Zuzu heads off for two weeks of overnight camp tomorrow. This is her second year going and she is so excited to see her camp friends again and participate in all the fun, outdoor activities. But she is also a little sad about leaving her friends back at home. Not sad about leaving us, mind you! Sad about leaving her friends. One thing I have noticed about Zuzu this year is that her relationships with her peers have taken on a new importance. Her father and I learned that the hard way when we made her come home from an evening play date 30 minutes before the other girls . . . and she cried about it for an hour!

We allowed Zuzu to have a pizza-and-movie party for a few of her closest pals last Friday as a special send-off while JR was off at a birthday party. The girls ate pizza; watched “Rise of the Guardians;” made s’mores on the deck and played a round of flashlight tag before they had to head home for bed. It was so fun to have a house full of screaming, giggling girls and I couldn’t believe how grown-up Zuzu and her friends seemed all of a sudden. I felt like Amy Poehler in “Mean Girls:” the mom that wants to hang out with her daughter and her daughter’s friends to feel young again. So like Amy Poehler does in the movie, I decided to whip up a special TGIF treat for my houseful of girls.

Nothing makes little girls feel more like big girls than a fancy, fruity drink. To make this special strawberry lemonade, I puréed a quart of strawberries with some simple syrup and divided it among six tumblers. I muddled some fresh mint in each glass and for the girls’ glasses, I topped the puree with store-bought lemonade. But I used club soda for my own glass to create a less sweet effect. As the night wore on and the girls got more raucous, I added a shot of rum to my glass. It was a delicious addition! If I were making this for an adult event, I would definitely use club soda, add rum and call these strawberry-mint mojitos.

Strawberry-Mint Lemonade


  • 1 qt. fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup simple syrup
  • 1 bunch mint leaves
  • 1 TB turbinado or other coarse sugar
  • 1 liter lemonade or club soda
  • Ice


  1. To make simple syrup, heat equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Cool before using. Simple syrup will keep for several weeks in your fridge so it is worthwhile to a big batch at a time.
  2. Puree strawberries with 1/2 cup simple syrup in a food processor until smooth.
  3. Divide turbinado sugar among six tumblers and add several mint leaves to each tumbler. Muddle mint by pounding it and stirring it with the sugar using a muddler or the bottom of a wooden spoon.
  4. Divide strawberry puree among the six tumblers.
  5. Add two or three ice cubes to each tumbler and top with lemonade or club soda.
  6. Garnish with mint stem and serve.

Note: When muddling the mint, you want to crush the leaves so that they release their essential oils. Do not tear or shred the leaves.

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Emily Paster

Emily Paster is a freelance writer and mother of two living in River Forest. She writes about food and parenting on her website, West of the Loop. Emily's print work appears frequently in Chicago Parent...