the perfect summer drink

I love mojitos.  I haven't really tried that many other mixed drinks, but I'm convinced that it will be impossible to find another drink that is as yummy or refreshing for the summer months.  A little while ago I decided to give flavored mojitos a try after perfecting my regular mojito recipe, starting with my favorite berry: raspberries.  I've had raspberry mojitos before but they've all either been too artificial or not fresh and minty enough for my taste.  Here is the simple recipe I came up with to make perfect raspberry mojitos.

What you will need:
Raspberries-- I usually just use a whole bag or box of raspberries and save the sauce to use later if anything is left over at the end (I often use frozen ones for the sauce and throw in a few fresh ones at the end since fresh raspberries can be pretty pricey).
Simple Syrup (you can make your own by simmering equal parts sugar and water until sugar desolves)
White rum
Club soda

To make one mojito:
Before you do anything else you will want to make your simple syrup and raspberry sauce so they have time to cool down before you put them in your drink.  To make the raspberry sauce put your raspberries (save a few fresh ones for the end) in a saucepan and heat.  Stir and mash the raspberries for around 15 minutes, or until you have a juicy sauce.  I usually put this through a strainer to get out the seeds, but I've made them with the seeds before as well and its not really all that noticeable.  Once you're done with this put the sauce in the refrigerator to cool down.
To begin making your drink pour anywhere between 1 and 2 shots of rum into a medium sized class (I like 1.5 shots).  Next add a small bunch of mint.  I probably use around 10-15 leaves.  Use a muddler (such as this) or a spoon to crush the mint to release the flavor.  I usually take a minute or so to thoroughly muddle the mint so that the mint flavor is really noticeable.  Add in a half shot of simple syrup.  If the raspberries you are using are really sweet rather than tart or if the people you're serving prefer their drinks not too sweet start by adding around a quarter of a shot and add more at the end if necessary.  If you want to make your mojito virgin start with this step and muddle the mint into the simple syrup.  Next add the juice or half a lemon and half a lime.  Now add in somewhere between one and 1/2 shot of your raspberry sauce.  It really depends on the raspberries you have and the consistency of your sauce.  Add as much ice as you want and then fill your glass up with club soda.  Mix everything up.  At the end I like to take 3 or 4 fresh raspberries, break them up slightly and drop them on the top of the drink.  It's a nice little surprise to get a chunk of fresh raspberry, and it looks pretty.  You can also garnish with a slice of lime or a sprig of mint.  Enjoy your drink!

little snippets

Now that I have a nice camera, I am trying to take more pictures everyday so I can improve my photography skills.  Every so often I will try to share some "little snippets" of my daily life through photos on this blog. These are some pictures from a thai banquet we had at my house with friends this past weekend.  My dad made some amazing dishes, mostly from this book.
green papaya salad/chili peppers/tofu & sweet potato curry/seafood before/seafood after

first guest post: brandied cherries

Hello friends! I can't believe it's already weekend was full of family, friends, yummy food, and crafty projects...and it flew by so quickly. I also made a very special early birthday present purchase for myself this weekend--I got my first DLSR camera! I am so excited to learn more about photography and have been snapping pictures of everything around me ever since I got it. Hopefully this means that there will be some improvement in the photography around here--I love that I have a space to share my photos as I learn...hopefully it will push me to practice and improve.

Today I'd like to share a post from my sweet friend (and future house-mate!) Alex. She is super smart and creative so I told her I would love if she would do guest posts every so often on here. Here is what she came up with!

Brandied Cherries

The best part of summer is enjoying fresh fruit in all forms. This summer my mom and I have been placing fruit in everything we eat: salad, yogurt, water, cake, and homemade ice cream. So we decided to follow a simple recipe we found in Sunset Magazine to turn ripe Rainier cherries into an awesome new topping for all our favorite things, it is an excellent twist on a maraschino cherry (and super easy to make too)!

You can start with a fresh batch of Rainier cherries; we got ours from the local farmers market, and begin pitting the cherries. The pitting is a bit complicated so here is a little demonstration.

Next, you fill up your jars with the cherries and a few cinnamon sticks.

Bring your sugar, brandy, and 1 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan until the sugar has dissolved.

Once the jars and liquid have cooled, seal them with a lid and give them at least a month to absorb the liquid.

We are super excited to eat them on top of some homemade vanilla ice cream! 

(original recipe source)

string lanterns

This is a project I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but it’s a bit time consuming so it kept getting pushed to the end of the list. My friend got me the prettiest little white lanterns made out of string—I love them, so I decided to try to make some more myself. This project is messy and time consuming and sometimes a little frustrating (aren’t you excited to do it now?!), but the end result is well worth the glue covered hair/clothes/body (really, I promise). I made a string of different sized small balls and put them on white Christmas lights, but you could also make bigger lanterns or even just make a bunch in different sizes to hang from the ceiling without lights.
For this project you will need:
Roughly 4 oz glue
½ cup cornstarch
¼ cup hot water
Embroidery string (or yarn if you want something thicker)
Clear spray paint
Balloons (I used water balloons. If you want to make larger lanterns I would recommend those party balloons that come with a rubber band tied to them that are meant for bouncing…any idea what I’m talking about?...Anyways, those are usually rounder than regular balloons)
Vaseline (We didn’t have Vaseline so I used Crisco because I’m lazy…uh, I mean, innovative)
White string lights
Paper towel
Clear or white wire (this wire should be stiff and not easily bent out of shape—you could use paper clips for this)

To prep mix together the glue, cornstarch and water until there are no clumps and blow up your balloons. If you don’t blow them up all the way, they will be more round.
Cover the balloon in Vaseline/Crisco so that the string doesn’t stick to the balloon once it’s dry.

Coat the string in your glue mixture as you wrap it around the balloon. Begin by wrapping vertically and slowly begin to wrap horizontally. Wrap until there are no large holes. If you are planning on putting lights into your lanterns, make sure there is a hole big enough to insert them.
Allow the lanterns to dry until they are completely hard.
Use a needle/knife to pop the balloons and pull them out carefully. You may need to use tweezers, depending on the size of the holes you left.  There will most likely be a bit of dried glue in the holes. If this bugs you, you can use a knife to carefully scrape it out.  It looks a little weird up close, but I decided to leave them on mine because it looks really nice when the light shines through them.
Next, spray paint each ball to give them extra strength.

While you're waiting for the paint to dry, cut your wire into pieces around 2 inches long.  Wrap them around the bases of your lights so that the ends stick out opposite sides.  Carefully insert the lights into holes that are just big enough to fit them.  Position the wire so that the lights can't be pulled out easily and you're done!

summer sunset playlist

Every summer Taylor makes a special "summer mix" that is the soundtrack to his summer.  I love the mix he made this summer and I thought it would be fun for him to contribute a bit to my blog, so we made this mix together (the majority of the credit should go to him, though).  Most of the songs are off of his summer mix but we changed/added a few songs so it would be a perfect combination of both of our tastes in music! Taylor says that this should be listened to at sunset, preferably driving around with the windows down :) We hope you like it!

life lately [instagram edition]

brainstorming project ideas/ani difranco concert in the park/post-picnic swinging/experimenting with new camera toys/dusting off my uke/popsicles and hammocking/refreshing summer drinks with mint from the garden

[p.s. you can follow me on instagram @ella_michelle]


as you may have noticed, there have been some changes around the blog. it's still a work in progress, so please excuse the mess while we're under construction! ;)

e is for [e]ffervescent.

Hello friends! Here is a little project I did today after work that I wanted to share.  I've had this E from Michaels sitting around forever, waiting to be decorated.  All you need for this is a letter/shape and supplies to decorate with! For mine I just copied one of my favorite patterns of anemones onto my letter with sharpie and then painted the edges and back a lilac/lavender-ish color that I mixed up (so obsessed with this color) so it could be reversible.  You could also glue on pretty paper or scraps from a magazine or a bit of wallpaper or paint on a cool design or keep it simple with some black and white stripes or chevron...whatever you want!

geometric wood necklace

When I started this project, I wasn't sure that it was going to work out...I ended up having to change around my design, but I ended up being really happy with the final product even though it wasn't what I had originally planned on.  I would like to experiment more with this project and try out different materials and designs.

For this project you will need these supplies:
-Paint and paintbrush (I used an acrylic metallic copper color and added yellow and white to lighten it)
-Scissors or an exacto knife
-Jump rings
-A chain (make sure it's made up of rings that are big enough to fit the jump rings through)
-A thick sewing needle
-A piece of thin wood that can be cut easily with scissors or an exacto knife

Step 1: Draw your design onto the piece of wood with pencil.  I originally wanted to make the necklace out of small triangles but the wood was too fragile to do this and would split along the grain when I tried to cut it, so I figured out a design that used the wood grain.  If you want to do a different design I would recommend getting thicker wood (this might also mean you need something more heavy duty to cut out your pieces though).
Step 2: Cut your pieces out with scissors or an exacto knife.  Be very careful and gentle when you do this so you pieces don't split.

Step 3: Paint each side of your pieces of wood (including the edges).  I made mine a very subtle color that got lighter towards the middle, but you can experiment with different colors or even paint designs on them.

Step 4: Use a needle to poke a hole through the top of each piece (or wherever you want to put your jump rings).  Poke it through a few times to make sure the hole is wide enough.  I would recommend that while you do this you squeeze the sides of the piece together so you don't split your wood down the middle.

Step 5: Insert your jump rings through each hole.  Touch up the paint if necessary once you've done this.

Step 6: Attach each jump ring to the chain (remember to measure the length of your chain beforehand and make sure the pieces are centered). You might need to use small pliers to close the jump rings.

Step 7:  Attach a jump ring to one end and a clasp to the other.

That's it!