Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Patchwork Cat

One day when I was a little kid, my brothers and I were sitting around the house bored on a gloomy, rainy summer day.  My Mom, being one of those Moms that always had something for us to do, pulled out three plaster cats, the kind you can buy at the craft store, to paint.  She set us up in the kitchen at a table covered with newspapers, a bunch of paint and paint brushes and water to rinse them in.  “Have fun”, she said.

I was five years old at the time, I hadn’t started kindergarten yet and my painting skills were about what you’d expect from a five-year old.  My brothers on the other hand, were respectively three and four years older than me and although still in elementary school, old enough to be able to know how a cat should be painted. So we painted and painted and painted.

My oldest brother painted his mostly black, like a Halloween cat, with some silver highlights here and there.  He spent most of the time on the eyes using yellows and greens and whites and diligently adding all the fine details that you’d see when you look at a cat face to face.  He painted the inside of the ears a mix of black and pink, just like you’d see on a black cat. He painted the claws.

My other brother painted his orange and black.  No, these were not jungle animals, they were cheap craft store domesticated cats.  But he made his look like a fierce tiger with crisp stripes down the sides that ended in sharp points.  He also painted the eyes, although not quite as realistically as the Halloween cat, and the ears and the claws.

I painted mine… red and blue and yellow and green and purple and orange and brown and white and black and…

A red splotch here, a blue smear there, a purple blot here, a red smudge there, an orange stroke here, a green splash there.

Then my brothers teased me.  They teased me because my cat was all different colors.  They said “it doesn’t look like a cat.”  They said “cats aren’t red and blue and green and purple.”  They teased and teased and teased and then I started to cry and I ran to my room.  Yep, I did… I cried my eyes out.  Of course, I was only five!

A little while later, my Mom called me back out.  She said “I have something to show you.”  So I came back out to the kitchen and there was my cat sitting in the same place I had left it.

But it was different.

Around each and every splotch and smear and blot and smudge and stroke and splash, my Mom had painted tiny little lines and stitch marks. It looked like a cat that had been sewn together with little pieces of colored fabric.  She said, “what do you think? It’s a patchwork cat.”  It was amazing and I thought it was the coolest cat in the world at that moment.  My brothers actually kind of liked it too.  Sorry, I don’t have a photograph to show you, you’ll have to use your imagination.

My Mom kicked ass as a Mom.  I couldn’t have asked for one any better.  We lost her to brain cancer back in 2002.  I’m not here to mourn, but instead to celebrate. Not for any particular reason, this story just happened to pop into my head the other day and I thought I’d write it down.  Perhaps one of these days I’ll try to turn it into a real kid’s story and dedicate it to her.  She’d like that.

Wherever she is now, I can only imagine she has a cat with her… a cat that’s all sewn together out of pieces of fabric.

A patchwork cat.

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From ONE to TEN

I once thought that ONE was enough.
Me by myself with only my stuff.
But I met a nice girl and love it was true.
We had a big wedding and then we were TWO.

We once thought that TWO was okay.
My wife and I hanging out every day.
But we drove by a sign that said, “kittens for free!”
We took home a kitten, and then we were THREE.

We once thought that THREE was not bad.
There wasn’t anybody we wanted to add.
But then we decided to get just one more.
A friend for our cat and then we were FOUR.

We once thought that FOUR was just fine.
One cat was her’s and one cat was mine.
One day a beautiful baby arrived.
A sweet little girl, and then we were FIVE.

We once thought that FIVE was alright.
Though space was getting a little bit tight.
But we wanted to add one more kid to the mix.
Along came a boy and then we were SIX.

We once thought that SIX would suffice.
Not a bird or a hamster or a snake would entice.
Then we decided two dogs would be great.
We skipped over SEVEN and went straight to EIGHT.

We once thought that EIGHT would be plenty.
At least it was only eight and not twenty.
Then one of our dogs, she went up to heaven.
Suddenly we were back down to SEVEN.

We once thought that SEVEN would be ample.
Add any more and we’d surely be trampled.
“Would you like two goats” asked a friend of mine?
We took home the goats and then we were NINE.

We once thought that NINE was tidy and neat.
Though we were looking for something to make us complete.
Our daughter liked riding a horse now and then.
So we bought her a horse and then we were TEN.

For now we think TEN is all we can handle.
If we grow any bigger it would sure be a scandal.
But someday we may add some more, I suppose
Then we’ll have to start counting on our fingers AND toes!

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Fine French Cuisine

Those of you who follow me regularly know that I have not yet had the opportunity to be represented on the Freshly Pressed page of WordPress.com.  In my thorough studies of the blog posts that have earned that honor, I have noticed that many are often food related and deliver in-depth instructions and photographs related to food preparation and fine dining in the home. I thought it would be a good idea to write some posts on some of the fine foods that we eat a lot of here at The Brown Road Chronicles.  So, today I’ve chosen four of our most popular meals, all of which have a French influence and all of which can be easily prepared at home with simple ingredients and in relatively short time for those of you who are busy with jobs and children and families.  As with many fine foods from European cultures and especially those from France, they are often difficult to pronounce properly.  Here at The Brown Road Chronicles, however, we encourage you to partake in these recipes with your finest French accent.  We find this increases the pleasure you will experience when you finally get the opportunity to dine.  Enjoy!

1.  Nudlés et Fromage au Robért de Sponge:

An excellent choice for any meal of the day, but we typically prepare this fine meal for lunch and dinner.

Ingredients:
Nudlés au Robért de Sponge
1 Cup Milk
Fromage de Florescent Orange

Preparation Instructions:
In a medium sized pot, boil approximately two cups of water.  Add the Nudlés au Robért de Sponge and boil until tender. Drain the Nudlés au Robért de Sponge.  Add approximately one cup of milk.  Tear open the package of Fromage de Florescent Orange and sprinkle into pot.  Mix thoroughly and enjoy.

Note:  the Nudlés au Robért de Sponge can be replaced with Nudlés de la Elbeaux.

2.  Pinut Butré and Gelée on Wheat Bread

This is a quick meal that can be eaten at any time of the day as a snack or perhaps even as the main course of a bag lunch.

Ingredients:
Two slices Wheat Bread (or bread of your choice)
Pinut Butré
Gelée (Grape or Strawberry)

Preparation Instructions:

Take the two slices of Wheat Bread and set them on a plate or counter top. Using a knife, cover one slice of bread generously with the Pinut Butré. Lick knife. With the same knife, cover the other slice of bread generously with the Gelée. Put the two slices of bread together with the Pinut Butré and the Gelée sides together. Enjoy.

Note: Bread au Wondére makes an excellent bread choice as well

3.  Haute Dauge au Meat de la Mystére



This meal makes another excellent choice for lunch or dinner.  We don’t often eat this particular meal for breakfast as it has been known to cause slight indigestion.

Ingredients:
One Haute Dauge au Meat de la Mystére
One Bunné
Mustard, Ketchup, Relish or other preferred condiments

Preparation Instructions:
Insert Haute Dauge au Meat de la Mystére into Microwave and heat on high for 30 seconds. Do not be concerned if Haute Dauge au Meat de la Mystére has areas that look burnt and exploded.  It will not affect the flavor. Insert Haute Dauge au Meat de la Mystére into Bunné. Add condiments as desired. Enjoy.

4.  Flakes au Maize avec Sucre

This is an excellent choice for breakfast, but also makes a great dinnertime meal when in a hurry.  For example, I had Flakes au Maize avec Sucre as my dinner last night as I was rushing to a meeting I had to attend.  Sometimes it can be less filling than desired, so when I returned from my meeting I had a Haute Dauge au Meat de la Mystére.

Ingredients:
Flakes au Maize avec Sucre
Milk

Preparation Instructions:
Pour Flakes au Maize avec Sucre into a large bowl. Add milk. Enjoy.

I hope you enjoy these fine French recipes and I encourage you to try them at home.  We here at The Brown Road Chronicles certainly have gotten plenty of nutritious mileage from them.  I will tell you as well, I thoroughly enjoyed writing about food and plan on sharing some of our other fine recipes in future posts.  So please keep an eye out.

Next up?  Helpére de la Hambergére.  Stay tuned…

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Looking for the Idyllic Life

This is one of my very first posts and the one that deserves credit for giving me the impetus to start Brown Road Chronicles.  It is one of my favorites and if you have not read it yet I hope you enjoy it.  I have updated it slightly from its original state and added some images. I will let you all know that although I can’t claim to have “found the idyllic life,” I believe the writing of this blog and the soul-searching that has entailed, has brought me several steps closer to whatever I will ultimately discover that it is. Thank you all for reading.

I‘m looking for the idyllic life.  You know, like the people in “Country Living” magazine? There are always folks in that magazine who live in these great old houses out in the country. Houses that they’ve beautifully restored to their former glory. Seems often they are people who spent some years in the rat race of life and decided to get out, and now they are self-employed working from their home, or they’re writers, or furniture makers, or beekeepers or they’re doing something else that none of us other less fortunate, dim-witted people would be able to make a living doing. Occasionally they’re older folks, but sometimes not. Just as often they’re people like me, middle-aged, with kids that they’ll eventually have to put through college, and sometimes (probably in higher proportion than the general populace) they’re same-sex couples. But regardless, it all looks so glorious in the glossy pages of the magazines; the rustic antique furniture; the beautiful, manicured gardens of fresh veggies and flowers; the dining room table all decorated in fancy holiday display; the pet dog sleeping peacefully on the wraparound porch. Can you envision it? That’s what I want… not this working my ass off lifestyle, toiling away every day, only to someday eventually be able to retire once I’m too old for it really to matter anymore. That’s what I want… the idyllic life… straight from the pages of “Country Living” magazine!

Many of you know I have an old farm-house out in the country, 120 years old roughly. I’ve even renovated a bunch of it, so much so that I actually got sick of it for a while and have taken several years off. But there’s still a million things to do. My 10-year-old son’s bedroom has nursery wallpaper in it, leftover from the previous owners. The three season porch (uh… storage room) is loaded with lead paint and windows that let plenty of cold air in… and the list goes on and on. We’ve even got some nice antiques, they’re hard to see sometime because they have all of our stuff stacked on top of them, or they’re covered in clothes like some kind of pseudo clothing rack. We planted a garden several years in a row. It went from about 100 ft. to 50 ft. to 25 ft to zero feet as we realized how much effort it took to keep it maintained. We have the pets too, a dog, cats, a couple of goats and even a horse that we are currently boarding at another farm while we work on getting our horse stalls and pasture fences repaired. There’s enough pet hair in the house to knit sweaters with.  Ahhhh, maybe that’s the idyllic career… cat and dog hair sweaters… but alas, too many people are allergic. Then there’s the overflowing laundry, the broken dishwasher, the……

The glossy, magazine-delivered illusion is that somehow these people have simplified. They have time… free time, and apparently loads of it.  Yet they still have all the monetary and commercial needs that the rest of us indulge in. There’s an imbalance there that I can’t quite grasp my hands around. Is it just some rogue scheme to get us to read the magazine? I suspect that I can’t really make a decent living as a beekeeper, yet still be able to throw lavish champagne brunches in my backyard with fancy tablecloths and fresh picked greens from the garden. Damn you, “Country Living” for teasing me into believing this can be a reality.

There is a great book that I like to read called “A Country Year” by Sue Hubbell. I don’t think I’ve ever read it straight through, but have easily read the whole thing several times over in bits and pieces. Ms. Hubbell (who it turns out was born and raised near me) was at one time a librarian at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She was married to a professor and was living what any of us would likely consider a wonderful, upscale lifestyle. When the grind eventually got to them, they left their jobs, bought a farm in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri and started a beekeeping and honey producing operation. Soon after, her husband left her, but she continued to run the business, living what can only be described as an “idyllic” and simplified life in this stunningly beautiful area of the country. The book is broken down into small essays describing her days in this rural community throughout the four seasons of the year; her interactions with nature; her challenges surviving through brutal winters; her relationships with her Ozark neighbors; her developing self-sufficiency. Over time she nurtures the business into one of the largest honey producers in that area of the country, yet it still never drives enough revenue to eliminate her money worries and she describes her income as “below the poverty level.” Now in reality that’s what I would call “Country Living”, it’s just not the glossy magazine kind!

So, I’m now searching for the “idyllic life.” As I look closely the infrastructure is all there for me; a beautiful, loving family, the great old house in the country, the antiques, the pet dog. So, why isn’t it idyllic, like the magazine says it could, or should be? What is missing? I don’t know! What really is the idyllic life? Is it living as a beekeeper with an income below the poverty level, but “stopping to smell the flowers” and living a mostly stress free lifestyle? Or is it sitting hunched in an office cubicle 40-80 hours a week, working towards the weekends and those elusive days off when you can throw those champagne brunches. Or is it having a house filled with stuff… flat screens, WII’s, iPODs… stuff that in the long-term really doesn’t provide anything other than a temporary feeling of satisfaction and success. It’s one of those questions that if you asked one hundred people, I am sure you’d get one hundred different answers. I for one – as the clock of my life rapidly tick-tocks along, as my wife and I watch our children growing up faster than we could have ever imagined, as we see the older generations of our family passing on, as I grapple with the short time we have on this earth – am starting to lean toward the bees.

Problem is… I’m afraid of bees.

… and maybe we better cancel the “Country Living” subscription.

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