hoping I’d be sued by someone who had broken a tooth biting into a piece of apple pie. That would have brought a host of other problems, but at least I’d have the diamond my husband gave me at the Vista Point above Glen Canyon Dam one Sunday in April 1961.

No legal-sized document announcing a lawsuit ever arrived.

A year or so after I lost my diamond, my mother-in-law came to live with us, and I was her caregiver. I was able to do that and continue with the carrot cake and cinnamon rolls, but soon her Alzheimer’s progressed to the point that I couldn’t do both, and so I closed the bakery.

About that time, my daughter Terry and her then-husband Matt finished school and bought a house. They offered to trade the double convection oven and the Hobart mixer for a diamond her husband had purchased years before as an investment.

We made the trade, and I again was able to wear my engagement ring. We called it the Hobart diamond.

I want to say a special ‘thank you’ to everyone who sent notes of support after my recent surgery. My last visit with the pathologist gave me a clean bill of health. I am delighted to share that I am cancer-free.

Much love,

Now back to Terry:

Nin Giveaway

Congratulations to our three winners of the children’s book Nin and package of chamomile tea. They go to: Adam C of Arlington, WA, Mary Ann B of Williamsburg. VA, and Lori R of New Concord, OH.  For those of you who didn’t win but would still like this sweet little tea treat, you can order it HERE.

This Month’s Giveaway ~

Willowbrook Manor is famous for it’s sweet-cream scones. I put lots-n-lots of love into every bag of scone mix and this month I am giving away a case of them! Enter to win a case of scone mix HERE and make sure to write a little note to let me know how you are doing. I so enjoy hearing from you.

Hero of the Month ~

Jim’s oldest daughter Rachel and her husband Jared are heroes to me. When I first met them they had four kids, the two littlest were foster daughters. I watched Rachel and Jared bravely face uncertainty over the years, leaning into each other for strength and support. I saw it when the baby they were expecting was diagnosed with spinabifida and would have to have several surgeries immediately after birth. I saw it when their foster kids went back to their parents for a time, then medical issues made life very challenging. Blending a family of 7 children is not easy, but Rachel and Jared are a great team. I love Rachel’s zeal for life and adventure. I reverence Jared’s love for his wife and the kids and how he facilitates all of the plans that Rachel dreams up.

Recently Rachel sent me this picture. It made me smile to see the teacups I gifted her girls. “Fun Breakfast!” I thought. “DINNER” is what she texted, and I laughed out loud. A girl after my own heart.

That is it for this edition of The Willowbrook Word!

Tractor therapy is the one of the best parts of my job! Jim’s dad gave me the insulated coveralls he used for years. They are kind of big on me, but I roll up the cuffs  and feel connected to that sweet man. Now I’m toasty-warm on cold winter days!

Thanks so much for being part of my newsletter family!

Post Script.
Here is my calendar of events:
(Click on the link listings for more information)