Cocktails That Taste Like Summer

When life gives you lemons, mint, basil, and thyme add some vodka and hurry to the porch.

-Shannon Hunter (that’s me)

Summertime brings about the most delicious herbs. Whether you grow them yourself, go to the farmer’s market or the grocery store, now is a great time to enjoy fresh basil, thyme and mint. My neighbor, Elizabeth, brought over an entire bouquet of basil and a craving for a lemon, basil and vodka cocktail. So I made her one. I always have lemons and vodka just in case.

I like to grow basil and mint in containers on the porch near the kitchen door. That way I can run out with my kitchen shears and cut some to add to whatever is on the stove or muddle in a drink. Basil and mint together is so good in sweet iced tea with lime. Love it!

So far this summer I have three delicious cocktails that are my favorites! I will say a gin and tonic is my absolute favorite in the summer, but I decided to make use of overflowing pots of basil and mint. I am not growing thyme so I have to get that from the farmer’s market or the grocery store when they have it.

They are so easy to make but you must have two things on hand…simple syrup and good quality tonic and soda. I highly recommend Fever-Tree. It truly is the best brand of tonic and soda I have ever had. Indian, Mediterranean and Elderflower are my favorite flavors. Here is a picture in case you aren’t familiar:

The best bargain for Fever Tree is to order it by the case on Amazon – otherwise it is between $5 – $6 for four bottles. Here are the links to my favorites:

Indian Tonic Water:

Elderflower Tonic Water:

Meditarranean Tonic Water:

To get started on porch sitting and sipping, you must have chilled simple syrup.

Simple Syrup:

1 cup of sugar – I also squeeze in a little honey. Especially if I add a sprig of thyme to the water.

1 cup of water

Bring water to a boil and stir in the sugar and honey. Turn heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk. Pour into a Pyrex cup or heat resistant container and let it cool. I keep in the refrigerator in a sealed container.

Thyme infused simple syrup – add a sprig or two to the simmering water.

Basil, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Muddle 2-3 leaves of fresh basil in a glass – leave them in the glass

Fill glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add a shot of vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1 tablespoon of simple syrup or more to taste

Top with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic

Garnish with a lemon slice and basil leaf

Stir and Serve!

Thyme, Lemon, Vodka Cocktail:

Fill a glass with ice

Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the ice

Add one shot of Vodka – roughly 1.5 ounces

Add 1-2 tablespoons of thyme infused simple syrup or more to taste

Add Fever-Tree tonic or soda to top – I prefer tonic but others prefer soda – make two and decide!

Stir and garnish with lemons and a sprig of fresh thyme.

Mint Juleps aren’t just for The Kentucky Derby ya’ll. It’s a great drink that is so refreshing during the summer. And helps with what to do with all that overflowing mint.

Mint Julep:

5 fresh mint leaves, muddled

2 ounces of simple syrup

2 ounces of bourbon – Woodford Reserve is my favorite mixing bourbon

Muddle 5 mint leaves in a glass. Fill the glass to the top with ice. Add simple syrup and bourbon. Garnish with mint sprigs.

What is your favorite summer cocktail? You know I’d love to hear!

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

With freedom, books, flowers and the moon who could not be happy? – Oscar Wilde

Happy Fourth of July! I love this holiday to celebrate our independence and feel so fortunate to live in this country. Holidays always bring about some sort of reflection for me and on July 4th I find myself focused on dreams. I think it’s because we, as Americans, have so much opportunity to make our dreams a reality. I have seen people from all walks of life take an idea and do amazing things with it. No matter where you come from. We all have the freedom to choose what we do with what we have.  Resources may come easier for some than others, but hard work and dedication will pay off. As Robert Frost said, “Freedom lies in being bold.” There are so many ways to interpret what he meant by this. For me, it means freedom from anything holding you back or wearing you down, if you are willing do what it takes to make a change. The courage to make decisions to be a healthier, happier, better version of yourself.

Fireworks lighting up the sky surrounded by people I love is just magical for me. I feel more connected to those around me and truly appreciate our country’s unique history. The freedoms declared by the Declaration of Independence were blood-bought and came at a deadly cost. Many, many lives were lost so we can live today in a free society. I truly cherish that dream that so many gave their lives to achieve.

I suppose that is why on the fourth day of July I focus on my own dreams, goals and challenges. A night sky filled with beautiful lights fills me with promise and hope. I hope it does for you, too. And I also hope that whatever those feelings spark inside of you will light a fire towards your pursuit of happiness and building a life you love.

I’d love to hear what July 4th means to you and how you celebrate Independence Day so please tell me about it in comments below!

The Impulse Decision That Makes Me Happy Every Day

I am much more concerned about things that will feel delightful rather than impressive.

Celerie Kemble – One of my very favorite interior designers.

My kitchen backsplash makes me smile! It was not my first choice. I really wanted Carrara marble in a herringbone pattern. I was dead set on it. I walked into a beautiful tile store and stated very clearly and definitively what I wanted. The idea was to quickly get it ordered so that I could get back to the office as I was on my lunch break. Then we started talking numbers. The cost was twice what I had budgeted. The labor was going to be even more than the materials. I didn’t like any of the suggestions for a similar look such as ceramic subway tiles or ceramic tiles in a herringbone pattern. That was not the look I was going for and wasn’t what I wanted. I wanted what I wanted!

I walked through the showroom just to see if there was anything else I might like. There was this gorgeous display of porcelain patterned tile that I immediately fell in love with. My comment to the designer was something along the lines of “I love it so I probably can’t afford it.” Her response? “That tile and the labor will be more than half the cost of the Carrara herringbone.” My response? “That one! Let’s do it!” A few minutes later I was back in the car and couldn’t believe I chose something for my kitchen so quickly and on a whim. I went with my gut and the way it made me feel when I first laid eyes on it. In the past I would have needed to send it to my mom, my sister, five friends and post on Facebook for feedback and approval. I used to be so nervous and not so confident in my own choices. Not anymore! I am sticking with staying true to myself and making choices based on who I am. My home is such a representation of my personality.

Patterned tile is definitely a hot trend right now. Trends come and go, but style does not. This classic pattern in neutral colors will enhance any paint color or kitchen updates I make in the future. The distressed patina on the tile gives it a beautiful weathered appearance that adds character and charm. Kind of like the patina I have developed over the years. Ha!

These 8×8 tiles are by Nola and the pattern is Lafayette.

Shine On!

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.  -Edith Wharton

POPULAR: Lemons are one of the most common fruits grown in Tasmania, but they are also a target for pests of all sorts.

I love lemons. They smell good and I can’t resist the vibrancy of the color yellow. It is the happiest color ever! Not only do lemons make me happy just looking at them, but I put them in everything from water to my delicious meatballs. Yes, meatballs.  I’ll share the recipe with you. It’s so good. If the color didn’t make me happy enough the smell makes me believe every little thing really is ok. That’s what this blog is about and why I called it Lemon Luster. Lemons are restorative and associated with cleansing. Not just to my sink that sparkles after I run a wedge around it to disinfect or an old piece of furniture that needs a lemon polish to restore it’s luster. Lemons restore our souls and well-being, too.  In fact, essential lemon oil is known to provide antioxidants to combat things determined to make us sick and grouchy. The mere fact that lemons can bring back shine and re-energize the spirit is why I have a bowl full in my kitchen all the time. I love that feeling I get when I see that happy yellow and smell that beautiful refreshing scent. I want what lemons give. I haven’t lost my shine, I just need to polish the tarnish to regain the luster once again. I’m on a mission to reinvent myself for the next half of my life. And it’s going to be good!

I’m in my middle years with many, many left ahead of me. I’ve raised two amazing kids who still need to be raised. They are 15 and 16 and I’m in a different mindset from the toddler and elementary years. They are enjoying looking ahead to their lives and what makes them happy. I’m trying to figure out where my life is now and what truly makes me happy. I want to shine from the inside out and make the most of every day. Curate my evolving style, enjoy my passion for cooking, and learn to take the lemons that life gives me and add vodka. Or make lemonade. Either one.

This blog is how, as an almost 50 year old woman, I go about doing just that. I’ll share life lessons that shaped where I’m at now. How I found my job that I love and never thought I’d have. Why I started a blog. Aren’t there enough already? How I shop, dress, and products I’ve discovered that has people stop me to ask where did you get that and why does your skin glow? Because I’ve stopped others to ask the same questions and I have read many blogs and pieced together what works for me at my age. I wear what I want and I don’t care if everyone else is wearing jeans or shorts. If I want to wear a skirt I’ll wear the skirt! And just smile when someone says “well, you’re all dressed up”.

Are you a mom with older kids or a women 40+ trying figure out what in the heck you do now? Has life thrown you lemons? Me, too. I have learned to squeeze all the juice out of each one to become stronger, resilient and shine! I’ll Take what comes my way and decide for myself what to do with it. Good things, bad things, surprises, heartache, blessings, you get the picture.

Join me and I promise you these things…..you will laugh (I’m funny and ridiculous things happen to me), you’ll learn all kinds of delicious ways to throw lemons in recipes and cocktails, and I’ll share all the products and clothing that has truly changed my life. There are a few lip glosses that if discontinued will cause me to throw a running, barking fit. Never heard of a running, barking fit? Stay with me. I’ll tell you all about it.

I don’t have all the answers, but I have some. Sure hope you have what I’m missing and will share your experiences and lessons learned that helped you pave your way.

Join me on a journey to find our best, most lustrous selves. Let’s shine on!

What You Put IN Your Body is More Important Than What You Put ON Your Body!

The first wealth is health. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am an absolute product junkie! I love pretty packaging and anything that smells good. If I could afford La Mer I would buy it and I’m sure I would be thrilled with the results. The truth is, though, you can spend as little or as much as you want and will obtain similar results. I haven’t splurged on La Mer but I have tried everything from Chanel to Lancome skin products and thought they made my skin feel and look fantastic. Glowy, soft and dewy. I’ve ran through the drugstore in a hurry and bought Cetaphil or Oil of Olay and was so pleased to see the same glow and dewy complexion. Many dermatologists I’ve visited have all recommended the same thing – Dove, Neutrogena, Oil of Olay, La Roche Posay. If I asked them if expensive skincare was ok they would say sure! But the truth is the simplest of products or brands found in any drugstore work just fine. It’s up to you what you want and can afford.

Not negotiable? What you put in your body and how much sleep you get. The right foods and water feed and nourish our skin and hair. Unhealthy eating and sleeping habits take a toll on our skin and hair and there isn’t a product out there that can fix poor nutrition. Beautiful skin and hair can be yours simply by eating fruits, vegetables, drinking water, and getting plenty of sleep. Not to mention more energized and focused.

There is a long list of brain foods that boost concentration, memory and our moods. They have even been linked to helping combat dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. At my age I know it’s not an option but a necessity. I also know to keep it clean and avoid unnecessary supplements and additives. Natural seasonings and fresh ingredients. Smoothies with very few ingredients. Fruit and ice. Maybe a little honey or yogurt.

I have researched online, asked nutritionists and my doctor how to feel better and lessen my anxiety. This is what they said – Good nutrition, exercise, water, sleep. Not one of them said expensive creams, supplements, juice cleansing, or fad diets. Feed your body and your mind. The results are beautiful from the inside out!

Here are my favorite brain foods that taste delicious and keep me looking good:

Blueberries – super brain food! I like it in my yogurt for breakfast.

Avocadoes – squeeze lime on it and call it guacamole. I love it on a salad or toast.

Spinach – in place of lettuce on burgers and sandwiches. Spinach salad with avocado is my favorite!

Cucumbers – in water, salads, alone. I love them!

Salmon – grilled, blackened, sauteed, baked. I love it so much alone or on top of a salad.

Dark chocolate – helps to de-stress and it’s so delicious. A small piece or two each day improves focus.

Nuts and seeds – almonds, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, pecans, and sunflower seeds are my favorites to add to yogurt or sprinkle on a salad.

Green tea – add honey to make it extra good. I like a cup in the afternoon. My mornings are reserved for coffee!

PIneapple – 85% water and excellent for skin. I love them in smoothies with coconut and ice.

WATER – all caps. Alone or with lemon. Just drink it.

It’s not an effort. All can be purchased from any grocery store. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s expensive to eat healthy. It isn’t. Healthcare and doctor visits are expensive. Eat right, stay healthy to avoid falling ill from poor nutrition habits.

You glow girl!

Easy Summer Salads

Cook once, eat all week.

My approach to summer cooking.

I’m so lazy in the summer. I love to cook but I really don’t want to spend hours and hours in the kitchen when I could be outside. Or fanning myself on the sofa drinking a lemonade that may or not have vodka in it. So when I am busy with either of those activities and someone living in my house screams “I’m hungry” I can point them to the fridge. I’ll spend a little time on Sunday boiling pasta and chopping fresh veggies and cheese. I just squeeze lemon juice, pour a little olive oil over the pasta, add fresh basil, salt and pepper, and toss. Then I have fresh mozzarella, olives, salami, pepperoni, grilled chicken, hard cheeses, cucumber, artichokes and tomatoes ready to toss in. Sometimes I toss together and store in a covered container to enjoy all week. If my children complain about all the stuff they hate in it , I’ll store the sides in separate smaller covered containers and everyone can choose what they want. Kind of like a covered salad bar in the fridge.

My daughter just wants the pasta and chicken. My son adds pepperoni and whatever cheese he sees first. I add everything. It lasts for a week. So easy. I always have different variations that includes feta, asparagus, green beans, grilled corn, whatever sounds good.

Another favorite in my house is 3-5 bean salad. I say 3-5 because I don’t know what I have in the pantry. If I have five then great! If not, then three it is and great! It’s such a perfect side dish to serve with grilled hamburgers, chicken or anything off the grill. I like it alone for lunch, too. It also lasts in the refrigerator for a full week. The dressing is easy to make and it’s delicious!

These are also easy and ideal to bring to a potluck or serve when guests come over. Isn’t it nice to have a go-to at the ready when you are entertaining in the summer. Spend time with friends not with your stovetop or oven!

Store in the refrigerator in a Pyrex covered container or any covered container for up to a week.

See below for my recipes. I’d love to know what you add to make it your own and especially if your kids love it.

Serve anytime in your favorite dish that makes you happy. These bowls from Anthropologie are my absolute favorites.

Pasta Salad:

  1. Any pasta. I like rotini veggie pasta and I use the whole box. Follow directions on the package.
  2. Drain the water and keep in a colander to cool.
  3. Combine the juice of one lemon, 1/4 cup of olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  4. Dice a cucumber, tomato (I like to halve cherry tomatoes), zucchini, onion, whatever veggies you like.
  5. Coarsely chop any cheese such as feta, aged cheddar, fresh mozzarella, manchego, whatever you like!
  6. Add fresh basil leaves.
  7. Mix with the pasta and pour the lemon and oil over the salad. Toss to coat. Or just pour over the pasta and place the other ingredients in separate containers to add later.
  8. Store in the fridge up to a week and enjoy all week long.

Other variations:

I’ll add leftover grilled corn, sauteed green beans, avocado (add fresh to each serving each day or it will turn that yucky brown color) and serve with grilled chicken, shrimp, salmon or burgers. Balsamic vinaigrette is great with it, too.

Bean Salad – Any Variation Of:

1 can cut green beans

1 can red kidney beans

1 can wax beans

1 can garbanzo beans

1 can black beans

1 can northern beans or white beans

1 Vidalia onion or any type you love – shallots are good!

Green pepper, or red or yellow or none at all

Dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup vinegar – any kind is fine but I prefer champagne or apple cider

1/4 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Drain and rinse the beans and put into a large serving bowl or large pyrex that has fitted lid. Add the onions, peppers, and stir gently to combine.

Mix the dressing ingredients well. Pour over the beans and stir well. Store in the refrigerator up to a week. When you take the salad out to serve, make sure to stir well to distribute the dressing.

So good! I hope you like it! If you add anything else, please comment and let me know. I’m always up for new ways to make favorite recipes!

Lipgloss Can’t Solve All Our Problems But It’s a Pretty Great Start

Put on some lipstick and you’ll feel better. – Judy Erickson aka my mother

I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I have at least 25 or more lipsticks and lipglosses. I am obsessed. My grandmother Maxine always wore red lipstick. British Red by Loreal was her favorite. She also loved Cherries in the Snow by Revlon. I don’t deny that I am a devout believer in retail therapy. If I need a little pick me up a trip to Nordstroms or one of my favorite stores does the trick. While my heart and soul says yes to shopping, my budget says no. But I still need a little something something. now and again. Enter lip gloss. Or lipstick. For me, it’s the perfect way to satisfy my craving of something new to brighten my day, mood, outfit, etc…. So I invited a few friends for lunch and to join me on my quest for a new lippie.

We decided on Nordstroms because they have an amazing restaurant and one quick escalator ride down lands us right in make-up beauty mecca. We had one rule. We weren’t allowed our usual go-to. Meaning Beth was not allowed to reach for another nude gloss, no baby pink for me, and Tina couldn’t even say the word rose. The mission – step out of our lip color comfort zone. It was hard. We had the right person for the job though! We started at MAC because it was right off the elevator. Marlene was the makeup artist working that day and I think it was meant to be. We loved her! She was so helpful and fun that we stayed there the entire time. She went to other lines and brought us all kinds of new products we had never tried. She was tough, too. She fought through all of our hard stares, grimaces, eyebrow raising and “no, that’s not for me statements.” I really don’t think the experience would have been the same without her!

Nymphette was a gorgeous shade that Beth loved but it was too light. I loved it but it turned out too light for me, too. We both ooohed and ahhhed over Money Honey and it didn’t work. It was perfect for Tina though. Beth and I thought we might strike out until Marlene introduced us to Deelight Cremesheen Glass. Neither of us would have reached for it on our own and it was absolutely stunning over Edge to Edge lip liner. Beth was sold! It looked pretty on me but Marlene thought I might have better options for my skin tone. She pulled out a purple glittery gloss. Purple. I smirked. She smirked. I swiped it on just to play nice. And LOVED it! Purple. Gloss. Date Night Dazzleglass! It’s my absolute favorite. On it’s own it’s just a nice plummy shiny hint of color. It brings out gorgeous colors in my favorite lipsticks. I also tried Rags to Riches because my beautiful friend Wendy wears it and I love it on her. So I asked to try it and luckily it worked. It’s a beautiful pearly pink that stands on it’s own or great blended with a lipstick.

Tina struggled a bit to find her perfect shade. She is blonde with fair skin that has pink undertones. Pink shades can compete with her skin tone. Marlene was awesome bringing other brands in for her to try. Bobbi Brown’s Bright Pink gloss was gorgeous on Tina and it’s her new go-to!

What did we gleefully walk away with? Here’s what worked for each of us based on our hair and skin:

Tina – light blonde with fair skin and pink undertones:

  • Bobbi Brown Bright Pink Lip Gloss
  • Kiehls Ultra Face Cream
  • MAC Eyebrows Styler in Lingering

Beth – medium blonde, light complexion with pink undertones:

  • MAC Deelight Cremesheen Lipglass
  • MAC Edge to Edge Lip Liner

Shannon – Strawberry Blonde, fair complexion and pink undertones:

  • MAC Date Night Dazzleglass
  • MAC Rags to Riches Lipglass

Want a pick me up and a fun afternoon? Invite a few friends for lunch and shop for a new lipstick or gloss. Your face will look a little brighter and you’ll feel more energized. It worked for us!


Rise Like The Break of Dawn

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. » Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have a bad habit of dragging yesterday’s regrets and sadness into a new day. Sometimes, I wake up upset about things that happened long ago or even the day before. It’s done. Move on. I CAN’T. YES, I CAN. I love arguing with myself. As well, I have a habit of living my life thinking “I will never allow this to happen again” or “I just need to get what I’m going through behind me and everything will be ok”. Darn it if something else doesn’t come up to take it’s place. Does this strike a chord with you?

I recently heard someone say that 30% of any day, work life, relationship, etc…will just suck. Their point was that if we can just accept that, maybe we can focus our time on the 70% that is pretty good. I can’t go to bed or wake up anymore thinking what in the world is going to happen to knock me off my feet next – and I don’t mean that in a positive way. The thing is that something absolutely will. Maybe as minor as getting to work wearing one blue shoe and one black shoe, your child starts rapid fire texting you to please pick them up from school, you rear end a school bus, a fight with a loved one and on and on and on who knows. Hopefully nothing more serious than what can’t be easily fixed. It’s just that we let these little things build up and take over. Why can’t the good things build up and take over. I think it really is our attitude and just being so tired all the time from things that wear us down. Regardless of what it is the day goes on, sun comes up tomorrow, and the earth still spins.

I know it can be irritating for the answer to be change your attitude. Sounds easy but we know it’s not. What choice do we have though? Take the lemons and make the damn lemonade. Fix it, hit reset and go about rocking the rest of the day. Don’t forget the lessons. Don’t regret the past. I love the saying, “Don’t look back, you aren’t going that way”. It’s true ya’ll. I still beat myself up for my failed marriage. I’m happy now. My ex is happy. Time to put it behind me and enjoy what I’ve built since. And yet I still let it weigh me down. Anyone have any great suggestions for letting go what once weighed you down? I’d love to hear it. Post in comments! I could use the inspiration. Maybe someone else reading this post could, too! You never know when the lessons you learn help and inspire others. So let’s help each other out and in the words we all know well Let. It. Go!