Muddled Blackberries

Happy Memorial Day, Friends! Today is a day to appreciate the great gift of freedom that we are blessed with here in good ol’ USA! Thank you to all who have served our country, past and present to protect our liberty.

If you ask me, there is no better way to celebrate Memorial Day than sitting outside, cooking, eating and drinking with great friends and family! I wanted to share with you three, porch-worthy drink recipes that include my newest obsession: muddled blackberries.

My recent love of blackberries started with a blackberry mojito I made a few months ago that was featured in my Fruity Cocktails post. That love only grew when I discovered the beauty of muddled blackberries. Here are a few blackberry beverages to share with your friends this holiday weekend!

Blackberry Sangria

Red wine (I used Merlot)
4 blackberries
1 tablespoon sugar
2 lime wedges
2 orange wedges
splash of lemon juice
Ice

In a plastic cup or cocktail shaker, muddle the blackberries with the sugar. Add the juice of one lime wedge, one orange wedge and the lemon juice. Stir. Fill a cocktail glass with ice. Add the fruit mixture. Add the second wedge of lime and orange for looks. Top off with wine. Stir and serve.

Blackberry Mojito

12 mint leaves
4 blackberries
1/2 lime, cut into 4 wedges
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 ounces white rum
1/2 cup club soda
Ice

In a plastic cup or cocktail shaker, muddle the blackberries, mint and sugar. Squeeze the juice of two of the lime wedges. Add the rum. Stir. Fill a cocktail glass with ice. Add the fruit mixture. Add the remaining lime wedges for looks. Top off with club soda. Stir and serve.

Blackberry Spritzer

4 blackberries
1/4 lime
1 tablespoon sugar
Club soda
Ice

In a plastic cup or cocktail shaker, muddle the blackberries and sugar. Squeeze the juice of the lime. Stir. Fill a cocktail glass with ice. Add the fruit mixture. Top off with club soda. Stir and serve.

Cheers!

Stuffed Mushrooms – Bacon, Cheese & Butter (Oh My!)

I’ve lived in Chicago for less than a year, but that’s more than enough time to fall in love with it. I have really hit the ground running (to use some of the corporate lingo that I’ve picked up) to make the most out of this city. I’ve seen some fantastic shows, eaten at some amazing restaurants, drank the local beer, seen the best of Chicago’s sports teams play, shopped on Michigan Ave., and the list goes on. There is just so much to do here, and I absolutely love doing things!

For as much as I love the city life, I also absolutely love coming home to my small hometown to visit. I love being able to cook out on the patio that overlooks an actual yard, visit the Starbucks that made me and drive fast on country roads.

Last weekend, I got to go home to visit my family. As always, I had an absolutely lovely time! Every time I go home, we have cocktails on the back porch, my dad grills a delicious dinner and my mom is always the advocate for game playing (sometimes she even convinces my dad to join in).

This time, my mom and I got to do some cooking of our own. We were going to make stuffed mushrooms. My mom had several packages of mushrooms in the fridge because a friend of hers saw that they were on sale and bought them for my family. (How cute is that?!) So I wanted to share this stuffed mushroom recipe with you all! From my kitchen in Rochester, to yours wherever you might be. We thought they were amazing.

Stuffed Mushrooms

24 fresh mushrooms
Nonstick cooking spray
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup margarine
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 strips cooked bacon, crumbled

Clean mushrooms. Remove the stems, and set aside.

Place mushroom caps, stem side down, on a baking sheet lined with foil. Spray lightly with cooking spray. Bake for 5 minutes at 425F. (NOTE: the photo below was taken after I took them out of the oven and flipped them over. Be sure to bake them flipped on the other side.)

Chop enough of the stems to make 1 cup. In a medium saucepan, cook the chopped stems, green onion, garlic and butter until tender.

Stir in breadcrumbs, cheese and bacon.

Spoon the mixture into mushroom caps.

Bake in a 425 degree F oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until heated through. Makes 24 mushrooms.

Enjoy!

J480 & Developmental Services Center

If there was ever a class that changed my life, it was JOUR 480: Literary Feature Writing with Prof. Walt Harrington. It was an in-depth writing class that absolutely fascinated me. The class taught the art of this delightful medium of storytelling that reads like a literary piece while upholding journalistic standards of integrity and fact. This class taught me a lot of things, including how to ask tough questions, how to paint images with detail and how to find the story worth telling.

My junior year of college, that story worth telling was about a very darling little girl and the amazing family that raised her. For the sake of the story, we’ll call her Sally. Sally had an older brother, a baby sister and two incredible parents who wanted nothing more than to raise three healthy, loving and happy children. They did just that. Sally just happened to have Down syndrome. I don’t think I saw anyone come within 10 feet of Sally without walking away with a smile. She was just a very strong and inspiring little girl. It was through my writing about this lovely family, that I ended up at at a very special organization that I feel so incredibly passionate about: Developmental Services Center (DSC).

DSC is such a great organization that provides support to children and adults with disabilities in Champaign County. Their mission is to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities by providing services and supports which enable them to live, work, learn and participate in their communities. The organization does so much good in their community that it gives me chills to just think about it. DSC is making a difference in people’s lives every single day. That’s just incredible to me.

I was so impressed by DSC and what they did that I immediately reached out to see what I could do to help. I ended up with an AWESOME volunteer job in the development department. Working under two of the most inspiring, motivated and nice people I have ever met, I gained hands-on experience on the inner-workings of a non-profit organization. I spent my hours there helping with fundraisers, getting donations, working on spreadsheets and writing success stories about DSC consumers. I loved every minute of it.

Why am I telling you this? Because DSC taught me the importance of doing good. Volunteering taught me what it means to do something because you genuinely care about it, not because you’re forced to. So my challenge to you is to find something that you care about and take a stand. Volunteer. Donate money. Run a 5K. Do whatever it takes to support what you care about. That is how you build character.

You can find out more about DSC here. If you’re able, please consider donating to DSC as well. All proceeds go directly toward providing supports and services for people with disabilities in Champaign county. If it’s time that you have, please consider volunteering at DSC. There are lots of ways you can get involved that are listed here.

Crop It

I went through a phase in high school when I kept buying jeans that were too big and not realizing it until it was too late to return them. Just one of the many dumb things I did between the ages of 14 and 18. One of the last remnants from this era is a pair of over-priced, over-rated and overly long Abercrombie jeans in 4 short. I was swimming in them at the time. I specifically remember wearing these pants to school without a belt one day and not being able to play the clarinet in marching band because I had to use one hand to keep my pants from literally falling off. (Did I mention I was really cool in high school?) The glory days.

Anyway, these pants went to college with me, I still thought Abercrombie was really cool, and they quickly became my going out jeans. As a result, these pants got paired with some unfortunate black heels one too many times and ended up looking like this:

I hadn’t worn these pants since I moved out of the dorms. I found them the other day and put them on, and surprisingly, they fit like dream! At 23, it is very exciting to put on a pair of jeans from high school and have them still fit. They still had a notch taken out of the bottom, but I knew just how to fix that: crop ’em. So I did.

I know this is not really a profound craft project, but it’s handy and everyone should know how to do it.

Step 1: Put on your old denim and fold up the pant leg to mark the length you’d like your carpis to be. Gently take them off, careful to not move the fold.

Step 2: Cut off a majority of the extra fabric, leaving just more than you would like to use to make the “cuff.”

Step 3: Fold back the excess fabric to make a cuff that hides any of the cut hem.

Step 4: Use a light thread and stitch a hem about 1/4″ from the top of the cuff.

And you’re done! Now your pants are carpis! I have to stitch these by hand, so it’s going to take me a little bit, but I will add a photo of the final product ASAP!

And the Winner is …

Thanks for everyone who supported EmJoyable and Pumpkin Loves by Steph on Etsy on my very first Giveaway!! The winner is Happy Grape who loved “the sewn bows, especially the gray polka dot one!” I will be working with our winner and Steph to be sure the bows are happily delivered to the lucky winner!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by and shared the love! Be sure to order your favorite bows, cards, crafts and other hand-made treasures at Steph’s shop!

XO,

Em Joy & Steph

Pumpkin Loves Etsy [GIVEAWAY!]

Now is a very exciting time for one of my good friends Steph, from Pumpkin Loves! Steph is a lot of things, including crafter, marathon runner, roller derby competitor, baker, blogger, and just plain awesome! Recently, Steph took on a new project: a fun little site called Etsy! In case you live under a rock, just returned from overseas or are new to this thing called the internet, Etsy is this incredibly addicting online craft shop where you can you find just about everything artsy and adorable. Pumpkin Loves by Steph is a new addition to Etsy, and is the “Shop for a Little of Everything”.

I’m SO excited to feature Pumpkin Loves’ new Etsy shop on EmJoyable for so many reasons! Steph is one of the coolest, most creative, most inspiring people I know, and her Etsy shop totally loves up to her name. The shop features a variety of adorable projects handmade my Steph, including a wide variety of adorable handmade hair bows – and I just love hair bows!

The other thing I love about Pumpkin Loves is that she loves EmJoyable fans! She loves them so much in fact that she is going to be giving away three hairbows from her Etsy shop FOR FREE to one lucky EmJoyable reader! To win, all you have to do is check out her Etsy shop and write a quick comment below about which bow is your favorite! A winner will be chosen at random on Saturday at 8 PM. The winner will be notified on Saturday night and will get their choice of 3 free hair bows!

So go! Check her out and leave some love below!

[Or mix and max 3 bows for FREE! To win, just enter a comment below about your favorite bow on Pumpkin Loves’ Etsy shop for a chance to win! One lucky winner will be notified Saturday night!]