We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Watermelon Agua Fresca for a Crowd and Maddie's Graduation

by Michelle

"You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing, but what you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself." — Alan Alda

   Times are a-changin' around my house. My daughter will be off to college in August. While Maddie is busily planning decorations for her dorm room and considering what belongings to take with her as she embarks upon the next chapter of her life, I've been trying to wrap my head around just how quickly eighteen years can pass by.
   In my mind's eye, snapshots of my daughter's life quickly race byfrom the joyful moment of Maddie's birth to the celebratory activities associated with last week's graduation ceremonies, and everything in between. A life is sewn by piecing together tiny fleeting moments. Our Nana used to say when our family was together, "Stop the clock, stop the clock." As we all know, time keeps marching on anyway. It's up to us, then, to capture the meaningful moments and store them away. Occasionally, like I did last week, I dusted off old picture albums and browsed the pages of my family's life. It's a bittersweet activity to wander through the past, meandering down memory lane. I have come to believe that to live a happy life one must focus more on the future than what has transpired in the past.

We arrived early for the Catalina Foothills High School graduation ceremony.
Within 90 minutes every square inch of available seating was claimed.
Hold on to your hats, ladies. Significant changes are waiting right around the corner.
After the ceremony Maddie celebrated with her class at the New York-themed Grand Night Party.
Meanwhile, Jay and I grabbed a late night dinner and toasted our daughter's accomplishments.
   I am grateful for the close relationship that my husband and I share with our daughter. Thankfully we did not experience the animosity that many teenagers direct at their parents. While there may have been tears shed from time to time over a disagreement, there were no shouting matches in our house or slamming bedroom doors. In the absence of trust, there is no respect. As parents, Jay and I made every effort to say "yes"" instead of "no" to Maddie's various requests. Saying yes was sometimes personally inconvenient for Jay and me, such as when we'd drive her and her friends to Phoenix so they could attend concerts. At other times, saying yes (while simultaneously handing over the car keys) was a confirmation of our trust in Maddie's ability to be responsible and act as a leader and not as a follower.
 Although I will miss Maddie deeply when university starts, my next important step as a mother is to let her go. From afar, I will continue to encourage her to follow her curiosity and pursue her interests and passions. To use a cooking metaphor—to stay curious is the spice of life. To be curious about the people and the world around us, is what drives new understanding and keeps us moving forward. And that goes for me, too. This a new chapter in my life, as well. What interests will continue to drive me in new directions? What creative paths will I pursue? Will I finally make it to yoga classes? Only time will tell.

We prepared three Agua Frescas for the party: Pineapple-Ginger, Watermelon and Horchata.
   For Maddie's graduation, we invited our extended family to celebrate with us. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins came from near and far to attend Maddie's Honors Ceremony that was held a few nights before the school's senior class commencement. The day preceding the Honors event, on a Sunday afternoon, we hosted Maddie's graduation dinner at our house. Months of planning, cleaning, and gardening went into preparing for the special day.
   In the days leading up to the party, Maddie and I prepared the food with assistance here and there from Jay. Maddie's special request was that we serve refreshing agua frescas to accompany the Mexican-themed menu. The day before the party we prepared a trio of agua frescas: Watermelon, Pineapple-Ginger and Horchata. We also made Linda's "Not Too Girly" Strawberry Margaritas that seem to be everybody's favorite margarita these days.
   I relished watching Maddie work in the kitchen, slicing and dicing like a pro. She effortlessly whipped up a double batch of chocolate chip cookies, exacting in her measurements and portioning the dough for consistently-sized cookies. We took turns playing lively CDs, the music helping us to maintain our pace over the course of a long day. We cooked and baked and talked and laughed. Our cooking day finished just before midnight and we were more than ready to throw in the proverbial kitchen towel and rest our aching feet in our comfy beds. While Maddie truly enjoys baking and cooking, she knows for sure that her future career will not be found in the culinary arts.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

   For the party, I decided to make flavor-infused rich sugar syrups for the agua frescas instead of using a honey syrup. To sweeten the watermelon agua fresca, bring 2 cups granulated sugar and 1 cup filtered water to nearly a boil, stirring often, until the sugar is liquefied. Turn off the heat and add one handful (about 2 ounces) of mint to the sugar syrup. Let the mixture marinate until the sugar syrup reaches room temperature. Discard the mint and transfer the sugar syrup to a glass container with a tight fitting lid. Chill.
   The Agua Fresca can be made up to two days ahead. Keep chilled in the refrigerator. I purchased the big glass jars with accompanying lids from Target®. I found reasonably priced canning ladles on Amazon® which happily fit the jars perfectly (it's the small things in life...).

1 large seedless watermelon, rind removed and discarded, flesh cut into 2-inch cubes
about 2 cups filtered water
freshly squeezed lime juice, to taste (we added about 1/3 cup)
honey simple syrup or flavored sugar syrup, to taste (we added about 1/12 cup)
2 to 3 liters chilled club soda

Adults might want to add a shot of vodka or tequila to their serving

electric blender
fine meshed sieve
The fast and easy way to prep a watermelon.
1. PurĂ©e 1/2 of watermelon and 1 cup filtered water in the blender. Pour blended juice through a large sieve into a container, such as a 6-quart cambro. Discard pulp. Repeat with remaining watermelon and 1 cup filtered water. Stir in freshly squeezed lime juice. Add honey syrup or flavored simple syrup, to taste. Add more lime juice, if needed. Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours, or up to 2 days ahead.
2. Stir in chilled club soda, to taste and garnish with slices of lime. I add enough club soda until my taste buds can just detect the effervescence of the carbonated water. Serve over ice. Yield: about 6 quarts.


  1. Where are the photos of the Mexican inspired food? That is what I want to see too.

  2. Stay tuned! We are busily working on posts of the Mexican inspired food which we will be publishing over the course of the next month.


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