Thirsty Thursday

Thirsty Thursday: Build Your Own Chai Tea Lattes

I’m cold. I’m not complaining, I’m just stating a fact. I’m cold. The weather in the Midwest is chilly. There’s snow. There’s ice. I have been driving to the bus stop less than a quarter a mile away because I’d rather get my exercise indoors this time of year. While, I know January is the month of healthy smoothies and getting fit, I also know that a drink filled with unseasonably expensive fruit and ice is not going to warm me up. Also, January 2016 is known as National Hot Tea month. 

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My regular readers know, I’m a regular tea drinker and I make all kinds of fun drinks with it both hot and cold (like here, here, and here). However, I have never attempted making Chai Tea. I thought it was time I start.

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Anytime I have ever had a Chai Tea Latte it always tastes like it has a little too much anise or not enough cinnamon or something seems missing. To be fair, I am kind of picky with spices. So, I did some research on Chai, and found all of the possible spices that could be in a Chai Tea Latte, added one that is not typically found in Chai but I think is perfect, and made my own version of a Chai Latte that can be made easily at home.

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All of these spices could be played around with adjusted or eliminated to your tastes. The old standbys for Chai Tea are cardamom, ginger, anise (or fennel), peppercorn, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. I added vanilla powder. I thought this would be mild but highlight any sweetener you might add to the drink (I used powder rather than extract so I could let it steep with the rest of the spices and it is also cheaper than always having to buy vanilla beans every time I want to make this drink). Also, I tried to keep everything as coarsely ground or in its original state for steeping. This helps keep the straining process a  bit easier and makes it a lot easier to not have chunks of spice in your drink (yuck!)

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Also, the best part of making something like this at home is you can use your favorite caffeinated or decaffeinated tea or your favorite kind of milk (skim, whole, 2%, soy milk, almond milk) or even your favorite sweetener (sugar, agave, stevia, brown sugar) if you wanted to get really fancy.

I used 2% cow’s milk and brown sugar.

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Build Your Own Chai Tea Lattes (makes two)

2 cups water

2 inches fresh ginger room cut into circles

1 or 2 pieces star anise

1/2 tsp coarsely ground white pepper or  a few white peppercorns

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg (grate a whole nutmeg with a microplane)

2 whole cloves

1 whole cinnamon stick

1 tsp vanilla powder (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract added to the warmed milk)

1/4 tsp whole cardamom seeds

2 black tea bags

3/4 milk of your choice (I used 2% milk)

sweetener of your choice to taste (I added 2 tbsp of brown sugar)

In a sauce pan over medium heat, add water and all the spices.

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Bring to a low boil and cook for about 2 minutes. Stirring occasionally.

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Strain spice mixture into a heat save container (if concerned about spices in water, strain twice).

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Steep tea in spice mixture according to package instructions. I steeped tea for about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a heat safe container or in another sauce pan. Heat milk until just warm. This should take anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes. Pro Tip: If using vanilla extract, add vanilla extract now.

Remove tea bags from spice mixture. 

Finally, whisk together tea, milk, and sweetener.

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Pour into mugs and serve immediately.

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How will you make your Chai Tea Latte? Do you like more cinnamon? Will you leave out the vanilla? What kind of sweetener will you use? 

Thirsty Thursday: Avocado Milkshakes

We are barely a week into the 2016! How are everyone’s workout and weight loss goals coming? Losing weight is a huge challenge, but for some gaining weight is a predicament too. I know it seems like a good problem to have. When I know someone who needs to gain a few pounds (like my middle guy after the worst stomach bug of all time), the answer is usually a few milkshakes. However, there’s only so many chocolate milkshakes one can drink, and it is sometimes more wholesome and gratifying to put in something healthy.

My sister in law, Kate, from Southern California who has a deeper love for avocados than I do for Harry Potter had just the solution for me. She told me about Avocado Milkshakes. I thanked her profusely, and did a little research. There are several ways to make them, and countries like Brazil, Vietnam, and even the U.S. have their own varieties.

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I whipped up one with a little vanilla extract for my vanilla loving son, and everyone else seemed to enjoy it too. This has become a great after school treat!

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Avocado Milkshake (makes 1 huge shake with three straws or three small)

1 large ripe Haas avocado, peeled and seeded

1/3 of a cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup milk (I used whole milk for my kids)

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

lots of ice

Avocado Shakes 1

In a blender, add ingredients.

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Blend until desired consistency. Pro Tip: For smoother consistency add a bit more milk. For sweeter flavor add a bit more condensed milk.

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Enjoy immediately!

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What is your favorite flavor milkshake? Chocolate? Vanilla? Would you consider adding avocado?

Thirsty Thursday: Cranberry Orange Blush

My absolute favorite thing about Thanksgiving is cranberries. Not to disappoint all you pumpkin fanatics out there, but November is not complete without infusing Cranberries into almost everything around here. Cranberry sauce, cranberry fluff, cranberry cookies, cranberry candles, and of course cranberry drinks.

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Just like when I made those Grapefruit Mules and I found that awesome grapefruit vodka, I found an awesome infused Cranberry Vodka made by Deep Eddy. This had me wondering what to make with it. I took a little inspiration from my favorite Thanksgiving side: homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest. So I married those two flavors and when I did, it turned into the most gorgeous pinky blush color. Then the Cranberry Orange Blush was born.

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Cranberry Orange Blush 

1 1/2 oz cranberry infused vodka (I used Deep Eddy)

the juice of one fresh orange

cranberries for garnish

orange peel for garnish


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In a high ball glass, fill with plenty of ice to chill and set aside.

Place three cranberries on a toothpick with a piece of orange peel and reserve for garnish.

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Add the juice and vodka to chilled glass, stir gently. Top with garnish and serve.

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This drink hits all the right flavor notes for Thanksgiving. Enjoy responsibly with this seasonal appetizer of yore.


Thirsty Thursday: Hot Buttered Apple Cider

Happy Thirsty Thursday, Readers!

My sister, Beth, always says: “Butter makes it better!”  While I have made hot apple cider recipes in the past like this Warm Vanilla Spiced Cider, I wondered what would happen if I added butter to it, like a vintage hot buttered rum recipe.

I know it sounds weird, but think of all the butter that is in a pie crust.

Well, here’s what happened.

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Let me tell you, Beth is right, butter does indeed make it better! This cider tastes like a Fall in a cup, or being wrapped in a warm blanket, or binge watching Gilmore Girls (did you hear about the revival?), or taking a nap with a cool breeze coming in through an open window.

Long story short, you’ll love it. The recipe is easy, and I have included step by step photos to help you along (you even get a sneak peak at my beautiful new countertops).

Hot Buttered Cider (makes two servings)

2 1/2 cups apple cider or unfiltered apple juice

3 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons packed brown sugar

2 cinnamon sticks

juice of half a lemon

a pinch of ground ginger

a pinch of ground nutmeg

1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla

Hot Buttered Cider 1


In a sauce pan over medium heat, add butter.

Hot Buttered Cider 2

Whisk in brown sugar until incorporated.

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Into the sauce pan, add apple cider, lemon, vanilla, ginger, and nutmeg. Remove from heat.

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In two mugs, place cinnamon sticks.

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Pour hot cider over cinnamon sticks.

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Enjoy on a cool Autumn day with a friend. This recipe could easily be multiplied and kept warm in a crock pot for a party!

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Thirsty Thursday: A Teabox Review

This post has been compensated with product from Teabox, however all opinions are my own.

I love tea. I will drink it pretty much in any form, and I have written about it several times here on Thirsty Thursday (like here, here, here, and here). So, when Teabox reached out to me and asked me if I wanted to try out some different types of tea that would be delivered right to my house, I of course said YES!

Teabox 1

Teabox is a wonderful online tea store offering a wide variety of teas. From black tea, to white tea, blends to basics, it has everything for a tea lover such as myself. Teabox even carries all the accessories you will need to make the perfect cup of tea every time.

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My personal favorite part of Teabox, however, is the ability to subscribe to Teabox. That’s right! You can take a short quiz about your likes, and 24 hours later a Teabox is made that will cater to your tastes and a new one is sent every month.

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The starter kit, which I received, even comes with a spoon and muslin tea bags for making hot cup of tea right away.

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In my first shipment, I received The White Tea Sample Set which included a Summer Assam Oolong, A Spring Darjeeling, and a Darjeeling Ruby.

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On the package is all the instructions for brewing the tea, including how much tea to use in your muslin bag,

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water temperature,

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and steep time.

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So far, I love the Assam Oolong. While light it has plenty of flavor, and is even a little sweet.

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Here is a short time lapse video I made to show how easy it is to make your own tea using Teabox.

In the past, when I wanted a custom or fancy cup of tea for a treat, I would go to our nearby teahouse or a restaurant about a half hour away that brews artisan tea.  However, I am not going to lie, sometimes walking to the teahouse or driving a half hour away on a cold day, would not be my favorite task.

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Now, with Teabox, I have my own fancy tea right in my own home. If I want, I can have some delivered each month.





Thirsty Thursday: Limoncello

When I was a little kid, my Mom had this pretty glass bottle in the kitchen that she had filled with cranberries and vodka. I think she had seen this home decor tip in a magazine or on Martha Stewart as a way to accessorize. This red bottle with a white cap sat on the counter for years as a decoration. Several years went by, and the cranberry vodka bottle remained on the counter unopened. It kind of became a centerpiece of the kitchen. One Christmas, my Dad thought it might be fun, seasonal, and festive to pop open the top of this cranberry vodka decoration bottle that had been sitting on the counter and try a little nip.

As a former high school chemistry teacher, you think he would have been slightly alarmed when he opened the bottle and the bouquet resembled that of jet fuel. It should have caused even greater concern when he poured a small swig into a glass and before he could lift the glass to his lips more than half had evaporated up the sides of the glass like nail polish remover. However, he still took a little sip. Long story short, we think the cranberry vodka mixture had undergone several fermentation processes in the years it sat on the counter as home decor, because I’m pretty sure my Dad swore off shots that day, and no one saw the cranberry bottle on the counter after that, again.

I tell you this story because recently my brother-in-law, Joe, came by to show me how to make Limoncello. As we were peeling lemons, preparing to soak the rinds in Everclear, and making batches of simple syrup, I couldn’t help but think of my Dad and how I think he would have appreciated this recipe a bit more as it is way more palatable and way less flammable.

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Limoncello is still pretty strong hooch, but it is liqueur that can be mixed lots of ways to make some delicious cocktails.

Here is a simple recipe for this citrus liqueur.

Limoncello (makes three bottles of liqueur and can be doubled to make for friends)

15 large fresh lemons rinsed clean

1 bottle Everclear grain alcohol

4 cup water

4 cups sugar

Limoncello 1

Using a very sharp pairing knife, peel the rind of the lemons being sure to only peel the yellow portion.

Limoncello 2

You do not want to have any of the white pith, this will make your mixture very bitter.

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Once all the lemons are peeled, put the peels in a glass container with a tight fitting lid (I used a decanter). Pour the Evercleafr over the peels.

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Store in a dark cool place (not the refrigerator) for 10 days. Shaking the mixture once a day. I put the mixture in my laundry room so that when I went down to do a load of laundry I would shake it up.

After ten days, strain the Everclear mixture to remove all the lemon peel.

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It will be a lemony yellow color.

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In a large sauce pan over medium heat, mix together the water and sugar. Bring to a low boil and reduce heat stirring occasionally. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes until sugar is dissolved. The makes a simple syrup.

Remove this mixture from the stove and let it cool completely to room temperature.

Once the syrup is cool you can mix the lemon mixture and the syrup together.

Funnel into your storage bottles (I just throughly cleaned out the Everclear bottles as well as an old wine bottle and removed the labels.)

Store in the freezer.

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Enjoy responsibly sipped alone, a shot with club soda, with lemonade, or even over a bit of sorbet for a refreshing treat.



Thirsty Thursday: Ice Vanilla Latte with Homemade Vanilla Syrup

We are officially back to school. This means running around and paying dearly my lack of preparation. This also means my afternoon pick me up is no longer a nap with the kids, but caffeine.

I usually do caffeine in moderation as I am highly sensitive to it, but let me tell you this week has really called for it. I have been going to bed too late and waking up too early to make it all the way through the day without a little something. I wish I could say that I was going to bed late because I am doing something fun and creative like crafting or baking, but it is mostly folding laundry and waiting up for Brian who is working insane hours getting ready for back to school.

One of my favorite treats is an iced vanilla latte. I have an espresso maker, but to be honest I don’t have time for that noise. Also, sometimes I find the place that rhymes with Schmarbucks can be a pain to run to in the afternoon when I am home getting things done. So, I have come up with my own recipe.

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The key to a good one though is the syrup, and I think I have perfected the recipe. What I have done is used both a fresh vanilla bean, and the best vanilla extract I could find. This makes a creamy and vanilla simple syrup that can be mixed into coffee, tea, or even lemonade and stays good in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Iced Vanilla Latte with Homemade Vanilla Syrup

Vanilla Syrup

2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups cold water

1 vanilla bean

2 tsp pure vanilla extract (preferably organic)

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat add water, sugar. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise and add it to the pan.

Iced Vanilla Latte 1

Then stirring occasionally, bring the mixture to a low boil or simmer and cook for 3 minutes. Remove from heat, and strain mixture into a heat safe container.

Iced Vanilla Latte 2


Let cool completely. Then, add the two tsp of vanilla extract.

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Finally, put in a refrigerator safe and airtight container (I used a Mason Jar), and put in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

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Iced Vanilla Latte

3 oz of boiled water

1/2 – 1 tsp instant espresso powder

1/2 – 1 Tbs vanilla syrup

Milk (you can use whole, skim, soy, or almond)


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In a heat safe cup, mix together boiled water and desired amount of espresso powder (I used 1/2 tsp as I don’t like my lattes too strong).

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Then, add vanilla syrup. In a large glass add ice, espresso mixture, and then top with as much milk as you like.

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Sip with a straw for the perfect afternoon jolt to keep you going.

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For more Thirsty Thursday recipes or information on all things drinkable, visit the Thirsty Thursday Page.

Thirsty Thursday: Grapefruit Mules

The best part about traveling with Brian is A) he likes to extend vacation as long as possible B) he knows that the fun is in the journey C) he likes to drive while I navigate. This means that sometimes we make some stops along the way. On our way home from our Twin Cities adventures, we stopped in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin and took the Leinenkugel Brewery Tour. This was something we had always wanted to do, and we were very glad we did.

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This particular brewery was especially interesting to me as I have taken quite a liking to some of Leinenkugel’s brands of beers like the Canoe Paddler (a Kolsch style beer), the Snow Drift Vanilla Porter, and their entire line of Shandy beers, most especially their Grapefruit variety.

Leinenkugel Brewery Tour 2

If beer isn’t your thing, however, taking any kind of a brewery tour is interesting if you haven’t done so. You will certainly learn about the beer making process which is awesome to see the machinery, and processes that go into crafting and bottling. Also, you are sure to get a lesson in local and national history too. And let us not forget the sampling, but as we had a long drive home and the kids were with us we had took only a sip and then took part in the free root beer and lemonade after our tour.

Leinenkugel Brewery Tour 1

My favorite part of the tour was watching the bottling and learning about the women of the Leinenkugel family who have helped keep the business going strong for 5 generations.

Leinenkugel Brewery Tour 3

After getting home, I wanted to up the ante on the Leinenkugel Grapefruit Shandy, and thought I would create a Grapefruit Mule. Let me tell you, this is the perfect summer treat to watch the sunset and it kind of looks like one too.

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Grapefruit Shandy (makes 1 cocktail)

2 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice

1 oz lime juice

2 oz grapefruit vodka (I used Deep Eddy Ruby Red)

1 bottle Leinenkugel Grapefruit Shandy chilled


Grapefruit Mules 1

Fill a copper mug or glass (I used a glass to show color) with ice and set aside.

Then, in a large glass or cocktail shaker, mix together grapefruit juice, lime juice, and vodka.

Grapefruite Mules 2

Pour vodka mixture into glass with ice, and top with Grapefruit Shandy.

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Drink responsibly preferably while watching the last of these summer sunsets.

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For more drinkable recipes visit the Thirsty Thursday page.

Thirsty Thursday: Watermelon Cucumber Mojitos

This post was compensated with products from NOW Foods, however what I whip up and opinions regarding the products are 100% my own.

There is nothing better than a cocktail you can make with things you already have on hand. There is also nothing better than a giveaway!

With summer here, there are three things I always have on hand: watermelon for the kids, cucumbers for the kids, and mint because it  has so many uses this time of year. I was looking through Pinterest, and noticed there are so many recipes for salads combining these three ingredients, I thought why not a cocktail.

The two best things about this drink (besides the watermelon, cucumber, mint combo) is that is can be made both virgin and traditional, and instead of using sugar for the muddling, I used NOW Foods Organic Agave Nectar. This dissolves a lot better and actually tastes a lot better too.

Watermelon Cucumber Mojitos (makes one)
1/4 cup watermelon chunks
4 slices cucumber
3 or 4 mint leaves
2 tsp NOW Real Foods Organic Agave Nectar
1 tbsp lemon juice (or juice of a lemon wedge)
1 shot of white rum (optional)

In a small glass, add ice and set aside to chill.

In a large glass or cocktail shaker, muddle together melon, cucumber, mint, and agave.


Strain the melon mixture well to remove seeds, flesh, skins, and mint leaves.

Pour this mixture into glass with the ice. Top with the optional rum, and lemon juice. Stir and garnish with melon, cucumber, and mint.

Serve immediately.

NOW (see what I did there?) it is the moment you have all been waiting for! I have published a few recipes this week with all of the wonderful things you can do with NOW Foods, and honestly know I will be adding their healthy ingredients as a regular part of my every day cooking. To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is comment below and tell me what is the FIRST thing you will make when YOU WIN $130 in NOW Foods Products?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

For all things beverage related, check out the THIRSTY THURSDAY page for recipes for all kinds of drinks, cocktails, and all things drinkable!


If you like this post and would like to read more about all things domestic with a touch of humor, become a Home Everyday follower! For blog updates or to see other places I write such as ChicagoNow or Chicago Parent follow Home Everyday on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

Thirsty Thursday: Creamsicle Floats

I am now on this whole float bandwagon. Ever since I mixed beer and ice cream a few weeks ago (trust me it’s awesome), I cannot get enough. I find myself perusing the soda aisle more and more, looking for different sodas to mix with ice cream. I think it is the ease of having a milkshake like treat without having to break out the blender that has me sold on them.


I think it is more that these treats remind me of my Dad.


So, get ready to see more of these awesome concoctions because I’m starting to see the possibilities are endless!


My kids are anti-root beer. It is a bummer too, because with it being caffeine free, it is a pop that I would occasionally allow on a weekend for a treat. However, they recently just tried Orange pop for the first time. And loved it.


So this is where the Creamsicle float was born.

I found a great Orange Cream Soda, but my friend Shannan over at Mom Factually is so amazing and fancy that she actually has a recipe for her very own Orange Cream Soda on her blog.

You can make these Creamsicle Floats with her soda or with orange pop and either way they are a dream for anyone. I was even thinking if you wanted a grown up version, perhaps a shot of vanilla vodka might be nice.

Creamsicle Floats (makes one)

1 bottle or 12 oz orange cream soda or orange pop chilled
3 scoops vanilla ice cream
orage slices for garnish


In a large glass scoop ice cream.


Pour soda over. Serve with orange slices, straw and spoon.


Sipping with your shoes off in the sunshine is best!


For last week’s Thirsty Thursday CLICK HERE. For all things beverage related, check out the THIRSTY THURSDAY page for recipes for all kinds of drinks, cocktails, and all things drinkable!


Want to read more about all things domestic with a touch of humor? Become a Home Everyday follower! For blog updates or to see other places I write such as ChicagoNow or Chicago Parent follow Home Everyday on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.