Friday, May 22, 2015

Red, White and Blue Lemonade for the Summer

Every year, as we gear up for our annual friends' trip to Duck, each member of the group picks a summer song. It's a huge production, with lots of emailing and back and forth, and at the end, Alicia makes a mix that we listen to over and over for the rest of the summer.

This year, Cooper's song is "American Kids" by Kenny Chesney. It is bouncy and it includes a line about a shotgun. Cooper likes shotguns.

A few weeks ago, just as Cooper was choosing his song, I got an email from the PR company that reps Blue Chair Bay - Kenny Chesney's rum brand (and the official sponsor of No Shoes Nation). Did I want them to send me some rum, so I could make up a cocktail, and write about it, in the days before KC's concert at Merriweather? Why yes, yes I did.

The concert - Kenny Chesney + Jake Owen - is on Wednesday, May 27th. And the drink? Inspired by "American Kids," it's called Red, White and Blue Lemonade...and it is pretty, pretty, pretty good. Here's how to make it:

Red, White and Blue Lemonade
Yields 1 drink

3 ounces Blue Chair Bay white rum (the white)
2 tablespoons blueberry syrup (see below) (the blue)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons mint simple syrup (use this recipe)
Sparkling water
Strawberries for garnish (the red)

To make the blueberry syrup:
Combine 1 pint of blueberries, 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1/3 cup of water in a saucepan over medium-high heat.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring and mashing the berries as they pop. Cook, continuing to stir, until the mixture is reduced about halfway (about 6-8 minutes).

Let the mixture cool a bit then place in a blender and puree. Refrigerate before using.

To make the drink:
Fill a pint glass with ice. Add the rum, blueberry syrup, lemon juice and mint syrup. Fill the rest of the glass with fizzy water, then pour from one glass to another, to mix.

Garnish with a strawberry and you are ready to drink!

Note: if you want a boozier drink, you could add a little more rum. Or, instead of finishing it off with sparkling water, use prosecco.

The recipe above makes one drink - but you could absolutely make pitchers of the rum-mint-blueberry-lemon juice concoction, then just add the fizzy water to the individual drinks just before serving. Though it does involve two syrups, both of them are very easy to make, I promise.

I mixed up a batch of these on Wednesday and fed them to the Bargers and Kyle. They made everyone happy:

Maggie, obviously, has the kiddie version of the cocktail - Dixon helped with those. We replaced the rum and the sparkling water with a healthy pour of Sprite.

So there it is - the American Kids/Kenny Chesney/Red, White and Blue Lemonade cocktail. If that doesn't make you want to make out on some living room couches, I don't know what will.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Summer's Coming

As a general rule, I'm a stickler for tradition. But when it comes to Memorial Day, we like to mix it up. Some years, we just stay home. Last year, we went to Keuka Lake. This year, we're headed to the Fenwick for a few days.

As I started making my Fenwick packing lists, I realized that I'd completely skipped writing about a bunch of last summer's delicious exploits. Like, all of last summer's delicious exploits. So here we go with a few of them:

Left to right, starting on the top row: Dixon drinking Cheerwine in Duck, as we wait for our house to open; the fish tacos at Sunset Grille in Duck; Bill's gorgeous pina coladas at our Duck house tiki bar. Second row: Crabs and shrimp in Duck (note: NC crab steamers do not use NEARLY enough seasoning; A stuffed soft crab sandwich at Harris Crab House last Labor Day; Ropewalk Fenwick oysters. Third row: The final Fenwick Labor Day feast, including tomatoes and mozzarella, steamed shrimp and Patsy's soft shells.

Here's what I learned from these photos: I love shellfish.

Also: I am ready for summer 2015 to start. Right now.

Place Card Games

This idea, from Food and Wine, has so inspired me:

For some great conversation starters, don’t write names on your place cards. Rather, write clues for each guest. For example: “Has encyclopedic knowledge of fried chicken" or "Traveled the farthest to get here.”

I am 100% doing this next time I have a sit-down dinner. Since dinners here usually involve the same 7-10 people, and they are all funny, funny friends who can take a joke, I am already laughing to myself about what the cards will say.

But why stop there? This opens up a whole new world of place card games. Riddles, word searches, crosswords, scavenger hunts. It's on. It's so on.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I Want to Be Here Right Now

The busier I get, the more I don't want to do anything but sit at a table, outside, under some lights. Without a single cell phone in sight and absolutely no way to access my email.

This news is brought to you by a seven-deadline week. Five down, two to go.

(Note: does that count as complaining about work? If so, well...not complaining might be the hardest resolution, in the history of resolutions, to keep.)

Friday, May 08, 2015

Rose Season

I had my first glass of the pink stuff last night. I'm ready. And here's where I want to drink it:

Proving that even when your yard includes a messy wall, it can be pretty. (Source)

Yes, it's a restaurant. But...that green would work anywhere, right? (Source)

Those chairs seem impractical as hell...but I love them. Also, the blue and white curtains. (Source)

Teensy colorful patio surrounded by greenery and a pond? Very rose-friendly. (Source)

Besides the obvious downside (bugs dropping in your wine), I so love the idea of a ceiling of plants. (Source)

This little urban space is completely do-able, really. If you can just find some friends to help you drape all that fabric. (Source)

Cheers to rose! And spring!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Dining Out for Baltimore

It's been a weird, terrible week in Baltimore, filled with both sadness and hope. I have a lot of things to say on Facebook but not much that's really right for the blog.

So I'll just say this: if you can eat out, in a city restaurant, do it. They need you. And Baltimore needs them.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Barefoot in My Brain

I love every bit of this short interview with Ina Garten. She is a master - and she validates all my major party planning behaviors. Some favorite parts:

"I take a blank piece of paper," she explained, "and superimpose the recipes on the schedule. I work backwards, starting with the final recipe that has to be finished, then second, then third. Then I can look at the plan and see, 'there’s nothing for me to do before 5:00.'"

A game plan, Ina? Do tell. Of course, while I start with a handwritten list, I end with this:

But only because I already have it set up, which makes it easy to use. She says she sticks to menu items that can be prepared almost entirely in advance, though the best things will need something to happen just before serving.

For those, she recommends things that just need to be stuck in the oven. Smart. I learned, the hard way, that anything requiring too much last-minute assembly is a bad idea. Several close friends who were on hand for the great Thanksgiving Sandwich Debacle of 2013 will certainly agree. (Side note: the sandwiches were delicious. Just way more time consuming than anticipated.)

She says, too, that she loves a round table. Me too, Ina! We're twins!

And finally:
"Everyone always says, 'you look so relaxed!' But they don't see me in the last 15 minutes, when I say to Jeffrey: 'Don’t talk to me!'

This, I just love. I have often joked that I have to build time in, on party day, for Cooper and I to get in a fight - because he's not doing what I want him to do exactly when I want him to do it. The truth is, I've gotten better about this (and so has he - compromise!). But every party has a few touch and go moments. 

This past weekend, it was when I was trying to do something with tablecloths and the bar and I accidentally broke a vase (one I love that my sister gave us for Christmas). Glass everywhere. It was...not my finest fifteen minutes.

Cooper understood. As, I think, would Jeffrey.

Monday, April 20, 2015

This Weekend

No post last week! Eek! Sorry! The week just got away from me, as they sometimes do. Just work stuff...though some of it was fun. More on that later.

Then came this weekend, which was busy with food and fun. Elsewhere in Baltimore, people were having a blast at the Emporiyum. I'm sorry we had to miss that - but we had our own stuff.

First, Friday night: Mother/Son Extreme Game Night (aka the boy version of the Father/Daughter Dance). It was...warm at Stoneleigh, so Dixon and I mostly hung out outside. There were snowballs. DRP's order was egg custard. Obvs.

Before the party, we went to Bateman's for dinner with a whole bunch of people. It was kind of chaotic, with like 20 kids and 13 moms. Our team of waiters were both awesome and saintly. 

It also marked something that felt like a milestone to me: the first time Dixon sat at a restaurant table without Cooper and/or me. He was, I'm happy to report, very good. Maybe a little louder than I would normally like...but it was Bateman's, not the Prime Rib. 

I'm not sure when I first sat at a table without my parents but I do have a strong memory of eating dinner at The Narrows with my cousins, while my aunt and uncle and parents sat together at a separate table. Even though my parents were three feet away, it felt very grown up and independent. Dixon, unsurprisingly, loved the Bateman's experience.

On Saturday, we co-hosted a couple's baby shower for Patrick and Tiffany (Patrick is Cooper's friend from high school). It was gorgeous out and a lot of fun.

We kept the menu simple - tons of London broil, sliced thin for sandwiches, caprese bites, parmesan and celery-stuffed dates and antipasto platters. The cake and cupcakes came from La Cakerie in Towson (working with them was fantastic - the cake was delicious and the people couldn't have been nicer). We, of course, had about ten times too much food. Enough that friends were taking bags of meat home as party favors. Bags of meat. Classy.

Sunday morning I, like many, many other sorority girls, hustled over to Target to try to buy some Lilly. When I arrived around 7:30, the line was this long:

Fifteen minutes later, it was much, much longer. 

I'm not much of a competitive shopper - I don't have the patience for it - but it was kind of a fun thing to see in action. I walked away with a handful of things - whatever I could grab, really - and I'm taking at least one of them back today. (Jumpsuits are...not flattering.)

I know some people are angry at the way the whole thing was handled but I can't work up a lather about it. It all went about how I expected - from the website crashing to the quickly emptied racks to the overpriced stuff now on eBay. The eBay stuff is regrettable but in the end, I'm sure those resellers will get burned. People just aren't going to pay that much for clothes that, when it comes down to it, are from Target.

Finally, we closed out the weekend watching our niece, Mimi, perform in Three Ring Theater's adorable version of Charlotte's Web and with dinner at Cooper's cousin's house. 

So yes, I am exhausted. In a good way.


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