A Watermelon-Basil Margarita For the First Day of Summer

posted in: Cocktails | 0

watermelon basil margaritaIt’s officially the first day of summer. And there was a time in my life, not so long ago (before a kid and a full-time job), that I would have had basil and maybe even watermelon popping up in my garden right about now. These days, I instead have a raised bed full of unidentified gargantuan weeds — thanks to the very expensive and fertile soil we had trucked in a couple years ago (“blessed be the fruit”) — and a tiny dent in my bank account every time I spend $4 on a package of not-so-fragrant basil wrapped in wasteful plastic. But I’m not going to let my shameful lifestyle choices stop me from making the most summery drink I can muster (even if a midwestern summer is my personal hell), so I present to you my watermelon-basil margarita.

Honestly, I probably shouldn’t even call it a margarita since it doesn’t have orange liqueur, and I use sugar instead of agave nectar to sweeten it, but thanks to Pinterest we’ve all gotten a little loosey goosey with the term, now haven’t we? Whatever you want to call it, this drink isn’t too far of from a previous take on the watermelon margarita, but it’s a tad sweeter, and a lot more basil-y, thanks to a basil simple syrup. Last year, during my Dirty30 (my own version of Whole30 that allows for straight, carb-free liquors), I made a super fresh watermelon margarita with no added sugars. But I wanted to work more basil into it this year, and I’m not doing anything even remotely healthy in my life right now (see aforementioned shameful lifestyle choices), so I made a basil syrup, which is just a simple syrup infused with basil.

In addition to the basil syrup, you’ll also need fresh watermelon juice, which is easy to make, too. One way is to blend watermelon and strain it through a fine mesh sieve. About 2½ cups of haphazardly chopped watermelon gave me a little more than 1½ cups juice. Another option is to just smush watermelon down into a sieve to get the juice out. It all works.

Basil Simple Syrup

To make the basil simple syrup, combine 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring it to a boil then turn off the heat. Let it cool for about a minute, then add 1 cup of loosely packed basil leaves (some stems are fine, too). Let it steep for 5 to 10 minutes or until your house smells like sweet, sweet summertime. Strain using a fine mesh sieve and discard the basil, then set aside or refrigerate the syrup to cool. This will make about 1 cup and the extra will keep in a sealed jar in the fridge for at least two weeks.

watermelon basil margaritaWatermelon-Basil Margarita

INGREDIENTS

3 ounces watermelon juice
1.5 ounces tequila
1.25 ounces basil syrup
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
Pinch sea salt
Fresh basil, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Add the watermelon juice, tequila, basil syrup, lime juice, and sea salt to a cocktail shaker or mason jar with a handful of ice. Shake well and strain into a Collins glass or tumbler filled halfway with ice. Garnish with the fresh basil and another pinch of sea salt if you’re feeling salty (which I am, all the damn time lately).

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Drink Whiskey, Save the Bees!

posted in: Cocktails | 0

sweet tea and whiskeyEarlier this month, Catskill Provisions reached out to me about concocting a drink with their NY Honey Rye Whiskey to celebrate National Pollinator Month — an initiative to save the bees. As usual, I was my very blunt self, and replied with something along the lines of, “Well, I don’t like flavored whiskey, but I do want to save the bees, so sure!”

While I waited for the bottle to arrive, I imagined masking the flavor with a super-spicy ginger beer and elderflower liqueur. The nice people at Catskill Provisions had assured me their product wasn’t like all the shitty flavored booze out there, but to be honest, I wasn’t convinced. Well, I WAS WRONG, OKAY? It’s not like all the shitty flavored booze out there, and I actually do like it. It even inspired me to go another direction with the drink. After a little sip, the taste that was left in my mouth can best be described as rye that had been poured into a cup that had sweet tea in it before (and hadn’t been rinsed out, of course). And since I love a good tea cocktail, I went with it.

sweet tea and whiskeyThe final product is somewhere in the land of Arnold Palmer and sweet tea — with whiskey, of course. And while you could get away with using just about any rye for this, Catskill Provisions donates 2% of proceeds to bee preservation causes. So that’s a thing to consider.

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, nobody paid me to write this, though I did receive a free bottle of whiskey and a jar of honey. But I get bottles in the mail all the time. Some I write about, others I don’t. Sometimes I get a bottle and I write about it three years later. Other times, I get some weird blue vodka and regift it to friends who actually like that shit.

Anyway, for this drink you’ll need to make a super-simple sweet tea syrup with honey and earl grey tea. Because have you ever tried adding honey straight into a cold cocktail? Whole lotta nope.

Sweet Tea Syrup

INGREDIENTS

2 cups water
8 earl grey tea bags
1 cup honey

DIRECTIONS

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Turn off the heat and steep the tea bags for 5 to 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags and stir in the honey. Allow it to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight jar or bottle in the refrigerator.

sweet tea and whiskey

Queen Bee Sweet Tea Cocktail

INGREDIENTS

2 ounces sweet tea syrup (recipe above)
2 ounces rye whiskey
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lemon juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Lemon wheel for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker (or wide-mouth mason jar) with a handful of ice. Shake the shit out of it and strain into an old fashioned glass with a large ice cube or fresh handful of ice. Garnish and enjoy.

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These Are a Few of My Favorite Things: A Negroni with Vinho Verde

posted in: Cocktails | 0

negroni recipe with wineIf you’re into booze, there’s a good chance your social feeds have been filled with images of Negronis for the past few days. That’s because it’s Negroni Week! And if you’re anything like me a few years ago, you’re all, “Cool, Negroni Week. But, wait. What the hell is Negroni Week?” Founded by Imbibe Magazine and Campari (one of the ingredients in the drink) in 2013, Negroni Week is a celebration of a classic, three-ingredient cocktail, as well as an effort to raise money for charitable causes around the world. For seven days, participating bars mix up variations on the Negroni, the a portion of the proceeds goes to charity.

The Negroni in its simplest form is quite easy: one part gin, one part sweet vermouth, and one part Campari. And that simplicity is why people love making riffs on it. Obviously, The Boozy Bungalow is not a bar, and I’m not selling drinks (I’d probably go to jail for that), but I mixed up my own variation this year (just like I did last year) and I doubt anyone who’s been following me for a while is even the slightest bit surprised that I put vinho verde in my Negroni.

vinho verdeNow, you may be thinking: Wine in a Negroni?! That’s gonna get me drunk! And you’d be right. This is not a session cocktail. It is, however, strong and summery and easy to make, so if you like Negronis and vinho verde, you should give it a try. I’ve given you a recipe below, but the even simpler breakdown is one part Negroni to one part vinho verde. Get it!

Negroni Verde

INGREDIENTS

1 ounce gin
1 ounce Campari
1 ounce sweet vermouth
3 ounces vinho verde
Orange slice, for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Add all ingredients to a large wine glass or collins glass, and stir well. Add large ice cube or handful of ice, garnish with an orange slice, and enjoy!

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A Pineapple-Free Tiki Drink

posted in: Cocktails | 0

easy tiki drink recipeI’ve been in the mood to make tiki drinks lately. The cups are fun, the garnishes are fun, and I really need to up my rum consumption (I’ve been getting way too comfortable with whiskey and the truth is I’m a total rum dummy). But when I think of tiki drinks, I think pineapple juice. And that’s a problem because when I eat pineapple or have a drink with pineapple juice, the skin inside of my mouth literally burns off! It’s super weird and uncomfortable (though not entirely uncommon) and my theory is that my more extreme reaction probably has something to do with me being super pale and not able to to tolerate anything even remotely tropical; I also have a weird mango allergy, and while I realize it’s the source of all life on earth, the sun can go suck a dick. Anyway, I wasn’t going to let some stupid fruit hold me back from tiki time on a random Thursday afternoon at home alone, so I made a super easy tiki drink with no pineapple.

This pineapple-free drink still has all the tiki vibes, thanks to three kinds of fresh-squeezed citrus juice, fancy-ass rum, and some bitters you might already have on your home bar: Campari and Angostura Aromatic. And while my pineapple intolerance kept me from buying and wasting a whole fruit, it certainly did not stop me from plucking a single frond off of a grocery store pineapple and sliding it into my purse — hence the name the Furious Frond Burglar (the “furious” part is due to the fact that tiki mugs always look really fucking pissed, even though mine is just a pretty little piece of pottery).

easy tiki drink recipe

The Furious Frond Burglar

INGREDIENTS

2 ounces rum (I used Diplomático)
2 ounces fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice
2 ounces fresh-squeezed orange juice
1 ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice
¾ ounce simple syrup
½ ounce Campari
1 generous dash Angostura Aromatic bitters

DIRECTIONS

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker or wide-mouth mason jar with a handful of ice. Shake the shit out of it and strain into a tiki mug filled ⅓ of the way with crushed ice. Garnish with an orange wheel and pineapple frond (if you dare). Enjoy!

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DIY Kitchen Renovation Reveal!

posted in: Home Decor, Kitchen | 8

DIY kitchen renovation black paintHoly shit, you guys! I did it. Well, I didn’t do it all by myself. I had help from my husband Kyle, my Home Depot credit card (thanks for the mid-project limit increase/enabling, guys!), and my new BFF Shawn — who really gets all the credit and came over on the weekends to do all the things I thought I could do but actually had no business (or tools) attempting myself. With all that help, we renovated my kitchen in just about three weeks. I mean, I hardly slept, and I did mildly electrocute myself early on, but other than that, it all went fairly smoothly.

I could write The World’s Longest Blog Post about this kitchen renovation, but considering this is technically my first home decor post since my name change, and I’m still tired AF from all the renovation sleep deprivation, this is just the highlight reel. I’ll break down details for you later on. But if you have a question (like “What shade of black is that basic black paint?”), ask it in the comments and it could inspire a future post.

Now, before we get to the after, we have to start with the before. And we’re going way back — to when we bought this 1916 bungalow in 2013. The kitchen was a total shithole (almost bad enough to make us not want to make an offer) but I saw its potential and decided I could at least put some lipstick on that pig for a while. Lipstick in the form of paint, that is. Because paint makes everything better. Or at least look better. Of course, I didn’t know I was going to have a home decor blog five years ago — hell, I didn’t know I was going to have a home decor blog five weeks ago — so I wasn’t great about taking before pictures. But I did capture a few mid-paint-job shots before we moved in.

kitchen beforeI managed to make it okay enough. And after that initial mini makeover (removing some of the cabinet doors and painting the cabinets a dark gray, as well as painting the walls a cool gray color I immediately regretted), I made some additional improvements along the way, like swapping out the stainless cabinet hardware for brass, painting the walls a warm white, and putting black coin-dot rubber flooring over the most disgusting tile I’d ever seen (which you can see above). Stop-gap measures, you know?

Still, it wasn’t nice. It remained my least favorite room in the house. The countertops were old and cheap and gross, the almond sink was scratched and stained, and the bulky upper cabinets didn’t do anything to help the feel of the room — which doesn’t get a ton of natural light to begin with (okay, yeah, white might have been a better choice for the cabinets from the get-go).

diy kitchen renovation gray cabinets beforediy kitchen renovation gray cabinets beforeNot content with anything ever (I mean, the first home decor piece I ever wrote was called “My Design ADD” — who knew I’d get diagnosed with real ADHD a decade later?! — actually, anyone who’s ever met me), I needed to make it better, and prettier. MORE INSTAGRAM WORTHY. Plus, I got an assignment from the DIY Network: How to replace your kitchen cabinets with open shelving. Which I might have begged them to give me so I could convince Kyle that I had to do this. FOR WORK. (The piece isn’t live yet but I’ll update with a link when it is.)

Since my livelihood and future career prospects clearly depended upon this project, I DM’d Shawn and we hatched a plan! I should probably point out that four weeks ago, Shawn was just my high school friend’s husband. But 976 Instagram messages and three dust-filled weekends later, he’s basically the Jonathan Scott to my [whoever those blonde ladies are who boss around the construction dudes on HGTV]. I’m sure he’s about to get real sick of me and all my to-dos, but he’s launching his own renovation and restoration business, so at least I won’t be the only one telling him that my photo-worthy backsplash made of joint compound and paint will be JUST FINE.

shawn finley noble and oakBefore I knew it, I was chiseling away at shitty white tiles and taking a ton of plaster with them. The plaster was so old it had horse hair in it! Horse hair! Obviously, repairs needed to be made, and Shawn taught me how to skim. When left to my own devices, I used an entire 5-gallon bucket (and then some) of joint compound to fix up the rather small area where the backsplash had been. I regret nothing.

DIY Kitchen Remodel drywall and joint compound
We call this “The Demo Wall” because I want to take it down eventually. And we found a fucking pipe in it.

So cabinets got ripped down, walls got repaired, the sink and faucet got replaced, and I painted more meticulously than I’ve ever painted in my life (more on that and my magnificent black half wall another day). By the third weekend, we were putting up shelves. I’m super impressed that we did it so quickly, and that it turned out so well.

DIY kitchen renovation black paintTo be honest, the sink feels a little small, and is smaller than the two-compartment sink we took out (I fucked up the measurement) but it’s nice to have the additional counter space. Plus, I can fit a sheet pan, stock pot, or baby in it. And the smaller the sink, the fewer dishes will pile up in it. I hope. We can always cut a bigger hole later.

DIY kitchen renovation black paint

boob planter

DIY kitchen renovation black paint

 DIY kitchen renovation black paintJust when we thought we were finished, I decided that the spot where we do most of our prep was a bit too dark (black isn’t exactly the brightest color) and remembered I had this IKEA clamp light in a closet. I was worried about what to do with the super long cord, but I kind of dig my solution (though everyone else seems to hate it).
DIY kitchen renovation black paint

DIY kitchen renovation black paint

DIY kitchen renovation black paint
DIY kitchen renovation black paint

DIY kitchen renovation black paintI made two snap decisions mid-renovation, and I’m so glad I did. One was spray-painting the shelf brackets a bronze-y gold (they were white to begin with). The other was getting a sexy black ductless hood to go over the stove — even if I can’t manage to get a sexy picture of it.

DIY kitchen renovation black paint

DIY kitchen renovation black paintHere’s a little recap of what we did:

  • Removed the upper cabinets and backsplash
  • Patched and painted the walls
  • Replaced the countertops (IKEA Karlby)
  • Replaced the sink (Kohler Mayfield)
  • Replaced the faucet (Delta Trinsic in Champagne Bronze)
  • Replaced white outlets and switches with black ones
  • Painted the ceiling (god, that fucking sucked)
  • Replaced the light fixtures (Ceiling, Sink)
  • Repainted and polyurethaned the lower (and only remaining) cabinets
  • Installed a ductless hood (Winflo, 30-inch) which was the best decision ever!
  • Painted and installed the shelving brackets (Closetmaid)
  • Painted and installed the shelves (1″ x 12″ common boards)

Of course, there were lots of other little things, too but I’m trying to keep this from being The World’s Longest Blog Post. And remember: You can ask me anything in the comments, and I’ll write more about this soon. Just know that if you ask how much it all cost, I may curl up into the fetal position and put a blanket over my head like I do every time Kyle tries to talk to me about money. Honestly, I don’t even know how much I spent, but I’m guessing with all the overbuying I did (because who wants to rinse a fucking paint roller at 3 am) probably close to $2,500.

Totally worth it, right?! RIGHT.

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