Abuelita CJ’s Strawberry Lemonade | Reflections on Family & Answered Prayers

Abuelita CJ’s Strawberry Lemonade | Reflections on Family & Answered Prayers

Abuelita CJ’s Strawberry Lemonade | Reflections on Family & Answered Prayers

This post is in honor of Abuelita CJ’s heart for community, love of history, and handmade beverage tradition. Scroll to the bottom for her recipe.

The way God answers prayers never ceases to amaze me. It recently occurred to me that the blessings I’m experiencing at this point in my life are a byproduct of not only my prayers but the prayers of my parents and ancestors before them. Hengelh and I often discuss how there is nothing coincidental about our union. From our personalities to our deepest desires, everything about our lives and how they intersected has exemplified divine timing. One of the best examples of this is our families.

I have always felt somewhat alienated from my extended family. My parents moved to Maryland about 30 years ago for academic/professional pursuits and never left. Between both parents, I have a large, blended extended family. We had a relatively big immediate family, but my extended family was scattered all over the United States. As I matured into adulthood, I struggled in developing relationships with my extended family members. I did not understand how to form relationships with people that I only saw annually or biennially during my upbringing. I loved them but felt distant from them. 

Coming into Hengelh’s family unit was an answered prayer for me. He possessed the large, fun-loving, communal family I always desired. More than that, I received a bonus grandmother. See, I have two maternal grandmothers (one biological and one bonus), but I only have a relationship with my bonus grandmother. My biological paternal grandmother passed away before I was born, and the paternal grandmother that I knew in childhood passed away about ten years ago. As odd as it may sound, I have always felt this yearning for more grandmothers. Long story short, God answered this prayer through Abuelita CJ.

When Hengelh and I first met, he introduced me to his family members VERY quickly. At the time, I did not know he had ulterior motives (insert chuckle) but just chalked it up to him being a nice guy. Much to my surprise, the family introduction started with Abuelita CJ. 

Abuelita CJ was Hengelh’s 1st-grade library teacher. She noticed both him and his cousin of the same age and immediately took a liking to them. She adopted them as her grandchildren, and the family adopted her as a bonus grandmother. Twenty years after this encounter, Hengelh whisked me off to meet Abuelita CJ during a lunch break. She lived around the corner from our place of work, and after describing her, I was curious about this endeared matriarch. She accepted me into her beautifully curated home with open arms. Surrounded by Black art, countless books, and various plants, I found myself in a utopia of sorts. Her home unexpectedly felt like a safe space. I was delighted to learn that she is a Grambling University graduate and worked as an Archivist at Fisk University, an HBCU that my great-grandmother/namesake and several of her siblings attended. I was captivated when she effortlessly dished out DC and Nashville Black history. But the icing on the cake was her hibiscus lemonade. Food is one of my primary love languages, so this handcrafted drink comprised of herbs from her garden made me swoon. 

Since this encounter, I have enjoyed all sorts of fresh, homemade drinks and delicacies from her garden and kitchen. We’re excited to give you a glimpse into the community, people, and traditions that rooted us and enabled the existence of Hengelh’s Honey. We hope you enjoy Abuelita CJ’s strawberry lemonade recipe. 

While whipping up the recipe, consider reflecting on and reaching out to the people that adopted you. Express your gratitude for their presence in, and impact on, your life. This unexpected time is teaching us now, more than ever before, to express our love and appreciation to our community.

P.S. When I told her I was going to feature her recipes on our blog, she giddily informed me that there are more to come, so be on the lookout! 

Abuelita CJ’s Strawberry Lemonade


A handful or two of fresh mint leaves 

1/2 pound fresh (preferably organic) strawberries, stems removed

1.25 cups of Hengelh’s Fall Honey (honey is sweeter than sugar

4 1/2-5 cups water, divided and more to taste

1 1/2 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice

At least 12 hours beforehand

  • Boil 2.5 cups of water and pour it over the mint leaves until they’re covered. Let the mint and water sit in the fridge for about 12 hours.
  • When you’re ready to prepare the end product.

  • Use a blender or food processor to puree the strawberries. 
  • Slowly simmer the honey with 2 cups of water. Make sure you don’t heat the mixture too high or it will burn. Stir the honey until completely dissolved into the water and a syrup forms.
  • Strain the lemon juice through a cheesecloth into a 2-quart pitcher. 
  • Strain the pureed strawberries into the pitcher.
  • Add the honey syrup and stir to combine. Refrigerate until cold.
  • When ready to serve, add the mint-infused water and stir. Taste and adjust to your preferences. If too sweet, add cold water (¼ cup at a time). For added sweetness, dissolve and mix in more honey.
  • Serve with ice and garnish with mint.

  • Note: add seltzer water for a fun twist!

    Recipe inspired by https://tastesbetterfromscratch.com/strawberry-lemonade/

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