shaken, muddled and stirred {life}


Let's take a break from Paris and London shall we? Fear not! I have more to say(!). Still, if I could use a break writing about it, I figure you guys could sure use a break reading about our travels, yes? And what says "Let's take a break!" better than cocktail hour?

A confluence of events had us making some cocktails Sunday evening. Part of the story was simply that I felt better. I knew I did because the idea of standing in the kitchen was appealing rather than appalling. Part of it was that we'd had some great drinks on our trip, and part of it was that we'd simply been thinking of doing it for some time now. Making some new drinks. Trying some new flavors. Mixing things up, so to speak, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic.

On Saturday night, my friend Marianne had been given a drink that was light and refreshing and featured blueberry vodka (Shudder) (Where do they come up with these flavors?) (From fresh squeezed blueberries?) and lemonade. On a hot summer night it was surprisingly delightful. And here's the thing. Somehow we'd managed to end up with a bottle of Kurant Vodka and we weren't sure what to do with it. 

By Sunday morning, an idea was born. 

 The Cocktail to Be Named Later
Lemon Thyme Simple Syrup (recipe follows)
Absolut Kurant Vodka
Sparkling Lemonade
Club Soda
Thyme Sprigs for garnish

In an old fashioned glass, muddle a handful of blackberries with 1-1.5 teaspoons of the simple syrup. Add 2 measures of Kurant vodka and fill glass with lemonade. Top with a splash of club soda and a sprig of thyme.

I'm always on the lookout for non-alcoholic drinks that feel celebratory and don't taste like fruit punch. For a non-alcoholic version of this, increase the ratio of blackberries, syrup, and lemonade and the eliminate vodka (!) and club soda. This got a thumbs up from both me and Callum!

Lemon-Thyme Simple Syrup 

If you like to make cocktails, simple syrup is something you really should consider having on hand. It's super easy to make (hence the name), and lends a lightly sweet and yet subtle flavor to your drinks. We have basic simple syrup, but for this cocktail I used Lemon-Thyme Simple Syrup.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
4-8 springs thyme (We happened to have lemon thyme in the garden, because you know, Neel.)
3-4 thin slices of lemon

In a small saucepan, bring all ingredients to a gentle boil until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool and store, up to three months in the refrigerator. You can strain the solids out of the liquid, but for a more intense flavor (and a prettier bottle), keep them in. This versatile syrup can be used in place of sweetener in many ways, including iced tea, lemonade or cocktails. Stirred into Pimms (along with some lemonade) added another dimension to our beloved cocktail.

So until our Kurant vodka runs out, we have a refreshing summer drink. All we need is a name. Any thoughts? We're taking suggestions. And f you happen to make yourself a version of it, let me know how it turns out! 

brussels {life}


I've been reading the memoir The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn. Have you read her stuff? Her first book, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry is one of my all-time favorite memoirs. When I first read it (and I've read it a lot), I was working for a small, struggling private school, and I had this epiphany to write a memoir about how this school came back from the brink. I was going to journal the whole year and bring all the amazing personalities of that place to the printed page. And then my astonishing success would bring untold riches to the school and pull it back from the brink. Well, that year didn't turn out at all like I expected. The little school is trucking along quite nicely, we're no longer there, and my dreams of a memoir died.

I still love the book. Who knows, maybe I'll still write a memoir someday. Writing like this, and taking pictures suits me just fine.


In Kitchen Counter Cooking School Flinn uses the skills she learned at Le Cordon Bleu to help average folk (like you and me!) learn their way around a kitchen. She teaches them shopping basics, knife skills and simple recipes to bring them away from processed and fast foods and back to good, simple, healthy cooking in the kitchen. I always like books that secretly make me want to be a better me. Self-help books not so much, but books that subtly show me a way to be. That's nice. Flinn's books are good like that. She talks about how differently the French shop from Americans, and I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. Hitting the stores nearly every day. Smaller fridges. Fresher food, less meat. You know what I'm saying.

Honestly, I'd love to shop like this. I should shop like this, and there's no reason why I can't. I have flexibility and time (sort of). It's routine and laziness (I guess) that holds me back. I'm used to mapping out our meals for the week and doing a big weekend shop (Neel and Callum need a Saturday hoagie, you know.). It would take a major alteration of my system and routine to re-tool the way we eat, but I think I could do it. Couldn't I? How do you shop? Are any of you more successful at the small-stop shopping that I am? What are your tips? I have a lot to learn, but I'd love to try to learn how to do it. I guess I need to keep reading.


I've been doing better on the side dishes, as per my resolutions. Poor Callum hates brussels sprouts. Neel has always liked them, and I've just discovered that I do. I can't fault Cal, nor can I complain. He lists two items among those that he won't eat. Only two. Mushrooms and brussels. I have faith that he'll grow out of hating both. We'd been making brussels around here this fall, but very rarely. I think Remedial Eating had the first recipe I tried. Braised. With bacon. Bacon. How bad could they be?


My friend Seamane introduced us to her way of preparing brussels when we spent Thanksgiving with them, and it pretty much trumped mine. As simple as you can make them. Minus the bacon.


Halve your brussels or quarter the big ones and spray a cookie sheet with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pop 'em in an oven. I think I do it around 350 degrees for awhile. Until they turn brown and crispy. Crispy is important because who wants slimy brussels? That's the whole problem with brussels in the first place. Seamane serves them with balsalmic to dip and that's pretty awesome, but I'm thinking some bacon would be pretty awesome too.

One quick note. Many of you know and enjoy my friend Mark from his comments here on my blog. He and his partner Fred and their family mean the world to us and they have a very big day ahead of them today. If you have a second, please pop over to his blog and show him some support.