Hot Cocoa (1) | Espresso and Cream
One of the things I love most about the holiday season is the predictable nature of the food and goodies that are served. There is something so comforting about going back home and having that same favorite cookie recipe your mom makes or drinking a cup of hot cocoa that tastes exactly like childhood.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve never been a huge fan of hot cocoa, and growing up it was something that I professed I didn’t care for. But last year I tried my mother-in-law’s hot cocoa for the first time and my opinion on hot chocolate changed entirely. It was the creamiest and most balanced hot chocolate I’ve ever had without being overly sweet. Plus, the mix dissolves like a dream in a cup of hot water, something I’ve found doesn’t hold true for most hot chocolate mix.

This Christmas season Joe and I made a big batch of this hot chocolate and divided it up into plastic gift bags tied with string and ribbon. It’s been fun to bring these little bags of hot cocoa along as hostess gifts throughout the gift-giving and party-hopping season. Plus, I think there is something so sweet about taking a homemade gift to friends and family during the holidays instead of yet another bottle of wine. (Maybe that’s the pregnancy talking?!)

The Best Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix
Author: 
Recipe type: Drink
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
This hot cocoa recipe makes a bunch! I store mine in a glass canister and keep it next to my Keurig for hot chocolate any time the craving strikes. Combine ¾ cup of the hot cocoa mix with 10 to 12 oz hot water, adjusting the amount you use based on how sweet/rich you like your hot chocolate. I usually find ½ cup is enough, but my hubby prefers the full ¾ cup!
Ingredients
  • 32 oz. Nestle Quick powder
  • 25 oz. powdered milk
  • 6 oz. coffee mate dry creamer
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
Instructions
  1. Mix all the above ingredients together and stir until well-combined. Store in a sealable plastic or glass container or a plastic zip-top bag. To use, combine ½ to ¾ cup hot cocoa mix to 10 to 12 oz hot water. Stir until combined.

 

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A few weeks ago the Golden Tote team contacted me asking if I would be interested in trying out their personal shopping service. I had seen posts about Golden Tote on a few different blogs that I love, so I jumped at the chance to try it out myself.

For those of your unfamiliar with the service, here’s how it works:

1. Fill out a style profile on their website outlining your likes, dislikes and sizes.
2. Decide on the type of tote you would like to purchase. You can purchase a tote for $49 that includes 2 to 3 items or a tote for $149 that includes 5 to 7 items. You get to pick a few of the items in your tote, and the Golden Tote team surprises you with the rest!

I picked out two items (the two swing dresses pictured below) and the Golden Tote team sent the other items. Here’s a sampling of what I received:

Golden Tote Comp 2

What I loved about Golden Tote:
-It was so fun to get a little surprise in the mail filled with clothes selected just for me. I appreciated the pretty tote that the items arrived in and the team’s attention to little details.
-It was nice having some say in what was in my tote. It felt like part surprise, part traditional shopping experience. Setting it up this way guarantees that you’re going to get at least a couple items that you really love.
-It was easy, stress-free and I loved being able to try the clothes on at home in the comfort of my own home with other items I already own.
-The quality of the clothes was really top-notch and the two swing dresses I got are perfect for pregnancy! They’re pretty much the most comfortable dresses I own right now.

What I didn’t love about Golden Tote:
-I think their system could use a little work in terms of the style profile you create. I didn’t feel like there were enough questions to really understand my style.
-You’re paying for your items ahead of time. This was a positive and a negative. I liked that the price was fixed, unlike other styling services, but you’re committing to buy items you’re not even sure you want, sight unseen.
-Being pregnant, there were a few items that didn’t work well for my ever-expanding body type. Not the Golden Tote team’s fault, but it made it difficult for me to get a true feel for the service.

Madison

*Golden Tote provided me these items free of charge. The opinions are strictly my own. If you would like to sign up for Golden Tote and try it out yourself, you can do so here

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I realize that I haven’t shared many new recipes on Espresso and Cream lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been creating new recipes like crazy at work! Most of the content I’ve created recently has been holiday-temed. In case you’re looking for a little Christmas baking inspiration, I thought I would share with you some of my favorite recipes I’ve developed lately around the web:

1. Christmas Tree Cookie Pops (pictured above)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 8.01.39 AM2. Giant Gingerbread House Cookie (so much easier than making a gingerbread house!)

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 8.03.21 AM3. Santa Hat Cookies 

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 8.05.28 AM4. Asian Chili Roasted Brussels Sprouts 

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 8.06.57 AM5. Impossibly Easy Mexican Chorizo Breakfast Bake 

Madison

 

 

 

 

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I’m so sorry for the radio silence these last few weeks. Truth be told, a few other things have demanded my time and attention and I’ve been unable to devote any time to blogging. I’m hoping to resume a more normal schedule in the next month, but until then I appreciate your patience and understanding! 

How far along are you? 27 weeks 1 day 
Cravings? I think I may be one of the most boring pregnant women around when it comes to my eating. I’ve been eating pretty normal these last couple weeks. Meat continues to sound good as well as baked potatoes, green beans and fish. I’m pretty sure I’m never really going to have a sweet tooth during this pregnancy, which is fine by me! 
Weight Gain: At my 26 week appointment last week I was still holding steady at a weight gain of right around 16 pounds. I didn’t gain anything over the last couple weeks, so I’m really doing my best to eat more even when it don’t really feel like eating. The good news? We had our 26 week growth ultrasound and saw that our little one is measuring in the 66th percentile so even if I didn’t gain weight, our baby did! 
Fears: I haven’t had any real fears about this pregnancy over the past few weeks! We did see that our peanut has now moved into the breech position, but we have plenty of time for he/she to flip back down. 
Generally Feeling: I’ve been feeling really good lately as we enter into the 3rd trimester. I love seeing my belly grow and feeling kicks that are growing in strength and frequency. It really surprises me, but I’ve truly enjoyed being pregnant. Of course, I’m looking forward to not being pregnant eventually, but I had quite low expectations for pregnancy, which is why I think I’ve enjoyed the process so much. My only major complaint is that I’ve had quite a bit of groin pain, which has plagued me since week 17, making it difficult to exercise much without paying for it the next day. 
Looking Forward To: I’m looking forward to the Christmas season and being pregnant in the month of December! We have almost all our Christmas shopping done and our Christmas cards have been sent out, leaving plenty of time to just soak up the holiday season and do plenty of holiday baking. 
What I’ve Been Loving: I continue to love seeing my stomach get bigger and bigger. I’m just starting to feel a little slower and less agile than in the past, but for the most part it’s just plain fun to see the belly grow. 
Maternity Clothes? Yes! At this point I’m wearing almost 100% maternity clothes. And some of Joe’s clothes, too! They’re just so much more comfortable for lounging around the house. 
Boy or Girl: Keeping it a surprise until March!

Beauty Products Faves
Pregnancy skincare was one of the biggest mysteries to be prior to getting pregnant. I had absolutely no idea what products were off-limits and was blind to the fact that some of my favorite acne-fighting products weren’t considered approved or recommended for pregnancy. Unfortunately, when you remove some of those products, paired with the extra pregnancy hormones running through your system, you have a recipe for serious skin disaster and breakouts galore.

Thankfully my breakouts have been on the milder side, in part thanks to a re-vamped skincare routine that’s pregnancy-friendly. Here’s a list of some of my favorite products for keeping my skin looking its best:

1. No7 Advanced Renewal Glycolic Acid Peel
Almost all anti-aging skincare products are considered off-the-table while pregnant, meaning my beloved retinols are no longer safe for me to use. Glycolic acid is one of the few products that is considered safe to use while pregnant and helps keep you glowing by getting rid of that top layer of dead skin cells that can build up over time. I use this peel once a week and find that it has been super gentle on my skin while helping to keep my skin glowing.

2. Yes To Cucumbers Gentle Milk Cleanser and Yes To Cucumbers Daily Calming Moisturizer 
I love the entire Yes To line of products, especially their cucumber line. I used this cleanser and moisturizer before I got pregnant and felt good about using them while pregnant considering their products are paraben and petroleum-free and gentle on the skin.

3. Burt’s Bees Mama Bee Belly Butter
I haven’t quite gotten to the point where there are any visible stretch marks but I’ve been moisturizing like crazy in hopes of keeping them at bay. This belly butter has a nice, neutral scent and is free if any icky ingredients.

4. Bare Minerals Renew & Hydrate Eye Cream
I went without any eye cream for the first portion of my pregnancy because my old eye cream wasn’t pregnancy-safe and most of the creams I looked at were filled with anti-aging ingredients that weren’t suitable for pregnancy. A few weeks ago I was getting more of my Bare Minerals foundation when I saw their line of skincare. I decided to try their eye cream because I loved the ingredient profile and felt safe putting it on my skin. It’s been wonderful so far and I highly recommend it to everyone!

5. Konjac Cleansing Sponge 
If you read beauty blogs, chances are you’ve heard about konjac sponges in the past handful of months. I actually stumbled on one of these sponges for $3 in the beauty section of Homegoods and stocked up while they had them in stock. The sponge feels rough and hard when it’s dry, but once you get it wet it softens up and takes the place of a traditional washcloth. You just put a little of your facial cleanser on the sponge and scrub away. It exfoliates while you cleanse your skin and pulls out impurities, keeping you acne-free the natural way.

Madison

 

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