Ahmmm… For those who prefer Park Avenue…like me.

From a Montana Front Porch

Punctuality is not my strong point. Memory is not my strong point either. That is why, two months after the fact, I am finally going to share with you my kids’ first branding experience. Hey, better late than never right?

On this ranch, they go about the business of ‘marking the cattle as their own’ a little differently than most. When you think branding you probably think fire, roping, and wrestling the little buggers to the ground. And for a small group of calves here, that’s how it goes. For the big bunch though, they have a much faster more efficient way of getting the job done. This ranch doesn’t have a huge crew working for them. It’s the two owners, father and son, and their two hired hands. That would be Jason.

They might hire another guy for a couple of days to help brand, but for the most part…

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Upside Down Apple Pie from Scratch


To help my friend’s mother celebrate her 90th birthday tomorrow, my little Brooke and I threw together a homemade Upside Down Apple Pie from scratch…  Darned if it doesn’t smell GOOOOD…  Not bad for an old mechanic and a young lady, eh?  Recipe courtesy of my good bud, Cathy Thomas (http://cathythomascooks.com/2012/06/28/july-4th-upside-down-treats-blueberries-plums-nectarines-and-apples/):

Now who knows how to keep little hands off the darn thing until tomorrow?

Chocolate Truffles by a Former Mechanic


My homemade chocolate truffles are popular with the gals.  Unfortunately, they’re pretty popular with some of my buds, too.  Oh well.

Following the well explained recipe in my cooking bible, Cook’s Illustrated, I made a batch to take to a couple of my friend’s 4th of July block parties.  Frank Sinatra would’ve been jealous with all the attention I got from the ladies.

The ganache is the secret.
Rolling the ganache into balls is the tough part.
My knife skills are non-existent. But being a former mechanic, I cheat. The “hammer when in doubt” approach always prevails.

Genes – A Decoder Key to the Past


Jeans are really made by Calvin Klein.  Tight.  Unfortunately (or fortunately if you’re lucky), they follow your body lines.   A deviation from your body lines is not possible.

Oops.  Old age.  Genes is the topic.  Duh.  Genes follow your (family) lines.  Deviation is not possible.

There’s something about genetics that is pure fascination.  People will like you because of your genes.  People will hate you because of your genes.  Regardless, you got them from somebody from up the line.

There is an orchestration in genetics which is more difficult to discern as generations pass.  But genes don’t conk out.  Genes are the only unbroken thread that weaves back and forth through all those cemeteries – or urns in my family’s case.

My grandmother Ikuyo Shibayama (on my mother’s side) was born in 1903; her parents were of samurai heritage.  Believe me, my mother drilled that into my head.  Brainwashing was very effective.

Around 1911, it was fortunate my grandmother had a portrait taken of her taken in Kanagawa, Japan.  She was about eight or nine years old and is standing on the left.

Grandmother Ikuyo at about nine years of age, circa 1911, standing on left.

Just about 100 years later, I took this snap of my littlest daughter Brooke when she was a flower girl at my second cousin’s wedding in 2010.  Brooke was eight years old.  Born in 2003.  Exactly 100 years after my Grandmother.  Genetics?  What do you think?

My daughter Brooke at eight years of age; taken in 2010.

Perhaps Calvin Klein was around a hundred years ago.

The Forgiveness of a WWII Sailor


In an earlier blog, I praised Old Man Jack for his forgiveness.  It is not possible to write about what he did or saw out on the god-forsaken islands in the Pacific during World War II.  Only he truly knew what was in his soul.

But in spite of his exposure to combat in that very personal and bitter war, Jack’s practice of forgiveness was his most important contribution to the healing of this world.  The world we enjoy today.  I truly believe that.

Old man Jack loved my kids – perhaps his warmth and the forgiveness in his heart will shine through.

Jack was in the hospital often in the last five years of his life. We went as often as we could to say hi.
When Jack was laid up in the hospital and couldn’t make the block party, my kids wrote him a special 4th of July greeting. They wrote “Big Jack” as my son was known as “Little Jack”. Yes, I named my son after old man Jack.
Old man Jack loved it when my Mustang won at car shows. Here are the “two Jacks” in my life. You can see old man Jack’s trademark grin.
We’d sit outside on our front lawn whenever we could… He’d share his sailor’s wisdom (with appropriate restraint) and my kids would smile.
My kids lead the way to one of our breakfasts. Against my wishes, he’d insist on paying for the kids’ chow as well. I could never win.
He loved it when we’d all visit with him in his home. He loved my kids. Imagine that…
My oldest son loves to work on his muscles – as did old man Jack in his youth.

Short Stories about World War II. One war. Two Countries. One Family