Mojito Summer

Mojito Rum

The kids are off school, the weather is warm, and I’ve lost my will to live. That means it’s summer time in California. I’m going to do a summer movie roundup for you soon but for now, let’s talk about the cocktails of summer. What cocktails do you like to drink in the hot months? The classic G&T is the One True Cocktail to Rule Them All, as I’ve said before. (Hendrick’s gin, Feverfew tonic, a sprig of rosemary. Trust. Me.) 

That gauntlet thrown down, I realize not everyone loves a cocktail that is as bitter as my soul. I’m generally not a fan of rum drinks because they are usually so damn sweet, but I have collected a whole lot of Mojito recipes over the years, and I think it’s time to branch out and try a few of them this summer. 2017, the year of the Mojito. Why not? Do you know how to make a classic mojito? The basic recipe is pretty easy: Mint, lime, white rum, sugar, and club soda. (I leave the sugar out of mine.) Of course, it’s endlessly mess-withable. Here is a roundup of some of the best looking mojitos I found on the interwebs.

Grapefruit Mint Mojito I have a grapefruit tree AND a mint plant in my backyard. Coincidence? I think not.

Ginger Peach Mojito This recipe is for a mocktail. But add rum to mine, thankyouverymuch.

Orange Basil Mojito For sure I would cut back the amount of simple syrup in this, because I think it would be sweet enough with the orange juice. Also: orange tree and tons of basil in my back yard. Just sayin’.

This Cranberry Mojito is listed as a holiday drink, which is dumb because holidays are for red wine. Nonetheless I realize it might be tough to find cranberries in the summer. Too bad, as this looks quite refreshing. You could always use the bottled cranberry juice if you want this now.

Strawberry Basil Mojito Easy peasy. If you aren’t down with the basil, use mint instead. Strawberry AND basil AND mint in my yard. Are we seeing a theme here? The theme is Gardening Is Good For You.

Watermelon Mojito I’m sure it’s delicious. Looks boring though, right? Get some fancy straws or something.

Lavender Blueberry Mojito Yes, this is just sophisticated Kool-Aid but I don’t care. I want a purple drank.

The thought of coconut rum kind of freaks me out a little bit (does it taste like Coppertone? More importantly, why do I know what Coppertone tastes like?) but I prolly wouldn’t turn down these Frosty Coconut Mojitos.

This Kiwi Blueberry Mojito looks more like a fruit salad than a cocktail. So, you know. It’s health food. But I’m not down with that blue stuff around the edge of the glass. I’m a grown ass lady. Please do not put Pop Rocks on my cocktail kthanksbye.

I love the looks of this Inside Out Mojito but I am never going to make mint infused ice cubes. You all know that about me. Never. Ever.

If you want your Mojito in dessert form, like for example if you are pregnant or you don’t homeschool four children and therefore you don’t need alcohol in your life, I offer you the following mojito themed desserts:

I’ve cooked a few different recipes from the Broma Bakery website and they are always delicious. I’m sure these Mojito Cupcakes will not disappoint.

Not gonna turn down this Mojito Pie (even though it is not a pie, come on.) Bonus: this is a no bake recipe.

No Churn Mojito Ice Cream Drizzle some rum over that scoop of ice cream and I think we have a winner.

Citrus Basil Mojito Popsicles look fun. Not sure if they’d freeze if you add the optional rum though.

Your turn friends – what is your favorite iteration of a mojito?

Happy almost summer! Don’t drink and drive. Also don’t drink and text, drink and shop, or drink and get a haircut. It’s all dangerous.

OXO

Julie

PS – Your weekend giggle:

Money

 

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Dinner, Summer Books, Double Draw

Fixing Lights

A rabbi, a priest, and a cowboy walk into a bar.

And the bartender says, “What is this, a joke?”

That’s my all time favorite joke. Try to beat it.

No, seriously, please try. I think we all need as many laughs as we can get these days.

While we are waiting for more humor, I have some fun links for your Saturday:

Dinner Party: Have you thrown one lately? I’m due to have some friends over for a bottle and a gossip. I actually think this menu for a $40 Dinner Party looks really good. Well, it looks mostly good. “Hand Salad” is stupid I won’t have any part of that nonsense. It doesn’t say hip and trendy to me. It says I’m too lazy to chop lettuce like a grown ass lady. And obviously I have to point out that the $40 only includes food. Which is cool. Save money on food so you can drink better wine.

Do you read any differently in the summer? People evidently tend to like lighter fare in the warmer months? I don’t know. My habits don’t really change all that much throughout the year. In fact, I kind of like to pick up a giant brick of a book during the summer months, because I have more leisure time (that sound you just heard was Mr. Joe Strauss, who just laughed so hard he fell out of his chair and hit his head on the floor.) Anyway, I love this fun list of 17 Books Everyone Will be Talking About This Summer. I immediately went to my library catalog list and reserved them all, because they look great. Bring it on, beaches!

For more reading fun: check out this awesome list of 22 Books You Should Read Based on Your Childhood Favorites. I found myself nodding to a lot of these recommendations – yes, obviously if you liked Anne of Green Gables you will like Edna O’Brien. I especially love how they match up The Hobbit with Michael Chabon. Something about that feels symmetrical.

How is your creativity lately? Here is a fun, simple exercise to get your brain moving in a new direction: Double Draw. I tried this with a simple sunflower. The right hand (my dominant hand) looked like a melted clock. The left hand looked like maybe someone had just tazed me. Whatever. I have never bragged about my art skills.

OXO

JULIE

PS – Your Saturday laugh:

Need Coffee

 

 

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Sweet and Spicy

tennis ball

Hooray and Hallelujah! It sure took you long enough, weekend.

We are…

Celebrating: Back in the day, Mother’s Day was a Capital-E Event with brunches, nice dresses, and presents. But now I’m tired of those shenanigans. I work so much and my kids are running around all the time, so on Sunday I don’t want to go anywhere or do anything or wear nice clothes. I’m going to sleep in late, and then stay in my pajamas and read all day. My kids and husband can visit me bring me hot coffee and we can talk about happy things tell stupid stories and laugh. That is all. A super lazy day with my whole family in one house sounds like absolute bliss to this busy mom.

Eating: Recently at a fancy restaurant, I ate a mediocre burger with an amazing topping: candied jalapenos. Sounds strange, tastes wonderful. Sweet and spicy. (Just like me.) I’m going to make them at home and spoon them on everything. And by I’m going to make them, what I really mean is I’m going to ask my family to make them for me while I read in bed.  Wouldn’t they be good on a bagel with cream cheese? Or on avocado toast? Yum.

Reading: Each year a new psychological thriller is called this year’s Gone Girl until … when? When something is bigger? Why is Gone Girl the boss? In any case, I never pass up this year’s Gone Girl, whatever it is. Behind Closed Doors has that tagline on the cover, so of course I pulled it off my library’s new release shelf, and am sucked in.

Crafting: My kids are going to roll their eyes at me, but I love these Wes Anderson inspired woven tennis racquets so much. I’d like to get four racquets and weave a Pac-Man and some ghosts on the strings, and then line them up on the wall. It’s a weird craft anyway, so why not make it weirder? I can totally handle my kids’ scorn.

Listening: This is not a new album, but I’ve been playing Hozier nonstop lately. Especially the song ‘Jackie and Wilson.’ I want to blast it while driving up the coast in a convertible on a hot day. It’s a perfect combination of sexy and melancholy and enraged. (Again, just like me.) Plus, it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it (PS – I miss you, American Bandstand.)

Whatever you are doing, remember to love up your Mommas, or whoever it is who Momma’d you.

Peace out,

OXO

Julie

PS – Jim Gaffigan always gets it right:

Baby

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Book Review: The Mothers

The Mothers

It’s only been out since last October, but there has already been a ton of hype about this book. For good reason – The Mothers by Brit Bennett is every bit as dazzling as you’ve been hearing. She has already won some prestigious awards, and I hope she wins a whole bunch more. Everything, actually. I want her to win everything and then write a million more books. This book left me in a fugue state for a few days after I finished it; I had a hard time moving on to a new story because these characters are so deeply entrenched in my heart.

I’ve noticed that a lot of reviews avoid mentioning the central event of this book: a main character, a teenage girl mourning her mother, has an abortion in the first chapter. If you hear anyone tell you that this book is pro- or anti- anything, please run away from them, ignore their opinion, and read this book anyway. Because The Mothers is not interested in taking a stand on a hot button issue. Brit Bennett is too deft a writer to bore us with a lecture; this book is about people, how they got into a sad situation, and what happened to all of them after they got out of it. As with all great writing, it’s not what this book is about, it’s how it’s about what it’s about. She moves gracefully from character to character, letting us watch them as they collide and hurt and heal each other.

I fell in love with every single character, even when they acted thoughtless or unkindly. My favorite touch is the way Bennett begins each chapter from the point of view of the elder women of an African American church in Oceanside, California, who comment on the unfolding action like a Greek chorus:

We would’ve told her that all together, we got centuries on her. If we laid all our lives toes to heel, we were born before the Depression, the Civil War, even America itself. In all that living, we have known men. Oh girl, we have known littlebit love. That littlebit of honey left in an empty jar that traps the sweetness in your mouth long enough to mask your hunger. We have run tongues over teeth to savor that last littlebit as long as we could, and in all our living, nothing has starved us more.

My god, that paragraph – that littlebit trapped sweetness. I had to stop reading to catch my breath and let those words roll around in my head for a while. The rhythms of this book remindsme a lot of early Toni Morrison. And Brit Bennett is SO young. If this is what her debut novel looks like, I can’t even imagine how great her later work is going to be.

The characters grow more complex as the book progresses; as they grow older they also become more difficult and more interesting. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say she nailed the conclusion. It’s the perfect combination of bitter and sweet, ending exactly the way it was always supposed to end, even if it wasn’t necessarily perfectly happy.

Have you read The Mothers yet? What did you think?

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Mojitos, Books, and a Romantic Friendship

Fruit

Happy First Saturday of May, my friends!

I hope your weather is nice and your cocktails are delicious. I’m going to try this Strawberry Pineapple Mojito. Because vitamins, yo.

What are you reading right now? If you need a new book, check out J.K. Rowling’s recommendations.  Related: I’ve only met one person whose favorite March sister was someone other than Jo, and I had to stop being friends with her. Because really. The whole point of that book is Jo March, right? Like, the person who identifies with Amy just doesn’t even make sense to me.

Or, if you are feeling adventurous and smarty-pants, why not challenge yourself to read something difficult? You know how cranky I can be about finishing books I don’t love, but this article makes me want to try a little bit harder.

In case you are wondering what to buy me for Mother’s Day, I am dying over this Hogwarts slash Journey song mashup t-shirt. If the fact that I am not your mother makes it weird to buy me a Mother’s Day gift, you could just buy it for me because you love me. Cool? Cool.

Finally, check out this entirely delightful article about a romantic friendship. I have always cherished my male friends. The conversations are different, and not intimate the way my female friendships are. But they are uncomplicated and very fun. My guess is that being happily married makes it very easy to have friendships of the opposite gender because the sexual tension is drained out of the relationship. It’s what I always imagined having a brother would be like. Then again, I never had a brother. Watching my kids, it appears to be that having a brother involves a lot of wrestling and calling each other names with “butt” in them. So what do I know?

Enjoy your weekend, my friends, and love up your people.

OXO
JULIE

PS – Your weekend giggle:

Bad Self

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Top Two Most Embarrassing Moments Last Week

Awkward

 

I spent last week at the Smarter Artist Summit in Austin. If you look around the interwebs, you’ll see all sorts of wrap-ups from writers who came out of their shells, talked to other people, and learned about writing, marketing, and branding. It was an awesome time, even for introverts who aren’t used to peopling.

Of course I had to mess some things up. It was inevitable, and knowing me it could have been way worse. If you ever think to yourself, That Julie sure is brave! Look how she goes to other states with other people and tries new things! you should quickly correct your thinking to I wonder why Julie’s family even lets her out of the house?

Embarrassing Moment Number One: The Room Key

There were 240 authors at this event, and I handed out a lot of business cards. My business card is black. Just like my hotel room key. What do you think happened? If you guessed Silly Julie must have tried to use her business card to open her hotel room door! then you are a kind person but completely oblivious to my advanced level of social awkwardness. No, I managed to do the opposite. I met an author, chatted a bit about work, and went to hand him my business card but instead handed him my room key.

My. Room. Key.

Let that sink in a minute. Imagine a woman handing YOU her room key, while saying, “Hi there. I write Romance.” Another author observing this interaction asked if I was inviting him up for research. I was too mortified to play it cool, so instead I got all crazy/over-compensating/embarrassed and started sputtering things like “I’m so married! Like, super married! Totally, completely married, like for a quarter of a century happily married.” And the author with my room key smiled politely, handed it back to me, and backed away.

Later that night, I told Joe about this exchange and how it was the most embarrassing thing I’d done at the conference. The Man to Whom I am Super Totally Married To said, “Well, you’ve got a couple days left. A lot can happen.”

As usual, he was right.

Embarrassing Moment Number Two: Unintentional Flashing

On the last day of the trip, my adorable roommate Bobbi and I saw a very familiar man walk off the elevator. I said, “Hey, it’s Julie, I know you from my neighborhood, you are Megan’s Dad, aren’t you?” He sort of cocked an eyebrow at me. “No, that’s not who I am.” As he walked away, he said over his shoulder, “Ming Tsai. Nice to meet you.”

Then I wigged out. He came back with a smile, and offered to take a picture with me. Of course I wanted a picture. I smiled like a crazy person.

When I looked at the pictures later, I was extremely NOT thrilled to discover that my top was unbuttoned.

Ming

That same morning, I saw Aarón Sánchez  in the hotel lobby. I shook his hand but did not get a picture. He was very polite and I tried my best to reign in the crazy but I was still suffering over the whole Ming thing.

And by the way, holy guacamole can you even stand the smolder going on here?

Aaron

Pretend that I am standing right next to him, holding my blouse together and totally smoldering the same way, because that’s what a badass looks like.

 

For the record, I did not mention to either of these celebrity chefs that I WRITE ROMANCES ABOUT CELEBRITY CHEFS and oh yeah maybe it would be cool if you pose with my book? That’s what a savvy business person would do. I was too busy making all the things weird.

I did see Ming Tsai again, and he got a look of alarm on his face and turned right around and walked back to his room. I choose to believe that look of alarm was because he was thinking, Oh, shoot, I forgot my cell phone! But it’s also possible he was thinking, Holy blue dragons, here comes that unhinged middle aged topless woman.

Ah, well. Let’s be honest: two mortifying experiences in one week is a pretty low number for me. The tacos in Austin were good, and I threw down some Jay-Z at karaoke. It is entirely possible the karaoke was Embarrassing Moment Number Three, but the gin & tonic I had that night has assured me otherwise.

Peace Out!

OXO

JULIE

 

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Pray the Vegan Away

Steak

First Born Son likes to hang out with his gang of rebels and go rock climbing, body building, and go to vegan restaurants. They are living the thug life. And yes, it makes me laugh that the way he rebels against me is to be an athlete and eat vegetables. He went completely vegan for the month of April. My main goal was not to eat any of that fake meat garbage that is sold as health food, so I agreed to cook for him. It really was not all that hard. I had to plan ahead a little more than usual, but vegan eating really isn’t too much of a challenge. (Of course, I was in Austin for an entire week of vegan month, and you can bet your ass I did not skip the BBQ or the tacos.)

Now that the month is over, First Born Son says he’ll be mostly veganish. As for the rest of us, we are going full carnivore again, the way God intended it.

If you are like me and feeling anemic, check out some of these beauties:

Barbacoa Tacos with Pickled Onions and Pineapple Pico. (Remind me to tell you about when my daughter wrote an essay about her family tree, and she listed tacos as one of her ancestors.)

Insanity Burgers. I can feel you judging me and I’d just like to remind you that I ate tofu more than once this month.

Ruth Reichl’s Steak Sandwiches Have you read her latest book? It’s up next for me.

Honey Sriracha Grilled Bacon. You had me at hello.

Whether you are grilling meat or mushrooms this weekend, friends, have a good one. I’ll catch ya on the flip side.

OXO

JULIE

PS – Your weekend giggle:

Thug Life

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Do It Afraid

Fire hoop

As you read this, I am at a writing conference in Austin, Texas, sucking up knowledge and stealing tacos from a whole bunch of crazy talented authors. This is my second trip to this particular conference, and I am SO excited to see my gang again. We are planning meals and drinks and bookstore visits, and a trip to see the bats, and even karaoke. (Oh, right, like I’m really going to do that one. I’m so sure.)

I was not this excited last year. I had been listening to the podcast and reading the books for a long time. Something told me that these were my people. I desperately wanted to go. I just didn’t want to go.

Lordy, was I ever scared. When my husband dropped me off at the airport I sat in the terminal and cried. I ran through every single thing that might go wrong in my head. I’d probably get lost in the unfamiliar airport. Or lose something important like my luggage and my phone and my wallet and my shoe. Everyone in Texas would have a gun and maybe shoot me. Not to mention the biggest fear of all: every single writer at the event was going to be smarter, more accomplished, and probably better looking than me. I was nothing but an Orange County Housewife, and not even the kind with a TV show. The kind with a messy house and a messy life who sometimes eats chocolate chips for breakfast because she forgot to buy real food. I had NO business going to this conference with Real Writers. I started dialing my husband’s cell phone at least 50 times to ask him to come pick me up, this was all a horrible mistake.

Amy Poehler

But then I washed my face and got on the damn plane. And not one second of it was as scary as I thought it was going to be. None of the disaster scenarios in my head came true. Every part of it was good.

In fact, it was better than good. It was awesome. I made real friends who were kind and generous with their knowledge. Some of them have mentored me even though I’m a tadpole in the vast publishing ocean. And goddam, are they ever funny.

For the record every single writer at that conference WAS a million times smarter, more accomplished, and better looking than me. (True fact. Writers are sexy beasts.) I learned so much, and came home from that first conference absolutely on fire for my career.

And now, I’m doing it again. Even though I’m still freaking out.

So. Afraid.

Ohmygod so afraid.

But I have done it once, so I already know I can do it again. The confidence follows the action, not the other way around. Carrie Fisher taught me that.

I just had to get on that plane. I had to do it afraid.

What about you? Do you travel alone? Does it scare you? How do you convince yourself to try something that terrifies you?

Peace out, friends.

OXO

JULIE

Carrie

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Readers, Guy Fieri, and Instagram

Book garden

My Southern California Peeps: If you are looking for something fun to do today, I’ll be signing books at the Anaheim Library Romance Author Day. Come say hi, and eat a London Demerez scone with me. I’ll be selling the last of my Emma Foster books before we change all the covers. The original cover editions will be worth millions some day, I personally guarantee it.* So you should totally come buy them.

Other fun for your weekend:

Check out this Reading Infographic, revel in how wonderful readers are, and then pat yourself on the back for being the smart, bookish types. We rule.

Every Friday night is Family Fun Friday at the Strauss Haus. We take turns choosing the dinner and the movie of the night. Somehow the night always ends with us watching an episode or two of Triple D. Guy Fieri makes me laugh, even though why is he always screaming? These are fun reads: The Unrecognizable Genius of Guy Fieri and Here’s What Happens After Guy Fieri Visits a Restaurant. If you want to plan an epic road trip, you can look up all of the Triple D locations here. I’ve been to this one and it really was fantastic.

I was getting my nails did this week, and went to snap a picture, imagining the silly caption. Can’t even deal with my To-Do List today, so I’m getting my nails did! Or maybe, Haven’t done laundry for a week, so I don’t have anything to wear, but darn it my nails look good.

I pondered the cutest caption for a bit, and then something occurred to me: Nobody – NOBODY – cares that I got my nails polished. Not one person on the planet cares. I barely even care. I’m embarrassed that I even considered posting it. I’m really that shallow?

Well, I’m certainly shallow enough to consider doing it.

That same day I listened to this Hidden Brain podcast about the emotional cost of social media. The takeaway was that we objectively know that our friends’ lives aren’t as fabulous and #blessed as they pretend to be. We know this. It’s not that we need to prove our social worth to them. We actually feel a need to prove it to ourselves. It is a fascinating listen, and really made me think about a more thoughtful approach to social media in the future.

All that said, I really do love Instagram. I follow a lot of writers and artists, and seeing slices of creative people’s lives is endlessly interesting to me. Are you on Instagram? Right now you are expecting me to tell you to dump all of your social media, but let’s be real. You should totally follow me. I do monthly giveaways of fun prizes. And I will no longer be posting pictures of my manicure.

Have a great weekend!

OXO

JULIE

*Mr. Joe Strauss would like to add for the official record that Mrs. Julie Strauss cannot possibly foresee the future value of her books, and her personal guarantees mean almost nothing, and should not be considered legally binding or even all that reliable. Trust him.

PS – Just a reminder:

Burritos

 

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Pick Three

Look forward

Work. Sleep. Family. Friends. Fitness.

Pick three.

-Randi Zuckerberg

Not gonna lie – I absolutely HATED this advice when it started bouncing around the interwebs a couple of years ago. Three? That’s it? If I’m a good mom, friend, and wife I have to give up on work, sleep and fitness? Obviously it pissed me off so much because deep down I knew her advice was true. On my Super Mom days, I do NOT get the words on the page. If I force myself to get a good night’s sleep, I’m not going to the gym in the morning. Oh my God, I really only get three!

But for the last year or so I’ve really been thinking about Work/Life balance and I’ve had some revelations. First of all, “Work/Life Balance” is an annoying phrase. Not only to we have to do all this shit, but we also have to worry that we are doing it correctly? When I go out with my Girl Gang, we should be discussing books or politics or our laminated celebrity freebie list, not how balanced we are.

Do this for me right now: stand up on one foot. Hold still. Can you do it? Your abs contract, your hips are rotating a little bit, you are pushing your chin out. Now switch feet. I bet your shoulders are shifting. If you are like me, your arms went full windmill until you steadied yourself. But after a few moments of wiggy panic, you got upright again.

To balance is a verb, not a noun.

It requires constant work and adjustment. Balance is not static.

Next lightbulb moment: as soon as you put both feet on the ground again, did you realize that you are, in fact, balancing all the time? We’re used to standing on two feet, so it doesn’t feel like work. But once upon a time, you were a chubby baby who pushed up on both feet, and teetered there for a second before landing on your cushy little butt. (Given enough Zinfandel, I’m still that baby.) It’s still balance. It’s still work. We just don’t notice anymore because we are used to it.

Of course, Ms. Zuckerberg never meant that your choices today are your choices tomorrow. Today I chose Super Mom, because my kids needed me for some important school and life decisions. Our house guests left this afternoon, and I squeezed the life out of every minute with them, so I also chose friends. But now I’m exhausted, and my next choice will be sleep. What suffered? Work and Fitness. But that’s just today. I’ve got time blocked out for both of those things tomorrow, and something else will have to take a back seat.

And that is the key to what “Pick Three” means. Balance is active, and it’s a long game. Overall, I’m happy with the time and effort I put in to all of facets of my life. But I never, ever get to everything on a given day. I’m windmilling my hands every single day. That’s balancing.

What do you think about balance? Are you good at it?

OXO

JULIE

PS – Now I’ve written the word ‘balance’ so many times I don’t even know what it means anymore. Is it a word? Did I make it up?

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