a moscow mule and finally fall

I have been looking forward to this first official weekend of fall.

Though it will still be close to 90 degrees outside – with humidity to match – I’m going to pretend that we’re having autumn here in north Florida. I plan to sit in my rocking chair on my front porch, listening to the wind chimes, even if I have to turn on the porch ceiling fans to make some cool breezes. I might decorate the front steps with some pumpkins, although they’ll soon begin to decay in the heat and will have to be replaced in a week or so. There might be chili or a hearty stew on the stove at some point. I’ll send my kids on a colored-leaf hunt, and they’ll manage to find one or two leaves that have turned the faintest shade of orange.  I think I’ll bake something. Maybe another pie – pumpkin, maybe? – or perhaps a cheesecake.

I’m planning to enjoy this weekend, no matter what life throws my way.

I might even celebrate with a cocktail. A Moscow Mule would hit the spot perfectly. It’s not a classic fall drink, but it’s certainly refreshing and suitable for our warm weather.

I associate this drink with Gail – for no other reason than she’s the one who clued me into this cocktail. It’s very simple to make and doesn’t require many ingredients, two requirements for an easy and low-key cocktail hour. For me, the hardest part of putting this drink together was finally figuring out that ginger beer is not actually beer flavored with ginger.

Don’t make this with beer flavored with ginger. Trust me on this.

Yield: 1 drink

Moscow Mule


1 1/4 ounce vodka
1 teaspoon simple syrup
1/2 lime
4 ounces ginger beer


In a tall, chilled glass, add vodka and simple syrup. Fill glass with ice, then squeeze the lime over the ice. Drop the lime half into the glass and top with ginger beer. Stir well with a stirrer. Enjoy.

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46 Responses to “a birthday story, and a recipe: caramel cake with caramel buttercream frosting”

  1. Winnie — October 19, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    Amazing story, MJ…and so beautifully told. AND WHAT A CAKE!

  2. Kristen — October 19, 2012 @ 8:08 am

    Oh I absolutely love this story. What a great day that was for the future! Happy 40th!!

  3. Macaroni Mama — October 19, 2012 @ 8:14 am

    Beautifully written. We knew there was going to be a fly-over that day, but we expected the banner to read, “Happy Birthday, MJ”. We were as shocked as you. Happy birthday, Merry Jennifer.

  4. Lori @ RecipeGirl — October 19, 2012 @ 8:21 am

    What a lovely, lovely story. I wish you the happiest of birthdays today, though I’m not sure that birthday 16 years ago can ever be beat!!

  5. Paula — October 19, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    Enjoyed this beautiful story from beginning to end. What a stellar year you had at 24! Sincere best wishes for a wonderfully blessed 40th year.

    Love your cake.

    P.S. Very impressed that you earned a full scholarship!

  6. Carol Sacks — October 19, 2012 @ 8:41 am

    Happy birthday to you! Terrific, moving post and that cake is a stunner.

  7. Aimee @ Simple Bites — October 19, 2012 @ 8:43 am

    What an amazing story, MJ! How incredibly romantic. You make 40 look wonderful, really.

    Have a happy birthday! xox

  8. Theresa — October 19, 2012 @ 8:58 am

    Awwww, I love this story! Happy birthday to you. The cake sounds incredible! Worthy of your celebration, that’s for sure. 🙂

  9. Kathryn — October 19, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    You have such a gift for story-telling, I hope you have the happiest of birthdays.

  10. Art & Lemons — October 19, 2012 @ 9:03 am

    What a beautifully written story and way to celebrate your birthday—oh, that cake—total knockout! Here’s to a joyous year…

  11. Rachel Cooks — October 19, 2012 @ 9:07 am

    What an awesome post–great memories! Happy Birthday!

  12. Christine (Cook the Story) — October 19, 2012 @ 9:19 am

    O.K., I totally cried reading your story. What a beatiful memory. Thank you for sharing it. Happy Birthday!!!

  13. Lindsay — October 19, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    This is so incredibly sweet, thank you for sharing. Hope today is equally as memorable! 🙂

  14. Amy @ The Nifty Foodie — October 19, 2012 @ 9:37 am

    Aww…this is such a great post! Happy Birthday!

  15. Rachel Winter — October 19, 2012 @ 10:10 am

    love love love this story.
    Happy 40th MJ!

  16. Sheri — October 19, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    Happy birthday! A beautiful cake for a beautiful person. 🙂

  17. Jennifer Hess — October 19, 2012 @ 10:39 am

    Reading this with tears in my eyes. May the next 40 years give you just as much happiness as you felt on that day 16 years ago, and then some. xo

  18. Allison — October 19, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    What a wonderful story! Thanks for sharing this with us. Happy Birthday!

  19. LivedinItaly — October 19, 2012 @ 10:58 am

    Buon compleanno e tantissimi auguri!

  20. Mary — October 19, 2012 @ 11:11 am

    Simply wonderful- hope you have a beautiful birthday surrounded by those you love.

  21. Maria Raynal — October 19, 2012 @ 11:30 am

    Happiest birthday MJ! What a fabulous day. May you have many wonderful days just like that one in the years to come. It’s beautiful to see people embrace their 40s with gratitude and spirit. p.s. Don’t forget those binoculars!

  22. Isabelle @ Crumb — October 19, 2012 @ 11:48 am

    After all that wonderfulness crammed into a single day, I think it would be hard for any birthday to top your 24th… but I sure hope today comes close. Happy birthday!

  23. stacey — October 19, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

    What an awesome story! One to cherish for sure..

  24. Jayne — October 19, 2012 @ 2:42 pm

    Lovely story! Lovely cake! Happy, happy 40th birthday!

  25. Irvin @ Eat the Love — October 19, 2012 @ 2:55 pm

    I love this story. LOVE. Happy birthday Merry!

  26. Jenny — October 19, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

    Great post — Happy Birthday!

  27. Janis — October 19, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    LOVEEEEEE this!

  28. Jane Bonacci — October 19, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

    Fabulous story and outlook on life. Have a wonderful birthday!!

  29. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — October 19, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

    A beautiful story, beautifully written. Huge happy birthday wishes!

    BTW – Your 40’s? They’re a breeze. Been there.

  30. Amber | Bluebonnets & Brownies — October 19, 2012 @ 3:56 pm

    What a lovely, wonderful, happy story you have shared with us. It made me grin from ear to ear. Thank you for blessing me with a bit of your own happiness today – it was a really nice gift to share on your own birthday!

  31. Broderick — October 19, 2012 @ 4:22 pm

    Happy birthday! What a wonderful story. The cake looks delicious as well!

  32. thyme (Sarah) — October 19, 2012 @ 5:35 pm

    Wonderful recount of such a memorable day! You know, you just made my Friday! Loved reading this and your cake is gorgeous…birthday wishes galore.

  33. jenn s — October 19, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

    I remember that day, the banner, cheers from Steve and me in our section for our dear longtime friends, like it was yesterday. Beautiful birthday blessings to an equally beautiful friend. <3

  34. Denise — October 19, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

    Wonderful story with so many beginnings attached to it. The 40s are a wonderful portion of life – you know what you want, you have what you want and now you can continue to grow and become an even stronger woman. Grasp the time. Enjoy it to the fullest. Most of all have fun. Happy Birthday.

  35. Cooks_Books — October 20, 2012 @ 1:19 am

    Truly. Beautiful. Story.

    Congratulations, MJ! Marriage — and the required commitment — is a wondrous event to celebrate, as are families and birthdays and fulfilling careers. Sounds like you hit a home run, plus some!

  36. Frances — October 20, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

    Wow, what a memorable birthday 16 years ago. Happy birthday and best wishes a day late!

    October 19 is my birthday, too, so I was too busy celebrating to stop by. (I’m 72 and counting, hard to believe!) Next year will be my year for this yummy-looking cake. I just have to convince my husband to make it. =)

    • Merry-Jennifer

      Merry-Jennifer replied: — October 21st, 2012 @ 9:52 am

      Happy belated birthday, Frances!

  37. girlnapurpledress@gmail.com — October 21, 2012 @ 5:01 am

    Happy birthday 🙂 What an amazing cake!!

  38. delia — October 21, 2012 @ 7:01 pm

    Aw, happy birthday!

  39. Jessica L. — October 21, 2012 @ 9:22 pm

    Happy birthday!! What a wonderful story, so so sweet!!

  40. MaryKay Roddy — October 22, 2012 @ 12:34 pm


    It is a grand celebration! Happy Happy Birthday! You’ve accomplished SO many great things and I am in awe of your many many talents. Thank you for sharing your beautiful blog and your gift of baking. I hope you have the best birthday ever!



  41. jas — October 22, 2012 @ 6:10 pm

    Wow, what a brilliant heartwarming story! I love that so many things can fall into place and yet be planned at the same time to create such a wonderful day in your life. Every decade is just as much fun as the last and I hope that yours is even more so 🙂

  42. Amy — October 23, 2012 @ 1:56 am

    Happy birthday! Here is to 40 more wonderful, brilliant, adventure and romance-filled years 🙂

  43. Di — October 25, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    Happy belated birthday, Merry Jennifer. A beautifully written post that brought tears to my eyes. I hope you enjoyed your birthday. I’m sure you will enjoy your forties. I think they are among a woman’s best years. And if I weren’t trying to loose the ten pounds I gained over the summer I’d be baking that cake!

  44. Lissette — October 27, 2012 @ 3:20 pm

    Beautiful story, wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing it! Happy belated birthday!

  45. Anna — October 29, 2012 @ 6:39 am

    Happy (belated) birthday!! May the next 4o years bring just as much joy. This is a beautiful, beautiful post. And the cake looks fabulous too. Caramel is one of my favourite foods. Xo

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