Thursday, May 19, 2011

Soaking Up Some Vitamin D

Thankfully, the sun finally decided to show it's face in mid-Tennessee today and it was certainly appreciated.  It heated up to a balmy 72 degrees, so that meant it was time for some yard maintenance.  The vegetable garden needed weeding, there were recently purchased blooming plants to repot, deck furniture to clean and trees and shrubs to trim.

Dan weeded the garden while I repotted plants.  I had bought lovely red geraniums, electric red-orange and yellow gerbera daisies, and red and purple petunias.   After transferring to decorative pots, I put some of the plants around my grecian urn fountain, added a boston fern and a red mandevilla.  Other pots were placed around the deck and on the steps.  Colorful patio lights are hung from the deck rail (purple, blue, emerald green and fuchsia) ready for all the summer nights ahead. The birdbath was cleaned and set up awaiting all it's winged summer visitors.  Dan trimmed low hanging tree branches while I gave all the holly bushes their summer haircut.  Things are starting to shape up.  Dan turned over ground for the herb garden.  We planted a few more heirloom tomatoes, basil, rosemary, dill, oregano, cilantro and thyme.  Nice.  Now it's time to move to the front porch.  

We have a bench our daughter Annie made when she was in middle school. That was some time ago.  It has always had a place of honor on our front porch, so it was cleaned and given it's rightful place.  Red and purple petunias were planted in the big planter on the porch, and a boston fern was hung from the porch eaves.  The white vintage ice cream table sits waiting for us anytime we want to drink our morning coffee on the porch.  Hot and tired, we were done for the day.

We went around back to sit on the deck and cool down.  I listened to the fountain joyously bubbling as I at in the sun, soaking up some vitamin D.  A delicate butterfly landed on my arm.  I sat ever so still until it decided to depart.  Dan named it Bob.  Nature showed all it's glory today, the magnificent magnolia tree in bloom, the scent of honeysuckle in the air, gentle breezes beginning to blow.  The Clarke Oil tug chugged down the Cumberland as it does every day.  Time for the General Jackson to turn around and head down river.   There is comfort in predictability sometimes.  

As I sat in my chair cooling down, I thought of all the wonderful drinks I can make this summer to enjoy  outdoors.  Easy, natural ingredients, cool and refreshing.  I thought I would share some of these recipes with you since Memorial Day is rapidly approaching and the official summer season begins.  My thoughts turned to sweet tea and fresh squeezed lemonade.  Ever try cucumber water or fruit flavored water?  How about celery soda?  So delicious.  Here are the recipes.  I use a 3 quart pitcher so you may have to adjust the recipes slightly if you use a different size.


4 small tea bags, or 2 large family sized tea bags.  I prefer Luzianne Tea
simple syrup
cold water

Place 4 tea bags or 2 large family sized tea bags in about 2 cups of water in a pan on the stove.  Heat water and tea just until it boils.  Remove from heat and let tea steep for at least 5 minutes.  Make the simple syrup by adding 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of water.  Heat while stirring just until the sugar melts.  Remove the tea bags from pan and pour tea into pitcher.  Add simple syrup.  Add about 10 cups of cold water.  Put tea bags back in pan and run cold water over them, squeezing any excess tea from bags.  Add to pitcher. Pour over ice in glasses and enjoy.  You can add lemon slices or mint if you prefer.


6 whole lemons
simple syrup
cold water

Heat lemons in microwave for 30 seconds.  This helps extract more juice from lemons.  When lemons cool, roll on counter top with your hand until lemons feel softer.  Cut lemons in half and juice.  I use an old fashioned juicer, but you can use a reamer or one of those newfangled juice extractors that are yellow and you put 1/2 a lemon in and bring the handles together extracting juice.  One of these days I will get one of those.  After juicing all 12 lemon halves, I pour the juice into the pitcher through a strainer to remove pulp and seeds.   Add the simple syrup and about 10 cups of cold water.  Slice 1/2 a lemon into rings and place in lemonade.  Place ice cubes in glasses and pour lemonade.  There is nothing powdered that tastes like fresh squeezed lemonade.  Nothing!   If you want to fancy it up a bit, add some sliced strawberries or a handfull of raspberries.  So good on a hot day!  It lemonade tastes too watery, add more lemon juice as needed,


1 small cucumber or 1/2 large cucumber, thinly sliced

Place cucumbers in the bottom of pitcher, add about 12 cups water.  Place in refrigerator overnight.  You can addd the juice of one lime if you want, or some sliced honeydew melon.  So delicious and refreshing on hots days.  They drink a lot of this in the southwest.  Unbelievably good.


6 strawberries, sliced in half
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
2 slices orange
6 slices cucumber
1/4 cup cilantro or mint, whichever you prefer (I like Cilantro)

Place in pitcher, add about 12 cups cold water.  Place in refrigerator overnight.  So, so good and no sugar added.  Don't toss fruit out, can be used for several days until strawberries get squishy, just keep filling pitcher with water


2 cups granulated sugar

1 cup water
2 TBSP freshly ground celery seed
soda water

Place the sugar and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  Stir to combine.  Continue to stir frequently until all sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add celery seed.  Cover and allow to steep for 1 hour.  Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a heat proof container and place in refrigerator uncovered until completely cool.  Place in an airtight container and store up to 6 months.

TO USE:  add 2 TBSP celery syrup to 1 cup soda water and stir to combine

This is Alton Brown's recipe from the Food Network.  I made this for our daughter in Dallas when we were there in the heat of summer.  She also used it with Prosecco to make a refreshing cocktail.  Sweet and delicious!

These are just a few of the possibilities for refreshing summer drinks.  I hope you try these recipes and enjoy them throughout the summer.   Let the fun begin!

Things to remember:

Gratitude is an attitude!

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