vanilla bean soda (with or without bourbon) | the vanilla bean blog
I’ve always been in love with books. Since I can remember, I’ve had my nose stuck in one. I whizzed through every elementary and middle school series: Nancy Drew, The Baby Sitter’s Club, and the Sweet Valley Twins, to name a few. My Grandma thought reading a worthwhile investment of my time, and took me to B. Dalton once a week to pick out new titles to add to my collection. It wasn’t until I was twelve, however, that I read my first ‘real’ book. Each week my Grandma would talk to me about how I ‘need to read the classics’ and became obsessive about it over time. ‘How about Wuthering Heights?’ she would ask,‘or Jane Eyre?’ I had no idea about these books, except I was sure they weren’t exciting mysteries filled with clues and frequent make-out scenes, and pleaded with her to let me pick out my favorites instead. Finally, however, after weeks of her insisting I caved, and together we went looking for the classics. Somehow this little bookstore did not carry any of the books she suggested, but there was one copy of Gone with the Wind sticking out from their shelves, and Grandma grabbed it immediately. And so after much debate, my Grandma sent me home with the 1,000 page novel. I remember racing down to my room and staring at the cover for a long time, embarrassed and intrigued by Scarlet’s heaving bosom and Rhett’s intense gaze. I knew Nancy Drew had never found herself in an embrace like that, and it suddenly dawned on me exactly what  ‘juvenile fiction’ meant. I was timid to open the book, but finally turned to page one and began to read, captivated by each line, each word. I devoured the entire novel in one week, living and breathing Katie Scarlet O’Hara; finding myself torn by all the conflict and falling desperately in love with Rhett Butler. My little twelve-year-old heart had never read anything so complicated, so moving, so romantic, so heartbreaking. There, in my closet of a room tucked away in the basement of my house, a door inside me burst wide open. I wanted to always be lost inside a good story, and spend my life there.

As all good books do, they stay with their readers, printing their beautiful and painful words across the psyche of each one. And while I desperately hoped that somehow Scarlet’s courage and fearlessness or her ability to attract Rhett Butler-types would bleed off the pages and become part of me, it was her frequently repeated phrase of ‘I can’t think about that right now. I’ll think about that tomorrow,’ that stuck with me, weaved it’s spell. Somehow, very subtly, that sentence I’ll think about that tomorrow became my mantra over the next twenty years. I am officially now an expert at avoiding what needs to be done, and a professional at reaching for other less important (although much more interesting) things to distract me. For, you see, tomorrow is a great place for sticking homework assignments and long complicated papers, phones calls, emails, and personal goals. Tomorrow holds apples and oranges, eight glasses of water, and a yoga class or two. Tomorrow is the keeper of words that need to be spoken, the letters that should have been sent, the time well spent. Tomorrow is always gleaming bright and beautiful, filled with good intentions and promise of a follow through.
vanilla bean soda (with or without bourbon) | the vanilla bean blog
vanilla bean soda (with or without bourbon) | the vanilla bean blog
vanilla soda (with or without bourbon) | the vanilla bean blog
But, as I’ve come to figure out, living for tomorrow makes today a somewhat awkward and uncomfortable place to be. My thoughts are always in the next sunrise, wandering and ungrounded. And so, this brings me to the whole point of this post, which is I am taking a break from my blog for the summer.

It’s a much needed break in many ways. There are two very important reasons for it, the first one being my children. My daughter will be starting full-day Kindergarten in the fall, and while we are excited for her education, my heart is breaking at the thought of her being gone all day. So we are calling this the summer of fun, and we are going to live it up here: time at the beach, day trips by train and car, picnics in the park, long walks, and lots and lots of time, together. The second reason is a little harder to talk about, but I need to take some time away from baking and focus on getting my body healthy. I’ve always struggled with food – either eating too much or not enough, and since having my second child it’s been very hard for me to find a healthy food lifestyle. I’ve tried several times this past year to change my eating habits and exercise routine, and find I keep putting it off until tomorrow.  So I am going to step away from all the butter and sugar and heavy cream. Baking has always been a comfort and a joy to me, but I’ve found myself in the kitchen constantly, losing myself in puff pastry and ice cream instead of good books and my husband’s eyes. I hear the poets calling me, and I have to heed their whispers.

But, dear friends, not to worry. I am working on setting up guest posts for the summer, so this space will still stay alive. I will also pop in from time to time with some picture posts of our adventures, and I will still be around on Instagram (although you may find more pictures of my kids than cookies). And, well, if you miss me terribly, you can always make this vanilla bean soda and think about all the good times we’ve had together. Or maybe pick up that copy of Gone with the Wind you never got around to, and lose yourself in a summer of fun, today.

vanilla soda (with or without bourbon) | the vanilla bean blog
vanilla soda (with or without bourbon) | the vanilla bean blog
*It would have been my Grandma’s birthday this week, and writing this post makes me smile and weep at the same time. She was a friend, and I miss her company. I wrote a little more about her here, if you’d like to read it.

*About six months ago I was thinking about my book crush on Rhett Butler (because, it’s hardly gone away), and just what was it that made me fall so in love with him. It dawned on me that all the things I found so attractive: his sharp personality, his insistence on telling things like they were regardless what people thought, his sly sense of humor, being completely unromantic and romantic at the same time, and the way he just loved Scarlett: knowing her so well when she didn’t know herself, and so willing to walk with her through all her weaknesses; these were all things that made me fall in love with my husband. And so, somehow, I did end up with Rhett Butler after all. My Adam is the book I am lost in. But our story is so much better; it is filled with happy endings.

vanilla bean soda (with or without bourbon) | the vanilla bean blog

Vanilla Bean Soda (with or without Bourbon)

This is one of those ‘feel it out’ drinks – your sweetness ratios may be different than mine. I though 1/3 cup vanilla bean syrup to almost equal amounts club soda was good (I added about 1/2 cup) and a nice splash of bourbon (about 2 tablespoons) was perfect. This was very delicious without the bourbon, however. Also, vanilla ice cream would make a mighty fine float.

2 cups water
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 vanilla beans, seeds scraped
club soda
bourbon (to taste, optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, vanilla bean seeds and pods. Bring to a boil, and let simmer/gently boil until the liquid is reduced to a 1 1/2 cups (20-30 minutes). Set aside to cool.

When the simple sugar is cool, add 1/4-1/3 cup to a glass, and top with club soda and ice (you may have to add more syrup). Add bourbon to taste, if desired (see note).
vanilla bean soda (with or without bourbon) | the vanilla bean blog

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41 Responses to vanilla bean soda (with or without bourbon) + the summer of fun

  1. I think a break can sometimes be a very good thing. I’m sure you’ll come back refreshed and with a whole host of gorgeous new recipes to share. I adore baking but it always takes a slight back seat in the summer months when the weather is beautiful and you just want to be outside with family and friends.

    Oh and as for books, I hear you. I work in publishing because I love books and reading so much, can’t imagine life without them.

  2. Sophie says:

    Sarah, your photography and your writing are so simple, yet beautiful and I absolutely love visiting your blog. Keep up the great work 🙂

  3. susanne says:

    I wish you and your family a wonderful summer. Balanced and happy. I think there are so many recipes on your blog to test and enjoy! But I will really miss your atmospheric pictures…warm regards Susanne

  4. Nicole says:

    Have a wonderful summer of fun 🙂 I love the classics, but sadly I still have not read Gone with the Wind. I definitely need to change that, maybe this summer! With bourbon for me, please 🙂

  5. Oh a break is such a good idea. Enjoy your time with your family love, it all passes much to quickly xx

  6. Kathryn says:

    This is such a good (and timely) reminder to live for today; to enjoy these summer days before the pass in a blur of intentions and plans and never quite getting around to actually living. Have a wonderful break (although I can’t say that I won’t miss you!)

  7. carey says:

    Such a beautiful post, Sarah. I, too, struggle with the “tomorrow” way of thinking and living, and it is nice to be reminded that I am not the only one.

    Here’s to a wonderful summer! I’m sure it will be filled with sunny days and a whole lot of rejuvenating fun. (:

  8. Renee says:

    I read Gone With The Wind the summer I turned 18. My family had just moved to a new city and my friends were left behind. It was the summer of me tucked away in my bedroom, seeking solace in books, and yes crushing hard on Rhett. I’ll never forget that summer (or that book). Do have the best summer and I can’t wait to see you back here when the leaves fly.

  9. Imen says:

    Have the BEST summer of fun hon! We will all be waiting when you return. Love this recipe and I also loved the post about your grandmother. Take care, have fun and perhaps we will meet when I am there this summer. Imen xx

  10. Tasneem says:

    I am so sad to have found your blog just as you are taking a break. But good for you for taking charge and changing what you don’t like about your life. I look forward to seeing how things progress for you.

  11. I hope you have a happy, healthy and fun-filled summer. Enjoy your break and I will look forward to your posts when you get back 🙂

  12. Kate says:

    Those are all wonderful reasons for taking a break, for focus and time intent on life instead of whisking yourself away through sweets and a blazing oven. I hope you find your healthful muse, and that you invite it in to stay. I’m grateful for the discovery of mine, and happy to share some thoughts on it all, if you feel the need to bounce ideas off someone who once sought what you want.

    And I so look forward to your Summer, through Instagram. For someone so good with words, I find it hard to describe how much I love that app, and all it shows me through everyone else’s eyes. The beauty out there is stunning, isn’t it?

  13. tara says:

    I’m terribly late, and sorry for that. Especially when it meant missing this sweet and lovely remembrance.

    My grandmother was the one that got me reading too — I remember her slipping Little Women to me, when all I wanted to be was tall and blond like Elizabeth Wakefield. Rest and be well and enjoy your summer days. xo!

  14. nicole says:

    Sarah — have an absolutely wonderful summer, and I look forward to catching up with your adventures in the fall! xx

  15. Kels says:

    “I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.” // Joan Didion

    I read this post, touching my heart, and thought of this passage… in earnest, “get it while you can and good luck at it.” Three cheers for love, family, health, and the splendid adventure ahead. You know I’m right next to you waving my pom poms for ya.


  16. Katie says:

    This post is true inspiration to me. I so admire your commitment to spending time with your young family during the fleeting months of summer – it’s so very important to us Minnesota dwellers. I also admire your ability to honor the parts of yourself that require some tending to, and your willingness to share those soft spots with us. A big hug to you as you sink into summer and work to renew your sense of health and vitality.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Oh, I really love what you’ve said here. SO MUCH. It hits home––we all have our tomorrows. Your writing is always so beautiful and poignant, and most certainly you’re breaking on a high note. Thank you for these words of wisdom, and a thousand yeses to your summer of fun.

  18. This is such a beautifully written blogpost. I totally get what you mean about taking care of your body. I’m 4 months pregnant at the moment and trying to feed my body better things than butter and sugar. I hope you enjoy your summer of fun!

  19. Kasey says:

    Sarah, I hope you have the most wonderful, fun-filled summer. I definitely understand the need to step away, to enjoy the present and, let’s be honest…not bake so dang much! I will miss your presence here, but I’m already really enjoying the guest posts and can’t wait hear how you’re doing 🙂 xoxo

  20. Liesl says:

    I’m going to miss seeing your posts here, Sarah. Wishing lots of health and happiness this summer! 🙂

  21. What a smart girl you are, to take care of yourself first so you can take care of your children with your whole heart and body. Have a great summer, but please, please come back in the fall. XOXO

  22. I know I’m WAY late for this comment, but better late than never… I have been very much struggling with the tomorrows these past few weeks, juggling priorities and not keeping up with my blog reading as much. I just wanted to say, enjoy your break, what an awesome gift to your family to have this special summer together. As rewarding as blogging is, having to observe, reflect, capture and report sometimes does take away from being completely in the moment. And I can certainly relate to your other reason too. I’ll be delighted to keep following your summer adventures and poetic images on Instagram. Have a wonderful time!

  23. Valeria says:

    I hear you, and I am happy to find real people behind the beautiful words and photos, with all their beautiful, comlicated, messy, not-at-all-perfect and yet happy lives. Have a great summer -looking fwd to seeing you here again, butter and sugar or not.

  24. annelies says:

    We all need a summer of fun at some point and to recognize this really shows a deep wisdom. “I hear the poets calling me, and I have to heed their whispers…” This is so true. I personally find that poetry can be so easily edged out by louder voices. And, perhaps to that end, the need to heed the siren song outside of the blog. I hope this summer has not only been full of sugar-free fun but also priceless moments that get locked into your memory bank of that summer when everything shifted forward.

  25. Pamela says:

    i found myself thinking of you recently and how i hadn’t seen any recent posts for months, which made me find your blog again and i realized somehow my reader must have dropped you in the move. i am so happy to see your beautiful photos and your blog so successful! what a beautiful space! i hope your summer is everything you wanted it to be and i look forward to keeping up with it from now on.

  26. My mum and I made this beverage today for brunch (without the bourbon of course), and it was absolutely lovely. We paired this with the peach and cherry galette reciepe we found on your blog, and everything flowed nicely.

    Looking forward to reading more posts!

    P.S. I’m 12 and I’m reading Gone with the Wind, and it’s become my absolute favorite book haha. =)

    • Sarah says:

      Megan! Thanks so much for writing. I’m so glad you enjoyed the recipes. And! I love that Gone with the Wind is becoming a favorite. It’s such a good book. Have a lovely day – Sarah

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