Whirlwind Weekend Trip

I’ve been trying to get this post finished for a week now, but have been so busy I haven’t had a chance. Why is is that either everything is happening at once, or absolutely nothing is? I shouldn’t complain, because most of the things have been good, like working on my internship, or the gallery where I volunteer, but writing this post is also a welcome break from essay-writing.

Last week Cameron and I took a short trip to visit a friend of ours who’s been living in Lille for this past year teaching English at an elementary school. She goes back to the states soon and so I was dying to see her while a weekend trip was still relatively easy. We decided to spend a day exploring Paris as well, since it isn’t too far, and Cameron had never been.

We were away for just about two days, but with everything we managed to pack into them it felt like at least three. We took the bus because I waited too long to book, but the trip itself was fairly easy and I managed to get some work done and have a nap.

Before we left I read a bit about Lille and learned that it was originally a Flemish city, and visiting it was definitely clear in the architecture. In the older part of the city, Vieux Lille and the area around the Grand Place, actually looked quite a bit like some of the narrow streets around The Hague. We wandered around, and stopped into a really beautiful chocolate shop, Meert, which is the oldest in Lille, and then to a wine bar to relax and catch up with our friend. Finding dinner was a bit of a challenge as I’m vegetarian, and practically vegan as I don’t eat any dairy, but we found one restaurant, Happy F’eat (yes, that’s really the name), that had a small menu, but had a vegan option that was really delicious. After dinner we went back to our friend’s house and chatted with her housemates before heading to bed much too late.

On Friday morning our bus to Paris didn’t leave until 10:00, so we got to take our time in the morning, and stopped at a bakery (Maison Doucet), which is known for it’s amazing baguettes, which our friend had gotten for us when we arrived, and picked up breakfast to takeaway, and a coffee from down the street.

It was originally supposed to rain all day while we were in Paris, but luckily  it held off, and we had an absolutely gorgeous day. Rather than try to fit in different activities and sightseeing, we decided just to wander, and followed our friend’s favourite walking route from when she studied in Paris during college. We started in the Marais, grabbed lunch, and walked to Notre-Dame, then  crossed the river to go the Shakespeare & Company, which we’d each been wanting to visit. After spending far too long browsing the shelves, picking up a few books, and then grabbing a coffee at the neighbouring cafe, we headed toward the Louvre, and then through the Jardin des Tuileries, crossing the river at the end at the Place de la Concorde. Walking back we stopped for a drink, and then got an early-ish dinner at one of our friend’s favourite creperies (Crêperie Saint-Germain), grabbed a macaron and a croissant for Cameron, and headed back to Lille.

The next morning I realised I’d gotten our departure time wrong, and we had an extra two hours to do some more exploring. The extra time flew by, but we managed to pick up a few chocolates from Meert, and make another stop at Maison Doucet before saying adieu to our friend and heading back to London to finish up our end-of-term essays.

It was definitely a whildwind of a weekend, but it was lots of fun, and has me very excited for our next adventure!

 

Friday Cocktail: Blood Orange Crush

A few weeks ago I posted a cocktail recipe with blood orange, and have been keeping them around sever since. I love how tart they are, and the colour is absolutely gorgeous! I’m definitely going to be a bit sad when they are no longer in-season. At least I will appreciate them all the more the next time.

This cocktail definitely has quite a bit of orange, but I think hit just the right balance of sweet and sour, just like its namesake. This recipe will taste the best if you use blood oranges, but if you can’t find them, you could always use blood orange juice already-squeezed, plus one regular orange. It will be sweeter if you use regular orange, so make note and adjust the other ingredients accordingly.

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Ingredients:

• 1.5 oz blood orange juice

• 2 wedges blood range peel (I slice these off of the fruit that I’ve squeezed)

•  .5oz cointreau

• .5oz simple syrup (or less)

• 2 oz vodka (orange-fused optional, but nice)

• 1-2 dashes orange bitters

Directions: 

  1. squeeze blood oranges (1 should give you just about 1.5oz), and set aside
  2. combine orange peel, and cointreau int he bottom of a shaker, and muddle for at least 30 seconds, but the longer the better
  3. add the rest of the ingredients into a shaker, cover with ice, and shake vigorously
  4. strain into a glass and garnish with, what else, a wheel of blood orange

 

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Cheers! And have a lovely weekend!

Super-Simple Granola

There are an unbelievable amount of granolas in the grocery store, and I always find it a bit  overwhelming. Finding one that tastes good, has the right amount of crunch, and that doesn’t have as much sugar as a donut can be a challenge though.

A few months ago when Cameron and I were visiting The Hague we stayed in an airBnB and had an absolutely lovely host who brought us some homemade granola. It was so good that I asked her for the recipe and have been experimenting ever since to arrive at this recipe. It’s super simple, wonderfully customisable, and delicious for breakfast or a snack.

One of the best things about making your own granola is that you can copy your favourite brand, and tweak it to make it perfect for you. Love the about of nuts and seeds, but hate raisins? Easy. Think your granola could be vastly improved with some chocolate? Add it in. It can also be a great way to add in some extra protein and healthy fats by including chia seeds, flax seeds, and chopped nuts. This also happens to be naturally gluten free as long as you’re using gluten-free oats, and totally vegan as well.

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The nuts and seeds not only help me make it through to lunch, but are full of good-for-you minerals and vitamins. Flax seeds are loaded with omega-3’s, a healthy fat, as well as magnesium and some key B-vitamins. Sunflower seeds are another great source of B-vitamins, as well as skin-nurturing zinc and vitamin-E. Chia seeds are famous for their healthy fats and general health-increasing properties. Coconut can help reduce cravings for sweets, as well as lowering blood sugar. Combined, all of these things pack quite a bit of protein, fibre, and healthy fats– add abut of fruit, of some vegan yogurt for a probiotic boost, and your day is already off to a good start.

If you make this recipe and find there isn’t quite enough sugar, you can always add more the next time. I like to add relatively little not just because it’s better for me, but because I love to add a sliced banana or some berries when I have this for breakfast, and prefer to get some extra finer with the added sweetness.

The recipe below makes about five cups of granola, which is enough for about ten 1/2c servings. It’s super-easy to double or cut in half though. In fact, I’ll often make half of a batch when I’m trying new flavours.

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granola before heading into the oven

Ingredients: 

• 3.5c rolled oats (gluten-free)

• 1c coconut chips

• 1/4c flax seeds (whole)

• 1/2c sunflower seeds

• 2 tbs chia seeds

(• 1/2-1c of chopped almonds, optional)

• 1/2-1 tsp cinnamon

• 1/4c oil*, melted

• 2-3 tbs sugar of your choice (date paste is really lovely here, but brown rice syrup or maple would also be really nice)

* I generally use coconut oil,but you could also use olive (I know it sounds weird, but it adds a lovely richness)

Directions:

  1. preheat oven to 180ºC/350ºF
  2. combine oats, seeds, and nuts if you’re adding them into a 2-3 in. deep, 9/13 casserole dish, stirring to combine
  3. in a small bowl, combine the oil and sweetener of your choice
  4. drizzle the oil/sweetener over the granola ingredients, and toss gently with your hands or a wooden spoon to coat.
  5. sprinkle the cinnamon, if using, and gently stir again
  6. bake for 30-40 minutes, removing every ten minutes to stir, everything should turn a really lovely golden brown and your house will smell amazing
  7. let cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to one week
  8. enjoy with almond milk or yogurt
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out of the oven

I know it seems like there are quite a few steps, but the total ‘active’ time is actually quite short. I love to make this on a Sunday when I tend to be a bit lazy anyway, and do some reading while its in the oven. It’s also a great way to make sure I have breakfast covered for the rest of the week.

Let me know in the comments if you give it a try, and if you customise it!

 

 

Friday Cocktail: Chai-Spiced Moscow Mule

I found a version of this cocktail on Food52 that featured a masala spice infused vodka, and sounded absolutely amazing. The only problem was that I’m not generally patient enough to wait for the month of infusing time the recipe called for.

Looking in my spice cabinet I realised that another way to get a lot of the same spiciness and complexity of flavour was to use chai tea instead and speed up the infusion process. I’ve infused vodka using tea before, so knew it was possible, and better yet only takes a few hours to transfer the flavours. I’m definitely proud of this “aha moment”.

The combination of flavours from the chai tea combined with the spicy ginger from the ginger beer and a squeeze of lime make a wonderfully fragrant, slightly warming, and easy sipping cocktail.

To make the chai-infused vodka

Ingredients: 

two sachets chai tea

1/2 bottle of vodka

2 clean glass containers with lids

3. fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth

Directions: 

1. open tea sachets into the glass container and over with vodka

2. shake well and let sit for at least two hours, tipping once or twice each hour

3. once the tea has infused to your desired strength, strain through a fine mesh sieve into another clean glass container. Chill until ready to use.

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The nice thing about infusing vodka this way is that it’s really easy to control how much flavour you put in. You can also amend how much vodka you use and just add less tea, or strain it sooner. I haven’t experimented yet with other ways to use it, but my guess would be that there are several.

For the cocktail:

Ingredients:

• 2 oz chai-infused vodka

• 1/2 lime, cut into two wedges

• spicy ginger beer

Directions:

  1. squeeze limes into a glass with ice and toss into the bottom
  2. fill glass with ginger beer roughly half of the way
  3. top with vodka, garnish with a cinnamon stick, and enjoy

The warming ginger and chai spices turn what I think is a warmer-weather drink into something a little bit nicer for when the air is still a bit cool. Using a spicy ginger beer keeps it from being too sweet, but the beauty of this cocktail is that you can really adjust it to your taste.

Cheers!

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Painting the Modern Garden

I’m so glad I made it to Painting the Modern Garden at the Royal Academy before it closes later this month. I’d been so caught up with schoolwork that I kept forgetting to book tickets. This was the perfect way to get out of the library for a few hours and do something fun to take a break from all of the essay-writing I’ve been doing for the past week and a half.

As Cameron and I were waiting in line to enter I heard a member of staff say that general admission for the show has sold out completely for the rest of the run. Luckily last month I decided to become a friend of the RA so this was not a problem. They have a pretty reasonable student range, and a bit of math involving the shows I want to see this year, and adding the price of two tickets for each, and it was sort of a no-brainer. The fact that tickets are sold out is definitely no surprise– not only is it a large show about a fairly popular subject, it’s gotten really positive reviews.

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After waiting for quite a while to enter the very crowded exhibition I can definitely say that braving the very packed galleries was worth it. You are instantly met with a riot of colours that pulls your from painting to painting, and room to room from some early garden scenes of Monet and Renoir, through the avant-garde interpretations, and finishing with a fairly immersive triptych of Monet’s Waterlilies from late in his career. Patience was definitely key, but moving slowly was certainly worth it. Chatting on the way home, we both agreed that it is a really well presented show, and had some amazing and interesting pieces. As well as paintings from the well-known Impressionists, there were some Japanese prints, and some beautifully illustrated manuals on gardening, using Monet as the lynchpin (he was an accomplished and avid gardener) to tie the two together. It was interesting to consider the rise of the impressionists alongside of the boom in gardening and types of flower and plants available at the time, as well as how gardens themselves changed through the early twentieth century.

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Because it was so crowded, and because the show was so dense  (comprised of paintings, photographs, and more) I picked up an exhibition catalogue, which I rarely do, but am really pleased I did. As well as some good reproductions of all of the works from this showing, there are pieces that are set to appear in Cleveland when it opens there in the fall. Another bonus, at least for me, are some great essays surrounding the works which I’d looking forward to reading. If you can’t make it to this show, or to Cleveland in the fall, I definitely think the catalogue is worth it. Sure, there’s nothing like seeing the real thing, but there are some exhibitions that shouldn’t be missed, even if that means seeing them through print.

Friday Cocktail: The Income Tax

As today is tax day in the states, and I’ve spend the last few days getting everything together to file (I know, I really shouldn’t have waited until the last minute) I thought I would feature a more fun sort of income tax– a cocktail version.

Now I have absolutely no idea why this cocktail is named as such, but don’t let any aversion to doing taxes sway you away from giving it a try. Since taxes are technically due on the 18th this year for some reason, you can sip this as you finish filing, or as a celebration once you’ve finished. Or maybe both. I may need both.

It’s simple to make, and is really just a bit of a riff on the classic combination of gin and orange juice. Please, please use freshly-squeezed here. The sugary-sweet taste of carton orange juice and gin taste a bit too much like college tailgate events during football season. Freshly-squeezed orange juice however, will lead to a much better cocktail with some natural tartness and a nice balance.

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Ingredients: 

• 2 oz gin

• 1 tbs sweet vermouth

• 1 tbs dry vermouth

• 3-4 dashes angostura bitters

• 1.5 oz orange juice (about 1/2 an orange)

Directions: 

  1. combine ingredients in a shaker with ice
  2. shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  3. relax!

 

Cheers!

Day Trip to Margate

Last week I went to Margate for a  class trip with one of my courses from my MA program. The class looked at different approaches to heritage and regeneration through heritage, and we went to  Margate as an example of culture-led regeneration. In the past five years both the Turner Contemporary, and the Dreamland theme park have opened, and tourism has begun growing rather rapidly.

I was able to get a good deal on a last minute train ticket from London, so the journey there was wonderfully easy– minus the fact that I nearly missed my train both leaving and returning. Morning departures are always surprisingly difficult for me–. without fail I manage to leave fifteen minutes past when I actually need to leave. When I’m travelling with Cameron he’s been known to tell me an earlier departure time than necessary, which is annoying but always helpful. When I’m travelling alone, though there’s no help.

It was really lovely to be by the ocean, even if it was just for a few hours. I grew up by the beach and definitely took it for granted. Going to college in a landlocked state in the US definitely made me realise just how lucky I was to get to go to the beach whenever I wanted. There is something wonderfully calming about being by the ocean– the combination of the water, the smell in the air, all of it.

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Once I got to Margate I went straight to the museum to meet the rest of my class. It was super easy to find from the train station, and only about a ten minute walk along the beach. I was worried that the weather would be bad, but thankfully there was quite a bit of sunshine.

The Turner Contemporary is small but well organised, and has a gorgeous view. The entry had two pieces by Yinka Shonibare, one large installation with books bound in his well-known batik fabrics, and emblazoned with names of famous people who’ve moved to the UK from elsewhere and have contributed something to science/culture/society/etc. There was another really cool piece called Balance of Power with two mannequins with globes for heads placed on a seesaw which slowly tipped from one side to the other. Meant to symbolise the shifting balance of power during the first world war, it was a definitely eye-catching, especially in-front of the expansive view of the sea where a lot of the conflict took place.

We listened to a brief talk by a member of staff who attended the same department at King’s that we are all a part of, and explored the current exhibition before having a session for questions and breaking for lunch. I went with a few people from my class to a pizza place called GB Pizza, which was delicious and had a really nice, relaxed atmosphere.

Everyone was headed to Dreamland, but I had to catch my train back to London from an evening class. It was a real nice afternoon, and the proximity to London means I will probably be going back sometime soon, especially as the weather continues to warm up!

Friday Cocktail: Red Wine Caipirinha

This one is a bit unexpected, but wonderfully easy, and perfect for warmer weather. I was flipping through my gigantic cocktail book when I found this one, which I’d bookmarked ages ago, but had yet to try. It was originally created by a bartender at a New York restaurant who made it for a customer who wanted a cocktail to follow the red wine she’d had with dinner. It’s definitely a nice after-dinner drink, but enjoying one in the afternoon would also be just as nice.

I love caipirinhas, especially in the warmer months, but wasn’t too sure what would happen adding red wine into the mix. Actually, there is no cachaça in this recipe at all, which made me even more skeptical. Red wine and lime juice? Admittedly a bit strange, but with such gorgeous weather recently I was definitely in the mood for something easy to relax with. I love red wine though, and tying it in a cocktail has definitely been on my to-do list.

With the warmer weather we’ve been having, something chilled, and simple to make has also been increasingly appealing. This is wonderfully tart, and tastes a lot like a cross between a caipirinha and sangria. You may want to experiment with the amount of sugar you use, I found the two teaspoons the recipe calls for to be a bit much.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp granulated sugar (I used 1.5)
  • 1/2 lime, cut in four small wedges
  • 3 oz red wine (the recipe calls for Rioja, but I used a dry cabernet sauvignon with wonderful results)

Directions:

  1. muddle lime wedges and sugar in a highball glass, making sure the sugar is well-dissolved
  2. fill the glass with ice, then top with the red wine
  3. stir well, and garnish with a lime wedge

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Cheers!

Friday Cocktail: Rum Old Fashioned

This week’s cocktail is one of my favourite riffs on a classic cocktail. I was especially excited to give this a try with a really interesting and delicious aged rum we found that’s been aged briefly in an oak barrel (it also happens to be from Cuba). I’m of the opinion that classic cocktails are classic for a reason– after all, why would we keep making something if it wasn’t very good? Reinventing the wheel isn’t always a good idea, but it’s certainly nice to put new tires on every once in a while.

Maybe this metaphor is getting a bit out of hand, but hopefully you get the idea. This twist on a classic is, like the original, wonderfully simple. I definitely recommend using a dark rum for this drink, and absolutely nothing flavoured with ‘tropical’ things like coconut or pineapple. While those may have their place elsewhere (like spring breaks or sugary frozen piña coladas) that place is decidedly not here.

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Rather than simple syrup, this recipe calls for Demerara syrup. To make it combine 1c sugar with 1/2 c water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar is just dissolved. Make sure not to let it boil though or you’ll get something a bit more like caramel. Actually, that may bot be a bad thing– let me know if you give it a try! If you’re tempted to use regular simple syrup instead, don’t. The Demerara syrup makes it significantly better– trust me!

Ingredients:

• 2oz rum

• 1tsp demerara syrup

• 2 dashes angostura bitters

•2 dashes orange potters (or Peychaud’s)

Directions: 

  1. combine ingredients into a mixing glass with ice
  2. stir everything to combine and chill
  3. strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel

 

Cheers!