Friday Cocktail: The White Lady

This post was a bit of a challenge to put together, since this week has been particularly busy. It’s been the second to last week of courses, and as well as planning ‘Friendsgiving’ there were lots of meetings to attend, talks I wanted to attend, and reading I had do.

I found this cocktail in the recent issue of Wallpaper, and it looked so pretty that I just had to try it. I don’t use a lot of cointreau, so I wasn’t sure how I much I would like the end result, but it turned out to be really nice. It has a sherberty, slightly medicinal taste. The combination of the lemon, orange, and gin make itfestive and fresh, while the egg-white, if you decide to use it, will  add a bit of texture, making it thicker and smoother.

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Ingredients:

• 1/2 oz cointreau

• 2oz gin

• 2/4oz fresh lemon juice

• 1 egg white (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Add ingredients to a shaker with ice
  2. Shake thoroughly and strain into a cocktail glass
  3. Garnish with a lemon peel and serve

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Something about this drink just screams winter to me, whether its the name or the colour. it makes me think of snowy days, and frost covered trees. Let me know if you try it, and what you think in the comments!

Next week’s cocktail will be another festive one, using a common holiday ingredient, combined with some bourbon, for a delicious result.

Winter Wonders

I know I don’t post a lot of product reviews, but I had to share some recent finds. Between the chilly temperatures and dry heat of the radiators in my flat, my hair and skin have been losing serious moisture– leaving my hands dry and cracked, my face a bit dull, and my hair increasingly straw-like– not ideal! Luckily, I found a few things that have helped solve this.

Walking by Neal’s yard I am almost always temped inside by the amazing, soothing fragrance wafting out of the door. They also have an amazing array of skincare products that are organic, cruelty-free, vegan, and smell amazing. I asked for some help finding a moisturiser that would repair my dry skin and settled on the jasmine-scented Enriching Cream thats meant to help skin retain moisture while protecting and restoring dry areas. Just putting it on feels a bit luxurious, and the best part is that it follows through on its promises.

Even after a cold, windy run this managed to soothe my skin, reducing redness caused by cold and wind, while adding moisture to the areas that need it most. I use it as a night cream because I like something with SPF for daytime, but if you don’t mind layering this would make a great day moisturiser for colder climates.

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On to the next problem. London’s water has a lot more dissolved solids than I was used to, and I noticed my hair getting dry within a week of moving, but it took me considerably longer to find a shampoo/conditioner that helped. Of course the best way to help your hair is to not wash it every day, but because mine is so fine the most I can get away with is every other day (I’m seriously jealous of those of you who can go several!).

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After a few trial and errors of conditioners and shampoos (some of which I’ve repurposed as shaving cream on my legs) I found these two by John Masters Organics.  Having tried two different sets already, I was a bit skeptical, but thankfully successful! The evening primrose shampoo, which smells amazing, removes product buildup without drying, and the lavender and avocado conditioner softens and moisturises without weighing down my fine hair. I’ve even used a small amount as a leave-in conditioner on a lazy Sunday with pretty positive results– my hair was softer, more manageable, and was not at all heavy or greasy, which is usually the case after using something so moisturising.

Now, to enjoy cold-weather activities again, perhaps ice skating at Somerset House?

 

 

Friday Cocktail: The Hot Toddy

The weather in London has suddenly turned rather cold (there may be snow tonight!) and that means I’m in the mood for warming, comforting drinks like mulled wine, cider, and this week’s post, the hot toddy.

As well as seeking refuge from the cold, I happen to have a bit of a cold myself, which is never fun. When I was growing up I remember one or two occasions where I was so sick that I just could not fall asleep that my mom made me a version of a hot toddy using sleepy time tea, honey, lemon, and about teaspoon of rum that would immediately knock me out.

Doing a bit of research into why a hot toddy is such a wonderful help for the common cold I found that the whiskey helps dilate your blood vessels, making it easier to breathe if you have a stuffy nose, while the alcohol helps knock off any micro-organisms while the steam from the cup travels up your nose. Another benefit of including a bit of alcohol is its ability to make you drowsy, which, since I can’t take Nyquil (it gives me awful nightmares) is a welcome help.

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Even if you are perfectly healthy, there is something wonderfully comforting about the more ‘adult’ version of a hot toddy, which is wonderfully simple, and is the perfect drink for sipping inside on a cold night (fire optional), among friends, or with a good book. Another thing I really like about it is how customisable it is– you can use just about any tea you’d like, and add any spirit you like ( I’ve tried one with gin once that was surprisingly nice). It may take a bit of experimenting to find the combination you like the most, but once you do it will quickly become a favourite winter drink.

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Ingredients (for one): 

• Black Tea

• Lemon

• 1/2 tsp honey

• 2oz whiskey or bourbon

Directions: 

  1. Brew tea as you usually would
  2. Add the whiskey, honey (to taste), and a lemon wheel
  3. Enjoy!

This may very well become your go-to winter drink. It would be lovely before or after a Thanksgiving meal, and at any holiday gathering, or post ice-skating or other outdoor activity. In fact, one of my favourite memories from last winter is taking a thermos-full to warm up with after sledding during the snowstorm we had in Nashville.

Tuesday Transformation- Leftover Brown Rice Pudding

The advice about making a large pot of beans, rice, or other hearty filler at the beginning of the week, then tossing them into salads, soups, or whatever ever else along the rest of the week is genius. No longer do I have to impatiently wait for something to cook while my stomach grumbles loudly after I get home from class– I can just reheat what I’ve already made and get back to work.

Sometimes though I get tired of what I’ve cooked before it runs out (you can only have so many burrito bowls!). Extra black beans? No problem, you can use them to make black bean burgers. Leftover veggies? Toss them into pasta! Brown rice is an especially versatile leftover– you could add it to just about any soup to make it more filling (great in the winter), or you could turn it into dessert!

I know rice pudding is not the most exciting of desserts for most, but it has always been one of my favourites. My grandmother used to get the best rice pudding from a tiny little deli where I grew up;  I remember the large containers with a healthy sprinkling of cinnamon on top, and the the creamiest rice pudding inside. Cold out of the fridge, it was one of my favourite treats after school, so naturally I had to make a diary-free version. To reimagine this childhood favourite I used leftover brown rice, some nondairy milk, and orange zest, but you could swap it for some vanilla, or really go crazy and add a bit of cocoa powder.

Ingredients:

• 1.5c cooked brown rice

• ~ 1.5c non-dairy milk of your choice

• 1-2Tbs sweetener

• zest from one small orange (optional)

Directions: 

  1. Add the rice, milk (make sure you add enough to cover the rice), and half of the zest to a saucepan. Adding just some of the orange now lets you control how much flavour goes in.
  2. Heat on high until it begins to bubble, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a bit more milk so keep an eye on it.
  3. After its cooked through and the rice has expanded, add sweetener and the rest of the zest to taste.

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It’s delicious warm or chilled, and is amazingly comforting, especially in the winter! I’ve even been known to have some for breakfast on the weekend.

Friday Cocktail: Sagebrush

Earlier this week I picked up a few bunches of fresh herbs, and grabbed a bunch of sage without really thinking about how much I would need. After using just a small amount, I realised that I’d chosen an especially large bunch. So, for the past few days there has been a sage in most of our dinners, lunches, and even one or two breakfasts.

While trying to figure out other ways to use up the rest of the bunch, making a DIY toner for my face, and reading about the benefits of sage tea, I realised that a much more fun way to use the rest would be in this week’s Friday Cocktail. I love sage in the fall and winter(though perhaps not as much as I’ve had recently)– it works so well with roasted veggies, and with hearty soups, both of which are some of my go-to’s when making dinner when the weather gets colder. Even the smell of sage can transport me to memories of dinner with my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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This cocktail, which definitely makes sage the star, includes elderflower water, a touch of honey, and dry gin. As you go in for a sip, you get a lovely smell of sage, which is clean and wintry. The elderflower balances the earthiness of sage and makes a wonderfully drinkable cocktail– slightly medicinal but, perfect for sipping by the fire, or before a holiday dinner.

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Ingredients: 

• 1.5 oz elderflower water

• 2 oz gin

• 4-5 large sage leaves (plus a few smaller ones for garnish)

• 1/4 tsp good honey

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Directions:

  1. Add the sage leaves, honey, and half of the elderflower water to a cocktail shaker and muddle until the leaves have broken up a bit.
  2. Add the rest of the elderflower water, the gin, and some ice, and shake thoroughly
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a small sage leaf.

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Cheers!

A little bit of Japan in East London

Recently I visited an exhibition on Mino Washi paper from the Japanese province in Gifu at the Proud Archivist, a restaurant in East London featuring a small upstairs gallery space. Not knowing very much about the history of Washi paper, or Japan generally, I was excited to learn more, especially since it’s recently been listed as on of UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list (a google search told me that Mino Washi has been around since the eight century, which is an amazingly long time).

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The exhibition consists of a small section featuring the history, and how its made, which I  had no idea took so many steps. The main feature is a showcase of paper lamps from the middle of the last century through today; it was interesting to see how shapes and styles had evolved over time. Not only is the process of making the paper amazing and intricate, so are the structures which support it to create the lamps– definitely not like those you might find replicated at Ikea! One of the most gorgeous examples though, are the hanging panels of Washi over the dining space and visible from the stairs featuring intricate cuts and some amazing texture.

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It was a lot smaller than I’d expected, and after talking with one of the people working, I found out that they’d originally planned to host the exhibition in a larger, more dedicated space but faced some difficulty with scheduling, and have since had quite a few logistical issues. I was surprised to hear that they hadn’t had that many visitors after the initial opening, and learned that those who did visit were either already interested in Japan or Washi, or came to browse the gift shop a bit.

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Despite a bit of disappointment about logistics, I did enjoy the exhibit, even hearing about how it was created and all of the problems it’s had along the way. Actually, I think I may have enjoyed it because I heard about all of the problems along the way. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in Japan, or Japanese art I suggest checking out if you are in the area if only to see the impeccably designed lamps, and who knows, you may even learn a bit about Gifu’s cultural identity and heritage.

Friday Cocktail: The Abbey Martini

I found this recipe a while ago, but have been saving it both because it sounds a bit odd, and because I wanted a fun occasion. I’d hoped to post it last week, but the time change with daylight savings has totally thrown off my schedule, and I wasn’t able to get any photos before sunset, which is now before 4:30 in the afternoon.

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While gin, sweet vermouth, and bitters are all standard but, I’ve never thought to add orange juice to a mixture of the three. You could say its a bit of a riff on my last cocktail, the artillery, but it has quite a different personality. The orange makes it a lot brighter and lighter, balancing sweet and tart, and making it a lovely drink to brighten up a grey day.

Ingredients: 

• 2 oz gin

• 1 oz sweet vermouth

• 1 oz fresh-squeezed orange juice

• 3 dashes bitters

Directions:

  1. Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
  2. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass. (optional: garnish with an orange peel)

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Please, please, please use fresh-squeezed orange juice (even if its freshly-squeezed from a store). When I went to get oranges the store was out, so I got a blend of orange and raspberry instead, which was delicious in this drink, and made it a beautiful colour! The citrus, rather than making it summery, is a lovely brightness that balances the winter blues.

Cheers!

Everything is Happening

Both the title of the book I’m reading, and a fairly accurate description of life generally right now. Even with all of my readings for my courses, I still love finding time to read for fun. It also happens to be a rather nice way to stay engaged with art history, at least in this instance– a bit like coming up for air when many of my course readings involve discourses on management, and the idea of creativity.

Everything is Happening, Journey into a Painting by Michael Jacobs (available here) is a personal journey of discovery about Velasquez’s Las Meninas, a painting that occupied Jacobs’s thoughts for much of his life. His descriptions of the painting, and of Spain are lovely. His knowledge of, combined with his true love of the painting are wonderful to read– creating commentary that is both entertaining and insightful. In many ways it reminded me of why I fell in love with Art History– the prospect that “in studying a work of art I would be following a detective trail that might lead to some ultimate illumination”. The end of the book was finished by his friend Ed Vulliamy, who wrote about his experience here, and is definitely worth a read.

Velasquez's Las Meninas

Velasquez’s Las Meninas

As well as wonderful descriptions of the painting, and of Jacobs’s many encounters with it and different theories about it’s meaning, I love the personal stories of his that surround the work, and even more the description of the the paintings protection during the Spanish Civil War. For such a wonderful book, I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of sadness as I near toward the end. Jacobs didn’t manage to finish his book, as he died unexpectedly just a few months after beginning it.

Even if you don’t generally like art history, or Spanish painting, or even Velasquez, it’ s a wonderful read, and may even change your mind about about at least one of them. It’s written written with a true love that’s genuine, and almost infectious, and makes you feel the painting, and Jacobs are both old friends you hope to visit soon.

I found it at a fantastic bookshop down the street from my flat (and just off of Portobello Road), in Notting Hill, called Lutyens & Rubinstein. A smaller bookshop, it has a fabulous selection of both fiction and nonfiction, and an impressive array of art books and cookbooks that I can’t wait to go back and look through. If you find yourself in the area its definitely worth checking out!