Kate Bolt with Dr. Barb
Kate Bolt launched a new project, which she'll explain, a year ago to flex her creative muscles. In addition to raising her children (with her partner, Dan), she remains active in her community, supporting causes that build relationships, support the arts, make healthy food available, and, especially, enable kids to have secure, rich lives. As part of her involvement with those causes, she's often called upon to plan and execute events that extend hospitality and bring people together.
Barb: I’ve crossed paths with our guest today in a number of ways, since she and I are both active in our local community. Kate Bolt has just completed a project she designed for herself called Living Lark. She is concocting and developing and creating new cocktail recipes once a week. And with the upcoming holiday season nearby, it made me think this was a great time to catch up with Kate. Welcome Kate!
Kate: Thank you, Barb. I’m so glad to be here.
Barb: Good! This is just all-around an interesting concept and an interesting project, and I’m wondering if you would talk about how it is you came to design this project.
Kate: Well, Barb, I was a young mom thinking I’m not much of a young mom anymore. My kids are getting older, and I have not used the creative side of me for a while. I kind of had this sense that if I did something for myself, it was just selfish and not useful to anyone. And I really mean it that I came into your office Barb, as a patient – I can say that, right? – and you said to me, “It’s okay for you to be happy.”
I was happy with my life, I just didn’t have the interior creative life anymore that I wanted. So I left, and probably months later started figuring out how to write again. I love poetry and wanted to explore that again, and I have a lot of writers that I admire and read poetry, but in the winter – I guess it was two years ago – I just thought, “What can I write down that I will not judge myself for or scrutinize while I’m writing it.” And I thought, “I’m going to write down every recipe that I’ve ever had.”
So that’s where Lark came about, because I have always had people over and entertained a lot, and I had about 30 cocktail recipes that were in my rotation. When I started putting them all down in my computer, I thought, “Wow! This is more than I thought it was. Maybe there’s something here, and I need more for this project than it just being in my own little computer in my own life.” So that’s when I started writing them down and put them on a website. And that’s that!
Barb: I have to say Kate that I had not heard before that it was a visit to my office that inspired you! [laughs]
Kate: It really was! [laughs]
Barb: Thank you for sharing that! I think part of the interesting things I get to do is intersect with women at a variety of times of their lives and can help maybe encourage and it’s so inspiring to think about you actually pausing and carefully considering how you wanted to look forward, and to explore new ideas. I just think this is really a great inspiration for other women to try to understand how they can sometimes get outside themselves as a mother, and as an employee, and as a daughter and a wife. This is really a great idea to have fun along the way with your creativity.
Kate: Right. It’s okay for us to do fun things! And it’s helpful to everyone else when we’re happy, right?
Barb: Exactly! Yes, right. We meet everyone else’s needs much more effectively when we’re happy with our own self and where we are. So how did you come up with the name Living Lark for your project?
Kate: My philosophy in eating and in my health is I try to eat really well and clean during the week – and for me that means not a lot of grains, not a lot of sugar, a lot of vegetables and meat. And then on the weekends, I like to say that I go on a “lark” and I let myself do things like have a cocktail, or have a piece of pie, or make cookies and actually eat one, and not feel bad about it! So I just kind of took that common phrase “on a lark” and turned it around a little bit to say this boring 80/20 concept of a diet can be something more fun. Like eat really well and then just let yourself go. Go out on a limb sometimes and know that it’s not going to affect your body forever in a terrible way for most of us.
Barb: Well, I think that’s a great approach. Is this something you’ve done for quite some time, this idea of following a more restrained diet during the week and gone out on that lark on the weekends, or is this something you’ve somewhat newly discovered?
Kate: I think I had to newly discover it. As I get a little older, I think I can’t just do whatever I want. For a while that frustrated me. I thought, “I’m never going to have energy again. The only way I will be who I want to be is if I work out four hours a day.” We all know that that is probably not going to happen for most of us, and I didn’t want that. So I started eating better. But I realized I couldn’t do that all the time, and I didn’t want to. Because I love being around the table with people. And I love saying yes to things that really taste good. [laughs]
But I also learned that if I have like a really good smoothie during the day, I don’t crave a mocha twice in the afternoon. I learned that these correlations were keeping me going. So that’s been really valuable for my health and my energy level.
Barb: Is the project of Living Lark really about the creation of a fun and exciting and new cocktail recipe each week, or is it something beyond that? Does it include other treats, so to speak?
Kate: This year, I let myself just do the cocktail thing and publish 52 cocktails on my blog. Now I’m saying, “Oh, I really don’t want to be done with this.” I have the creative energy to keep going and I have a lot of recipes that are clean through the week and ‘splurgy’ on the weekend, so I want to keep it going. Which is fun.
Barb: So tell our listeners how we would know more about what you’ve been creating. You refer to the blog; where do we find the blog and what could we discover if we go there?
Kate: LivingLark.com is my website. It actually isn’t a blog. It’s a website where I have the recipe of the week and then I have every other recipe listed underneath it with a link. So you just click on the recipe that looks good. I’m thinking about turning it into a blog, just because I love writing and it would be a good way for me to get more recipes out there. And I kind of started to think, “You know, someday I’d love to see this in print, and how could that be?” And maybe through having a blog and getting more recipes out there on Pinterest could help me with that goal.
Right now it’s just a pretty blog, LivingLark.com, and I’m on Instagram under livinglark. And that’s where I am right now.
Barb: You’ve shared some of your inspirations with how you have come up with the creations along the way?
Kate: Yes, every week I’ve written a newsletter. There’s a list of people who get my newsletter. It talks about, you know, I was at this restaurant in Jamaica, and I had this drink, and two years later I’m wondering how they made that. So I kind of tell the story about where we were and what we were doing and how I translated that into a cocktail.
I haven’t told you, maybe, that the cocktails are all a gallon size, which is not moderate [laughs]! They are all large because I believe that when I have people over or when I go somewhere where the host isn’t shaking cocktails the whole time, it just feels more relaxed and more fun. If you’ve been working all week and you have people over, if you have energy to do it, to have people over, I think the last thing you want to do is stand up and serve people the whole time. I think guests want the host to sit down. So this is kind of like an old-school punchbowl concept where it’s ready to go, people pour themselves a drink, they’re all in rocks glasses with ice, so every drink really is the same size, same glass, they’re all the same. They’re all a gallon.
Barb: I happened to be at an event this summer and I was the fortunate recipient of a couple of your creations. You had given back to the community at a nonprofit. The person I was invited by had been fortunate enough to have you provide the beverages and some snacks. They were very interesting. I felt like I was at a perfume counter, reading different ingredients about what things were infused with. I’m just curious as to how you create or come upon ideas. Is it looking out your window and translating colors and activities into something we can consume? How do you go about that?
Kate: I’m pretty sure you had the Lavender Collins that day, so that one’s really like herb and forward. It really smells so good, doesn’t it?
Barb: I love that one.
Kate: I use the seasons a lot. There’s always lavender around at the health food store, but if it’s early spring, for me that means lavender, and things starting to smell like something in Michigan again and not just snow and nothing. So I use a lot of seasonal items. Right now my cocktail that is up is the Vodka Fig. And fig, for me, I guess I just think about Christmas songs and holiday stuff and fig. Even though I don’t have a fig tree in my yard – I wish I lived in California and did (Trader Joe’s has them frozen) – and I make a simple syrup, put the figs in, and then you’ve got something that is from a fresh product, but suddenly it’s in your cocktail.
Barb: Yes. It’s intriguing. Can you give us the details, for instance, of the fig cocktail you just described and share with our listeners exactly how we might make that, and maybe have another seasonal one in mind you can share?
Kate: Yes, sure. My husband laughs because I tested these in the beginning in the gallon size and he’d be like “You don’t have to make every one of them in the gallon size, because we are really spending a lot of money on vodka – eight cups is a lot of vodka!”
That’s what my fig recipe starts with (and this is on my website too), but the Vodka Fig has eight cups of vodka – which is laughable – and a cup of Cointreau. I do a lot with simple syrup, so in this there’s a simple syrup which is an even amount of sugar and water. I boil that on low heat, and after a while I add the figs. I added the thyme to this because I thought it needed to be brightened up a little bit. So I brightened up the cocktail with thyme. I have a big herb garden on the side of my house, so I just went out there and looked through my herbs and thought, “What is going to add something to this?” And it was thyme. So I made the simple syrup, throw the figs and thyme in there and about five minutes later I strain off the figs and the thyme. Then I create the cocktail by adding lemon juice to that and Cointreau and vodka. I usually make these in old gallon water jugs. I put it in the refrigerator and keep it until my guests come over. Then I put it in a really pretty pitcher or whatever. But it’s all ready to go at that point.
For my cocktails I put ice on the side because I just can’t stand a watery cocktail. So guests put their own ice in, and then there’s sometimes garnishes on the side like thyme. But I don’t love a very fussy cocktail where like, thyme, gets in the way of drinking it, so I usually just suggest have a cocktail with some ice and there you go. That’s the Vodka Fig.
Barb: Are all of the cocktails able to be made in advance? Or how far in advance can it be in your refrigerator, for two days and maintain the proper flavor and so on?
Kate: All of them can be made in advance. And if there’s a bubbly element, which there is a lot of club soda or champagne or sparkling wine in these, then I just have you add them a minute before people come over.
If there’s leftovers – I’ve been asked this a lot – which was fun in the summer because people said, “What do we do with this three cups of cocktail I have left? I can’t drink this on a Monday afternoon.” So I made a lot of popsicles this summer, because if you have enough juice, it will freeze. And then it’s uber fun!
Kate: That’s a fun way to use leftovers.
Barb: Yes, that’s a great idea. Thinking about Christmas coming and entertaining, do you have another favorite seasonal cocktail that you can share?
Kate: I do. And I’ve made this one at fundraisers, big benefit events like 300 people. I feel like it’s a really good punch. It’s a good baby shower one because it’s a “mocktail,” but then you can add vodka on the side. I just feel like that’s just so appropriate for people if they are avoiding alcohol, and people want something that tastes yummy but doesn’t have alcohol. This one’s called the Holly Brunch Cocktail. I feel like this one really fits.
It has herbs again, so I do this a lot. I make the simple sugar syrup, I add some herb – so we’re going in the same direction again with this one. It’s called the Holly Brunch because my friend Holly was born a few days after Christmas so her parents named her Holly. She makes this a lot. She made this in college I remember, and I didn’t even know what rosemary was at that point. She really helped me to hone my skills in the kitchen. So this one’s for her.
You again make a simple syrup, combine sugar and water – 2½ cups of sugar and 2½ cups of water. Boil that until the sugar dissolves and then remove it from the heat and add rosemary – about 5 stems.
It smells so good at that point, I just can hardly take it!
I leave that for a bit and pour the syrup over a fine-mesh sieve and get the rosemary out and any little extra bits. You can cover and refrigerate that overnight or almost for about 2 weeks. So I like to have that one in the house around the holidays. With that rosemary syrup, I combine 3 cups of syrup and some juices. The juices that I add are cranberry, because to me it’s very wintery, and then orange juice – 6 cups of 100-percent cranberry juice and 3 cups of orange juice. I put that in my big gallon jug and swirl it around to combine it.
This is the point where I would refrigerate it and wait right before my guests come over, because the next ingredient is 4 cups of club soda. I add that before people come in a really pretty punchbowl. That one I garnish with a rosemary sprig because they are so pretty. Put it in a rocks glass with ice. That serves about 20 people. It serves way more if you put 2 fifths of vodka next to it. Maybe a mandarin vodka and a plain vodka are my choice on that one.
That one is my favorite. I say that about all of them! [laughs]
Barb: I’m sure it looks lovely too. I can just picture it with the cranberry juice.
Kate: It’s red and bubbly, and I’ve even made cranberry ice sometimes. You know, just pop a few cranberries in the ice cubes.
Barb: Oh sure.
Kate: You know, that just makes it a little more fun – if there’s time, which there’s usually not.[laughs]
Barb: So you launched Living Lark a year ago. Is that correct, Kate?
Barb: And you’ve accomplished your 52 weeks of sharing cocktail ideas. But I hear you say you’re going to continue to grow the community of those who have enjoyed Living Lark and add more creative ideas?
Kate: Yeah. I’m looking toward the people, the women I think – women are my demographic, I’m finding, and people who have kind of lost their vision of themselves and their health due to busy midlife. I feel like recipes and getting in the kitchen can slow people down and get them back into that healthy space without being like woman-needs-to-be-in-the-kitchen type of way, but more just this is where I can be creative. But finding weeknight meals that literally have only five ingredients and being able to say, “I have these things in the house, and I’m going to make something myself instead of going out.
I feel like cookbooks on my shelf – I have a huge variety – either are 100-percent healthy Paleo-vegetarian – lovely things. Or they are just total splurge, very specific, maybe regional. I feel like there’s a market for something in the middle that Lark provides – easy recipes that are always going to turn out. And I’m kind of looking for some women to help me hone my recipes and so that I can say, “You know what, seven women made this and it all turned out the same. This is going to work for you on a Monday night in the middle of your meeting at 6:00 and coming home at 4:45.” You know?!
Barb: Yes, great; I’m in. I will be there following, yes! [laughs] I look forward to seeing more creations. I think it’s great that you are in our community helping other women, again, journey along these busy years and having fun along the way. Thanks for what you have done for the women in our community.
I often like to conclude our time together by saying, where do you find meaning in this stage in life? What is it that brings you joy?”
Kate: I find a lot of meaning around the table with people I really care about – kind of finding out that that group can be small and that’s more meaningful. You don’t always have to have 12 around the table to make it something lovely. It’s okay to have your best people over and have a messy house and not worry about it and just be at that place together, so I think the table is where I find meaning. Having dinner and going out for a long walk afterward is like the ideal for me.
Barb: Yes, you know as you speak about that, obviously you get a mental image of what that could look like in each of our homes. I think that’s something missing, unfortunately, in many American homes, and it’s a good reminder of slowing down and putting away the electronics and sharing words and food and the company of people you enjoy. That’s a great prompt for the busy-ness to maybe get set aside and try and prioritize important things, like sharing time and meals together.
Kate: In the winter, too, I think we can dig in a little bit more and say, “Okay, we are inside if we’re in somewhere that’s frigid, and we can do that.” And it can be something lovely that doesn’t happen in the summer as much and I love that thought. At least until March when it gets annoying. [laughs]
Barb: Exactly! Yes. Well, thanks for your time today, Kate. I appreciate you sharing these ideas and creations with our listeners.
Kate: Thank you, Barb. You’ve helped my life so much, so I’m so excited you are getting out there even further with the podcasts.