Et tu…?

Perhaps the most famous three words uttered in literature,
“Et tu, Brute?” (Even you, Brutus?)
this expression has come down in history to mean the ultimate betrayal by one’s closest friend.
This scene, in which the conspirators in the Senate assassinate Caesar,
is one of the most dramatic moments on the Shakespearean stage.
The audience has just witnessed the arrogance and hubris of a ruler
who has sought, within a republic, to become a monarch, comparing himself to the gods.
Brutus, a friend of Caesar and yet a man who loves Rome
(and freedom) more, has joined the conspirators in the assassination,
a betrayal which is captured by the three words above in this famous Shakespeare quote.

Julius Caesar (III, i, 77)
enotes.com


(an odd guest / Julie Cook / 2019)

There has been a betrayal…as in an Et tu Brute sort of betrayal…but more about that in a bit…
as our story will twist us back to that moment of utter treachery shortly.

Saturday afternoon, in between laundry loads, I was walking by the kitchen’s backdoor
and instinctively cast a sideways glance out the door…
the door that leads into the garage.

Remember I’ve been gone for a week working at the main Woobooville in Atlanta.
My husband remained behind until late Friday afternoon…
just long enough for a crime to be committed.

Here is an image of a clue…breadcrumbs to a crime scene if you will…
and yes those breadcrumbs look very much like sawdust…hummmmm…

The plot thickens.

But back to Saturday and the backdoor…

“Why is there a pigeon sitting in the garage?” I holler out to my husband who is
perched in his new recliner in the den.

New recliners tend to make husbands want to perch.

He hollers back from the den, “We don’t have pigeons, it’s a dove.”
This coming from someone who has not even looked out the door to said bird of which I speak.

Well, you might want to come look at this dove that is a pigeon” I counter.

To my husband’s credit, we are more rural dwellers rather than city folks…
rural folks who have doves and not city slicker pigeons.

Sure enough, my husband meanders into the kitchen, only to see a dove/ pigeon sitting
in the garage.

“Hummmm” he muses…“that is a pigeon”

“Really?!” I sardonically reply.

We both then wonder aloud as to what has brought a pigeon to our neck of the woods…
rather make that pasture.

“I bet it’s the trees” I sharply snarl.

“I don’t see how the trees have anything to do with a pigeon being in the garage” he bristles back.

Now our plot thickens even more…

You may recall the horrific tree debacle of October 2014.

I wrote a post about it.
I cried over it.
I bemoaned over it.
I mourned over it.

And I’ll admit, I eventually got over it.

Our house was once flanked by two majestic and stately oaks.

We live pretty much smack dab in the middle of what was once a pasture.
There are a few odd trees and a smattering of blasted sweet gums that dot the property.
Not my idea of wonderful trees…albeit for those two oaks.

The oaks began losing their leaves one summer.
Like in losing copious amounts of leaves.
Leaves were everywhere and it was driving my husband crazy because it was the middle
of summer and we were dealing with leaves like it was the end of Fall.

A year passed with a threat…“if those trees do that next year, they’re gone!”

The trees were sick but I didn’t know what to do.
No arborists out in our neck of the woods…uh, pasture.

But my husband knew what to do.

Cut them down.

For you see that seems to be my husband’s answer to everything.
It’s an “Off with their heads” mentality.

The bushes are out of whack, get rid of them.
Something is causing you a problem?
Let it go…as in literally let it go.
As he is a menace with a chainsaw.

The year passed and the trees lost more leaves even faster…
And then the trees were cut.
Afterward it did appear as if they were sickly and most likely would, in time,
probably have fallen.
Possibly falling toward the house.

Plus he constantly groused over the gutters and the mildew on that side of the house
always having to be cleaned…as in it was all the tree’s fault.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I like trees.
I didn’t want to admit that keeping the trees was a pain and a risk.

Fast foward to now.

We have a bank alongside the driveway that has—rather make that had–
two River Birch trees sitting at the top of the slope.

Two large, airy trees that have been home to a myriad of birdhouses, feeders, and nests
all while casting a lovely amount of shade in the summer months.

However, for those of you who do not know River Birches…
these trees need to be by rivers and not the latest greatest landscape answer.

These trees are fast growing trees and they are always shedding something
all four seasons…plus the least little storm, and snap goes their nimble thin branches…
littering the yard and driveway…not to mention clogging the gutters.

But for 20 years I’ve watched what came to me as tiny saplings grow into giants.
Hence why they are often thrown into landscaping—they grow fast and fill in the
blanks quickly.
Only to become monsters in more ways than one.

We use to have three of these trees but my husband had one cut down a few years back
that was precariously close to the house.
It didn’t start out precarious—but the rapidity of growth made it precarious.

Off with its head.
And it was gone.

Next, he threatened to whack down the remaining two.

Only to be countered with my begging and imploring wails of
NOthey are home to my birds.
They offer delightful summer shade…

So enter this past week.
I was conveniently out of town.
The plot was now hatched.

When the cat is away the mouse opts to cause havoc.

Well, I suppose this is where I should confess tell you…that maybe…
just maybe, a while back during the summer,
I might have mentioned to him–
“please, if you must cut them, do it in the winter.”

But I wouldn’t use that in a court of law because I will plead the 5th.

So Thursday evening when my husband called to check in on the Mayor and me,
he made a quick mention that the tree men were coming the next morning, bright and early,
to cut down those trees.

WHAT?! I practically scream into the phone.

“Yep. I told you I was cutting them down and you had told me to do it in the winter…and
well it’s winter”

I never recall such I frantically wail.

But I knew my pleas were futile.
His mind was made up and there would be no compromising or changing his
“off with their heads” mindset.

I then quickly responded rather definitely…“well then, you better go out and
find some other type trees and have them planted and fix that mess pronto,
and I mean it!

I wasn’t even there to see it but I knew there’d be a mess.

And sure enough, I braced myself for what would greet me when I pulled into the driveway Saturday morning.
Or make that, what wouldn’t be there greeting me!

As this is all that remains…well make that two of these is all that remains…

So the moral to this little tree tale you might be asking…

Pigeons will erroneously show up when you cut down trees as they now think they’re
in the city and never…never ever leave a newly retired husband home alone…
especially during the winter…a husband who thinks
he needs to be about some major sort of project particularly when there’s nothing else he
can be doing when it’s dreary and cold.

A landscape guy will be out tomorrow to recommend a more compact type of tree!

Have I not commanded you?
Be strong and courageous.
Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed,
for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

spotty with a chance of showers

Weather forecast for tonight:
dark.

George Carlin


(blooming ornamental lillies / Julie Cook / 2018)

The spring forecast in Georgia is nothing more than a living definition of
an educated guess.
One day it’s near 80, the next, it doesn’t even climb out of the 40’s…
Fickled, beautiful Southern belle she is… this thing we call Spring…

And perhaps that may be more or less my own forecast here in WP in the several coming weeks.
Spotty at best.

Life never is what we’d like nor prefer—never the ideal…
and that is certainly the case in our small corner of the world.

After her precarious maternity leave, our daughter-n-law, with the new baby in tow,
will be spending the next several weeks with us as she ventures back to work today.

She will be finishing out the school year while staying with us since her school is closer to
us versus their home in Atlanta…the idea of commuting was a no-brainer…
there will be no commuting!

Our son’s work is there, in the big city, so until a new school is found closer to them for her
or a new job is found closer to us for him…well, we’re just juggling time and space…
as well as a nearly 2 month old baby who just doesn’t believe in sleep.

So on those day’s when the night prior was sleepless, like last night, I may or may not
show up in your reader…

Sleep, perchance to dream…

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me
Psalm 3:5

more of those blasted harbingers

When clouds appear, wise men put on their cloaks;
When great leaves fall, the winter is at hand;
When the sun sets, who doth not look for night?

Shakespeare Richard III, 2.3

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(the swarm at Julie’s / Julie Cook 2013)

You think you’re seeing a cute pretty little ladybug. So sweet and cute you say. So cute when a 3 year old little girl is dressed as one for Trick or Treat but not so cute when hundreds descend upon your world—-as is exactly what is playing out throughout the southeastern States the past couple of weeks, with my house being in the middle of the fray.

This is just the one “lady” out of many that I could actually follow long enough to zoom in on– all the hundreds of other little friends where busy scooting where I know not and flitting also to where I know not—but not inside my house thank you very much!! By George, not in my house!!!

This time of year. . . it’s always this time of year. . . like I said, this time of year, when the weather first turns cool, then turns back mild, which will in turn switch back to cool, then cold— the ladybug—better known as the Ladybird beetle, THE Asian Ladybird beetle, will gather en masse to find a place to “winter”. . .like my house looks like a place to “winter” ?! I think not!!

Why everything likes to “masse” up this time of year is beyond my soul. First it was the grackles, or blackbirds, who swarm together during the winter making for very noisy and quickly moving black clouds seen and heard dashing through the sky. Then it was the herd of wooly bear caterpillars scurrying across busy roads giving no never mind to the tires heading their way. Next it was the squirrels darting about my yard gobbling up every acorn in sight as if they know of some sort of looming acorn shortage. And now—-it is the attack of the ladybugs!

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One must be very careful when opening a door around here lest a handful of these “ladies” flit inside. Do you know how annoying it is to sit down to supper, enjoying something warm and wonderful, when suddenly you look down on the edge of your plate as something scooting along the rim has just caught your eye. Disconcerting indeed.

If all of the things that I have been “witnessing” and observing, these past couple of weeks, are true indicators of winter, then Georgia is in deep trouble. Perhaps I should alert some state official, or perhaps the Governor to ready the sand trucks. We all know what happens to the roads and drivers in the South when the “s” word arrives. We don’t like saying it out loud as it makes kids go crazy, drivers even crazier and our local weathermen, nuts.

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I certainly don’t claim to be any sort of soothsayer or prophet by any means but obviously “things” are all trying to tell me something. All I know is that if the frogs start falling from the sky, I’m packing my bags . . .

Indian Summer

“The Indian Summer of life should be a little sunny and a little sad, like the season, and infinite in wealth and depth of tone, but never hustled.”
Henry Adams
DSCN2259
(image taken from the window while ironing / Jule Cook / 2013)

Transition.

A 30 degree night, gives way to the first frost of the season, which gives way to rain, which gives way to balmy spring-like warmth, giving way to this Indian Summer.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac a true Indian Summer only happens between St Martin’s day– November 11th to November 20th. If All Saint’s day (November 1st) brings cold, followed by a drastic warm up between St Martin’s day and the 20th of November then we have a true Indian Summer.

This week’s warmth is just a little early for the official Indian Summer, but warm it is…..this butterfly has no idea it’s almost November.

Farewell, thou latter spring; farewell, All-hallown summer!”
Shakespeare’s Henry IV

Butter and Lent

As Richard III found himself mucking about in an open field, his horse having been shot out from under him, in vain and what some may add valiantly, attempting to continue his losing battle against his foe, his last battle cry has gone down in the annals of history  (thanks in part to Mr. Shakespeare) “…a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!!”

My battle cry may be somewhat similar, however it would not be for a noble steed of which I cry but rather for a pound of butter!!

Yes, my kingdom for butter!!  The churned and solidified state of fresh cream.  Legally, in the US, to be classified as the real deal, butter must contain at least 80% milk fat.  It is graded AA, A, B, C.  It most usually starts out as liquid fresh “sweet” cream, verses sour cream.  It is lightly salted, which adds flavor and assists as a bit of a natural preservative.  But as any cook can tell you, unsalted butter is the perfered cooking ingredient.

However I have discovered that it is the European style butters that seem to satisfy my soul, as well as my taste buds, as opposed to good ol USA butter.  European style butters, and please note that I say “style” may be made outside of Europe,  but in order to possess the same quality of butters made inside of Europe — it is all a matter of fat content that differentiates European butter to say, American butter. (Europeans, however, will also tell you that it is the diet of their cows which makes all of the difference–difference in taste and color)— American butter has a fat content of 80% where as European butter will have anywhere from 83% to 86%.  More fat equals less water.  Of which leads to a more dense consistancy.  As European butters are made more slowy, flavores have more time to develop.

That oh so unctuous goodness which slowly melts on ones tongue– hinting at the cool freshness of real cream, hints of grassiness, some with a bit of a tang or bite, with the perfect light hint of salt—is there anything better?

During “the war”, and that would be for our younger readers WWII, butter was a hot commodity.  Ration books were issued in both the United States as well as throughout Europe.  The things that we take for granted today were sacred and scarce for previous generations of  a war torn world.  Cows throughout Europe had either been slaughtered for occupying troop’s consumption or were in the cross fire of battle and killed by the thousands, or worse, died of starvation as grazing lands had been scorched by the bombings.  In the US, in an attempt to maintain supplies for home as well as for troops abroad, so many items were rationed for consumer consumption.  One had to use ration stamps verses money in order to procure food, gas and even clothing.  Butter was worth more points than say a piece of meat.

But what does any of that have to do with Lent you ask.  Well as we know Lent is a time of atonement and penance.  A time  of deep spiritual reflection.  We are reminded of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted, tested, poked and prodded by Satan.  Jesus used this time to fast, pray and to prepare himself in order to begin his earthly ministry.  He cleansed  mind, body  and spirit.

In commemoration of this most solemn time leading up to Holy Week, Christians world wide are called to reflection—a time of fasting and prayer.  Those who are most devout will kept to strict fasting rules—-no fats whatsoever, no meat, no alcohol, no sex—-a time devoid of self and all bodily pleasure which will assist one in the direction of thought and prayer as the distractions of this world must slip away in order to allow ourselves to be open to God and what He wants to say to each of us……how ever can we hear Him if we are consumed with self placation.  I need to be less in order that God may be more—less of me and more of Him.

So in my humble weak observance of Lent, I have given up my unhealthy obsession with and of butter.  Bread and butter to be exact. I am so bad that my husband will ask not if I would like for him to butter me a piece of bread when dining out, but rather would I like a tad of bread for what he knows will be the consumption of the entire butter dish.  I am a butter connoisseur.  I can tell if its US or European style in one taste.  I have been known to order butter from Italy—as this particular butter is made from the same cows in which the famed cheese of Parmigiano Reggiano is produced.   I have ordered handcrafted butter made on small farms in Vermont using the cream from the famed Jersey cows.   And whipping cream—ohhhh that is for an entirely different post—-YUM is all I can say……

Let’s not discuss cholesterol shall we, I don’t wish to ruin my day any further.  But in order to let go of an obsession allowing myself to be a bit more open for a God who so longs to be as important to me as say, butter, I can do without my butter and bread for these 40 days.  And who knows maybe I won’t “need”  it nearly as badly as I’ve thought come Easter!!

I would like to offer two lovely recipes, however, both of which showcase the taste and use of butter in magical harmony.

The first is a recipe taken from the vault of Saveur Magazine.  They had an article a few years back on butter—fascinating to be sure…..

Pound CakeCredit: André Baranowski

SERVES 10 – 12

Over the years, the formula for pound cake has evolved, making for a lighter cake. This recipe is testament to that delicious transformation.

12 oz. butter plus more for the pan (preferably
Beurre Lescure) at room temperature
2 tbsp. plus 3 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1⁄2 tsp. fine salt
1 cup milk, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure almond extract
1 tsp. pure lemon extract
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs, at room temperature

1. Heat oven to 325°. Generously grease a light-colored 10″ tube pan with butter. Add 2 tbsp. flour; turn the pan to coat it evenly with flour, tap out any excess, and set aside. (The inside of the pan should be smoothly and evenly coated with butter and flour, with no clumps or gaps.)

2. Using a sieve set over a bowl, sift together remaining flour, baking powder, and salt. Repeat 2 more times. In a measuring vessel with a pourable spout, combine milk and the almond, lemon, and vanilla extracts. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, cream butter at medium-low speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar, 1⁄4 cup at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula, and beat until satiny smooth, about 3 minutes.

3. Add 1 egg at a time to the butter mixture, beating for 15 seconds before adding another, and scraping down the bowl after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and alternately add the flour and milk mixtures in 3 batches, beginning and ending with the flour. Scrape down sides of the bowl; beat just until the batter is smooth and silky but no more.

4. Scrape batter into prepared pan and firmly tap on a counter to allow batter to settle evenly. Bake until light golden and a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out moist but clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Invert cake onto rack; let cool completely before slicing.

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The second recipe is for a Blender hollandaise Sauce.  Talk about decadent and yet light.  A beautiful lemon yellow, offering a taste of spring.  Use on asparagus of course, but is equally at home accompanying fish, other vegetables or as a base for bernaise sauce when serving beef tenderloin…

8 tablespoons of butter (the real deal please–salted or not)

3 eggs

2 tablespoons of lemon juice (Meyer lemons make this extra flavorful if you can find them it is well worth the quest)

1/2 teaspoon of salt (if using unsalted butter)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Yields 3/4 cup ( do not attempt to double)

Heat butter just until foamy–do not brown.  Place egg yolks, lemon juice, salt and cayenne into blender.  Turn bender on–as blades reach full speed, slowly add melted butter in one thin stream, ( sauce will then thicken as you pour.)  May be kept warm over warm water  but it must be use relatively quickly.  ***I realize that raw eggs are being used—make certain they are pasteurized and fresh with no cracks to the shell.  The lemon juice helps to “cook” the eggs.  I have used this recipe for years with no problems but if you worry, research a hollandaise sauce that is cooked on the stove or, heavens forbid, the microwave.

Bon Appetite!!