Garden Cocktails For Your Weekend


For this edition of Cookin’ Sisters (that’s not what it’s called) we thought nothing would be more fitting for the middle of summer and the sometimes oppressive heat than some delicious cocktails. I encouraged Addie to come up with some drinks that were good and boozy but also a little innovative. AND! I wanted to use local spirits because there are *so many* in Minnesota. By the way, we (me, Addie and Alan) all tested these out and can vouch for their fortitude. We have two for July and we’ll have two more in August!


Chamomile Basil Lemonade

I wanted to make a fresh herb cocktail that was a little less obvious than some cocktails can be, but one where I knew the flavor combinations would be spot on. I have fresh chamomile growing in my garden and I had the idea to use chamomile simple syrup to elevate a simple lemonade cocktail to be a bit more floral and fresh. It pairs really well with the basil, which is subtle enough because you’re only using it to shake the drink and then garnish. This is a drink that I originally wanted to make without the alcohol, but the addition of vodka was a no-brainer. Feel free to omit the booze for an n/a summer drink you can enjoy anytime.



1 1/2 ounces chamomile simple syrup
1 ounce vodka
Juice of one lemon
5 fresh basil leaves (3 for muddling, 2 for garnish)
Soda water
Lemon wedge (for garnish)



For the simple syrup: Heat equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan on the stove. Add your fresh chamomile (dried if you don’t have fresh, preferably loose-leaf). For this recipe I used 1/2 a cup each of water and sugar to about 1/4 cup of the chamomile flowers. Steep for 15 minutes and strain. Let cool.

Using a cocktail shaker, muddle 3 to 4 basil leaves in the bottom of the cup. Add simple syrup, vodka, lemon juice, and ice cubes. Cover and shake for about 15 seconds. Pour into a lowball glass filled with a few ice cubes. Fill the rest of the glass with sparkling water. Finely chiffonade the remaining basil for garnish.




Blueberry mojito

I have a soft spot in my heart for rum. I went to college in small town Wisconsin, so I cut my teeth on cheap rum and cokes. While white rum doesn’t quite have the same warmth as a darker, spiced rum, it’s perfect for fresh garden cocktails. Upping the ante by adding blueberries to the ubiquitous mint mojito makes it feel even more summery and adds a little more depth (Ed. note: July is also National Blueberry Month!). If you grow your own mint, you’ll have it coming out your ears by the time July rolls around when the fresh local blueberries start arriving. Which will be the perfect time to make this drink over and over.



1/4 cup blueberries (half for muddling, half for slicing)
1 ounce white rum
1 small bunch mint (about 10 leaves or so)
1 teaspoon white sugar (more if you prefer it sweeter)
Juice from one lime
Soda water



In the bottom of a lowball glass, muddle 6 or 7 mint leaves with the sugar and lime juice. Add half of the blueberries and mash into the mint with your muddler. Add the rum, sparkling water, the other half of the blueberries sliced in half, and the rest of the mint leaves. If you prefer to mix separately and strain before adding the soda and garnishes, it will be much cleaner, but I prefer the look and taste of it without straining. That being said, you may wish to use a cocktail straw in that case.BLUEBERRYMOJITO-11

2015: A year of personal growth


January 5, 2015

The above photo was taken on January 5 of this year, in the gym locker room of the now demolished Star Tribune building. It’s really remarkable how much has changed since I took it… The first thing that changed was my perception of how I used alcohol. It’s still a substance I would abuse with delight over the course of the year (and how!), but starting 2015 dry made me realize I could do it, and that it wasn’t actually that bad. My overall mood had improved, and I was productive in ways I wasn’t before.

Career-wise, in February I would start a part time job at General Mills, which was a dream. In March, we left the Star Tribune building for good and moved to Downtown proper. In May, shut down and I started working at City Pages. In October, I went full time at General Mills. It was around that time they knocked down the old ST building for good. Whereas in 2014 hardly anything changed, everything changed in 2015. I couldn’t have known when I took that photo up there all what was going to happen.

I got some tattoos (and found out I really like getting tattoos). I got a new camera (and a few lenses) and started being super serious about photography. I shot some shows and festivals. I started to let my hair grow out and took some trips by myself.

This probably sounds cheesy, but I learned about who I am this year. SELFPORTRAIT-10I got rid of a lot of clothes and rediscovered the cleansing power of such an act. After making a pledge in January, I lost ~20 pounds in the autumn months, and fulfilled a goal of running a 5k on Thanksgiving.

I even bought myself an Xbox One and like to game now. I did an impulse buy of a BB-8 remote control toy. I took some sword fighting classes. The year I was the most grown up I’ve been is also the year I acted most like a kid.

I also blogged a lot, which I love, but which I’m still figuring out.

I guess, what I learned about myself is that when you’re in control of your life is when you’re most successful. Clearly, alcohol controls me. It makes me sluggish and sad. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE drinking, and with friends? Why, that combination can’t be beat! And the dichotomy of my year is that I was having the most fun drinking with my friends — but I felt my best when I was abstaining and exercising a lot. You can feel a lot of things in life, and sometimes the things that make you happy are incompatible with each other, and that’s OK.

Being in control and making choices – not just about drinking, but about ALL things – is how I succeed.

For 2016, I want to take all the good things I did in 2015 and expand those. Maybe it’s a myth that the new year actually changes anything, but I’ve always seen it as a hard reset button on your hobbies or your habits. It’s what you want it to be. If January 1 is a good time to start making yourself better, then more power to you (but, please know that any day is a good day to start making yourself better). I think it has powers, and by the power of grayskull, I will harness it for good!!


December 9, 2015

You’ve Got to Change Your Ways or Die

CHANGEI mentioned (or rather, blogged for 3 months about it) that this last was kind of a “last hurrah”. And it was the best summer ever. I had zero cares. I drank, I smoked, I didn’t sleep. On the few weekends I didn’t have a music festival or a cabin to go to or camping or birthdays, I would get myself a bloody mary or two with brunch and then lie on the couch all day. Oh it was so deliciously lazy. My body was sore, my head was pounding, I couldn’t keep my eyes open half the time. But all of it was so fun. And it was 100% social. I hung out with my friends all the time and we laughed and loved each other. My summer of love.

A small confession I have though is that I don’t LOVE drinking. I really like that first, second and third beer. But after a while it becomes just too much, and being drunk is uncomfortable and painful. But the thing is, it’s just so easy. Grabbing a beer and going into my yard and sitting there all night is so much easier than say, going to the gym. Gosh, that’s hard work. I think I’m in the third wave of 2015 where I’m trying to kick bad habits once and for all and turn a new leaf. I did a dry month in January (and went to the gym a lot, though I still lacked energy and didn’t lose weight). You’ll recall in April and May and started a fitness routine and that was going really well. The thing that changed that was our trip to Atlanta, which was a ton of fun, but I drank, didn’t exercise, bummed some smokes, and then it was all over. And then shut down and I lost the routine for the whole summer. While the summer was the most fun, it was also painful and hard to keep going. I shot a multi-day camping music festival and then a few days later got on a plane to New York, aka the City That Never Sleeps. I felt like a zombie walking those streets, and drunkenly navigating my way along the subway system back to Queens every night.

I do enjoy that lifestyle (to an extent. It’s bloody exhausting), but simply, it’s terrible for me (technically speaking it should be terrible for everyone). What I really want more than anything is to be able to wake up early, like 6 am. Go take a walk in the early sunlight, listen to some podcasts (or my ever handy Skyrim soundtrack), come home, make coffee and eat breakfast. Then, go to work feeling energized and refreshed. At my gym, I’ve been going to classes every week. Cycle mainly, and yoga. Do you guys know how incredibly powerful Yoga is? It makes me feel like kneaded dough by the end of it – my body is relaxed and languid and warm and I’m so pleasantly tired but I’m buzzing. It feels way better than drinking. Almost every day, I’ve taken a 3 mile walk on doctor’s orders because I hurt my back in May. I’ve also started taking medieval sword fighting classes (an astonishingly amount of fitness involved there), I signed up to run a 5k on Thanksgiving, I’m going to go climb the rock wall at REI, and in October I’m going to Colorado to walk around in the Rockies all by myself.

I also went to the doctor to get some stuff checked out and got a (mostly) clean bill of health. I went to the dentist for the first time in 7 years. And I’ve started to make a regular habit of going to therapy. I’ve talked about my depression a lot on here before. It’s a constant uphill battle to feeling good. You have to be strong enough of mind to want to feel better to take that step, and that’s doubly hard when you’re depressed. While talking with my therapist, we discussed my drinking. Now, if I were to be objective (which I think I’m pretty good at), I don’t have a problem half as bad as some people I know. The therapist suggested I go without drinking for 3 months.

Which I can do. I can totally do that. I never thought “I can’t do that.” (TBH if you think “I couldn’t do that” you probably should. If you think “I wouldn’t want to” then like, whatever. Life is short, you might as well drink if you want to right?) Having it come from a licensed professional makes it seem more doable than just saying to my friends “you know what? I think I’m gonna quit boozing for a while.” And also, you know you have good friends when none of them care that you’re not going to drink. When they just want to see you, you know you’re ok. Alan and I went to a friend’s party on Saturday, and neither of us drank, and I still had a really great time. It’s empowering. I really can just do this and knock these bad habits for good.

In 2009, I turned 21. That was when this all started, and I had some amazing times. The most intense period of personal growth. 6 years later, a lot has changed around me, and I’m ready to close the book on that chapter and start a fresh one. I look forward to sharing it with everyone along the way.

Black Holes and Resolutions

If there’s one collective opinion I’ve managed to  work out in the last week, it’s that New Year’s Resolutions are super unfashionable. Every year we all say we’re going to turn it around. Stop snacking. Start running. Quit smoking. Etc. The consensus seems to be that it’s all bogus, because we lose our resolve after about 2 weeks.

Yeah, I mean, that’s all probably true. It certainly has happened to me.  However good my intentions were on January 1st, by January 10th, they’ve all but disappeared. “I’ll do it later.” which is ALWAYS an acceptable excuse.  Always.

Starting sometime about two months ago though, I thought “In January, I’m not going to drink any alcohol.” And that sounded like a really exciting prospect. So many mornings I wake up, feeling just terrible. Groggy, dried out, pounding headache. And I would lie there in bed and think “I can’t wait until I don’t feel like this anymore.” It’s easy to forget that desire when it’s midnight and you’re out and everybody’s having a good time. But that voice in my head on those mornings was really trying to be heard. So, for January, I’ve given up drinking.

But drinking’s not really my only problem. I have a thing for sugary pop too. Even if my teeth hurt after downing a 20 oz bottle of Pepsi, or I get acid reflux from guzzling coke — I still go back every time. I can’t fathom a life where a pop isn’t part of an afternoon pick-me-up or just the ticket after a hot lunch. Pop had to go too.

I’m also in pretty terrible physical shape. In a triumph of confidence, I think I look pretty good most of the time. There’s a few things I wouldn’t mind changing, like my chin and my belly, but overall I like my body’s shape. I just want to feel not so… Awful. I’m getting older. My ankles, heals and hips hurt constantly.  So since the weekend I’ve been trying to get some exercise in every day.

One huge problem I’ve always had is my emotional dependence on food. I love love love junk food. I don’t sit and eat a whole bag of chips like I USED to, but I’ve had a pretty DGAF attitude about what I’ve been eating for a while now. Now, diets are dumb. I don’t like diets. I think you just need to learn about food and eat good food that’s good for you. So instead of prescribing to any one eating mantra, I’ve decided to go with something equally as pretentious: “Mindful eating.” I want to make sure I got my veggies, my fruits, my proteins, and my healthy fats. This is what I know works for me.

The goal is not necessarily weight loss, but just a better, more well-rounded state of being. It sucks feeling like you can’t walk straight because your body is weighing you down, or you have to suck in your breath to tie your shoes? Gaahhhhhhd.

I’ve been following this routine now for I guess 6 days, and I FEEL AWESOME.

I wake up at 8-8:30. I start making coffee. I make a smoothie, and maybe some eggs, and maybe I do a little jog. Then I get ready for work! A perfect morning routine that I have DREAMED about for years. Rising with the sun and facing the day and feeling clearheaded and full of energy. Why didn’t I do this sooner?

I really love the idea of January being a giant “reset” button on your habits. Look at the last year and think “What would’ve made me happier? Drinking 4 nights out of the week and feeling like shit, or getting good rest and facing every day like a fucking champ?”

I want to face that day!

Whisky for strength!

To be honest, I don’t really like whisky. Not on its own. I enjoy a whisky coke now and then, and a whisky ginger really hits the spot. But I know next to nothing about it, and as soon as I drink it, straight up, I puke. BUT. When I get a cold, I like a nice whisky cocktail. Because like, it’s alcohol, and that’s good for killing germs.
Yesterday I started feeling punk-ish and fuzzy, and totally wiped out. I had to work late but I requested a delicious whisky cocktail for when I got home. Alan discovered this drink a few weeks ago at a local watering hole and has since attempted to replicate it.
Listen, I already know that any true whisky drinker will look at this and grimace. But trust me, the drink is delicious.
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We got a whole bunch of cocktail supplies from C&B this weekend too. Including HUGE ice cube molds.
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Really hit the spot. Thanks Alan.

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