deviating with a touch of alchemy and a creative past…

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw


(step 1 to clarified milk punch / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.

Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.

I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.

Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?

Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.

And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.

Today is Oct. 22nd.

That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
you choose.
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.

Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.

We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”

As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
since May.

Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.

“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.

And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
aka Summer,
my thoughts are turning to Fall.

As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.

Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!

My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.

So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.

Enter the clarified milk punch.


(Gastro Obscura)

A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.

One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.

The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.

My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.

I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.

And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.

The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.

I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.

I asked about his drink that was no longer available.

Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.

He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.

As in all good things…right?

He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.

Alas.

He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.

I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.

He made good on his word…

My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.

I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.

My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
He smiled.

(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)

And so in turn, I have researched.

History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.

Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.

But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.

Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.

There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.

But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.

A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
delightfully lingering.

The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.

After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.


(NY Times)

The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.

Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.

I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.

My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.

No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.

Stay tuned…

Dear God,

I told you that I would thank you.

That I would thank you here, on the most public platform I have available.

For you, oh Lord, have blessed us, this small family of ours, beyond measure.

You have heard our petitions and our cries, all on more than one occasion…
You have heard our groanings and our anguish…our pleas and our laments…
and You have always been faithful, even while we were undeserving.

You know my heart oh God.

You know exactly for what it is that I am offering you my thanks…

And yet…for today…I will simply let these two small little people represent
the outward symbol of our family’s gratitude…the deep offerings from my heart to Yours.

I thank you for their presence in our lives.
I thank you for their wellbeing.
I thank you for the opportunity for allowing me to be a part of their lives.
I thank you for the joy they bring…to all of us…

Be that when they are awake and happy…


(the Mayor and her new Sheriff / Julie Cook / 2019)


(the new Sheriff enjoying a bath / Julie Cook / 2019)

Or when they are blessedly asleep, both at the same time when I’m babysitting!


(a moment of blessed peace when “Biya” aka Mopie comes to babysit/ Julie Cook / 2019)

Thanking you even for this…reasons some of us get hand, foot and mouth disease while thinking
we’re just being silly and playing a game of “don’t do that”
and then wonder why later we don’t feel so good.


(the Mayor thinking she’s being funny rather than gross / Julie Cook / 2019)

But most importantly God, I thank You for hearing our small family’s prayers and for
answering those prayers…

Sometimes You answer in ways we see and understand and sometimes You answer in ways that we
do not nor cannot see let alone comprehend…

And yet, no matter what, You hear us nonetheless.

Please continue in Your guidance as I continue to learn gratitude…

Love, Julie

apostello

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him,
but because he loves what is behind him.”

G.K. Chesterton


(the Mayor offers her blessings to St Francis / Julie Cook / 2019)

According to Wikipedia, the word apostolate means:
An apostolate is a Christian organization “directed to serving and evangelizing the world”,
most often associated with the Anglican Communion or the Catholic Church. …
The word apostolate comes from the Greek word apostello,
which means to “send forth” or “to dispatch”.

And isn’t that pretty much a summation of what is known as the Great Commission within
the Christian faith?

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.
When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Then Jesus came to them and said,
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.
And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Matthew 28:16-20

So I recently read about an interesting little book that’s really not very new…the copyright
date is 1946.
It is the book that was on the bedside table of Pope Pius X…
and so intrigued as to what a pope found to be essential to the Faith,
I naturally thought I too needed to have my own copy.

And whereas this book was written by a Catholic Monk who was born in 1858 and died in 1935,
the words offered are eerily very current and timely…
Or perhaps there’s nothing eery about it at all because such words are more or less timeless.

Not overly familiar with the political history of France during the era of her Prime Minister
Georges Eugène Benjamin Clemenceau, I did not realize that he was very much an enemy of
the Catholic Chruch as well as an active anti-semite.

He considered himself to be a Radical Socialist.
He had no use for religion– that being not only The Catholic Chruch, but any church, as he was an avowed and very vocal atheist.
His feelings about the Jews were equally as venomous.

At one point, he mounted an all-out crackdown on the Catholic Chruch.

Some called it an outright persecution.

Yet French History is not totally unflattering of Clemenceau as he did lead France
strongly when she most needed strong leadership during the throes of WWI.
He even survived an assassination attempt by an anarchist during the midst
of the Treaty of Versailles.

In 1901 when Clemenceau was speaking very vocally against the Chruch and vowed
to close down as many of the monasteries and various Church Orders that he could,
a certain Catholic Cistercian monk was nominated to meet personally with the president
in order to ‘defend the faith.’

The unsympathetic atheist president admitted that he found this particular monk to be sincere,
fearless and of high integrity.
Clemenceau spared the monk’s Order but other Orders were not so fortunate.

The monk was Jean-Baptiste Chautard.

This particular monk was himself, not always one who was of religious thinking.
He had actually attended college to study economics and finance—
religion was far removed from his radar.

Chautard began attending a study group for Catholic students…an organization that would
be instrumental in his “conversion”—
a conversion from being Catholic in name only to that of practicing devout Chrisitan Catholic.

He later noted that this religious organization was…
“more than a tame and sheepish attempt to rival the attractions of the dance hall and the
cafe by vainly trying to beat them at their own game of pleasing and entertaining human nature.
There was something more, something that appealed to a much deeper and more urgent and more
vital necessity: faith, supernatural charity,
a deep and simple and unbreakable solidarity among souls united, as he was to discover, in Christ.
And he began to taste “that peace which the world cannot give.”

I am reminded of the recent posting by Bishop Gavin Ashenden regarding the frivolity of various
Anglican churches and their sad attempts of drawing in attendants by offering putt-putt golf
down the center aisle of the sanctuary or placing a Helter Skelter amusement ride in close proximity
to the altar.
A feeble attempt hoping to draw in and amuse the masses rather than “feed” their souls.

Dom Chautard story continues…

In the persecution of the Chruch in France, under Clemenceau, in the early days of the century,
Dom Chautard’s keen eye had discovered a glaring inconsistency in the reaction of a certain
type of Catholic leader.
He observed that some priests, some organizers of Catholic Action,
imagined that they could fight political enemies with more or less worldly and politically weapons,

Oh how this sounds like our sad state of affairs today.
The now misguided global Christian Chruch, not merely the Catholic faith, wrestling with and fighting
her political enemies with worldly weapons rather than with her true spiritual armor.

In defending the Chruch against state persecution,
they thought the most important thing was to gain and preserve political and social power,
they believed that these gains could best be consolidated by a great material expansion.
They expended all their efforts in running newspapers, holding conventions,
publishing pamphlets and magazines, and above all,
they measured the growth of Catholic life by the number of new school buildings,
new Church buildings, new hospital buildings, new orphanages, new social centers.
…As if the Church of God were built exclusively of bricks and mortar!

Such apostles tended to congratulate themselves when they had raised large sums of money,
or when their Churches were filled with great throngs of people,
without reference to what might be going on in the souls of all those who were present
It (the Church) is built of saints.
And saints are made only by the grace of God and the infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost,
not by speeches and publicity and campaigns, which are all dommed to sterility without the
essential means of Prayer and mortification.

…the only remedy was a return to the fundamentals of Christian Doctrine in
all the power and beauty of their traditional presentation.

excerpts from The Soul of the Apostolate
Jean-Baptiste Chautard, O.C.S.O.

We’ve been hearing so much as of late, have we not, about those spiritual comets that were
once so bright… blazing comets that have all but quickly burned out as they so publicly
denounce their once staunch faith.

We’ve been reading so much about churches that are prostituting themselves all in the name of numbers
and that of the feel-good religion of a progressive post-Christian church.

We find ourselves in a bit of a panic as we think that we are undergoing some new
and strange predicament…but in reality, our predicament is nearly as old as time itself.

So yes, the only remedy, the only solution, is that we return to the fundamentals of our
Christine doctrine.

We are called to dispatch the Word.
It would behoove us to be mindful that our time is running out…

“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness
to all the nations, and then the end will come.”

Matthew 24:14

they came, they played, they departed and now they’re in the ER


(the Sheriff today for Father’s day / Julie Cook / 2019)


(James currently at Children’s Hospital in Atlanta / 2019)

If you’ve ever had grandchildren, you most likely already know how quickly your
neat, orderly and tidy little world transforms when they are tiny, young and small.

Your life turns upside down while your heart grows both deep and wide.


(what was our family room)


(The Mayor’s new Woobooville office / Julie Cook / 2019)

You get tired, overwhelmed, happy, crazy and filled beyond measure…
You are not as young as you once were…the heightened momentum can leave you lagging.
Your stamina lessens, your bones and joints ache and as my husband loves to remind me,
“you’re no spring chicken anymore you know.”

The heck I’m not!!!

You work to keep up.
Chasing, running, scooping up, rocking, kissing, holding, feeding, cleaning, bathing
soothing…
Never stopping until they drop…

And then they look at you and smile or they kiss you, or they cling to you sobbing when
it’s time to leave, and your heart simply explodes…it nearly shatters from what can only be
explained as pure love…
because it is at these moments that you actually realize that this is all about
something so much more than yourself.

When you are the young parent(s), you are so busy living the day to day, getting everyone
through the day by day in one piece…working, living and surviving, you don’t have the time to actually
step outside of the moment and see it for what it is.

That’s the joy of becoming a grandparent…you have that ‘outside of the madness’ perspective
that shows you just how precious all of this really is…

That’s why you jump right in and roll up your sleeves.

And so it was…
For the past four days, our own world has been transformed.
We babysat, we enjoyed, we worked and then we celebrated Father’s day on many different levels…

And as the day waned and it was time to go, the tears began to flow.

And once they all returned back home, the call then came.

“His fever is high again, we’re going to the ER like they told us to do if it spiked again.”

And so I ask that you will please join our little family in prayers over our little James.
Prayers for healing from the lingering fever and infection.

As I type we are waiting on the cultures to return to determine if they keep him again.
We are praying they will send them back home.

It’s up in the air as to whether I will go or stay.

Happy Father’s Day to all and thank you for saying prayers for our little James.

the royal Mayor is in residence

“A King will have his way in his own hall, be it folly or wisdom.”
J.R.R. Tolkien

(the Mayor / Julie Cook / 2019)

I suppose we should raise the royal standard announcing to all the local constituents
that their Mayor, her royal highness, is now in residence in the
satellite office of Woobooville…

However, since the constituents consist of her grandfather, her grandmother and the two cats…
one of whom is not happy at all to see her, I think the standard shall remain unfurled.

The Mayor, however, did set about business immediately by meeting with a disgruntled neighbor.
It seems this “neighbor” is very opposed to one of the cats sitting on the front porch and
made a very vocal opposition of such—all the while the Mayor listened to the complaints
very intently and naturally full of curiosity and compassion…


(the mockingbird mere feet from the Mayor complaining about the proxiemity of the 13 year old car/
Julie Cook / 2019)


(the Mayor listening to the mockingbird’s complaints / Julie Cook / 2019)

And then there was the important task of watering—of which the Mayor takes very seriously…
that was until a wasp was unpleased and let the Mayor know in a most painful manner.

The Mayor’s first bee sting.

A slight hiccup to duty, but after about a 10-minute meltdown, and some chief aide’s offering of TLC,
it was business as usual.


(the Mayor before the wasp found her / Julie Cook / 2019)

Now the Mayor is in the midst of a transition—that would be a transition of hairstyles.

As her hair is now growing out and covering her eyes,
there is the matter of how to best remove it from said vision.

For the time being she is opting for a throw-back of the 60’s headband…hoping to bring back
an old stylish trend.

Stay tuned for the latest headlines from this field reporter regarding the Mayor’s official
visit to the satellite office of Woobooville…

Mother’s Day–happy and nostalgic

The two most important days in your life are the day you are born
and the day you find out why.

Mark Twain


(me and mom circa 1980 )

The fact of life is that we all have two parents.
A mother and a father.

If life is as we would wish it to be, we will know both of these parents.
They will love us and we will love them.

We will all grow together through both ups and downs.

Yet if life opts for a different path, we may or may not know our parents…
or we may not love them and they may not love us.

However, the fact of the matter remains— we all have had two parents.

And we all had a mother who carried us for, give or take, nine months.

If you’ve ever been pregnant, you know that those 9 months can be joyous, fretful, painful,
jolting, frightening and certainly changing.

Most of us have one mother…
I, on the other hand, had three.

My first mother, my original mother, my birth mother, is unknown to me.

In early 1959 a 23-year-old woman became pregnant.
Plans did not go as perhaps they should have and this young woman up and moved away
from her home…moving to a large city where she could blend in and become,
for the most part, anonymous.

She never traveled home for those many months as her pregnancy was her secret to keep.

She gave birth to a premature baby girl and left the hospital shortly thereafter.

Leaving behind…me.

I eventually went into foster care until I was adopted by the woman who would become my
second mother, or what is commonly known as an adoptive mom.


(me and mom on my wedding day, 1983)

When I was a teenager I was sent another mother…a God-mother.
I say ‘sent’ because I honestly believe God sent in a pinch hitter because He knew
the turns my life would take and that I would need someone to catch me when I’d fall.

And I fell many times.

This third mother was the wife of the Dean of the Cathedral of St Philip.
Both she and her husband designated themselves as my God-parents.
They were keenly aware of the fact that I was in desperate need for Godly parental guidance…
and it was at such a pivotal age.

They offered stability, encouragement and a clear Spiritual direction.
This Godmother taught me the importance of what it was to be a Godly woman, wife and mother…
despite all evil attempts to disrupt such.

She also taught me about Spiritual healing…healing that was crucial to my very survival.


(a grainy photo of Ginny Collins from 1978 / Julie ‘Nichols’ Cook)

Tragically, due to my brother’s mental illness, my adopted family was a caustic and dysfunctional mess.
It was an illness that took a grave toll on all of us,
but perhaps none greater than upon our adopted mom.

My brother and I were both adopted, five years apart, and we each had different biological parents.

Mother died very unhappy and prematurely at the age of 53.

My Godmother then stepped deeper into the fray of acting as a surrogate guide.
Her support and guidance remained a key part of my life until up until the time she died.

She died two years ago at the age of 94.

On the polar opposite end of the spectrum of life and of the two women, I eventually lost,
is my biological mother.
She is now 83 and is still living–but where I truly cannot say nor of what path her life
eventually took.

Maybe one day we will meet and I can tell her something very important.

Maybe I will be able to say to her “thank you.”
Thanking her for the selfless gift she gave me…that being the gift life.

Had she been selfish, putting her life and plans first, you and I wouldn’t be currently sharing
this moment together.

And I wouldn’t have my son or his wife or their two children in my life.

The choices we make in this thing we call life all have far-reaching and lasting effects…
be they negative or positive.

Life is positive.
Abortion is not.
My biological mother chose life rather than my death.

So today I want to thank all three of these women…
these three mothers who were, unbeknownst to one another,
intertwined in a single life..that life being mine.
Be it either briefly or for far much longer, they each gave me various gifts of love.

A love that now lives on in two precious little grandchildren…

And so on this Mother’s Day 2019, I want to say thank you to three women.

Firstly, thank you to my biological mother for the choice of giving me life.
I miss not having known you.

Secondly, to Mary Ann my adoptive mother, thank you for taking me into your heart and raising me–
a role that was no easy task—I have missed you terribly.

And finally to Ginny, my adopted Godmother, thank you for instilling in me the
importance of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…thank you for teaching me
what it means to live, to love, to confess, to repent, to forgive and to be forgiven…
I miss your wisdom.

And lastly, I want to thank a fourth woman.

Thank you, Abby, my dear daughter-n-law…

Thank you for loving our son.

Thank you for opening your heart to us and our family…
and thank you for the gift of two precious babies…The Mayor and her new Sheriff…

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things
your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live.
Teach them to your children and to their children after them.

Deuteronomy 4:9

Animal crackers. What would the mayor think?

Initiative is doing the right thing without being told.
Victor Hugo


(the mayor sporting her Andrew Jackson Tee shirt back in her office in Woobooville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Like the good little aide to the mayor that I am, I had to go on a bit of an extended visit
this past week in order to carry out my mayorial aide duties while the mayor was in her
Atlanta office… (aka, I had to babysit).
While in her Atlanta office, she was able to meet with a few of her local constituents
who live in the metro Woobooville district.
Then yesterday I had to drive her back here to her satellite office in rural Woobooville
(mom is coming to town to help give a shower this weekend).

In the meantime, as the aide to the mayor, it is my responsibility to help keep her
abreast of the latest current events…

And thus reading a recent article about the iconic box of Animal Crackers…

along with the uber animal rights activists PETA,
I just knew that this was one issue that I would need to share with the mayor…
It was also an issue that I knew the mayor would blow a gasket over.

This particular mayor cannot abide by the idiocy of the ongoing  PC mania that is
currently sweeping our culture…
Everything from 150-year-old monuments hurting the feelings of the overly sensitive
to now a cookie box depicting circus animals in cages causing outrage with radical
activists…

But I suppose we forgot…the circus is soon going to be a thing of the past.


(the mayor is aghast)

These animal crackers just so happen to be the very same iconic animal crackers
that my mother bought for me nearly 60 years ago…
all in order to keep me occupied in the grocery store as I accompanied her
during her weekly grocery trips—

It seems that the animal rights activists are livid and are forcing the hand of Nabisco
for their continued depiction of animals in their circus train cage…
the same iconic image used since the cookies first came out in 1902.

The mayor was so preoccupied with this latest tale that she could not focus on her meeting
with a local representative from the society of the jealous.


(Percy takes over everything that is Autumn’s when she’s here…hence filling out the car seat)

It seems that PETA has demanded that Nabisco redesign their cookie boxes to depict
cage-free animals.
And sure, updating packaging, rebranding, and new designs, for some companies
and products can certainly bring about a resurgence in sales—but think about Coke when
they wanted to tweak the flavor for the changing times…that did not help but actually  hurt sales.

And whereas the mayor believes in the protection of all animals…
but for plastic squids…

She believes the creation of laws and the changing of how zoos, circuses, and even
sanctuaries care for the animals under their charge is paramount as we have been
charged by God to care for them…but the notion that angry activists can twist the
screws on anyone they find who is out of step with their overly
political correctness—bringing about an intimidation which comes at any and all costs
is just something she finds maddening…

https://start.att.net/news/read/article/fortune-nabisco_frees_its_animal_crackers_after_a_peta_pro-rtime/category/finance+