For years, I’ve anticipated the time of year when mom would pull out the tin of her special spiced mocha. I’d grab my favorite snowman mug, and fill it to the brim with the sweetly spicy blend to keep me warm by the Christmas tree. It’s a family favorite, and I can’t remember a time without it. Last year, I posted a photo on Instagram and Snapped this yummy drink, and I had so many people ask me for the recipe, so…it only took me a year, but without further ado, here’s Mama Donna’s Spiced Mocha!
In a bowl, mix together:
1 cup of hot cocoa mix (Ghirardelli is prime!)
1 cup of dry non-dairy creamer
2/3 cup of instant coffee powder (you can choose whether you’d like decaf or caffeinated, we just like to drink ours in the evenings without being up all night!)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
When you’re ready to serve, pour 3-4 heaping teaspoons into a mug of your choice. This adorable snowman mug was given to me many years ago, and it is still my absolute favorite. It’s practically the size of my face, but it’s too cute to pass up.
Boil a cup of milk (or water, but I prefer mine nice and creamy) and add to the mix you’ve already put in the mug.
Top it off with whipped cream or marshmallows and enjoy!
This is seriously the easiest and yummiest beverage mix ever, and it makes for excellent Christmas gifts! I’ve always thought it was adorable to put a little bit of mix in a clear Christmas ornament and write the instructions on the outside. Perfect for coworkers, neighbors, or literally anyone else because who wouldn’t want to enjoy delicious mocha? Happy sipping!
Special thank-you to mom for making this for us year after year! It will be passed down for generations.
If you follow me on Snapchat, you’ll know that my favorite place to frequent is Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream, for the best cinnamon buns and chai latte smoothies around. If I’m honest, though, my one true love is their ultimate grilled cheese panini. It’s made with like three or four different cheeses, plus tomato and a balsamic vinaigrette. So delicious! But it’s not just the food that always pulls me back to this little cafe. Crossroads holds an incredibly dear spot in my heart, as it was one of the first places that I began to explore writing and gleaning inspiration from my environment. Now I finally get the chance to share it with the blogosphere.
These chilly days lately have called for warm scarves, as well as this watercolor wrap that a friend gave me a few years back. It also calls for piping hot lemon chamomile tea with just a bit of honey to warm my insides. Fun fact about Stephanie: I prefer tea over coffee. I always have. At some point in my life, I’m sure to be that lady with an entire basket full of different teas, and only one coffee option. Oops. Not really that sorry. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy coffee! I just typically prefer the middle man: a chai latte.
Underneath this cozy sweater I picked up a while back at H&M, I layered a ruffle crochet-hemmed tank top for a pinch of femininity. Wearing unique hems below my tops is a great way to incorporate little sneak-peeks of different textures and patterns in my outfits. This tank was one that I purchased at dELiA*s before they became an only-online shop. I’ve been browsing their racks since I was in my tweens, and was devastated when they began disappearing from the malls, but oh-so-glad when they reappeared online after what seemed like the longest hiatus ever. Now I can continue to indulge my graphic tee obsession.
When I’m curled up in the corner of the cafe, focusing solely on the music flowing through my headphones and the words streaming out of my pen onto paper, I don’t want to be thinking about how uncomfortable my pants are. So I slip into my mildly distressed skinnies from Love Culture, and call it a day.
Last fall I made it my sole mission (get it?) to find the perfect pair of brown combat boots. It took a great deal of time searching in all the wrong places before I discovered this particular set at Kohl’s, on clearance no less! I love how they add just the right amount of tomboy to any girly look, and they’re perfect for trekking through the rainy, cold, leaf-covered ground throughout the fall season.
I knew as soon as I launched my blog a few months ago that I wanted to make a photoshoot happen at this cafe. Three years ago I tasted that grilled cheese for the first time, and suddenly every rainy afternoon was spent curled up in one of their chairs with a good book or scraps of paper for writing poetry. Every weekend evening was spent listening to the live music and enjoying a scoop or two of ice cream.
One of the most unique things you’ll find in this eclectic little shop, is the classic arcade games doubling as tables! Sit and play a round of Ms. Pac-Man while you sip your coffee (or tea), or try one of the other programmed games against a friend. I am terrible at Pac-Man, so I try to avoid it at all cost, but I love the novelty. Each time you visit, you’ll find a fresh bouquet of flowers on every table. These little lovelies spruce up the place and always bring a smile to my face. Below is the first writing I ever did at Crossroads, in January of 2013. For several months after it was written, the shop displayed it on a bulletin board, letting it absorb the wisps of coffee steam swirling through the air. It wasn’t until 2015 that I would write here again, but the thought of it hanging for all to see still makes me smile.
“Paper snowflakes and Christmas lights draped from the ceiling.
Light jazz music and the sound of happy chatting.
The scent of coffee and bread wafting through the air.
I chose the perfect day to sit in the café and read.
Across from me, three elderly ladies gossip over their tea.
Behind them, a woman hastily types on her laptop while her foot taps in time with the music.
The chair next to me was occupied by a young man in dirty clothing, worn by outdoor labor, reading a newspaper and jotting notes.
I enjoy the sound of the employees making conversation with the regulars.
Men in business suits, mothers with their loud and playful children, couples enjoying a late-afternoon date.
My time here was spent reading the last installment in my new favorite trilogy while sipping on a Thai Lite Latte and listening to Ed Sheeran play through my headphones.
So many have come in and out, glancing at me strangely while I read and smile at the laughter enveloping me.
Beside me, an older couple sit and barely make eye contact while they work on their phones.
It intrigues me how people can pay so little attention to each other.
The weather outside is dreary, but the warmth and cheeriness of the café and my sweet drink keep me awake and alert, in-tune to those around me in this eclectic little place.
Wine at some tables.
Coffee at others.
Tea and pastries still at others.
Buses, police cars, and regular traffic pass by the window, proving that the city never rests.
I am calm.
Life is good.
I’ve missed writing.
I’m going to do it more.”
In early summer of this year, I visited my old favorite spot for the first time in a long time. I decided it had been too long since I had brought out the pen and paper, so I grabbed a hot tea, snuggled into a corner, and began to write.
“I’m sitting in the bustle of a cafe that holds the warmest spot in my heart.
I may have expected it to lack the inspiration it used to when I was young and passionately in love with the world.
However, it never ceases to amaze me.
The dim Christmas lights still strung from the windows, ignoring the sticky summer clinging to the air outside.
The live musicians taking a break to sip their late night coffee and mingle with the faces attached to the ears that listen to their merry sounds.
The bookshelf spilling dog-eared pages and yellowed covers, sighing the love they’ve had poured over them throughout the years.
The lonely dog wandering among the legs dangling under the night’s electric stars.
The feminine kiss of sweet smelling flowers showing off their dresses on the tables that house all of the secrets of this mingled crowd.
I may be alone on this last Saturday night in May, as my cup of tea begins to chill in my hands, but when I’m surrounded by these comforts, I am never lonely.”
I know that Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream will provide a source of inspiration for a long time to come. I am grateful for discovering this little spot that has helped me cultivate my writing skills and pursue my dreams in all their forms. I have also gotten the opportunity to meet and befriend the owner and his mother. These will always be the people that I admire and hope to emulate in character and commitment. I am so blessed to have such incredible and encouraging individuals in my life.
Special thank-you to Will and Susan at Crossroads Coffee and Ice Cream for your hospitality and willingness to not only let me take a million photos in your cafe, but also include you in my blog post. Much love!
I haven’t stopped talking about my trip to Fort Lauderdale since the second I left. I know at some point soon you will be tired of hearing all about my trip, but before that happens, I wanted to give a rundown on exactly what you should do and where to do it if you ever make a trip down to sunny South Florida. This all begins, of course, with where to stay. I took this trip with my parents, so naturally they had first dibs on our hotel. My mother grew up in Lauderdale, and as a little girl, her father ran one particular Howard Johnson’s restaurant. Located close to the beachfront, the restaurant is no longer open, but the hotel still exists. It is now a beautiful Courtyard Marriott, with some of the best customer service I have ever personally experienced on a vacation.
This pool was the very one that my mom would swim in as a child, so she holds it dear to her heart. It has now become one of my favorite places as well. We were lucky enough to occupy a ground-floor room with a walk-out patio that led directly to the pool and hot tub. I frequented the cool pool during the day and enjoyed the heat of the tub to relax my muscles at the end of each night. It was fun to sit by the side and watch the geckos and iguanas soak up the sun by the bushes.
The beds were always made perfectly each day – by the sweetest hospitality team ever – with multiple pillow choices. Each one was a little bit different in softness, so you always had a new option if you wanted to curl up and take a rest.
I brought along my new OneLittleForest mobile wallet to make things easier while I was away. No need to concern myself with a purse or clutch, because this baby opens up to reveal pockets for your driver’s license and credit cards inside. Multitasking for the win!
Whenever we visit SoFlo, we absolutely have to make a trip to Jaxon’s Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant. This place is quite the experience with their old-fashioned dining, accompanied by a carousel, fair games, and the Kitchen Sink (literally a kitchen sink filled with ice cream – it’s the bomb).
It normally takes two people just to finish one bowl of ice cream, although my dad typically seems to do a pretty good job wiping his goblet clean. Let me just tell you now: I love ice cream, and I’ve tried a lot of it. Jaxon’s is hands down the best ice cream on the planet, and the atmosphere will make you never want to leave again. Make sure you ask for a bowl of popcorn when you sit down. The buttery goodness is better than a cinema!
Of course, what would a trip to Lauderdale be without a visit to the sea? My favorite time to trek down to the beach is right around 6:00 PM, just as the sun is lowering and there’s a calm to the waves. The sand has finally cooled down, and most travelers are at dinner. It’s the perfect time to take a trip to the end of the pier. Only $2 to enter, and you get to watch all the life below the surface of the water as the sun begins to set.
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I have a slight obsession with French macarons. I discovered these delicacies just a couple of years back on a trip to Washington, D.C. and my life was forever changed. However, there is not a single place in Richmond that makes or sells them, and so each time I travel, I make it my mission to find a macaron shop. Le Macaron is the prettiest little pastry place I have ever laid eyes on, with their girly pink decor and their bright, delicious macarons.
I highly recommend the black currant or rose flavors if you ever check this particular place out. You will fall head-over-hot pink heels in love, I promise! Each time I Snapchat a photo of the rose flavor, I get so many questions asking what it tastes like. I’m not sure how else to describe it aside from “like the smell of the rose with sugar sprinkled on top.” It’s a very unique taste, but it is my favorite, by far!
A few posts ago, I mentioned a lovely little spot called Coconuts, where we celebrated my mom’s birthday lunch. It was my second time eating at this waterfront restaurant, and the first time certainly wasn’t a fluke. Their food is dynamite. This was our view sitting outside to eat. It was so enjoyable watching the boats come and go across the shiny waters.
I will be the first person to say that I look for good customer service. After working several years in both retail and the food industry, my antennas are always up when I’m in a busy atmosphere to see how people will respond. I have to commend the staff at Coconuts for their cheerful and helpful personalities and their patience with my standing on their chairs to take pictures of my food (rearranging it a million times) for about ten minutes straight. You guys rock!
Our meal was out of this world. We started with the most incredible spinach-artichoke dip and still-warm tortilla chips. I have never been a fan of this particular dip, but the second I took a bite, I was in heaven. The flavors weren’t overpowering and the texture wasn’t slimy. It was absolutely delicious.
I ordered my all-time favorite beach food: shrimp. Specifically, coconut shrimp with a sweet coleslaw and perfectly cooked french fries (that I can no longer have, since finding out that I’m allergic to potatoes *cries for all eternity*).
No matter where I go, I always scan the menu for mac & cheese. My favorite macaroni has always been from Cracker Barrel (no lie) but this may have topped it. Baked macaroni with oozing cheese and a little bit of a spicy kick. So divine.
My mom ordered a crab cake salad that was so colorful, it nearly made my heart stop. Talk about a pretty meal. The lettuce was perfectly crunchy and the crab cake was cooked to perfection. It was fresh and yummy and spot-on for the hot hot day in the sun.
For this lunch I grabbed my second OneLittleForest case for my phone. A little bit more whimsical and with super cute colors to go along with our bright meal.
I could suggest a world of other shops to visit and places to eat (you have to check out LaSpada’s Hoagies for literally the “best damn hoagies in town”) but I would be here all day. Let’s just say that Fort Lauderdale has become my home away from home and will most definitely always be my happy place. If you have ever visited, or you live nearby, let me know some of your favorite spots so that I can check them out the next time I visit!
Confession: I have practically much drank my weight in boba milk tea over the past couple of years. Yes, it’s true, I may have a problem. I just can’t get enough! However, Richmond has very few options for acquiring this delightful concoction, so I decided to make my own! It’s so simple, and not at all time-consuming, so it’s a great way for me to save money and indulge in my obsession. Now I’m going to share my recipe with the world, because you all deserve to enjoy this just as much as me!
I began with instant boba milk tea. Sort of like hot chocolate packets, but with milk tea instead. Each packet equals one serving. They require 1 cup of water per packet. I was making 3 glasses, so I used 3 cups. Isn’t math fun?
Pretty simple instructions here. Put the contents of the milk tea packets into whatever drinking vessel you will be using (I like Mason jars), boil the amount of water you need, and pour into the glass. Then add ice or put into the freezer to chill the liquid. I’m gonna tell you right now, putting it into the freezer takes forever and a decade. This is the method I used the first time, and at one point I nearly caved and drank it warm because I have zero patience. So, needless to say, I recommend ice.
I purchased these black tapioca pearls from a local Asian market. You can also buy them in bulk on Amazon. Pretty nifty, if you ask me. Which you didn’t, so we will move on. I’m gonna state right now, these babies smell so bizarre before you cook them. Not what I expected, but totally deceiving, because they taste delicious.
A little goes a long way, trust me on this one. The cooking instructions state that you will need to boil 10 cups of water per 1 cup of pearls. I took one look at these and thought that there would be no way 1 cup would be enough for 3 glasses. Turns out, it was enough for about 6 glasses. So, the next time I made it, I boiled 2 cups of water and did a 1/4 cup of pearls for 2 glasses of tea. That worked out much better. It was nice to not be swimming in boba. But if you’re into that, by all means, go for it.
Boil your water, add the pearls and then lower the heat to medium for 5-7 minutes. The boba will float to the top and your water will appear black. Do not fret. This is perfectly normal. Now turn the heat off and let them simmer in there for another 5 minutes, or until they have a gummy texture when you squeeze them between two fingers. Strain and let them sit in a very cold water bath for approximately 2 minutes.
Now we sweeten the pearls. You can add a bit of sugar, honey, agave, or whatever other sweetener you prefer. I have tried both coconut nectar and honey. I loved the flavor each time.
Add your tapioca pearls to your chilled milk tea and voilà!Your homemade boba milk tea is complete. How exciting is it that you can now create this divinity whenever you please? Yes, hello, my name is Stephanie, and I am a boba-aholic. If that existed, I would actually fit that description perfectly. I am waiting for my weekly meetings to include each and every one of you, so get to making this. Unite with me in my obsession. And let me know in the comments if there are any other drinks or recipes that you’d like to see me post!