The Art of the Mocktail

As many of you know, The Academy Awards are a pretty big deal around here.  I've been watching and predicting winners annually for as long as I can remember!

This year, The Spanish Lady and I teamed up to put on a swank affair. I headed up the mocktail bar while she.... well, she did everything else. :) Check out her blog for all the details on the bite-sized, indulgent food, glittering decor and the movie-quote photo booth!

After you've oooh'd and ahhh'd over her mad skilz, let us take a moment to examine the sorely under-represented art of the mocktail. A mocktail is a cocktail without the alcohol, and unlike some unimaginative folk seem to think, it doesn't always have to be a Shirley Temple-- although my kids love those!

Having mixed mocktails for a few years now, I can say with certainty that there is something about the interactive busy-work of making a drink that gets a party flowing and keeps it well lubricated. It's creative, it's tasty, and it's fun!

Before we get started with a few of my favorite drinks, here are some quick tips:

Have a variety of glasses available. Champagne flutes, wine goblets, martini glasses, high ball, low ball, and shot glasses are all excellent choices. It might seem like overkill, but some drinks just seem better suited to certain glasses.

The better the ingredients, the better the drink. Now is not the time to stock up on Sprite and cranberry juice. Go get some exotic flavors and high-quality sodas. Try Trader Joe's, Whole Foods or World Market. You'll taste the difference.

More is more when it comes to garnishes. Seriously, you can't have too many. Slice copious amounts of lemons, limes, oranges, and cucumbers. Put out bowls of maraschino cherries, berries, spanish olives, capers, mint leaves, rosemary, syrups, and sugar for rimming glasses. Don't forget picks and swizzle straws!

The martini shaker is not for carbonated beverages!! You'll end up with your drink fizzing all over the place. When using carbonated beverages, forget 007 and take it stirred, not shaken.

All right, on to the drinks!

The Dean Martini is a staple. It's light, dry, and refreshing. The key to this drink is the Dry Cucumber Soda, so don't substitute anything else!

3 oz Dry Cucumber Soda {see photo below}
2 oz Pellegrino
Dash of Aromatic Bitters

Speaking of Cucumber Soda, here's a drink for all those Sherlock fans out there:

The Cu-Cumberbatch:

3 oz Dry Cucumber Soda
2 oz Joia brand Lime, Hibiscus & Clove Soda
Sliced Cucumber

The Grand Budapest is sweet without being cloying:

3 oz Joia brand Grapefruit, Chamomile & Cardamom Soda {see photo below}
2 oz Pellegrino
1 oz Blood Orange soda

As you can imagine, this next one came about when we decided to mix everything of one color in a glass:

The Green Room:

3 oz Pellegrino
2 oz Bartlett Pear Soda
Dash of Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice
Sliced Lime

Another favorite! The Spanish Lady introduced this one over Christmas and we're still obsessed:

The Mocking Gin:

3 oz Bruce Cost Unfiltered Ginger Ale
2 oz Pellegrino
Dash of Rose's Sweetened Lime Juice
Dash of Aromatic Bitters
Sprig of Rosemary

We knew the kids would like this one, but were surprised at how much we all ended up enjoying it:

The Big Hero 6: 

4 oz 7UP or Sprite
1 oz Lychee Drink {see photo below}
Maraschino Cherry(s)

And lastly, our signature drink of the night:

The Oscar:

3 oz Lorina's Pink Lemonade
1 oz Bartlett Pear soda
Gold Sugar rim

Cheers everyone!


Weekend Links

This weekend is long overdue! Here are some quick links to get you started:

A Behind-the-Scenes look at our latest Christmas Video. Rico has your back. ;)

Another music video shot by my brother for the band MoonHype. It's upbeat, catchy, and makes me smile all day long!

And lastly, this song is on repeat at my house for obvious reasons. My girl Meghan says it so well!

Have a great weekend, all!


Last Christmas

From the minute I tearfully declared my decision to divorce, my family has swarmed in to love, protect, nurture and sustain me.

They dropped everything. 

Half of them picked up and moved states to be near me. The other half has been helping financially and emotionally. All of them have been praying for me, talking with me, and giving the kind of empathetic, whole-hearted, essential support that brings to mind soldiers in the trenches together. I cannot imagine going through this without them. They've been indispensable. My soft place to land. My refuge.

We call it the Hansen Invasion, and I've never been so proud to be a Hansen.

Over the holiday break, we decided that it might be cathartic to make a Christmas Video after all.

Discovering who J really is has been the biggest disappointment of my life; but accepting who J really is has been biggest liberation of my life. I needed a song that encapsulated both the heartbreak and the resolve; the disgust and the freedom, the sorrow and the joy.

And that's how we decided to cover "Last Christmas" by Wham.

Enjoy it in all its 80's glory. :)

I have to mention that this was all shot in a single night after we'd put the kids {15 between us all} to bed. We filmed it using a half working Panasonic PK800 tube camera {like on Ghostbusters!} and a Nikon DSLR pointed at a TV. We wrapped up around 2am and none of us fully recall the events captured on film-- but it was a complete blast.

Every time I watch it, I gut-laugh and feel fiercely grateful for the abundance of good that the world still offers. My brothers and sisters are evidence of that.

Happy Christmas. ;)


Endings and Beginings

Hello all! I can't believe it's already this time of year.

Typically, this is when I'd be posting our latest Family Christmas Video. I love those videos. They're a place where my ideas and visual creativity are allowed to be unbridled. They're little time-capsules, preserving our children's ever-changing personalities. They're joyfull and celabratory despite any of the real, unphotogenic, everyday events and struggles that we go through during the course of the year. In that way, they capture my philosophy that life can be beautiful and smile-worthy, despite {and often because of} the melancholy. Genuine happiness is not the absense of pain. They coexist, like sweet and salty, enhancing the differences.

Last week, I filed for divorce.

Those words sound so dreadful. They imply worlds of hurt, bitterness, and betrayal, which would not be a wrong assumption. But I have been startled, once again, to find that joy is abundantly present.

I know that Heavenly Father has prepared me for this season of my life. I've spent years documenting the ups and downs that have compelled me, over and over again, to turn to Him as my only sure source of comfort and direction; and while my faith has not  become perfect, it is strong. I feel calm and full of gratitude for how clear my path is and the help that is embracing me along the way.

Winking through the calm glow of peace is the thrill that life stretches before me with limitless possibility. After all, I have spent a very, very long time grappling with one hard thing in my life. I'm ready for a new hard thing. I'm ready for new lessons learned and new joys experienced. And thanks to the last 15 years, I know those things are in store for me. The best is yet to come.

Merry Christmas, gentle readers!

{image 1, image 2, image 3}

PS- I'm still writing on my anonymous blog, though some of the drafts may not be posted until after the divorce is finalized. If you'd like the link, you can send me an email at melancholy {dot} smile {at} yahoo {dot} com.


Happiest City on Earth

This year, J has been traveling all over the world for work. {I was especially jealous when he flew to Hawaii and Australia!} Months ago, he and his film team decided that they wanted to take their spouses on the last big trip of the year, so we all booked tickets and made hotel arrangements in London.

And then J and I separated.

I agonized for a long time over what to do about the trip. There was a substantial rebooking fee if I cancelled, and part of the allure of the trip was that so much would be paid for by J's company. Still, the thought of all that time together sounded uncomfortable at best and murderously painful at worst. After thought and prayer, I found a compromise:

I'll spend a few days in London while J works. We'll see each other at the hotel, and that's it. Ships that pass in the night. Then, for the same cost it would have taken to rebook tickets, I'll fly to Malmo, Sweden for 2 days and cross the bridge to Copenhagen, Denmark for 3 more.

I can't tell you how excited I am!

I leave in 2 weeks and have already purchased flights, hostels, and made a list of design museums, Nordic Noir sights, and have a goal to swim in the ocean and heat up in a suana, but would love to hear any suggestions!

Have you been? Where would you eat? What would you do? Any tips for traveling solo? And how do you dress to stay warm and dry while only packing a carry-on bag?

And while I've been to London before, the same applies there. I know I want to see Baker Street, Tate Modern, and Oxford, but what else is a must-do?

Thanks in advance!



Life is Beautifully Brutal

I had a long, lovely summer with my parents. I'm so happy that my kids get to experience this every year-- life slowing down, biking to the pool every day, and fishing with Boppa. It's a part of my life that seems covered in a golden glow, as if it's laden with nostalgia even as I'm living it. I treasure it as the beautiful gift that it is.

Coming home was brutal.

Remember my burning building analogy? It's as if for the last two years, I thought we were re-building the house, but in reality, he's been holding matches behind his back this whole time. He burned down the house again. Then lied about it. Then blamed me.

We're separated. Again.

I don't know if we'll make it back together after this one, and it kills me.

The hardest part is choosing love and happiness every day. I've lived with enough darkness that I don't want to poison myself or my kids with any more, so I let go of the anger. I breathe. I pray. I do yoga. I take it a day at a time. But some days, it feels like I'm Guido on Life is Beautiful, marching around and putting a positive spin on a situation that is genuinly ugly and frightening.

I'm starting an anonymous blog to talk about this more freely. If you would like the link, email me. I'll give it out as long as you're not J's boss or my father-in-law.

In the meantime, prepare for vacation photos as I focus on the bliss that was my summer. :)

{"Cloud Fragment" by Ken Elliot "Storm in May" by James Lahey}


Stay Cool in the Stupid Heat

This is our last week in AZ before we leave to spend the rest of the summer with my parents. Not a moment too soon, because it is STUPID HOT this week-- so much so that I forget the hot part and go around saying, "It's just stupid out here!" ;)

We lost a chicken to heat exhaustion yesterday. We tried electrolytes, a cooling bath and plenty of watermelon, but it wasn't enough for one of the older hens. Poor Miss C was devastated. With temps pushing 112 today, we're putting ice in their water and setting up a water mister. Hopefully, that keeps the rest of ladies comfortable.

We humans, however, are huddling in the air conditioning, eating popsicles, and trying not to go crazy with cabin fever. This song is helping-- I love its mix of R&B with 50's danceability, and the message of body acceptance is awesome. Just what I need now that swimsuit season is staring me down!

Stay cool, everybody!!

{image by Evan Robarts}
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