tasting through rosé + pinot grigio with ava grace | planting the summer garden

Happy National Wine Day!

Yes, it is an actual holiday. I pretty much revel in that day’s festivities every day of the year, but I’m celebrating with you by sharing a couple bottles of wine that Steve and I enjoyed this past week. We finally took the plunge and made some drastic changes in our yard, and I couldn’t be more happy about them!

Although AVA Grace Vineyards kindly sponsored this post, all words, opinions, tasting notes, and photos are mine. I am happy to align myself specifically with brands that I trust and with whom I actually ENJOY, so I thank you for supporting the brands and companies that support holly & flora and allow me to keep the recipes, stories, and reviews coming your way!

I can officially say, after waiting well over a year, that we have a garden again! That might seem like a short amount of time, but for someone who has tended a garden and made countless meals and cocktails from its herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruits for nearly 12 years, it felt like a lifetime. It’s hard to contain my excitement.

Nature surely has a way, however, of forcing you to change your direction or slow down, no matter what your plans are. Take this past Sunday. Steve and I couldn’t have chosen a windier day to plant our summer garden and paint the exterior of our house. Dirt in our faces, debris in the paintbrush, flies in our wine. Then try taking photographs in these conditions.

You get the picture. A slightly blurry one, perhaps.

So, maybe we didn’t accomplish the lines on our to-do list as fast as we would have liked, but we got all of the plants snugly settled into the soil, and we ended the day with laughter, a mandatory hot bath, and a sleepy viewing of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Gardening always makes me think of the lush landscapes the hobbits tend and the lifestyle of simplicity they embrace.

We are super excited to actually have the beginnings of a garden this month. When we moved out here to Paonia over a year ago, we didn’t have the time to plant or maintain even a simple herb garden. We inherited a mess of a vineyard and a “dirt bomb” of a yard, when we purchased this property. We went from gardening a small, lush, corner lot in suburban Denver to full-on farming 16 acres of grapevines out here on the dusty slopes of western Colorado wine country.

This year, we made an effort, despite the pressing needs of the vineyard, to dedicate a day to pause and plant a garden for ourselves. We picked up a few flats of herbs and veggies at High Country Gardens, filled up our playlist {which included DJ Frane’s aptly titled, “In the Garden”}, donned our grubbiest clothes, and chilled down the wine.

And what started out with one gifted clipping of lemon balm became an entire herb garden, once the plants hit the dirt. Dill, oregano, rosemary, basil, chervil, parsley, and thyme, along with a few varieties of mint. I’ve been waking up early and going to bed late, making sure that they’re all watered and sturdy and safe.

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the grassed word | celery cordial + lemongrass gin

If you follow a few cocktail-centric Instagram accounts, you’ve most likely seen several riffs on the classic cocktail, The Last Word, popping up in your feed this week. That’s because Mike Yoshioka, a cocktail enthusiast based in Los Angeles, CA created a global online event that celebrates the beloved cocktail.

The event, aptly named We Have the Last Word, encourages Instagrammers to replicate the original recipe or create an iteration on the classic. It is an event that inspires you to dig deep into your creativity. It truly and deliciously brings cocktail enthusiasts and creators together. The Last Word is one of my favorite cocktails both to make and enjoy, especially over the summer months, so I knew I had to come up with something fun as a contribution.


“What was truly inspiring was how the cocktail community came together. New relationships were formed. People started to bond. They began to inspire one another, sharing information, collaborating on projects, and supporting and encouraging one another. They showed that the world is indeed much smaller when we can come together and unite. Even if it is just over a cocktail.”

— Mike Yoshioka of mmydrinks, via a recent post in Difford’s Guide


The original specs on the cocktail call for equal parts gin, green Chartreuse, maraschino liqueur, and freshly squeezed lime juice. It’s light, refreshing, and a perfectly balanced amalgam of sweet, herbaceous, and acidic notes. I decided to do something creatively challenging for my contribution to this event that celebrates one of my favorite liqueurs, Chartreuse, and bring in some early summer flavors to the mix — celery, lemongrass, and cucumber.

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bittersweet blood orange + bourbon punch | how to make stevia simple syrup for cocktails

I’m posting this just after savoring scarfing over half of a rosemary and caramel dark chocolate bar that I picked up at Meat + Cheese in Aspen on Monday. I don’t know how it’s lasted that long. I also kinda claimed it from Steve. It was technically my birthday chocolate, and I was seriously craving something sweet. I’d already downed the last two handfuls of dark chocolate chips from their mason jar home, so I was on the hunt, and did I ever SCORE.

This is the bar I’m referencing, and it was pure magic. I recently derailed from my resolve to limit sugar in my diet. I will add that it has been a lot of fun doing so. Case in point? This gorgeous cake was breakfast and lunch on Wednesday. My friend Hannah of Blue Sky Bakery here in Paonia whipped up this seven-layer chocolate and hazelnut dream-of-a-cake that I’ll have to request again next year. Hannah, put that on your calendar. 😉

One of my birthday resolutions, however, is to recommit to keeping sugar out of my daily consumption routine. I was on a good track earlier this year and even humorously shared my battle with sugar with you in December here in this post. Basically, if I could eat cake everyday, I would. Hannah’s chocolate cake, along with a glass of Schramsberg brut rosé and a bowl of peppered, Parmesan-dusted, truffle oil-doused popcorn, IF we’re being specific.

So far, in my series of recipes made with stevia-sweetened Zevia mixers, I’ve shared a sparkling spiced blackberry Negroni and a Tiki-inspired ginger apple swizzle. Since blood oranges are quickly making their exit from our local produce department, I’ve not only been stockpiling them to peel and eat, but I’ve also been crafting some blood orange-centric cocktails here at the house lately.

This large-format recipe calls for blood oranges, bourbon, Campari, and Zevia ginger ale. The secret ingredient, however, is a homemade rosemary-infused stevia simple syrup that’s the perfect consistency for blending into drinks. The resulting recipe a bittersweet punch that’s easy to assemble and stellar as both a party pitcher or a single-serving cocktail.

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petals + blooms beauty punch | jules aron’s pretty zen books

I’ve been on team #treatyoself before it was even a hashtag. At some level, we all have. I mean, giving yourself a present just feels good, right? And when we get better at giving ourselves presents, we are better able to give others presents. It all comes full-circle. While some might associate the reference with getting a mani-pedi, calling in a personal day and going on a solo hike, finally buying those fancy jeans, or simply taking the time to bake a scratch-made, decadent cake, I’m talking about treating yourself in the form of a cocktail break.

A healthy-ish cocktail.

One that’s sparkling and filled with pomegranate juice, rosé, and the most delicious floral syrup.

Along with a long tub-soak in some DIY herbal rose bath salts.

I have your attention now, right?

Now that I’ve set the tone, I’ll share my inspiration. My friend Jules Aron just released TWO books that match perfectly together: Fresh & Pure: Organically Crafted Beauty Balms & Cleansers and Nourish & Glow: Naturally Beautifying Foods & Elixirs. I thumbed through Jules’ combined Pretty Zen collection of 150 recipes for healthy, natural body care and delicious drinks, meals, and small bites, and I’m sharing two of my favorites from Jules with you today.

And I’m giving away a copy of each to ONE lucky individual over on Instagram! Continue reading

beet, berry + blood orange granita | a sparkling galentine’s day cocktail

It’s almost Valentine’s Day, and that might make you either cringe or just shrug your shoulders or maybe even break out your dancing shoes. I tend to simply shrug my shoulders; the holiday could pass on by, and I’d still be happy. Meh. If some flowers or a card or some cookies come my way, however, I think could be persuaded to celebrate Valentine’s Day and even don a little pink.

I recently developed a Galentine’s Day cocktail for the Kitchn {I’ll share the link, when it’s up}, and in the midst of doing my recipe testing and researching, I really gained an appreciation for the concept behind the celebration. I’d heard about the holiday before, which is 180 degrees away from its cupid-themed counterpart {no pressure or hefty price tags, more waffles and dancing}, and I’ve even used the salutation casually in a sentence, but that’s where it stopped. I didn’t really participate.

The holiday, which is officially celebrated on February 13th, is all about showing your love, support, and enthusiasm for the WOMEN in your life. It’s not a time to bash your ex or gossip about the girl who sits next to you at work. It’s a day dedicated to making time for your girlfriends, your lady coworkers, your moms, and your sisters. It actually succeeds in making you feel and share what the other holiday, oftentimes unsuccessfully, attempts to make you feel:

LOVE.

And a solid Galentine’s Day party isn’t complete without a festive cocktail.

I’m sharing a healthy-ish cocktail with you that’s easy to make ahead and doesn’t require a ton of expensive spirits. It’s low-key and high-reward. I’ve added roasted beets, ripe blood oranges, and sweet berries together for a slightly sweet granita that pairs perfectly with dry sparkling wine. I’ve even added one of my favorite spirits to bring a balanced-but-bitter bite to the mix: Campari. Continue reading