Mexican Hot Chocolate

Every winter when it gets chilly outside (and I admit, sometimes in Texas when it’s winter but nowhere near chilly), Eric and I have one of our favorite things – Mexican hot chocolate.  And every winter, I have friends asking for the recipe, so I thought I’d finally share it here on the blog.

This tradition for us actually started years ago when Eric’s mom and sister went to Mexico on vacation and brought me back some hot chocolate mix.  They knew I loved my hot chocolate (and at the time I was a staunch non-coffee drinker).  The first mug of that hot chocolate I had was heavenly.  It wasn’t just regular hot chocolate…it was better.  It had a bit of cinnamon in it and also a hint of heat too.  Sooooo good.

So, as I worked my way through the box I began to panic that I would be super sad once it was all gone.  So Eric started researching recipes and found the one that we still use today (it’s an Alton Brown recipe).

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and incorporate evenly.  (Note: we usually double the recipe and keep our mix in a container we can easily scoop out of when we want a mug of the good stuff!)

To prepare: fill your mug half full with the mixture and pour in hot water.  Stir to combine.  This can also be made with milk instead of hot water for a richer flavor.

We seriously love this mixture and it’s pretty easy to put together and have on hand.  I hope you give it a try and let me know if you do!

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Inspiration Overload

Whenever I find myself at Northpark Mall in Dallas, I make it a point to step in Arhaus for design inspiration.  I thought I’d share a few of the things that caught my eye, like these stamps used for batiks – both form and function.  They had them displayed in a large basket and also hung on a wall.

Eric’s been looking for inspiration for his nightstand/bedside table and finding that this seems to be a somewhat overlooked space.  Either it is your typical lamp and clock combo or it’s some sort of docking/charging station for all devices.  None of that was appealing to him.  But, we both loved the look of these leather accessories.  Definitely something we will keep an eye out for.

I have a strange weakness for decorative boxes and these are gorgeous.  And look at that coordinating tray too.  Yes, please.

One of the things I like about Arhaus is that they have some eclectic things that fit our world travel/collected over time aesthetic in our home.

And look at that piece they’ve used as a focal point behind the bed.  Amazing.

I’ve also been trying to find the perfect inspiration for a window shelf in our bedroom but failing miserably.  I like the look of the rolled pages in the large cylinder vases.

In addition to the more eclectic, travel-inspired pieces they also had an area devoted to Hollywood Regency style, which I love but sadly can’t seem to work it into my own home.  That pink sofa, black rug, and chandeliers.  Oh my.

This is a bit too modern for my taste, but I loved the idea of layering rugs to add more texture and interest.

More rolled pages that add some interest.

Or sheet music as artwork?

I liked the textural neutrals of the unbound books here too.

I loved the color of the three vases and the combination of the vases as centerpiece under that gorgeous light fixture.  It’s beautiful and industrial all at the same time.

A close up of the light fixture.

I thought these mirrors were interesting with the huge grommets and the rope – hung or displayed more like a tray, both add interest.

I have to admit, this is my dream sofa.  I absolutely adore the tufted back and I have been jonesing after a worn tobacco brown leather sofa for our living room or even a smaller cigar room/den.

Love the pop of red on this cabinet.

Patterned pillows with large black tassels on the corners.

This fountain gave me dreams of a beautiful solarium or courtyard full to the brim with greenery and the meditative sound of the fountain.

That table top.  I can’t even…

Look at the interesting shutters – layered they add so much interest to a wall.

Hope you found some things that inspired you as well.  I look forward to going back soon to see what new things have been acquired!

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January 2018 in Photos

Finally finally finally got around to keywording and editing my photos from January and I thought it was about time I share!

★ Eric and I went to see the Trains at Northpark, our annual holiday tradition.  It’s fun to look for the little changes each year.

★ I received the most amazing Christimas gift from my friend Robert.  He stitched a Long Dog Designs sampler years ago and gave it to me.  It’s stunning!  I can’t wait to figure out where to hang it.

★ I was thrilled with how our Christmas decorations on the porch turned out this year.  And seeing the greenery with the white lights against our red front door is about my favorite thing ever.

★ Eric and I were so thrilled to be able to attend a special screening of the film Adele and Everything After, a documentary about my high school friend Marty and her service dog Adele (look for a separate post on this soon!)

★ A readalong with a friend of Sarah J. Maas’s new book A Court of Wings and Ruin.  Soooooooo gooooooood!  (A more detailed review coming soon!)

★ Mexican hot chocolate and snuggling on the couch with my Thut

★ Winter nails – Sephora by OPI’s Metro Chic and OPI’s Galapa-ghost

★ Playing mad scientist/kitchen witch and making some kick ass DIYs with essential oils (details and recipes here on my Cozylife blog!)

★ I stumbled across this magazine at the store…looks intriguing and I loved the artwork on the cover.

How was your January?

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Whiskey Cake

Back at the beginning of April, Eric and I celebrated our twelfth wedding anniversary.  That seems so crazy to type.  It hardly seems possible it has been twelve years.  He brought me two dozen roses, one of the white roses went in our wedding vase and the rest I placed in my milk glass vase (my favorite, it was my mom’s).  And the roses were beautiful.  I just learned last year that the white roses are apparently hard to come by, so he has to special order them every year.  I had no idea!

We usually go out to eat for our anniversary, and it seems the last few years we’ve gotten in a rut of going to the same place over and over again.  It’s really good, but since we were going for birthdays and anniversary, I decided it was time for a change.  I’ve been wanting to take him to a restaurant called Whiskey Cake.  I had gone there a couple of times with coworkers and I knew he would love it, but they don’t take reservations.  Since we are typically going on a Saturday night, it always kind of frustrated us that we couldn’t make a reservation.  But, I suggested that we just go early and try to beat the crowd.  So that’s what we did.


Whiskey Cake is a local restaurant that has a couple of locations and they are a farm to table restaurant using locally sourced ingredients, including their own herb garden on site.  Their menu changes seasonally, as you would expect.  And everything I have had there is delicious.

One of the things I really love about this place is the decor.  Love the French ticking stripe napkins, the repurposed lightbulbs as bud vases with a sprig of fresh rosemary inside, the industrial napkin rings, etc.

So, what did we order?  We couldn’t pass up the fried green tomatoes for an appetizer.

For the entree, Eric decided to have the duck breast.  He loves duck but very rarely has the chance to have it (and have it prepared well).  It had a carrot-ginger puree, heirloom carrots, red onions, kale, and a citrus vinaigrette.

I opted for the OMG Burger, which stands for onions, mushrooms, and goodness.  I had to leave off the M though (allergic).  But it has a beer battered onion ring on it, muenster, grain mustard, red chile mayo, lettuce, and tomato on a challah bun.  How good does that sound right now?

And of course, we had to have their signature dessert – whiskey cake.  It is a toffee torte with bourbon anglaise, spiced pecans, and fresh whipped cream.  So so so good.  And I admit I have attempted to make whiskey cake and it tastes nothing like this.

We had a lovely dinner, and a lovely anniversary.  And I’m so glad that I finally got the chance to take Eric to Whiskey Cake for dinner.  Definitely check them out if you are in the area!

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At the Met

It’s been a long long while since I talked fashion here, hasn’t it?  I recently saw photos from this year’s Met Gala and just had to share a few of my favorites.

This year’s theme was Heavenly Bodies and as you can imagine there were quite a few variations on the theme.  By far my favorite dress of the night was this one.

This is Blake Lively in Atelier Versace and Christian Louboutin heels. I just cannot get over how gorgeous this is.  The color, the detailing, the silhouette, the train, everything.

Another favorite, Emilia Clarke in Dolce & Gabbana Alta Moda and Christian Louboutin heels.

I loved this one as well.

This is Stella Maxwell in Moschino.

Rihanna never fails to bring something amazing to the table. Minus the headpiece, I loved the look of this.

Rihanna is wearing an intricately embellished mini with train and matching shawl-collar coat (all Maison Margiela Artisanal); Christian Louboutin heels, a custom Judith Leiber clutch and jewelry by Cartier, Gilan, Maria Tash, Konstantino Jewelry and Narcisa Pheres.

And while this is not a dress, I thought it was gorgeous. Compared to the rest of her family, Kendall Jenner looked beautiful and classic (although I could have easily said classy).

Kendall is wearing off-white Virgil Abloh off-white Jimmy Choo heels and Tiffany & Co. jewelry.

I loved this dress when I saw it from the side and back. It has such an interesting profile to it. And I love the color.

This is Diane Kruger in Prabal Gurung.

Unfortunately from the front, it loses all its appeal. I hate the shape of the skirt and I don’t care for the headpiece.  I really don’t love the heels either.

Love this…

Gigi Hadid wore a stained-glass effect Atelier Versace gown with a rainbow angel wing across her body, Christian Louboutin heels and Lorraine Schwartz jewelry.

Loved the color on this.  This looked very Greek goddess or possibly a bit of a Renaissance feel.  This is Amanda Seyfried in Prada.

Cynthia Erivo wearing Valentino and a custom Maria Tash septum ring and Maria Tash earrings.  I love the color and cut on this.

Keltie Knight in Paolo Sebastian. Wonder what the words say on the skirt? You know I can’t pass up the stars though. I love me some stars.

Lily Aldridge in custom Ralph Lauren and Bvlgari jewelry.  I absolutely adore the color of this and the neckline.  Especially with the diamond and emerald necklace.  What I don’t love is the sleeves and the collar.

Mary J. Blige in Versace.

Ariana Grande in a sky blue gown with a seraphic motif and bow veil atop her bun, plus Butani jewelry. Hate the bow. Love the dress.

And finally, Priyanka Chopra in custom Ralph Lauren and Cartier jewelry. This is rather simple, but beautiful.

It’s always interesting to see the dresses at this event and this year did not disappoint!

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Tending the Garden

After my last post, I thought it might be good to share a little more of my work in my Power Sheets and how that is transforming into what I do currently.

In the Power Sheets, once you’ve identified your goals you start to break them down into smaller focus areas quarterly, monthly, and weekly.  Here were some of the things I wanted to keep in mind for the first three months of the year.

And once you put together your focus for the three months, you then move to focusing on the month ahead.  As part of the monthly goal-setting, I identified some things to remember.

And then, keeping in mind my big goals for the year and also what I want to pay attention to this quarter, I started to brain storm about this month’s focus.

I knew that the key to reaching your goals is tending them daily.  Without doing that daily check in and daily doing tasks to move that goal forward, you’ll never realize it.   The time will pass and then you’ll be wondering where the year went (ask me how I know this!).  So, I took that brain storm and filtered it into a clear action plan (ie tending list) for the month of March.

This keeps me on track with monthly goals (that feed into my quarterly and yearly goals), weekly goals, and daily goals.

What I struggled with though, is that because Power Sheets aren’t (and aren’t intended to be) a planner.  I was having to work out of both my Erin Condren Planner and my Power Sheets.  Which got a little unweildy at times.   So, I decided I needed an easier way to keep track of those daily habits I was wanting to cultivate.  My weekly and monthly goals, I could keep in my planner so that I could refer to them frequently.  But, my daily habits were getting lost in the shuffle.  I did some searching online and found this great printable habit tracker from Sparkle of Sunshine.  I liked being able to see the whole month at a glance, and monitor how I was doing with my habits.  What I know now is that I was setting myself up for failure.  Not because I was tracking my habits, but because I was trying to start like 20 new habits at one time.  I’ll talk more about that next time.

As I’m finding my way and identifying what works best for me, I feel like I’m better able to keep my goals at the forefront and not just let the days go by and wonder why I didn’t accomplish those goals I’d set for myself in January.  I love Power Sheets for how they get you to brain storm and dig in and identify what those goals should be, I just needed a better way to keep them in front of me and easily accessible without working in two or three different set ups.

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One Little Word

 

I talked a little bit in my last post about goal setting and what I had planned for in 2017.  My word for 2017 was Transformation.  Which, although it didn’t manifest itself in quite the way I was expecting, it really was a transformational year.  I let go of a lot of things, I learned a lot of things, and I came out the other side.

For 2018, I had a hard time coming up with my “one little word” to describe all that I had in mind for the year and all that I wanted to achieve.  But, finally in mid-January I found it – Limitless.

 

I truly feel like I could not have chosen a better word for where I am right now.  It has all the potential and opportunity that is before me within it.

So, my next step was to take a look back through the prep work I did in 2017 in my Power Sheets and reassess my goals.

And when I looked at last year’s goals, what I found was that they were pretty much the same goals I want to achieve in 2018.  So, I thought I’d share them here.

My 2018 Goals

  1. Be an open channel (stop jamming the signal) through clean, healthy, uncluttered living.
  2. Pour love into my marriage.
  3. Grow my business authentically and in alignment with my purpose – lead by example.

So, there they are.  And on the face of them, they seem pretty simple but they encompass so much.  And in a way I’m really glad that they withstood the test of time and they are still arrows fully pointed in the direction I want to go.

So, then the next question is – how do I do that?  How do I turn these goals into reality.  Simple – an action plan.  So for each of these goals, I came up with actionable steps I could take that breaks them down into smaller bites.

And funny enough, just writing this post and again looking at my 2018 goals has got me geared up to get moving.

In my next post, I’ll take a look at how I break those big goals down into smaller goals – quarterly, monthly, and weekly.  I’ll also talk a little bit about why I needed a different method for tracking my goals.

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Begin Where You Are

It’s January – almost the end of January* – and I’ve been (like most people) trying to outline my goals and what I want to accomplish in 2018.  As part of this, I’ve spent a good amount of time looking back at 2017 and realizing that I started off strong and then completely went off the rails.  And what I’m realizing is that this is a typical pattern for me.  So, instead of getting too bogged down in what went wrong and instead of beating myself up for not having met all my goals last year, I’m just going to pick it up from here and move forward.  Begin where I am, as it were.

So, for 2017 I invested in Lara Casey’s Power Sheets.  I’ve been following Lara for awhile and thought that I’d give her approach to goal setting a try.

One of the things I appreciated about her method is that you start planning the year before.  So in November, which is about the time of year I start to get energized and thinking about goals, is exactly when she starts doing her PowerSheets prep posts and videos.

In doing the prepwork, she has you take stock of where you are, what last year looked like (good and not so good), and setting a course for where you want to go.  Here’s part of what I wrote about my story:

I lost my way.  I was overcome by fear and insecurity.  I cocoon myself as a protection, but instead it muffles my divine guidance and communication.  I get caught up in busy and distraction.  I want a purpose-filled life.  Authentic.  I am not here to be small and fearful or mediocre.  I can teach by example.  I can show others how to live a life out loud.  I can share my awe and wonder of the world and teach others how to live their best life.  

There were so many powerful words like those above that tumbled out of me and into my workbook.  And when you’re done going through the first set of worksheets, she has you go back through and highlight or circle the things that stand out to you – those things that resonate.

And the thing I realized in doing that is that everything I need is within me.  I know where I want to go and how to get there.  I just have to tune in, listen, and take action.

I chose my word of the year: Transformation.  It seemed fitting.  And I put together a vision board to visually steer me in the right direction.

I worked through distilling down my thoughts, recurring themes, and intentions and set my goals for 2017.

  • Be an open channel (stop jamming the signal) through clean, healthy, uncluttered living.
  • Pour love into my marriage.
  • Grow my business authentically and in alignment with my purpose – lead by example.

By looking back at the work I did preparing for 2017 and the goals I set, I’m seeing that not much has changed for me in 2018 – the goals are still relevant (with some tweaking) and the groundwork I laid is still beneficial.  I’ll be back in my next post to share more about breaking down these goals and putting together an action plan that will carry me forward through 2018.

*I started writing this post in January, but as evidenced by how 2017 went I didn’t get back to this post until March.  (note to self: Procrastination is the thief of time.)

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On My Bookshelf: Both Ends of the Spectrum

P.S. I Love You stack

I promised to tell you about the books I cheated on Thea Devine with.  So, after failing miserably at trying to read books I had at home rather than library books and realizing that if I don’t have a good book in my hand I’d rather not read, I went to the library.  I decided, ok let’s test this theory.  Am I just burned out on reading or is it the books that just aren’t that good?

So, at the library I picked up P.S. I Still Love You, The Girl on the Train, and Lola and the Boy Next Door.  I figured that two of the three were sequels to others I’d read and enjoyed and Girl on the Train I’d been wanting to read forever.

P.S. I Still Love You

First up, I decided to read P.S. I Still Love You first.  It is a sequel to To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, which I talked about in this post.  I started this on June 14th and finished it three days later.   This book helped me determine that my reading slump was book-specific. I easily zipped through this book, enjoying every page of it. It was just as good as the first one, if not better. Recommend.

 

Girl on the Train with Coffee

After that I decided to give The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins a go.  I picked this one up on June 18th.  I’m probably six months behind everyone in reading this, but it was worth the wait. This book was well-written and kept me guessing right up to the end.

Girl on the Train

I was afraid this book was going to be a watered down version of Gone Girl, but it wasn’t. There is a similar feel to the story (in a “if you like Gone Girl, you’ll like Girl on the Train” kind of way), but it is a very different book. I highly recommend this one and will look forward to reading more from Ms. Hawkins. I read this one in five days, finishing it on June 23rd.

Lola and the Boy Next Door

And finally, I read Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.  I picked this one up on June 26th.   This book is also a sequel (to Anna and the French Kiss that I reviewed here).  I so enjoyed this book. While it didn’t have the benefit of being set in Paris like Anna & the French Kiss, it more than made up for it. I read this in three days because I couldn’t put it down. And strangely, aside from being a good story with excellent writing and great characters, the book gave me food for thought – how I can balance those different parts of myself that seem so incongruous, how you can live out loud in vibrant color but still feel small inside, and how the people that care about you can see past the mask and really know you.

These books spanned both ends of the spectrum – young adult romance to a suspenseful thriller.  And thank goodness they also showed me that nothing stands between me and a good book, but if given a not so good book I’d rather do anything than read.

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On My Bookshelf: Landlines and Lifelines

Landline

I’m back to share more from my bookshelf with you today.  When last we left our heroine, she’d put herself on the wait list for Rainbow Rowell’s Landline because she’d pulled it out of her TBR jar.  And then she waited.  And waited.  And finally, the day came when the email arrived saying her book was ready to pick up!

I started Landline on May 9th (remember this is 2016 we’re talking about – because our heroine is behind on her blogging) and finished it on the 14th.  I really enjoyed this book.  Rainbow’s books are always so well-written and enjoyable.  And, they are all so different. This book reminded me more of Attachments and less like Fangirl or Eleanor & Park. I love her complex but relatable characters and this storyline. Well worth a read!

After finishing up Landline it was time to pull another book from my TBR jar.

Landline and TBR Jar

And out of the TBR jar came…one of my wildcard free slips.  So, since I had checked out Feverborn (read my review of it here), I went ahead and counted that as my wildcard.  Then I decided that since I was on such an awesome reading streak, maybe I should try to read some of the books I have sitting at home.  So, I picked up a book that had been luring me – A Café on the Nile.  I started it on 5/24.  The author is a member of The Explorer’s Club, which I am fascinated by, and the book is set in Egypt.  What could be better?

Cafe on the Nile

Well, yeah.  Notsomuch.  I tried.  I really did.  My reading slowed down to a snail’s pace.  So slow in fact that I think I’d pretty much given up reading.  So, after a couple of weeks I decided to give something else a try.  Maybe I just wasn’t into this book?

So, I picked up another book on my bookshelf at home – Beyond Desire.

Beyond Desire

I started it on June 8th and attempted to read it for about a week.  This book was supposed to take place on the Orient Express, it was supposed to be steamy, it was supposed to be good.  Well, I ended up taking a break (more on that next time) and then picked this back up around the 29th of June.  Finished it on July 7th.

Once I picked it back up, re-energized, I enjoyed the story and it kept my attention. I enjoyed the journey by Orient Express and eluding the followers and the search for clues about the bracelets. I think this book would have been much more enjoyable without the sex scenes. They were ridiculous, and overburdened with words like transmogrified, termagant, profligate. I also found that I occasionally had a hard time following whose thoughts and feelings she was describing because they flipped back and forth. I think Thea Devine’s writing would be better served with more attention to how the erotic scenes fit within the whole of her story.

If there’s one thing that these last two books taught me, it’s that my reading appetite is voracious, when given a good book.  When given a book that isn’t doing it for me – I’d rather not read.  But, I have found over the past months that reading for me is indeed a lifeline – I need it.  It keeps my brain working and my creativity flowing.  It keeps me well-fed.

More next time on the books I cheated on Thea Devine with.

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