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…

Nefarious and sinister

“No sign, so far, of anything sinister—but I live in hope.”
Agatha Christie

Firstly, you must remember that I am from the generation that was before this
over-zealous addiction with technology was a thing…
From a time before cell phones, before DVD’s, before standard air conditioning,
before videos before virtual reality….

Television, with only the standard 3 major networks, broadcast in black and white,
was not a 24/7 happening thing.
Who doesn’t remember the good ol buzzing of the test pattern waiting for the time
in which the day was to crank back up?

I was well into my teaching career when schools began introducing computers
to their teachers.
A hulking behemoth of a thing that had no such thing as a connection to a
world wide web or wifi capability…but rather ran a single electronic grade book system….of which was only as good as the teachers trying input the
averages and grades…

So when it came time for our son to actually need his first computer,
in say maybe his 9th or 10th grade year in high school,
he was sold on needing an Apple.

My dad was always the techie guru of the family…
of which probably had something to do with Dad having been an engineer all his life.
For he was always cutting edge with technology.

When I was young we were the first on our street to get a color television,
the first to move from HiFi to stereo and the first to get a cell phone.
Granted it was basically a plug-in phone in a bag that looked more like a
traditional phone stuck in a black pocketbook…
but it was cutting edge none the less.

When he bought mother her first microwave, a giant monstrosity that took up an
entire kitchen counter, he made us all leave the room when it was on lest we be
radiated…yet it was ok to eat the radiated food…hummm.

So when it came time for folks to get home computers, dad was right there
in the mix…and this must have been where our son got his proclivity for
technology.

Of course it was now the 21st century…
Apple had come a long way from the early
days of the Macintosh…
Apple now presented a clean futuristic take on technology.
They were slick and if you were slick, Apple was what the slick were craving.

So naturally our son eventually sold me on needing an Apple as well…
despite my school still using traditional PCs in the classroom.
“Apples are easier to use and they don’t get viruses mother” he would
frustratingly remind me whenever something went awry at school…
“Plus they’re for the more creative” this being a push to his
art teacher mother.

And so it is…
I’ve been through one large Apple desktop and two iMac lap tops…not to mention
and array of iPhones and one iPad…

And then it happened.

There I was last night having to update my adobe acrobat.
My phone happened to be ringing at the same time.

Answering the phone while trying to update…
as in multitasking has always been an area in which I have always excelled…
Yet suddenly something crazy and terribly wrong had come up on my screen as there
was now a voice coming from my computer with some dude talking to me about virus
detection while my computer had downloaded not adobe acrobat but something else
entirely, something called Safe Finder—
with this actually becoming my new home page.
Safe it was not….

WHAT????? I hear a panicked voice wailing,
realizing the voice was mine.

So I quickly hung up the phone and tried doing everything a limited minded
57 year old knows to do.
I cut my computer off and on.

When some semblance of clarity finally returned to my distraught brain,
I tried uninstalling the blasted thing but it wouldn’t uninstall.

Shades of Equifax now ran through my brain as I heard the Discover Card commercial
Russian sales associate “Peggy” mocking me from somewhere deep in Siberia…
I now believed everything I held dear or what was of importance to my existence as
a humanbeing had just been dumped on that nefarious Dark Web.

I actually looked up “what is the dark web”
And just when you thought the internet was not dark enough,
it gets even darker.

The links that came up were frighting at best.
With the lead link claiming to be able to step by step anyone into the dark web
within 15 minutes allowing you to remain anonymous.
I felt as if it was assuring me that it could happily step by step me
smack dab into the middle of Hell all within 15 minutes…
somehow I don’t think one remains anonymous in Hell.

Naturally I didn’t click on any links because I just wanted to see if it was
really real.
And no I do not need to see if Hell is real…
I’ve already figured that one out.

So I now had a sick feeling in my stomach…a kind of scared to death feeling of
instant doom.

I worked my way into reaching Apple in order to make an appointment at one the
Atlanta stores for the following day but discovered there were no appointments
until Saturday at 5:15.
“Are you freaking kidding me?????”
Again the panicked voice, which was mine, was heard wailing.

By now my husband was home.
I rapidly fired off the retelling of my troubles as he was wondering why
supper was only half way cooked.
“Maybe you should just go buy another one?”
“No” I practically snapped, “this one is only two years old and a new one
would cost an arm and a leg.”
All the while images of viruses being sent out to everyone I knew, or worse,
my identity was now multiplying in places like North Korea, Russia, China….
all dark shadows playing out in my now overstimulated imagination.

After supper I called Apple and left my number for a “miracle worker”
to call me back.
An almost immediately my phone rang with said Apple miracle worker.

I explained my tale of woe.
We ‘share screened’…
(which is scary in itself as we where both in my computer at the same time)
while he walked me through the malware issue.
He found the culprit embedded on my hard drive…hidden well deep within
the labyrinth of the the computer.

We got it, got rid of it and added a Malware program to my computer to
detect and deal with any further issues.

So naturally with all this virus verses no virus business…
along with the hackers, identity theft, and the sinister Dark Web plaguing
my life, I got to thinking….

We live in a world of utterly false protection.
If you think otherwise, it won’t be long until this world makes a believer out of
you as well.

We have been lulled into believing that everything from our identity,
to our credit history to our medical records, to our very safety as an American
are all perfectly safe…
Yet with the big credit companies like Equifax recently being attacked…
While millions of medical records were hacked at Anthem in 2015, with even
the Pentagon being hacked, no one should feel safe.

While credit information is easily stollen at gas stations, restaurants and
even while innocently and mindlessly shopping…
with it all being sold to the highest bidder.

Life is no longer simple nor is it safe.

So while we now work diligently to be ever vigilant protecting what is ours
while living in a world of growing cyber darkness…
we must be equally, if not more so, mindful that our very souls are
just as vulnerable as our credit or our medical records or even our identity ….
for there is indeed a darkness that longs for such…

And should you disagree—there are steps available for taking you just as dark as
you dare go…I think they call that hell…..

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent,
who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—
he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,
“Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the
authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers
has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God.
And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word
of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.
Therefore, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to you,
O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath,
because he knows that his time is short!”

Revelation 12:9-12

whose will?

“It seems to me that the spiritual answer is to be found in neither optimism nor
pessimism about the future, but in complete trust in God.

Fr Benedict Groeschel


(Percy sporting a “mimi” hat / Julie Cook / 2017)

And just incase you’re confused…the question is not who’s Will…?
As in who is Will…?
But rather…whose will…?
As in mine yours, ours or His…..

The past couple of days, weeks and even months I feel as if most of my posts
have had one central theme in common…the simple matter of will.

As in the constant tug of war we play with both ourselves as well as everyone else…
with the ultimate tug and pull and war being with God himself.

When I was a little girl my grandmother Mimi would crochet and knit up a storm.
Sewing, knitting, needlepoint…you name it, she did it.
Yet none of that ever appealed to me…it was not ever to be my forte.
I just didn’t enjoy it and I especially loathed trying to learn it.

I don’t know if it was a patience thing or rather that I just opted for
other creative outlets.
Today a reattached button is about the extent of my sewing endeavors.

My grandmother however was profuse with Mother following in hot pursuit.
Afghans, throws, bell pulls, pillows, samplers, seat cushions, stool covers…
all of which now oddly adorn my home.
But the specialty, or rather the pièce de résistance being always, the “mimi hat.
A crocheted toboggan like thing looking oddly like a flapper’s cap.

Everyone got a mimi hat.

Colors were limited to brown, beige, rust, cream, antique gold….
You’d put the hat on your head and immediately your hair was now a flat static
fly away mess. Wildly and weirdly standing on ends atop your head so you
had no other choice but to keep the hat pulled down tight on your head…
while looking a bit odd wearing the thing in the house especially in the summer.

Mother would make us put on and wear the blasted things when we went to visit
or if Mimi would come to visit us.
Not that Mimi would expect it, but Mother knew it would make my grandmother happy
seeing us “enjoying” her handiwork.

I hated them.

My choice in wearing the hat was that I could either fight and refuse or
I could suck it up, acquiesce and please…
I opted for the later because I did not want to make my life miserable while
making everyone else’s lives miserable.
Nothing like a 7 year old demanding no to a parent demanding yes.

The same held true when I was made to wear a dress every time we visited our other grandmother, Nany. Since Nany bought the bulk of our clothes, Mother knew that
if she wanted to keep her mother-n-law happy, she’d better be putting her kids
in those nice new clothes. Never mind that I was happiest in jeans or shorts.

Which goes back to mother having a choice…
She could either give-in to our whining and let us look like sloppy bumpkins
while drawing the ire of the woman who had bought us all sorts of nice clothes
or she could get us gussied up and uncomfortable while drawing the praise of this
matriarch.
She too chose the latter.

I learned early on that sometimes its best to give a little while giving in a little
rather then reveling in being self centered with a life short lived
in a sea of selfishness.

Yet our society appears to have forgotten about biting the proverbial bullet…
Living in a nation that is now in a constant state of in-fighting over the notion
of our own individuals wills, is proving both counter productive and most
oppressively destructive.

It says a lot about us as a society that we are constantly demanding our own
will to be done.
As we’ve moved from the consideration of others to simply damning others.

Fr Benedict reminds us of the importance of a will other than our own…
“‘Your will be done.’
This conviction should be the ultimate intention of all your prayers–
along with finding our peace in the acceptance of that will.
Certainly, to pray like this is a gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“It is out of two things, acceptance and obedience to God,
that we receive the great gift of peace.”

If we persist in this hellbent quest of ours, demanding our own will rather than
seeking out and yielding to His will,
we will be damning not only others but ourselves in the process….

When we went down last month to West Palm Beach for my aunt’s funeral,
As we sorted through my aunt’s belonging determining what should stay
or be tossed, I found a box full of mimi hats.
Funny how these some odd 50 years later, seeing those hats brought a warm smile
to my face and a most warming sensation to my heart.
I was immediately transported to a happier time.

How different that could have all been had I refused so long ago to have ever
worn one of those hats preferring to be self-centered and selfish.

Seeing them all these many years later may have actually brought back some very
difficult memories rather than the happy ones I felt suddenly seeing them again
all these many years later.

I opted to bring two of them home.
I won’t be wearing them, but I’ll be happy knowing that I now have them…
I just think the cats are probably now thinking what I use to think….
that these are really stupid looking hats….


(oooo lala)

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:2

The Shadows of our Illusions

If time is not real, then the dividing line between this world and eternity, between suffering and bliss, between good and evil, is also an illusion.
Herman Hesse

Progress is not an illusion, it happens, but it is slow and invariably disappointing.
George Orwell

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(a western setting sun reflected from one of the many skyscrapers on the Nashville skyline / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(Nashville skyline at dusk / Nashville, TN / Julie Cook / 2015)

Man creates, builds and constructs.
Why?
Because he can.
Always bigger, always taller, always grander. . .
Why?
Because he wants to be bigger, taller and grander than the next guy. . .
Endlessly seeking that which is exquisite, beautiful and spectacular. . .
Why?
Because he looks to fulfill a longing. . .
For what is it that man so longs. . .?
Man longs to fill a void. . .
An emptiness of that which is greater than man himself. . .
A void of that which is Divine
Why is that?
Could it because man longs for that part within his being that is open, unfulfilled and yearning for something which he simply cannot recognize as greater than himself. . .
and so he makes, he creates, he builds, he looks, he longs. . .

The Great Disturbance of Our Illusion
The idea that there is something eternal and infinite makes our souls anxious in their mortality.
They want to reach beyond themselves to immortality;
they themselves want to be immortal but know not where to begin. . .
Out of this disquiet of the soul have come the mighty works of philosophy and art:
The systems of Plato and Hegel, the Adam of Michelangelo,
the quartets and symphonies of Beethoven, the Gothic cathedrals,
the paintings of Rembrandt, and the Faust and Prometheus of Goethe.
They were all overpowered by the idea of something eternal and immortal. . .
At the same time, the most grandiose and delicate of all human
attempts to strive for the eternal out of the heart’s anxiety and restlessness is religion. . .
Human beings have found the way to light, to joy, to eternity.
The human race could proudly point to the flourishing of its spirit,
were it not for one thing namely, that God is God and grace is grace (Romans 11:6).
Here comes the great disturbance of our illusions and our blessed culture, the disturbance that God himself causes and that is made graphic in the old myth of the tower of Babel. Our way to the eternal was interrupted, and with our philosophy and art, our morality and religion, we fall into the depths from which we came. For another way had penned up, the way of God to humanity.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Barcelona, Berlin, Amerika 1928-1931
I Want to Live These Days with You

A man and his paints

“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely”
Sir Winston Churchill

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(photograph of Winston Churchill at his easel taken from the Daily Telegraph Sunday insert 1965 / Julie Cook / 2015)

What is it that defines a man?
What is it that defines greatness?
What sets some men apart from others?
Does eccentricity and genius run merrily along hand in hand?

January 30, 1965, exactly fifty years ago, there was a funeral held to mark the passing of a life from this world to the next. I was a mere 6 years old. There was not the streaming online constant and instant 24 / 7 news coverage in 1965, beaming and streaming live action of the funeral around the globe, but that is not to say that the world did not briefly stop that somber January day, so very long ago, in order to take notice of the silent passing of greatness from one dimension to the next.

It is a rare event in the United Kingdom to afford anyone other than a crowned monarch or consort a state funeral. Rarer still is the assembling of much of the world’s leaders, statesmen, monarchs and dignitaries for the funeral of a mere prime minister. Yet after having lain in state for three days in Westminster Hall, affording the general public a chance to offer a personal farewell, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was honored by both prince and pauper at one of the most memorable state funerals, other than that of Queen Victoria and King George, which the 20th century had ever seen. Within Sir Christopher Wren’s 1675 architectural marvel, St Paul’s Cathedral in London, the world bid a splendid farewell to one of the most renowned figures of the 20th century.

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(even the often cold and arrogant honored this giant of a man as witnessed by a final salute offered by General Charles De Gaulle )

However, behind the façade of soldier, commander-in-chief, statesman, historian, author, MP, Prime Minister, husband and father, resided a man whose peace and solace was found quietly behind a canvas.

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These photographs are pulled from several of the English periodicals dating from 1949-65 which are a part of my beloved Churchill collection. It is because of Churchill’s stalwart leadership during World War II which most of the world thinks it knows this enigma of a man—however the true identity of a man is not always found in the obvious places nor within plain sight. This most brilliant and equally eccentric man, who helped to shape much of the modern world as we know it today, was much more than statesman or commander. . .he was more than husband and father, or Victorian dreamer— Winston Churchill was a prolific painter who sought and found inner peace during the turbulence of personal, professional and world tragedies, through the simple art of painting.

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(images of paintings on loan to the Millennial Gate Museum in Atlanta, Georgia offering a tribute of the man and his pairings)

Yet below, in this most famous image of “the Big Three” taken from the conference at Yalta, in the waning months of the war,there is much more taking place than just an orchestrated famous photo op of the three men to whom responsibility fell to mould and remodel a new world. . . There is actually much more going on in this image—there is a hidden and secret dance of diplomacy and duplicity being secretly choreographed by a cold and calculating man who was a master deception–this image is the pure essence of power plays, betrayal, death, and hidden terror all silently playing out before the cameras of a painfully yet hopeful naive world.

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The slight smile on Winston’s face is misleading. Stalin never hid his disdain for the Prime Minister. He also believed he held the President as a puppet in his hands, being able to manipulate a frail shadow of a man as Roosevelt was tired, sick and not much longer for the world. Roosevelt died of a massive stroke only two months following the conference.

Roosevelt came to the conference looking wistfully towards a new world order. At this point he didn’t care what sacrifices had to be made in order to establish his elusive global Nirvana. Winston was more weary, cautious to the resetting of a dangerous chess board with equally deadly results as compared to the game which was in the process of just being played out. Winston felt beaten and betrayed. He had been mislead, left out, manipulated, lied to and betrayed by a dear friend as well as mocked and ridiculed by a wolf, or in this case an angry grizzly bear, in sheep’s clothing. He too was tired as the weight of the world rested upon his aging hunched shoulders.

And it was to his art that Winston would retreat, again and again and again. . .as most often it is to the gift of creativity that a man finds himself turning to, being drawn to, in order to set his world back to balance. In the mere act of painting or to the repetitive laying of brick in order to repair an ancient wall to a family home, Winston found comfort. He was able make sense of often senseless situations. . .in the freedom of putting paint to canvas he could find the easing of mind and solace of spirit both elusive and often battered and bruised from the realities of an often cruel world.

Outlets, diversions, distractions, escape—whatever form of creativity a man seeks, it is all a part of his birth right, a divinely inspired gift of talent and wonderment, bestowed upon him by the one true Master of Divine Creativity. It is what is good in a man. It is what is positive. Just as man works toward waging death and destruction, he works equally towards that which is aesthetically pleasing, beautiful, redeeming and edifying.

Man’s ability to create, to make “art”—is a source of peace and calm. It is a counterbalance in a world bent on death and destruction. It is the tiny piece of hope instilled in man by his Creator which helps to serve the betterment of all of mankind–a gift within an individual which has the ability to ripple outward throughout the ages, resonating to generations yet to be. . . that hope, beauty, good, wonder and joy are indeed alive and well and still very possible as the world continues to allow the dark clouds of death to gather overhead.

It was to this very “gift” that Winston sought his peace, his time of release and his place of balance in a world spiraling out of control. May we all be mindful that such a gift is still very much a part of each of us and has the tremendous ability to heal and comfort in our own equally dizzying time of madness. . .

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Here is a P.S. to today’s post

A very nice and humbling thing has taken place today over on the Artistic Christian–a great blog spot where John, a minister of music out in Texas, has created a place to showcase the works of Christian artists from all over—artists found in all sorts of creative venues—be it the visual arts, music, literature, you name it—–and today, John was kind in wanting to feature me.
Natalie, from Sacred Touches has told John about Cookiecrumbs, and wanted to share with others some of my works, of which I am grateful and truly humbled.

Here is the link. . .

https://theartisticchristian.wordpress.com/2015/01/23/christian-artist-feature-julie-cookie/

(but you should know I was raised in the Episcopal Chruch 🙂 )

Simply simple

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Confucius

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“Oh dear, she’s at it again”—and yes, I can hear you.
No this is not another batch of Cookie’s vanilla extract, but I must say that it has come to full maturation and I have been incorporating it into my baking—you may not realize it, but you are sorry you never made your own.

Today however we are looking at something so simple and yet so important that it’s almost frightening. And no, you are not beholding jars of moonshine. I know what you’re thinking, “She’s in the deep South isn’t she, don’t they all have a still or two out back?”

Lord no honey, the Revenue man came years ago and smashed that thing to bits.
You can trust me, I don’t know anything about moonshine which reminds me of Prissy in the movie Gone With The Wind when she lamented to Captain Butler “I don’t know nothing bout birthing no babies”. The rumor was, when I was a little girl, moonshine would make a person go blind because it was often distilled through an old car’s radiator. Who makes things that people consume from old rusty dirty car parts?? Those on a slippery slope I suppose. I did, however, once partake of a sip back in my college days.

Seems some stupid fraternity boy I was dating at the time thought it would be something to have a bottle of genuine Georgia Mountain mash. I have no idea how he came by this particular jar as moonshine was illegal to make and / or possess. It was indeed in a mason jar and it was clear and he seemed quite clandestine about the whole thing.

He screwed off the top and handed me the jar. It had a strange sterile aroma of rubbing alcohol and cherries. Now I have always been known to be adventurous when it has come to trying new things. I do draw the line however at the eating of scorpions on a stick or noshing on a handful grubs, or any other sort of insect… thank you very much Bear Grylls. Nor am I up for trying what my dad tells me his mother use to serve him as a young boy…eggs and brains. I suppose it is true what they say about eating all the parts of a pig, but I do have my limits and I am digressing.

I gingerly brought the jar to my lips, barely allowing the liquid to come into contact with my mouth or my very worried tastebuds. It was very stout I recall, as in very heavy on the alcohol end of things. I think it would probably have been a better antiseptic than a sipping cocktail. All I can say is that I tried it.

I found it not very different from the 190 proof bottles of golden grain alcohol the college boys would buy enmass, pouring into giant plastic trash cans, topping off with can after can of HI-C Hawaiian fruit punch…..dubbing the brew “hunch punch”—it was served at every fraternity’s “social”–aka, party. One’s date would go with cups in hand and dip cup after cup into the giant liquid filled trash cans. I now look back on those days with dismay and wonder how in the world I survived and give thanks that I am not blind, deaf or dead. What were we thinking!!?? Obviously we were not……

And at least moonshine is not bathtub gin—but then that sounds very similar to hunch punch…..oh the perilous concoctions Prohibition must have created…..

But my jars here are not mixtures of home-brewed spirits but rather a mix of mere water, sugar and, on this occasion, cinnamon sticks.

Behold, the simple syrup!

Simple syrup is just that, simple. But why bother to write about and / or share a recipe for something seemingly so simple you ask…..because it is a blank canvas waiting for you to get creative.

Over the weekend I was privileged to host a bit of a retirement shindig for one of my dearest friends. As this is the Fall of the year, it just seemed fitting to offer some sort of Fall inspired libation. What comes to mind when you think of Fall? Apples that’s what!! Of course…Apples. I made a pitcher of what I christened Cookie’s Apple Heart Warmer and boy were they good. A lovely smooth amalgamation of Apple cider, cinnamon, Amaretto, Bourbon, lemon and cherries. One of my friends took one sip and sweetly cooed “oooo, this tastes just like Fall!!”

My concoction required that I fist make a simple syrup. The easiest ratio for this is to use one cup water and one cup sugar—or in my case I used 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar. Put water and sugar in a pot or deep sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir as it comes to a boil, making certain all the sugar has dissolved. Once the sugar dissolves, remove the pot from the stove. Here is were I added my cinnamon sticks. You could add a vanilla pod, star anise, whole cloves, sliced ginger, a couple of chili peppers, thyme sprigs, basil leaves, rosemary sprigs, cardamon pods (not all together mind you)—whatever your heart desires depending on the flavor you’re going for and what you want to mix it with later.

As I was making an apple concoction, I wanted a cinnamon flavor, hence the brown sticks you see above. Once the liquid is cool you may transfer it to a glass jar or bottle. You must keep it in the refrigerator. It will last a couple of weeks. If it should start to turn cloudy, it’s time to throw it out.

Simple syrup may be added to ice tea. I made a large pitcher of tea, added sliced lemons, oranges and a handful of fresh mint and enough cinnamon simple syrup to taste. I’m not one to measure, just pour and taste until the ratio seems just right. I also tend to not like my drinks overtly sweet so I tend to be a bit conservative with my pouring. Perfect for a warm summer evening out on the veranda—as everyone thinks all southerners all have verandas.

The apple beverage consisted of 20 oz of apple cider (Simply Apple from the grocery store’s juice section is perfect) 16 oz bourbon (Bulleit or Makers Mark is nice), 4 oz of Amaretto (you could just use 20 oz of bourbon if you prefer but I think the Amaretto helped to produce that oh so smooth taste), 4 oz of fresh lemon juice (I used the bottled Key West All Natural Lemon juice which is pretty stout but if using real lemons, you may need to adjust the amount), 4 oz cinnamon simple syrup, and an entire bottle of all natural, no dye, Maraschino cherries with the juice, plus a handful of cinnamon sticks. Here is were you need to taste and adjust. If it’s not sweet enough, more simple syrup–I also threw in some more Amaretto and a little more cider.

I served it in sugared rimmed flutes. To sugar the rims pour a little lemon juice in a shallow saucer and then a mix of sugar and cinnamon in another saucer. Carefully turning your glass upside down, dip the rim of the glass in the lemon juice, let the drips fall back into the saucer, then dip into the cinnamon sugar, allow to dry. Garnish with dried apples chips. I did dry my own apples but you can easily buy a bag of dried apple chips at the store.

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I think this beverage would be even better heated as a heart warming hot toddy savored by a crackling fire. I just hope you enjoy—my little gathering of friends surly enjoyed as they polished off 3 pitchers…hummm, must have been the cherries. And speaking of, one of my friends even carried home the cherries that had been at the bottom of the pitcher…hummmm