Before visiting Tiki themed bars in Los Angeles, and even at Disneyland, I admit I did not know much about Tiki cocktails outside of a traditional Mai Tai. However, once I began to learn more about the great variety of Tiki drinks, I started looking into how I can re-create some at home. I found that most of the flavors I enjoyed were due to the addition of falernum, a liqueur rumored to come from Barbados that is intricate in flavor, yet incredibly simple to make.
Although it can be found premade, falernum’s ingredients are straightforward and the process is easy enough that I decided to make my own batch at home.
Ingredients: 1/3 cup sliced almonds (raw), 40 whole cloves, 3/4 cup rum, zest of 8 limes, juice of 3 limes, 1 1/2 cups of sugar, 3/4 cup warm water.
Instructions: add the almonds and cloves to a pan and toast over medium heat until almonds are just slightly browned. Add the almonds, cloves, lime zest, and rum to a jar then cover and shake. Let the mixture sit for two full days (one day if you don’t want it to be too potent with clove flavor – I recommend two days for the full effect).
After the two days, combine warm water and sugar in a container and mix until the sugar has dissolved. Combine the sugar water, rum mixture, and lime juice into one container and mix thoroughly. The falernum can be refrigerated for up to one month. This liqueur combined ingredients that I already had at home, and I’m excited to use it in a variety of delicious Tiki cocktails.
Since our third date together at Barnsdall Park, we quickly realized how much we enjoy picnics. It’s so nice to pack a simple lunch and lounge in one of our favorite parks on lazy weekends.
We’re lucky enough to have a great selection of parks in our neighborhood, and one of the most interesting has to be the La Brea Tar Pits. This little park is filled with shady trees, animal sculptures, and of course pools of bubbling tar – making it an incredibly unique and lovely park.
The bubbling pits are behind fences, and as long as you avoid certain coned off areas, you’re not in any danger of getting your shoes stuck.
Right next door to the tar pits is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The Pavilion for Japanese Art is an architectural masterpiece that forms the perfect transition between the two properties, with its rough stone texture and tusk-like structures on the roof.
For the picnic menu we tend to stick with the three main categories: sandwiches, a type of salad, and fruits. On occasion, we pack a few extra snacks if we have them at home, but following these categories makes the prepping process fairly quick and easy. Aside from the food itself, I always pack enough beverages to keep us hydrated, a picnic blanket, and of course a good book.
One of my favorite meals from our honeymoon was a simple, straightforward, soft boiled egg breakfast. Although fairly minimal, the meal felt fanciful as we enjoyed it on a slow morning in Paris, and I instantly knew I would be recreating this meal at home.
The main piece in this meal is a just a soft boiled egg. I boiled five cups of water, brought it back down to a simmer, then added four eggs to the water and set a timer for six minutes. After running the eggs under cold water immediately after cooking, I just sliced off the top of each egg and put them into egg cups.
To scoop up the runny yolk inside the egg, I sliced up a few pieces of bread and lightly toasted them. To accompany the egg and bread, I set out a jar of delicious homemade jam and some butter. Just as we had experienced in Paris, I made coffee and squeezed a few grapefruits to make a fresh juice to complete the meal.
This leisurely breakfast was just as satisfying and decadent as we remember, and it will certainly remain a staple in our home.
Over the past few weeks there have been three new babies born into either our family or that of our friends. As I’ve mentioned before, I love to crochet and jumped to the opportunity to make blankets, hats, and shoes for the new little ones.
For a baby boy, I made a two colored blanket to resemble one large granny square. I was able to accomplish this look by using a very thick yarn. I love this emerald green color that also serves as a departure from the conventional baby blanket colors.
For the second baby girl’s blanket, I used lavender and periwinkle squares with white trim to tie both colors together into one cohesive pattern. I used a medium sized ultra soft yarn to make each square large enough without feeling too heavy and bulky.
I then made a few extra baby hats using a variety of colors and patterns to add to each of the gifts. I’m sure each baby will quickly outgrow their hats, but I do hope that the blankets will give them warmth and comfort for a few of their first years. Welcome to the world little ones!
For James’ 30th birthday, we decided to spend the weekend in Clark County, Nevada and explore the Las Vegas Strip. James had been there before as a teenager, but I had only driven past it, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Las Vegas was quite eager to welcome us to their city in this photo, even though they were about four miles premature. Most of the attractions that we visited, such as this sign are located in the unincorporated town of Paradise, NV.
Mandalay Bay is the best example of one of the hotels that use real gold on their windows. I had only ever seen photos, so seeing them in person was quite interesting.
We went to a Soviet themed lounge called Red Square inside of Mandalay Bay, and it was one of our favorite lounges on the strip.
When James visited as a teenager, he stayed inside the pyramid of Luxor.
10,000 paper cranes hang in the lobby of Aria, adding a bit of fun and color to the ultramodern interior.
Many parts of the strip feel very cluttered and confined, but that is certainly not the case with the front of Bellagio.
The interior of Bellagio is beautifully tiled and the Conservatory and Botanical Gardens is a wonderful place to walk around. After visiting most of the hotels on the Las Vegas Strip, I can confidently say Bellagio was my favorite one.
We made sure to see a nighttime performance of the Fountains of Bellagio.
We didn’t ride the gondolas at the Venetian, but they are such a great addition to see floating by as you are walking through the luxurious interior.
Parasol Down, like the rest of the interior of Wynn is very whimsical.
Vegas Vic still welcomes visitors to downtown Las Vegas, but he is barely visible under the visual cacophony of the “Freemont Street Experience.” I would have loved to look down Freemont Street and see the iconic neon signs unobstructed in front of the night sky, but that quintessential view of Las Vegas has been completely destroyed.
The California Hotel and Casino lies just outside of Freemont Street, and has been spared from redevelopment.
James’ favorite part of his birthday trip was our visit to the Neon Museum. Their boneyard has tons of old signs, including some of the most recognizable from the mid twentieth century.
The Stardust sign was once the tallest on the strip.
This text advertised the Lido de Paris at the Stardust.
We’re so glad that these pieces of art can still be enjoyed by the public, and hopefully the museum will have the resources to restore more of them in the future.
Before leaving the area, we visited the Hoover Dam, and walked halfway across so that we could stand in both Nevada and Arizona at once.
It took five years after moving to California for me to visit Las Vegas, and I’m so glad that we were able to do it together and make new memories.
Growing up we had three peach trees in our back yard, and my mom would make this recipe every single summer. We’ve used it on just about every sweet treat you can think of – as a topping, in a pie, with oatmeal, on toast, with ice cream – the possibilities are endless. I have made honeyed peaches and cherries in the past using a simpler recipe, but typically prefer this elevated version that includes red wine and more spices, giving it much more complex flavors.
7 large ripe peaches (peeled and diced), 2 1/2 cups cherries (pitted), 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup red wine, 1/2 star anise, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 clove, 2 all spice. Add all of the ingredients to a large pot and mix well. Heat over medium high heat and bring to a simmer for about 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is gone and the syrup sticks to the back of a spoon.
The California drought has really put an emphasis on the role that native desert flora can play in Los Angeles landscaping. Recently, we decided to add some small succulents to our patio, and created a few handmade clay pots to put them in.
We used a self hardening clay, so there was no firing necessary. We don’t have a potter’s wheel, or anything like that, so the pieces have a certain roughness to them that we accentuated with the paint job.
The dried pieces are not waterproof, but simply painting them creates a seal to solve that issue. We created different shapes for each of the little pots and painted them all a little different.
The finished pieces feel right at home on our patio, and we’re excited to have new drought friendly plants to decorate with.
Lemonade is the quintessential summer beverage, and it’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t enjoy an ice cold glass on a hot summer day. To keep us from getting bored with simple lemonade, I love making batches of flavored lemonades to keep in the refrigerator throughout the summer.
Grapefruit & Mint Lemonade
The combination of grapefruit and mint makes this lemonade extra crisp and refreshing. 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 1 cup fresh squeezed grapefruit juice, 3/4 cup lemon juice, 6-7 fresh mint leaves. Make a simple syrup by adding sugar and warm water to a saucepan and heat until sugar dissolves. Add the syrup, grapefruit juice, lemon juice, mint leaves, and cold water to a pitcher.
I love the combination of lime with sparkling water so I decided to make this one a fizzy lemonade. Using fresh raspberries to make a raspberry syrup gives this lemonade a sweet fruity taste. 1 cup raspberries, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup lime juice, 1 gallon sparkling water. Heat sugar, warm water, and raspberries in a small saucepan crushing the raspberries with a wooden spoon as it comes to a simmer. Turn off heat and let it cool. In a large pitcher combine the lemon and lime juices, cold water, ice, and raspberry syrup.
For this lemonade I infuse the lavender flavor into the syrup which gives it a delicate floral taste. 1 cup sugar, 1 cup warm water, 4 sprigs dry lavender (or 1 tablespoons worth), 1 gallon water, 1 cup lemon juice. Add sugar, warm water, and lavender to a sauce pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off heat and let syrup cool. Add water, lemon juice, and syrup to a pitcher with ice and a few lemon slices.
When I was in high school I would occasionally give my friends gift boxes filled with their favorite candies and snacks for their birthdays. Recently for a friends birthday, I decided to resurrect that idea and put together a little cocktail kit with all of the ingredients you would need for two cocktails, and some charcuterie inspired snacks to go with them.
Since he was getting a year older, and whiskey is his drink of choice, I decided old fashioned cocktails would be perfect. I simply used small bottles to hold each ingredient, and added them to a box along with dry salami, crackers, and cheese. The gift was easy to put together, catered to the recipients tastes, and is something he can enjoy on a night in even after the birthday celebrations have come to an end.