Archive for the ‘cats’ Category

A Special Sunday Brunch Part 3 (Conclusion)

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Maurice kept the kebabs flowing. Velvette had not only made pizza for the rather finicky children, but a pot of hearty fish and tomato stew that everyone had with chunks of sliced warm baguettes baked by Mae, who also made risotto with prawns and asparagus. Mildred contributed a bit of spaghetti bolognaise that she had made for dinner the night before, which Esme dug into with relish.

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The Brambles took charge of dessert, which everyone made sure they had room in their bellies for.

When the dishes and cutlery were cleared, and the birthday cake brought out, there was a collective gasp of pleasure.

birthday cake 1

‘Strawberry chantilly cream cake!’ squealed Matthew. ‘My favorite!’ It was Mortimer’s specialty.

‘Gather around, everyone!’ said Eleanor.

birthday cakeThe birthday song was sung. Matthew made a wish and blew out the candles on the cake, and Eleanor made sure that everybody had a thick slice.

‘Sooooo yummy,’ said Matthew. ‘I love you, Dad!’

cake

‘So do we!’ chimed George and Mildred.

goodbye

It was a little after three in the afternoon when the neighbors said their goodbyes and ambled home, already dreaming about siesta in their warm cosy beds. They had helped with the washing up and all there was to do was to take down the party decorations.

Eleanor helped carry the presents up to Matthew’s bedroom.

presents2

‘Have fun opening them!’ she said.

Matthew started with the Slydales’ gift. It was a book bag.

bookbag‘Perfect!’ said Eleanor. ‘You needed a new one.’

From Elma, Mae, Ike and Candy, Matthew got a pair of white sneakers.

shoes

‘Nice,’ said Matthew. He turned to the pink package and gently unwrapped it. The Mulberry grandparents were famous for their unconventional gifts. Matthew tried not to expect too much. He imagined lime green pyjamas with watermelon prints.

pink present

‘It’s a … keyboard!’ Matthew exclaimed. ‘It’s so cool!’

keyboard

‘That must’ve come from Uncle Edward’s shop,’ said Eleanor. Edward Mulberry, George and Mildred’s son, was a brilliant toymaker. ‘This must be one of his latest products. You’re a very lucky boy, Mattie.’

Matthew saved Esme’s present for last. She had told him that it was something he would really, really like, and over brunch he had spent every fifth or sixth mouthful of food guessing what it was, and being told he was wrong. Now he would finally know.

Esme's gift

‘Hmm, looks like a book,’ he said as he opened the top of the gift box.

book

‘Oh, a book about camping! And Esme wrote it!’

Esme loved camping and was the best person to ask about the best equipment and  camping spots around the country. She got Matthew interested after she showed him pictures of her many camping trips. Matthew’s birthday present was a handmade guide to camping, a thick notebook filled with handwritten notes, pictures and maps pasted on the pages.

‘I’m going to read it rightaway!’ declared Matthew, climbing onto his bunk bed.

MB in bed

‘Not so fast, young man,’ said Eleanor. ‘Straighten up your room first. I don’t want all this wrapping paper lying around. Birthday boys still need to pick up after themselves, you know.’

after party

‘Okay,’ said Matthew. ‘I love you, Mom!’

‘I love you too,’ said Eleanor, ‘but you still have to clean up. I’m going to sit with your dad and watch a bit of TV.’

-The End-

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A Special Sunday Brunch Part 2

The children amused themselves with helium-filled balloons that the Chantillys had picked up in town, while the adults worked quickly to get the brunch ready.

Kids with balloons

Maurice got the fire started and was soon arranging his famous seafood and vegetable kebabs on the grill. (He was asked once what he used to marinate his juicy and flavorful kebabs, and his reply was, “Oh, a little salt and some spices,” and a wink.)

Myriam and Eleanor set the tables.

Mortimer, having done his part the night before – putting up the party decorations after Matthew had gone to bed, and making and frosting the birthday cake – got to kick back and just welcome the guests.

Slydales arrive

The Slydales arrived soon after, and quickly pitched in. Velvette Slydale brought a tomato and cheese pizza for the children.

table setting

‘Very thoughtful of you, Velvette,’ said Eleanor.

‘Oh, it was nothing,’ said Velvette. ‘Good idea to bring these plastic plates for the children, Myriam. I keep telling Slick to get plastic bowls and cups for our little Skitter, but he says he doesn’t care for plastic. I said to him, ‘Well, you’ll start caring once we run out of china!”

‘Indeed!’ said Myriam, and the ladies giggled.

The Mulberrys – Elma and Mae and their children Ike and Candy – finally appeared, with the unexpected additions of the children’s grandparents, George and Mildred.

‘How lovely to see you, George and Millie!’ cried Eleanor, giving the feisty old lady a warm hug.

The Mulberrys

‘Sorry we’re later than usual, Ellie and Mort,’ said Mae. ‘Ma and Pa called from the village to say that they were coming by, so we waited for them and they got lost.’

‘Oh, a little off-the-beaten-track adventure never hurt anyone,’ said George.

‘And we come bearing gifts for your boy,’ said Mildred as she handed Eleanor two big wrapped packages.

presents

‘The one in the er, appropriate wrapping paper is from Mae and family,’ said Mildred. ‘The one in pink is from George and me, I’m afraid. I know your Mattie is a boy, but it’s such a pretty pink paper that I couldn’t resist. Anyway, it’s what’s inside that matters, I think.’

‘You’re absolutely right, Millie!’ said Eleanor. She found Mildred’s eccentricities refreshing and endearing.

Maurice

‘Ladies and gentlemen!’ Maurice announced. ‘The kebabs are ready, and everyone’s here, so shall we have brunch now?’

And they did.

brunch

-End of Part 2-

A Special Sunday Brunch Part 1

Matthew Bramble woke up to the smell of food. Delicious, freshly-baked food, to be exact.

Matthew in Bed

‘Mmm, blueberry muffins,’ he said to himself. ‘I love Sundays.’

It was the custom for families living a leisurely stroll away from one another to take turns hosting potluck Sunday brunch. That day it was the Brambles’ turn to open their home to their neighbours. They would be joined by the Mulberrys, the Slydales and the Chantillys. Maurice Chantilly and his family actually lived a leisurely drive away from Larchwood Lodge, but his daughter Esme and Matthew were best friends at school so they were always welcome.

MB in bathtub

Scrubbing himself in the bathtub, Matthew thought about how wonderful it was that school was out. This was going to be an extra special term break; the Brambles were going on a beach holiday for a week! The idea of being someplace warm in December put him in a very good mood.

new clothes

‘Oh, there you are, Mattie!’ greeted his mother, Eleanor, as soon as he stepped out of the bathroom. ‘Here, put these on.’ She held out a set of new clothes, more fit for a day out in town than a lazy Sunday at home.

‘Why can’t I wear what I always wear?’ Matthew asked.

‘Oh, you know why -‘ Eleanor caught herself mid-sentence, as though something had just struck her. ‘The neighbours are coming and I don’t want you looking scruffy, that’s all,’ she added quickly. ‘Now get a move on. I’d better get the er, muffins, out of the oven.’

Matthew got dressed quickly.

Matt in the Mirror

‘It’s not quite my style,’ he said as he checked himself in the mirror, ‘and the t-shirt’s so baggy I can’t see my shorts!’

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‘But oh well, whatever makes Mom happy. I’m too hungry to argue!’

‘Are you ready, Mattie?’ It was his father, Mortimer, calling from halfway up the stairs.

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‘Haha, I see Mom’s made you dress up too,’ Matthew remarked, terribly amused.

‘You know I love your mother very much,’ he said good-naturedly. ‘Now come along.’

Matthew wondered what was making his parents especially excited about Sunday brunch. Perhaps there were having special guests?

As usual, the Brambles stood on the porch waiting for the neighbours to arrive, and as usual, the Chantillys were the first to come.

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There was a chorus of hearty good mornings and how-do-you-dos, and then from behind her back, Esme produced a box wrapped in cheery yellow paper. (Yellow is Esme’s favorite color.)

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‘Happy birthday in advance, Matt!’ said Esme. ‘Sorry the box is a bit squashed. Bumpy country lanes, hee.’

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‘Wow, thanks Esme!’ exclaimed Matthew. ‘You’re the best!’

‘Our friends asked that we throw you an early birthday party,’ explained his father, ‘since we’re going away on vacation next week.’

‘You don’t mind, do you, Mattie?’ asked his mother.

Matthew was beaming. ‘Oh, Mom and Dad! This is the best surprise ever!’

-end of Part 1-

Esme Goes to Bed: a very short story

It was a beautiful summer night. Esme lay in her sleeping bag, gazing up at the bright, round moon in the starry sky.

camping

Her tent was pitched just outside her family’s cosy little cottage, which was tucked in a small clearing in the forest. Back at the Riverside Lodge, the Chantilly residence, her father was throwing yet another one of his barbecue parties. Maurice’s parties were popular with everyone in Sylvania , for Maurice was a charming host and a master at the grill, serving generous amounts of beautifully marinated and seasoned tender meats, seafood and vegetables to his eager guests. Esme enjoyed her dear papa’s parties. They were gay affairs that filled the house with laughter and pleasant chatter, and the merrymaking tended to go on well into the night.

But Esme wanted a quiet evening to herself.

Maurice and Myriam did not find their daughter odd in the least. She was a bright, cheerful girl who made friends easily and genuinely enjoyed the company of others. But they also knew that she had a great love of the outdoors, and would often spend days at a time camping in the woods or by the river, alone or with her friends. The only thing they asked of her was that she did not wander too far away from home, if she was alone. They made her promise to set up camp near the family cottage, so that she had someplace comfortable to stay should the weather turn bad.

Esme had planned to do a bit of star-gazing, and maybe some reading – the moonlight was bright enough that she could read without a lamp! – before dozing off. Suddenly, she felt an incredible craving for … ice-cream.

‘It’s funny, thinking about ice-cream in the middle of the forest,’ Esme said to herself, smiling. Then she got out of her sleeping bag , stood up, turned around and walked the ten steps up to the cottage.

Esme was pleased to find two tubs of ice-cream in the refrigerator.

‘Strawberry or chocolate?’ she asked herself. She considered her options for three seconds before deciding on chocolate. (Anyone who knows Esme will tell you that she almost always chooses chocolate over all other ice-cream flavors. ;-))

While eating her ice-cream, Esme noticed the bed. It looked so … comfortable. Esme yawned. Perhaps it would not be such a bad idea to spend the night indoors. She slipped under the covers and closed her eyes.

Thirty minutes later, she was wide awake.

‘What’s wrong?’ Esme wondered. The bedlinen was soft and sweet-smelling, and the mattress was firm but not too hard, yet she could not fall asleep. She tried changing her sleeping position.

Still she could not sleep. So she tried watching a bit of television. There was nothing terribly interesting on, so she settled for a repeat episode of a gardening show on the Green Channel, hoping that all the talk about seeds, soil, weather and fertilizers would send her to dreamland. She ended up bored to tears, but not to sleep.

‘Something is missing,’ Esme thought. And then, suddenly, she knew.

Moonlight.

Esme fell asleep the moment she crawled into her sleeping bag.

The Chantillys

Esme started it.

camping set

That sweet little face, and the delightful camping set that came with her figure … who could resist? Before long, I acquired father Maurice, mother Myriam and baby Jacques, and finally Christian. Each family member comes with a different play set (Maurice appears in two, Myriam and Jacques are together in one), and because of the themes of the play sets (leisure/home), the Chantillys give the impression of wealth. (It’s a plus for me that they don’t have detailed biographies, so I’m free to fill in the blanks.) 🙂 Myriam should have her hands full with newborn Jacques, so it looks like she’s going to be a stay-at-home mom for a while. Maurice probably comes from old money, and has never really had to earn a living. I think he volunteers as a lollipop man, by way of getting involved in the community. His passion, we are told, is hosting parties. For this reason, the Riverside Lodge is an ideal home for the Chantillys. A house along the river means Esme gets to indulge in her favorite pastimes, fishing and camping, and it’s the perfect venue for barbecue parties. I have nothing much to say about Christian. From the accessories in his bedroom set, it appears that he is Esme’s younger brother; the teddy bear and toy train suggest he’s of preschool age. Esme could be anything between 12 and late teens.

This was my set-up for the Chantillys, on my Ikea Expedit bookcase:

Here’s a very very short story about the Chantillys:

It’s Sunday, and the Chantillys are having a barbecue brunch. Maurice and Myriam were having hotdogs with lemonade. Just then, Esme returns from her fishing trip with some fat trouts. Maurice promptly guts the fish and and skillfully seasons them, before slapping them onto the grill:

Upstairs, Christian is sleeping in:

but the smell of grilled sausages and fresh fish makes his tummy growl, and he jumps out of bed, ready for a hearty breakfast:

Jacques is already at breakfast:

A contented baby means that the rest of the family is free to sit together and chat over hotdogs and fish.

Postscript: I wish I had owned the Epoch version of the Riverside Lodge, because it has a French name, Riverside Pension. That would have made it absolutely perfect for les Chantilly.