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Once upon a time, Marilyn and Don had real lives, in the real world, going to work every day in their chosen fields. Marilyn was a borderline accountant, looking the look, wearing the clothes, carrying the briefcase, glasses hanging from a chain around her neck, and acting pretty much like the role she was playing. Don traveled to the Big City of Chicago each day, leaving veeeerrry early to beat the traffic, where he did his contribution to the family coffers, managing a metal finishing business for a large plating company.

 

Financial security meant a nice home in Southern Wisconsin, new cars and lovely parties. What was missing? Control over their own destinies. And so they made plans for the future, when they would work together, joining their skills and knowledge, and running their own show.

 

The hospitality field beckoned, most especially a restaurant, because as we all now know, Marilyn loved to cook, as evidenced by their first joint venture, the little tavern in Grayslake, Illinois, where everyday, she had prepared a “special”, that would be served to the lunch crowd, always to great acclaim. From mostaciolli and lasagna to country specialties like ham and beans, all who lifted a fork would declare “it is the best. . .” Her inner self glowed with pride. Born to cook.

 

Armed with that confidence, a wee little nest egg and both cats, they got the two oldest Murphy kids off on their own life ventures (military and college) and headed to Southern Illinois, to operate a motel and restaurant. In spite of the youngest Murphy’s grief and despair, (. . . How many more ways can you think of to absolutely ruin my life) he finished high school and went on to follow his own life map. The little operation thrived, and brought praise and glory to Marilyn for her unique take on “country cuisine”.

 

Next step, The Mansion of Golconda. Their 20 year tenure brought a regional reputation for innovative cuisine. Marilyn published two cookbooks, and gained a reputation for offering cutting edge food and service in a beautiful setting. Room guests from every state, 33 foreign countries and every continent enjoyed their hospitality.

 

 

After closing the operation, they moved to Grand Rivers. Marilyn brought her unique take on regional cuisine to the Yacht Club at Green Turtle Bay Resort, and Don pursued a career in publication distribution. Retiring after two fruitful years, Marilyn and Don worked with the Tullar family to renovate the Tullar’s “little house”, where Patti and Bill Tullar, founders of Patti’s 1880 Settlement, spent their twilight years.

 

Sugar & Spice: The Bakery

 

Originally, the little house was intended to be the setting for Marilyn’s cooking classes, her idea of a retirement dream. Along with her little cheesecake business for a few commercial accounts, a couple of classes a month would be enough to supplement their retirement income. Life was looking pretty good for The Happy Cooker and her feller.

 

The mundane appearance of the little house from the outside made the charming interior even more so. Walking through the cheerfully painted rooms, filled with Patti Tullar’s rustic antiques, offered a photo opportunity with each step. An audible gasp often follows visitor’s first glimpse of the large room addition, which consists of the great room and kitchen, the screened-in porch and the 20’ deck. The renovations included a commercial kitchen, a twelve-foot counter, all new stainless steel appliances and, to meet code requirements, a three-compartment sink and 1,000# grease trap buried in the driveway.

 

All the work had to be done by licensed contractors, and in order to keep sane, Marilyn & Don bought display cases and started baking bread and scones, layer cakes, Danish pastry and offering custom bakery services. (The township supervisors had no problem with food produced and sold out the front door - their only concern was food prepared and eaten on the premises.)

 

By the time the renovation and equipment installation were complete, just after the July 4th holiday, the bakery business was humming along.

 

Sales averaged $100 per day - not enough to hire help - but sufficient to justify the effort of early rising, and cleaning up a messy kitchen after the cases were filled. Intended as a fill-in until she could start classes, now Marilyn felt committed to producing goodies for her bakery. (There had also been an initial and futile attempt to offer box lunches, and then when her restaurant license was granted, a disastrous venture into inside dining.) It was gratifying to find something that made getting up at 6:00 a.m. worthwhile.

 

Marilyn soon found that food items that had to be sold the same day, like fresh bread, pies and scones were costly to make and had to be discarded if not sold. Random offerings have leveled out at cookies, brownies, artisan bread (special order and weekends only), and bakery novelties. Special orders for cakes, pies, cheesecakes and virtually anything else are available with one day’s notice if inventory is available. If you need anything from dinner rolls to a wedding cake to a platter of appetizers, just call. Consider her your personal chef.

 

 

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