Woo hoo, check out the first Sweetsonian video! That is if you don’t count this one.
My talented colleague and friend, Matty, came over one Saturday, and directed a fun video on how to mix up your very own Pimm’s Cup — which has been my cocktail of choice all summer. Why stop at fall? I’ll probably be drinking them all winter long, too.
After the past few weeks, ibuprofen is definitely not enough.
Y’all know that I’ve been working hard to make my move to New York a reality. The first half of the year was made up of aggressive interviewing, during which, I learned to be much more selective about which interviews I take and how to negotiate salaries. I relaxed a bit when my office was more open to letting me telecommute from New York, which would have eliminated the need to hunt for a new job for a year or so, but last week, prospects of that happening seemed low.
Three people on my team have put in their notice, which would be jarring for anyone on a nine-person team (which should really be at twelve). So the hunt continues.
Also taking place during my blogging hiatus was a week of illness — what I thought was the flu happened to be the precursor to pneumonia. So yeah, fifteen days of antibiotics later, I’m a real person again!
In the meantime, I made a few of these cocktails last weekend on a hot day that I spent mostly inside, and it brought me back to a day a couple of years ago, spent on the dock of a bar in Annapolis, drinking these high-sugar, high-fat cocktails. They did not disappoint then, and they definitely fixed the debbie downers that have been creeping their way into the past couple of months.
I’ve been coming to terms with anxiety, and whether or not turning to meds is the answer. And after years of playing therapist to friends, I turned to some of mine, who have also struggled with anxiety. I come from a family that legitimately does not acknowledge emotions — I struggled with depression and anxiety through high school and much of college, and it went entirely unnoticed, mostly because my parents put a huge stigma on anxiety, and being diagnosed with depression or anxiety was just. not. an option. For most of my life, I was under the impression that any form of anxiety was mental illness in disguise. That you can solve any problem by yourself. That insecurity and anxiety are qualities that make you a weak person.
All of these notions are false. So incredibly false. While there are many times I feel like blaming my parents or my high school or my college, what it probably comes down to is the changing world — growing up in a generation of people who have been helped by therapy and who have recognized that feeling nervous, insecure, or regretful over a snippet of a memory of something that you did or said ten years ago might be due to a chemical imbalance… that it’s not normal to go sleepless over something that, in the big picture of your life, is too insignificant to interfere with the present.
And sometimes, the solution is to take medicine that corrects that imbalance. A solution that goes into your brain and calms you down, because your time is too valuable to waste, worrying about something that doesn’t matter. But sometimes, you can figure it out on your own. Sometimes, a nap or a good cry can calm down my emotions. Or validation from a comedian, who read a book about the female brain and came to the conclusion that it’s a miracle that we’re not bursting into tears all 24 hours of the day (truth girl, truth). Or a yoga class, which helps you differentiate the strengths and weaknesses of your mind from the strengths and weaknesses in your body.
But sometimes, a couple of stiff cocktails with your favorite people work more magic than anything. Because there are few things in this world that take pain away better than sharing delicious treats with people who make you feel loved.
You can usually gauge how crazy I am by how often I actually update this blog.
When I’m relaxed and absolutely in love with life, you’ll see a few posts here a week. They might not always have a new recipe — especially with all the traveling I did this summer. I just always want to share the fun and beautiful people and places that are part of my life.
Mostly, the people. But I’m never really sure how they’d feel about their photos being posted here on the internet.
Today, you see, I’m recovering from a cold. Or the flu. Or whatever the difference is between those two words. So really, there’s not much to share today, aside from a mild addiction to Emergen-C packets and Zicam rapid melts. And chocolate chips (shh, don’t tell Shaeda).
The past few weekends have been absolutely, positively, unquestionably magical. Last weekend, I spent a good 48 hours in New York City to attend the most beautiful wedding I’ll probably ever get to see in my entire life — a weekend dominated by my new obsession with everything black tie and interspersed with a wild Friday night out and a charming Sunday afternoon with my great aunt and uncle, who live in the apartment of my dreams at 97th and Central Park West. One of these weekends, I’ll take my camera with me and snap a photo of the view for you. They have quite the adorable story to go with that view, too.
Plus, Aunt Mary is another bourbon girl. I appreciate that.
I digress. Today, I have a cocktail recipe. While gin was once widely used medicinally, the gin will have little or no effect on today’s illness. Rather, various renditions of this cucumber cocktail has appeared so frequently in my hand this summer that you’d think I planned the whole thing.
Well, it all started during restaurant week here in DC, when I was dealing with clients from hell and juggling an unequivocal week of temporary insanity. Shaeda coerced me into drinks, which turned into dinner, which turned into just spending too much money on good food, which is something I’ve been so good at lately that I should list on my resume.
It started with this drink. We had two each at MXDC. Then we looked up the recipe and made our own versions, in my kitchen over dinner.
And then, in New York, April and I went out for bougie rooftop cocktails and asked the bartender for something cucumber-y. She made this, two or three times for us… before I embarked on my night-of-a-thousand-straight-bourbons.
I really can’t get enough of this. While I can’t drink it right now, you definitely should.
Cucumber Bay Breeze, inspired by the Baja Breeze at MXDC
Juice from 2-3 limes (I had key limes, so we used several)
Tanqueray or Hendricks Gin
First, juice the cucumbers. I don’t have a juicer, so I peeled, chopped, and pureed them using a food processor and a few splashes of water before straining them with cheesecloth. Get as much cucumber juice as you can.
In a shaker, combine about 1 cup cucumber juice with a few tablespoons lime juice, a few tablespoons syrup and about 1/2 cup of gin. Fill with ice cubes and shake vigorously. If you don’t have a mixer, use a mason jar.
Pour into cocktail glasses, and top with a splash or two of ginger ale. Garnish with a lime and a cucumber stick to stir with.
I know I probably say this all the time, but this was one of the most stressful weeks of my life.
Having just arrived home from Europe on Saturday, I went to work on Monday kind of excited — I knew after having been gone for a couple of weeks, my team would probably have some exciting projects in the works.
That part was very true. Lots of good stuff will be coming from the Energy Department digital team in the next couple of months.
What I did not anticipate was a barrage of disasters from freelance clients. So, instead of having a leisurely week back from vacation with some nice projects for the day job, I spent sleepless nights putting together draft after endless draft of the same infographic 8 billion different ways. Today, I woke up early to start wireframing a project that’s been on my calendar for upwards of a month (I love people who plan ahead), but the disaster projects were over, so it was actually pretty therapeutic.
But yesterday, in the midst of the crisis and after two nights with minimal sleep and maximum stress, I attempted to write a blog post on my lunch break. That was an epic fail. I was so frustrated that I couldn’t write a sentence that wasn’t a form of frustration venting about nightmare projects. And right at that moment, I had an epiphany. It is 100 percent unacceptable to let myself get that stressed out over a freelance project. So I drew a line. I closed my computer, went back to the office, and worked on day job projects that I enjoy. And then, I went to dinner with Shaeda, who graciously dealt with my venting and reassured me that quitting all of freelancing was not the solution. Thanks, girl.
Anyway, two cocktails and an order of lobster guacamole later, I was at peace. But maybe that was just the booze.
In the short interval between Europe and that disastrous work week, Nikki invited me to #figfest at a friend’s apartment. And fig fest it was — there was fig chutney and fig crostini… and fig and bourbon cocktails. What I would do to have one of these for happy hour tonight.
Makes enough for one drink — so multiply accordingly.
1 fresh, whole fig
6ish fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup ginger ale
Mint sprig for garnish
Tools: cocktail shaker, something to muddle with
First, muddle the fig, mint leaves, and brown sugar in your cocktail shaker. You’ll want to break the fig down pretty well. Then, add bourbon and enough ice cubes to fill the shaker up. Cover with the lid and shake vigorously for about 30 seconds.
Strain into a glass or jar filled with ice cubes, and top with ginger ale to taste and a mint leaf. Drink immediately.
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My definition of “favorite holiday” has fluctuated over the years. As a kid, the Fourth of July was never really a big deal. It wasn’t like Christmas or a birthday — we didn’t get presents and there wasn’t any special sort of character that came to visit. I actually don’t remember many of my childhood Fourth of Julys… they were always relatively tame.
But in D.C., Fourth of July is the greatest holiday. Ever.
I remember when I was still working at the Department of Labor — there was a little yellow concessions stand right outside the main entrance, facing the Capitol Building and the National Mall. Rachel and I used to schlep outside on the hottest days (it was frigid inside because of the air conditioners) and we’d grab ice cream snacks.
Firecrackers were always my top choice. And when you’re in one of the most American places on the planet, every ice cream cart is well-stocked with Firecracker pops.
I even proactively purchased popsicle molds just so I could make my own Firecracker pops this year — I purchased these ones from Amazon — and they came with popsicle sticks. And, I prefer the classic look.
So, popsicles are pretty easy, right? You make some sort of liquid, fill the molds, and freeze overnight. Well, I tried this with coffee, and the coffee came out so rock-hard-icy that it hurt my teeth. I figured that this time, I’d run each liquid through the ice cream maker so they would soften up. WRONG. Don’t do this. Most of the pops were too soft to be pulled out in once piece.
So I’ve adjusted the instructions below to eliminate what I actually did in practice. Running the mixtures through the ice cream maker actually incorporated too much air into the mixtures, which kept them from freezing solid. Not running them through the ice cream makers should do the trick.
Strawberry Sorbet, adapted from the Joy of Baking
1/3 cup simple syrup
2.5 cups strawberries, cleaned and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons vodka
1 tablespoon Triple Sec
Blueberry Sorbet, adapted from Simply Recipes
2 cups fresh blueberries, stems removed
1/3 cup simple syrup
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
pinch of salt
Vanilla ice cream, adapted form David Lebovitz
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole or soy milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons bourbon
First, assemble the vanilla ice cream mix. Combine 1 cup heavy cream and 1 cup milk in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Keep an eye on it, and make sure it doesn’t boil over. Heat them until you start to get a nice froth on top, and immediately remove from the stove. In a mixing bowl, combine your egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla extract.
While whisking vigorously, gradually pour about 1/4 cup of the milk and cream mixture into your egg yolks and sugar. You really cannot whisk vigorously enough — you need to temper the yolks to ensure they don’t scramble. This is how we make a custard. Continue adding the hot milk in 1/4-cup increments until it is completely mixed. Filter the custard through a fine mesh sieve, and set aside in a jar. If you’re not one to wait around, set that jar in a bath of ice and salt water to speed the cooling process up. When it’s entirely cool, stir in the bourbon.
Then, create the other sorbets. This process is pretty easy — you just take all of the ingredients and pulse grind them in a food processor until the fruit is entirely pureed. Keep the strawberry and blueberry sorbets separate, and let chill in the refrigerator until the vanilla ice cream is cold.
Assemble the popsicles. First, spoon the blueberry sorbet into your popsicle molds. I’d go with 2-4 tablespoons in each mold, depending on the mold size. Go ahead and tap the counter with the popsicle molds a few times to get any bubbles out, and set in the freezer for at least two hours.
After the first layer is frozen, repeat with the vanilla ice cream mixture — spoon a bit into each mold, and tap on the counter. Freeze for one hour.
Then, fill the popsicles to the brim with the strawberry sorbet mixture. Insert popsicle sticks into each mold, and freeze overnight.
I almost poured myself a glass of straight bourbon ten minutes ago. I’ll be working late all week on Google projects, so I really should get to bed (and save the bourbon for a better occasion, perhaps, a real-life handsome stranger).
Anyhoo, there will be plenty of use for these cherries this weekend. We’ll be making Manhattans on Sunday.
I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll have inspiration for a real post tomorrow. In the meantime, happy Tuesday :)
Fresh cherries — preferably the dark red ones
Lots of bourbon — I use Bulleit, which has vanilla undertones to begin with
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla extract
One vanilla bean per jar of cherries
Wash your cherries over a strainer in the sink, and remove the pits using a cherry pitter. If you’re like me, and too cheap to buy one, just poke them out with the blunt end of a chopstick… carefully. Discard the pits, and set your pitless cherries aside in a bowl.
In a small saucepan, heat the vanilla extract and the sugar until the sugar is all dissolved. With such small measurements, the solution will turn syrupy quickly. We don’t want it too syrupy, so just take the pot off the heat when it starts boiling and the sugar is entirely dissolved.
Now, we want to get vanilla beans into the syrup. I preserve my vanilla beans soaking in vodka (homemade vanilla extract!) which makes it really easy to extract the beans. If you do this too, simply snip off the tip of the bean with scissors or a sharp knife, and squeeze the vanilla beans into the syrup.
If you’re working with dry beans, slice the pod lengthwise, and use a knife to scrape the beans out before stirring them into your syrup.
From this point on, we’re just assembling and waiting. Fill a clean jar with your pitted cherries, and then pour your syrup into the jar. Then, fill whatever space is left in the jar with bourbon. Screw on the top, securing the lid tightly, and give the jar a shake.
Refrigerate for at least 3 hours. The cherries should be good for a few weeks. Put them on ice cream, in cocktails, or on a toothpick for a sweet snack.
Right around this time of year, my general blah reaction to that second Sunday in the month of May is usually: Oh joy, another Mother’s Day.
I’ve never written to you about the relationship I had with my mother. It’s sadly, not the happiest of topics, but part of me wants to say that I hope that story is still unfinished, unfit for publishing. The truth is, I find myself more like my mother than I would like to admit.
I care too much about how people perceive me.
I hold grudges.
I am quick to judge.
And, contrary to popular belief, I do get angry.
Most of me has spent my entire life fighting these tendencies to the point of grinding my teeth, as these tendencies were exposed to me in the worst of ways — and far too early in life. But at the same time, my mother, on several levels, is why I am unbearably stubborn, independent, and eager to feed those around me. Those traits have brought me more pleasure than pain, and for that, I am thankful.
Last week, Shaeda wrote about her grandmother’s hands. Like many of you out there, too, I have my mother’s hands. I am happy to have them.
That being said, since I’ve moved to the East Coast, I’ve met so. many. wonderful. mothers. Mothers who have opened up their hearts and their homes, mothers who have cooked dinner and allowed me to cook for them, and mothers who don’t even live in D.C. but travel here regularly and enjoy catching up. They have transformed Mother’s Day from a wince and an eye roll, into something that I actually look forward to.
And as one of the daughters who had a more than troublesome time with her mother, I can say that I can definitely spot a good mother when I meet one. Here’s to Nancy, Eva, Susie, Clare, Norma, Mamie, Karol, Amy, and Beth — they’re the ones that come to my mind first. These ladies rock.
Whether your a mother or daughter, father or son, I hope you all have a glorious Mother’s Day.
As for me, well, I will probably be drinking this on Sunday. Lots and lots of this.
Cucumber Ginger Fizz
Cucumber infused vodka — I’m a fan of the Square brand
In a tall glass, squeeze a wedge of lime, and then muddle with a few slices of cucumber. Then, combine 2-3 oz. vodka with ginger ale (and club soda if you prefer your drinks on the drier side), and stir with ice.
Garnish with a lime, and hand one to your mom on a sunny patio.
It’s amazing how much stuff you can acquire when you stay in one place for a couple of years.
Just over a week ago, I packed the last of my belongings into a 17th box. Shaeda and I stacked them into a corner of my room, and spent the next day coordinating a move, and watching my movers play real-life tetris with 17 boxes, three armchairs, two beds, and a collection of bookshelves and end tables.
Three hours and one shattered mirror later, we had everything blocked into my apartment. Will came over and built all of my furniture (not kidding – all of it), and when after we turned in the U-Haul truck, I found him sleeping in an armchair, surrounded by boxes and allen wrenches. He was extraordinarily tired, because he was blasting country music in his phone… still sleeping.
Unless he does that on the reg. Well, no judgment.
The week before a move is spent packing, and my packing craze went hand-in-hand with a purging craze. I tossed, I donated, I sold things that I never thought I’d part with. But the thing is, I never ever – ever – thought that I could acquire that much stuff.
And, as I started going through the kitchen, the living room, and the closets, I realized how much of the things in that group house were actually mine. And, for the first time in my life, those things have a home of their own. Those things are no longer shared with the comings and goings of your average DC group house.
For the first time in a very long time, I have my own space. And it’s… glorious.
Tonight, I came home from work and removed the horrible (and noisy) blinds from my windows, and replaced them with curtains. I haven’t had curtains since I lived in my parents’ house.
At the moment, I’m drinking this gin cocktail on the couch. The windows are open, and the night is still. I like it. I think I’ll stay a while.
Lemon, Thyme & Gin Spritzer
Juice from 1 lemon
Juice from 1 lime
Fresh sprigs of thyme
In a chilled glass, muddle a few sprigs of thyme with a few squeezes of lime and lemon slices. Then, stir in about 2 oz. of gin (depending on how stiff you like your drinks) and club soda to taste. Add sugar (or syrup) if you prefer drinks on the sweeter side. I enjoy this one without, though.
Stir in a sprig of thyme, and serve with lots of ice.