4th of July Cocktail

blueberry peach sparkler top viewI am working on 4th of July party food ideas. I will have Sewing Sister and my nieces with me, and we want to do a good picnic at the beach and watch fireworks. I think the adults will need a refreshing cocktail to balance out the meal. I first made this vodka sparkler when Aunt B was here last year. At that time, we used strawberries and peaches. At the swim meet last week, I mixed it up again using blueberries and peaches. Either fruit combination will be perfect for July 4th!

Ingredients

  • 12 strawberries (~10 for the fruit vodka and extra for garnish)
  • OR 1/2 pint of blueberries in place of the strawberries
  • 1 peach (peeled if it is not too soft)
  • 2 c. vodka
  • 1 c. simple syrup (see the notes)
  • 1 c. fresh lemon juice
  • Prosecco (or other sparkling wine)
  • fresh mint for garnish

strawberry peach sparkler ingredients

Directions

  • Cut 10 strawberries into bite sizes and place in a pitcher OR put blueberries in a pitcher. Cut the peach into bite sizes and add to the pitcher. Pour vodka over the fruit and let steep in the refrigerator 3+ hours.
  • Make simple syrup and let cool (see notes below).
  • After the vodka finishes steeping, strain the fruit from the vodka.
  • Mix equal parts fruit vodka, simple syrup, and lemon juice. I mixed 1 cup each of fruit vodka, simple syrup, and fresh lemon juice, which yielded about 4 cocktails. You can double or triple (or reduce) as needed.
  • Fill a glass about 2/3 full with crushed ice. Pour the drink mix over the ice; top with a splash of Prosecco (~2 oz.).
  • Garnish with a mint sprig and a slice of strawberry (or a few blueberries) and serve.

Notes

  • The color of the strawberries leeches out while sitting in the vodka, so it is not very pretty to leave the soaked fruit in your cocktail, but you certainly can. The blueberries retained their color, so I did use the vodka soaked blueberries as a garnish in the blueberry version.
  • To make simple syrup, Put equal parts water and sugar in a pot and heat on the stove until sugar is dissolved. Swirl the mixture a few times while heating. Remove from heat and let cool. If you only need a few cocktails, mix 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar. If you are mixing cocktails for a large group, double or triple. Leftover simple syrup can be kept in a container with a lid in the refrigerator for a long time.
  • Sonic Drive-In sells their really good pellet ice by the bag, cup, or will even fill your cooler! It is the perfect ice if you are making this cocktail in picnic/tailgate conditions. I find Reusable Tumblers and colorful straws add a nice touch too.

blueberry peach sparkler

Chicken Caesar Pasta Salad

chicken caesar pasta salad plate close up

Here is another summer salad that will be easy to pack in individual containers and bring to swim meets, picnics, or any other tailgate type event that comes up this summer. It can be made ahead and keeps in the refrigerator for a day or two as long as you do not add the lettuce until just before serving. I also tested to see if it could be stored in a Mason jar for a teacher or office lunch, and it works perfectly. I won’t lie; the fact that it looks very Martha Stewart and Pinterest-y in the Mason jar is a huge draw for me.

chicken caesar pasta salad mason jarIngredients

  • 16 oz. shell pasta, cooked and cooled
  • 2 roast chicken breasts, pulled off the bone and diced/shredded (a grocery store rotisserie chicken works too and saves time)
  • 12 oz. Caesar salad dressing (I like Marie’s brand)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced in 1/4 circles
  • ~1 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 heads Romaine lettuce, shredded or chopped

Directions

  • Combine cooked pasta, chicken pieces, tomato pieces, and sliced onion.
  • chicken caesar pasta salad ingredientsAdd dressing and mix gently. Start with about 2/3 of the dressing and add more if it seems too dry. You will need more dressing than you think because of the lettuce that will be added before serving.
  • chicken caesar pasta salad dressingSprinkle with black pepper and Parmesan cheese and mix again.
  • Just before serving, add the lettuce to the pasta and mix.

Notes

  •  If you are packing in a Mason jar or tupperware for a work lunch or picnic, layer the serving of pasta salad on the bottom. Place a layer of lettuce in the top. Store in the refrigerator (or cooler) until ready to eat.

chicken caesar pasta salad mason jar close

 

RoomMom Dreams

roommom blog button large

It is (roughly) the third anniversary of TheRoomMom. When I started writing in June, 2012, I wanted the blog to be a resource for parents (mostly moms) with school aged children. I wanted to share all of the behind-the-scenes information I have as a teacher and as a mom– how to communicate with your child’s teachers successfully, what makes a really good teacher gift, how to handle homework effectively, how to plan and write a research paper– that kind of thing. Well, I am a little crafty; I like organizing parties; I love children’s literature, and I create teacher resources for educators, so I started throwing in group food recipes, party ideas, craft projects, favorite book lists, and lesson ideas for the classroom. TheRoomMom became a repository for all of the experiences I have as a teacher mom of elementary aged children.

Around this time of year, I take a little inventory and think about the future of TheRoomMom empire. What is my dream? Someday, I would love to write a children’s chapter book. All of the experiences I share here are my notes for the unwritten novel. I haven’t figured out my characters or my story, but I know the seed of the book is somewhere in here.

I have other dreams too. They vary, but most of the dreams involve working for myself and having an income I can use for non-essentials like sending my kids to a sleepaway camp similar to the one I attended growing up.

Happy birthday to TheRoomMom and here is to continued growth and good ideas!

dare to dream

Thanks to Peppy Zesty Teacherista, Teach Create Motivate, Third in Hollywood, and Sparkling in Second Grade for asking the dream question.

Mystery, History, and Art

under the egg

I have been reading at a pretty good clip since school ended. I just finished a book called Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald. At first, I thought it was going to be another book with Quirky Sidekicks that seems to be the current trend in juvenile literature. While there are definitely oddball characters, the book is more of an art mystery. It is a combination of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The DaVinci Code. Some of the solutions in the story are a little too convenient, but overall, I loved the information about the Renaissance painter, Raphael, World War II, and the Monuments Men. There are a handful of other books that center around family heirloom secrets in order to reach the resolution. I love the scavenger hunt aspect to these books and recommend them for students because they require a ton of critical reading skills to follow the plot.

mystery, history, and art book list pin

  • Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
  • Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
  • The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan ( and The 39 Clues series)
  • Conspiracy 365 series by Gabrielle Lord
  • Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice
  • Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
  • The Shadows by Jacqueline West (The Books of Elsewhere series)
  • We the Children by Andrew Clements (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School series)
  • The Ring of Rocamadour by Michael D. Beil (The Red Blazer Girls series)
  • Masterpiece by Elise Broach
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
  • The Second Mrs. Giacondo by E.L. Konigsburg
  • Leonardo’s Shadow by Christopher Grey
  • The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone
  • Cecily’s Portrait by Adele Geras (Historical House series)
  • The Blackhope Enigma by Teresa Flavin
  • The Theft & the Miracle by Rebecca Wade

Many of these books are cross listed on my Scavenger Hunt Book List as well as my Fate and Destiny Book List. Obviously, I am drawn to this style of book. What is on your summer stack?

sixty eight rooms

Makeover Madness

YOB before and after

We are pausing for a short commercial break. I am participating in a summer teacher challenge of sorts. Our first task was to update teacher materials that needed a fresh coat of paint, so to speak. I try to refresh most of my materials each year while teaching, so the next year’s class gets something different. For all of my makeover ideas for teacher units, visit the Teacher Tools links. To get a quick peak at how I revamped my final novel unit of the year, see the snapshots below.

Year of the Boar before

Year of the Boar after

Click In the Year of the Boar and Jackie Robinson to see the complete teacher materials.