Frozen Almond Spiced Chai

Frozen Spiced ChaiWhen I was eighteen I went to India for the first time, and I've been dying to go back ever since. It was so beautiful and colorful! It was in India that I had my first chai tea. When I got home I started making chai at home, and then all through my twenties it was my go-to coffee shop drink (did you know I used to think I didn't like coffee? How things have changed!). Anyway, to this day I can't drink a chai without mentally booking a trip to India (I need to book a trip for real). It's a very cool, transportive flavor. 

Today I'm here teaming up with Almond Breeze to share a recipe for a frozen chai. It's nice and spicy with a hint of almond—a perfect treat! 

Frozen Spiced Chai Frozen Spiced Chai, serves one.

1 cup Vanilla Almond Breeze Almondmilk
2 chai tea bags 
frozen yogurt
ground nutmeg
ground cinnamon
ground ginger 
cinnamon sticks (optional, for garnish)
pure vanilla extract
whipped cream
honey

Prep: The day before, freeze some Almond Breeze into ice cubes. I don't know about you, but I think I almost always prefer almond milk to regular milk—especially in drinks. It just feels less heavy, and of course I love the added almond flavor. 

Frozen Spiced Chai  An hour (or more) before making your shake, heat 1 cup Almond Breeze and let it cool in the fridge with 2 chai tea bags to infuse. 

In a blender, combine 1 cup infused Almond Breeze; 4 scoops frozen yogurt; 6 Almond Breeze ice cubes; 1 pinch each ground nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger; 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract; and 1 tablespoon honey. Blend to perfection! 

Top with whipped cream and cinnamon. Garnish with a cinnamon stick. 

Enjoy! 

Frozen Spiced Chai   Frozen Spiced Chai    xo! Elsie 

Credits // Author and Photography: Elsie Larson. Photos edited with Stella, Imogen, and Norma from The Signature Collection and The Folk Collection

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Build Your Own Pergola (Part Two - Building)

Build a pergola - before (click through for more info)       Yesterday I shared a bit about how I planned for my pergola build. Today I'm going to share with you the build process! It took two days to build. I initially thought I could build the thing by myself, but when I was buying all the lumber and supplies, I started to reconsider. It was definitely going to be a bigger task than I had imagined, so I recruited a buddy to help me on the first day. Thanks, Kyle! On the second day, I was able to finish the build on my own. If you like working by yourself, like I usually do, I would definitely recommend asking a buddy or two to help out (plus having an extra pair of eyes on a project can minimize stupid mistakes). As I mentioned in the previous post, the pergola ended up being 10' x 10', built on an existing concrete slab. Here's how I went about constructing it:

Supplies:
-twelve 1x6x12 pressure-treated decking, about $7 each
-four 2x8x12 pressure-treated lumber, about $13 each
-five 4x6x8 treated lumber, about $15 each
-ten 2x6x10 treated lumber, about $8 each
-ten 1x6x10 treated lumber, about $7 each
-6 post anchors, about $20 each
-Tapcon 3/8" x 3" concrete anchors, box of 10 about $20
-twenty-four 2x4 fence brackets, about $.70 each
-one box of each 2.5" and 1.25" Grip-Rite Deck Screws, about $10 each
-3/8" concrete bit (I bought one, but it was toast by the sixth time using it. I'd recommend getting two), about $7 each
-eight 2 1/4" galvanized lag bolts
-twelve 1/2" x 6" coarse thread galvanized steel hex-head lag screws, box of 25 about $50
-twelve 1/2" galvanized steel flat washers, box of 25 about $7 each

Tools:
-miter saw
-jigsaw
-speed square 
-pencil/white pencil
-ladder
-drill
-drill bits
-chalk line
-tape measure
-helping hands
-ratchet
-leather gloves

Build a pergola - before (click through for more info)Build a pergola - marking for placement (click through for more info)Build a pergola - marking for placement (click through for more info)Step One: Fortunately, I had a perfect slab of concrete to build on. The first thing I did was clear all of the furniture and planters off, then using a leaf blower, blew all the leaves and dirt away. I had a nice, level, clean surface to build on. The slab is 16' x 16', so I thought I would just build it in the center, leaving a 3' walkway all around it. After measuring and considering entryways (side garage door and kitchen glass sliding door), I repositioned over and back a foot—which worked out pretty great. So after measuring and marking with a colored pencil on the concrete, I snapped lines with the chalk line. So far, so good.

Build a pergola - drilling for anchor bolts (click through for more info)Build a pergola - drilling for anchor bolts (click through for more info)Build a pergola - drilling for anchor bolts (click through for more info)Build a pergola - drilling for anchor bolts (click through for more info)Step Two: It can get pretty windy here in the Midwest. Since I didn't want to wake up one morning with a pergola smashed into my kitchen, I had to anchor it down. I used the heaviest duty post anchor I could find. They're triple zinc coated and recommended to use with treated lumber. They also came with 1" stand-off plates to elevate the lumber off the concrete for moisture control. I set out all of the plates, then went to each one, drilled a hole with a 3/8" concrete bit, then ratcheted the anchor bolt in. 

Build a pergola - bolting in vertical beam (click through for more info)Build a pergola - installed beams (click through for more info)Build a pergola - installed beams (click through for more info)Build a pergola - installed beams (click through for more info)Build a pergola - installed beams (click through for more info)Step Three: After all of the base plates were installed, it was time to put up some lumber. The 4x6s I used were 8' high, so that set my ceiling height. They weren't exactly 8', so I went ahead and cut them all to size. After putting up the first one, I got a bit nervous because it was kind of shaky (8' of vertical lumber tends to do that). I decided to only put up the back two 8' posts and two 4' posts, my thought being by tying those four posts together with the horizontal boards, they would become sturdy. Then I could put up the two other eight-footers and then attach them all together. After I had the four posts up, it was time for the the privacy panels. We installed the fence brackets, cut the 1x6 pieces to size, and screwed them in place.

If I were to build the pergola again, I would probably do this step differently. The horizontal beams definitely made the structure sturdier, but not as much as I would have liked. The fence brackets do a fine job of holding the lumber in place, but they didn't provide stability support (I'm sure there is an engineering term I could use here). The alternative could have been using different brackets or just screwing the beams onto the outside of the vertical beams. 

Build a pergola - cutting corner off of beam (click through for more info)Build a pergola - cutting corner off of beam (click through for more info)Build a pergola - cutting corner off of beam (click through for more info)Build a pergola - cutting corner off of beam (click through for more info)Step Four: At this step, having helping hands was crucial. I had all six vertical beams up and needed to install the 2x8s that would provide lateral support. First off, I cut the corners off to add a little bit of character. The 6" lag bolts I had ordered hadn't arrived yet, so I just screwed them in to temporarily keep them in place. I probably would have done that anyway so Kyle didn't have to hold his side up while I ratcheted two big ol' bolts in. That thing was not light; the faster I got it screwed in, the better. I marked the top of the lumber so I could easily line it up to the post and didn't have to fuss too long.

Build a pergola - starting herb trough (click through for more info)Build a pergola - starting herb trough (click through for more info)Build a pergola - starting herb trough (click through for more info)Build a pergola - starting herb trough (click through for more info)Step Five: This thing was starting to look like something! I wanted to reinforce the structure further before putting up the slats, so I decided to install the trough. It was basically a long box screwed to the top of the half walls. After the trough was put on, I cut a piece of wood to fit in the corner to brace even more. The structure was getting stronger by the minute! I also drilled some holes on the bottom of the trough for drainage.

Build a pergola - lag bolting (click through for more info)Build a pergola - lag bolting (click through for more info)Build a pergola - lag bolting (click through for more info)Build a pergola - lag bolting (click through for more info)Build a pergola - lag bolting (click through for more info)Build a pergola - bracing (click through for more info) Step Six: At this point, things were really coming together. It was the next day, and I had received my bolts and washers, so I started by screwing those in. I put two on the outside of each end of the  horizontal 2x8s and one on each of the inside ones. Those guys did not go in easy; I probably could have gotten away with using little bit shorter ones. Even after pre-drilling holes, each one took around five minutes (seemed like 50), and I had 12 to do! I ended up putting on leather gloves, because blisters were inevitable. After I got all of the lag bolts in, and took a water break. I was ready to put up slats and last of the bracing. I used the 1x6 decking for the slats. After measuring and cutting out notches in each one, I threw them up onto the pergola. Math time. I had to figure out the spacing between each slat so they would be equidistant from each other. The slats were about 3/4" wide, so I multiplied 12 by 3/4", then subtracted that total from the overall length I was covering, then divided that by 12. Sound pretty straightforward? I would have eventually figured it out after an hour of scratching my head, but thankfully Kyle told me that trick (another good reason to have a helper). After I marked where each slat was going to be, I just started to position them and screw them in. Since the slats fit so snug over the cross beams, all I had to do was put a couple screws on each side to keep them in place. 

The braces were the last to go on. I basically cut 45 degree angles on both sides of pieces of 2x6, then screwed the crap out of them to the structure.  I'm no professional, but I don't think that thing is going anywhere soon. 

That's it. All I had left to do was plant and style, and that is going to be shared in the next post (ooooooh, cliff hanger). Leave any questions in the comment section; I'll try to explain myself.

Credits // Author: Joshua Rhodes. Photography: Sarah Rhodes. Photos edited with Willis from the Folk Collection and Piper from The Signature Collection.

Flight Behavior (Discussion)

Flight BehaviorDid you all read Flight Behavior this month? If not, you missed out! I chose this month's ABM book club selection because I adore Barbara Kingsolver, and I realized she had a new-ish novel out that I hadn't read yet. 

Quick back story about Barbara Kingsolver: I love many of her books, but one of my very favorites is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life. In the book, Kingsolver chronicles a year of her and her family's life eating only local food (that they produced or from neighbors). That book inspired me to start a local eating project years ago, which is what I based my very first blog on. So, really, I have to credit Barbara Kingsolver as the person who got me into blogging, which is a big part of what I do for a living today. I realize this is a super random story, but I really think it speaks to the power of good books and reading. It can be life changing. I'm a living example of it. 

Before we begin the discussion, here's a friendly remind that there likely will be SPOILERS! Also, feel free to use one of the following discussion points as a jumping-off point, or bring up your own thoughts. 

1. An obvious easy place to start: the title. What the heck is flight behavior?

Of course flight behavior has a great deal to do with the butterflies and their strange new migration pattern, leading them into the lives of our protagonists. But the other meaning (or maybe there's more?) has to do with Dellarobia. We meet her at the beginning of the book as she is climbing up to a small cabin on their property to commit adultery. And at the end of the novel, the happy ending that we are given is that Dellarobia is leaving her dysfunctional marriage to move into an apartment with her high school pal Dovey and begin her college career. So she, too, changes her regular pattern of life for a different course, like the butterflies. What do they have in common? How do they differ? 

2. Character study, anyone?

We met so many super interesting characters throughout the story: Dellarobia, Cub, Bear, Hester, Ovid, Bobby, and so on. One thing I love about this book is how your perception of a character can change over the course of the story as you learn more about his or her life and the challenges he or she faces.

For example, Hester is a rather unlikable character at first. She seems to be a grumpy mother-in-law and somewhat uncaring grandmother. Although she, in many ways, acts as the matriarch of the family, she doesn't seem to rule with a lot of grace or mercy. For me, Hester seems so opposite of my own mother, so it was hard for me to like her or understand where she was coming from on decisions. But then, toward the very end of the book she reveals that she had to give up a child when she was very young, and that child is now the pastor of her church, and she can't talk about it or tell anyone, as her husband told her long ago he would still marry even though she had a child with another man, as long as they never spoke of it. She likely feels just as trapped and regretful as Dellarobia does in her own marriage. And even if you don't agree with all the decisions she's made through the book or her life, you can't help but realize that her life is SO much more complicated, and painful, than you may have realized.

I also have to say that I just love Ovid Byron. He's so smart, kind-hearted, and passionate. His single-minded passion to the study of monarch butterflies is truly inspiring. I hope I can live as passionate a life as he does. It's inspiring, don't you think?

3. I would do this book an injustice if we didn't discuss its environmental themes. 

What did you think of how Ovid's world (science, upper or middle class, educated) and the world surrounding Dellarobia (religious, poverty, undereducated due to less opportunity) view the events that surround the butterflies? Dellarobia's town views their appearance as sort of a miracle, possibly sent from God, while Ovid views their fluctuating migratory patterns as a sign of the overall environmental crisis that our world is facing. Many of Dellarobia's family and community members view global warming as a myth, while Ovid is alarmed that anyone would ignore all the evidence to the contrary. Do you think this is fair? Have you seen this kind of issue come up in your community?

I also LOVED the scene when Ovid is interviewed for the news. I think it's meant to be a somewhat funny moment in the book, but do you also think it sheds light on something a little broken in news media (focusing on the wrong issues or emphasizing sensationalism over facts)?

This isn't a discussion point, per say, but I now REALLY want to see a monarch nesting ground someday. It sounds just amazing!

Let us know your thoughts on the book in the comments below. And don't forget to pick up your copy of Middlesex, as we'll be discussing this book with Danielle in September. xo. Emma

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