Friday Favorites

I had a fantastic Spring Break week this week, and I hope you all have enjoyed yourslves, too!  Here are a few of my favorite things from this week…

This week, my fiance and I took a short trip to Washington, D.C. Last year during spring break, we visited D.C., and he proposed in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Visiting the same place was a great way to celebrate our engagementiversary! We had a fantastic trip and a ton of fun!

This is what the inside of the top of the Capitol Rotunsa looks like. The painting in the center is called The Apotheosis of George Washington. Not only is it a stunning work of art, but it is also extremely meaningful. You can find more information by clicking the photo. I always loved the Capitol Rotunda, but after the proposal last year, it is even more special! It's cool to think that George Washington was looking down on us (literally, from this painting!) during our special moment!

We found these beautiful flowering trees in the garden behind the Smithsonian Castle. I love that so much beauty can be found in the most unexpected places in D.C.!

To celebrate the beginning of spring break, we got a big group of friends and went to a hibachi dinner. It was tons of fun and delicious!

Sharing Starbucks Frappuccino time with my fiance 🙂

MMMM YUM! Sprinkles cupcakes from the Georgetown location! This is a two-for-one favorite because Sprinkles has my favorite store-bought cupcakes AND Georgetown is one of my favorite places ever!

Who doesn't love cookies that show up to your door at 10 at night???

We got a chance to meet up with one of our friends while in D.C. We always have so much fun together, and I love how this photo shows how silly we are and how much we laugh together!

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Sugar Cookies

A Part of the “Getting in the Christmas Spirit” Series

 

This year, we had quite a busy holiday season, and I was only at home for about two and a half weeks total.  Since we basically just ran out of time, we took a bit of a short cut in cookie baking.  Instead of going through the trouble of making cookies from scratch, we bought the pre-made sugar cookie dough, baked them, and then decorated!  Then you still get the personal touch of the fun decorating, but you don’t have as much time or clean up!

 

having a cooling rack is a must!

 

Easy decorating!

 

Snowflake cookie! Used sparkly blue gel icing

Yum, sprinkles! I also added clear sugar crystals to the white frosting snowflakes for a little something extra!

Yum!

 

What are some of your favorite “easy” Christmas cookies?

Drink Hot Chocolate

A Part of the “Getting in the Christmas Spirit” Series

Keurig Dark Hot Choclate K-Cup, Coffee Mate Peppermint Mocha, Reddi Whip, chocolate sprinkes, and Peppermint sprinkles!

One of the best parts about winter is cuddling up with a blanket and slipper socks, warming up with a hot cup of cocoa!  I have turned hot chocolate into a bit of an art, trying different combinations and flavors to make the tradition even more fun!  There is pretty much no end to what you can do with hot chocolate, and you don’t have to make it complicated!  Here are some of my favorite suggestions:

For the hot chocolate:

The easiest way is to just use the little packets you buy at the store!  Many brands are delicious, so pick what you like.  A few things to consider here:

  • If you’re trying to be health-conscious… well take a look at the nutrition facts carefully.  Many of the low fat, lite, low sugar, etc. options aren’t actually that helpful.  I took a close look and realized that the way they often make the grams and percentages lower is that there’s LESS of the MIX in each packet.  So it’s not really helping that much, you’re just getting a more watered-down version of the regular stuff.
  • For the best flavor and taste, one packet isn’t enough!  Most coffee mugs these days are much larger than they were back in the day.  For a “normal” size mug, use 1 1/2 packets.  For one of the large Starbucks style ones, you may need two.
  • You can make great hot chocolate out of packets, even with water!  Just add a little milk at the end for the creaminess.  This helps keep it lighter than if you used all milk, but you still get the benefit of the creaminess.  I probably use only about 1/8 cup milk in mine.
  • If you have one of the single-serving coffee makers (like Keurig, Tassimo, or the like) they probably have products available for hot chocolate, too.  It works great, but make sure you don’t use too much water when you make it!

You can also make hot chocolate from scratch, which is absolutely delightful.  It does take a lot more time and effort, though, so be prepared.  It’s definitely better than the stuff out of a pouch or a can, so it can really be wirth the extra trouble!  Then again, the packets can be great, too, so don’t feel you NEED to go home-made!

Flavor options:

There are lots of ways to achieve different flavors.  You can start with flavored packets, add flavor syrup, or even use flavored coffee mate in place of the little bit of milk!  Here are some of my faves…

  • Peppermint Cocoa: I love peppermint mocha, so removing the coffee from the mix is noooo problem!  Make cocoa the normal way, then add a bit of Coffee Mate Peppermint Mocha to taste!
  • Mexican Hot Chocolate:  I used a cookbook recipe to make this from scratch, and it is delish!  You can find tons of recipes online, but the cinnamon adds just a little bite and an extra bit of warmth!
  • Cocoa Classics:  Land-O-Lakes makes a variety of flavored hot cocoas in packets (for these, you don’t need to do the 1 1/2 or 2 usually!) that are awesome!  It seems they no longer sell my favorite (it had graham cracker flavor!) but there are tons of other great options.  You can find them in most grocery stores, and they sell them individually so you can try different flavors!  Even if you don’t want to buy them, they can serve as good inspiration for flavor ideas!
  • White Chocolate:  Some brands offer a white chocolate option, which can be delicious on its own or in combination with any of the other flavors!

Toppings and extras:

There are different options for toppings… you can go with or without, but I think it’s more fun with! 🙂

  • Cool Whip:  I guess a lot of people like Cool Whip as a topping, but I’ve never been much of a fan.  Oh well, it’s still out there and you can use it if you like it!
  • Whipped cream:  Ahhh, my favorite!  I prefer Reddi-Whip, but that’s just a personal preference.  Even their fat free is really good, and it doesn’t add much in the way of calories (unlike if you order at Starbucks) because it has so much air!  They even offer chocolate whipped cream, if you wanna go that route!
  • Sprinkles:  YUM YUM!  Sprinkles of any kind make hot chocolate more fun.  You can use holiday colors, sprinkles shaped like stuff, chocolate ones, or even flavored sprinke crystals.  One of my holiday favorites is the peppermint ones, but you can use any flavor you like that matches with the flavors you’ve already chosen.  You can also use chocolate shaving style sprinkles, though I never have them on hand.  One of my all-time favorites is the Pampered Chef Sweet Cinnamon Sprinkle.  SOOO GOOD!
  • Syrup:  You can also drizzle some of your favorite flavored syrups on top… caramel, chocolate, strawberry… whatever you have and like!
  • Hot Chocolate Surprise:  You can also do a Hot Chocolate Surprise, where you hide something at the bottom of the cup!  You can try different things (as long as they don’t get soggy), but my favorite is a Hershey’s kiss!
  • Stirrers:  I’ve seen a lot of cute stirring options online, but I haven’t really used many myself.  You can buy pre-made stirrers, or you can make them yourself using candy canes, peppermint sticks, or stirring spoons, like these!

I hope you enjoy these ideas, and please do share your own favorites!