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Warm Cocoa for Winter



After the last post I wanted to try something simple, yet tasty, so I went with a tweaked version of 2-Ingredient Nutella Hot Chocolate  by Gimme Some Oven.


2-Ingredient Almond Hot Chocolate

  • 2 Tbsp. Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Spread
  • 1 cup almond milk

Heat milk in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until steaming (not boiling), stirring occasionally. Add in the Trader Joe’s Cocoa Almond Spread, and whisk until dissolved.
Serve immediately, either plain or with your desired toppings.

Since I am in the middle of our “I Quit Sugar 8 week plan“, I am jonesing for sugar on a daily basis, the cravings are especially strong in the middle of the afternoon, from 12-3. To help combat this monkey on my back, I have turn to teas, my favorite has become Chai. It is a complex flavor that tip toes on the edge of sweetness. That is what makes this recipe for Vegan Chai Hot Chocolate from Fit Foodie Finds so wonderful.


Vegan Chai Hot Chocolate

  • 2 cups vanilla almond milk, unsweetened (you can sweetened)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon DIY Chai Spice

Place all ingredients in a medium size sauce pan. Bring to a rolling boil and whisk until spices and cocoa powder have dissolved. Reduce heat and let simmer for 3-5 minutes.

With my new work schedule, we only get one day off a week together, and I wanted to make our day off special. I made this Black Cherry Bourbon Hot Chocolate from Living Better Together.


Black Cherry Bourbon Hot Chocolate

  • 1½ cups almond milk
  • 5 tbsp tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 oz. Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon by Jim Beam
  • coconut cream or marshmallows for topping

In a small saucepan, heat almond milk and cocoa powder over medium – high heat until it starts to steam (do not boil).
Whisk frequently.
Pour 1 oz. of black cherry bourbon into each cup.
Evenly divide hot chocolate between the two cups.
Top with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

On my next post I will show you how I use the Ajies Dulces in a Puerto Rican favorite, Sofrito.



Warm Cocoa for Winter


cocoa banner

I am not a fan of drinking my calories, and I am currently in an 8 week I Quit Sugar plan with my wife. However, when I saw this buzzfeed post shared on my friend Amy’s Facebook Page, I knew it was my duty as a writer and as a foodie to share my findings. So for the good of you, my readers,  I went shopping and tried several of these recipes. In my next two posts I will be sharing my favorites!

If you know me, you know my household is mainly lactose and gluten free, so I had to pick “safe” ingredients for the hot cocoa.
In order to avoid lactose, I substituted Natural High Fat Cocoa powder from Penzeys when recipes called for premixed hot cocoa. I used Trader Joe’s Almond Milk in place of milk, and Coconut Cream in place of whipped cream.

Coconut Cream from Trader Joes
Coconut Cream from Trader Joes
Natural High Fat Cocoa from Penzeys
Natural High Fat Cocoa from Penzeys

Since I was still in the holiday spirit, I had to start with the Eggnog Mexican Hot Chocolate from Laurens Latest.

Silk Holiday  Mexican Hot Cocoa
Silk Holiday Mexican Hot Cocoa

Mexican Dairy-Free Holiday Nog

  • 2 cups Silk dairy-free Holiday Nog
  • 1/2 tablespoon of Cocoa powder (or 1 packet hot chocolate mix)
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch nutmeg
  • mini marshmallows {optional}

In a large mug, heat eggnog in the microwave to be steaming hot (I heated mine in a pot on top of the stove). Stir in hot chocolate mix (or 1/2 tablespoon of Cocoa powder), cinnamon and nutmeg until dissolved. Top with marshmallows and serve.
*If you don’t want your drink as sweet, use half eggnog and unsweetened vanilla almond milk.

Dairy-Free Eggnog Mexican Hot Chocolate
Dairy-Free Eggnog Mexican Hot Chocolate

Since I miss eating the Trader Joe’s holiday gingerbread cookies, I tried this next creation the Gingerbread Hot Cocoa from The Hopeless Housewife.

Gingerbread Hot Cocoa

Gingerbread Hot Cocoa

  • 4 cups almond milk
  • ½ cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup raw sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt

whipped Coconut Cream for topping

In a medium saucepan over low heat, heat the almond milk. While warming the milk, combine the cocoa powder, brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, allspice and ginger in a small bowl. Whisk in the almond milk until hot. Serve with whipped Coconut Cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Gingerbread Hot Cocoa
Gingerbread Hot Cocoa

Since I have cut pack on my processed and added sugar, I have found a passion for spicy flavors, so making an Aztec Hot Chocolate from a Beautiful Mess was a great recipe to add to the menu. I feel the key to this recipe is the combination of cinnamon and cayenne.

Aztec Hot Cocoa
Aztec Hot Cocoa

Aztec Hot Chocolate

  • 6 cups almond milk
  • 10 ounces chopped dark chocolate
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch or two of cayenne
  • mini marshmallows {optional}

In a pot combine the almond milk and chocolate. Melt the chocolate over low/medium heat, stirring constantly. Once melted and the mixture is warmed, thoroughly stir in the cinnamon and cayenne. Serve hot!

Aztec Hot Cocoa
I feel the key to this recipe is the combination of cinnamon and cayenne.

Want more? I know I did! I plan to share three more on my next post.
Talk soon!



Blogging with a SMART Goal for 2015

Picture of Mayshanna Pandora Briscoe

I am back! Yes if you look at the date I have not written in this blog in almost a year! Yes, a year.


But here is why: I got married, I got a new job, we moved, then the holiday
chousesmallame…In short, life got real and I had to let something take a back seat.

In my mind I thought my blog had to be about “the Design” and me as a “Freelancer”. After months of missing my blog and reading other blogs, I stopped to reevaluate what I wanted my freelance design career to look like and how I wanted to be represented as a designer. Once I understood that, I realized what I wanted my blog to say to the world.

sitting in a chair

With that said, one of my SMART goals for this year, is to increase my exposure to new/existing clients and to highlight my life as a designer and artist.

The blog will feature the work I do, the things that I create, the people I meet, the food that I cook (aka Food Porn), my amateur photography, my work with AIGA Raleigh, and my supportive family.


Me taking photos

me dog and lynn

Please enjoy the stories I have to tell in 2015. My first post will be some Food Porn, come see me in a couple days and I’ll show you some of my favorite hot chocolate recipes.

upclose of coco

The Emotional Side to Freelance

ImageAfter a few months of working as a freelance graphic designer, I needed to take a step back.

I found myself taking work to seriously. I was worried about deadlines, clients not emailing back in a timely manner, about not making any money, about not having “free time”, about finding a new client because I had too much “free time”.

After several nervous anxiety moments, a few crying spells, phones calls to my mother, and many walks with the dogs, I went to see a doctor.
I knew if I did not speak with someone, other than a family member, I would be found face down on my key pad after having a massive heart attack, trying to create one last design.10703760252e11e3904e22000a1f928e_6

My doctor said the same thing my mother, partner and best friends said…I was being emotional. I was not happy about this diagnose. What did I have to be emotional about? I have a wonderful life, I have a job that pays my bills, I just completed my second degree, I have friends and family who love me…what do you mean I am emotional?

I was not emotional because of PMS, I was worried and afraid to fail. My partner and I just invested $20k plus and years into sending me back to school, and now three clients into my new career I was having doubt…oh no…I knew this plan had to be revisited.b837f7f4b79b11e29d6522000a9f134c_6

I knew I needed to channel this nervous anxiety into something positive. Therefore, I looked for an internship, or some things that would allow me to be around other designers and allow me to create something cool and different, something tactical. I found an internship with a company called Suite Paper. It is a local and online custom invitation design company. Amber, the owner, hired me and two other interns. We had a BLAST. I definitely received a boost and the confidence I was looking for and needed.

I realized as a designer and as a person, we all have moments of self-doubt. These moments may come at 4 am or seconds after you have sent a new client a proposal, but whenever these moments come, they just need a “come to Jesus meeting over coffee (aka wine)”, or sometimes I need to find a different way to create my craft. I just need to find a less stressful way, to invoke fun and laughter into my work.
Cause at the end of the day one works to “Do what they love and to love what they do”.

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photos are from my instragram 

Between places right now.

As you may know I work from home.  My studio has always been in my home for several reasons:

My office mates:  Despite the fact they are nosy as heck and require bathroom breaks ever few hours, they are cute, playful, and just keep things interesting. my officematesdgunnamed

My wardrobe: For better or worse working from home does not require much attire.  Some days if I can find my oversized fleece sweat shirt, I won’t put the boobs in boob jail (aka a bra). I cannot believe I wrote that, I am sure my parents are blushing right now.


Fancy Food:  My boss is always feeding me the best, Trader Joes food and coffee.

The Cost:  My overhead is really low…it is literally my rent and utilities.

The only issue with working from home is we are renters, which means my office can change every few years.  This year my office location is moving.  We are moving into a bigger home, which makes me happy.  This means my partner and I can both stand in the kitchen at the same time, mainly I can cook dinner while she loads the dishwasher or washes clothes.

The limbo between packing my old office and unpacking my new office has always been hard for me.  For the next two weeks my office consists of our dining room table, my wonderful office chair and mouse from the 90’s (I lost my wireless one in the packing).

However, once limbo is over, I will be in a new place filled with better light, space and a quicker access to the kitchen.  A kitchen filled with snacks!

photos from my instagram 

What my Brand Says About Me

PrintThe last thing I expected to find as a freelance designer was myself. At the age of 21 again (lol) I thought I had a pretty good idea of who I am/was and how I want the “world” to view me. My grandma and mother raised me with enough guts to accept people for who they are and not who you want them to be, to realize sometime you cannot change or defeat fate, and if you give your best you are always good enough. Therefore, I tried not to base my appearance/or persona on what “they” (society) thought. Who are “they” anyway? One of the reasons I decided to freelance was so I did not have to worry about office politics. Believe you me, my boss loves my work pjs, and my work mates (aka the dogs) are pretty cool as long as they go out for a walk after their three hour naps.

But here I am…at the beginning stages of creating my own brand and I’m realizing I do care and worry about what others think of me. As an artist, my persona and artwork could be whatever I want it to be because I am “free sprint, starving and covered in paint”, but as a designer I am organized, professional and hungry. I have struggled with the artist verses designer feeling for years when I realized this year I was both. I am a free spirit, who can organize the hell out of a layout, I’m hungry for work, yet I have a mug and mouse that is covered in paint. The best part about my brand is that I can marry my two worlds and loves.
The best example of this relationship is in my logos.
There are three parts to my logo.

The tulip tulip
A tulip reminds me of my grandmother and my childhood. I have used it many times in my artwork. To me it represents the balance needed in life, the beauty of the universe, and the consist rebirth of the human spirit. The Tulip is the union of them both.


the MThe letter M
My mother and I have the same initials MPB, coincidence maybe, but I like to think she is smarter than that. The “M” reminds me of my mother and our love for each other. She may not have agreed with my choices in life, but has always supported me in my endeavors and picked me up if I fell.  The M is the organized, professional side of my logo and brand.

the pandoraThe Pandora
Pandora is my middle name. It reminds me of my friends, my lover, my dogs, and my family. It reminds me of the people in my life who love and care for me no matter what crazy, rude, or honest words that comes out of my unfiltered mouth. The crazy free spirit side of my logo/brand come from my Pandora.

Mayshanna is the designer side and Pandora is the art side and together they form my Brand, Mayshanna Pandora Art and Design.