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Sun In A Bottle

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In my 30’s I went through a seriously big, and super-changeable, crafty phase.  Every spring I’d be idly reading some kind of craft book, or see some DIY idea on a web site or see a kids’ crafting kit in a store, for something I’d not tried before.  If it sounded kind of easy, I’d try it.  And more often than not, it’d be way easier than I thought.

And then I’d spend the next several months going flat-out bazoo over it, cranking out one after another craft project with whatever my new hobby was; glass painting, fabric painting, soap making, natural dyes, wood craft, paper craft…I’d be all into it all summer, and then by fall I’d usually come to my senses and see that I’d amassed a huge pile of this….stuff that I never would be able to use up all by myself, and then I’d spend the next couple months gradually unloading it onto friends.  Maybe, now and then, I’d dabble back in, but not to anywhere near the extent I’d done before.

One time the year’s hobby was making liqueur.  Which was actually a little out of character, because I don’t drink all that much as a general rule.  But something about liqueur seemed so genteel – they’re not things you chug, you sip them, preferably on a shady porch out of antique crystal glasses only just big enough to give you the tiniest sippet of something, the facets in the glass showing off the clear jewel tones of the drink itself.  And of the things I’ve tried, this was hands-down the easiest of all – most of the recipes I found involved simply dumping things into a jar full of vodka and leaving them alone for several weeks.

My friends really liked that craze, eagerly snapping up my bottles of spiced rum and homemade amaretto and blackberry wine, and my friends Colin and Niki even found something to do with a weird banana-mango thing I made, using it as the “secret ingredient” in their sangria pitchers for the better part of a summer.  But I still had a lot of little bottles of random liqueur left over, and after a while the labels started to fall off all of them and I got uneasy about giving them to anyone without knowing what they were and they gradually fell further and further back in a closet until I finally just dumped them all out.  They weren’t getting drunk, and they couldn’t possibly be any good, I thought.

But now and then the urge still hits.  A couple years ago, on a trip to Italy, I bought a tiny little bottle of limoncello from a market stall somewhere in Florence, something just big enough for me to get onto the plane home.  I was going to save it for a summer party or something.  But then my first day back to work after my vacation I was laid off, and came home a half hour before my then-roommate – who’d also lost his job that same day.  I figured we needed a double-dose of comfort and broke into the limoncello, digging out a pair of tiny cordial glasses that my grandmother had owned.  I forgot all about it until the next time I had a job-related tragedy, and was home wondering “now what” and saw the limoncello bottle still had a good amount left inside and poured myself a glass.

That bottle became the house “emergency job shock soother” for the next two years, until just last month, when I was facing a return to unemployment.  I finished out the bottle, telling my current roommate that well, if I was about to be unemployed, I would go out in style.  I washed out the bottle to save as a bud vase, and started to accept my fate.  But then literally the next work day, I was offered a full time job after all.

The thing is, though, I’ve now kind of gotten accustomed to having a small bottle of limoncello in the house.  But it’s going to be a while before I can get back to Italy again, and I’ll probably be springing for salame or pancetta to bring home instead.  However…I can make it.

There is now thus a big jar lurking in a corner of my kitchen counter, full of the contents of a whole bottle of vodka and the zest of eight lemons.  The entire apartment smelled absolutely gorgeous, and it took on a beautiful sunny yellow color after only a couple days.  But I need to leave it there for another four weeks still, and it’s starting to look like old pee.  But that’s part of the process – four weeks from now I just play with some filters and add some sugar and water, let it age some more, and then in early August, right when I’ll be wanting a cold apertif anyway, it’ll be ready to drink, preferably out of antique crystal glasses on a shady porch.  Or, more likely, from a flask smuggled into a park during an open-air movie or something.

But I don’t think I’ll be saving it just for job-related emergencies this time.


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