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…

respect the gifted who are hidden

“Wouldn’t it be great to be gifted? In fact…
It turns out that choices lead to habits.
Habits become talents.
Talents are labeled gifts.
You’re not born this way, you get this way.”

Seth Godin


(Green Lynx spider hiding amongst the chives / Julie Cook / 2019)

Those of you who know me, know I have an inordinate fear of spiders.
Yet…
that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a healthy respect for them
nor does that mean that I don’t give them credit where credit is due…

And so I was poking around in the yard yesterday…
Poking is about all I’ve done all summer because it’s just been too miserably hot
to do anything else.

We’ve had 78 days of temperatures on or above 90 degrees…
add to that very little to no rain.

Things are both dry and hot.
Normally this time of year our high temps are in the low 80’s…
But we seem to now enjoy an average of 95…
who knew?!

Note that the calendar tells us that it is mid-September…

Since it’s hot and dry, everything is sadly shriveling up.
Heck, I am shriveling up!
Air quality is poor, schools are canceling or rescheduling after school practice
times for sports…it’s just pretty much miserable and has been for months.

But this is Georgia, we’re used to hot, right?
Well yes and no.
This time of year we’re usually tasting small snippets of fall.
Yet there have been no snippets thus far this year…

So I’ve pretty much given up the fight for the yard.
The fight to water and keep things alive…
I water when absolutely necessary but I’m no longer fanatical about it…
What’s the point?!

So when I was checking out what was and what wasn’t living, I was inspecting a pot of chives.
The chives are going to seed and upon a closer inspection, I noticed that I was not the
only one checking out the chives.


(green lynx spider / Julie Cook / 2019)

The spider, a green lynx spider, had blended in so well, I barely saw him…or her…

And what a pretty spider it was…
However, I doubt the bee or fly the spider was dining on would agree…

They are amazing are they not…

If I can keep them at a safe distance, I’m good…

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens,
and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

Dragonflies and summer

Deep in the sun-searched growths the dragon-fly
Hangs like a blue thread loosened from the sky:—
So this wing’d hour is dropt to us from above.
Oh! clasp we to our hearts, for deathless dower,
This close-companioned inarticulate hour
When twofold silence was the song of love.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti


(dragonfly / Troup Co. Georgia / Julie Cook / 2018)

Yesterday’s shot was one of the typical dragonflies that I always see this time of year, when
the mercury rises right alongside with the humidity.

I thought I’d share a couple of more images today.

Whenever we visit the woods during the summer months, the same woods my husband likes to
frequent during the fall deer season, we have to make certain that we don’t venture too far from
the dirt roads or trails as it’s being reported, that this year especially, the tick and
copperhead snake populations are each skyrocketing.

The sweat beads up quickly upon the brow, before becoming a free-flowing torrent racing
down our faces, as the air makes breathing freely as difficult as if breathing in through
a hot wet towel.

Yet these spritely winged creatures seem to thrive with their aerial acrobatics
as the temperatures only continue to rise…oblivious to the nearly unbearable heat.

The detail within their lacey wings amazes me—a transparent stain glass window that
serendipitously carries theses winged artists acrobatically through the skies.


(dragonflies / Troup Co / Julie Cook / 2018)

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
In his hand is the life of every creature
and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

On the first day of Christmas….blah, blah, blah…..

“On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:
a drunk opossum in a box!”

Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge


(mother’s late circa 1950’s mistletoe ball / Julie Cook / 2017)

See this garish, yet oh so festive green, red and white bedecked ball of plastic??

This ball of plastic, aka mistletoe, has been a part of every Christmas of mine since
I began having the capacity to actually remember memories…..

Every year, sometime in December, Mother would haul down the boxes of Christmas
ornaments and lights from our attic.
Down came the stuffed Coca Cola Santa who would sit on the fireplace hearth.
Down came our stockings knitted by my aunt.
Down came all manner of bauble and ball.

The wooden beamed, insulated tomb which housed our poor ornaments,
as they would spend 11 months out of the year, was
in this wizened sense of hindsight,
a really dumb place to keep real keepsakes….

You know how hot it gets in Georgia in the summers right??

So is it any wonder as to why those festive little dough ornaments
we made in kindergarten didn’t much survive past grade school…???
all before succumbing to the elements and reverting back to their powdery,
albeit now colorful, days of floury finery….???

Mother would pull down that wooden drop down hatch in the middle of our
hallway ceiling, the one with the sad little raveling cord and the plastic knob
at the end, as she’d precariously jiggle the pull down rickety wooden ladder
attached to said little pull down hatch, as I was instructed to hold the ladder
very still while she maneuvered boxes both up and down.

I now marvel at how Mother never fell and broke her neck.

Ceremoniously Mother would pull down this and that box…
She’d survey the contents determining the survivors and discarding the broken.

And each year she’d head to the kitchen in order to literally tack up that
plastic ball of mistletoe over our back door,
as in with a thumb tack in the door frame.

I always imagined being kissed under that mistletoe…
because isn’t that what you’re suppose to do when you happen past a boy
under some mistletoe…????
You get kissed by someone magical and special under that mistletoe???

And I always wanted it to be someone other than my dad’s peck on the cheek
each evening when he’d return home from work throughout the holidays….

I wanted a kiss, a real kiss from a real boy…one day…much like something Prince
Charming might offer….
Yet what I knew of real kisses back then, eludes me now… but I
certainly thought it was something every young girl would dream of…..

Fast forward about 50 years….

So there I was Sunday night, unpacking our own boxes of Christmas treasures
and memories, most of which oddly spend their 11 months out of the year in a very
hot Georgia attic (as some lessons are hard learned)… when low and behold,
what did my wandering eyes behold….but that same ball of mistletoe with
Mother’s tack still stuck on the strand.

Proudly holding up my childhood relic as if it were some trophy fish dangling from
a stringer, I call for my husband to see my prize….
to see if he remembered where my plastic treasure came from and as to its
magical importance….

As I was all ready for my sentimental walk down memory lane,
full of a cherished warm glow from recalling those oh so happy days gone by,
all the while anticipating that long awaited kiss from my very own prince charming…

He looks over in my direction, away from the football game, then practically screams—-
“OH MY GOSH!!
WHATEVER YOU DO, DON’T SEND THAT WITH ME TO THE STORE….CAN YOU IMAGINE THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT CRIES IF I HUNG THAT UP IN THE STORE?????????!!!!!!!!!

And so goes another cherished memory right out the window….gone to our overtly and
off its freaking rocker society….

Sigh…..

And so on that note…I figured since we’ve all probably been taking ourselves just
a wee bit too seriously as of late—-
I wanted to share a story I read yesterday out of the News….
a story coming out of Fort Walton, FL….

It seems that a possum…of which you must know I do find cute and always have, as
I hold a soft spot open in my heart for these poster children of all things
roadkill ever since I can remember….

It seems a possum found its way into a Liquor store in Fort Walton.
Or actually found its way into the ceiling of the building.
Yet it appears that this possum fell out of the ceiling….
Falling onto some bottles of whiskey—of which broke.

When the proprietor of the store opened up the following morning,
imagine the surprise of finding a staggering, foaming at the mouth and
obviously very drunk….possum…
a possum who just so happened to have lapped up all that spilt liquor.

So the kind and caring folks from the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge had to come get
the staggering and very sloppy drunk marsupial.
They in turn had to give the sot possum a bag of IV fluids to flush the alcohol from its system.

Once the hangover had passed and the possum had sobered up,
it was released back into the woods…as it was heard to exclaim,
before it went out of sight…
Merry Christmas to all and to all no more bourbon tonight!!!!

http://www.fox13news.com/news/florida-opossum-found-drunk-after-liquor-store-break-in#/

Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy,
all you upright in heart!

Psalm 32:11

a tisket a tasket, pears in a basket…or the tale of misplaced desire

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not;
remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”

Epicurus


(a basket of wild “wood” pears / Julie Cook / 2017)

Late September, here in Georgia, is no more reminiscent of what Fall should be
than that of a palm tree currently living and thriving in Alaska.

It just isn’t happening.

Granted the weather gods are telling us that “it’s going to feel like Fall
come tomorrow, yet they preface that with,
but we are still well above the typical highs and lows this time of year….

Sigh….

Throw in the recent sightings of rabid foxes in our county,
the continued proliferation of the fire ants,
this being the most active time of year for yellow jackets, along with the increased chances of running into a copperhead or rattlesnake while working in the yard and most
sane folks would continue hunkering down indoors hoping that
October may be more of a welcoming month for outdoor adventure.

My husband, I know, would have told me “no, don’t do it.”
He would have said stay out of those woods, especially wearing those sandals,
not unless you want to be covered in ticks and bit by a snake.

But he wasn’t home to say those things so it was an out of sight out of mind sort
of moment.

I had to get outside and start the process of digging up and removing the dead,
dried up remnants of summer.
I had to cut back, dead head, and just rid my visible world of the reminders
of what was once vibrancy and color…all of which is now just hot dried up death.

Living on what was once mostly pasture land surrounded by woods, I usually haul my
“debris,” aka cut back dead things, to the woods….to a “compost” pile that never
composts like it should. My husband calls it a brush pile. I like to be cutting edge…
hence, a compost pile…

I also happen to know that there is a lone pear tree deep in those woods
that, this time of year, usually bears pears…albeit every other year—
but I was pretty certain this was the year.

Leaving the safety of my yellow wheelbarrow perched along the edge of the woods,
I gingerly picked my way into the woods….very conscious of the recent tale of
rabid foxes, active snakes and hungry ticks.
As my shorts, tank top and chaco sandals would be no match for the briars let alone
rabies, deadly venom or Lyme disease.
Did I mention the giant spiders?

Spiders who seem to think fall is the season to built profuse webs spanning the entire
expanse of woods so you can walk right into a web and have a full web and spider
stuck on your face.

The sun was cutting down through the trees, light glaring down upon the wood’s
floor, as I turned my head upward searching the overhead branches.
Squinting with my hand held over my eyes, I scanned the heavens
for the objects of my desire.

And there they were.

Giant heavy brown orbs hanging low amongst the leaves.
The tree was ladened with “wood” pears.

I’ve written about wood pears before.
They are wild pears that grow obviously, in the woods….
hence why I call them wood pears.
That is not a scientific name mind you, just an observational name.
They are as hard as rocks, never ripening like a normal pear would
and even the deer and squirrels won’t eat the wood pears.

I did read once that some folks will stew them down in an attempt to make jam,
but my husband has minced no words when quickly telling me not to bother
because he’s not about to eat something that even the wild animals find
disdain over.

Yet the pears beckoned.

I looked around on the wood’s thick debris covered floor, careful as I pushed aside accumulated leaves with my mostly exposed feet as I searched for any early
fallen pears.
The remnants of an old barbed wire fence sinisterly peeked out here and there as
I was careful to avoid adding tetanus to my list of wood worries.
A few pears had indeed fallen as the ants had also found those pears.

Finding a stick I attempted hitting at some of the lower branches,
knocking a few pears to the ground—being very careful that they didn’t hit me
on the head as they would probably have knocked me out as they are that hard.

I gathered about 10.
But the tree was loaded.

I knew I was going to have to find something else that was both long and tall in which
to knock down those low hanging pears on the branches closest to my reach, yet frustratingly out of reach for my stick.

Obviously not satisfied with a bucket of 10 or so pears,
I trapsed back to the house to gather a long rake.
I kept hearing the admonishment of my husband ringing in my head,
as I was wondering what I would do if a copperhead bit my foot while my cell phone
was back at the house.

But the tree was loaded, beckoning for me to get more.
Decorative purposes only, yet I wanted more pears.

And that’s the thing…

These pears serve absolutely no purpose other than being decorative.
And here I was willing to risk life and limb in order to gather them up.

Yet what of a quest of faith?

What lengths would we go to seek God?

Would we risk life or limb to seek Him who has called us by name?
Would we strategize and scrutinize what was needed in order to procure
Him as our own?

Perhaps it’s time we all rethink our desires….

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD,
“When I will send a famine on the land, Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the LORD.

Amos 8:11

fallen world

“If I looked into a mirror, and did not see my face,
I should have the sort of feeling which actually comes upon me,
when I look into this living busy world,
and see no reflexion of its Creator.”

John Henry Newman


(a ragged and worn Spicebush swallowtail butterfly / Julie Cook / 2017)

“The primary effects of original sin,
which are the deprivation of grace and the loss of eternal life,
are taken away by baptism or baptism of desire, but the other effects
are not.
These are the darkening of the intelligence,
the weakening of the will,
the casting of the emotions, into chaos,
and the corruption of human relationships”

Fr Benedict from the 2004 interview with John Bishop

In August, the waning days of summer are relentlessly hot and equally humid.
Here in the deep south there is no glimpse of that hopefulness known as Fall,
a change of season that just so happens to be on the very next page of
the calendar.

The butterflies, who may or may not be aware that changes are in store,
are at a near fevered pitch as they make their precarious mad dash
all around the yard in search of the those few brave flowers which
are still blooming despite most others having long dried and withered away.

The butterflies go about their task of nectar drinking right up to the moment
they simply fall to the ground and perish.
Their wings are now terribly frayed as the delicate colored powder
has all but worn away leaving their wings almost transparent…
yet the quest remains relentless.
They are driven by an innate need.

They are haggard and ragged and many are actually quite near death,
yet they continue on…
Much like the global Christian family during these waning days of
earth’s final glory.

Bruised and battered the ardent followers of Christ Jesus continue on,
ever forward, towards a final day…
sharing, preaching, seeking, offering…embracing the last word of Hope….

The times grow ever increasingly difficult to live and function in a fallen world
as the Faithful find themselves under constant attack.

Is it coincidental that in these dark days there should be a rise in the
attacks against professing Christians?

In the US the attacks are not the physical attacks seen taking place
elsewhere in the world, rather they are more legalistic and intellectual with a
heavy dose of shaming, smearing and shunning.

Yet oddly this global family, who profess to be Believers,
remains eerily silent.
Reminiscent of a day when those who shouted…
“you are one of them, you were with Him…”
With the panicked response being…
“you’re wrong, I don’t know what you’re talking
about, I don’t know them or Him…”

“Could you not remain, not stay awake, not even this one time when
I asked you, when I needed you…?”

The world is careening out of control…
While this season of change continues to descend.

A once great nation now loses her mind over a nearly once forgotten past,
refusing to turn around to recognize what the precarious future might be,
rather preferring to languish in what was.
As the world sits silently confused…waiting and watching…

Does the enemy care that a people now argue over changing the names of streets
while destroying the remnants of their their past?
No.
The enemy is glad and relishes in the stupid distractions.

Tearing one another apart, hating one another, cursing and defiling one’s
fellow man…
all the while the Enemy is cheering it on.

For our’s is a fallen world, now spinning wildly out of control.
Her leaders and politicians vainly try to bring order to the chaos.
Her people race to undo their years of forward motion…
While no one seems to comprehend that there is but only One who
can and who will bring an end to the madness— as He is the only one who
can usher in the much needed order…

Near is the great day of the LORD, Near and coming very quickly; Listen,
the day of the LORD! In it the warrior cries out bitterly.
A day of wrath is that day, A day of trouble and distress,
A day of destruction and desolation, A day of darkness and gloom,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,

Zephaniah 1:14-15

it’s time again…to share

“When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief.
Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not?
The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry;
the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it;
the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes;
the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.”

Basil the Great


(a freshly watered monarch butterfly caterpillar, who happens to be eating the
new baby parsley / Julie Cook / 2017)

In the waning days of summer, as the humidity races skyward to meet the relentless
midday sun, those once ever hopeful potted plants and herbs…
those once oh so spry, succulent green and promising beauties, are one by one,
beginning to loose the will to survive.

A southern sun will do that to you.

The dill has long gone to seed as have the parsley and the basil.
Drooping, drying out and dying is the current game of the summer garden party.
As it’s really just time to cut things back, pull things up and simply
hang on for a couple of more months until the heat just might slowly begin
to retreat.

This tiny new parsley plant hasn’t got nary a chance now that the monarch caterpillars
have found it.

Despite my watering, they remain unfazed…
eating and constantly devouring around the clock until everything is gone…
as they fatten themselves up, preparing for the time of transformation…

Because who can complain about the birth of a butterfly….


(all images of both the Monarch and or Eastern Black Swallowtail caterpillars /
Julie Cook / 2017)

Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have,
for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Hebrews 13:16