just make mine vanilla

Love ice cream.
I let myself have that about once a week.
Vanilla.

Tim Tebow


(three old shots from back in 2013 when I was first making my vanilia extract–the longer it sits,
the better it gets…just add a new bean or two over time and top off with the sprit of choice)

I like to cook.
This much we know to be true.

I use to post a good bit about my cooking exploits but over time I’ve obviously shifted my
focus and attention to issues I find more pressing…
issues like those concerning Christianity
and the practicing of our faith in a post-modern, post-Christian era.

However, I will still raise the battle cry over other issues I think pertinent to this good fight
we call life…

Take today for instance…(or yesterday if you’re reading this on Saturday)

I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items.
I needed some cat food and Grapeseed oil so while I was over in the cooking oil aisle,
I decided I needed to check out the spices.
I needed to peruse the spice area as there seemed to be a mental list somewhere nagging
in my brain, begging me to remember something from this particular section that I needed…

I grabbed some Adobo chili powder.
I’ve never used it before but I’d seen a recipe for slow-simmered chicken…a recipe for chicken tacos…remember, I’m trying to reduce the iron content while looking for foods that will avert the absorption—spicey things supposedly help.

While still perusing, my eyes stopped on a bottle of Vanilla beans.

Ahhh, the mental alarm clock sounded.

Yep, I needed some more beans as I’d used the last two I had in the recently poached pear recipe.
(also a tasty recipe I once posted)

I grabbed the bottle.
There were two measly beans in the bottle.
Vanilla beans are a precious commodity.
But why companies are so chintzy I’ve never figured it out.

I looked at the price—they are usually costly as I’ve paid almost 10 bucks a bottle before,
but I was wondering just how high they might be now.
I do prefer ordering my beans in bulk as it’s cheaper but I needed to have at least two on hand.
One never knows when an unctuous creme brulee is calling…

What to my wandering eyes did appear but a 2 and a 5 joined together…as in
25 dollars for the bottle!!!!!!

WHAT?????

Is this a misprint??? my panicky brain wonders.
I march myself, with the bottle in hand, over to a gal at a register.
“Is this price correct” I practically screamed at the unsuspecting cashier.
She scanned the bottle.
“Oh my gosh” she practically screams back.
“25 dollars for Vanilia beans???? she nervously screams again.

“That’s what I thought” I reply almost exhausted from our heightened sense of distraughment.

I use vanilla beans a lot.

I’ve actually made my own vanilla and bourbon vanilla extracts, a recipe in which
I’ve shared in prior posts from back in 2013.
A homemade vanilla extract is the best of the best!! And it lasts forever.

Making the extract required my having to buy a bunch of beans…
beans I had actually ordered from Amazon–
I used Tahitian and Madagascar beans as each offers a different floral warm scent and taste.

Once home from the store, I decided to go check out the Amazon site,
just to see what they were currently selling my bulk bag of beans for as I was going to order
a new batch just to store for when I needed them—

Immediately I see that 5 beans, just 5 little beans, were going for a whopping 27 bucks.
Which did, however, beat the grocery store’s two beans for 25 bucks.
My regular ordered batch of shrink-wrapped beans was going for…
sit down before I tell you…
1/4 of a pound of beans at $115.00 while a full pound of beans listed for $400!!!!!!!!

For a batch of homemade vanilla extract, you need a good 15 to 20 beans…
of which maturate in a bottle that is large enough to contain them with enough vodka or
bourbon poured over to cover…as they are left to steep until a deep rich brown color
appears and the heady spicy aroma of delicious warmth wafts from the uncorked bottle.

WHAT IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON????? I practically wail.

I immediately race to the trusty all-knowing Google to type in ‘vanilla bean prices’
and sure enough, I found many articles and news stories regarding the exponentially
skyrocketing prices

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/vanilla-bean-shortage-madagascar-drives-up-us-prices/

A precarious commodity that is a fragile commodity.
A product that is prone to drought, fickled growing seasons, poaching, farmers who don’t
allow the pods to fully mature in a race to get the pods to a demanding market and finally
it is simply a matter of time…for it takes three long years for a plant to produce a pod.

According to Wikipedia, vanilla is the second most expensive spice coming in right
behind saffron.
And gathering a ready pod is extremely labor intensive because these pods of
this particular species of the orchid family are each hand pollinated…pod per pod.

Vanilla, just plain old vanilla.

Consider its humble base taste…it is often the brunt of those who refer to things as
just being average..as in vanilla, as in plain jane, as in generic, as in nothing special,
as in the bottom of the list.

Yet vanilla is a great building base—a needed and important humble building block.
Imagine Chocolate chip cookies without that added splash of vanilla.
Think vanilla bean ice-cream, sour cream pound cake, pannacotta, rice pudding,
milkshakes, protein shakes, puddings, eclairs, cookies, candy, yogurt, chewing gum,
cosmetics, perfumes, aromatherapies…the list is nearly endless….
all without their needed vanilla.

There are four main types of vanilla beans used in our consumption: Tahitian, Indonesian,
Mexican and Madagascar

http://www.foodandwine.com/blogs/4-kinds-vanilla-beans-know

There are however those purists out there who do indeed favor the unadulterated flavor
of that simple, smokey, sweet, floral flavor of just plain old fashioned vanilla.
No swirls of caramel, no colorful sprinkles, not bits of cookie or peppermint or toffee,
or chocolate syrup or diced fruit…just simple, plain old vanilla.

So I suppose I might just have a little problem…a little expensive problem…
As we might all just have a largely flavorless problem…

Here’s to hoping the current growing crop thrives…
hopefully in time for this summer’s long-awaited and even yearned for home-churned ice cream…
because it just won’t be summer without a bowl of fresh homemade vanilla ice cream!!!

There is gold and abundance of costly stones, but the lips of knowledge are
a precious jewel.

Proverbs 20:15

Should anyone be concerned?

In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

“. . . meekness,love, purity, these are the things that should magnify us.”
― Joseph Smith Jr.

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(the mysterious silent beauty of orchids / Julie Cook / 2015)

Should I be concerned that ISIS executed another group of Ethiopian Christians over the weekend?
How many executions does this make? I think I’m losing count. . .

Yet sadly the only thing I’m hearing about such is. . . mostly silence.

Should I be concerned that Boko Haram, the violent Islamic group out of Nigeria, has vowed to follow suit, joining ISIS, creating a deadly alliance, and declaring total eradication of all Christians?
70 million Nigerian Christians most likely are not sleeping well tonight. . .
Oh, and by the way, they still have all “The Missing Girls”. . .

Again, sadly the only thing I’m hearing about such is predominately silence

Should I be concerned that last week, on one of those boats bringing “migrants” from the coast of Nigeria to southern Italy—illegally mind you, that 12 Christian migrants were thrown overboard by several Muslim migrants, all drowning in the choppy seas. . .simply for praying.
Yet with many of the migrant ships sinking on what seems to be a weekly basis, killing hundreds as it is. . .12 Christians is but a drop in the bucket. . .and anyway, this issue has all sorts of concern written all over it does it not. . .yet what does the UN, the EU, the US, Russia, China, or anyone else for that matter who matters, have to say. . .

Again, sadly, silence

Should I be concerned that I don’t hear much in the way of global outrage or concern for the worldwide Christian communities that seem to be living in harms way?
Oh wait, I think the Pope said something. . .
“complicit silence” I believe were his words. . .as in why are the leaders of the world remaining, or better yet, choosing to remain silent?

The Pope gets it.

Why are the global Christian communities, which are not in harms way, remaining silent?
Why aren’t we all standing on the roof tops saying that all of this must stop?

Did you catch 60 Minutes Sunday night?
What of the children being gassed in Syria??
Seeing those horrific images should be enough for any breathing human to utter. .
no more. . .
Are we not yet outraged enough to say a collective NO MORE??

I did, however, recently read somewhere that there is a push for some sort of solidarity in some Christian congregations throughout the US for parishioners to wear orange–a color symbolic of the infamous jumpsuits worn by the executed ISIS captives.

Yet I’ve not seen any news about such, nothing locally or nationally. I’ve heard of no ground swell over such. . .seen no orange out and about. . .

Why are we all so silent?

Why is the Jewish nation, silent?

Why are the atheists silent?

Why are the Buddhists silent?

Why are the Islamic faithful, who are not supporters of jihad and barbarism, remaining silent?

Should I be concerned?

Should any of us be concerned?

“My heart shall become your heart”

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(a beautiful white orchid / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Oh that this strong request of yours could only be answered with a swift response of “yes.”
That I could and would whole heartedly shout at the top of my lungs
YES!!
YES!
I will give you myself.
All of myself.
I shall hold nothing back.
I am yours.
Yes, take all of me.

Yet, this demand of yours, this most intimate demand from the purest essence of Love,
is meet by my hesitation, my doubts, my frozen in time inability to immediately scream “yes.”
I hesitate.
Why?
I stumble over the words.
I hold back.

You reassure me.
You make me a promise
You have proven the promise.
And yet, I balk.
The “I” must be broken
Why can’t I let go?
Why won’t the “I” let go?
Am I afraid of being broken?
Being broken by you would be so much better than remaining whole as the captive of “I”
Still I find the words unable to slip from my mouth.

You sense my hesitation.
You see my reluctance.
You take my hand.
Suddenly, within that single touch, there is a cosmic explosion which shakes the very foundation of my world.
At the very moment you touch me, there is something so overpowering, something so beautiful which takes places.
I have never felt this before.
A connection
A oneness
It’s as if the brokeness, which I never fully comprehended, is immediately made whole.

And just as quickly as our hands meet, I pull away.
I look away.
It’s all too much.
I can’t.
If you honestly knew, knew everything, you’d walk away
You should walk away.
Others are better than I.
Others have not done the things I have done.
The things I am ashamed for you to discover.
You really don’t want me.
You really don’t know me
You really don’t know. . .

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.
(Isaiah 43:1-28)

The love song plays out
You reveal everything I’ve hidden.
I am ashamed and want to turn away.
Yet you continue watching
There is only acceptance in your eyes
Pieces of a broken heart lay scattered on the floor
You pick up the pieces, putting them back together,
handing me the final piece.

Again, You extend your hand
You whisper my name
“My heart shall become your heart” you whisper ever so gently–
“You will be mine and I will be yours” for all of eternity
Love lies bare and open between us
“Behold, you are beautiful, my love, behold, you are beautiful! (Song of Solomon 4:1)
I hear those words flowing from your heart.
A heart that has broken for me
“Yes”
“Yes”
The word now slowly falling from my mouth
Take me as I am and make me yours
All that was is suddenly no more
I will give you my heart. . .
I want nothing more than for my heart to now become your heart
With the last piece finally being put back in place.

The unseen Angels

“Make yourself familiar with the angels, and behold them frequently in spirit; for, without being seen, they are present with you”
St Francis de Sales

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It has been cold, pouring down rain and very unlike May in Georgia these past several days. I found myself stuck indoors scouring for some semblance of color, nature, the outdoors—anything to give hope that, yes, the Spring’s sun and warmth will return. This little tiny orchid bloom was gracing my kitchen. After taking the picture I noticed what looked like a tiny little “angel” in the middle of the flower. Wings open and arms outstretched.
Not that I tend to be into cutesy and sappy images, but I thought it interesting…

Which got me thinking about how there is so much that we will never know or understand about God’s mysteries which constantly surrounds us–we are often too busy,too smug, too arrogant to give much thought to God surrounding us or sending us His angelic forces to protect, to care, to minister to us basically behind the scenes of our lives. It gives me pause to be thankful for the things I can see, but more importantly for the things that I cannot or will never see.

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(Annibale Carracci/ Cherub carrying flowers/ France)