Friday Cocktail: The Aperol Spritz

This week’s Friday Cocktail is quintessentially Italian, as Cameron and I are on a trip to Venice! The spritz originated in Northern Italy, Venice to be exact, where it involved a combination of wine and sparkling water. The later inclusion of prosecco helped create the versions we know today, adding a bitter liquor and a splash of club soda to balance things out.

I’ve never been to Venice before, but needless to say I couldn’t be more excited. A friend of ours invited us to meet her there last summer, and I can’t believe it’s finally here! I majored in Art History at University, and did a focus on Renaissance and Baroque art, so getting to see the buildings, frescoes, and paintings in person is going to be pretty amazing. Be on the lookout for a new post sometime next week about the trip, complete with probably way too many architecture photos.

Now back to this week’s cocktail.

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I have been a huge fan of Campari since pretty much forever. I remember as a child I would sneak little sips of my mom’s Campari and grapefruit during the summer, and loved the bitterness, and the gorgeous pink colour. Aperol has a lot in common with Campari, but is decidedly less bitter, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your taste. The nice thing is that its relatively low in alcohol, so enjoying a spritz pre-dinner (or late-afternoon) is totally doable without getting tipsy.

There’s just enough bitterness to be interesting, but what I really love about Aperol is the gorgeous, orange-y smell. It’s a lot like Campari, but more floral, and absolutely perfect for summer sipping.

Ingredients: 

• 3 oz dry prosecco

• 2 oz Aperol

• 1oz club soda

Directions: 

  1. In a wine glass or tumbler add a healthy about of ice
  2. Add apparel, prosecco, and club soda
  3. Gently stir and garnish with an orange wedge

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Saluti! (Cheers!)

Spa Day at the Berkeley Haybarn

Last week I took a day out my (surprisingly) busy schedule to take a day off, and enjoy a morning/early afternoon at the Berkeley Haybarn Spa in Knightsbridge (massage, facial, pedicure). My family sent me a gift certificate for a half-day back in March, but I’ve only just now managed to find some time to put it to use!

For some reason I have a terrible time carving out time for myself to relax– I always feel a bit guilty, or find my thoughts wandering to all the work I need to do and emails I need to check. Definitely not conducive to relaxing. For my half day at the Haybarn I was determined to actually relax. On my way to my 10:00 am massage I opted to listen to a relaxing playlist, rather than my usual squeezing-in of extra reading for my dissertation, and even managed to arrive about 20 minutes early to give myself time to change and have a seat in the sauna to melt away any residual stress from the journey.

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My massage was first, followed directly by my facial, and both were fantastic. For my massage I opted for Bamford’s signature scent– a blend of geranium, lavender, eucalyptus and peppermint. By the time the massage ended I had successfully banished any thoughts of work to be done, and at the end of my facial felt thoroughly relaxed and refreshed.

I had a break for a bit and sat out in a really lovely courtyard filled with greenery while I sipped some fresh mint tea. The pool had some gorgeous views over Hyde Park and Knightsbridge, and I enjoyed a high lunch (and glass of champagne!) by the window, followed by some reading entirely for pleasure, which never happens as of recently.

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My last treatment of the day was a pedicure, which was an excellent way to end the day, and slowly get ready to go back into the real world. It was definitely hard to leave, but on my way out I picked up some of Bamford’s botanic body oil to extend the experience a bit, and hopefully capture some of the relaxation of the day.

Thinking about my overall experience, I was struck with the idea that a large part of why the day was so relaxing was being forced to tear myself away from my devices. Being away from my phone, as well as my apple watch, was a bit unnerving at first, but soon because wonderfully freeing. So much so, in fact, that I’ve decided to incorporate some device-free relaxing time as a regular part of my week. The best part? Not only is it totally free, but it’s also fabulously simple…if I can stick to it, that is. So, expect a post soon about the challenges and benefits of some tech-free time each week, and treat yourself to some self care at the spa or otherwise!

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(photos from the Berkeley Haybarn website because I was phone-free)

Friday Cocktail: The Gimlet

I can still remember when I first discovered the gimlet. I was 15 (bear with me), and was browsing the aisles of Sephora with my mom when I found myself drawn to a gorgeous bright green bottle of Philosophy’s shampoo/shower gel/bubble bath combo. The scent, a super bright blend of lime and what I now know to be juniper, was amazing, and I loved the glamorous-sounding name.

Flash forward a few years and I finally tried the real thing. As it turns out, the shower gel actually smelled very little like the cocktail, which is probably a good thing so I didn’t go to school smelling like gin. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you may remember a post about a vodka gimlet, but there’s nothing quite like the classic. Vodka is nice here, but it makes for a decidedly different drink. Gin adds a lot of its own flavour and makes the drink a little more complex. Because of this I definitely recommend using at least a mid-shelf gin if you can.

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In the original recipe for a gimlet instructions call for equal parts Rose’s Lime Juice and gin, but as I have yet to see any Rose’s while in London, I opted for getting my hands a bit dirty and juicing my own limes. Yes, time consuming, but (surprise) totally worth doing. Not only does it taste better, I think the pulp from freshly squeezed is really nice in this cocktail.

Ingredients:

• 2oz lime juice (about 2 limes)

• 2oz gin (I used Bombay)

• (optional 1/4-1/2 tsp simple syrup)

Directions:

  1. Add lime juice & gin (and simple syrup if you’re using it) to a cocktail shaker, top with ice and shake well
  2. strain into a cocktail glass(or martini glass) and enjoy!

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If you want to garnish these with something think a strip of lime zest would look really nice. If you’re on the fence about how much you like gin, I would err on the side of caution and go ahead and add the simple syrup (I like a little bit in mine, but Cameron leaves it out entirely). It won’t impact the taste too much, but will mellow the slight antiseptic quality of the gin a bit.

Cheers!

Why I Dry Brush Every Morning

This post was inspired by one I wrote last week, and got me thinking about how much of a difference just one small change can make. Dry brushing is all over the place right now, and having done it every morning for the past few years I can honestly say its worth it. There are a few main benefits to dry brushing, but some of the biggest are its amazing detoxing benefits, exfoliation, and  increasing circulation at the surface of the skin (which has the added benefit of reducing, or at least minimising) any cellulite or imperfections. Better yet it takes less than five minutes, making it a super easy way to slip a bit of self-care into your morning routine.

Detoxing:

I feel like every week I’m riding a new article about why I should be detoxing, but most of them involve juice cleanses, fasting, or product-based regimens. While I may be all-for detoxing, I definitely think it’s possible to do so without shelling out a large sum of money to a financially-motivated company. Dry brushing is a fantastic way to detox without shelling out unnecessary cash that would be much better spent on clothes, wine, and exciting trips. Our skin is the largest organ in our body, and is the one that’s also exposed to the most toxins (through our clothes, cosmetics, general pollution, etc). One what dry brushing helps detox our bodies is by simulating our lymphatic system, which naturally cleanses our bodies on its own but sometimes needs a bit of help to get things moving. Brushing in short, brisk strokes toward the heart helps this movement along. Definitely a lot easier than a week-long juice cleanse!

Exfoliation:

As I talked about in my post last-week, exfoliating is step one to smooth skin. Dry brushing literally wipes away dead skin while wiping away toxins built up in the lymphatic system and skin. While I do enjoy a nice skin scrub, dry brushing is an easy way to do a bit of exfoliating through the week.

Improving Circulation:

Increasing your circulation has a whole host of benefits, both in helping to remove toxins from the body, but may also help smooth any cellulite by gently breaking down and evening out the net-like structure of connective tissue within the skin. Certainly stimulating the surface of the skin will increase blood flow, but definitely doesn’t guarantee a ‘cure’ for cellulite. However, since I’ve been dry brushing I have definitely noticed smoother skin on my back body, and on the backs of my arms which have suffered minor KP (those annoying little bumps that just won’t disappear) since I was in high school. The key here, though is keeping up with dry brushing even after you notice its benefits.

How To:

I’ve used both long-handled and no-handled brushes, and definitely prefer a longer handle. If you’re not sure, there a brushes you can buy with detachable handles that let you try both.

The first time I dry-brushed was mildly uncomfortable, but went away after a days of brushing every morning. You should apply light pressure, and use long,smooth strokes towards your heart. I begin at my ankles and go up each leg, then my arms, then finally my torso. MindBodyGreen has a really nice in-depth how-to, as does this site. If your skeptical I definitely recommend giving it a try for at least a month before throwing in the towel– at worst you now have a body brush that’s great for general exfoliation, and at best you have a new morning routine that gets you glowing.

 

(complied/condensed from multiple articles)

Friday Cocktail: The Whiskey Sour

What is it about the whiskey sour that seems a bit old fashioned? It’s certainly old, with the first recorded recipe seen in 1862, but for some reason I always associate it with dramatic starlets in old movies, and 1960’s cocktail parties á la Mad Men. I think it should come back into style, though, and hopefully by the end of this post you will too.

I love a margarita, or a daiquiri in the summertime, and at it’s most basic level, a whiskey sour is the same– 2oz sprit, citrus, a bit of sugar. It’s so wonderfully simple I don’t even need to check the recipe while combining everything. Better yet, it requires ingredients I always have in the fridge/pantry. Better yet, a good margarita, daiquiri, and whiskey sour are generally well received by all.  While margaritas and daiquiris may be warm weather drinks, the whiskey sour has staying power.

Thinking about why the whiskey sour may have fallen out of favour I came to the conclusion that, much like the margarita and the daiquiri, the inclusion of sour mix rather than freshly-squeezed citrus is the likely cause. I alway find sour mix to be too sweet, and masks any properties of the spirit in the drink. A good whiskey sour needs to flavours of the whiskey, not just the lemon and sugar. So, if you’ve tried one with sour mix and have an unfavourable opinion, I hope you give this a try (and let me know if you do in the comments).

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Ingredients:

• 2 oz whiskey or bourbon (I like Buffalo Trace for these)

• 1 scant tsp sugar

• 1 Tbs lemon juice (or half of a small lemon)

Directions: 

  1. Combine lemon juice, sugar, and bourbon in the base of a shaker. Mix a bit by swirling everything together to dissolve the sugar a bit.
  2. Add ice and shake well to combine
  3. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve with or without ice, and a orange or lemon slice

 

I like ice in my whiskey sour most of the time, mostly because there are so few ingredients that it’s nice to have the slowly melting ice mellow the drink out a bit, but either way is equally delicious. You may have noticed the absence of an egg white here. My favourite thing about sours is their simplicity– adding an egg white ruins this a bit (at least for me).

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Earlier this week I was thinking about this series, and how much fun it’s been to try so many different cocktails, but that it would be lovely to have one go-to ‘signature’ drink. Admittedly this can be a bit difficult to discover when I’m testing new recipes every week, but I think the whiskey sour may be in the running– it’s simple to throw together, good in both warm and cold weather, and delicious without being fussy.

Cheers to my (possible) new go-to drink, and the weekend!

London Staycation

Last week I turned in my last essays for my MA, which means now all that’s left to do is my dissertation. No pressure. Before fully diving in I wanted to take a few days to just relax and recharge so I took last week as a mini-break, which worked out wonderfully as it was an especially sunny and warm one. The rest of this post will detail some of the things I did,  which also happen to be fun things to do generally if you find yourself with some time to spend in London.

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To kick-off this mini vacation week, Cameron and I headed to one of our favourite cocktail bars, the Portobello Star (located on the famous Portobello Road). Besides toasting the end of classes, we had a bit extra to celebrate as Cameron got a job! The Portobello Star is a bit small, but if you can grab a table it’s a wonderful place to linger. They have a fantastic cocktail menu, and a sort of speakeasy vibe that’s great for catching up with a friend, or having a date night, though the later it gets the more it fills up, so try to get there early.

I’d been wanting to rent a paddleboat on the Serpentine in Hyde Park for ages, and since Friday was such a gorgeous day we decided to finally give it a go. We brought a small picnic (and some  rosé) and paddled our way into the centre of the lake to relax and enjoy the day. While it was definitely tempting to stay our all day, our hour was up before we knew it and it was time to head back to shore. It’s definitely something I would do again, either with Cameron, or with friends–there are enough seats for 4-5 people  at least.Be warned though, that if yo go the paddleboat route that shorts/trousers are optimal, and taller people may feel a bit cramped.

On Saturday night I went to see the new ballet of Frankenstein at the Royal Opera House with a friend. There was a special student initiative, which meant that our 5th row tickets were only £25 each, and that there were some really fun talks and events before the performance. My friend and I arrived in just enough time to grab a glass of wine and a table to watch a pre-show performance in Paul Hamlyn Hall, which set the mood for the main event. The ballet was amazing, and even though it was quite long (with two intermissions), we were on the edge of our seats the whole time. If you can get a ticket I definitely recommend going to see it– it’s a familiar story with a bit of everything from romance, to a few pyrotechnics, and of course tragedy, while also absolutely gorgeous.

I definitely feel like I’ve made the most of my mini vacation, and am a bit surprised to say that I’m excited to get to work on my dissertation. I’m sure I’ll manage to make some time  for fun through the rest of the summer though.

Friday Cocktail: An Updated Margarita

I love a good margarita. If you’d been reading for a while, you definitely will have seen at least three different recipes, ranging from spicy to sweet, and of course the classic (which was one of my first ‘Friday Cocktail’ posts).  Given how much I’ve been loving blood orange recently, it was really only a matter of time before  I combined to of my favourite things. While each is great on its own, they make a pretty fantastic twist on a classic.

As Cinco de Mayo was yesterday I was definitely inspired to make this week’s post tequila-focussed. While it may not be the usually choice, I really like reposado tequila when I’m making margaritas as it has a bit more flavour that silver tequila, and somehow seems a bit more mellow. Feel free to use your favourite in the recipe below, although next time you’re re-stocking I definitely recommend giving reposado a try.

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The ingredients are wonderfully simple, and if you’ve read my earlier post on the classic margarita, this is mostly that recipe, but with a small addition of blood orange juice.

The recipe below will make two cocktails, so grab a friend and give it a try!

Ingredients:

• juice from 1/2 blood orange

• 1 lime, cut into four wedges

• 1-2 tsp agave nectar or sugar

• 4oz tequila

 Directions: 

  1. Squeeze lime into the base of a cocktail shaker, add agave or sugar, and muddle well to combine
  2. Add blood orange juice (and a dash of cointreau, optional), tequila, and ice
  3. Shake well and strain into two cocktail glasses, garnish with lime wedges, and serve

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My Smooth-Skin Secrets

With spring in full swing and summertime just around the corner, I’m very excited to break out my skirts, dresses, and sandals. My skin, however, needs a bit of coaxing out of ‘winter’ mode. You may be in the same boat, and if so, hopefully this post will give you a few suggestions to help get rid of dry skin and leave you ready for some sunshine.

I suppose the best way to break down this post is by category. I’ll touch on one or two tricks I use for my face, but this will primarily be about ways to smooth legs, knees, elbows, etc.

Face:

•  Exfoliation is key, but the trick, especially with more sunshine, is not to overly-exfoliate and leave skin dry. To gently remove any dullness left over from winter I like to use a mix of baking soda and coconut oil. Mixing about 1/2 tsp coconut oil and about an equal amount of boring soda, I mix the two into a sort of paste and gently apply to my face (except the area around my eyes) and let it sit for about five minutes. To remove, use lukewarm water, and very gently remove with a washcloth. I follow up with a super hydrating moisturiser, usually Cosmetic Lad from Lush, which I know is technically for guys, but works wonders to soothe and hydrate my skin post-face mask, and is a great night-cream.

• As well as gentle exfoliating a few times a week, I’ve found that keeping my skin hydrated is a key factor not only in minimising any dullness, but in staying smooth and breakout-free. A favourite week-night face mask of mine also happens to be wonderfully simple. For this I combine 1tbs coconut oil and 1tbs raw honey (as local as I can find), mix , and apply gently to clean skin. While it sits for 10-15 minutes be sure to have a towel somewhere under your chin because it is very likely to drip a bit. When it’s time to remove use warm water and a washcloth to gently wipe it away, and follow with your favourite moisturiser.

Body: 

• One thing I do every morning, no matter the season, and which makes a surprising difference, is dry brushing. It has a whole host of other benefits like detoxing, and increasing circulation (read more here). I’ve done it on and off for a few years now, and I can definitely notice positive change when I consistently dry brush in the morning.

•The winter always seems to be the hardest on my legs and knees, making my skin at best a bit dry, and at worst a bit scaly. To help with this I use a pair of exfoliating gloves on my legs every other day, with let me really concentrate on areas like my knees and ankles that tend to get extra dry. Before drying my skin off post-shower I apply either coconut oil (warming it in my hands a bit to make it easier to apply), or the miracle-working Tata Harper Revitalising Body Oil. I’m not exaggerating when I say that it has transformed my dry, scaly skin into something from a women’s razor commercial.

•If I’m in a hurry, taking the time to let the coconut oil ‘set’ isn’t always in the cards, but no matter what I always make it a priority to moisturise as soon as I exit the shower. This is the simplest, and yet most effective thing you can do. You could even multi-task this step  by using it to check your skin for any new freckles or marks that could be suspicious.

Feet:

• I run a lot, and do yoga every morning, both of which can bit a bit hard on my feet. To remedy some of the dry skin I use a good-old-fashioned pumice stone to remove any rough patches before giving them a bit of a soak, and then slathering on some moisturiser mixed with coconut oil, and a thick pair of socks before heading to bed.

 

While these will all help your skin look its best for extra exposure on these longer, sunnier days, the last thing to do to make sure it stays that way is to apply sunscreen. Seriously, every day– especially on your face, and even if your moisturiser/makeup already has some spa packed in as well.

I’d love to hear your skin-saving secrets in the comments below, and if you give any of these a try!