Category Archives: cocktails

Tanabata Time Again

tanabata, cats watching fireworks, japanese postcardsIt’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!

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Thank You for Being a Friend

golden girls gala, friends on the lanai, golden girls party, kaftans, peignoirsA couple weeks ago I threw a party that has been on my theme party list for a looooong time -actually since before the Mrs. Roper party- The Golden Girls Gala! I love The Golden Girls. It’s my favorite comfort TV and I’ve seen most of the episodes at least ten times each. I love the girls’ style, especially their pajamas. (It makes me want to up my pajama game.) I love Dorothy’s sarcasm, Blanche’s confidence, Rose’s innocence, and Sophia’s attitude. This is my favorite Golden Girls moment:

It’s hard to say what my favorite episode is…maybe “Yes, We Have No Havanas” (Season 4, Episode 1) where Blanche and Sophia fight over the same man? Or “A Little Romance” (Season 1, Episode 13) where Rose is dating a little person and the other girls handle meeting him with…awkwardness. What’s your favorite episode?
golden girls paper dolls, golden girls, paper dolls, golden girls gala decorationsI found these great Golden Girls paper dolls and used them to decorate the food table. golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaI ordered these Golden Girls faces from Paper Party Parade on Etsy. I used them to make little cheese picks. golden girls gala, golden girls banner, golden girls, blanche, rose, dorothy, sophiaAnd I used the leftover circles to make a garland with some Golden Girls postcards from my collection. I’ve used the gold glitter rosettes for a thousand parties and I think they’ve met their end. They have served us well…golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaWe mostly hung out in the kitchen where Naoto made pizzas (reminiscent of Sophia and Max’s pizza shop in “Sophia’s Wedding” from Season 4, Episode 7.) We ate other 1980s snacks like cheese balls, Crunch-n-Munch, and Pop Tarts. And we ate guava cheesecake because of course…we had to eat cheesecake.golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaWe eventually made it out to the lanai to enjoy dessert and cocktails. I encouraged everyone to dress “in costume” and it was a fabulous variety of Golden Girls interpretations. I wore a peignoir set. (My mom was shocked that I was going to wear it in front of guests, but it covered as much as a summer dress would, so I figured it was fine.) My peignoir set was borrowed from my mom (she, too, has fabulous pajamas) and it’s not as colorful and luxurious as Blanche’s, but it worked for the party. Karen wore a very Dorothy outfit, long and loose. (She also borrowed from her mom’s closet!) Robyn wore the most fantastic 1980s working girl outfit, bright colors, bold necklace, neon sunglasses, clip-on earrings!! (You can see her at the top picture.) Donovan and Kathy both wore wonderful kaftans that were casually fabulous. And Jackie found a hilarious t-shirt of The Girls and the moon. golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaI made a Golden Girl punch based off a recipe I modified from Serious Eats. I’ll share it soon. It was a hit, though we ran out of some key ingredients and I had to save us with Aviations later in the night! golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaOf course at the end of every party I always think about the thousands of ways I could have decorated better or hosted better, but I think everyone had a good time…and really, that’s all you need with friends.

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12th Anniversary Gifts

japanese paper gift wrap Every year, Naoto and I exchange gifts based on our anniversary year. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before…) We use this list as our guide, just to keep it consistent. Some years, we are spot on, and other years we leave things open to interpretation. I follow the modern gift guide for Naoto and he follows the traditional for me. The modern gifts for the twelfth anniversary are silk or linen. So I bought Naoto a linen shirt and a chef’s hat. I wrapped his gift in some paper from a shop in Kyoto. (It’s their shop paper that they wrapped our purchases in. It’s been in my paper hoard since…2015?) There was a Kyoto link in our gift-giving this year, as you will see. I think this proves that we are both itching to go back to Japan again. chef's hat, naoto's 12th anniversary giftSadly, the chef’s hat was too small…even for me! But the shirt fit nicely and there’s a new, larger hat on its way. vintage brooch, blue stones, fireworks brooch My gift was supposed to be pearls, but Naoto found this vintage “fireworks” brooch and I love it. Pearls are lovely, but really, I have some pearl earrings (from our wedding) and a necklace (from Naoto’s Hawaiian host mom) and I think that’s plenty of the most fragile “gems” on earth, so this was a good substitution. kyoto gin, ki-no-ri distilleryAnd he gave me gin from a distillery in Kyoto! We’re finally opening it tonight so I’ll have a full report soon. Stay tuned.

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Cocktail: The Garden Party

garden party cocktail, snow and graham notecard, vintage cocktail glass, cocktail hourThis spring has been such a mix of weather. We’ve had everything from melt-your-make-up-off hot and humid to almost fall-like, crisp and cool. Today for Summer Solstice, it’s chilly with a deluge. Last week, we had a couple perfect nights and I was able to sit outside and write letters while the sun was setting. It was a dream evening alone.

Earlier in the day, we harvested our first lavender of the summer, so I decided to celebrate by making up a cocktail. I used some of my dried lavender from last summer to make a lavender simple syrup and mixed it with lemon, Cocchi Americano, and prosecco to make a refreshing, not-too-boozy drink. Cocchi Americano is a little bit bitter, thanks to the quinine, so the cocktail isn’t super sweet. It’s also low in alcohol, so this is the perfect drink for the afternoon (or if you need to keep your head about you while you write thank you notes!)

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried lavender

In a pan on the stove, dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add dried lavender. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Refrigerate until chilled.

The Garden Party 

2 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco (the white version)

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz lavender syrup

prosecco, to taste

Add the Cocchi, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Strain into a coupe and top off with a bit of prosecco (or another sparkling wine.) Top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy on your lanai while writing letters, or at an actual garden party with friends.

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Out on the Lanai

blue hawaii on the lanaiIt’s been really perfect spring weather the past few days. We had a bad hot streak, but since the beginning of June, the weather has been mild, even chilly! blue hawaii on the lanai, kimberly and naotoLast Monday, after the gym and the garden, we enjoyed our annual anniversary Blue Hawaiis before dinner. It was just warm enough to feel like summer. first lanai dinner 2018We also had our first dinner on the lanai last week. (Naoto made this from Smitten Kitchen.) Last year I don’t feel like we enjoyed our balcony enough so I’m determined to get out there as much as possible this summer. We have a new furniture arrangement and have cleared off some other unnecessary things, so hopefully it will be more enticing.

I had the brilliant idea to plant our pots in rainbow order this summer. (You know how I love my ROY G BIV-ing!) It ended up being way more work than I bargained for…mostly finding the right kinds of plants to work with our sun situation…our balcony is pretty shady. But every summer I feel like I don’t have enough yellows and oranges out there, so this was a nice way to force myself to branch out. Of course, I love it, but I’m already deciding on color combinations for each pot for next summer!

Anyway, behold the rainbow…pink impatiens, container garden, lanai garden, balcony gardenmixed pot, pink flamingoes, garden gnomesred petuniasred geraniumorange petunias, orange geraniumyellow petunias, yellow marigoldsmixed greenslobeliapurple flowers, impatiens, story night petunias, fairy flowers starry night petunias, night sky petuniasThe “greens” are a bit of a mess right now because my wooden window box is falling apart and because I’m waiting for my climbers to grow. Hopefully it will fill out as summer rolls along. 

Do you have any favorite flower color combinations? I’m really into yellow and hot pink right now.

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Gyu-kaku

Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurantsNaoto and I celebrated our 12th anniversary last Saturday! We had plans to go to a new cocktail bar called Prairie School, but it unexpectedly closed for good the week before our anniversary. (It wasn’t even open a year!) I was super bummed. But then I read about Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese BBQ chain that came to Chicago a couple years ago. I knew Naoto would be into it–he remembers going in Japan–and I figured it would be something different and fun. It’s definitely not really a romantic place…it’s pretty bright and loud and open and you’re working together to cook your food, so if you’d rather have a more traditional special occasion with your partner, maybe this isn’t your place. That being said, a group dinner here would be a blast. (And of course it was perfect for us since we’re not really white tablecloth kind of people.) Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, lychee cocktail, Asahi beerWe started with an Asahi beer and a lychee martini while we pursued the menu for the best options for the two of us. You can order a la cart, or you can do different levels of prix fixe options. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, Gyu-kaku saladWe opted for the “samurai” menu that included starters of miso soup, salad (pictured above,) spicy tuna volcanoes, and beef bibimbap. And for grilling, Kalbi beef, miso skirt steak, rib eye, garlic shrimp, chicken, and vegetables. Oh and mochi ice cream for dessert. It was plenty of food for both of us. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThe servers give pretty good instructions about placement and timing for the various meats. No one wants to eat raw chicken.  Naoto did most of the grilling, but I helped with the vegetables. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThere are three sauces to accent the food, sweet, sour, and spicy. The meats are marinated but the sauces are perfect little accents to balance the richness of the meal. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, mochi ice creamOur dessert was green tea and strawberry mochi ice cream. A few bites of each was a perfect ending to our dinner.

Next time, I think we will probably order a la cart, mainly because there are different sides and meats we’d like to try in place of the prescribed choices with the prix fixe menus. They even have some summer specials that look really fresh and tasty. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, cherry blossom cocktail, asahi beer Cheers to the next twelve.

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Tiki Birthday Party

tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrellaOver the weekend, James, Naoto, and I threw a tiki-themed birthday party for friends, Karen and Jackie. I LOOOOVE theme parties (as you may know) and I thought it would be really fun to jump into summer with a tiki theme. tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis I did a simple table because we had a spread of fun food. I got the “centerpiece,” leis, napkins, and a couple of garlands from the Dollar Tree. I really don’t shop there often, but I went with my parents once and now it’s my go-to place for parchment paper and tissue. We went a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to see that they had a bunch of tiki party things. (By the way, this is not a sponsored post.) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leisEven though it was a small gathering, I made us little festive place cards with some peacock card stock and little puffy pineapple stickers from Paper Source. paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leisI had these tropical leaves (an old Paper Source kit) leftover from a couple of summers ago, so I hung them up in the corner. They will likely stay up for the whole summer. paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, blue hawaiis paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, blue hawaiis, crab rangoonWe started the night with Blue Hawaiis and crab rangoon (purchased from a local thai restaurant.) James told me that flamingos are not tiki, but I couldn’t resist the neon pink flamingo stirrers (also from the Dollar Tree!)

tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friendstiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friends, presleyWe stayed in the kitchen and ate and drank Mai Tais while Naoto finished cooking the dinner. He and James were in charge of the menu and I was in charge of decorating, cocktails, and cupcakes. Collaborative party planning is the best!  tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki partyFor dinner, we had pineapple fried rice served in the pineapple, Hawaiian pizza, and an Asian slaw. I’m going to admit that the fried rice in the pineapple was sort of the catalyst for the whole party (thanks, Pinterest!) James and I watched a YouTube video to learn how to hollow out a pineapple and it was not as hard as it sounds, as long as you have a sharp knife and a little patience. (James executed it perfectly because I have neither a sharp knife nor patience.)

Naoto has really been into making his own pizza lately, so we decided he should make a Hawaiian version. And James made the slaw and he doesn’t use recipes. Everything was really tasty (which I can say because I only made the cocktails and the dessert!) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis, gift wrap, paper source gift wrap, flamingo, pineappleWe ended the night with gifts, cupcakes, and a last cocktail, the Admiral Montenegro, which I cannot recommend enough if you like slightly bitter tiki drinks. (The cupcakes were not-so-photogenic but taste-wise, Martha didn’t let me down!) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friendsHappy Birthday, Karen & Jackie! XO

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Cocktail Perfected: Boulevardier

Naoto and I had our first balcony Hasegawa Happy Hour last weekend. It was freezing. After a week of warm temperatures, the mercury plummeted on Saturday night, leaving me to shiver through our cocktail.

I love a good negroni, but since it was getting so chilly, I decided a warmer version of the drink would do the trick, so I made Boulevardiers. Basically, the gin is swapped out for whiskey. It’s warmer and a bit sweeter than a negroni. We drank them in two of my new favorite cocktail glasses, thanks to my parents’ thrifting luck and genius.

Boulevardier 

1 1/2 oz bourbon

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

3/4 oz Campari

Pour into a mixing glass and stir with ice until completely chilled. In my experience, that means stir for way longer than you think you should be stirring, 25-30 seconds. Strain into a pretty cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel, if desired. Enjoy on your balcony on a chilly night, and come inside when you get too cold.

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Letters & Libations: Mr. Zip Cocktail

mr. zip cocktail, letters & libations, gimlet, gin cocktailHe’s always “on thyme!”

This is the cocktail we served at the Letters & Libations birthday party. I think it was a hit, based on the amount of gin consumed at the party. (We only served this cocktail and also beer and wine.) Naoto is the kind of bartender who tops off your cocktail when you’re not looking, though. The Mr. Zip is a simple gin gimlet, with a bit of a twist. We swapped out the lime juice for lemon and we added a hint of thyme to the simple syrup.

Thyme Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

Handful of fresh thyme sprigs

In a pan on the stove, dissolve sugar in water. Once sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat and add thyme sprigs. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Chill before using. The simple syrup will last up to a week in the refrigerator. This makes enough syrup for five cocktails. (You can adjust the amounts based on the size of your party, but the basic recipe is the same: equal parts sugar and water, and a handful of thyme.)

Mr. Zip Cocktail

2 oz gin

3/4 oz thyme simple syrup

3/4 oz fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake, shake, shake. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a sprig of fresh thyme. Enjoy with friends, preferably while writing letters.

 

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Letters & Libations Stationery

letters & libations stationery, donovan beeson, letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayAs I mentioned the other day, Naoto had special Letters & Libations stationery made especially for the party. He knew that Donovan sometimes makes special stationery for the Letter Writers Alliance letter writing socials so he commissioned her to draw something that incorporated letter writing and cocktails. He met with Donovan to chat about the plan and she came up with a few designs. Because he knew I would probably want to use the stationery beyond the party, he let me choose which one I liked best. letters & libations stationery, donovan beeson, letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayThis was the winner…a perfect cocktail coupe with a stack of mail ready to go. I love that the top letter has a little paper airplane on it and it’s addressed to me from the LWA. (But that detail is small enough so others could use the stationery without it being weird.) Donovan formatted the image so two sheets of stationery fit on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper. Naoto had them printed at the UPS store, where fifty copies cost $5. (He brought his own paper, Superfine White from Paper Source from my stash at home. I love Superfine papers…almost anything–fountain pens, gel pens, felt pens, pencils–writes nicely on it.)

I now have a nice leftover stash of my own personal stationery and the ability to print more. I’m so excited to write some letters on it this week! (By the way, I’m staying on top of my letter writing this week…how about you?)

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