Bloody Mary Bar DIY

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Photography by Allyson Regan

I’m at a stage in my life where brunch is the best way to kickstart my weekends.  And I hope I never grow out of this stage.  Come on, lunch food combined with breakfast food?  Mimosas?  Bloody Mary bars?  Not to mention the whole sleeping in and then most likely napping after the delicious meal.

One of my favorite things is to host brunch at my house.  It’s so simple and makes brunch that much better because its less expensive, you can have exactly what you want, and you can wear yoga pants.  Win, win, win.

Whenever I host brunch, I love to set up a bloody mary bar.  It’s super simple and your guests will love it!  It’s easy to customize to you and your guests tastes, but I’m going to outline just a few must haves and some creative ingredients.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

First things first, you’ll need vodka.  Well, you don’t need vodka, this is your bloody bar, so there are no rules/judgements here.  But I would recommend vodka.  My go-to vodka is Titos, I just think it has a really basic but smooth flavor that makes it ideal for bloody marys.  But I also like Svedka vodka and New Amsterdam.  And most of the other kinds.  Okay all the other kinds.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

Next is the tomato component.  You can definitely make your own mix, or just put out really good tomato juice.  For ease on my wallet and space on the bar, I usually just put out a couple kinds of mix instead.  My favorite mix is McClure’s bloody mary mix.  They make delicious pickles, so it’s no surprise that their mix is delicious as well.  Other mix ins that I include are several kinds of hot sauce (Frank’s, Tabasco, etc.), steak sauce (A1 or we brought back this delicious sauce from our recent trip to Costa Rica called Lizano and it’s like a spicy steak sauce), and if your crowd is really adventurous you can put out beef stock (to make the classic Bloody Bull) or beet juice for an extra healthy effect.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

The best part of any bloody mary is assembling your own stirrer.  My brother-in-law likes to use this skewer as an appetizer which isn’t the worst idea he’s ever had.  I found these thin skewers in different sizes at Meijer, but I’ve also seen them at Target.  Meats and cheeses always go over well, and celery sticks are classic.  I just cubed up some local Michigan cheese, and I got delicious ‘meat sticks’ from our local butcher called Sobie Meats.  You can use salamis or sausages as well.  To add something healthy, I added dill sprigs, fresh cucumbers, mini bell peppers, jalapeños, and olives.  Some other crowd favorites are candied bacon, regular bacon, mini cheeseburgers, etc.  But I don’t have time for that.

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Photography by Allyson Regan

For the ease of your guests, you can use large ice cubes and place them into glasses just before your guests arrive.  This way you don’t have to man-handle their ice cubes when they are itching for a drink in their hands.  All that’s left is to enjoy!

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If you haven’t realized it yet, Allyson Regan is an amazing photographer.
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Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller

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Another great Book of the Month selection!

Swimming Lessons is a novel about a young love that blossoms between a budding feminist and her literary professor/writer, set in England.  They fall in love and an unplanned pregnancy brings a tumultuous and emotional time for Ingrid.  She’s unable to finish school, struggling to accept her new daughter, and finds out that her husband is the man she was warned about.  After several miscarriages, and many more mistresses, Ingrid finds herself on the verge of leaving the life she has come to hate.  What actually happened to her is speculation, but Flora never gave up hope that her mom was still alive.  Written from Flora’s point of view as well as from Ingrid’s point of view in the letters that she leaves for Gil in his expansive book collection, you are left to piece together the story and speculate about what really happened.

This book is artfully written.  I am a sucker for books about book stores or writers or books themselves, which this book is about all three of those things.  But it also shows us the complicated webs that love weaves, between husband and wife, mother and daughter, life and loss, betrayal and trust.  The narrative is quite creative in that as soon as you find yourself hooked on Flora’s point of view, the chapter ends and Ingrid’s lost letters enlighten the reader.

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What are the odds that I would start reading this book on May 2nd, the same date that was mentioned two pages in?

It was quite interesting to watch Flora grow up and to watch Ingrid disappear.  Claire Fuller did an excellent job in revealing just the right amount of information to keep us turning the pages.  It’s a medium length book, but a fast read and would make a great book club book.

 

 

 

The Leavers by Lisa Ko

It’s been a really long time since I’ve gotten lost in a book they way I got lost in ‘The Leavers’ by Lisa Ko.  The story she weaves is so artfully and purposefully unraveled.  You are discovering new things about each character as they realize them about themselves.

I picked this book up on a site called Book of the Month.  If you’ve never heard of this subscription box service, it’s pretty great.  They select five books every month that you can choose from based on whatever subscription level you sign up for.  What I really like about them is that you can read a synopsis of each book as well as a review written by a fellow book lover about the book.  They picks are smart and broad, covering a wide variety of genres.  I often use this site when I’m looking for books that I know will be good, but may be in a new genre.  You can also skip the month if you don’t see anything you want.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not being paid to promote them, I just really like them.  If you’re interested, click this link to sign up!

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‘The Leavers’ tells the heart-wrenching story of a mother and son, who try to find their home in a world that prevents them from truly knowing each other.  Immigration, adoption, adolescence, heartbreak, mental illness, abuse, and poverty are all topics that find their way between these pages.  After reading this book, my eyes were really opened to what immigrants sometimes have to go through to get into America, all for a better life.  I don’t think this book was based off of a true story, however I do know that there are Immigration Detention Centers in the USA that have less than perfect living conditions and that stories similar to this exist.

It breaks my heart to think about stories such a this one, where a mother leaves her child in her home country and survives the travel conditions to make it here, only to work hard to pay off her debt and then be jailed, abused, and deported.  This book also tackles the topic of adoption, and exposes all sides of it.  This is the first time I’ve read anything about an older child being adopted, one that remembers his birth mother all too well.  Another topic that is touched on can speak to probably almost everyone.  It shows a very raw look at the struggle it is to find where home is for yourself and to find something that you are passionate about in life.  All too often, kids think that they need to figure out everything by the time they get to college when that is unrealistic.  Deming’s story took a good look at this.

Overall, this book really widened my world view and I would highly recommend it.  Also, Lisa Ko’s writing style worked really well for me and I found myself completely submersed in the story.  This is the kind of book that will have you thinking about the characters even when you aren’t reading it.