Category Archives: cocktails

Rio Olympics Party 

Olympics Party Rio 2016, viewing area decorations, flag bannerIt’s Olympics time again! Last Friday I hosted a few friends for an Opening Ceremonies viewing party. Just like in 2014 and in 2012, I made a few decorations to get into the Olympics spirit. I had my flag banner left over from last time. (Yes, I saved it. No regrets.) This time, I added some tissue poufs in Olympics colors and a little torch. tissue and paper olympic torch, Olympics decorationsI may have taken a few laps around the apartment with the torch before I sat it by the TV. (I got the idea here in case you want to make one of your own. I used super sticky tape instead of pins and it’s still holding quite nicely.)Olympic rings fruit platterKaren and I chopped up fruit to make up the easiest Olympic centerpiece ever. BrigadeirosI made sausage, beans, and rice and brigadeiros, little chocolatey truffles made with condensed milk.  (They are so easy to make! I highly recommend them as an easy treat while you watch swimming or gymnastics!) Olympics party food spread, Rio 2016Karen made Brazilian cheese bread and Jackie made little shrimp and mango tostadas and James made two kinds of guacamole. We had quite a feast! CaipirinhaAnd of course we had to drink caipirinhas, the National Drink of Brazil. They were delicious (topped off with a bit of sparkling water to dilute the booze just a little bit!)

I had so much fun getting the party ready and of course so much fun celebrating with friends. We tested each other’s geography skills and did our own commentary about the uniforms and cheered extra hard for the countries with small delegations. Go athletes!

 

 

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2016

Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations dayLast month, we had a few friends over to celebrate Tanabata, a Japanese festival celebrated on July 7th. (We held our party the weekend after.) The celebration revolves around an old Chinese legend.

Orihime, daughter of Tentei (the Sky King,) had a lover, Hikoboshi, who lived on the other side of the Amanogawa (the Milky Way.) Orihime and Hikoboshi were both hardworking gods. She was a weaver and he was a cow herder. But once they got married, they became lazy which upset the Sky King so he separated them with the Amanogawa. Orihime was so devastated that her father promised her she could be reunited with Hikoboshi, but only on the seventh day of the seventh month and only if she and Hikoboshi worked very hard. But because the lovers were separated by the river, magpies had to build a bridge so they could meet. Tanabata is the celebration of the lovers crossing the Milky Way to meet each other again.

Tanabata festivals are held all over Japan, sometimes on July 7th and sometimes in August (for those keeping with an older calendar system.) Modern day festivals include fireworks and bright, colorful decorations. (I love these pictures! #decorationgoals) Festival-goers also write wishes on pretty paper strips and tie them to bamboo branches in hopes their wishes will come true. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepI wasn’t planning to celebrate Tanabata, but once I read more about it, I couldn’t wait to have an excuse to invite a couple of friends over for a little mid-summer celebration. I did some research and found a few easy decorations to make. I spent a morning folding a few traditional Tanabata ornaments to hang on the lanai. Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami fan Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami bamboo leavesI folded fans and lanterns and made a trail of bamboo leaves (the green one…please excuse my imperfect folds!) and cut a little blue net (which is so simple but turns out so neat looking!)Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations nightI also used this printable and cut strips so we could each write down our wishes. I tied the strips to my basil plant, the most bamboo-like plant on the lanai.
Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, somenI made a yuzu cocktail and Naoto made edamame and somenHasegawa Tanabata 2016, Naoto eating somen(Naoto was the only one who ate his noodles with a fork.) Hasegawa Tanabata 2016, decorations, origami prepAnd Presley even got into the action, tearing up one of the decorations and chasing it around the apartment all day. (How could I be mad with that sweet, innocent face looking up at me?)

I’m already thinking of Hasegawa Tanabata 2017. I have a Tanabata Pinterest board going so I can keep all of the origami instructions and ideas together until next year. I think I may need to start folding now, right?

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Ginger Raspberry Bellini

Jackie's Scottish Lighthouse Tea, sparkling rosé ginger raspberry belliniWe really enjoyed the cocktail at Jackie’s tea. It was fresh, and ginger-y, and bubbly and the perfect color for a plaid celebration that happened to occur on Valentine’s weekend.

We found the recipe on Driscoll’s website and god only knows how they got theirs so perfectly red…but, our pale version was delicious enough that we hardly noticed. We used a bottle of Blason de Bourgogne Crémant de Rosé ($12 at your friendly Trader Joes) and it was really delicious, but if rosé isn’t your thing, I think the ginger and raspberry are powerful enough that you’ll get the same idea with any sparkling wine.

It’s so much easier to make the liqueur mix in batches, so I’ve adjusted the original recipe to serve 4.

Ginger Raspberry Bellini

(makes 4 cocktails)

4 oz ginger liqueur

2 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)

2 oz simple syrup

16 fresh raspberries

bottle of sparkling rosé or sparkling wine of your choice

4 raspberries and 4 pieces of candied ginger for garnish

Add ginger liqueur, lemon juice, simple syrup, and raspberries to a cocktail shaker. Muddle the raspberries into the liquid. Add ice and shake until fully chilled. Strain mixture into each cocktail glass, about 2 oz per glass. (It’s ok to eyeball.) Top each glass with about 3 oz of sparkling rosé and garnish with a raspberry and candied ginger on a cocktail pick. Toast your friend going on an amazing adventure.

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A Moveable Feast & Hemingway’s Daiquiri 

For book club this month, we read A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in Oak Park and our book group originated in Oak Park. Would you believe we’ve never read him? I added A Moveable Feast to our list over a year ago and no one seemed into it. When the Paris attacks happened and all of Paris turned to the old Hemingway title for comfort, I suggested we finally read it.  I think (almost) everyone is glad we did.

I appreciate the book as a peek into an artist’s life in 1920s Paris. I love the interactions between the famous writers. I love the descriptions of the food and the cafes and the seasons in Paris. It is insane to imagine how much they were drinking at the time. And I know we have to take it all with a grain of salt, as the book is a memoir, written years later from Hemingway’s notebooks and published posthumously by his fourth wife, but that doesn’t change the enjoyment I got from the book as a piece of work.

Here are some of my favorite passages.

On eating and drinking (also longest sentence ever!) :

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

Regarding his writing process:

I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry, You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

The seasons in Paris:

You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.

Regarding Katherine Mansfield:

I had been told Katherine Mansfield was a good short-story writer, even a great short-story writer, but trying to read her after Chekhov was like hearing the carefully artificial tales of a young old-maid compared to those of an articulate and knowing physician who was a good and simple writer. Mansfield was like near-beer. It was better to drink water.

And, the saddest line of the book…about his first wife:

When I saw my wife again standing by the tracks as the train came in by the piled logs at the station, I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.

After I read the book I celebrated with a Hemingway Daiquiri. I love this cocktail and the fact that it’s about as far away from the daiquiris I enjoyed in college that you could get.

Hemingway Daiquiri

2 oz light rum

1/2 oz freshly squeezed grapefruit juice

3/4 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 oz Luxardo maraschino liqueur

Add all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until fully chilled and pour into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Toast to all of those drunk writers, to Paris in the 1920s, and to Paris today.

 

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Book Club Christmas Tea 2015

book club christmas tea 2015One last thing about the holidays…

Last month, Peggy hosted our third annual Book Club Christmas Tea. As usual, it was a festive event with everyone contributing something tasty. I made this Japanese egg salad, which was delicious. (I take no credit…it’s just a good recipe!) I am not a fan of curry usually, but I really did love this egg salad.Book Club Christmas Tea 2015 3In addition to the egg salad, we had ham salad, cucumber sandwiches, and chicken salad served in little bread boats, lemon cranberry scones and English toffee scones served with lemon curd, cream and cranberry butter, grape salad, toffee pudding, plum cake, and Christmas cookies. (I think that’s everything!)Book Club Christmas Tea 2015 4, cranberry pepper shrub with proseccoI also made this shrub to serve with prosecco. I’d never made a shrub before, so I was a little bit worried, but it turned out really tasty. (Though next time I will crush the peppercorns a bit more because it was lacking the peppery bite.)Book Club Christmas Tea, placecards, Yellow Owl Workshop Placecard stampAnd, because I think every party needs a little paper element, I made these simple place cards out of some red cardstock, my Yellow Owl Workshop stamp embossed in white, and some Jolee’s holly stickersBook Club Christmas Tea 2015 2Peggy’s tables were delightfully decorated, as always. img_7308img_7304We read The Bird’s Christmas Carol by Kate Douglas Wiggin. It was a perfect read for December when everyone is busy. (Last year, we attempted an Austen novel and hardly anyone finished.) Most of us finished it in one relaxing afternoon while sitting by our trees. And though it was only eighty pages and maybe more of a tale for children, we found so much to talk about, even comparing it to The Dead. I recommend it if you’re looking for a sweet tale to read this December.

So much work goes into planning this thing–especially by Peggy since she decorates, sets the tables, and cleans up after we all leave!–but it is so worth it. We are already talking about things to add for next Christmas!

(And with that, I think I may be done talking about the holidays…for now!)

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Ringing in 2016 

Golden Steer, Forest Park, new years eve We spent yet another New Year’s Eve at the Golden Steer with our friends. It’s become a tradition that I start looking forward to as soon as I turn the calendar to December. Naoto and I talk about the French Onion soup and the steaks we will order all month. New year's Eve preparationsAfter dinner, everyone came back to our apartment for drinks, snacks, and dessert. It’s always nice to ring in the new year in the comforts of home and with the laughter of friends. I made a simple cover for our island with the leftover wrapping paper from Phantom Flight Night™. I taped on some glittery dots that I punched out of gold glitter paper from my stash. It was simple and sparkly. Trader Joe's float, Rose Bowl Parade 2016New Year’s Day was lazy! We watched part of the Rose Bowl Parade–I only watch for the Trader Joe’s float, pictured above. It’s always fantastic. toshikoshi soba, New Years 2016For supper we ate (our version of) toshikoshi soba. In Japan, toshikoshi soba is eaten as the last part of the meal on New Year’s Eve, but since we had dinner plans already*, we decided to eat it on New Year’s Day. We topped our noodles with roasted chicken, scallions, and cabbage, but this recipe has more traditional ideas. And I picked up some special New Year chopsticks last time we were in Japan so it was fun to actually find them in time to use them for New Year’s dinner!

How did you spend your New Year’s Eve?

 

*I think next year we should serve the noodles as a close-to midnight snack!

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Cocktail Perfected: Corpse Reviver #2 

Corpse Reviver #2, Lillet, Aviation Gin, Cointreau, AbsintheI’m slowly recovering from the plague* so I figured, what better cocktail to feature today than the Corpse Reviver #2. It’s actually the second of the Halloween cocktails I promised you last month. I’d been reading about the Corpse Revivers (#1 and #2) in all of my vintage cocktail books for years, but never made one because of one key ingredient, absinthe. I hate the anise/black licorice flavor that is so prominent in absinthe so it seemed pretty risky to buy a pricey bottle of something I may not enjoy. But we took the plunge and bought North Shore Distillery’s Sirène Absinthe Verte and it’s been a worthy addition to the cocktail menu for the Corpse Reviver #2 alone.

Corpse Reviver #2

3/4 oz gin

3/4 oz Cointreau

3/4 oz Lillet Blanc

3/4 oz lemon juice (freshly squeezed!)

dash absinthe

Pour a dash of absinthe in a cocktail glass and slowly swirl it around to coat the inside of the glass. Turn the glass slowly and pay attention to get the absinthe as close to the rim as possible. I think this is the key to a good Corpse Reviver. You can’t really taste the anise flavors, but the scent of the absinthe adds an herbal dimension to the cocktail. Discard any extra absinthe (or use it to rinse the next cocktail glass.)

Add the gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and Lillet to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled and pour into the prepared cocktail glass. Bring out your Ouija Board and see who you can conjure up from the dead.

*It wasn’t really the plague.

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Cocktail Perfected: Purgatory

Purgatory Cocktail, Old Overholt rye, Chartreuse, BenedictineI am embracing the Halloween spirit this week, finally finishing decorating and reading a few spooky short stories. We are reading “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle” for book club this month. One of our book club members sent over Edith Wharton’s “Afterward” as a bonus suggestion since our stories are so short and everyone loves reading a good “ghost story” this time of year. I highly recommend “Afterward” and this post has some other great suggestions if you’re into Halloween reading.

I have a couple of good cocktails to share this month for Halloween. These aren’t Pinterest-y cocktails like a Witch’s Brew or Candy Corn Jello Shots, but classic cocktails that always put me in the mood for ghost stories, scary movies, and ghoulish mail art.

The first cocktail is Purgatory, a rye-based cocktail with warm, herbal, and spicy notes. It’s potent, especially considering it’s a 4 ounce pour, but there’s nothing like it on a crisp fall night.

Purgatory Cocktail

2 1/2 oz Rye Whiskey (I like Old Overholt. It’s budget-friendly!)

3/4 oz Chartreuse

3/4 oz Benedictine

Add ingredients to a mixing glass with ice. Stir until chilled and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Drink slooowwwwwwly while reading about headless horsemen, the return of the dead, or Casper the Friendly Ghost.

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Mrs. Roper Party

kaftans on the lania, Mrs. Roper Party guestsA few months ago on Twitter, I admitted that I was shopping for kaftans. I’ve been on a huge Three’s Company kick all summer, finding myself more interested in Mrs. Roper’s wardrobe than the storylines. If you’ve ever watched Three’s Company you know that every episode revolves around some sort of misunderstanding. But Mrs. Roper’s kaftans just keep getting better and better! The kaftans are so over-the-top fabulous and comfortable looking that I decided I needed one of my own. While I was deciding, we started chatting (on Twitter) about kaftans and Mrs. Roper and we all decided that we should get together and wear kaftans and lounge on the lanai. The Mrs. Roper Party was born.Zero bird Three's Company postcards, screen print I didn’t need to send invitations, but I had these fantastic Three’s Company theme song postcards from Zerobird Studio, so I sent them as little reminders about the party. crab dipcheese ballI had so much fun looking through old cookbooks and Pinterest for late 70s/early 80s recipes. For appetizers, Katie made crab dip, served on a groovy platter and I made a cheese ball, (I cut this recipe in half and used pimentos instead of green chiles and chopped cashews instead of pecans.) served with classic Ritz crackers. Peaches and Cream Jello MoldAnd I made a Jello mold! It wasn’t beautiful (My peach slices didn’t stay put and ended up floating around instead of making a pretty ring…rookie mistake) but it was delicious. And it was my first time using my vintage Tupperware mold and worked like a charm! For dinner we ate pineapple chicken (I used this recipe, but substituted canned pineapple for fresh, because 1970s…) and store bought fried chicken.Sidecar cocktail, Mrs. Roper PartyAs much as I wanted to stay on theme and make a Southern Comfort punch for the party, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I made a classic cocktail, the Sidecar. (Thanks, Kathy, for the photo above!) I was going to serve Brandy Alexanders with dessert, but we finished the brandy thanks to bartender Naoto keeping our glasses constantly filled. chocolate fondue, 1970s fondue potWe had chocolate fondue for dessert. My parents gave me a vintage 1970s fondue pot and this was the first time I used it. (Fondue was so easy that I’m not sure why we don’t do it more often.)lanai, balcony lightsThe weather couldn’t have been more perfect for lanai lounging. My only regret is that we didn’t get a full-length picture of us all in our kaftans. Other than that, 1970s entertaining is easy living. Not only did I get to throw on a breezy kaftan, but I could have made most of the recipes out of my pantry. Normally I’m rushing around buying fresh produce and chopping fruits and vegetables for party recipes. This time, I opened cans and boxes–Jello, canned peached, canned pineapple, crackers…everything just got tossed together. 1970s hostessing is amazing!
eating 1970s party food, Mrs. Roper Party, kaftans in the kitchenThanks to Katie, Donovan, and Kathy for being up for a kaftan party and to Naoto for taking care of all of us Saturday night.

Next up…sometime in the future…a Golden Girls party complete with cheesecakes!

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Carrot Tower

Carrot Tower, SangenjayaContinuing our exploration of Sangenjaya…

We’ve walked by Carrot Tower a number of times without giving it much attention. It’s across from the Sangenjaya Post Office, it’s on a busy corner, it’s very tall…but it looked like an office building with a couple of street level shops. On our last day, Naoto wanted to go to a book store to get a magazine and a Kanji character dictionary, so we ventured in.

First though…how cute is the name? I learned from Wikipedia that it was named by local school children. The only thing that could make it better is if there were a carrot mascot greeting you at the door.

ambiance in Carrot TowerThe first floor is an open shopping area where you can buy Japanese pottery, stationery, souvenirs, pastries, flowers…I bought stationery. And the other floors are dedicated to the bookstore, a theater, and office space. But, at the very top, there’s a restaurant and an observation deck. We decided to go up to see what the observation deck was all about. The red carpet leads you to Sky Carrot, the restaurant and then the space to the right is the observation/banquet area. It was SO WEIRD! Some people were sitting quietly and reading. Others were chatting at tables. There was a small family with young children just hanging out. We saw vending machines and an ice cream freezer. ambiance in Carrot TowerKimberly & Naoto from Carrot TowerThen we ventured further and found the bar. It felt a little bit like a hotel bar with plush chairs and a few tables. There was a grand piano in the corner. And there were comfy seats facing the view, so we decided to stay awhile. The bar offered a few simple cocktails, beer and, and wine and it was so cheap! (¥500 for sparkling wine and even less for a beer!) view from Carrot Tower IMG_3769At twenty-six stories, Carrot Tower is no SkyTree, but the views were still pretty and it was fun to see Sangenjaya from a new perspective. Kimberly & Naoto from Carrot TowerCheers from the Carrot!

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