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May flowers are blooming everywhere, and this month’s cocktail is a floral surprise! While visiting Portland last spring, I took my coworkers to a little place I had found years before while in town for my friend Bobbi’s wedding. It’s called Veritable Quandary and it’s downtown by the waterfront. If you’re ever in Portland, I highly recommend it.
Anyway, that day they had a lavender lemondrop on special in the bar. I was intrigued and, after one sip of this libation, I was in heaven. I asked the bartender where they found lavender vodka and she said they infuse their own. She gave me the technique, which I will now share with you, combined with my standard lemondrop. Yes, it’s a bit more labor intensive than throwing together a rum and cola, but believe me, the flavors are amazing together!
Fill a cocktail shaker with ice. Measure the ingredients into the shaker, cover and shake for at least 30 seconds until very cold. Strain into 2 martini glasses with a sugared rim (if desired) and garnish with a thin slice of lemon.
- To infuse the vodka, purchase a fifth (750 ml) of the most inexpensive vodka you can find. Pour the vodka into a lidded, quart-sized pitcher (or any container large enough that has a lid). Place 2 heaping tablespoons of food-grade lavender into a square of cheese cloth and tie with kitchen twine. Place the lavender packet into the vodka, cover and let it sit in the refrigerator at least 10 to 14 days before using.
- Use only food-grade lavender. In other words, do not rip open the drawer sachet your mom gave you! I found lavender online from The Spice House at www.thespicehouse.com for $3.49 for a 1 oz. bag. It’s enough for at least 5 bottles of vodka, but lavender can also be used for cookies and ice cream (my next project!).
- To make sugar syrup (also called simple syrup), combine equal parts white sugar and water in a saucepan and heat, stirring occasionally, just until the sugar completely dissolves. Cool. (I usually use ½ c. increments.) This takes just a few minutes. The syrup may be stored in a covered container for weeks in the refrigerator. Sugar syrup is great for sweetening cold drinks in the summer such as lemonade or iced tea because the sugar is already dissolved.
- To rim the glasses with sugar, pour a small amount of white sugar (superfine if you can find it) on a plate large enough to fit the rim of the glass. Rub the rim of the glass with a wedge of citrus fruit and then dip in the sugar.
Enjoy a flower-filled May!Read More
With Mother’s Day just a few days away, here are some facts & figures and a great craft idea for a personal and unique gift for Mom.
Why We Celebrate Mom
The reason is simple: we love and honor our mothers. But setting aside a specific day – an actual government-declared holiday in the U.S – goes back (you guessed it!) to ancient times. Seems like honoring mothers is a universal and time-tested concept. In fact, Mother’s Day exists in some form throughout North America, most European countries, China, Japan and Australia.
Historians report that the ancient Romans and Greeks each had a mother goddess whom they honored with springtime rituals. In 17th century England, the tradition of “Mothering Sunday” was practiced on the fourth Sunday of Lent (thus falling roughly in the spring). Domestic servants would get the day off to return home to visit their mothers.
On the second Sunday of May 1905, a woman died in West Virginia. Two years later, her daughter Anna Jarvis held a ceremony in her honor. The daughter began a campaign to create a national holiday honoring mothers and the state of West Virgina was the first to adopt such a holiday in 1910. Then in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared that the second Sunday in May would be Mother’s Day.
The holiday quickly became commercialized, much to the chagrin of Ms. Jarvis. In 1923, she even filed a lawsuit to stop a Mother’s Day event and in another instance she was arrested for disturbing the peace at a mother’s convention. She never married nor had children; she died in 1948.
The Language of Flowers
Carnations are the official flowers of Mother’s Day; they have symbolized mother-love since Biblical times when carnations were said to have grown from the tears Mary cried on the way to the Crucifixtion. In modern times, white carnations represent a mother who has died, while red carnations symbolize a living mother.
Flowers have retained strong symbolic meanings throughout history, and the same flower may have multiple and different meanings in different cultures. Medieval depictions of Catholic saints often included the flower which symbolized the virtue or characteristic of that saint. Still life paintings were carefully constructed with a moral to the story based on the flowers, fruits, bugs and birds on the canvas. In Victorian England, entire conversations were carried on through the bouquets of would-be lovers; every blossom in the bouquet carried its own meaning. Entire literary volumes were dedicated to the science of floral meanings, and there is even a report of a lawsuit arising from the wrong flower making its way into a bride’s bouquet. (The florist substituted a flower which signified a funeral and the judge agreed with the bride that the flower was inappropriate.)
A few meanings have managed to make their way through the centuries and into popular culture. The red rose still signifies passionate love, while the yellow rose stands for friendship. Here are some more popular flowers and their meaning, just in case you’d like to present a potted flower or bouquet to your mom this year:
Sunflowers – respect and pride
African violets – spirituality and peaceGardenia – joy
Iris – power, hope, affection and grace
Geraniums – nurturing and blessings in life’s simple details
Lily – happiness and prosperity
Tulip – abundance; living life fully
For more on the language of flowers, check out www.thelanguageofflowers.com for a complete list of varietals and their meanings.
Mother’s Day Gift Idea
Is your mother one of those women who “has everything” and you’re just not sure what to get her this year? Would you like to give her something unique and personal, but finances are tight?
Here is an idea that is easy to create and sure to please your mom: a personalized keepsake box. Now you might think, “my mom has a dozen little boxes already.” But not like this! Even the most unsentimental mother is sure to appreciate the time and love you put into this box.
My mom loved to play the dice game Yahtzee®. She started me playing the game when I was about five years old, and it was one of our favorites ways to pass the time together. Eventually she got my brother in on the act, too, and we would sit and play the evening away, talking about our respective days. (I think my mom knew that distracting teenagers was the best way to get them talking. That, and we learned some mean addition skills!) She and I enjoyed the game for more than 30 years.
For Mother’s Day in 2002 I made my mom a Yahtzee® themed keepsake box out of an old stationery box. It was just the right size to hold the score cards, dice and pens. I had my brother fill out a couple of score cards, and I did the same, which I copied onto pastel paper to decoupage on the top and inside the box. On the inside of the lid I decoupaged color copies of a few photos of all of us on family trips over the years. I raised the box up on mint-colored dice (they glow in the dark!) for more effect.
Well, the box was a hit that Mother’s Day and for years to come. After my mom passed away, I discovered that she used it for more than Yahtzee® gear—she also stored Mother’s Day cards and “wheatie” pennies that my brother would send her from time to time. That let me know that she really did treasure the box.
For your treasure box, think about your mom’s hobbies, talents and joys. Is there something you and she do together? A favorite poem that makes you think of her? Does she love going to the beach? How would you describe your mother? Cut out those words from magazine and decoupage them along with color copies of family photos, or photos of her at various stages in her life. Make it memorable and personal. Once you have your idea, assemble a few supplies and create this one-of-a-kind gift.
Decoupage medium (available at craft stores)
Decorative elements (stickers, color copies of photos, paper cut outs, etc.)
4 items to use as feet (wooden blocks or balls, large glass beads, river stones, etc.)
1. Prime all areas of the box that you intend to decorate, such as the outside of the box lid and body. If you want to decorate the inside of the box as well, prime it. Allow to dry completely. (This is important!)
2. Paint the box with acrylic craft paint in color(s) of your choice to create a background for the decorative elements. Allow to dry completely.
3. Follow the instructions on the decoupaging medium and decoupage the decorative elements in a pleasing design. Be sure that all edges of all decorative elements are completely sealed in. Allow to dry, then apply a top coat of the medium. (It will dry clear.)
4. If desired, line the bottom interior of the box with felt or velvet fabric.
5. Attach feet to the box using hot glue.
No time to get it together for Mother’s Day? This makes a great birthday or Christmas gift, too.
- Decoupage medium is essentially white craft glue and water and is used as both an adhesive and a sealant. It is available at craft stores and comes in either glossy or matte finish.
- Use a lidded box from around the house, or purchase a plain box at any craft store.
- Make sure there is enough “play” between the box lid and body. If if the lid is already fairly snug, it will become more snug (and maybe not fit at all) once it’s painted and covered with decorations. So, if it’s snug, be sure not to decorate the inside lip of the box cover and top edge of the box body, to ensure the lid will fit.
- If you want to use photos to decorate the box, be sure to use color copies. They are thinner and easier to adhere and seal in with the decoupage medium.
- Get creative with the feet! Think of items that relate to the overall theme of your box. Miniature pots and pans would be ideal for a recipe-themed box, or wooden spools for a craft-themed box.
More ideas to get you started …
Inspirational box: print out a copy of Mom’s favorite poem and use that as the centerpiece on the lid. Incorporate related images cut from a magazine along with family photos.
Puzzle box: have a jigsaw puzzle made from a favorite family photo. Use a color copy of the photo on the lid of box and place the puzzle pieces inside.
Crossword box: create a “crossword” pattern in a word processing program. Print it out and fill in a few words so they intersect (like a crossword puzzle) such as “LOVE YOU” or “BEST MOTHER.”
Travel box: copy photos of Mom’s favorite locales and decorate the box along with copies of ticket stubs, maps and other mementos.
More Mother’s Day Facts
- Mother’s Day is the busiest day of the year for telephone call volume; one cellular phone carrier reports at least a 13 percent boost in usage on Mother’s Day.
- About 162 million greeting cards will be sent for Mother’s Day, making it the third largest card holiday. It is the second largest holiday for gift giving, behind Christmas.
- According to a survey by the National Retailers Federation, shoppers will spend $14.1 billion to honor the moms, stepmoms, grandmothers and other significant women in their lives this year. More than two-thirds will go for flowers, and slightly more than half will take Mom to dinner or brunch. Other popular gift items including jewelry ($2.3 billion!); gift cards; clothing and accessories; personal services such a spa day; electronics, housewares and books and CDs.Read More