Most people think of Saint Patrick’s day when the 17th of March rolls around but I’m reminded of my older sister, Cynthia’s, wedding anniversary. Almost 40 years ago I was working in Puerto Rico with Delta Airlines and being away from home had missed all the wedding planning and preparations. Unable to leave work until the afternoon of the rehearsal dinner, I flew into Fort Lauderdale in time for the rehearsal dinner after-party which I was hosting. This was almost 40 years ago, when tropical drinks were thought of as exotic and slightly dangerous. My post-dinner party was to be a Puerto Rican pina colada celebration and I arrived well prepared. My suitcase was loaded with small cans of Coco Lopez cream of coconut, a product almost unknown here in south Florida at the time, my blender and a blender I had borrowed from a friend. I had boarded the flight with two handles of golden Puerto Rican rum…one in each hand. My only instructions for Mama were to stock up on ice, pineapple juice and limes. Knowing my flight would touch down at about the same time the dessert course was being served I had told Mama I would take a cab to the house; there was no need to send someone to fetch me. The taxi driver helped me to the front door with all my goodies. The house was quiet. I opened the front door and gaily called out, “Hi, everybody! I’m home!” My eyes swept the high ceilinged living room and quickly accessed the mood. Mercy. Every guest was sitting quietly…politely…ram rod straight. I turned to my little brother and sister and murmured their orders. They understood the tragedy of a flat party and the importance of their chores. Within minutes we had salsa playing, both blenders whirred away offering up a frosty concoction to the waiting crystal goblets which were whisked out of the kitchen and served to the waiting guests. My brother Tommy, sister Pamela and I happily buzzed about the kitchen mixing batch after batch of rum drinks while enjoying the laughter, cocktail chatter and music from the rest of the house. We all had a delightful time. The following day the weather was glorious, the bride was beautiful and glowing and the wedding was exquisite. We had done our jobs and done them well. All these years later I wish you a happy anniversary, Cynthia and Wash!
If you’ve never tried making this cocktail at home you must. This pina colada may be served over ice or with the ice blended in as with a “slushy”. Either way you’ll find, unlike many mixed and served in bars, hotels and restaurants, it’s not too sweet and much lighter than the aforementioned drinks. It is best mixed in your largest pitcher or an empty plastic gallon jug then chilled. If you plan on serving the iced “slushy” version, pack your blender half full of ice, pour in the already mixed drink then blend until liquified. This recipe doubles or triples well. Your cocktail will also inspire tropical trade winds when garnished with fresh pineapple spear. But beware. They go down quite easily!
Yes, today is Monday. The day we dread. The day that makes us just a tad bit blue around 5:30 p.m. every Sunday. But I think if we plan for some luxurious, leisurely down time for the upcoming weekend we might be able to stave off some of those crummy, useless feelings. I look at it as a plan to reward myself for being the best I can be during the week. At least I start off that way. Unfortunately by the time Thursday rolls around I’ve had a plethora of, shall we say, unchristian thoughts…and possibly words. It’s not pretty. And I’m tired, oh am I tired! Thursdays try my patience and before I know it I’m questioning my very existence. Or, at the very least, if my current path in life centers around taking Dad the NYTimes, brown rice, grilled chicken, sweet potato salad, stamps for his letters, bandages, Neosporin and hydrogen peroxide for post-fall cleanups, batteries for his walkman, a ride to the market or simply a visit from daughter #2, me. I tell myself I am one lucky girl that I can honor my father this way, however, I must admit there are some days, (usually right about Thursday), when I just want my own time…time to read, write or rattle around the kitchen. Therefore, on this Monday, I mixed up a batch of homemade Spicy Roasted Bloody Marys to show y’all that Sunday Drinkday is merely a snap of the fingers away. Plum tomatoes are always going on sale; pick them up when they do and allow them to ripen to an intense, vibrant red on your counter. When you’re ready, roast them off. At that point the roasted tomatoes may be refrigerated until the time they’re put in the blender with the rest of the ingredients. I’m not a fan of putting a boatload of meats, cheeses and vegetables in my Bloody Marys. No okra, bacon, pickles, roasted peppers, carrots, cheese chunks or chicken wings are going to be hanging off the rim of my glass or, worse yet, swimming about the tomato and vodka. Oh, hell no. And I have to tell you I’m of the old school in that we only drink Bloodies in the morning, absolutely no later than 2:00 in the afternoon. In my world drinking Bloodies later than that is just not good form. So we’ll just keep it between us that this batch, (at 5:51 p.m.) is really, really good. I feel better and when YOU begin to plan your next batch, well, you will, too. Sunday is just a batch of cocktails away.
There are several thing we moms enjoy receiving on Mother’s Day. Massages, facials, manis and pedis are consistent winners. Jewelry is ALWAYS exciting especially when handmade out of macaroni and string. I have an artisanal necklace handmade by James which I treasure made of string and beer can tabs. However, a summer bag or cute, strappy sandals are always appreciated. I think what we all want is the perfect day…you know…the one where everyone is home and getting along. Dad is happy and sweet to everyone and the kids are cheerful and act as though they’re thrilled to spend the day with Mom and not with their friends at the beach. It’s the day when moms want to feel a little like a girl again. Yes, we LOVE, L.O.V.E., opening homemade cards from our children and seeing how excited they get when preparing us breakfast in bed. But part of the day is the girly thing and that’s where the husbands come into play. I realize I’m not my husband’s mother; he is quick to point that out as we get closer to Mother’s Day. But if Mom is running behind the children getting them ready for church, brunch and the beach she’s not relaxed. Mama doesn’t want to man the grill or mix the cocktails. Nor does she want to think about what she’ll pack for lunches the following week while standing in line at the grocery store Sunday night. No. What she’d really like is to be pampered a bit and not have to lift a finger. For just one day. Just one. Bottles of champagne will bring big smiles as will pretty cocktails. Even better in the pool. On a float. With James Taylor, Jack Johnson or John Mayer singing away in the background on the outdoor speakers. Those are my thoughts. So to all my moms, Happy Mother’s Day. You bring us joy!
This drink is a marvelous concoction from the book “Essentially Lilly” published by Harper Collins. It’s a great book on entertaining by our wonderful Lilly Pulitzer, replete with photos of vibrant, brightly colored Lilly prints and fabrics, Lilly’s family and her legendary Palm Beach pool parties. It’s a fun, fun read. As she states in her book, if you wish to make this Bellini alcohol-free substitute the Prosecco with either sparkling apple cider or ginger ale. Also, leave out the sugar. The fruit puree can be prepared one day ahead of serving, covered and refrigerated. It will then be mixed with the sparkling wine just before serving. Mama will be so happy!
When James graduated from high school we hosted a big, fat, fun party to celebrate. It was fabulous. So five or six months before his college graduation I decided to throw him another one. This one would be more difficult because I was making all the arrangement and plans long distance, from three states over. After discussing the party with James I began to hammer out the details. And save my money. By the end of March I had the restaurant reserved, menu and drinks planned and contract signed. The party was to be at a Greek restaurant on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, a restaurant the three of us had been enjoying since James had started school at Carolina. Jimmy and I both feel that this particular Greek restaurant is the best we’ve ever eaten outside of Greece. The inside has an edge to it while still being authentic; the food is spectacular and imaginative WITHOUT using foam or stacking and, what made me truly happy, was that our party was on the second floor balcony overlooking a patio. The week before leaving for North Carolina, little sister Pamela mentioned that she and her crew were flying out the Thursday morning before grad weekend and suggested we all travel together. Our original plans were to fly out Friday but why wait to party? Jimmy changed our reservations and we were set. I couldn’t wait to see James! I knew he was feeling a little down about leaving all his friends compounded by the fact that he had picked up some kind of bug or cold or something. Cynthia and Elizabeth were flying in from New Jersey and San Francisco on Friday to round out the celebration and family was just the ticket to brighten my boy up. The Carras’ and Schloss’ flew in Thursday morning, we picked up our rental cars and split up. They were checking into the hotel we were all staying and we were off to see our boy. When we arrived at James’ house he said he felt so rotten he couldn’t come downstairs and let us in so he just gave me the code to unlock the front door. His room was on the third floor. We got to the top of the staircase and entered his room. He was sick…really sick. Mama and Daddy went into action. I sent Jimmy for cold medicine, ibuprofen, Coke with shaved ice and Panera’s chicken soup. I wiped James’ brow with a clean, cold cloth. I made up his bed, picked up clothes, and filled a garbage bag with empty paper cups, coke cans, dirty napkins, tissues, paper plates and all manner of college kid trash. I opened his graduation packet and hung up his gown, cap and cord. After getting him settled in, we told him we were taking him to the doctor the following day, first thing in the morning, so if they could do anything to make him feel better he would have a whole 24 hours to get back to normal. That night Jimmy and I barely slept for worry. The following morning James could barely make it down the stairs. I was calm…after all, we were on our way to the doctor’s. At the doctor’s office James texted us ever once in a while. “I’m waiting for the doctor.” “They’re giving me a chest x-ray.” “Now they’re giving me a breathing treatment.” The last text was “Pneumonia!” Thank the Lord we got up there a day early! We left the medical building laden with instructions and prescriptions…and we each had a job. Jimmy was to get more soup, sweet tea and all the high-octane meds. I was going upstairs with James to get him back in bed and clean that nightmare of a room. And James was to get better. I found him a clean tee-shirt and pajama bottoms, put him on the sofa and stripped his bed. I washed all the bed linens, separated the clean and dirty clothes, washed the dirty clothes and folded 400-lbs. of clean ones. In the kitchen I grabbed another garbage bag and picked up more tissues, napkins, dead soft drink cups, old mail and wait! What’s this? A large box of pizza with only one piece missing. It had been there two days. I moved to toss it in the garbage bag when James moaned, “No, Mama. It’s good. It’s just fine. Don’t throw it out.” As I set it aside he sent a quick text and fell back in the bed. Two seconds later we heard the pounding of racing footsteps coming up the stairs. It was a fraternity brother/housemate happy as can be to take the two-day old pizza off James’ feverish hands. Jimmy and I laughed and shook our heads. Boys. By then it was afternoon and James was all set to sleep for the rest of the day. He had taken all his medicine, eaten and showered. He was exhausted. We left him to then stop by the restaurant where James’ graduation party was to be held and see what our options were. I knew the antibiotics were super-powerful but there was always the chance he wouldn’t be better by the next day. At the Greek restaurant we waited by the hostess stand for the young lady in charge of events and parties. I hadn’t met her yet; didn’t even know what she looked like. But when I saw that dour, angry face making her way over from the back of the restaurant my heart sank. This was NOT going to be fun. Everything about her body language screamed irritation and inconvenience and we hadn’t even spoken yet. After introductions I explained our situation, that James was sick, we didn’t know if we could even HAVE the party and when would we have to let her know if it was to be cancelled. She tightly crossed her arms, scowled at us and snapped, “NOW! You’ll have to tell me now. I need to know right now!”. Just barely keeping my temper in check I asked if we could have a couple of hours to at least discuss this and she responded with a dismissive, “Sure.” not even looking at us but typing on the computer keyboardin front of her. We left the restaurant and made our way to the back of the building to a lovely garden patio which provided shaded quiet and elegance to the patrons of the neighboring restaurants. We split a salad while trying to discuss the possibility of James getting better and which receptions, graduations and parties we had to attend versus which we wanted to attend. It was hot. It was the end of the day. I felt beaten up and beaten down. My heart ached thinking how James hadn’t been able to say goodbye to so many friends who had already left for the summer. He just couldn’t get out of bed. He hadn’t even seen the rest of the family yet. There was a good chance he wouldn’t be able to walk at his own graduation and he had worked so hard for so long. I couldn’t bear the weight of it all but I didn’t want Jimmy to see me crying. As tears of frustration, anger and worry streamed down my face I just sat there quietly with my big sunglasses on not making a sound. But you can’t fool my Jimmy. He was about to put another bite of salad in his mouth when he put down his fork and brightly said to me, “You know what? I’m going to go do something. I’m just going to talk to “her” for a second. Just see what our options are.:)” I blew my nose with one of those crappy, sand paper rough paper napkins when he turned around, smiled sweetly at me and said, “I’ll be nice. Really”. I remember thinking, “Oh, shit. She’s gonna get it now. She doesn’t know who she’s messing with.” He left and I called a friend. She let me boo-hoo and have a pity party. As a mother she knew how I felt. When I saw Jimmy round the corner I quickly said, “I gotta go! Jimmy’s here!” and I turned my attention on Jim. Well, apparently he DID tear the event planner a new one. That woman was shaking when he left the restaurant. He told me everything and ended the story by saying, “When I looked over and saw you…well…nobody makes my wife cry!” I have to tell y’all, I’m strong and typically can fight my own battles and pretty well but I’ve got to say it felt really good hearing that. At a time when I felt ineffective and vulnerable he made me feel completely protected. And safe. Nothing could hurt me or James. The following day was wonderful! The antibiotics had kicked in and James felt well-rested. We went to his Entrepreneurship minor graduation and the all the receptions. At the end of the day was our party and it was beyond perfection. After Miss Party Pooper’s tantrum the staff was bending over backwards to please us. A stiff breeze flowed through the beautiful balcony where the party was held. The sunset scattered pinks, yellows and oranges across the sky. Cocktails were mixed and hor’s d’oeuvre were passed. We stayed all night and after the last guest left the whole family sat down and had Greek coffees, green teas, and Greek desserts. We laughed, had party chatter and told stories. We made fun of ourselves and each other. I was so grateful. There IS something to be said for being rescued by a knight in shining armor!
It had been a really long day. Our flight out of Lauderdale had been delayed for some reason and by the time we picked up the rental at Raleigh Durham airport we were starting to feel it. Jimmy and I are NOT the young, fun people we used to be!! Anyway, we flew up to see James, we scored some great tickets for the UNC-Clemson game on Sunday AND we were staying at my favourite…the Carolina Inn. After we checked in and Jimmy checked his 500 million, trillion, gazillion e-mails we left to get a drink at the hotel bar. As we left the room another young lady was walking thru the hallway. Jimmy gently chided me as I turned and walked in the wrong direction. “Alicia. It’s this way.” “Well, I’m sorry but I was just admiring this pretty lady’s beautiful sweater.” And it WAS gorgeous. It was a lavender cashmere poncho draped over one shoulder and slightly sagging over the other in that casual “je ne sais quoi” sort of way. She wore it over a crisp, white long-sleeved blouse and black skinny jeans tucked into black riding boots. She looked great. She went her way and we went ours. We made it to the bar and ordered our highly anticipated cocktails. As we chatted about our day and the past week I noticed a couple of good-looking women come in the bar and sit at a table for maybe eight. Jimmy and I continued chatting at length, going back and forth, “Is it Goose NECK Park or Goose CREEK Park where we pick up James?”. Still chatting I noticed another lady come in and join them. All these good-looking women were meeting here in the bar and it looked like a stellar girl’s weekend was in the making! More sharply dressed women entered the bar and quite a bit more screaming and squealing took place. I was mesmerized. If by nothing else their jewelry, their scarves and, oh, their boots! Boy, could they accessorize! They called out to each other using the nicknames they had called each other when THEY were at Carolina. I couldn’t stop listening. They chatted about a drink they all loved. It’s called the “Moscow Mule”. Go figure. I was sipping on my second VERY generous double of Wild Turkey, rocks, and tried desperately to remember #1. the name of the drink #2. the ingredients in the drink and #3. all the nicknames of these girly girls. It was wonderful hearing these marvelous, accomplished women laughing and joking, and yes, talking about yesterday but also talking about what they were all doing today. And the nicknames!! I just caught snippets of names and conversation. “Ohmygosh, Tish, you can’t EVEN be serious!”. “Serious about what???”, I thought. “FOX!!! Look at you!!! You’re still gorgeous!”. And she was. With one ear on Jimmy and one ear on the girls I tried to keep the conversations straight. Jimmy finally leaned over and in sotto voce asked, “Are you listening to their conversation?”. Why, yes. Yes, I am. There is just something about best friends getting together that is intoxicating and joyous, liberating and exciting. I noticed that right then the mysterious well dressed woman with the lavender cashmere had joined them amid more peals of laughter, the tossing of hair and the flash of terrific jewelry. I felt so happy for them. They knew the significance of their time together. They truly appreciated it. I mustered up a little nerve, easy enough after TWO bourbon doubles, and interrupted them. I asked if I could take a few quick photos of their table and they graciously agreed and jumped into place. We laughed more when I asked for all their pet names, like when we got to “Patt” whose real name is so beautiful…Elizabeth!! They patiently explained that “Tish” was short for Morticia the nickname that was given when the sorority had a Halloween party and they all dressed up as members of the Munster family except Morticia who was really from the Addams Family. I LOVE minutiae on that level. I positively put it up high on a pedestal. They are all Tri Delts except Fox who’s a Pi Phi. Their houses were across from each other but Fox ran with these girls so she’s an honorary Tri Delt. I’ve been lucky enough to have been on some outrageously fun girl’s weekend and they are treasured. They can be with your blood sisters, with your mom, your best friends or sorority sisters. That’s when all the nicknames come out. That’s when stories are told of escapades your children will never, EVER hear about. You’ll talk trash about that boy that broke your heart…or caused you to make the walk of shame. Alcohol is often the culprit. But you’ll also catch up on what’s going on NOW in your lives and applaud the successes achieved and the milestones met. And everyone feels like a goddess after a few cocktails! Happy weekend, ladies! Thanks for letting me come along if only for a quick minute!
This is the recipe for a “Moscow Mule” as told to me by mostly EBird. She said they have it a lot in Montana so maybe it’s a western cocktail? She also specified it needs to be served freezing cold so out there it’s served in a copper cup. I keep thinking about that. Who’s got a copper cup??? It won’t stop me, tho. I’ll put it in silver!
1/2 part ginger beer
1/2 part vodka
lots of fresh lime cut in pieces or wedges
Squeeze juice from lime pieces and drop lime in with juice.
Mix with equal parts of cold ginger beer and vodka, hopefully, vodka from your freezer.
Go easy!! The ladies said this drink goes down really easy and is a real creeper!!