Monday, January 9, 2017

Lodge style

With all of this cold weather we've been having recently, (and not to mention that dusting of snow we got over the weekend!) I'm so ready to head to a cozy cabin in the woods or a lodge nestled at the edge of the mountains. Or a weekend at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC (see above picture). Who's with me?? I've rounded up some essentials that will need to be in my suitcase if I can get myself out there, pronto! "The Mountains are Calling and I Must Go"

Love how soft this top looks, and who doesn't love thumb holes! So many colors to choose from with this beauty.

Doesn't this look like the coziest sweater ever! Two things about this sweater, its on major sale AND made with 89% alpaca so you KNOW its soft!

Can't go wrong with Buffalo plaid, or $20 off.

Looks like a sweater, feels like a sweatshirt - genius!

I mean, how cute is this pair of socks?? 5 bucks people...

Is it just me or are pom poms EVERYWHERE this winter? Wouldn't this be a great blanket to cuddle up with?? (And it's currently 60% off with promo code SIXTY)

You can't go wrong with plaid, fill this up with some yummy hot chocolate!

So cozy! I tend to like mittens better than gloves, much easier to put on ;) PS - on sale!

I love the colors and print of this scarf, also on sale!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Winter Getaway

Did you have one of those holidays where you feel like you need a vacation from your vacation? From Thanksgiving to New Years it can be a stressful time for many - cleaning, cooking, baking, shopping, wrapping presents, cleaning, cooking, baking, can be exhausting! Especially when you're working a full-time job on top of it. Let's plan a vacation! Now that the holiday season is over, we can finally relax and not feel guilty about sitting down in the evening and doing nothing. Why not go on a fun winter getaway! Whether for the weekend or longer, this time of year hotel rates can be much cheaper.

One of two fireplaces in the lobby, so cozy! 

Lobby at the Chicago Athletic Hotel

Right after Christmas, my family visited my grandparents in central Illinois. On our way there, we took a detour and stopped in Chicago for the night as my husband had never been. My mom, using her old skills as a travel agent, found the most amazing hotel for an unbelievable rate! The Chicago Athletic Association is located off Michigan Avenue right down the road from all of the great shopping and across the street from Millennium Park. Opened in 2015, this hotel has the feel of a gentleman's sports club as that is exactly what it used to be, so when it was renovated, they wanted to keep it's memory alive. The rooms' decor has a vintage sporty feel and there is a huge game room on the premises. The lobby is stunning! Fireplaces, grand staircases, leather chairs... oh my! Every one of the staff we came in contact with was very friendly and helpful. And if you can't bear to travel without your pup, no worries, they're pet-friendly! They have a rooftop restaurant called Cindy's that has amazing views of Lake Michigan. We didn't eat there, but we were able to go up to enjoy the view. There is a terrace with a fire-pit so you can stay warm! I wish we had planned to eat there because the food looked amazing! I also need to mention that there is a Shake Shack located in/by the hotel. YUM!!

Beautiful marble staircase!

Such cozy rooms! Notice the pommel-styled bench!

Beautiful bathrooms!

C.O. Bigelow Barber soaps, smelled amazing! In a sweet and spicy, masculine way.
Sweatshirt styled robes!

While we were in Chicago, we walked to Millennium Park to see the infamous Bean and then trekked over to Molly's Cupcakes, the winner of Cupcake Wars' Season Finale. They had so many amazing flavors it was hard to choose just one! Then we kept going to Navy Pier. It was around dusk at this point and the view of the city from the pier was beautiful! For dinner that night we got Giordano's, a deep-dish pizza chain but amazing Chicago-style pizza nonetheless!

The Bean!

Beautiful architecture nearby! 

My delicious chocolate cupcake from Molly's

View of Chicago from the Navy Pier, so pretty! and cold... does it look like I'm freezing? because I am!

The next morning we walked a block down the street for breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. AMAZING French breakfast/brunch/lunch. This is also a chain, but isn't near us in the South except D.C. area. Seriously, if you ever come across one, go. You won't be disappointed.

Pastries gallore

Even though we were in Chicago for a total of 24 hours, we had a blast and can't wait to plan the next visit! If you go or have been, let me know what you think!!

We couldn't leave Chicago without a visit to Wrigley Field!

We had a great time! View from Cindy's rooftop terrace

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hot Chocolate Bar

Christmas may be over, but we still have a few weeks of winter left, and plenty of excuses to drink delicious mugs of hot chocolate. Here in Columbia this morning, we got a dusting of snow! It was so pretty to watch! We took Aspen out and ran around in it and had a blast. Then we came back in, dried off and indulged in some rich, velvety hot chocolate!

I love having a hot chocolate bar for guests, it's so fun to let everyone get interactive with their drinks and personalize them. I had one this past Christmas for family, but I think it would also be fun to have a cozy winter get-together and display a hot chocolate bar.

The recipe I use is soooo good y'all. Rich, creamy, chocolatey goodness that is easy to make! You can put it in a crock-pot, but every time I've made it, I didn't want to wait so I mixed everything in my dutch oven and it was ready in 10 minutes.

Pour all the ingredients right in your pot:
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1 bag)
1.5 cups whipping cream (you could probably use half and half if you don't want yours as thick and creamy)
6 cups milk
1 tsp vanilla

*Tip* Pour the chocolate chips in first. Before, I have poured the milk in first, then the chips, and no matter how careful you are, splatters are inevitable!

You can get creative with your toppings, this is the fun part after all!
I like having a bowl of mini marshmallows, candy canes (crushed or whole), Creme de menthe pieces (chopped up Andes mints), Pepperidge Farm Pirouette cookies (I think Aldi has the same kind), and homemade whipped cream!

*Silver mint julep cup from Joss and Main

*Metal beaded bowl from Belk (Biltmore collection)

*Small clear snowflake coffee mug from Crate and Barrel and glass sugar bowl with spoon in background from Bed, Bath, and Beyond (a set that comes with glass creamer pitcher)

For the whipped cream, put a stainless steel bowl and mixers in the freezer so they get good and cold and frosted over, that way the cream will hold up. Then, when you're ready to make the whipped cream (do it right before you're ready to serve it, it only takes a few minutes to whip it up, haha!) In the bowl, pour in 1 cup of heavy whipping cream, about 1/4 cup granulated sugar (or more depending on how sweet you like it) and now the fun part is flavoring! Add 1-2 tsp of vanilla for traditional whipped cream or do the same amount of peppermint extract if you like that minty flavor (like me!)

For this hot chocolate bar, I set everything up on our coffee table since we were enjoying our fire, but you can set it up wherever! Kitchen table, kitchen island, counter top, or even a beverage cart! I don't drink but I would love to have one of those carts for displaying something like this hot chocolate bar or serving sweet tea and lemonade! Hmm, a sweet tea bar is brewing in my head.....

*Mug from Target