[Guilt-free] Ginger Mint Slush

Last year when I saw The Soho's recipe for a mint ginger slush I immediately thought, "Ooo, I need to try that!"  And I had every intention to, but then, as you all know, there was a drought and my mint refused to grow.  But this year is a different story and my mint (both kinds) are thriving!  So I decided to adapt Natalie's recipe a bit to make my ginger mint slush a little zingier and guilt-free.

  • 12oz of Canada Dry Ten (or any diet ginger ale)
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • 10 to 14 mint leaves (I used sweet mint and my leaves were pretty small, so I used about 14)
  • a small piece of ginger (the size of about 4 nickels stacked together)
  • 2 to 3 cups of ice (depending on the consistency you want)
Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Serves 1 to 2 people.

In the end you're left with a really refreshing, cool treat that's perfect for a warm day.  I was experimenting and had all these ingredients on hand, but you could really tweak it to your liking.  I originally thought of adding the ginger because diet/low cal ginger ale tends to have less of a ginger taste to it (though I'm crazy about the Ten right now).  I was a little worried that the fresh ginger would be too overpowering, but it wasn't at all.  The flavor was definitely there, but it didn't smack you in the face or anything.  It would also be really tasty (if a little less guilt-free) with any of the Joia sodas or the Fresh Ginger ginger ales (though you wouldn't need the additional fresh ginger with these), but I've been having trouble finding both brands in Cincinnati lately.  Hopefully they turn up soon!

Unrelated to the ginger mint slush, I just found out some sad Cincinnati news...Mayberry, our favorite brunch spot in the city, will be closing after their brunch service on July 7th.  Such sad news!  It's such a great establishment with wonderfully delicious food and I will definitely miss it!  Antoine and I are hoping to go for brunch two more times before they close and I urge you to try it out if you've never been!  In case you missed it or have forgotten, I've blogged about Mayberry several times in the past: here, here and here.

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend!


[HLP]Weekend in Instagram

I don't know what happens when your best friend comes into town, but when mine comes for a visit we eat.  And from these Instagram photos it looks like that's about all we did.  But let me rewind a bit.  First Antoine and I cleaned the house like mad people, because no one should be subjected to our sloppiness but us.  I know there are crazy weird people out there who clean weekly or even daily, I just will never be that type of person.  I'm hardwired to clean only when I have to, i.e. before a trip, when we're expecting company, when my brain is about to explode from the utter messiness of our house.  I need something to motivate me, like a visit from my HLP, otherwise, I'd rather relax or do more important things like spend quality time with my boyfriend or cook or snuggle with my animals.

We recently discovered that if we give Cheese a tennis ball he will be completely distracted, which allows us to go about our business and clean without too much interruption.  He hits a certain point where the excitement of said tennis ball exhausts him so much that he has to pass out, with said tennis ball as close to him as possible, in case a human tries to take it back!

After cleaning like crazy people Thursday night, I was so excited to see Amanda after work on Friday!  Once she got into town we headed over to Ambar for some tasty Indian food.  Sorry, no picture of the delicious Indian food because we were just too famished to pause for a picture.  Afterwards we headed back to my house and chatted while I whipped up a batch of Montreal-style bagels for the next morning.  I made some chocolate chip ones this time which turned out very well. 

Saturday, we woke up, drank some iced coffee, ate a bagel and headed out for a walk around my neighborhood.  Two hours later we were exhausted and dehydrated!  Taking a 5 mile walk in 90+ degree weather in the sun probably wasn't my smartest ideas ever.  We collapsed when we got back to my house and drank as much water as we possibly could.  Then, after some showers, Amanda headed to Hyde Park to meet up with another friend, so Antoine and I ran some errands and got some Culver's.

Way to cancel out all the calories I burned on that walk, huh!?  If you've never had Culver's before, let me just say that the chocolate frozen custard will blow your mind!  For fast food ice cream it is insanely good!

Later that evening I mixed up some mojitos for Amanda and I and we planted ourselves in front of the tv to watch some Dr. Quinn.  Now, years ago Amanda and I embarked on this journey of watching all six seasons of this 90s tv show.  It was partly a bonding thing, partly something to do; a nostalgic idea of two best friends watching a show our kid-selves liked so much when we didn't even know the other existed.  Well, fast forward to this weekend...we just finished season five.  Only one more season to go!  It might have started as a fun little thing to do, but now it's more of a laborious commitment we intend to see through to the end.  Even if it kills us in the process (the last couple seasons have been difficult to make our way through...the show really goes downhill!  There's a reason why by the last couple seasons most of the viewers were women over the age of just got dull.)  So, when we find some time we grab a bottle of wine (or some mojitos) and we chip away at a couple episodes, forming our own running commentary along the way (usually we just note how utterly stupid the characters are or comment on the rugged yet sensitive creature that is Sully).  Hopefully, some day, we will finish it. 

Anyway, Cheese enjoyed our little Dr. Quinn viewing party and decided to snuggle with his aunt.

After three or so episodes of Dr. Quinn (and a couple alcoholic beverages) we decided we desperately needed cheese fries from PRC.  There really is nothing better than a little fried cheese covered food in your belly after a couple drinks.

Sunday was a lazy day.  We got up and laid around for a bit.  And then Amanda and I randomly started watching Heroes on Netflix.  We decided to take a lunch break and headed to Sitwell's for some 3 cheese melts and milkshakes.  Nothing better to time-warp us back to our college days than Sitwell's.  And the Milkway malt is like heaven with whipped cream on top.

With insanely full bellies we headed back to my house where I convinced Amanda to watch a couple more episodes of Heroes before she headed home.  Because that's what I do.  And really, she didn't need much convincing.
Once Amanda left, I just hung out on the couch with this guy being totally and completely lazy...watching Heroes.  I think Cheese was a little exhausted from all the excitement of having his Aunt Amanda in town...just a little.  Anyway, that's what I call a perfect Sunday!

How about you, how was your weekend?



Yay, it's finally Friday! Whew.  That took far too long.  I'm particularly excited today because my bestest friend, my HLP,  Amanda is coming into town this weekend!  Once I'm done with work today the quality best friend time begins.  Bring on the Indian food, the wine, and the Dr. Quinn!  (We're so wild and crazy.  We might even go for a walk or two!!  So daring and provocative, I know.)

Hopefully I can keep her from hiding behind any tvs while inebriated.  (Actually, this is from when she was trying to hook up the wii during our Girl's Cabin Weekend '13...and she just happened to be slightly intoxicated.)*

Any special plans in the works for you this weekend?  Whatever you end up doing, I hope you have a great time!  Though it will suck in comparison to the awesomeness that will be HLP-weekend, try not to dwell on that too much and enjoy the sunshine!  Oh, and happy first day of summer!  Though, hasn't it felt like summer all month long? For me, the beginning of June is always the start of the summer.  It just is.

*Sorry A, I couldn't's just too awesome not to share!


Montreal-style Bagels

When we went to Montreal for the first time this past February, we found ourselves craving bagels as soon as we returned home.  But not just any bagels though, Montreal-style bagels.  I quickly did some research and found out what made these bagels so different from others I'd had.  Namely it's the addition of malt powder and egg, the lack of salt, the risen bagels are boiled in honey-water and then fired in a wood oven.  The wood-fire gives the outside this amazing, crusty texture and the malt powder and eggs brings a richness to the soft, chewy dough, while the honey bath makes them slightly sweet and unlike any bagel I've ever had before.  It's magic!

Well, I knew I couldn't recreate the wood-fire oven, not without a lot of money that is, but I could take care of the rest.  So I began searching for a recipe and quickly found this one, which had pretty good reviews.  Of course, I needed to get my hands on some malt powder first.  Not such an easy task!  I scoured grocery store shelves trying to find this elusive malt powder.  But Biggs didn't have it.  Kroger didn't have it.  I couldn't even find it at Jungle Jim's.  So in the end I got some from Amazon.  Now I was ready.  This past weekend I decided to make a half batch/test batch to see how they turned out.  The recipe was pretty easy, though a little time consuming...but I like making bread so I'm used to wasting a little time in the kitchen kneading and letting things rise (note: it's not nearly as time consuming as some of the breads I've made!).  A half batch makes 6 bagels.  I actually formed one of mine into a pretzel, so I ended up with five bagels and a pretzel.

 Each bagels gets a dip in the boiling honey water for 90 seconds before they get baked in the oven.  I was a little concerned because they didn't rise much before the bath, but then they plumped up while they were in the boiling honey-water, so no worries!

 As I said I made one pretzel with a little kosher salt on the top, which was tasty.  Then I made one plain, two cheese (using some sliced fontina we had), one cinnamon sugar, and one salt.  All were delicious!

I think the cinnamon-sugar and the salt were actually my favorite.  The dough is nice and chewy, and the honey-water gives it a great subtle sweetness.  

Since my best friend is coming into town this weekend (YAY!!!) so I'm going to give another batch a go.  I'll definitely be adding chocolate chips into the mix, since that's my favorite type of bagel!  Have you ever had Montreal-style bagels?


Favorite Moments (from Instagram)

Hi everyone!  Hope you had a great weekend!?  Mine was pretty relaxed, which was nice.  We finally saw Star Trek, it was fantastic!  The entire cast is just phenomenal and the movie felt like it was over in a flash!  Have you seen it?

The other day I was looking through my Instagram photos on my phone and I was struck by all the photos from this year so far and all the wonderful moments they brought to mind.  And how thankful I am for those moments and the great people (and furry creatures) in my life.  I thought I'd share some photos and reminisce a little with you since we're nearly halfway through what has been a great year so far.

My little furry babies make me so happy, even when they're driving me nuts!  Here's a photo of each of them being ridiculously cute and cuddly in bed.

I perfected my challah bread making skills around Christmas (using this recipe), so challah bread french toast was a delicious outcome.

This is from our trip to Montreal over my birthday.  We went to Fairmount Bagels and couldn't wait to try them out so we stopped by a bench and feasted on some in the freezing cold wind, it was heavenly.

 I adore it when Cheesy curls himself up into a little ball on cold nights.

A definite downside to this year was fracturing my ankle.  After a couple days in the house waiting for the swelling to go down so I could put I boot on I was going stir crazy, so Antoine took me to our favorite sushi spot.  I hobbled in on crutches and enjoyed some tasty sushi, but it tasted even better because I was out in the world and not stuck in the house.  Sushi never tasted so good. 

 Visits to Cleveland to see my best friend are always great!  But throw in a trip to Melt and I'm one happy lady!

I'm sure you haven't forgotten my slightly insane promise to myself that I would not miss the magnolias this year.  Well, it began with an extra long lunch from work to take as many magnolia photos as I could.  I fondly remember finding a little quiet spot in Spring Grove Cemetery and sitting in the sunshine, eating my lunch for a couple minutes in between taking pictures. 

Saturday mornings are for Guillermo.  It's his time to snuggle with me, while Antoine and the dog are still sleeping.  So sweet!

 I love weekends when Antoine and I have no plans and just run around town doing random errands and stopping at places here and there.  Like this time when we decided to drive all the way to Eastgate to look at plants and then we enjoyed some tasty soft serve in the sun together.  So simple, yet so lovely.

I think it's pretty well documented that ice cream is one of my favorite things about summer.  So are walks with my little family around our neighborhood.  Whether it's a short walk with Antoine and Cheese (Cheese gets tired easily and will just stop walking) or long walks with Antoine or my sister, it's always a good time.

One of my favorite things of this year so far has been our trip to Seattle and Olympic National Park, and of that trip Lake Crescent stands out.  The stillness of the lake and the beauty of it made me so thankful to be there with Antoine and share that with him.

I'm so looking forward to the rest of the year, making more memories with the people I'm crazy about!


Vent Haven Museum

This year I decided to join the Cincinnati Book Arts Society (aka CBAS, pronounced "sea-bass").  It's something I had thought of doing for sometime, but when my coworker Veronica joined our department and started talking how great CBAS was and all the cool things she got to do and make I was envious.  So far this year timing hasn't been on my side and I've missed a couple of events.  But I was really excited to go on the study group's field trip to Vent Haven Museum last weekend.

As it bills itself, Vent Haven is "the world's only museum dedicated to the art of ventriloquism".  I knew the museum was somewhere in Kentucky, but had no idea it was so close to Cincinnati; just across the river in Fort Mitchell.  Now, I knew nothing about ventriloquism or "vents" (as ventriloquists are referred)...well, besides for watching the Lamb Chop tv series growing up and the very very little I know of Jeff Dunham.
Well, and I was familiar with the creepy connotations that go along with ventriloquist dummies too, from scary movies and the like.  To say my knowledge of ventriloquism was very limited would be putting it nicely.  But I will confess, I was a little worried that the museum would be creepy and maybe a little scary.  Luckily, that was not the case at all.

Vent Haven is situated, oddly enough, on a little residential street.  This is because the museum is based on the personal collection of William S. Berger who lived in the residence that sits in front of the actual museum.  You can read more about Berger on their website, it's a really interesting story.  Berger's collection, along with a variety of donations over the years, has left the museum with approximately 800 dummies in three different buildings.  It's an incredible collection, even if you are like me and you are not a ventriloquist aficionado.

Tours are done by reservation only, for a $10 donation fee ($5 if you have a larger group like ours).  Jennifer, the curator of the museum, will tell you all about Berger, the history of his collection and the museum, as well as demonstrate how the dummies functions and tell you loads of incredible stories about various dummies and ventriloquists.
This is Jennifer demonstrating how the pulls work in this particular dummy.
Cecil Wigglenose is definitely a favorite!  He's so expressive with 8 different actions he can perform; crossing his eyes, raising his eyebrows and wiggling his nose, to name just a few.  As you can see, his inner workings are a bit different from the one above.
As we were going through the museum, I wasn't at all freaked out by the dummies.  Instead I was captivated by them, all so different and interesting in their own way.  Plus, Jennifer's energetic and positive attitude is just infectious and she gives you such an appreciation for ventriloquism and for the dummies themselves!

I found these particularly intriguing (top right and bottom), as did many in our group, because they look so real.
Johnny, the third from the left on the top row, was definitely one of my favorites.  He's just got so much personality to him.

I had the best time at Vent Haven!  In fact, it was probably one of the most interesting museums I've ever been to; I would go again in a heartbeat.  With so many dummies and all the walls lined with old photos, it's one of those places that you can go again and again and not see everything!  I do have more photos that I took but didn't share can find them on my flickr.

Have you ever been to Vent Haven before?  Would you go?  I know a lot of you probably think from the photos that it is creepy, but trust me, it's not!  The combo of the wonderful curator and the refreshing layout of the museum is just leaves you with a sense of amazement!


Kubota Gardens

You've made it!  The last and final Seattle/Olympic recap post!  Feel proud of yourself that you've made it and stuck with me through all my endless posting...hello?  Is anyone still there?!

Anyway, for our last stop in Seattle we headed to the Kubota Garden, just a couple exits away from the airport.  Kubota is, yet again, a free garden in Seattle that's open to the public and blends Japanese concepts with a variety of Pacific Northwest plants.  This place is huge.  I think we only saw about a third of it.  There are main paths that lead to different areas of the garden and then there are a ton a little paths you can take that will take you...well, it's usually a mystery where you'll end up, but that's half the fun.  Again, it's dog friendly and a great spot for a picnic or just a relaxing stroll over little bridges and through endless bushes of rhododendron.  We had a great time walking around and exploring, even if it was a little difficult to find the entrance/exit at the end.

Everything is a bit overgrown, but in a charming and approachable way. 
Rhododendron everywhere you turn.
I love these, whatever they are?
A crazy little bridge over a pond.
We had a great time at Kubota Garden, walking around and taking random little paths to wherever they would lead us.  It's a great spot to kill time before a flight, or if you want a relaxing place to walk around that's a little outside the city, this is it.

So, that's it.  The last of the Seattle/Olympic National Park posts.  We had such a great time and it was a wonderful mix of nature and city.  I wouldn't have changed a thing about it.  Our favorite Olympic NP things was definitely Lake Crescent and our favorite Seattle thing was probably the market tour and all the delicious food we got to eat.  I can't wait to return someday and see a bunch of awesome stuff that we missed on this trip!  Oh, and eat lots of delicious seafood bisque!  Mmm.  

I hope you've enjoyed my horrendously drawn-out recap of our trip and I didn't bore you with too many pictures of flowers.  And no worries, you won't have to put up with another trip recap until October when we head to Texas.  Until then, lots of summer-time local Cincinnati/Ohio goodness.


Volunteer Park and Conservatory

Luckily, on our last day in Seattle our flight back to Cincinnati (via Atlanta) didn't leave until 11pm, so we had plenty of time to go out and explore the city.  We spent the morning eating delicious white chocolate macadamia nut ginger scones from Dahlia Bakery (YUM!) and leisurely packing.  Then we hit up Brave Horse Tavern for lunch (quite tasty!) before making our way up to Volunteer Park.

Volunteer Park is just one of many great Seattle parks that are free!  And dog friendly.  It's home to the Asian Art Museum, a floral conservatory and a water tower.  Plus there's green spaces to have picnics and gatherings, flowers everywhere and even a couple koi ponds.  What's not to like?
I noticed tons of poppies in Seattle, which you don't see much in Ohio.

We decided to hike up the steps of the water tower since we had so much time before our flight, and we were glad we did.
The view from the water tower was pretty great.  You could see downtown and puget sound, as well as some more residential areas.
Going down the steps of the water tower.

Our main reason for going to Volunteer Park was to check out the conservatory.  Floral conservatories are usually one of the things we enjoy visiting when we travel to a new city.  Surprise, surprise.
Overall the conservatory was pretty small, but they had a great selection of orchids and cacti.  As well as a spring room filled with lilies and hydrangea that smelled heavenly.
Not sure what type of flower this is, but it's pretty isn't it?! 

For $4 per person the Volunteer Park Conservatory was definitely worth it and the park itself seems like a great spot to hang out and relax under a tree with a little picnic.  

Stay tuned tomorrow because it's the last and final Seattle post!  I swear.  You've nearly made it, after two and a half weeks of nonstop posts.  So don't miss it!