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

the tale of the drunk mockingbird….

One day Bessie Braddock, a rather plump Labor MP,
approached Winston Churchill in which she said
‘Sir! You are drunk’, to which Mr. Churchill replied
‘I am drunk today madam, and tomorrow I shall be sober but you will still be ugly.’

Winston S. Churchill


(our resident mockingbird / Julie Cook / 2015)

Remember how I shared the tale of woe concerning our shower?
The twenty year slow leak that could only be rectified by tearing out the old…
all the way to the studs…with dust upon debris of rot and leak….
Only to slowly, and just ever so, add back layer upon layer…
eventually putting things back better than before???

Well we’re still in the middle of the layering process—
water mesh, moisture barriers, shower pans, sealant, cements…
on and on goes the mess.

Tile fellow is a very nice man and very much a Brooklyn boy who lives and breathes
for his beloved Yankees…. who have been winning their series in the playoffs.
Much to my favor as Happy Yankees beget Happy Yankee fans who beget
Happy Yankee tile guy, who beget happy tile customers…

But this has been a very messy and very dirty task.
Had I known what all was entailed, I would have just said re-do the entire bathroom
while you’re at it because if I live through this, I won’t be retiling anything
again in my lifetime.

After Tile man leaves each evening, I’m rolling up drop cloths,
vacuuming up a ton of dust, gingerly removing old insulation, wiping down cabinets,
mopping floors, and cleaning from top to bottom the residual mess of the day’s work.

Tile man wanted to leave his shop vac sitting in the middle of my very dusty bedroom at night as its just too heavy to haul back and forth from the garage along with the air compressor for the nail gun.
“You know we sleep in there right?”

I had to remind him that I prefer not having heavy equipment out lest I run into in the middle of the night.
He also didn’t understand why I insist on rolling up the very dirty and very dusty drop cloths every night only to roll them back out early each morning….
I don’t know, something about living without any more excessive dust and dirt then absolutely necessary seemed to make sense to me, but who am I to say.

So you should know we have a door in our bedroom that leads to the back deck,
the covered back deck.
We never use that door but it was in the plans when we built the house 20 years
ago so we have a door we don’t use….

Tile guy tells me that since he’s a New Yorker and Italian to boot, the heat is brutal
on him so every available window is open, the AC is running, fans are blowing
90 to nothing as dust is delightfully blanketing my entire house—
think Pompeii indoors.
And the high this week have only been in the mid 70’s….go figure.

He told me that he was going to open that door in the bedroom for more air.
Obviously windows are not enough.

However he was going to need to make a quick run to get more caulking.
Tile man was obviously born in a barn because all doors remain open whether or not
he is coming or going—
as in he will not, for love nor money, shut a door behind him.

Think now of every fly in the county and every bee and wasp for miles seeing
these open doors and I might as well have a sign out,
“all bugs please come inside!”

So as Tile man ran to the store for more caulk, I went to shut the back door.
When I headed into the bedroom to shut that door imagine my horror as I spied
our resident full grown Mockingbird flying around and around in a panic in my bedroom.

Let that sink in a minute…

a full grown bird in a tizzy flying around and around like
a nutjob in my bedroom—
did I mention the antique lamps that were my grandmother’s???

Let me back up a tad.

During the past week or so I have noticed how our Mockingbird has been singing
his pretty little head off as if it were a new Spring…
as in the birds and bees being oh so happy that it’s “that” time of year again…
as in it’s time to sing and look pretty for the ladies.

But wait…the calendar says mid October…as in cool nights and temperate days.
Not the time for making, let alone thinking about, woo…

This nutty bird has been sitting outside the closet window staring in at
Percy my cat, singing to my poor cat his song of love, for the past week.
Plus I’ve noticed a copious amount of bird poop out on the front porch…
As in the bird is off his rocker, making a mess and creating all sorts of havoc.

And then it dawns on me…

This time of year berries, Pokeberries to be exact, are in plentiful supply.

These things are similar to elderberries but poisonous to human consumption.
However they have been used by Native Americans and others for centuries to make a
deep lasting purple / magenta dye.

The berries just sit on the vine and, well, ferment.
In other words… free drinks on the house for all woodland creatures of
both field and air…

Meaning, I’ve now got a very drunk Mockingbird…
who by the way, is acting very much like a typical drunk,
now trying to fly drunk in a place he has sense enough to know is not home…

This is why you don’t drink and fly.

Ok, back to the present and this bird in my bedroom.

The bird continues circling and bamming into the ceiling,
leaving grey feathers everywhere along with seeds and purple poop.

I collect myself enough to quickly shut the bedroom door—
otherwise I’d never catch the bird if he made it to the rest of the house.

And now he heads to the bathroom.

REALLY?
THE BATHROOM????

Of all places????….
Tile guy is bad enough in there and now I have a drunk bird pooping purple crap all
over the place.

It was a miracle he missed bombing the lamp shades and my bed!!!!
As that purple mess isn’t washing out of anything.

The bird flies into the shower, into the mirror, into the window,
into the ceiling and back into the bedroom…
grey feathers are now stuck or floating all over the place.

All the while I”m chasing this drunk bird with both arms outstretched
trying to either catch it or shoo it out….whichever works….

Finally, thankfully, he finds the door….and out he goes as I quickly slam
the door in his wake.

And if you’re wondering where the cats were during all of this excitement—they
shelter in place in the guest bedroom, cowering in the closet when workmen are in
the house as they have apoplexy when visitors show up.

So not only was I cleaning dust and sheet rock residue, I was now cleaning purple poop
from the the windows, the door trim, the floor, a pillow case, the drop cloths…

When Tile man finally returns I, in no uncertain terms, tell him that there will be
no more open doors in the bedroom as I pleadingly ask how much longer does he
anticipate this job is going to take…

“Tile,” he tells me, “is messy hard work, probably another week or so… that is
if I don’t rush him…”tile can’t be rushed”….

Sigh—

So what’s the moral of this little tale you ask?
Well there really isn’t one…
just know that you should always be weary of melodious singing birds in the fall
who have been hitting the sauce, or in this case the pokeberry juice, one too many.
And that pokeberry juice will stain anything it touches…

Envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.
I warn you, as I warned you before,
that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:21

we continue beating our heads against the wall

I am hitting my head against the walls,
but the walls are giving way.

Gustav Mahler


(a little moth sits on the garage wall / Julie Cook / 2017)

Once again we are left standing before the hard blank wall of this current time of ours,
beating our heads in bewilderment, disbelief and overwhelming sorrow and grief.

Once again a radicalized young man has decided to step up to the plate of all things
evil by willingly sacrificing his life in the demented notion of all
things Allah and Islam by blowing himself up to bits in hopes of inflicting as much
mayhem, fear and death as he possibly can….
upon children.

Never mind his overt cowardice in his choice of targets.
Never mind that his priorities and choices were all screwed up.
Never mind that there won’t be any reward, let alone 70 virgins, awaiting
upon his arrival in Heaven…for Heaven is a far cry from his final destination….

A suicide bomber is the ultimate in cowardliness…
for despite the skewed thinking of ISIS, that such a murderer is really a martyr
in disguise…
a suicide bomber’s actions are so grossly screwed that they possess neither glory
nor valor but rather an altered, dare we say, demonic view of reality.
Never to be considered a true soldier of war….but rather as a poser and pretender..
a mere shadow of a fighter hiding among the woman and children.

Yet none of this talk, none of the future ensuing blame game, none of the what if’s will
be of any comfort to this new set of grieving families as they now are left to sadly join
ranks with those other families who have preceded them in the grief of what is known as
terrorist attack survivors.

This phenomenon of surviving terrorism is becoming all too common.
Such that I fear the world grows a bit hardened.
The attacks, the tragedies, the lives left shattered, the lives torn apart, the pieces of
the world forever shaken, are becoming more frequent than we can mentally process.

We of Western Civilization are left with two choices.
We can either stand beating our heads against the wall,
all the while knowing that these sorts of catastrophic events will indeed happen again
and again and again….
or we can say enough.

And if we are indeed strong enough to say “Enough!”
We will have to stand in solidarity against the politicians, the entertainers and
even our fellow citizens who insist on choosing to turn a blind eye to the root cause.

“Enough!” we say to those who want the world to continue on it this surrealistic
state of denial…
“Enough”! to those who say forget the vetting, forget the travel bans,
forget the carefree open boarders because we are a better people than that…

For it is in that naive line of thinking where our problem lies…

There was a time when we could welcome those wishing to come to the land of freedom
and democracy in search of a new life….
Opening our arms and embracing those who saw something of promise and hope
in Western Civilization.
These newcomers joyfully did what it took in order to contribute to their new home.
Seeking work, most often hard and labor intensive.
They sent their children to American schools and wanted their children
to learn to read, write and communicate in English

Yet now within the masses of those who are coming and going freely are the very ones
who say to us that we are not a kinder more open people but rather that we are a foolish
and grossly naive people…and that our demise is their only desire.

That is not alarmist thinking.
That is not xenophobic thinking.
That is just the reality of our current times.
For we are indeed naive.

The Detroit suburb of Dearborn, Michigan is a small microcosm of perhaps our
own naiveté.
It is estimated that 45% of Dearborn’s approximate 95,000 total population are
Arab Americans with a large percentage of those devoted followers of Islam.
Sharia law is readily observed and Dearborn is considered the Arab capital of
America housing the largest Mosque in North America.

And whereas it is an example of an enclave of ethnicity and immigration where many of those who
live do so wishing to live a dual existence of being both Middle Eastern and American,
it is also an area of welcome…a haven for others whose desires are not as virtuous
as they may readily blend in unnoticed.
For it is an area that is more Middle Eastern than American.

Yet those who argue when eyebrows raise,
point to places like Harlem, pockets of minority living that are
cultural places for minorities to feel comfortable living while feeling connected.

And there will be some who find highlighting such a city and its dominate population as being
bigoted, insensitive, racist or that of some nutty right wing alarmist’s observation…

That is not this post’s intent.

Yet whereas many will say that Dearborn is simply like those once predominately Irish,
Italian or German neighborhoods of the turn of the 20th century…
there is one big difference.
And that is the difference of ideology.

For there is a vast difference between the ideology of the Judaeo Christian
Western Civilization seen in the Irish, Jewish, Black, Latino neighborhoods
verses the neighborhoods of Middle Eastern Muslims.

And it is in that same ideological difference that lies the unwillingness to adopt Western
ways or to assimilate while melding into the culture.
Rather it is preferred, or more aptly expected, that the host culture melds to the ideology
of Islam…where Sharia law takes precedence to local American law.

Yet in our manic desire to appear to be all encompassing and welcoming, we bend over
backwards to accommodate and appease.
And therein lies our problem.
Yet most of us simply don’t see a problem.

And whereas we can all agree that the times in which we live are indeed frightening and
most uncertain, there are steps and measures that we can take to bring an extra level
of safe guarding to the situation,
but the problem is that our leaders and even many of our citizens are yet not willing to do such.

So we’ll just keep beating our heads, raising our terror threat levels and literally
picking up the pieces of the shattered lives because we simply refuse to see
what’s going on….

“How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! … The fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog. … Insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. … A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity….”

“The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property,
either as a child, a wife, or a concubine,
must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power
among men.
Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities…
but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it…”

“No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund,
Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.
It has already spread throughout Central Africa,
raising fearless warriors at every step;
and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science,
the science against which it had vainly struggled,
the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.”

Winston Churchill
The Nile River Walk 1899

Totus Tuus / Entirely Yours

Totus Tuus…
The apostolic motto of Pope John Paul II
latin for
Entirely Yours


(a small creek and waterfall runs into a quiet lake cove / Julie Cook / 2017)

My cousin called me this afternoon, checking in on progress.
I ran down my list…with not much progress to report.
My monotone responses probably told him more than any unfinished laundry list could.
He told me to perk up.
Easier said then done when facing a seemingly unmovable wall.

Life right now is still overwhelming but in an entirely different
sort of fashion then from before.

For good or bad my stepmother’s estranged daughter has decided she wants to move
her mother to North Carolina, to be closer to her.
My stepmother’s son, who I have worked closely with over these past two years,
is reluctantly acquiescing to the option.
It’s complicated.
I think that was the title of a recent movie.
I can relate.

They move her next weekend.

They are packing up her little world.
What’s left and what remains of my dad’s world
will wait to be purged once my stepmother is moved.

It only seemed appropriate that she should move first before I “move” Dad.

When the dust settles with all of this,
our son and daughter-n-law will eventually move to the house…
With the house that I called home for 55 of my 57 years,
the place where I grew up, will soon be theirs.

Dad wanted that.

But I’m still jumping through hoops…
As I continue filing papers, waiting on lawyers, waiting to close then open
all sorts of accounts and continue paying exorbitant bills as none of that
goes away when one dies…
I am facing movings, re-movings, packing, repacking, good-byes, hellos…
shifting lives that are not mine but lives I am responsible for or a part of…

My stepmother claims no knowledge of who Dad was.
She told me again today she had no known remembrance of “that man”
“and isn’t that the craziest thing?”
“I can’t believe you all keep telling me I was married to him.”
On and on she goes remembering everything around him but not him.
She even told him this before he died, that she never remembers meeting him.
He stared at her as I had tried telling him this, but he didn’t want to hear it.

Yet she can point out a mirror hanging on the wall in my dad’s bedroom…
a mirror that she wants me now to take down so she can take it with her…
because that mirror has hung in every house she’s ever lived in.

Go figure.

So as I continue wrestling with life…mine and others…
I have found a new book…
or maybe I should say, the book found me.

The book is from the private diaries of Karol Wojtyla—Pope John Paul II

Any of you who know me, know that the late pope has always been very important
to me—ever since I watched him walk out on that balcony overlooking St Peter’s square
in 1978, with arms raised, greeting the world as the first Polish pope.

The title of the book is
In God’s Hands
and it is the spiritual diary spanning approximately 41 years of his priesthood.

The diaries were to be burned upon the Pope’s death but his close aide and confidant
Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz defied that wish as he understood the spiritual
significance of sharing these private thoughts and writings.

They were just recently translated into English and made available to an audience other
than Polish or Italian readers.

The Pope reminded me of something very important, right on the very first page…

“At a certain point, however, one needs to abandon human calculations and
somehow grasp the Godly dimensions of every difficult issue.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the One who is always in control no matter how
out of control we may feel….

Thank you Fr. Wojtyla….

Oh Heavenly Father, may I learn to be…
entirely yours….

Totus Tuus…
Entirely yours

Prayers for Italy

“Love, which quickly arrests the gentle heart,
Seized him with my beautiful form
That was taken from me, in a manner which still grieves me.

Love, which pardons no beloved from loving,
took me so strongly with delight in him
That, as you see, it still abandons me not…”

Dante Alighieri, Inferno

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(Santa Maria Nuova / Cortona, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

Our hearts, thoughts and prayers reach across the oceans and lands to the people of Italy…
especially those hardest hit by Wednesday’s early morning quakes centered in the regions of Umbria, Lazio and Le Marche.

Italy is an ancient land with a rich and storied past that is clearly evident today—
For all one must do is to look at the land, the ancient architecture and to the
warm faces of her loving people.

From its varied geography—
from the hilltop fortified towns to the colorful villas by the sea…
Italy is both mountainous, think Alps and Apennine, as well as coastal as it is surround by
the Mediterranean, the Adriatic, the Tyrrhenian, and the Ionian seas.

The villages, towns and cities are a rich mix of the centuries of man’s very existence.
From the Caesars to the Fashion runways,
from the birth of Christianity to her decadent gastronomic delights…
Italy herself is so much a part of the history of mankind.

We rejoice when Italy is at her best and we mourn when tragedy strikes….

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(one of the many alley ways, nook and crannies filling this country of mazes / Cortona, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

With the past weaving itself into the present, upon observation, it is not difficult for the casual observer to understand how easy it is for a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, to have devastating results…

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(part of the roof line of Assisi, Italy / Julie Cook / 2007)

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(Looking across Rome / Julie Cook / 2007)

As Italy percolates upwards from her past, with layers upon layers, being built upon itself….
Even the clay tiles from region to region offer a glimpse to the volcanic soil composition…
as some area tiles offer rich red colors while other regions are full lot more earthy brown tones….

Italy is home to both dormant and active volcanoes…
Just more evidence of the constantly changing and ever evolving ground beneath the feet of both
her myriad sea of tourists and her enchanting residents….

Here is a small offering from the BBC explaining why Italy is so prone to earthquakes…

Why is Italy at risk of earthquakes?
By Jonathan Amos
Quakes are an ever-present danger for those who live along the Apennine mountain range in Italy.
Through the centuries thousands have died as a result of tremors equal to, or not much bigger than,
the event that struck in the early hours of Wednesday.
The modern response, thankfully, has been more robust building and better preparation.
Mediterranean seismicity is driven by the great collision between the African and Eurasian tectonic plates; but when it comes down to the specifics of this latest quake, the details are far more complicated.
The Tyrrhenian Basin, or Sea, which lies to the west of Italy,
between the mainland and Sardinia/Corsica, is slowly opening up.
Scientists say this is contributing to extension, or “pull-apart”, along the Apennines.
This stress is compounded by movement in the east, in the Adriatic.
The result is a major fault system that runs the length of the mountain range with
a series of smaller faults that fan off to the sides.
The foundations of cities like Perugia and L’Aquila stand on top of it all.

(excerpt from the BBC)

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(images of and beyond Assisi / Julie Cook / 2007)

May we pray for those who now find themselves without home, without city, without family,
without hope….may we be their hope….

From one man he made all the nations,
that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he marked out their appointed times in history
and the boundaries of their lands.

Acts 17:26

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Deuteronomy 31:8-9

I love you so much. . .I gave you my cookies

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”
― Lao Tzu

“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind. “Pooh?” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s hand. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”

― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

DSCN8198
(a nibbled box of Sprüngli Amaretti cookies / Julie Cook / 2014)

About two years ago I took a little trek along with my two traveling companions, my aunt Martha and long time friend Melissa—a journey that became known as the Grand Retirement Trip–whereas they had each been retired for several years, the trip was to mark my rite of passage of catching up with them– prompting the adventure.

We kicked off the trip by spending two days in Zurich, Switzerland. While in the picturesque Swiss city, we wandered into the most delectable shop known as Confiserie Sprüngli—a part pastry / part snack shop complete with its very own confectionary store right next door. You and I may not be familiar with the name Sprüngli, but we are familiar with Lindt Chocolates—of which are actually, one in the same. The Sprüngli side maintains the pastry confection part of the business while Lindt is strictly the chocolates. Sprüngli remains in Switzerland while Lindt is in the US.

And of course I had to buy some goodies to take along for sustenance during the extensive trip. One item in particular caught my fancy. It was a small package of about 3 little cookie stacked on top of one another packaged in a cellophane wrapper with a pretty light blue bow and burnt orange tag. They were called Amaretti, an almond like macaroon, and of what I now know to be similar to the Italian treats by the name Amaretti di Saronno. The Sprüngli version however has a creamy cherry kirsch center covered in a delectable bottom layer of decadent rich dark chocolate

I stuffed them in my travel bag, wanting to save them for when I finally made it back home.

After almost three weeks on the road, we finally arrived home. Upon unpacking I sadly realized my once beautiful cookies had gotten sandwiched at the bottom of my backpack leaving me with a sufficiently crushed bag of crumbs.
No matter. . .I tore into the bag, savoring each delectable morsel.
Ooooo, I had to have more.
I went online to the Sprüngli website. Yes, I could order a box or two and they would indeed ship to the US, but. . .I figured it all up, the cost to ship the cookies would far exceed the cost of the cookies themselves. How was I going to rationalize this little spending spree?

Needless to say, I wasn’t. I decided that the only way I’d get any more of these lucious little treats would be if I ever found my way back across the ocean, landing in Switzerland. And that wasn’t happening anytime too soon.

Fast forward to last weekend.
My husband has a really good friend who was born and raised in Switzerland who now make his home in Florida.
It just so happens that this friend travels back home at least once a year to visit family and I just happened to know of his latest trip’s plans. . . I asked that if he happened to wander by Sprüngli’s while in Zurich, would he be so kind as to pick me up a box of the cookies. . .

Long story short, our friend came to visit us last weekend with my box of cookies in tow!!!
Wooowhoooo!!

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Delicious and delectable!
To be savored with deliberate patience, one by one—spreading out the consumption over time, slowly so as not to hurriedly eat them all up. . .as who knows when, if ever, I’ll ever have such a treat again.

I hesitantly offered one to my husband, pretty certain, praying, he wouldn’t like them.
His palate is a more Oreo and Chips Ahoy sort of palate and not the delectable cream cherry kirsch filled almond macaroon leaning of a more patient and delectable palate.
Thankfully, he made a face after his first little tentative bite, putting the remainder of the cookie back in the box.
Whew!
I and my cookies were safe. . .or so I thought. . .

Later that evening, as we were sitting, well after supper, watching Monday Night Football, he gets up from his chair heading for the kitchen.
“Where are you going?” I nonchalantly ask.
“No where” comes the response.
No where?. . . my mind muses, hummm, odd. . .
When it hits me like a ton of bricks. . .
“Tell me you’re not getting my cookies!!!!” I shout toward the kitchen.
He re-enters the room holding something clutched in his hand, the hand he’s trying oh so hard to just hold by his side as if nothing is there.
“YOU DO HAVE A COOKIE, DON’T YOU???!!! I practically scream.

Now mind you it’s not that I don’t want to share my cookies with him, but you must understand, this is a man whose idea of a cookie is a handful of about 5 or more and not the single little special savoring variety cookie that only happens into one’s lifetime once, maybe twice if one is so lucky.
“AGGGHHHHHHH” I scream jumping up as he pops the whole thing in his mouth as he closes with a huge grin.
NOOOOOOOOOOOOO—YOU DON’T EAT THEM LIKE THAT!!!
He’s poised to pop another in his mouth when thankfully sanity regains its hold on him.

With a triumphant smile on his face, he offers me the now melting remaining cookie.
Ugh, I hang my head.
“Go ahead, you can have it” I sheepishly mutter.
Again, popping the whole thing in his mouth, he grins
Oooo the agony of it all. . .

Now that he has sufficiently tormented me, he proceeds to munch on the handful of Fig Newtons he had originally gathered. Who can follow delectable wonderment with a fig newton??!!
See what I mean??

Hours later, as I crawl into bed, with my husband fast asleep and snoring like nobody’s business, I wonder, as well as marvel, how in the world he can be in the bed no more than 5 minutes and he’s already sound asleep, I turn out the light.

Situating myself under the covers, through the darkness I utter a soft “I love you” as I’m certain he’s sound asleep.
Suddenly I hear a very groggy muffled, as if far away, “. . .love you too. . .”
I counter with my familiar “love you more”
again a groggy “no you don’t”
“oh but I do”. . .I whisper, “I love you more because I gave you my cookies”
And with that the heavy snoring resumes as I contently smile in the darkness.

As I lie there in the dark staring up at the ceiling, pondering the thought of what it means to love someone so much so that you’d give away special cookies, I am suddenly struck by the enormity of what has been done and given to me in the name of that same Love I casually wrap myself in like a warm blanket.
Giving and Sacrifice, each on a massive scale.
My thoughts race across time to an ancient form of torture and capital punishment, a cross with a lone figure hanging by 3 piercing iron nails—first in agony, then limp in the utter and total betrayal of loneliness and isolation, cut off from any and all.

With a sudden rush of tremendous clarity, I am overwhelmingly struck by what “loving someone more than” is really all about. . .

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”
1 John 3:16

Loving and being loved even more than a box of cookies. . .

Zut alors, zoodles!

Zucchinis terrific!
Like bunnies, prolific!

– Author Unknown

Last night we had three small zucchini for dinner that were grown within fifty feet of our back door. I estimate they cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $371.49 each.
– Andy Rooney

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(the latest day’s gathering / Julie Cook / 2014)

Zut Alors!!
As in holy cow!!
As in, they just keep coming and coming. . .
And just when you thought you had had one zucchini boat too many,
one fried zucchini too many,
one helping of zucchini casserole way too many. . .

Enter the Zoodle.

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What? you exclaim, as in you think I’ve merely spelled something wrong?! And whereas I would agree with you on my lack of spelling, rest assured, you have read correctly.

Zoodle.

A zoodle is Mother Nature’s pasta. Yet in order to create this small wonder, it helps to have a little kitchen tool known as a Paderno Spiralizer. Or something similar.
Oooooo a spriralizer.
Sounds rather nice rolling off the ol tongue doesn’t it?

When I saw this little bad boy in my William Sonoma catalog (http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/paderno-sprializer/?cm_src=AutoCatRel), I knew immediately I wanted to try my hand at that.

I love pasta.
I Adore pasta. . .as in I’ve got it so bad that I order all of my pasta from Italy.
Yes, I’ve got it that bad. A sad little addiction really—me and pasta. . .
It all goes back to the adoption and to my being Sophia Loren’s love child, but just don’t tell Ms Loren about that, she doesn’t know. It’s just our little secret. . .yours and mine.
And may I add just how stunning she’s looking as she’s knocking on the door of 80!

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We have good genes, she and I. . .but may I add that I tend to wear my dresses just a tad bit higher on the front, but I digress. . .back to the spiralizer.

A love of pasta is not exactly the best thing for one’s weight, health, IBS, gluten intolerance, diabetes, hyperglycemia, etc. . .not something you need to consume on a daily basis—and believe me, if I could, I certainly would.

With a plethora of zucchini from the garden, coupled by a need to mix things up a bit with the pasta consumption. . .enter the spiralizer.

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It comes with 3 types of blades but I prefer the one that spiralizers things–of course! It is simply too cool. Super easy to use and clean—it’s a no brainer.

At first I simply pan sautéed the zucchini spirals with a little olive oil and onions and served as a side dish accompanied by a healthy grating of parmesan cheese (the real deal mind you, none of that powdered mess in a jar). I had to break my husband in slowly and gently. He’s a plain food kind of guy. Nothing fancy smancy for him, which cuts way back on the fun in the kitchen to be sure.

As he liked his sautéed zoodles, I decided I could now go all the way with creativity and use my zoodles as a replacement for spaghetti. Daring and racy I know, but it’s good to mix things up every once in a while, trust me.

After zoodling the zucchini, I poured a little olive oil in a large skillet. Now I prefer to have mine slightly cooked but you may certainly prepare this using the zoodles raw–which may give new meaning to “al dente.” Once the oil sizzled, I dropped in my zoodles, stirring a bit, getting a nice overall sauté. Here, however is the tricky area. If you cook them too long, they extrude lots of liquid, turning mushy—something very undesirable when serving pasta—or in our case, fake pasta.

Once I sautéed the zucchini / zoodles, I emptied the zoodles into a colander, allowing for excess liquid to drain away.

May it be known that I make my own spaghetti sauce—but we’ll save that recipe for when the tomatoes all start to come in, for now we’ll just stick with the basics of the zoodles.

The sauce I’m using here is an Italian Sausage based sauce with veal meatballs. Of course you can go vegan all the way with the zoodles if you prefer, but as I’ve told you before–my husband’s palate is old school southern—a real meat and potato sort of guy—I’ve got to appease him to some degree. Meat sauce it is!

Using tongs I put the zoodles on a plate and grated a little parmesan cheese on top in order to coat the zoodles a bit, giving them a little umph and holding power for the sauce. I next ladled the sauce, placing a couple of meatballs on top and added a nice grating of Parmesan cheese as well as some crumbled feta and —Voila
Really nice, a bit more healthy, sneaking in another serving of vegetables, a win win to be sure.
Buon Appetito!!

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