strawberry lavender vodka lemonade (& a mocktail!).

summer can’t come quickly enough! no but seriously, it can’t. i need some sun, sandals and swimming in my life as soon as possible, or i just might shrivel up. maybe the problem is that we aren’t in a summer mood yet? maybe summer is waiting for us to get on board? so i thought i’d help it along by sharing a recipe for a summertime cocktail that will either make you feel like you’re lounging at the lake, or will be the perfect choice for when you’re there.

i know. i know what you’re thinking. who’s going to trust a cocktail recipe from a pregnant lady? but just bear with me, because if there’s one thing i know, it’s drinks. and also, i happen to have a very willing taste-tester living with me, who is only too happy to taste the drinks i create. he says you’ll like this one.

the strawberries add just enough tartness and fruitiness (i’m also currently obsessed with them), while the lavender simple syrup adds some sweetness and a really unique flavor. i used pink lemonade in mine, just because it’s looks so pretty with the strawberries, but obviously you can use regular lemonade too. vodka adds a kick but lets the other flavors shine, and the result is a drink that looks as gorgeous as it tastes. it would be fun to try bourbon or gin for a different take on this, but i’m partial to this classic combo.

and for anyone looking for a delicious mocktail, whether it’s because you’re pregnant like me, or because you’re just craving a refreshing summer beverage, just omit the vodka, and voila! a delicious, non-alcoholic twist on lemonade!

strawberry lavender vodka lemonade recipe (makes 2)

  • 3/4 C. fresh strawberries (thawed frozen will work too) + more for garnish
  • 4 oz. vodka (omit to make this a delicious mocktail!)
  • 2 oz. lavender simple syrup*
  • 1-2 C. lemonade
  • ice

muddle quartered strawberries in a cocktail shaker with half the lavender simple syrup. add the remaining simple syrup and vodka and shake well. pour into 2 tall glasses** filled with ice. top with lemonade, garnish with a strawberry and enjoy, preferably on a sunny deck wearing flip-flops and fun sunglasses.

note: a standard american shot glass is 1.5 oz., so use a little over one shot for every 2 oz. the recipe calls for.

*lavender simple syrup recipe

  • 1 C. water
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 3 tsp. food-grade lavender buds

combine water, sugar and lavender in a small saucepan. bring to a boil and stir to ensure all the sugar is dissolved. remove from heat and let cool completely. when ready to use, strain the lavender out of the syrup. store in a small jar or other container in the fridge up to three weeks. (great in hot or iced coffee/tea as a sweetener, or in another cocktail!)

**i recommend tall glasses for this recipe because short won’t accommodate the amount of mix + lemonade over ice. however, if you want to experiment with amounts, or prefer a stronger cocktail, feel free to adjust the size of the glass or the amount of servings in this recipe. after all, cocktails are a very personal thing!

this post is inspired by the #redBar: summertime cocktail project for Red Envelope. they’re sharing favorite summertime drinks as the weather gets nicer. check out @redenvelope and #redBar on twitter for other great summertime cocktail ideas!

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recipe: spiked hot cocoa with candy cane vodka [holiday cocktail]


welcome to day 10 of #12daysofblogging! if you’re just joining us, you can find out more about the christmas linkup here. today’s prompt is “holiday cocktail”. get inspired and spread the christmas spirit! share your link below!

today we’re sharing the christmas spirits! get it? see what i did there? spirits, like alcohol? but then it’s like a play on the phrase christmas spirit? you get it.

there are so many festive cocktails around this time of year. pomegranate martinis, bailey’s in everything, and cider cocktails abound (check out chelsea’s amazing creations to see what i’m talking about!). but this recipe is one of my favorites. it’s so festive and so easy, but people will be completely impressed that you infused your own vodka with candy canes! it’s so martha stewart of you!

now you can enjoy some spiked hot cocoa in front of a fire, while watching your favorite christmas movie, or maybe even in a travel mug while you’re outside in the cold…the sky’s the limit.

spiked hot cocoa with candy cane vodka

  • candy canes
  • vodka
  • hot cocoa mix
  • mason jar

break up 1-2 candy canes into a mason jar (depending on the size of the jar you’re using, you can adjust amounts). pour vodka over the candy canes, enough to fill the mason jar. let the candy canes dissolve into the vodka. the smaller your candy cane pieces, the faster they will dissolve. the vodka will turn a pretty pink color. once the candy canes are all dissolved, make your hot cocoa, leaving room in the mug for a shot of candy cane vodka. protip #1: i recommend using a large mug for a whole shot of vodka, a small mug can be pretty strong! protip #2: enjoy with a christmas cookie. protip #3: this makes a really good gift. mix up individual mason jars, tie a ribbon and an extra candy cane around the top, and give with some nice hot cocoa and/or a mug!

let me know if you make any this weekend, i hear it’s going to be cold out there!


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recipe: chocolate covered cherry cookies. [christmas cookie exchange]


welcome to day 8 of #12daysofblogging! if you’re just joining us, you can find out more about the christmas linkup here. today’s prompt is “christmas cookie exchange”. get inspired and spread the christmas spirit! share your link below!

it’s not going to surprise anyone who’s been around here before that i am the MOST excited about today’s post. COOKIES! RECIPES! ALL THE GOOD THINGS! i can’t wait for all the ideas i’m going to get today.

and i know i just talked about cookies on monday, but honestly, what do you people expect from me? variety? of course multiple christmas favorite things are going to be about dessert. only i can’t give you the recipe i talked about on monday. that’s a family secret and if i put it on the internet there would be  consequences. probably a lot of yelling too.

so instead, you get the next best thing: my go-to christmas cookie recipe. i got this recipe from Mister Man’s old roommate, megan. he and megan were living together when we started dating, and i owe her a lot of my happiness today. see, she trained him into how to live with a girl so i never had to, and he is so much better for having been her roommate. she and her husband are still dear friends (although we’re currently trying to find ways to get them to move back to minnesota from upstate new york…) and you can thank her for this deliciousness that i’ve turned into my signature christmas cookie.

chocolate covered cherry cookies -

i highly suggest making a double batch of these cookies, because they disappear very quickly, and you’ll be sad when they’re gone! even my dad, the cookie connoisseur, says that i need to make these every year or else. i have none left in the house and after writing this post i’m contemplating making more.

chocolate covered cherry cookies (makes about 2 dozen for a single batch)

  • 1/2 C. butter
  • 1 C. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 C. flour
  • 1/2 C. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 10 oz. jar maraschino cherries (drained, save the juice)


  • 1/2 C. Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 C. semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. reserved cherry juice

in a large bowl, cream butter, egg and sugar together. add vanilla extract and mix. add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well. the dough will appear a bit crumbly, but will come together once you start to make the balls. roll dough into balls about one inch in diameter and set on baking sheet (they will seem small, but spread out when they bake). make thumbprints in each cookie, and place one cherry into each cookie. spread frosting over the top of the cookie so the cherry is fully hidden. bake at 350 degrees F for 8-10 minutes.

for the frosting: melt the chocolate chips with the condensed milk over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. remove from the heat. add the salt and cherry juice. if the frosting starts to thicken or harden, either heat it up briefly, or add another 1/4 tsp. of cherry juice to thin it out.

merry christmas and happy baking!


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it’s not christmas without…


welcome to day 6 of #12daysofblogging! if you’re just joining us, you can find out more about the christmas linkup here. today’s prompt is “it’s not christmas without…”. get inspired and spread the christmas spirit!

for me, it doesn’t feel like christmas is quite here until the santa cookies have been made. santa cookies are a tradition started by my grandma hooley. all the girls in the family, when they’re old enough, get to participate in the making of the traditional santa cookies. and this is an important task, let me tell you that right now.

christmas cookie tradition: homemade santa claus mold cookies.

because santa cookies are only allowed to be eaten on christmas day, at the hooley family christmas gathering. that’s our dessert. no pie or cake or pudding, just santa cookies. and it’s an art form, making these things. mouths must be painted on delicately, sugar must be colored just the right shade of red for cheeks and hats, and the frosting mixed to just the right consistency for the santa man’s beard. so yea, there are years of training that go into making the cookies. that’s not an exaggeration. i’m 26 and still not an expert.

but the real miracle of the whole thing is how many of us manage to get together every year. the cousins are all busy and are somewhat scattered, and yet somehow we manage to find a date that works for 90% of us year after year after miraculous year.

this year is the first year that we didn’t have grandma managing the troops. and we missed her. and for about two seconds, we wondered if santa cookies were going to happen at all. and then we realized, of course they’ll happen, because it’s not christmas without santa cookies, and grandma wouldn’t want us to drop the ball on this. not to mention the general mutiny that would occur if we couldn’t procure santa cookies at the end of christmas dinner.

so we did it. we did it without our fearless leader (although the chief cookie taster aka grandpa was there and did a bang-up job). i’ve finally managed to perfect the recipe for the dough…my dad even said i’ve replicated it as good as he’s ever tasted. there will be enough cookies to go around, and we only spilled one bottle of food coloring all over the kitchen. i think she’d be proud of us.

and really, one bottle of food coloring is such a small price to pay for making sure christmas gets here safely.


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grandpa’s oyster crackers.


welcome to day 3 of #12daysofblogging! if you’re just joining us, you can find out more about the christmas linkup here. today’s prompt is “DIY christmas gift”. get inspired and spread the christmas spirit!

a few years ago, i made i decision to give gifts that were consumable. most of us already have more “stuff” than we know what to do with, and sometimes getting gifts that are just going to take up space can be a little stressful. so when i can, i give things like candles, soaps, makeup, booze and food. that way, my friends and family can enjoy them, but they can also use them up so the gifts don’t become dustcatchers.

the downside to this is that sometimes the really good consumable stuff, the fancy soaps, the gourmet cooking spices, those can get expensive. and i like to give gifts to lots of people, so i have to find a way to spread the love.

allow me to introduce grandpa’s oyster crackers. also known around these parts as crack. they are that good. 

if you’ve only been reading for a short time, i should tell you that i’ve been cooking my way through my grandfather’s cookbook (i’ve made four recipes so far, and they’ve all been delicious). my grandpa also included some of his best-loved snacks in his cookbook, including his oyster crackers, and now i want to share them with you all. these crackers make a great christmas gift for friends, neighbors, co-workers, anyone who likes delicious things really. my friends can all attest to the addictive nature of them, and i have yet to find anyone who has made them last more than a week in their house.

grandpa’s oyster crackers (makes about 6 cups, but i would triple this if i were you…there are never enough oyster crackers to go around)

  • 2 packages oyster crackers
  • 1 C. canola oil
  • 2 tsp. lemon pepper
  • 2 tsp. dill weed
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 package Hidden Valley ranch original dressing mix (powder)
  • holiday-themed tupperware containers for gift packaging

heat oil, lemon pepper, dill weed, garlic powder, and hidden valley dressing powder in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot. stir well, and continue to stir well between pours. put oyster crackers into a large mixing bowl or roasting pan, and pour oil mix over the crackers, pausing every so often to stir the crackers (do this in stages if you need to). combine well. continue to stir occasionally until the oil is well absorbed by the crackers (around 5-6 times). store in the airtight tupperware containers.

note from grandpa: the grandchildren tell me that a holiday isn’t complete without my oyster cracker snacks. i love making these treats for everyone and look forward to bringing them to all the holiday parties. 

add a bow to the tupperware containers for extra flair and give to the people you love the most. a word of caution: once you’ve tasted the crackers, fight the urge to keep them all to yourself. i may have kept an extra container for us last year instead of giving them to the person i planned on…no judgement please.

i just love that when i give this gift to people for christmas, i’m giving them a piece of my grandpa. and in that way, his legacy of love and family traditions is passed on even though he isn’t here anymore. that’s a DIY gift worth giving in my opinion. let me know if you try it, nothing makes me happier than knowing others are enjoying his recipes just as much as we do!


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