woe to the nation that turns it back on God

But to dance in the streets because you had just given mothers the right to kill their
own unborn child is not civilized.
It is barbaric.
Rather than progressing into being a more tolerant,
open and respectful society,
Ireland has regressed over 1500 years into his pre-Christian pagan past,
where the weakest members of society are not tolerated and not respected.
They are destroyed.

David Robertson


(Lady’s view, Killarney National Park, Killarney, Co Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

It’s been almost four years since I went on my first and only trip to Ireland.

As it was my first trip to the Emerald Isle, I went with a deep sense of anticipation.
At the time, however, I wasn’t exactly certain as to what that anticipation actually was
or why I even felt it.

I am of Irish / Scotch descent and so trodding where my kith and kin once trod was of
course exciting.
My great-grandparents had long since departed this island nation and thus in turn set
in motion my own eventual homecoming…
a continuum of time linking generations of people who never had known one another,
and yet, who were forever bound one to another by a common piece of land.

And little did I know it at the time, but this would be the last trip that my aunt and I would ever take together.

So in hindsight, with both of us wandering about where other members of our family
had long since wandered, we had each received a special gift that was yet
to be fully appreciated.

At the time of the trip, my life was fractious at best.
I was in the midst of caring for both my dad and stepmother, each of whom was suffering
from varying stages of dementia. The trip was just a few months before Dad was to be
diagnosed with cancer…a diagnosis that would eventually take me to a very dark place…

And so I went on this trip before I was at my total breaking point but I was certainly
living in the rising crescendo of such a moment.
And so now I know that this was why God was calling me to this particular place
at this particular time.

It was because of all of this, as well as what I could not yet see that was waiting for me…
that this particular trip, along with three powerful words that I was to hear at the end
of the trip that would, in turn, be a turning point in my own life’s journey…

I had planned the trip a full year in advance before I ever knew how bad things
would be with Dad.
I had no way of knowing that when the long-awaited day finally arrived for our departure
that I would be more than a bit reluctant to go due to my caregiving duties.

I was worried sick about leaving yet grateful at the same time to be getting away.

I was running away and I was glad.

In my lifetime, I had traveled a good bit but for whatever reason, never to Ireland…
Yet unbeknownst to me at the time, it was to Ireland where I was destined to be.

Some would say it was just the perfect aligning of the stars, I would say God
was leading me right where He wanted me to be…leading me to a place in which I could
actually, hear Him speak.

As a history nut, I was excited to visit Ireland because I knew of her rich historic past
and Christian heritage.
That ancient intertwining of a rich Celtic tradition woven into the fabric of the
Chrisitan faith.
I also knew of the wealth of gifts Ireland had given Western Civilization through
her music, written word, song, and dance…

This once pagan windswept land, full of the last vestiges of both Viking and druid alike,
remains a mysterious land steeped in both legend and lore.
It is also a land that is home to more sheep than there are people.

And so it was in this land of my heritage of both myth and mystery that God spoke to me in
such a powerful and palpable way that I knew without any doubt, that it was Him
who had brought me here.

The words were bold and audible and I knew that even though the words were uttered by
another (thank you Paul), they were being spoken by God…to me.

So naturally, once I was back home,
I wrote about a post about hearing those three simple words…
“Be at peace”

https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2015/10/04/stop-theres-another-sheep/

And maybe it’s because I saw that glimpse of God around each bend of lonely road and had
actually heard His words riding on the winds, winds that come sweeping in from off
the ocean…that the recently passed vote in Ireland to legalize abortion is
breaking my heart.

Yet it’s just not the vote itself that is breaking my heart but its the way in which the
Irish themselves are celebrating the vote which is so heartbreaking.

Our Scottish friend the Wee Flea, Pastor David Robertson shares my dismay.

” Celebrating the right to kill children in the womb as though it were a football match…
we are the champions…’we are a better country’ and yelling at the pro-life people
‘choice, choice, choice’ (what choice does the baby have?).
This is the new regressive Ireland.

David offers a rich in-depth yet extreemly melancholy observational post regarding the
passing of the vote as well as to the reaction of the voters…
a reaction that seems almost far worse than the vote itself.

This once predominately Chrisitan and very Catholic Nation was rocked to her core by a
heinous betrayal from the very Chruch to which she, this nation, was so grounded and anchored…
And so I just can’t help but think that such a vote and ensuing celebration is in some sick way
how the people have sought out their own twisted sense of revenge.

Yet I know that God still breathes His life’s breath upon this land, her people and her unborn.
But I am also reminded that God will turn His favor from the nation that turns herself from Him…

And so all I can do is pray for Ireland.

In order to prevent this slide into barbarity Ireland needs a new St Columba.
Ireland needs a Christian revival.
Pray for those who are engaged in church renewal and church planting in that once great country.
Pray that the anti-abortion campaign will continue and that the Church of Jesus Christ
will continue to reach out and show compassion to those who are considering abortion
and those who have had abortions.
May Ireland flourish by the preaching of the Word.
How long, O Lord, how long?

Ireland Regresses; Sunday, Bloody Sunday

a shot of fortitude, knowing I can do anything for two weeks…

“True Christian fortitude consists in strength of mind, through grace,
exerted in two things; in ruling and suppressing
the evil and unruly passions and affections of the mind;
and in steadfastly and freely exerting and following
good affections and dispositions,
without being hindered by sinful fear or the opposition of enemies…
Though Christian fortitude appears in withstanding and
counteracting the enemies that are without us;
yet it much more appears in resisting and suppressing
the enemies that are within us;
because they are our worst and strongest enemies and
have greatest advantage against us.
The strength of the good soldier of Jesus Christ appears in nothing more
than in steadfastly maintaining the holy calm, meekness, sweetness,
and benevolence of his mind, amidst all the storms, injuries,
strange behaviour, and surprising acts and events of this
evil and unreasonable world.”

Jonathan Edwards

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(a jumbled mess of fishing line, fishing hooks and seaweed washes ashore / Santa Rosa Beach, FL / Julie Cook / 2016)

The other night, my husband and I found ourselves at our favorite restaurant celebrating
a month late anniversary. This particular restaurant is a place we love to visit whenever we are fortunate enough to find ourselves at the beach.
The restaurant is very nice and the clientele can be equally as nice…with the exception
of some not so nice diners, but that’s for another story for another day.

As we arrived a bit early for our 7PM reservations, the host kindly asked if we
wouldn’t mind waiting as they prepared our requested table.
“Not a problem” I replied as it is often nice to sit for a minute and observe
those who have also opted to come dine…
Folks at the beach are always most colorful in a variety of ways….

As we waited, we watched as two couples entered together through the front door.
Very attractive couples…say, mid 60’s.
The women were puffed and coiffed to the Nines.
Giving the air of overtly well to do.

They waited a bit and were shown to their table as one of the men excused
himself from the group asking for the men’s room.
About two minutes later the other gentleman wandered back out for
what we assumed was to direct his friend to their table.
But rather than wait on his friend, he headed straight to the bar.
He appeared very impatient wanting the bar tender to hurry to his aid.

He ordered what appeared to be a triple shot of scotch.
I know these things as my dad use to be drawn to the same sort of amount and
libation back in his younger years….

The man took glass in hand bringing it quickly to his lips as he threw his head back,
draining the brown liquid from the glass in one quick swallow…
As he just as quickly plopped the glass on the bar.
No savoring, no sipping nor enjoying…
more like a “wham, bam, thank you mam, sort of moment.

At this point his friend emerged from the men’s room and
off they went to join their wives.

My husband and I kind of laughed to one another as we wondered aloud
if spending time over dinner with his wife was such that he
needed a heavy shot before continuing…

Fast forward to today…
I was back at the Orthopedic’s office following last week’s MRI.
I sat in the exam room almost 45 minutes before the PA came in.
How are you feeling she asked.

“Well…
imagine that the top of your thigh is numb yet at the same time it feels
as if your inner thigh and groin have been flayed wide open
while someone is constantly scrubbing said area with a brillo pad…
All the while someone else has a drill and is drilling right
into your hip bone and lower back, just a tad over from you lower spine…”

“Hummmm, that good eh?”

I flatly looked at her and stated more then questioned…
“I suppose the MRI didn’t show a thing did it?”

“Oh no, it showed something alright…
that’s what took me so long, the doctor had to keep looking over the MRI”
The scan wasn’t as high as we wanted it to go nor as deep…
but there is definitely a distribution of disc material outside of the
column on the left side…and it’s squeezing the emerging nerve.”

In other words, a bulging disc with severe nerve inflammation.

I asked if they wanted to repeat the MRI…
with her response being “only if we have to do surgery.”

Surgery?

“We have two options…we can be conservative and do therapy and traction….”

The thought of traction conjured an image of me flat on my back in a dingy cell
tied to a dark wooden plank as my hands and feet are chained to a roller
all the while as the masked torture master cranks the medieval rack…
stretching me till I snap.
Which mind you might feel better than flayed skin and brillo pads….

“Or, and this is my recommendation, we schedule a spinal nerve block.”

Ahhhh another torturous device where a large long horse needle is wiggled deep into the spin,
injecting steroids and anti-inflamation meds directly into the source….

“Ok, I’m in” I said probably a bit too eagerly…
but I think she grasped the fact that the pain has got to go…as in now.

“We’ll need to schedule it with one of the other doctor’s who normally does this sort
of procedure…and I’m afraid it could be a couple of weeks…”

“WHAT?”

Sure enough, the first available time is in two weeks.

“I can do anything for two weeks,” I hear myself chanting in my head.
That use to be my mantra when I was a much younger mother and teacher.

I would always have to take some sort of continuing ed training or coursework,
usually during the short summer, and it always seemed to be for two weeks.

I despised having to give up my precious home-time–
Whenever I was home, that’s when I savored being like a full time wife and mom…
Having to give up any of the sacred home-time was…in a word, torturous…

But….

I would always reassure myself that both my young son and me could manage anything for two weeks…

Just as I reminded myself today, “I can do anything for two weeks…”
even if it means living with constant pain, no energy and no moments of rest…
while now dealing with poor dad’s conundrum….

All this while as thoughts of just running around naked seemed to make perfect sense as nothing
would then be rubbing on the skin where angry nerves recoiled at the slightest touch.

Which brings us back to the previous observation of the gentleman at the bar…

Whereas I feebly attempted to soothingly reassure myself that I could do anything for two weeks,
perhaps this particular gentleman, who found that he needed a shot of fortitude just to endure
dinner with his wife, had it more aptly figured out…

As I quipped to the nurse, “two weeks is fine, but please call me if anything comes available
sooner… as you may just find me at a bar drinking heavily….”

Here’s to doing anything for two weeks…along with a shot of fortitude!

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:12-13

Do you know your roots?

There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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(the emerging roots of root bound paperwhite bulbs / Julie Cook / 2015)

My dad and his family can trace their roots to 13th century Scotland–that being on his dad’s side. His mother’s side documents their early start back to England and that fateful Mayflower couple Pricilla Mullins and John Alden—th wonderful stuff of legends and lore which makes for great stories.

It is however rather forlornly that I often find myself staring at the large copy xeroxed of this giant map-like family tree based on my dad’s family’s journey—always feeling a bit hesitant to claim my tiny branch. Being adopted I often think that there is another tree out there somewhere, in the black hole of my life, missing a tiny limb. . .that being me.

And then there is my mom’s family and their story, all of which is a bit more sketchy. She was of direct Scotch / Irish blood but that’s about all we know. We surmise both families made their way to the United States on the heels of the devastating An Gorta Mór, better known as the Irish potato famine of the mid 1800’s or even further back to the Bliain an Áir, the year of Slaughter which saw an equally devastating demise of the Irish population, due primarily to starvation, in the mid 1700’s.

Mother’s Irish mother, born at the start of new century in 1902, married her Scottish father in 1924. At some point he sadly took to drink and gambling, losing recklessly everything the couple had on that fateful day in 1929 when all the world simply seemed to crash. Eventually locked away to the confines of a TB sanatorium, he died sick, lost and alone in 1941. My grandmother, to my recollection, never spoke of him again. She was left to raise two young girls at the onset of both a global world war and devastating depression.

My grandmother, who forged seemingly emotionless ahead with her two daughters in tow, built both a successful business and comfortable life for her small family. She was never the warm and fuzzy type of grandmother but rather much more matter of fact, frugal and no nonsense. Given her circumstance, it isn’t surprising. Being both weary and cautious became two common threads woven into her fabric.

For whatever reason, she was very leery, or weary, of the Catholic Church as she was convinced that if John F. Kennedy became president, we were all in going to hell in the proverbial hand basket, as God forbid, a Catholic should be president. A bit irrational to say the least and as to where such irrationality originated, I haven’t a clue.

Yet I find it rather ironic, that to this day, there are many a Christian, even in the midst of this modern 21st century of ours, who are indeed equally weary or leery of both the Catholic as well as the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Maybe it is because there are many Christians who are actually unfamiliar with the history, our history, of the one true “Church.” Maybe it’s because many Christians fail to remember that there was once but one single body, unlike the multitude of branches we see today splitting off from the once sturdy main trunk, much like a giant family tree.

A quick google search yields staggering numbers in regard to a concise listing of total Christian denominations. . .upwards of 35,000–give or take a couple of hundred depending on the source.
Rather amazing that in roughly 2000 years, approximately 35,000 branches have sprouted from one main trunk—but given the divisive nature of human beings, perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised.

When we say in our creed, or declaration of faith, that. . .”We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church. . .” we are not saying that we believe in the Catholic church in Rome, as so many of the faithful erroneously believe, but rather we are declaring a belief in a global family–a global family tree containing many branches. The word catholic, with a little “c” is a latin word, catholicus, which comes from the Greek adjective καθολικός katholikos, meaning universal. So therefore in our creed we claim to believe in the one holy “universal” and apostolic church, not a church, faith, or denomination based in Rome, Italy.

The Great Schism of 1054 resulted in the one single trunk of Christianity splitting into two branches, each of the same faith–the Latin Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East. The splitting hasn’t appeared to slow down all these many years and branches later but to the contrary it seems to be spiraling, splitting and multiplying almost out of control.

Yet it is not my intent today to examine the divisions and differences of opinions within our Christian faith but rather I am merely making an observation about roots and branches as it were, and as to where one may find oneself on a proverbial family tree–be it the tree of one’s genealogy or of one’s spiritual family tree. And since I am adopted, which seems to throw a small monkey wrench into which branch and to which tree I am actually meant to belong, I am sweetly reminded that we are all adopted sons and daughters of Grace–so perhaps that means we are all members of the family tree of Grace and Salvation—which is actually a very welcoming and comforting thought indeed.

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith
Galatians 3:26

Cooking with Cookie or Vanilla Extract Part II

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But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men
Gang aft agley,
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Robert Burns

Oh Robbie Burns, you smooth talking Scot you, you’re singing my song. Or better yet, this is the story of my life. I suppose you could say that my life is a single strand of small cliches strung together over the course of almost 54 years….with my time in the kitchen being no exception…hence the best laid plains of mice and men…or actually the best laid plans of Cookie….

I love to cook and I’ve written a previous post on the art of baking verses cooking— with my inclinations leaning more toward the cooking end the spectrum as this is the area that allows me to be most creative and not as dependent upon the chemical reactions of fats, sugars, yeasts, heat, etc… My pilopsophy is add a little of this and a little of that…and if that doesn’t do the trick… add something else—and when in doubt, perhaps, throw it out.

So I thought it may be nice to have a bit of a diversion today…nothing too heavy, historical or controversial…something more along the lines of taste and of tasting good. And mind you that doesn’t necessarily mean uber healthy rabbit food…..but homemade, perhaps homegrown and soul satisfying….

Do you remember the post Vanilla Extract or is Cookie a Lush…written back in May? Well, it was time to taste test the maturation of the alcohol and beans…ummmmmm

Here the bottles were back in May ready to head to the dark corners of a forgotten cabinet.DSCN0069

and here they are today…bronzed with time….
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I don’t know what I was expecting. Heady vanilla goodness? Sweet, luscious and decadent?
I pulled the bottles out of their dark hiding place, the tomb, aka cabinet, where they’ve been allowed to “do their thing” for these past several months. They have been pulled out from time to time in order to get a healthy little shake—always fighting the desire to pop the cork for a quick whiff of that heavenly amalgamation of vanilla and alcohol—in this case your choice of either vodka, bourbon, honey bourbon, spiced dark rum, Tahitian beans or Madagascar beans…this is hard core extract making.

I pulled out a little silver teaspoon–only the best for this virgin tasting. I placed all the bottles on the counter, and deiced which one I wanted to “test” first. Ooooo, a little shiver ran down my spine, my first decanting…too exciting! I give the bottle of choice one last shake, pop the cork, and I’m suddenly greeted by the unmistakable scent of vanilla which fills the air, but there is also a faint sterile whiff of alcohol….hummmmmm…..

I pour a little of the glistening brown liquid into the spoon, I raise it to my lips and let it fill my mouth. At first millisecond, there is a warm sensation, then suddenly…. AAAGGGHHHH, cough, cough, cough…..yewh…oh God, do I swallow, do I spit…AAGGGHHH…hot, hot, fire….oh dear lord, oh my gosh what was I thinking… a cordial, a cloyingly sweet liquor? AAAGGHHH… what’s in my mouth is on fiiiirrrreeee!!

Now granted I am not one to drink my liquor straight. I’ve just never been that kind of girl. I may be a southern girl who grew up at THE University of Georgia back in the day, who may have had my share of bourbon and coke–of which I no longer seem to desire as I think I had my bait of that oh those many (35ish) years ago…whoops,digressing I do go…. Now give me a little tonic and a lime, a splash of this or that… but straight, no thank you….

My dad has been a Scotch drinker his entire life. One Christmas I spent the most money I’d ever spent on a gift for my dad and that was simply a single barrel, 25 year aged bottle of Scotch from the Speyside area of Scotland. He drinks it neat, or over ice and it’s usually a double to a triple…geeze… I thought there really had to be something to this Scotch business. Sophisticated men (and I’ve only known one woman to do so) have always seemed to drink Scotch. There is an air of sophistication associated with it—tweeds, crystal glasses, driving caps and delightful accents. The whole mist of the moors mystique. I stupidly think that I too need to add this to my repertoire.

Big terrible mistake!!! One taste of Scotch was enough to last me a life time. Liquid burnt peat, that’s all it is. It’s a fiery taste of burnt rubbish. They say you have to acquire the taste for Scotch…if I have to practice to enjoy tasting it, forget it—I’m a love at first taste sort of gal. But don’t tell that to a Scotch drinker. No wee dram here—no sir. Give me my antispetic vodka, the tofu of alcohol –meaning it’ll take on the flavor of whatever you may pair it with—in this case, vanilla beans.

I taste the bourbon extact, the honey bourbon extract, the spiced rum extrat, and the vodka extract—all with similar flair and fire. Ugghh… I pull out a store bought bottle of extract from the cabinet and give it a go just to compare… am I on the right tract or I have created poison?!

Thankfully– the store bought has similar characteristics of my concoctions. Fiery alcohol with some sort of spicy note….just call me the sommeliers of extract.

Time for the true test…to bake a little something in order to see if these bottles are ripe, or still need a little more time to cure…….

Hummm…I need to do something quick as my son and his fiancee were coming over for supper. The need for something streamline nixed the bourbon and rum based extracts as I wasn’t thinking chocolate—I know, who doesn’t think chocolate, but it was a hot day, I needed something light.

Ahhh, meringues…brillant

The smaller meringues, the Boccone Dolce or sweet mouthful in Italian– or even the more showy and larger cousin the Pavolva—are the quintessential vehicle for visually stunning deserts…billowy crisp outer shells with a soft chewy marshmellowesque interior. These are sold, a bit larger than what I make, by bakeries all over Italy and France as a quick pick up go to desert show stopper. One may fill them with mounds of decadent whipped creams and luscious fruits…which is more along the traditional lines of a Pavlova or they may be filled with your either your choice of sorbet and fruit or ice-cream complete with shaved chocolate bits, drizzled with chocolate or caramel sauce and sprinkled with a few roasted nuts or toasted coconut, it will appear as if you have labored for hours.

They are easy to make as long as you follow a few precautions—humidity being the first real kill joy. The other being any unsuspecting egg yolk that drips down into the bowl of whites as you’re separating the eggs. Here is a quick recipe for Boccone Dolce or simply put filled meringue shells:
you will need to”
— preheat your oven to 225ᵒ F
—Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (I also spray the parchment with Baker’s Joy)
— 3 eggs separated, allowed to come to room temperature (I use 4 and I find that if I crack them first
separating the eggs then allowing for the whites to reach room temps, the shells are not as prone to
shatter sending small shards into the whites)
—a small bit of cream of tartar 1/4 teaspoon–remember I don’t measure, I just give a little
sprinkle)
–3/4 cup granulated sugar
–1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (here I am a bit more liberal–I use a splash, more like a teaspoon and
a bit more
–Using a hand held mixer I begin whipping the whites and cream of tarter fist just still the whites get a little foamy. Continuing mixing, I slowly add, a little at a time, allowing for it to be incorporated, the sugar. Still mixing I add the vanilla. I mix until the whites are think, shiny, and can hold up stiff peaks if I pull up on the mixer.
–I then gently scoop out 6 mounds onto the parchment lined baking pan. Using the back of a spoon I gently form a nest by hollowing out an indention in the center of each mound.
–Pop the the sheet into the oven and bake for about and hour and a half.
–Once time is up–turn the oven off, leaving the meringues in the oven for at least one more hour as this dries them out.
(now I have found that my meringues cook best in my regular oven verses the convection oven as they tend to cook too quickly-the meringues should not brown but remain a lovely pale off white. You want a nice crisp exterior and a soft mellowly interior.
–here is where you can be creative filling them with decadent goodness topped by more of the same.

These particular meringues cooked and cooled while I prepared supper. As I didn’t have ample time to pull out all the stops for these little puppies, I simply filled them with peach ice cream, topping them with freshly cut peaches. I have been known to sauté the peaches in a tad of butter, sugar, cinnamon, a squirt of lemon till a nice peachy syrup develops ladling this over the ice cream and shells….
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The vanilla was spot on, I could actually taste a very nice hint of warm vanilla laced throughout every heavenly bite of meringue–boccone dolce –truly