Milestones, Memorial Day, and Mash-Ups

Milestones…DSCN6415

Tis the season of weddings, First Communions, and graduations. Last week, my family celebrated our daughter’s college graduation. I was tempted to cry, but she wouldn’t have approved. I’m thrilled for her, confident she is ready for the next step of her journey. It also doesn’t hurt that she’ll be home with us for a year before moving onto medical school. (How can a mom resist that cute face?)

Hard to believe, but Margarita Moments & Other Escapes celebrates its second blogiversary on Friday! One randomly selected reader will receive a $25 Amazon Gift Card, just for commenting on today’s post. You’ve got to enter to win!*  

Memorial Day…

All Gave Some, Some Gave All.

As much as we enjoy our Memorial Day weekend barbeques and pool parties, the meaning behind this holiday is bittersweet. Our hearts and minds remember those who have fought and died for us to have the many freedoms we savor as Americans.

Never forget.

Have a safe, relaxing holiday with your loved ones. Celebrate on behalf of those who can’t because they’re too busy keeping us safe.

…and Mash-Ups!

DSCN6377PEACH SANGRIA RECIPE

1.5 L White Wine (ie. Mescato)

1.5 cups Peach Absolut Vodka

1-2 cans of frozen lemonade

Strawberries (in chunks)

Granny Smith Apples (in chunks)

Serve over Ice or with Seltzer

JOLYSE’S HIGHLY RECOMMENDED POOLSIDE READS

 

Now it’s your turn.

Share any milestones, Memorial Day stories, suggested summer drink recipes or poolside reads. We’d love to enjoy them with you. Remember to leave a comment to be entered into this week’s drawing for a $25 Amazon Gift Card.

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*Winner must provide a valid email address in order to receive gift card via email. Winner will be announced Monday, June 3rd, 2013. Good luck!

Holiday Traditions

Happy December, all!

This is the month most anticipated by many children, and for those adults in touch with their inner child. It’s a time of faith and magic. Unfortunately, the holiday season can also add stress to an already busy schedule. To relieve the pressure to get everything done, I find it helps to focus on family traditions. Some of our friends attend cookie exchange or ginberbread house decorating parties, and they sound wonderful. Our traditions are simpler and quieter, usually involving only our immediate family, due to my son’s autism.

After the holiday cards have been mailed and a bulk of the presents purchased, the joyous part of the season begins. My son and I make dozens of sugar cookies. Here’s a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine:

For cookies

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For frosting

  • 9 cups (or more) powdered sugar (about 2 1/4 pounds)
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons Just Whites (pasteurized powdered egg whites)*
  • 12 tablespoons (or more) water

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Holiday-Sugar-Cookies-104455#ixzz1fbfMAseM

I mix, cut out, and bake them while he ices and adds colorful sprinkles to the santa, star, and stocking shapes, although we both agree our favorite part is eating a few–still warm out of the oven.

Christmas Tree in Germany at EPCOT, WDW

When our daughter arrives home from college, we seek out a Christmas tree and bring it home to share in the happiness of the season. My husband wraps it with lights, and the kids and I decorate it. They love to hear each ornament’s story as we place it on a branch, especially the ones they made long ago in preschool or were given as gifts.

Once the Christmas tree is decorated, it’s time for our family’s favorite activity. The four of us eat a leisurely dinner one evening–usually pizza or another meal easy to clean up–and then we pile into the family car with contented bellies. My husband tunes into a local radio station known for it’s holiday songs. As we pull away from the driveway, singing along with Jingle Bell Rock or Frosty the Snowman, we happily anticipate our neighborhood’s celebration of the season.

We are never disappointed. Each year, our village outdoes itself. Christmas lights cover homes and greenery. Nativity scenes and other seasonal lawn decorations are proudly displayed. Apparently, we aren’t alone in our fascination with our neighborhood displays. HGTV’s “Light Up the Holidays” features what it deems the most amazing front yards across America. Check out their great website and photos here. I also like to peek at other beautifully decorated homes on YouTube, like the ones from Melbourne, Australia:

Others are even more inventive, their lights synchronized to music. If you watched the video above, click on the “Holdman Christmas Lights” video next. These homes remind me of the music/water show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. Good times!

After trolling around town for festive displays, we head home. We end our family evening in front of the fireplace with hot cocoa and sugar cookies.  After the kids go to bed, my husband and I cuddle on the couch. We each sip a margarita or another favorite adult beverage and enjoy watching It’s A Wonderful Life late into the night.

What family traditions are a relaxing part of your winter holiday?

Woman’s Survival List–Comfort Food

Appetizer Trio – Lobster Mac n Cheese on left

On October 20th, a black cat crossed my car’s path on my way to work. I’m not particularly superstitious, but a slight shiver trickled down my spine just the same. I’d long forgotten the cat later that day as I prepared to attend a meeting across town. I slipped and fell on my way to exit the building. Hard. Hard enough to require doctor visits, an arm sling, a knee wrap, x-rays of four joints, an orthopedist specialist, and PT three times a week for the foreseeable future. I’m also likely looking at MRIs in a few weeks for my shoulder and knee. My doctors say I was lucky. I agree. It could’ve happened before my Key West getaway. I could have hit my head.

A few days ago, I bumped into a colleague at work as I limped down the hall. I asked after his wife, who was injured back in September. He said she continues to heal. Then he laughed and added, “She tells me if she has any one of the following, the hurt isn’t so bad. But the more, the better.” He ticked off her items with a smile. “Chocolate, wine, sex, and sleep.” I smiled too, and in my mind, I’d already dubbed her items as belonging to a universal Woman’s Survival List. You know, for every day when the going gets tough.

The air has turned downright frigid chilly here in the northeast, so here’s another item I’d add to the list. Comfort food.

Soup soothes the soul

My husband and I ate a soul-filling dinner at a new Key West restaurant, The Flaming Buoy, on our recent getaway. The top photo includes their famous lobster mac and cheese. When we inquired about the ingredients, the hostess was kind enough to divulge all but their “secret” sauce. She said it was fine to share as we wish. I wish:

Flaming Buoy Lobster Mac n Cheese:  Florida lobster tail, cut into small chunks; Aged, sharp white cheddar, shaved; Thin slices of fresh parmesan; Swiss cheese, melted in a “signature” heavy cream sauce; All mixed with penne pasta.

We look forward to replicating the magic of this delectable dish. I’ll let you know if we succeed. In the meantime, here’s another comfort food, one our family enjoys on a weekly basis during colder weather:

CHICKEN CHEESE CASSEROLE: (Prep time: 5 minutes Total time: 50 – 65 minutes)

6 x 9 casserole dish, aluminum foil, oven

Ingredients: 1 inch thick boneless chicken breasts, deli-sliced Yarlsberg swiss cheese, herb stuffing mix, 1 stick butter, milk, cream of celery soup, salt, pepper

1. Place chicken breasts in casserole dish

2. Cover each breast with a slice of swiss

3. Sprinkle stuffing mix on top and around chicken breasts

4. Mix soup with milk until soup is thin; spoon onto stuffing

5. Slice butter into thin pads and place all over top of mixture

6. Salt and pepper entire dish

7. Cover tightly with aluminum foil.

8. Bake at 350 degrees F for 45 mins. – 1 hour, depending on your oven.

The Flaming Buoy at corner of Packer and Virginia- KW

Feel free to share your favorite comfort food or add another item to the Woman’s Survival List. Men, you’re welcome to join in the fun. The above recipe is actually my husband’s concoction. And please, take care to avoid those black cats, broken mirrors, ladders, and umbrellas opened indoors.

I’m off to pour a glass of merlot and cuddle on my couch next to the fireplace. My leftover chicken cheese casserole is ready. Mmm. Maybe it’s good I was forced to slow down for awhile. I’m enjoying the simple things. May you, too.

Hurricanes, Pirates, and Really Cool Drinks

Good morning??

As Hurricane Irene swirled past my island home off the North Atlantic coast this weekend, my thoughts turned to another island over fourteen hundred miles south of New York. As the wind and rain attacked, littering lawns, roads, and pools with branches and leaves, I thought of that island’s turbulent past–its history drawing me as much as its tropical climate. For Irene’s last hurrah to us, she demolished a mature oak lining our street. The tree’s fifty foot trunk lay across our front yard and unlucky car like a mast of an old-time ship laid flat by unforeseen dangers. Again, I was reminded of the island I view as my second home.

Sexy Pirates Johnny Depp & Orlando Bloom

In 1513, explorer Ponce de Leon claimed La Florida for Spain. Indian tribes were scattered across the tiny islands that fan out from the mainland peninsula. Spanish control of the region, now known as the Florida Keys, was ineffectual to say the least. The island farthest west in the chain, known as Cayo Hueso, or Key West, was also one of the wildest, with feuding tribes whose battles left bones of its victims to bleach on the sandy shore. This is how the island earned the nicknames Skull Island and Bone Key. Eventually, the indians were pushed out by Spanish settlers focused on agriculture. The waters held hidden perils for Spanish ships transporting cargo between Havana, Cuba and Key West farms in the form of coral reefs seven miles offshore as well as rogue ships captained by infamous pirates–such as Blackbeard and Captain Kid. This era of life on the high seas during the 1600-1700s has often been romanticized in literature and movies, like the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” titles.

Gold coins sought by pirates, later by wreckers and treasure hunters

When Florida joined the United States in 1819, Key West was sold to American businessman John Simonton for two thousand dollars. He divided the island into quarters and split it with colleagues Greene, Whitehead, and Fleming. Simonton then convinced higher-ups within the United States government the southernmost point of the United States would make an excellent naval base. The formidable United States Navy made quick work of the piracy problem. However, clever residents soon made wrecking a profitable business, and Key West became the richest city in America by 1830. It retained that status for approximately twenty years.

Treasure hunters are modern-day pirates, legally plundering sunken ships for their cargo. Anyone who has seen “Titanic” knows what I mean. Mel Fisher was one such person. I find it no coincidence the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum is hosting a piracy exhibit through June 2012. We plan to bike on over to 200 Greene Street to explore all that pirate booty during our next getaway this autumn. For now, I’ll happily settle for cuddling on the couch with my honey to watch our favorite adventure movie. He’s enjoying some grog, of course, a recipe shown on Pirate Soul’s website:

PIRATE’S GROG

* 2oz Light Rum
* 1oz Spiced Rum
* 2tbsp Amaretto
* 2tbsp Grenadine
* 1tsp Lime Juice
* 1tsp Lemon Juice
* Combine ingredients with ice in cocktail shaker and shake well
* Strain into an old-fashioned glass and garnish with a twist

And me? I’m enjoying a Hurricane. My sister-in-law introduced me to this simple yet delicious beverage the evening after our family’s brush with Irene. I was suspicious, having a bad experience with the other by the same name. The color convinced me to give it a try, and I liked its light sweetness–perfect over ice. I also think it’s a good option when the power’s out or you’re away from that kitchen blender. Hurricane Warning: Sip or else it may blow you over!

What’s your recipe for restoring calm after a harrowing experience?

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