Barefaced luxury – checking out NOW by One Spa

Sideways rain, a slight hangover and Mothers Day weekend. The stars were aligned. It was the perfect Saturday to check in for a facial at the Edinburgh Sheraton’s NOW by One Spa.

My ma and I arrived and were shown to the spa’s beauty room, which offers treatments ranging from luxurious pedicures to head massages, HD brows, eyelash extensions, tanning, waxing and much, much more. Check out the full range for yourself here.

Since I’d never actually been for a facial, I chose an express facial with Clarisonic Brush cleanse. I have to say – the experience has quite genuinely given me a whole new appreciation for them. My lovely facialist Holly asked me what kind of skin I have and matched the products she used to give the best results.

25 minutes of bliss later, it’s been a long time since I looked and felt so relaxed. My skin that was quite literally glowing and I just felt so, so pampered. I wondered if it was a sort of temporary illusion since I was covered in all sorts of luxurious creams etc, but a few days later my skin still felt really soft and looked nice and bright (which was pretty impressive for someone who had just emerged from forced beast of the east house arrest).

My mum went for the (deep breath) CACI crystal free microdermabrasion/booster facial – a process that combines crystal free microdermabrasion with LED light therapy, designed to rehydrate skin and target lines and wrinkles. I always think my mum looks fantastic for her age anyway but she came out from her treatment 40 minutes later looking pretty dang ace by anyone’s standards.

Getting a treatment at NOW by One Spa was such an enjoyable way to spend a day off, and I’d definitely go again. It also has a nice little cafe you can relax in after, before facing the real world again. Or, if you’re more me and my maw inclined, the spa is located just around the corner from loads of nice West End lunch spots, where we prolonged the luxury with a big glass each of Pinot. Hurrah!

 

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Two peas in a pod: A stay at Glencoe Riverbed Lodges

The stretch between December and March/April can seem fairly eternal. With the excitement of Christmas behind us, the next cause for celebration is the distant promise of leaves on trees, the long Easter weekend and the ability to gorge shamelessly on chocolate eggs.

SO, this is precisely why it’s the perfect time to book a getaway and give yourself a little sumpn sumpn to look forward to and ease those Q1 blues. It was in this spirit that KK and I embarked on our little road trip up north for a stay at the Riverbed Lodges in Glencoe.

Glencoe is one of those places you drive through and each time feel completely in awe of your surroundings. From Edinburgh it took us about 3 hours to get there, but the drive is often heralded as one of the most beautiful roads in the UK, making it about 50 times more enjoyable than your average 3 hour shlep.

You arrive up a little track road and see the lodges nestled among the trees, each with their own little set of steps and veranda. There are 8 of them in total, seven of them with a hot tub and one without. They’re 12 sqm so totally teeny, but so cute and cosy. The first thing we did was get into our comfies, take some photos and just chill out which was so nice and relaxing.

I’d be wholly behind getting a lodge with a hot tub because as far as I’m concerned there’s very little better than climbing into one on a cold day, armed with a bottle of chilled prosecco. It was pretty much an example of us living our best lives.

No it’s not a floating black bikini – if you look closely there is in fact a very translucent bod in it.

It got dark pretty quickly by the time we climbed in so we don’t have many photos of it from the first night, but rest assured that bad boy is just as great to relax in come morning with a cup of cawfee from the lodge’s nespresso machine (ugh can I just live there already).

We chose to spend our time there hanging around in either our pyjamas or in the hot tub, because quite frankly we were there to laze around, but if you wanted to actually branch out of your lodge there’s loads of stuff to do – including hill walking, skiing at the Glencoe range nearby, Segway tours, cycling, mountain biking and golfing. There are a few local restaurants you can check out too.

Included in the stay is breakfast, which includes granola, porridge, fresh milk, orange juice, croissants (with butter and pots of jam) and fruit. The bed frame folds into a little table you can eat it at or if it’s dry outside, you can have it out on the veranda – pre or post morning hot tub dip!

Whatever you choose to do there, you won’t be disappointed by the lodges and their surroundings. It was such a novelty staying right amongst the trees and mountains but in the safety of a warm little lodge haven. They’re a perfect weekend getaway for a group of pals or your other half.

If you’re thinking of booking a stay at the RiverBeds, make sure to use the code ‘kkland’ so you can enjoy prosecco, chocolates and bath robes included in your lodge.

 

Photos by KK Land

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Four days in Prague

Prague: a city known for its architecture, history, gastronomy and magnetism for British stag dos. The latter being, oddly, the reason I came to this city second time round (the first I was interrailing aged 20 with my best friend – enough said.)

No, I wasn’t on a stag do, the boy was – and since flights were insanely cheap he suggested I join him after the lads had returned (and his broken body remained in a state of beer-induced disrepair.)

So, in negligence of the fact we’re meant to be saving, my inner travelista remains a force to be reckoned with. And off to Praha I flew last Sunday.

I’m not so much of a rigid plan-maker when I go to new cities, I prefer to mostly just wander and see what I can find, though there were some particular sights and activities we were recommended. So I give you a list of highlights from 4 days in the Czech capital…

Charles Bridge

Yes it’s an obvious one, but missing this out on a trip to Prague would be pretty sacrilegious. The bridge itself provides a glimpse into medieval Prague (pre-cartoonists and postcard vendors, obv) and there’s nothing like a bit of history on your holidays to make you feel cultured.

It connects Prague’s old and new towns and is just a lovely space to wander around. Leading onto the Old Town’s gorgeous old cobbled  streets, which are lined with old beer houses, squares and medieval buildings, the piece de resistance is the multitude of bakeries selling Trdelniks – or ‘Chimney Cakes’.

Oh god the Chimney cakes.

Round pastries coated in butter, rolled with cinnamon sugar and almond and filled with nutella, jam, ice cream or fruit, trdelniks are everywhere in Prague and were the sweet lining to my hol.

 

Hemingway Bar

If you want to feel like Daisy Buchanan for the night, this is ya place. I’m a total sucker for anything novelty/vintage/retro – anything that reflects a different time period, basically.

So when I heard about this little speakeasy tucked among the cobbled streets of the Old Town near the river Vltava, I took little persuading to go in and sample a cocktail or two.

Entering through a thick, velvet curtain, you’re led into a small, candlelit bar. There’s classical music playing and the waiters wear bow ties. The cocktail list is immense, and the drinks are served in a variety of oddball container. I had the “Magic Moment” cocktail of Beefeater gin, mallow and nettle cordial.

“Part of the magic is made by you” the bartender told me (flirt), before presenting me with an odd looking little potion bottle with 2 different openings. You mix the gin and then the cordial and the drink changes colour, which provides a lot of excitement for a simple gal like me – especially after a couple of wines already. It also tasted pretty dang delicious. I could’ve inhaled any of the cocktails on their list – peruse it for yourself here.

Oh and just in case you require any further persuasion, Hemingway Bar has been listed as one of the top 50 best bars in the world. In short, you gots to go.

 

Cafe Imperial

We heard about this art deco place through my dear old dad as a jazzy little spot for lunch or dinner so we thought we’d check it out. With over a century’s history behind it as one of Prague’s best-loved restaurants, I knew we’d be in for a bit of a treat.

I didn’t get any photos of the inside (one food pic on my phone was already pushing the bf’s limits), but the ornate ceiling, golden intricacies of detail and bow-tied waiters (do I have an underlying fetish for this?) made for a very luxurious restaurant experience.

I had a “US Hanger” steak – nope, not entirely sure what it is either, but I can tell you it was unbelievable! Good house red wine too.

 

Lennon wall

Who knew the Czechs held such an affinity with the Beatles’ bespectacled lead singer?  On the other side of the Charles bridge, into the Old Town, there’s a whole graffitied wall which serves both as a shrine to JL and a canvas for the city’s enthusiastic spray-painters.

Random to us, yes, but apparently after his death, the music icon became a pacifist hero for oppressed young Czechs living under communist rule.

It’s a mish-mash of JL imagery and the words he stood for – peace, love… also now ‘beer’, which you can see emblazoned on his forehead – but the common theme that belies it all is one of inspiration and political freedom. It’s a pretty cool place to visit.

It’s also really close to the Trdelnik street I mentioned earlier.

Just saying.

Lokál Dlouhááá

Want to be where the [Czech] people are? Then this is ya boy.

A friend of ours who lived in Prague for 6 months told us about this place and it was just as she described – lively, full of young locals and with a gigantic list of different craft and local beers and wines, I felt like this one one of our more ‘authentic’ Prague experiences.

We got probably the most lethal “Grog” I’d ever tasted – as in, probably could’ve got drunk from the fumes alone – and a pint of raspberry beer which was (dangerously) tasty. There’s an array of local food as well, i.e., potato dumplings and sausages, but we were content with our novelty bevvies.

Great little spot for day or night drinking (I don’t discriminate), and probably your best bet to sample some of what the Prague locals eat and drink.

Beer spa

So it seems the Czechs love beer so much they bathe in it. After a heavy night but with a determined “when in…” attitude, we marched to the nearest available spa. Mainly for the lols, if I’m honest.

And lols it did bring.

We were led into our own private spa room with two deep, wooden baths at one end. These were filled with hot water and a mixture of malt and hops. In the corner there was a little fire and a “traditional hay bed” (no we didn’t really know what that was about either).

When our host eventually left and we had recovered from our laughing fits, climbing into a bubbly bath of beer with access to an unlimited beer tap next to you proved to be one hell of a way to spend an afternoon.

And yes we eyed each other cynically when the host started talking about the benefits of malt and hops on your skin, but I gotta say we were softer than a couple of peachy baby bums after that sesh. With the added benefit of finely sculpted abs from laughing for an hour straight….

 

It’s a city I’ve now experienced in both summer and winter and both times it’s been equally as beautiful – and very good fun. If you visit, there’s no other way for me than an air bnb – we got this beauty for £23 a night. Praha, I’ll be back again some day.

 

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Studio Emma

Every so often you stumble upon such an aesthetically pleasing Instagram page that your scrolling thumb eventually begins to stiffen in protest. This is what happened when I discovered the glorious profile of Emma McDowall – the brain child behind Edinburgh-based homeware brand Studio Emma.

KK and I went along to her studio to find out more about how Emma’s business has developed from experimenting with materials in her parents’ garden shed to shipping her concrete creations to household names around the world.

 

Humble beginnings 

Like most people of our generation, at some point post-uni Emma found herself making the obligatory move back in with her parents to figure out Life’s Next Chapter. It was during this period that she was able to exploit her spare time and lack of uni commitments to start creatively experimenting.

“I didn’t have access to all the textile equipment and materials I had at Art School which was frustrating”, she explains.”But it led me to source other materials and make new processes so I could satisfy the craving I had to just make!”

After discovering cement in her dad’s shed, she began experimenting with it, mixing together different materials and using objects she’d found to create forms.

After this of course came the introduction of her trademark bright colours. “I found the contrast of concrete as a solid, industrial material and the playful colour palettes an interesting concept, and it was something I wanted to experiment with further”, says Emma.

 

Concrete and colour

I find Emma’s designs so intriguing because they’re simple yet mysterious, with an end result that is so far removed from the mental idea most people would have of concrete (for me: ’60s architecture and road maintenance.)

One of the most popular pieces she makes are the square vessels, whose shape is quite industrial but whose sides resemble what Emma describes as “tiny abstract paintings”. Of course it’s this deviance of concepts that makes her art so eye catching and unique (…as I said before, an Instagrammer’s dream).

…how does she do it? “I mix the concrete adding vivid colour before pouring the moulds in layers”, Emma explains. Leaving them to dry, she then removes the pieces from their moulds – the part of the whole process which is Emma’s favourite. “The surface pattern and texture is unpredictable so that makes it exciting – no two pieces are ever the same.”

The colour, the texture, the sheer unpredictability of it all. Instagram is one thing, but it proved too much for me in the flesh.

And that, readers, is how I ended up buying an entire box of homewares to adorn my flat with.

 

Home and away

When we arrived at the studio and immediately began fawning over all the different shapes  and colours of some of her finished products, we found out that lots of them were on their way to Iceland for stockists there.

When prompted by two excitable fangirls masquerading as bloggers, Emma listrs in casual nonchalance some of the exclusive brands who stock her products, and it’s clear her products command a universal appeal.

But what is it about the brand that attracts both a domestic and an international following?

“I think people like the use of colour in the designs. Colour makes people happy and they find the products to be fun.” If anyone’s looking to practice better modesty as a New Year’s resolution, we’ve found your gal.

“I also think sometimes in our culture full of cheap, mass produced design people find craftsmanship refreshing. They like something which has been made with consideration and passion, it makes the product feel special and with each piece being complete unique – it is special!”

 

 

 

Find Emma’s designs online at www.emmamcdowall.co.uk and follow her excellent Instagram account at @_studioemma 

Photos by KK Land 

 

 

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Have you tried? Hemma’s new menu

Back in August, myself and fellow blogging comrade KK (whose photos I have appropriated for this blog post, FYI) were invited to try Hemma’s brunch menu for the first time. I’m sure you all remember me waxing lyrical about the unforgettable Eggs Brando, and if you don’t, here’s a reminder – IT IS EXCELLENT (no I won’t make that tired old pun. So don’t tempt me. Ok fine. IT WAS EGGCELLENT) and you must try it.

So when we were invited back to sample the restaurant’s new additions to the menu, we quite literally ran into the place. Joining fellow bloggers Leanne, i.e., L’appetite foodie and the girls from Edinburgh Food Club, we sat down to an array of foodstuffs I can only describe as positively saliva-inducing.

First off, we had a couple of sharing plates. The first was a simple but tasty mini bread tower with mixed olives, red pepper pate and pea and avocado smash.

The other sharing plate had fishcakes, mushrooms on toast and terrine (which I didn’t try as I have an inexplicable mental block about it and can’t eat it, but it seemed to be pretty popular!). Lastly there were molten wedges of deep-fried brie, served with cranberry sauce.

Yes, it was as good as it sounds. I have in fact been returning to that brie in my dreams for many nights since. Joking, joking. Okay maybe like once or twice.

So although Hemma does a great range of healthy foods, including salads and vegan/gluten-free dishes, I of course chose a less healthy but more glorious Croque Madame. I am obsessed with these things. Especially when they’re done well – and I’m pleased to report back that Hemma has indeed ticked that box.

In case you’ve been living under a rock until now, a Croque Madame is the piece de resistance (imo) of traditional French bar cuisine, and is basically a ham and cheese sandwich covered in bechamel sauce and crowned with a fried egg. It can also be referred to as the Meal of Hungover Dreams.

I mean just look at it.

KK went for the avocado, pea and mint smash on brown bread with crumbled feta on top. It may be more photogenic than mine but I think the two performed pretty equally in terms of taste and textures. (Getting a bit giddy poring over these photos again…)

I imagine at this point in the post you’re starting to worry we won’t have room for dessert. Well let me allay those fears, dear reader.

Champs that we are, we fitted in an array of delicious sweet treats, including vegan chocolate brownie (yum), carrot cake (yummier) baked vanilla cheesecake (ooooft, so good) and a new one for me – “Kladdkaka”, a Swedish cake whose name translates to English as “sticky cake”. It’s made with chocolate and served with caramel sauce. So of course it got a 10/10 from me.

Finally, we were treated to one of Hemma’s new range of winter cocktails. I can’t remember the name of ours, but basically it was (heroically) modelled on the taste of a Terry’s Chocolate Orange. We expected it to be really rich and creamy but when it arrived it was transparent and tasted absolutely gorgeous. The fact it wasn’t really heavy was potentially dangerous, as I could’ve quite happily sunk half a dozen of those bad boys.

Thanks, Hemma, for another beautiful meal, and the welcome opportunity to escape a few hours of the day in your cosy, homey, delicious surroundings.

If you haven’t checked them out yet you are, quite frankly, mad.

We will be back v.soon….

Skål!

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