Standards…all kinds of standards– all equally powerful.

“When depravity and immorality appear more prevalent in society,
one of the main causes can be traced to silent or inactive Christians”

David Fiorazo


(The Queen’s Royal Standard flying over Windosr Castle courtesy the web)

The Royal Standard, otherwise known as the Royal flag, is flown only when the Queen of
England and that of the British Commonwealth is physically in a particular residence—
The flag is her very visible calling card.

According to Wikipedia,
“the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom is flown when the Queen
is in residence in one of the royal palaces and on her car, ship or aeroplane.
It may be flown on any building, official or private, during a visit by the Queen,
if the owner or proprietor so requests.
It famously replaces the Union Flag over the Palace of Westminster when the Queen visits
during the State Opening of Parliament.
The Royal Standard was flown aboard the royal yacht when it was in service and the
Queen was on board.
The only church that may fly a Royal Standard, even without the presence of the Sovereign,
is Westminster Abbey, a Royal Peculiar”

So whether the Queen is in Scotland at Balmoral, in London at Buckingham Palace,
in Berkshire at Windsor Castle or simply riding in her limousine–etc…
a flag bearing the royal colors and emblems denoting the House of Windsor
is flown allowing all who see the flag to know that the Queen is indeed present.

It’s how a tourist visiting London, wishing to see the changing of the Gaurd,
knows whether or not the Queen is at “home.”
However, it matters not to said tourist whether the Queen is home or not…
as chances are the Queen won’t be receiving visitors…
yet the flag remains… a powerful symbol of a powerful yet diminutive woman.

Yet the flag actually represents much more than a 92-year-old monarch…
despite her reign being the longest in British history…surpassing even that of her
great great grandmother Victoria, the British Standard is so very much more than simply
the Queen.

Flags, and or standards, are powerful symbols representing powerful ideals.
Think of battlefields…be they ancient or current…as long as troops have marched, rode
or even flown into the face of conflict, a flag has most always been leading the charge.


(Lady Liberty leading the People by Eugene Delacroix 1830 from the July Revolution /The Louvre)

Think of every coffin of any US serviceman or woman that is brought home from a foreign field
of battle—that casket is covered in the American flag.
It is a tremendously powerful and very moving image.


(a 2009 image of Amercian servicemen returning home after offering the ultimate sacrifice)

And so when our favorite rouge bishop, Bishop Gavin Ashenden wrote his day’s post regarding
the soon to be flying of a certain flag high over the tower of Ely Cathedral,
a powerful and most dangerous message is to be sent…
A message that has our friend sounding a grave warning to not only Christians but more
importantly to the Chruch herself.

I’ve actually cut the entire post and added it as simply listing the link does not
do enough to help echo Bishop Ashenden’s alarm.

For you see, I’m slowly making my way into the book The Cost of Our Silence by David
Fiorazo. And this post and this alarm being offered to us by Bishop Ashenden is
exactly what David Fiorazo is talking about.

Will we as Christians simply fade into the woodwork pretending this has nothing to do with
us, or will be willing to speak up and out?

My prayer is that we will find the courage to speak

Ely cathedral has promised to fly the gay rainbow flag this weekend.

Mark Bonney, the Dean of Ely explained.

“This weekend we will be proudly flying the rainbow flag in support of the first ever
‘Pride in Ely’ event.

I am very pleased that Chapter agreed to my request to fly the ‘Pride’ flag from the
Cathedral tower on 11 August when Pride in Ely holds its first festival.
I am pleased first of all to lend my backing to this community event because it
celebrates the breadth and diversity of the community in which we all live.
I am also very conscious that Christians have not always been perceived as being as
supportive and inclusive as some of us would wish, and so I am pleased to fly this
flag as a sign of the kind of inclusion that I wish to promote at the Cathedral”

The Dean of Ely has adopted the secular values of a culture that has set its face against
Christianity, and is waging a war against Judaeo-Christian culture.

Sexual ethics have always been at the heart of the Christian’s struggle with sin,
the world and the devil. But it seems the Dean of Ely is not overly concerned with either
sin, or the distinction between the Church and the world, or the struggle with evil.

But then more and more cathedrals see themselves as civic centres of spirituality,
wanting to embrace the secular.

Jesus warned that you could not more serve God and mammon than you could submit to
the temptations of the devil and still work for the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the case of Ely, the Dean is choosing the Leftist values of so-called
‘breadth and diversity’ (values found nowhere in the Christian Gospels) and wants to make
reparation for the fact that Christians have been insufficiently supportive of
non-monogamous and heterosexual sexual adventure
(code word ‘inclusivity’- another term found nowhere in the teaching of Jesus.)

In brief, why is this an act of apostasy and worse?

The flying of a gay pride flag above a cathedral is more than a
contradiction, it constitutes a blasphemy.

Distorted sexual identity and practice is diagnosed by St Paul as a symptom of idolatry
(in Romans 1).

He warns that the more a society turns its back on the living God,
the more people experience dis-ease and disintegration.
This expresses itself partially in a confusion of sexual identity and equally by an
absence of continence. By contrast, the Judaeo-Christian tradition is a journey into
a deeper sexual and psychological purity, set within the parameters of God’s created order.

The present cultural and ideological assault on the Church takes the form of an attack
on the conceptual integrity of both marriage and the family.

It particularly sets out to undermine the integrity of the given-ness of the ‘binary’
categories of man and woman coming together to co-create, as God’s agents.

Instead of resisting this assault, parts of the church have welcomed it.
By ripping a piece of St Paul out context they have made him say the opposite of
what he intended.

In Galatians 3 Paul explored the basic categories of mutual antagonisms embedded in
his culture. Jews against gentiles, men against women and the free against the enslaved.
Once anyone defined by these categories of adversity entered the new life in Christ,
this baptised life washed these antipathies away into a new identity.
“In Christ, there is no slave or free…”. This can best be summarised by saying that
no Christian can truly be a Christian if they place a defining categorising adjective
in front of their identity in Christ.

So there can be no black, tall, rich, old, feeble, or any other category to define ‘Christian’,
or it becomes a contradiction in terms.

And particularly, of all adjectives, the least desirable would be an adjective
denoting perversion of God-given identity, or a disorder of behaviour whose effect was
the sullying of sexual purity as enabled experienced and understood in the Holy Spirit.

But this is exactly what the gay pride movement has set out to achieve in the
redefining and undermining of Christian sexual ethics and theological identity.

It would be ludicrous to describe people as ‘straight’ Christians.
It is just as ludicrous to define people as ‘gay’ Christians.
Our new anthropology of the Kingdom bestows an identity that is ‘in Christ’.
How can a Christian withdraw that identity and relocate it in a spectrum of sexual
and genital attraction?
What kind of Christian, what kind of church would replace the ‘imago Christi’
with the romanticised stimuli of genitalia?
What kind of Church would replace the call to die to yourself with the psycho-sexual
narcissism of a call to sexual and romantic adventure with a same sexual partner?

The matter is not made any clearer by the observation that the very term gay is
too clumsy to act as a descriptor of the horizon of sexual incoherence that stretches
through the spectrum of LGBTIQCAPGNGFNBA etc…

In flying the flag of gay pride from a Christian Cathedral,
the clergy have indicated their allegiance to an ideology of sexual identity that is at
complete odds with the faith that the Cathedral was built to teach and embody.

They have instead adopted the categories, language, and ethics of the enemies of Christ
and his kingdom.
They have betrayed Christ by raising the standard of surrender and offering their
allegiance instead to an over-sexualized, disordered and decaying secularism.

A church built on such a foundation, of ideological sand, is both under judgment
and built upon such shifting sand, that it will inevitably soon collapse.

Ely cathedral and the great apostasy

A stranger in a strange land

“We are Christians, and strangers on earth.
Let none of us be frightened;
our native land is not in this world.”

St. Augustine


(a surprise flock of deer in the middle of surburn Atlanta / Julie Cook / 2018
talk about strangers in a strange place)

Many years ago my aunt and I were taking an overnight flight from Atlanta to Milan.
This was not our first trip to Italy and I proudly figured that I knew just enough
conversational Italian to get us through any real language barrier.
All would be well I confidently told myself.

Yet in the back of my mind, I knew my aunt.
A panicker if ever there was one.

She knew the word equivalents to hello, yes, no, good-bye and stop.
She depended on me just as a blind person would depend upon a service animal.
I was to be her eyes and ears and mouth while navigating all over Itlay for the
next 3 weeks.
She was simply happy and content being along for the ride.
No thinking, no working, no figuring…just eating, drinking, shopping and seeing.
That was the extent of her comfort level when travelling.
No real thinking—just enjoying…while leaving the details to one more savvy
and experienced.
And in this case, that simply left me…

So what could possibly go wrong?

Arriving early morning in Milan, which was middle of the night Atlanta time,
and having flown for nearly 9 hours in a tin can in the sky with absolutely zero sleep
and limited nutrition…
We deplaned, made our way through the terminal, found our luggage,
then when trying to figure out where the train was located that was to take us into town…
well, I might as well have been hit on the head, suffering from complete amnesia.

Exhaustion was hanging like a thickly spun cobweb in my brain.
Panic was creeping up through my now rapidly and tightly closing throat.
I stood in the middle of the terminal looking around, trying to make sense, trying to translate
signs directing us where we needed to go.
It was as if my brain had gone blank and all that practice of asking in Italian where
the train station was located…as was now gone the time spent memorizing the map of
the airport…it had all instantly, completely and totally left me.

Yet I had to get a hold of myself as I didn’t need my 70-year-old aunt turning into
a wailing Henny Penny.
“GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF” I mentally screamed at myself.

And just as quickly as that sense of panic of a blank brain had engulfed me,
I clamped down on that boiling panic and calmed down… as I casually sauntered over
to the information desk asking the nonplused airport employee if they
“parli inglese”
and DOV’È LA STAZIONE CENTRALE?

And no that was not the end of our adventures during that particular trip…
but those are stories for another day…

It does, however, remind me of today’s quote by St Augustine.

A bold reminder that we Christians are strangers on this rather strange planet.

For we are indeed a strange people in a strange land.

Just like my aunt and I when we first arrived in Milan.
Strangers, much out of place, most uncomfortable and seemingly lost in what
was a new strange land.

I am currently grossly far behind reading and listening to both my two favorite
‘across the pond’ clerics, that it isn’t even funny.

This new role of grandmother, dashing around on the fly, with little to no sleep while
being out of pocket from my usual routine and home…
has me terribly out of sync here in blogland.

Yet I did manage to look over Bishop Gavin Ashenden’s latest musings which
actually starts off with a tale about Meghan Markle of all people—
that soon to be bride of Prince Harry.

It seems that Ms Markle has “agreed” to be baptized and subsequently confirmed
into the Anglican Chruch of England…as a gesture of graciousness for her soon to be
Grandmother-n-law who, as Queen, is known as the “Defender of the Faith” and “head”
of the Chruch of England.

The good bishop smells something a bit odious.

Not so much because of Ms Markle herself, who is obviously trying her best to now “fit in” into
her fiancee’s most British world as well as into his family…
but rather odious because of the Chruch of England itself.

As a Christian, I find it a bit odd, awkward and simply wrong that one would want to be
“baptized” as a child of God and in turn confirmed into a church body simply for the sake
of “fitting in”…
Not to mention the notion of a church body that sees such a life-altering decision as a mere
technicality.

I wonder if Ms Markle actually understands the implications behind what it means to
be Baptized–or as to the requirement of what is required of one who “joins” the church?

I wonder if the Church of England actually understands the life-changing and deeply
mystical experience that resides within the act of Baptism.

When we have a church body baptizing individuals as a means of helping one to fit in
or as a technicality…then I know we as Christians are indeed treading in a strange land.

And here is the dilemma for the Church of England.
A state Church wedded to a state that hates Christian virtue and Christian ethics;
a state that has begun to criminalise Christian witness as hate speech,
where police arrest street preachers and have them thrown in prison at the push of
a SJW’s phone button;
a state that has begun preparations to remove children from their Christian homes
if social workers detect what they improperly label ‘homophobia’ in the parents;
a state where Christian teachers are expelled and sacked if they do not endorse
the secular brainwashing on the fluidity of gender.

Meghan Markle, Justin Welby & The Use And Abuse Of Baptism.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
For what can be known about God is plain to them,
because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes,
namely, his eternal power and divine nature,
have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,
in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 1:18-20

faith in the impossible

“The reason birds can fly and we can’t is simply because they have perfect faith,
for to have faith is to have wings.”

J.M. Barrie

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“He who thinks half-heartedly will not believe in God;
but he who really thinks has to believe in God.”

Isaac Newton

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(brown pelicans / Santa Rosa Beach, Julie Cook / 2016)

cumbersome
awkward
ill proportioned
too heavy…

yet…

they fly
in unison
in sync
as one

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:4

Retreat, Sabbatical, Escape

“In order to understand the world,
one has to turn away from it on occasion.”

Albert Camus,

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Aristotle

“By God, I shall spend the rest of my life getting my heart back, healing and forgetting every scar you put upon me when I was a child. The first move I ever made, after the cradle, was to crawl for the door, and every move I have made since has been an effort to escape.”
― Thomas Wolfe

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(bags ready to go / Julie Cook / 2015)

It was this time last year when a plan was hatched.
It was the birth of a thought.
A “what if” sort of conversation.
Curious as to what may be found, three willing travelers were more than ready to journey to the land of great grandparents. . .
A grand adventure was set in motion. . .

Then the world fell apart.

Well not the big World, but rather the little world of family and self.

Practicalities began screaming “NO”
Mr Mole and Mrs Loon became impossible.
Caregivers continued threatening to leave as anger, resentment and failing bodies and minds wrecked havoc on the one versed with the overall wellbeing of everyone involved.

Backing out was too late.
It was a “go” whether or not the surrounding circumstances were in compliance.

So after a year of planning, then frustratingly dreading, the day of departure has arrived.

I’m heading out of pocket for about two weeks.
I leave behind Dad and Gloria who are not in good places right now.
Caregivers who have told me they may not be in place upon my return.
A husband who can’t leave his business.
A son and daughter-n-law who are now scarily “in charge”
A cat who appears to have broken a leg. . .
You name it, there are 100 reasons as to why I need to stay. . .
Yet I’m too far in to back out now, and my two traveling companions would be up the proverbial creek if I did. . .
You never know what will happen during the course of a year as you wait for a “big” event.

What started out as an exciting trip, has now morphed into, more or less, a cross between a sabbatical and a retreat.
Certainly no one is paying for me to go, no one but myself, yet I think my heart and mind both desperately need for me to go.
Things have been really bad on the Atlanta front as of late.
Actually almost impossible.
Enough to make me sick of both heart and health.

Getting away, far away, may be best for a while.
Unplugging, unwinding and simply allowing God to direct my path.
This is a pilgrimage of sorts to the Celtic roots of my life.

I’m not taking my computer.
Of course I’ve got both phone and iPad
Emailing and texting as time allows.
I doubt I’ll blog.
I just want to empty my thoughts for a while, allowing room for God to move in closer.
Dad and Gloria have almost pushed me over the edge.
I’m hoping with me not there 24 / 7, it’ll actually calm them down for a while.
We’ll see. . .

So until we are together again, in about 2 weeks. . .

May love and laughter light your days,
and warm your heart and home.
May good and faithful friends be yours,
wherever you may roam.
May peace and plenty bless your world
with joy that long endures.
May all life’s passing seasons
bring the best to you and yours!

Woven, yet freaking me out just a bit

Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.
Chief Seattle

The only faith that wears well and holds its color in all weathers is that which is woven of conviction and set with the sharp mordant of experience.

James Russell Lowell

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(image taken last April while out in the yard / Julie Cook / 2013)

Okay, I’ve written about this before.
Simple fact number 1—
I can’t stand spiders.

Yeah, I get it, you’re tying to tell me how beneficial they can be. . .they’re great out in the yard. . .they eat other bugs. . .yada, yada, yada. . .
You think good and I think black widows, brown recluse. . .you get the picture.

Lest I remind you that a couple of years ago, while at school, I was sitting at my desk in my office during my planning block— I turned around in my chair, reaching for something in the filing cabinet, suddenly sensing a bit of movement just out of the corner of my eye. .
Do you have any idea how large things can grow in a 51 year old school building which has dust bunnies as big as, well, real rabbits?!

Slowly and quite controlled, a couple of legs, yep, I said a couple,—long spindly legs, more like large antenna, come creeping out from the corner of the filing cabinet.
“OH DEAR GOD!!!” is the immediate scream in my head.

Very cautiously I ease myself up from my chair, leaning over as far as I dare, making certain I’m not seeing things.
“OH DEAR GOD AAAAGGGGGHHHHHH”

This time– the in my head scream is now quite audible.
I run out of the office, out into the empty hall.
I scan left, then right. . .
“S – P – I – D – E – R ”
The word haltingly spills from out of my mouth as I search in vain for a passerby. However, this is 2nd block, no one from the neighboring classrooms are on planning and no one is in the hall—just what an administrator dreams for. . . an empty hall— a panicked individual wants / needs people.

No matter.

I boldly open the door to the math teacher’s room across the hall, interrupting Algebra I (I never did understand the big deal about Algebra anyway, but my disdain for math is for another day), I calmly ask if I could please speak with the teacher out in the hall.
All 35 sets of eyes sense something serious was taking place as my eyes were as big a saucers, my teeth were clenched and I’m certain those on the front row could see the sweat beading on my forehead. . .

My friend and colleague steps out into the hall with me, closing the classroom door behind him. I’m sure he must have thought the worst considering my hands were shaking.
“s – p – i – d – e – r” barley lifts from my voice. By now I think I must be very pale as I think I may faint.

“What?!” my friend asks most concerned.
SPIDER” I now mange to pull the word out of my mouth.

Long story short, my friend, who I suddenly deemed mad and daft, proceeds to march into my office, grabbing the nearest ruler he can find.
“What are you doing?” I stammer, “Measuring it?!”
To my dismay, he gently coaxes the spider, web and all, out of the tight corner and proceeds to make his way outside to “save” it.
The spider is a wolf spider and is as big as a freaking golf ball!

“ARE YOU CRAZY?!” I scream.
“KILL IT!!!!”
By now, my former friend and colleague, has done his good deed by releasing, back into the wilds, a giant spider who I imagine was chomping at the bit to get back inside and back into his cubby spot in my office. . .

I tell you all of this as I am in a state of potentially freaking out as I type.

Breathe in, exhale, repeat. . .
Ok, here goes the real story. . .

A couple of months back, Michael, over on michaelswoodcraft.wordpress.com, wrote a tale concerning his son as a little boy. Michael recalled how his son had found an abandoned bird’s nest out in a bush bringing it in to the house. He kept his prize find in his room. Long story short, as the nest warmed in the house, the eggs of hundreds of baby praying mantis sprung into action—all over his son’s room.
Michael’s moral to the story was to always spray anything such as a nest, etc, for insects, otherwise an unwelcome infestation could be, literally, hatching.

I’ve picked up nests for years, as well as feathers, the occasional animal bone, shaded deer antler, etc, during my escapades out in the woods. I use to keep these things in my classroom as they made for wonderful artistic subject matter. I never worried about bugs as they all looked perfectly fine to me and I had never had an incident. . .until. . .

I like to think I keep a rather clean house. Being pretty particular as to tidiness, order as well as cleanliness. Now let’s remember that I was out of town for a few days recently. I naturally cleaned the house quite thoroughly before departing on the trip, as I have this fear that if, let’s say, something, God forbid, were to happen while I’m away and I don’t, er, come back, and my house had been left a mess—- People would come into my house thinking, “Oh my gosh Julie was such a slob.”
No, I won’t have that.
If people have to come into my house, should something unfortunate transpire during a time away, then they may remark “my goodness, what an immaculate house Julie has, imagine that, she has two cats and it looks and smells amazing. . .” I digress.
You get the picture.

So the other evening, once we finally arrived home from our very long day of flying and driving, I immediately plopped down on the couch– having been too tired to unpack–I simply plunked down the bags as soon as we walked in the door.
Sitting down, basking in the fact that I was no longer in some sort of perpetual motion, I notice, at the far end of the couch just by the lamp on the table, what appeared to be about three tiny little gnats of sorts or perhaps it was merely a piece of fuzz suspended from the lamp shade.

Mental note, “check out that lamp and dust that table tomorrow.”
I get up, dragging myself down the hall to take a shower before hitting the hay, when I feel like I just walked into the strand of a cobweb. Ugh. “Is the dust that bad on the door jam” I wonder.
Another mental note to self–dust door jams tomorrow.

The following morning, as the sun rose and I was now prepared to unpack and re-clean an already clean house, I spy what I thought to have been the fuzz the night before.
Horrors!
It’s some sort of little web with some tiny baby spiders.
OH DEAR GOD!
Upon further investigation, that cobweb dust business in the hall was actually a web, the entire banister was sheeted with a fine mesh web with hundreds of baby spiders

AAAAGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I am living the Twilight Zone—OH DEAR GOD!!!

This story could go on for days, but let’s wrap this up shall we because this is all creeping me out just reliving the nightmare. I saw that horrible B movie from the 60’s— you know the one—- the story of the giant spider that lived in a cave wrapping people up in a cocoon type web sucking out their blood. There are reasons why children should never see certain things and may it be known that a 1960’s B movie can , does leave lasting scars.

My we just say that I have since attacked the house– with the target area being where I first saw this initial massive spider nursery.
I’ve vacuumed, dusted, wiped everything down with poison, yes poision—the more the better—I might die from cancer due do the absorption of poison into my system as I’ve wiped down banisters, door jams, lamp shades, but by God, there will be no spiders within 100 miles.

In my sheer state of panic, my mind wandered to the question. . .
“Where in the heck did these things come from?
Is there some sort of giant spider mother living in my attic waiting to wrap me in a cocoon as I sleep, poised to suck out my blood?!”
—when it dawned on me. . .
The basket.
The basket under the antique secretary in the hallway.
What is in that freaking basket?!”

I get down on my hands and knees pulling out the basket. I note some more of that sheer webbing and a few more of the hundreds of the freaking spider babies.
Poison, quick, where’s the poison?!

The basket holds a few of my treasures from my adventures in the woods. The turkey, hawk and owl feathers, the shed antlers I’ve found, even a few intact skulls of a raccoon, an armadillo, and even a small deer complete with horns—my treasures from my time spent wandering in the woods. I always bring them home, leaving them outside for a few days checking for any sort of stow away creature. Perhaps the temperatures having been so cold, caused any and all life to lie dormant—just waiting for me to bring it in to the incubator, aka, my house.

Update: The basket, complete with woodland treasures, is currently sitting outside, sprayed down heavily with poison. The house is re-dusted, poisoned, vacuumed, re-dusted some more, re-poisoned and vacuumed again. I now sit nervously on the couch, eyes constantly scanning the horizon, as if I am on the ready for the hidden enemy, finger poised on the trigger, of poison that is—-I have declared WAR on spider babies and spider mothers, and spider fathers. . . arachnids, be warned!

I’ve got to share this!!

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Simply put, I must share!! Finding myself in two separate airports during the course of the past couple of days, I wandered into a book/ magazine shop in search of something fun to “flip” through while waiting for my flight, then flipping nervously through during my flight (you know that whole “flying thing makes me a little nervous” issue I possess—and yes I do bring along a book, sometimes even two—never been one to pack too light, I still need something to occupy my nerves…besides reciting the rosary or saying the Jesus Prayer on my chotki)…

I bought a CookFresh Magazine (from the Best of Fine Cooking). Flipping through during my heightened state of nervous panic, I spy a delightful apple dish that immediately screams, “Julie, (maybe not literally) Fall is coming…apple time.”

I love cooking with apples in the Fall (“but Julie, it’s just August!”—“don’t wander off the subject”). Once home, I’ve tried my hand at this most tantalizing recipe, finding that I simply must share……

Below you will find my rendition as I am famously known for tweeking any recipe and running drastically off course—makes things better that way….

Individual Apple Charlottes

I wanted to make just 4 so I pared this down…I’ll give you my pared down version.
You’ll need 4 ramekins
For the filling:
–about 4 to 5 medium size apples—jazz, pink lady, golden delicious ( I used a mix of Royal Gala and a new comer in my neck of the woods- Envy from New Zealand (it’s not time for you to fuss that I’m not using local—it’s August for crying out loud, no really good apples quite yet—trust me, these turned out just fine)
–1 lemon—strip the zest with a peeler and mince—being careful not to get any of the bitter white pith
–1 nice moist plump vanilla bean—you’ll be cutting it in half to scrape out the seeds
–1/3 cup of a mix of golden raisins—I always use more than what’s called for—be liberal—in cooking only 😉 )
–5 Tbs or 2 ½ oz of unsalted butter (Plugra is the bomb)
–1/4 cup granulated sugar
–I threw in some cinnamon
–I also used about 6 crushed cardamom pods—little black seeds only
–and of course I had to add some freshly grated nutmeg—(who cooks with apples and doesn’t use the holy spice trinity aforementioned!!)
–1 Tbs of Calvados (apple brandy—blessed Normandy!!)

For the crust:
–1 loaf sliced white (I know, I know…) Suggested and what I used is the Pepperidge Farm Classic White—since I just made 4, I used 8 pieces of bread)
–1 cup unsalted butter (Plugra!!)
–3/4 sugar—trust me, you’ll need more

–add Vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or cream fraiche and enjoy.

Make the filling—
Peel, core and dice the apples into ¼ little cubes—place in a bowl and squirt a little lemon juice over them to keep them from turning brown while you’re preparing everything else.
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest off of half a lemon—-give or take half. Make certain you didn’t get any of the bitter white pith. I minced the zest and added it to the bowl of apples but the recipe calls for just strips that will be removed later—why remove? When chopped finely, the zest is just such a nice addition. Add zest to bowl.
Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds—add the seeds and remaining bean to the bowl with the apples. (Once you’re done with the pod, pull it out to dry then add to a jar of sugar to impart a delightful fusion creating vanilla sugar–add to tea, coffee….ummmm
Here is where I added the cinnamon, the ground cardamom seeds, and the nutmeg.
Add the raisins
Toss the apples, zest, vanilla bean seeds, the pod, raisins and spices—set aside till the skillet is ready.
I’m thinking Fall flavors…….
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Look at those vanilla specks…

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In a 12 inch skillet (or dutch oven) melt the butter over med- high heat and add sugar. When the sugar is fully moistened, add the apple mixture and cook, stirring almost constantly, until the apples start to release liquid and look soft on the outside (but still slightly crunchy on the inside—about 7 minutes or so)—aren’t things smelling heavenly—ummmmm
Take the skillet off of the heat and set aside, you can pull the pod out at this time. Add the Calvados—*****if your day has been hectic, pour yourself a wee dram while cooking but best to keep your wits about you as the more complicated step is yet to come.

Prepare the crust
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 475° . Trim the crust off of 8 slices of bread. I sprayed the ramekins, at this point, with some PAM and brush the sides with some of the melted butter. Cut out 8 rounds from the bread ( I used a cup measure to cut the circles), which will fit in the bottom of the ramekin. Now the recipe called for just bread rounds cut for the bottoms of the ramekins–however, I cut tops out as well as I wanted a “top crust”
You will need to have long rectangular pieces cut which will wrap the inside of the ramekins.
In a skillet, melt the butter and place the sugar in a shallow dish. Dip a round at a time in the melted butter, coating both sides, then dredge in sugar—coating both sides. Place a buttered sugared round in the bottom of the ramekin. Next dip and dredge the long rectangle pieces fitting them inside along the edges of the ramekins. Finally dip and dredge the tops and set aside for a moment.

Assembly and Baking
Fill each ramekin with a gracious amount of the apple mixture, pushing down to insure no airspace—the mixture will shrink down while cooking so fill away…
Now top each filled ramekin with a top. Place ramekins on a baking sheet. I used a baking sheet I covered with foil because there will be a bit of bubbling and boiling over. Cover all with a top layer of foil to seal. Place in the preheated oven. Bake for 40 minutes. Talk about a heady aroma wafting its way through the house—ummmmm

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If serving immediately, use a thin paring knife cutting along the outer edge to help release being careful not the burn yourself, using a dish towel to help, place a desert plate on top of the ramekin then invert—the bottom, now the top, should have a nice “caramelization”. If wanting to serve later, cover, once cool, with plastic wrap and store in fridge. I made mine late in the afternoon and just set them aside until a while after supper, I reheated in a 450° for about 8 minutes–being careful to watch them as you don’t want them to burn.

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A great precursor to Fall—smell those warm spices—ummmmm

Ice cream, where’s the ice cream? This thing is absolutely divine—it’s a gracious serving worthy of splitting with someone special…..

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taking flight

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(photograph: Julie Cook/ decent to Zurich, Switzerland/ 9/2012)

“We ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him is to become holy, just, and wise.”
Plato

As summer is now upon us, my thoughts most always turn to travel—regardless of whether or not I’m set for an adventure or not. Have I ever told you that I am afraid of flying? Afraid of heights? Afraid of driving over tall bridges spanning large bodies of water….? And then there’s that whole flying over water thing…….but travel, yes, I love to…..

As a former art teacher with a penchant for medieval art, illuminated manuscripts and that whole Renaissance cultural movement…Europe was and is always whispering my name…so yes, I have had to fly across the ol’ pond on several occasions.

I tend to be a bit of a fatalist—my plane will be the one with the bomb, the technical troubles, the drunken pilot, the high-jackers sitting next to me, the blown engine…the list of gloom and doom goes on and on. I’ve been known to hold on to my rosary so tight that the beads almost pop off. I recite the Jesus prayer over and over, hoping it will help regulate my breathing, calm my nerves and hopefully get God’s attention that He needs to send all wayward angels over to the plane in the sky making the loudest prayer noise.

Be it flying across the country or across an ocean…it makes for a long journey sitting in a can with wings that, in my opinion, defies the laws the nature. But, and it’s a big but, the results, the arrival at the point of destination is and has always been worth my tremendous anxiety. I decided a long time ago that life was too short to sit by frozen with fear. My dad is that way—frozen with fear. He doesn’t even like for me to make the hour journey to visit him because he’s convinced I’m the next disaster waiting to happen on Atlanta’s 285—which, by the way, I must admit is truly taking one’s life in one’s own hands, but there I go digressing.

So it was a couple of years back—-a trip to Italy. I’d not flown that distance in many years, so my anxiety level was pretty high. My teenage son was traveling with me, but we’d left my husband, his dad, behind. There went the fatalist thoughts…”we’ll never see him again…” I silently suffered as we boarded. “A window seat, I have to have a window seat— I’ll get car sick…wait, car sick on a plane?? Hummm”…taking my seat, I proceed to stare out the window for the next 8.5 hours.

I plugged in my earphones into my little I-Pod and proceeded listening to Third Day’s Offerings II, All I Have to Give—playing it over and over and over….their music does speak to my soul as it were….their songs, like sung prayers, bring comfort to my heart, humility to my heart and tears to my eyes. So there I sat, listening to prayer in song, watching the sun set and eventually rising again over the horizon.

Time is an most interesting entity when traveling…all those time zones, time changes, crossing datelines…quite mind boggling and body draining. But yet being able to watch the sun set from a vantage point that allows it to drop below one’s eyes—not like watching it set when sitting on the beach—this is different–you’re actually above it watching it drop. The sky is black accented with sparkling stars as the occasional passing plane interrupts this solitude. A few hours pass and suddenly the sun begins it’s accent up ward again. Night and day become a bit relative when flying form one country to another…time jumbles up a bit.

I developed a great peace throughout this process. I suddenly felt as if I was hovering between the earth, my world, and the infinite sky, Heaven, God’s world. Sandwiched between His hands—and there was tremendous peace. I was afforded an opportunity that not everyone is fortunate to enjoy. Granted lots of people fly, every day, all over the world. I fly, on average, maybe once a year, possibly twice. Sometimes far, sometimes not so far but it is always exhilarating and always frightening and always adventuresome.

And there’s always that sense that I’m just a little closer to God, which I find wonderfully peaceful.
Here’s to reaching towards Heaven…be it on the ground or in the sky, it is my sincere desire to always reach a little higher, get a little closer, reaching my arms to His glorious embrace….
Happy to take flight…………..

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(photograph: Julie Cook/ decent to Zurich, Switzerland/ 9/2012)

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(photograph: decent to Atlanta 6/2012)