spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubs

spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | “tiki on the wagon” | scenes from #bossbabefestMSP

It’s pretty much a “yes” for me, if someone invites me over for a cocktail party, but when a group of over 50 bloggers gets together to celebrate the peak of summer and toast its bounty, I’m ALL IN. This is year two of #DRINKTHESUMMER, a virtual sipping soirée, hosting by Sherrie of With Food + Love, and I’m bringing a Tiki-inspired, sparkling pineapple shrub mocktail to the party.

Even though I’ve spied a few, fallen yellow leaves in the backyard and have been enjoying the recent cooler mornings, I’m holding onto summer, as much as I possibly can. Especially the seasonal cocktails, fruit-packed popsicles, and salads on repeat. Our tomatoes are chiming in with me, since many of them on the vine are still green. It seems we’re all trying to soak up a little extra sunshine and warmth.

I’ll take all that I can get.

spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubs spiced pineapple shrub sparklers with black tea + coconut | holly & flora #mocktails #shrubsLast week, I led my first cocktail workshop at my favorite kitchenware shop here in Denver, Hazel & Dewey. I was excitedly nervous, and, of course, had a ton of last-minute, loose ends to tie the day-of, but it went well and actually ended up selling out at 20 attendees! My sister-in-law showed up with an entire pack of her girlfriends, and a couple of my fellow blogger friends came out for the night, as well.

The hit of the night was the Pimm’s Cup we all made with seasonal fruit shrubs. Most of the attendees hadn’t tasted a shrub before, so it was an eye-opening experience for them to try these tart, concentrated, fruit-based “drinking vinegars.” I’ve talked about shrubs here on the site before, so if you need an introduction to one of my favorite cocktail additions, this post is a great place to start.

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white wine slushies with peaches, mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora

white wine slushies with peaches, mate gin + blackberry liqueur | summer nostalgia + a big thanks

Gripping the handlebars of my bicycle with sweaty palms, I looked over my shoulders to see my little sister pedaling away, quickly gaining speed on me. I hunched over and pedaled with all of my nine-year-old might, heading into the hazy, mid-August sunshine, with the whipping sound of my bike streamers snapping through the warm air. Over the bumpy, tree-shaded trails, through the drainage ditch, and back home across our lawn, we raced home, slamming our bikes to the ground, collapsing onto the grass in laughter.

Sweet, summertime memories like this one make me smile. Wherever we lived, my sister and I, along with our neighborhood friends, would always find a way to build a tree house or a makeshift clubhouse on an empty, hidden lot. We’d carve out bike trails, construct drawbridges, and make trap doors. Every unwanted scrap had the potential to become a part of the world we were constructing. We’d require passwords and hold secret meetings. We’d even make club newsletters, pieced together with tape, typewritten words, and magazine clippings, duplicated on my dad’s copy machine.

I’m dating myself right now, but I feel so lucky to have been a child of the ‘80s.

white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora white wine slushies with mate gin + blackberry liqueur | holly & flora

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palisade peach, basil + tarragon spritzes | rituals | holly & flora

palisade peach, basil + tarragon spritzes | rituals

I don’t get up at a regular time in the mornings, even though I know it’s good for me. My restaurant-dictated schedule is consistently up-and-down, so when faced with either getting up at a predictable hour or sleeping in to get my full eight hours, I’ll take the eight hours, please.

Right now, I’m typing on my laptop, sitting outside in the backyard with Steve, my cats, a bowl of sliced peaches, and my coffee. An entire French press’ worth, in fact. I only have a couple of hours until I drive to work, and I’m soaking in the peace. After tonight, we’ll only have three more Friday nights left {out of nine} in our summer concert series at the restaurant.

I’m dancing inside.

palisade peach + tarragon spritzes | rituals | holly & flora

palisade peach + tarragon spritzes | rituals | holly & floraI always joke that I’ll document an entire Friday night there from beginning to end on Snapchat, but I end up getting too busy. Plus, it’s just too, plain raw. And I would probably get into trouble. I still might do it, though. It would definitely be entertaining, nonetheless! Except for the part, where they find me cowering over in the corner of the wine cellar, rocking back and forth.

These nights are such a strain on everyone – the wait staff, the chefs, the valets, the hosts, even the guests. We’re cranking out 600 entrées in the same kitchen that normally serves 300, and everyone expects the same fine dining experience. I’ve mentioned it before, but we expand the patio, doubling its size, and nearly all of South Denver comes out to dance. It starts out calm, classy, and fun, but around 7:00, all kinds of crazy starts to happen.
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frozen pineapple + coconut daiquiris | my dad's cocktail garden | holly & flora

frozen pineapple, banana + coconut daiquiris | drinks from my dad’s cocktail garden

“Daddy, do it.”

Over the first several years of my life, that phrase effortlessly and confidently spilled out of my mouth. My dad was there when things needed to be fixed, when I got hurt, when I fell off my scooter, or when the ship was overturning, quite literally, in fact. When you’re little and you have a limited scope on how large and volatile the world actually is, you count on those who show up consistently in your life’s realm.

I counted on my dad.

As a family, we’d sail together, oftentimes in the Gulf of Mexico, in the midst of summer storms, in the face of bracing winds and powerful lightning. Just me, my sister, my step-mom, and my dad at the helm. I’d run down below and hide under my tangled arms, beside my sister, pressing my face to the slate-blue-striped pillows. We’d pray for our lives, at times, whilst trusting that our dad knew what he was doing: sailing the rough seas, braving the swells, navigating the sea floor.

Looking back, I think he was completely insane.

I put a lot of trust in him. Daddy. Please, do it. Please, don’t kill us. I am laughing as I type this, but we grew up as a sailing family, participating in races together, come storm or shine. We’d even take our parrots with us on certain sailing trips. I truly felt like I was living out a pirate’s life, up until there was a swell that knocked us over or a gust that threw us about. My sister fell overboard once. Thankfully, she wore a life jacket. We’re able to laugh about the incident now.

frozen pineapple + coconut daiquiris | my dad's cocktail garden | holly & flora frozen pineapple + coconut daiquiris | my dad's cocktail garden | holly & flora frozen pineapple + coconut daiquiris | my dad's cocktail garden | holly & flora

frozen pineapple + coconut daiquiris | my dad's cocktail garden | holly & flora

Life is bereft with bumps and delays and potholes. Those “vibrations” are inevitable. I believe that it’s where we pick up on those rhythms and beats that we find the algorithm, which enables us to achieve the most enriching opportunities for growth, providing us the most captivating stories.

I’ve always mentioned that the very foods we enjoy and the drinks we sip truly have healing benefits — not only within the nutrients they possess or their hydrating qualities or even their fiber content, but also within their ability to facilitate comfort, sympathy, or joy. For me, even the act of preparing a dish or crafting a cocktail allows me to be present and process the thoughts sifting through my mind.

Meditation.

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summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

summertime vespers with strawberry, rhubarb + fennel | loud flavors, loud voices


Because it’s summer. Because the air is heavy with heat and nostalgia.
Because this is what we have to keep remembering, the way our bodies
know the waves, the amphibian inside us unafraid of going under,
of what ripples beneath the surface. Because waiting on the dock
for the signal to jump is like thinking someone else is responsible. Because
there is no one else responsible. Because despite the current,
it is possible to swim against it, or even stand, inverted, balancing
on a slippery mulch of murk and mud, and stay perfectly still.
Because when the world tips from view, we have to do everything we can
to tip it back.

— Maya Stein, “The Amphibian Inside Us”


This poem founds its way to my inbox this week. I subscribe to a series, “10-Line Tuesdays“, curated by poet, Maya Stein. Her weekly words always stir something deep within my sub-consciousness, evoking undulating layers of emotions. This week’s beautiful lines struck a chord and prompted me to share my thoughts on the current events that have been filling our feeds, provoking our thoughts, and, for some, motivating us to stand up, speak out, and ask questions.

I don’t have live television here at the house, so I learned about the recent shootings last week and the ensuing reactions, via Twitter. As I scrolled through videos, comments, and photos, tears fell. I stopped my current task of chopping strawberries, prep-work for this very blog post. Everything I was doing that moment seemed trite and forced.

I was speechless. Speechless to the point of lying low on social media for nearly five days. Speechless to the point of taking a four-hour road trip out to the western slope of Colorado, with no radio, no cell reception, no television, no discussion.

Just silence.

summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & florasummer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora summer vespers with strawberry, rhubarb & fennel | holly & flora

Sometimes, silence is just what we need to contemplate, to sift through our emotions and thoughts and rage. Despite its important role, silence cannot perpetuate change. It’s ultimately ineffective in the long-run, a dead-end street. Once I got back home on Tuesday, I spent the afternoon at a coffee shop, catching up on some reading and emails. Somehow, it’s so much less distracting there. I read through bravely written essays, comments online, and posts from some of my fellow bloggers, who used their platform of influence to speak up. To Em, Lily, and the many others who have opened their hearts this past week, thank you for leading the discussion.

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