I wrote this post as part of the Plugrá Butter Brigade. Thanks, Plugrá, for sponsoring this post and for making my favorite butter!
Some people are so good at friending. They drop a thoughtful gift by your house out of nowhere. They buy those blank-inside cards to write you a letter instead of looking for the ones with a prewritten message. They’re superb at keeping in touch.
Then there’s me. I have about the same talent at friending that I have at crafting, which is to say: none. I try! I'm just missing some critical relationship-building link in my brain somewhere, I think.
Who even am I, you guys? Just this past week, I've taken up a craft, put up two items that could be considered Christmas decor in my apartment, and made homemade eggnog for the first time. I'm basically Martha Stewart now. Except for the multimillion dollar empire. Whatev.
One of the things I love about the middle school where I teach is that the students learn how to be entrepreneurs by running their own business. We have dedicated time every week called Marketplace where they produce and price inventory they will sell at the Farmers’ Market on Saturday. We raise chickens and bees to sell eggs and honey, make pottery, produce a literary journal, and create a whole host of crafts to sell. I'm in charge of the literary journal, since I've never had a crafting bone in my body — until now!
I went to school in fuzzy, adorable duck pajamas every day because I couldn't be bothered to be uncomfortable while I was being subjected to high school. Ugh. They could make me attend, but they weren't going to make me wear real clothes while doing it. I didn't actually sleep in the pajamas: I just woke up and changed from my nightgown into them.
Once I got sent home for inappropriate attire, which I viewed as a huge injustice. The assistant principal couldn't really explain why the duck pajamas were inappropriate. They just were. She said it "should be obvious" to me. It wasn't. (I argued that they covered me from head to toe and only differed from "regular clothes" in that they had ducks all over them. Were ducks offensive? HUH? WERE THEY? I was That Kid. In what can only be described as educator karma, I've had That Kid in my classes plenty of times now that I'm a teacher.)
I had plenty of other struggles in addition to my duck pajama drama. More serious ones, at that: depression, eating disorders, self harm, terrible time management, and anxiety. I didn't understand why things were so hard for me. I didn't understand why I couldn't connect easily with other people. I wrote lots of poetry and checked out of everything except my work -- and Mike. As many days as I could manage it, I skipped school (with my mom's permission! I was a rule-challenger, but not a rule-breaker) and drove to Mike's apartment in my little blue Pontiac Sunbird.
Mike worked from home, so I always knew he'd be there (I still always know he'll be there. BRB, crying.) This was before I owned a cell phone, so I didn't call first: I just walked up and knocked on his bedroom window. One of the very best feelings was leaving a hard school day and then seeing him open the door in his baggy sweatpants and long ponytail (he used to have the longest, curliest hair!), grinning and excited to see me. I'd spend the whole evening with him (well, until 8:30, when I had to drive home because of my provisional license curfew.) We usually made Hamburger Helper and ate it while watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on his uncomfortable couch.
It's funny. I typically think of high school as one of the hardest times in my life, and in plenty of ways it was. But reminiscing about those days with Mike made me realize that those Star-Trek-filled evenings on the couch were some of the best of my life, only topped by the Star-Trek-filled evenings in our first home together now. (BRB, crying again.)
Another sweet aspect of this new stage in our relationship? We're not babies anymore, so now we can drink together (and drive after 9 pm! Livin' la vida loca!) We loved this sangria recipe from Bobby Flay. We even poured some in the ice cream maker and turned it into sangria slushies to combat the summer heat. Drink it outside with lots of snacks. Happy summer!
It's summertime, and that means ice cold cocktails on the patio! This sangria is kickin' and fruity. Mike and I enjoyed it (and sangria slushies!) on the balcony with snacks.
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 bottles red wine (I used this article from The Kitchn to choose Garnacha and Tempranillo)
1 cup brandy
1/2 cup triple sec
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pomegranate juice
Pomegranate seeds (I skipped these)
Make simple syrup by heating the water and sugar together over high heat in a small saucepan, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour into a separate dish and allow to cool completely (I stick mine in the fridge after a bit to hurry it along.)
Pour the cooled simple syrup, wine, brandy, triple sec, orange juice, pomegranate juice all into a huge pitcher (mine was too small, which led to lots of spillover when I added the fruit.) Stir to mix. Add the fruit and stir gently. Cover tightly and store 24 hours in the fridge before serving to let all the flavors meld.
For slushies: Put about 2 cups of your finished sangria (with fruit strained out) into an ice cream machine for around 25 minutes. It takes longer to freeze than regular ice cream or sorbet because of the high alcohol content. Spoon your slush into a shallow bowl or cake pan and stick it in the freezer for 30 minutes, stirring/scraping every 10 minutes or so, or until it’s the consistency you want. Transfer to glasses and serve with sangria-soaked fruit on top!
Pro-tip: To keep sangria cold without watering it down, pour some of your sangria into ice cube molds after making it and freeze overnight as your sangria chills. These ice cubes come out adorable and can double as boozy popsicles.
Facebook is driving me up the wall (pun intended). In the past, Willow Bird Baking's Facebook page has been sort of a "home base" for us to chat about all sorts of topics. I share new posts, sure, but we also discuss everything from which way you put your toilet paper on the roll to your favorite trashy snacks. Silly discussions, serious discussions, advice exchanges, "share your favorite song" dance parties, and the occasional Pepsi vs. Coke argument -- you name it, we've talked about it. We've had so much fun over the years.
Now, however, things are changing.
Now, Facebook is hiding my posts from the majority of my followers. The algorithms they use to decide what shows up on your newsfeed have gotten very aggressive. Though Willow Bird Baking has over 10,800 Facebook followers, only about 400 see my posts at any given time. This means discussions that used to be huge and fascinating are now pretty tiny (although still fun!) And it means plenty of you who would probably enjoy joining in and commenting might never even see the post!
Facebook's motive is simple: they want page owners to pay to promote their posts and get them seen. They're a business after all. I get it. But it still makes me sad that I can't reach people who said they want to be reached. I've been brainstorming solutions and I think I've found a couple of great ones!
First is the easy part: if you like, comment on, and share my Willow Bird Baking Facebook posts, you'll see them in your newsfeed more reliably. But I'd love a way for you to see EVERYTHING you WANT to see, period. That's where my newsletter comes in!
I've created a new weekly newsletter for those of you who love to share in the community here. If you sign up, you'll get an email once a week that'll have a newsy update, links to all the fun discussions we've had on Facebook that you can join in (so you won't miss any), and special bonus features. Sometimes there might be an extra secret recipe, or sometimes a chance to win a gift. I really just wanted a fun, easy place to keep in touch now that Facebook can't quite be trusted. 'Cause I love you people.
Now, because I know how carefully I guard my email inbox, let me assure you: I won't email you more than once per week (unless you're also signed up for the #happymoments2014 challenge, in which case you'll get that email too). I won't share your email address. It's just a fun, low-pressure place for our lovely community to keep on goin' strong. Sign up by entering your email address below.
And now let's share a drink! I recently made a big pitcher of Mimosas (my favorite cocktail!) for a brunch get-together and they were so delicious. I've tried several recipes to find my favorite and this one definitely wins. Grab your favorite glass and enjoy.
Recipe by: Adapted from Inspired Taste
Yield: 1 pitcher of Mimosas (8 servings)
This is my favorite Mimosa recipe! Serve a big pitcher of Mimosas at brunch for a bright, fresh zing!
1 (750 mL) bottle of Prosecco, chilled
1/2 cup Triple Sec, chilled
3 cups (plus a smidge) pulp-free orange juice (I used a regular sweetened version), chilled
orange slices and raspberries for garnish
Make sure all of the ingredients are well chilled. Not long before serving, pour the champagne into the pitcher first. Add Triple Sec and then add orange juice. Adding the orange juice last will naturally mix the mixture so you don't have to stir and lose bubbliness. Add the orange slices and chill the mixture until ready to serve. To serve, pour into a champagne flute and add a few raspberries for color. Keep the pitcher chilled between rounds.