Thursday, September 21, 2017

4 Key Ingredients that Make the Perfect PSL

Well, if you landed here expecting to find an actual recipe for a pumpkin spice latte, you've come to the wrong place. Sorry! But as many of you know, my friend Stephanie and I have just finished a long (and tasty) journey of trying every (OK, almost every) PSL in our hometown. After I shared this post, I had a few people ask me what were some common denominators for our favorite pumpkin spice lattes. Here they are!



1. Tastes Like Pumpkin
This may seem obvious, but I've found a lot of pumpkin spice lattes tend to taste more like "fall spice lattes" instead. While I love nutmeg, cinnamon and even vanilla, if I'm buying a drink where the first word is pumpkin... I want it to taste like pumpkin!

2. Tastes Like Coffee
That being said, I've had even more lattes that go overboard on the sweets, and the coffee flavor isn't as distinct. Personally, I love coffee (even black), so I'm not as into the super sweet lattes that completely mask the drink's main ingredient.



3. Is Instagrammable
Can ya blame me for this one? There's a reason the hashtag #pumpkinspice has been used over a million times on Instagram.

4. Is Served in a Nice Environment
Since I don't treat myself to a PSL every day (well, except for last week), when I do, I want to savor the experience as much as I do the drink! There's something really special about putting away all distractions over lunch or a coffee break and just thinking about and appreciating the flavors you're experiencing. I know that may sound silly, but it's one small way that I like to practice gratitude — more on that here. If you can appreciate a tiny thing like a lingering lunch break, you're setting yourself up for a more positive look on the big things, too.

BUT, if you did come here looking for a PSL recipe, here are a few that I want to try out:

Have a good Thursday! xo

Monday, September 18, 2017

A Definitive Guide to the Pumpkin Spice Lattes of Springfield, MO

Well, friends. Here we are. It's nearly fall, and as the temperatures begin to drop, our cravings for sugary coffee drinks that mimic our favorite seasonal flavors are rising. They're rising quickly and furiously, and if this intro was too flowery and boring, here's the 'too long; didn't read' version:

PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE SEASON IS UPON US.

My friend, Stephanie, approached me about trying all the pumpkin spice lattes in our hometown of Springfield, MO to find out which one is really and truly the best. I thought the idea was fantastic, and after more than a handful of lattes and a couple failed attempts, we present our results. I'll outline a few of our 'rules' for adjudicating:
  • We only tried PSLs from actual coffee shops, meaning we didn't try any from Panera or McDonald's or anything crazy like that.
  • If there was a PSL at a coffee shop in town, we tried it. If we missed one, we're sorry.
  • Rumor has it that Hebrews and The Coffee Ethic are also releasing PSLs after this blog post goes live. We will try those and update this post with our thoughts. If either of those rock our floppy hats off, we'll share that on social media using our hashtag for this project: #SGFPSL.
  • The results are published in alphabetical order, with the winner at the bottom.
Ready for this?!

Big Momma's 'The Pumpkin King'


Big Momma's "Pumpkin King" was the first we tried on our PSL tour, and we got off to a great start. According to their online menu, the Pumpkin King is "2 shots of espresso, steamed milk, pumpkin spice and cinnamon." I am *nearly positive* this drink said it contained caramel on the board; nonetheless, it tasted very caramel-y. Big Momma's also wins major points for presentation and customer service.

Order this drink if:
- you want a pumpkin drink in the middle of March (they serve it year-round!)
- you want to Instagram your favorite fall-flavored drink
- you want to be teased by a friendly staff

Classic Rock Coffee's 'Smashing Pumpkin Spiced Latte'


Stephanie's first reaction to this PSL was, and I quote, "well this smells like a delicious graham cracker." Did it taste like a delicious graham cracker? Well, not really. But it tasted like a pretty darn good latte! This was a drink where the pumpkin flavor didn't overbear the coffee; in fact, the sweetness was pretty toned down compared to others we had.

Order this drink if:
- you're on the West side of Springfield. This is one of the only local coffee shops on that side of town, and their staff really knows their stuff.
- you aren't into the traditional 'coffee shop' vibes; Classic Rock's atmosphere is a little different than most shops. I'm guessing that's why they thought to name it Classic Rock...
- you want a drink that's based around high quality, locally roasted coffee.

Dancing Mule Coffee Company's 'Pumpkin Pie Latte'

Dancing Mule Coffee Company says "we want you to experience kickin' coffee without the snobby attitude," and they do a good job of sticking to their mission. Dancing Mule makes all of their pumpkin spice flavoring in house, which is a good selling point. The pumpkin flavor on this one was pretty subtle, however, so we're calling this one the PSL to order if you aren't the biggest "pumpkin" fan. The latte itself was good, and look at that latte art!

Order this drink if:
- You want a non-snobby atmosphere that is very age inclusive.
- You like the idea of a PSL more than you like overbearing pumpkin flavors.
- You want local coffee and a drive-thru (yes! They have a drive-thru! 🙌🏻)

Eurasia Coffee & Tea's 'Pumpkin Spice Latte'


Eurasia served up a smooth PSL that reminded us of pumpkin pie. Unlike some others, you could taste the pumpkin in this drink, which was nice. Eurasia also has a fantastic food menu, so if you're considering eating anything alongside your PSL, this is a great stop for you. I should have snapped a photo of the breakfast sandwich I had, but it was gone too soon!

Order this drink if:
- you want a good deal on a PSL (I don't recall the exact price, but I think this one was in the $3.50 range!)
- you want a super yummy meal with your coffee
- you want to Instagram your friend Stephanie (or just anything in general). Eurasia has a gorgeous space.


European Cafe's 'Pumpkin Pie Latte' 

In European Cafe's words, their Pumpkin Pie Latte is their version of pumpkin spice everything. They use so many local ingredients; here's their full list: "fresh local pumpkin, whole organic spices, local milk and homemade honey whipped cream". The drink also comes topped with nutmeg streusel crumb, and was the only PSL to come with. a. spoon. While the topping was incredible, it made me crave pumpkin pie, so much so that I was disappointed to find coffee underneath instead of liquid pie. (Liquid pie sounds gross but I bet it is really good, OK?)

Order this drink if:
- You want to 'gram a truly decadent-looking latte.
- You want to try a true European-style pastry with it (less sweet than U.S. pastries, but so tasty).
- You want to admire the local art and have a solid people-watching spot in downtown Springfield.

Mudhouse Coffee's 'Pumpkin Spice Latte'


Mudhouse was one of the first coffee shops in downtown Springfield's recent memory. Since they opened in 1998, they've been a staple downtown for teens and college students to both accomplish some homework and hang out past curfew. Mudhouse's PSL was, in our opinion, out shined by their very, very good hot lavender latte, which is usually available in the spring. The lavender latte is tops; you should try it.

Order this drink if:
- You're looking for a college-town environment with funky lights and decor.
- You want to play a board game with your friends while drinking a PSL (Mudhouse usually keeps a small section of games and magazines for coffee shop entertainment)
- They were out of lavender lattes or peanut butter puddles. (I first sipped a peanut butter puddle circa age 16 and I will never not like them).

Traveller's House Coffee and Tea's 'Pumpkin Pie Latte'


This drank gave me extreme nostalgia over something I couldn't put my finger on. Something from my college years, for sure, but I have no idea what. To us, this drink tasted a little more like pumpkin pancakes than pumpkin pie, but we're not complaining. It definitely had some maple going on. 

Order this drink if:
- You're looking for a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
- You're willing to wait for a seat by the window to 'gram your latte.
- You want to pair your pumpkin latte with a pumpkin scone — Traveller's House serves up a pumpkin scone so good that folks are naming their children after it. That's just what I've heard.

RUNNER UP: Starbucks Coffee's "Pumpkin Spice Latte" (yes, really, I was surprised too)


While I will 100% support a local shop before choosing a chain, Starbucks invented the PSL, and apparently they've had a lot of time to perfect it. I didn't realize it came topped with whipped cream, which I thought I wouldn't be a fan of, but... guys, it was good. In Stephanie's words, "It tastes straight up like a piece of pumpkin pie. It's like Thanksgiving is dancing in my mouth." Starbucks got some votes for the people's choice awards, too, so clearly we're not the only ones to admit it's pretty dang good. The one negative about Starbucks' PSL is that it wasn't as consistent as some others — the bottom of the drink tasted more sugary than the rest of it. Also it's pretty orange which didn't bother Stephanie but did bother me. (I know pumpkin is orange but it seems strange for a coffee drink to be that orange under the whipped cream.)

Order this drink if:
- whipped cream. Even if you think you don't want it, you do.
- You're anywhere, in any state, at (nearly) any time. I haven't tried all of the Starbucks PSLs to determine their consistency (and I don't want to!), but I'm guessing they're pretty on point with that.
- You want to taste a nice pumpkin flavor. Nice.

AND THE WINNER IS.... Kingdom Coffee's Pumpkin Spice Latte


You know when you meet that man (or woman) that you compare all subsequent men (or women) to? That was us with Kingdom's PSL. I was afraid I was going to have a bias toward this drink, because I go to this shop a lot and love it, but Stephanie rarely goes to Kingdom and she agreed that it was the best of the best. The pumpkin spice is made in house, and it tasted both like an actual coffee drink and a pumpkin flavored drink. It was super smooth, not heavy, and in Stephanie's words "has a nice mouth feel". 10/10, would drink the whole thing. (And we did). We both had people tell us that Kingdom's was their favorite, too, so we're not the only ones!

Order this drink if:
- You want to drink what's (in our opinions) the best PSL in town.
- Need I say more? Just go get one.

Thanks for sticking around and following our crazy little #SGFPSL project. We've had a lot of fun (and coffee), and if you have a PSL in town, we'd love for you to use the hashtag and join in!


P.S. If you're into coffee and liked this post you might also like this one.



Friday, September 15, 2017

A Peek at my Living Room

Happy Friday! Even though I work from home now, I'm always excited when the weekend comes. It gives me extra time to do some tidying up, deep cleaning and have some of my favorite people over (only when it's clean though, ha). Even though I've lived in my loft for over a year, it's taken me a while to feel like this room was "finished". And confession: I still don't feel like I'm totally finished with the space! But I'm making progress on the rest of the space, so I wanted to show you what I'm working with in the living area.


The main room in my loft is a big area that I've chosen to split into two living spaces. This is the front one — what you see as soon as you walk in the door — and I'm using the other half of the space as a dining area. I don't have any partition up or anything like that, so you can still see this part of the room even if you're eating spaghetti or something at the dining room table.


I've had so much fun playing around with this space and making it feel cozy and welcoming. My sweet roommate, Merry, and I shared the space for a year, and now I'm making some updates as Austin, my future husband (omg HUSBAND), is going to move in after our October wedding. All exciting, fun things!



I rearrange my coffee table pretty often, but it's usually some combination of candles and plants (#millennial), and usually, it's because the plants died. Whoops! (I'm working on this. I promise.)


I personally like a living room that's not centered around a tv, so I've done my best to make the tv feel like an 'accessory' in the space rather than the room's focal point. Although, for practical reasons, I totally understand why most Americans center the room around the tv — and I kind of have too — so... I guess Netflix won.



Although my loft is pretty industrial, I've tried to make it feel more modern by adding some brighter, airy touches (like the CUTE curtains I bought but haven't found a ladder tall enough to hang them with, ha). Someday I'll have curtains. I look forward to that day. 

Also, shoutout to these IKEA sofas that are way more comfortable than any IKEA sofa should be. The seat cushions on them are extra deep, which means they're great for cuddling up on to watch a movie or just a few dozen episodes of New Girl.



Annnnnd there it is! Thanks for letting me share!

Sources: Sofas - Ikea, Rug - Vintage (Similar), Coffee Table and Console - The Market in Springfield, MO, Pillows - Target (Similar), Blue Jean Candle - Nordstrom


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

To the Max

Hi, friends. Here I am in a maxi skirt, sharing my thoughts with ya on all the things I define as "to the max". Or, in other words, "let's take this (insert noun here) to another LEVELLLL!"

One of those things is maxi skirts, which I tend to wear often in the fall — or in the early summer, when it's still a little on the cool side. (Full disclosure: I took these photos a while ago, which is my hair is a different color than it is now, if you notice things like that.)








I found these shoes at the beginning of the summer and have worn them nearly every single day. They're SO comfy, and they're on super sale now, so I'm considering buying another pair to hoard for next year. That's normal, right?

OK, as promised, here's a list of things I'm defining as "to the max". It's up to you to determine whether or not they're over the top. 😂

- any Google search of the Madonna Inn. I've been to this hotel in California, and it's a sight.
- since I'm admittedly interested in food, my old roomie from Wisconsin has told me stories about how the bloody mary's in her home state come topped with all the food. Here's the one that Huffington Post has determined to be the most extra.
- These shoes from the fall 2017 runway.

Hope you all have a happy Wednesday and enjoy it to the max!




Friday, September 8, 2017

The Sweetest Bridal Shower of All Time

Of course, I'm biased, because it was my bridal shower... But my bridesmaids and dear friends Kalee, Merry and Beth threw me the sweetest shower just a couple weeks ago. I'm getting teary thinking about it! I feel so blessed to have all these lovely ladies in my life, and I'm so grateful for the opportunity to walk alongside and learn from so many women.

As evidence of that, the very next day, I had another shower with my close family friends — people who were initially my parents' friends, who became my friends, too, because becoming an adult is cool like that.

Anyway, I could blab for days, but I wouldn't blab very eloquently, and these photos from Beth Solano are more fun to look at:





















The. Sweetest.



Friday, September 1, 2017

Mint and Citrus Sun Tea

Welp, friends. Labor Day is coming up, which means everybody who loves fall will be crushing my spirits on the daily, with reminders of #PSL, pumpkins, Christmas and this meme. Hobby Lobby has already gone and done it by stocking Thanksgiving supplies. What nerve!


Anyway, you already know I love summer. But did you know I love making sun tea in the summer???? Maybe you did. Maybe that's obvious. Maybe it takes one look at me to say, "hey, that looks like a lady who loves making sun tea in the summer." I wear my heart (food) on my sleeve.


Ok, ok. Here's the recipe and such. I highly recommend you make sun tea before the sun begins to set too early — it's the easiest, and it makes you feel like a champ when you have a whole pitcher of tea to drink!

Ingredients:
- 2 family sized tea bags (or one per quart of water). If you're using regular, smaller tea bags, the general rule of thumb is about 8 bags per gallon of water.
- Water
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 3 sprigs mint


So then you slice up that lemon and add mint, tea bags and water to your pitcher. That's it! Go put the pitcher outside in direct sunlight (preferably in a pretty garden), and leave it for about 3 hours. You could go to a hair appointment and come back in that time if you wanted, or you can supervise your tea. It probably won't move, but it might.

....And, voila! It's tea!


Enjoy for 5-7 days, if it lasts that long! The lemon and mint add the best flavor to this tea, so you may not even need a sweetener. If you do, I recommend just a dash of honey. Hope you enjoy the tail end of summer! xo