Category Archives: summer

the alpine margarita | settling into mountain life

I owe you all and myself a proper catch-up post here. That’ll have to wait, but I’ll give you a little peek into what’s been going on. So much has changed over the past three months, since we’ve transitioned from city life to farmer life. Out of all the questions I’m asked, I hear this one most frequently, “What is the biggest thing you didn’t expect when you moved to the country and began growing grapes?” Sure, the exhaustive work is challenging, the learning curve to become a successful grape-grower is a constant struggle, but the real challenge is weed control.

We are shifting the vineyard’s practices and employing organic and sustainable methods, so applying commercial herbicides or pesticides is not in our playbook. We’ve been doing a lot of hand-pulling and weed-eating, instead. There are weeding attachments for tractors, but we’ve been trying to save money on extra expenses. Instead, we’ve been doing the work ourselves. I have the callouses to prove it.

We are in the dead heat of summer, as many of you are, and seeking a cool respite from the sun’s pounding rays is always on our minds. Weeding in the stark sunlight is brutal. So, of course it was the perfect time for our swamp cooler to call it quits last week. It sputters out water and particulates and barely chills the air down to 80 degrees. I’m seriously considering crashing a local hotel pool or even trying to sneak into one of the fancy mountain pools sometime this weekend.

I’m desperate.

There is something so magical when you pair margaritas with a hot day. It’s like the two were meant for each other. Our vineyard is located just over a mile above sea level and gets more sunshine annually than Florida, the so-called “Sunshine State.” In fact, the mesa we’re farming on is aptly named, “Sunshine Mesa.” To beat the heat we’ve been experiencing, we’ve been making tequila-based cocktails on repeat over the last few weeks. This simple riff on the classic margarita takes a nod from the alpine area I live in and mixes it perfectly with freshly squeezed lime and orange liqueur.

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snap pea-infused gin cocktails with basil, cucumber + mint | making adjustments + slowing down

I stood outside in my garden, atop the raised kale and Swiss chard bed, and pressed my cracked phone up to my face, eagerly asking, “Are you outside yet? Is it cloud-covered there? Can you see it, too?” It was just after 8:00PM last Friday night, and my mother and I were standing outside in our respective time zones, which differed by two hours, watching the full, Harvest Moon rise.

“My” moon was full and golden, bloated and sated with possibility, swelling with pride, as it slowly emerged from the east, over the neighboring trees. Back home in Florida, “hers” stood prominently overhead, appearing a little smaller due to its rise, less distorted by the horizon, yet regally shining its sun-reflected light on her driveway, awash on her face.

We marveled at the fact that both of us were observing the very same event, at the very same time, each witnessing differing perspectives. It made the world feel just a little smaller. We stood in silence for a moment and then said our slow goodbyes. I ended the call and sat down on the cedar beams of the raised garden. At first, all was quiet and rather hazy, but as I settled in, the stars came out of hiding, the early evening bats frenetically fluttered above, and the crickets restarted their unified song.

The evening was alive, and, at long last, so was my mind.

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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 | 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

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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