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The Force Awakens – Time to celebrate!

Fans have been awaiting 10 years for the next Star Wars movie, though ask any die-hard fan and they’ll tell you the wait has been more like 32 years since the prequels don’t count.  With The Force Awakens crushing all box office records ($247 million domestic and counting) the folks at Disney, LucasFilm, and Bad Robot have reason to celebrate.  If you were lucky enough to witness the rekindled magic on the big screen it’s time to raise a glass with one of these cocktails inspired from a long time ago…. Read more…

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It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

Photo courtesy of The Umstead Hotel and Spa

                          Photo courtesy of The Umstead Hotel and Spa

Walk into almost any luxury hotel property and expect to be in awe over the stunning flower displays adorning the property. The Umstead Hotel and Spa is no exception to this statement and has taken its elegant decor to the next level this holiday season. Understated elegance is one way to describe this five-star five-diamond property we visited last year (you can read more about it here) and this is their approach to the gorgeous holiday decorations seen in the hotel.

Photo courtesy of The Umstead Hotel and Spa

Photo courtesy of The Umstead Hotel and Spa

As you make your way through the common areas you’ll be greeted by 12 to 14 foot “old growth” Fraser firs local to the mountain areas of North Carolina. Unique, hand-blown glass ornaments by Elias Ceramics adorn the trees.

Photo courtesy of The Umstead Hotel and Spa

Some of the trees will be decorated with fragrant, vibrant flowers including four-foot Goddess Calla Lilies and freshly cut amaryllis. Weekly changing floral displays will give you reason to visit multiple times over this holiday season. Include a visit to The Umstead in your holiday plans, their spectacular holiday display is one not to be missed!

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Five Ways to Get Svelte and Get Into the Holiday Spirit

Photo credit Cheryl Mann

Photo credit Cheryl Mann

Enter the holiday this holiday season looking svelte with a little preparation to prevent packing on the pounds this time of year. On December 6 at 10 a.m. the JW Marriott Chicago is offering a a free class called, “Barre with the Ballerinas.” This event is in conjunction with JW Marriott’s partnership with the Joffrey Ballet and The Barre Code. This event also kicks off the start of the holiday season with the luxury hotel’s package with The Joffrey Ballet for the Nutcracker. For more information about the hotel package, visit the hotel’s site here.

To sign up for this stellar event, visit this link.

The Barre Code creates workout moves inspired by the dance scenes in The Land of Sweets. 

Move 1: The Nut Cracker

Begin in wide second position, arms clasped. Shift weight into your right leg, engage the core and lift up to a relive on the R bringing arms overhead, cross L foot over engaging inner thigh.  Repeat on both sides 10x, building to 20x each side. 

 Move 2: The Clara

Begin with a slight bend in your right leg, left leg extended to your side at 90 degrees. Position your arms so that your left arm is extended in front of your face, while your right arm is extended at 45 degrees. Using your left glute and side oblique, lift leg and pull left elbow into side body.

Move 3: The Mouse King

Begin with arms in prayer position overhead, right leg extended to the side at 90 degrees. Step right leg back, lunging into curtsy position, arms open at 90 degrees to your side. Using left leg, press through the heel into starting position.

Move 4: The Enchanted Forest

Begin in wide second, arms extended into muscle man position. Using your side oblique, bend upper body to the left, repeat on the right.

Move 5: The Fritz

Begin in straddle position, pulling right near in toward chest, extending arms down toward floor, repeat on opposite side. Add hop to increase difficulty. 

VODA Magazine wishes you a happy, healthy, and svelte holiday season!

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Happy Halloween From VODA Magazine

Halloween cocktails and recipes

                     The Zak-O-Latern Cocktail by Zachary Blair, Lead Mixologist at                                             Whiteface Lodge (Lake Placid, New York)

 

 

 

 

Zak-o-Lantern

Ingredients:

2 oz spiced rum

1oz hickory syrup

Splash of lemon

Bar spoon of pumpkin purée

 

Directions:

·         Shake ingredients

·         Pour in high ball with club soda

·         Garnish with a cinnamon stick

 

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Fail-Proof Skincare This Fall and Winter

Best Face Oil

We fell in love this summer with the skincare line, skyn ICELAND. Founder and president, Sarah Kugelman, serves up this impressive line with a sense of humor. “Too much coffee, not enough water, another marathon work week, donuts and wine for dinner.” We made it through the harsh elements of the summer and now with a crispness in the air we know what’s in store with winter around the bend, a season that can wreak havoc on the skin. Kugelman saves the day (and our faces) this fall and winter.

The entire line is free of parabens, petroleum, mineral oil, sulfates, and other icky things. It’s also 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Kugelman, created skyn ICELAND as an answer to her own personal stress that was causing problem skin. “I had cystic acne, scars, and incredible dehydration,” says Kugelman. She created the product line to counteract the impact stress has on skin. The name skyn ICELAND came about when she traveled to Iceland and took note of the natural resources, the purity and cleanliness of the place, and the flawless skin of the people living there. For her, “Iceland represented the ideal landscape for stress-free living.” Along with launching a superior product line, the company’s mission is to educate people on the causes, signs, and affects of stress, while teaching them how to manage it.

To prep my face this fall, I’ve started using the Artic Face Oil made of 99% Camelina Oil. This is a multi-purpose oil –it may be used on hair, cuticles, and the under-eye area. Unfamiliar with this type of oil, I dug a little deeper to find out its benefits. It is high in Vitamin E and omega fatty acids adding moisture and preventing free-radical damage. It also has antinflammatory properties – perfect from when a little uninvited mountain shows up on your face, smooth this on to zap it away. This oil is also excellent as hot oil treatment for the hair. 

It has a very light, herbaceous scent and smooths on like silk absorbing quickly, leaving a smooth feel and subtle glow. It’s light enough for daytime use as well as at night acting as a barrier to the dry arid air pumping through the heat vents as you sleep. Camelina Oil has a wealth of health properties and we’re elated to have discovered it in this glorious product.

Best Eye Cream puffy eyes dark circles

I’m using the Artic Oil in conjunction with the Icelandic Relief Eye Cream. The eye cream goes on soothingly and light with an almost gel-like consistency, yet in a cream form. I pat it around my dry-looking eye area and instant hydration takes place revealing smooth, moisturized skin that looks years younger – barely believable!

Dark circles, puffiness, and wrinkles be gone, thanks to the magical saponaria flower extract. This component contains stem cells that stimulate cell rejuvenation, make stubborn wrinkles less deep, improve skin elasticity, and provides some other age-defying powers. Pat it on and tired, stressed-looking eyes appear fresh, brightened, and youthful.

There’s an entire product line of yummy products and more on the way to get your skin glowing and ready for fall and winter. skyn ICELAND is available at Ulta stores and at www.skynICELAND.com. A skincare line designed for stress-free living, yes please!

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Weekend Getaway Where to Go Next – Durham, NC

Stay

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel

The 21c Museum Hotel is situated in the heart of revitalized downtown Durham, this former bank building (the vault is still intact and is used as a lounge and event space) lights up the skyline with a purple glow casting through the windows. We later learned that glow was from the bathroom vanity mirror. Check-in is on the second floor in the midst of an art gallery. Rooms are modern and chic with space-efficient closets and drawers and comfortable, low flatform-like beds. Bathrooms are expansive with large, double vanity sinks, a huge walk-in shower big enough for two, and a rubber ducky to keep you company. Bath products are by Malin + Goetz. Oh yes, and that purple light lighting up the back of the vanity mirror can be set to cast a club-like glow or turned off for a more classic atmosphere.

Eat and Drink

Photo courtesy of Mateo

Photo courtesy of Mateo

There are nearby karaoke bars, but if you’re looking for more of a sophisticated setting head to the bar on the rooftop of The Durham Hotel with sweeping views of the revitalized downtown.

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Durham

Photo courtesy of 21c Museum Hotel Durham

Another option is to cozy up to the bar at the Counting House. We began (and ended) our nights there. We started with perfectly-crafted classic martinis, mine a little dirty brightened up with a garnish of olives with a bright green hue and a mild, buttery flavor. They accompanied an assortment of raw oysters perfectly. We couldn’t resist the interesting selection of bar snacks and chose an assortment of tobacco-cured tuna (after all, Durham is known as tobacco land), trout terrine, and a scallop appetizer special. We proceeded to Mateo for tapas, Spanish wine, and a Port flight. It did not disappoint. The scene is bustling and lively with a bar that spilled out into the dining room occupied with high cocktail tables and closely arranged dining tables. We tried Datil, which are dates, goat cheese, and country ham; Patas Bravas, fried potatoes with a spicy sauce; and Crispy Chicken Skins accompanied by green tomato & cabbage escabeche, aioli, and piquillo hot sauce. Not the healthiest of options, but so incredibly good!

Other notable restaurants include Piedmont for the wine list alone, oh and then there’s the food (or so we have heard!) and not to be missed is Vin Rouge for classic French  bistro fare. 

Play

Photo Courtesy of Duke University Gardens

Photo Courtesy of Duke University Gardens

The Durham Performing Arts Center, otherwise known as, DPAC, is a stone’s throw from the hotel right in the heart of downtown. National acts perform on a regular basis and a full schedule of upcoming shows can be found here. While we didn’t make time to squeeze in a show, it gives us great reason to return!

Our other form of entertainment did include a walk to the Duke University GardensIt was a healthy walk from the downtown, but an enjoyable one and made us feel not so guilty about the decadent dinner at Mateo the night before. This breathtaking 55-acre garden is open to the public to enjoy and is equipped with an an outdoor amphitheater. This is a sight not to be missed!

Shop

Photo Courtesy of Parker and Otis

Photo Courtesy of Parker and Otis

While there were other shops to be discovered, in our short time there we did not seek out clothing stores. What we did do is come across Parker and Otis while looking for a light afternoon snack to hold us over until dinner. It’s a spot worth mentioning! We walked into the revitalized warehouse store to find an abundance of specialty food items, wine, gifts, chocolates, and a deli case of beautifully prepared salads to go. We were back the next day for morning coffee and a light breakfast and the place was bustling with what looked like brunch time regulars. I could have spent hours in the place, it has a little bit of something for everyone and is a utopia for foodies.

While we couldn’t do it all in this short weekend trip, Durham is definitely a destination to add to your list and experience some of the gems we mentioned above and so much more.

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Mexican Mantra: Take Your Yoga Practice to Mexico

Stand Up Paddleboarding is all the rage. It combines the tenets of yoga with the water world of surfing. Proponents swear to more focus, tweaked technique and stronger cores. Fitness retreats like this one near La Paz at Costa Baja Resort draw many to Mexico. Phot credit: Costa Baja Resort

Stand Up Paddleboarding is all the rage. It combines the tenets of yoga with the water world of surfing. Proponents swear to more focus, tweaked technique and stronger cores. Fitness retreats like this one near La Paz at Costa BajaResort draw many to Mexico.
Photo credits: Costa Baja Resort

I am posed in Downward Dog on a paddleboard atop the cerulean blue Sea of Cortez. Or, I was. Right now, I’m swimming with a throng of particularly colorific fish, whose threatening nibbles prompt me to heave myself out of the water and back on the board with heretofore unknown deftness.

I’d like to say that SUP (Stand Up Paddleboarding) yoga is easier than it looks. But, it isn’t. That’s because this exercise combines two distinct disciplines: the spiritual-cum-pretzel-like ancient regimen of yoga and the au courant rage of standing on an over-sized surfboard afloat a body of water. It’s essentially meditative fitness. And, when the wave ripples beneath me, I struggle for balance—even when crouched in the resting mode called Child’s Pose. At Costa Baja Resort, a thousand miles from Tijuana, in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, I don’t care if I topple off the board and fall into the ocean’s depths. After all, who wouldn’t want to swim in what Jacques Cousteau once dubbed “the aquarium of the world?”

The yoga traditions at Rancho La Puerta, just across the border from San Deigo, are tried and true. The godmother of Western Yoga, Indra Devi, helped formulate the Ranch's programs in 1955, and her influences can be seen today.

The yoga traditions at Rancho La Puerta, just across the border from San Deigo, are tried and true. The godmother of Western Yoga, Indra Devi, helped formulate the Ranch’s programs in 1955, and her influences can be seen today.

Still, I try my best to balance. My instructor at this five-day retreat, Michelle Gierst, a yogini and superstar fitness buff, thinks the first fall should happen fast. “It’s a metaphor for life,” she says. “The sooner you fall in, the sooner you get back up on the board for downward dog.” She leads yoga retreats at Costa Baja, a five-star wellness resort, located just ten minutes from the still authentic Mexican pueblo of La Paz. Ensconced amid desert terrain, dotted with coco palms, with views of the purple-tinged Sierra Madre Mountains, this resort by the sea is easily accessible from Los Cabos—yet it feels a world apart. With a Gary Player-designed golf course, pools galore, and opulently appointed rooms, it might seem more a place for repose. Yet, many trek here, as I do, to exchange their yoga mat for a board and their gymnasium room for the ocean’s fluidity. This form of yoga increases focus, tweaks technique, and empowers its participants. Deep meditation can result simply from the sounds of the sea. As a change from your regular routine, SUP Yoga is simply a respite that keeps the habit interesting. An added bonus?  Do your asanas along Mexico’s Pacific Coast during whale watching season (January through April), and you may discover some migrating whales and a coterie of friendly dolphins masquerading as classmates. Five-day, four-night sessions include daily yoga and meditation classes, a spa treatment, and all meals including alcohol. $1042 and up. Costabaja.com

The mystical landscape of Mexico's Baja California enriches yoga  and wellness retreats. Set in desert terrain, on the Sea of Cortez and shadowed by the Sierra Madre Mountains, Costa Baja offers a variety of yoga retreats and packages year round.

The mystical landscape of Mexico’s Baja California enriches yoga and wellness retreats. Set in desert terrain, on the Sea of Cortez and shadowed by the Sierra Madre Mountains, Costa Baja offers a variety of yoga retreats and packages year round.

Other Mexican Havens For Inner Balance:

Haramara Retreat

Unplug at Haramara Retreat, named a 10 best yoga getaway in the world by Yoga Journal. Spread over 16 acres that edge the Pacific Ocean in Sayulita–the Riviera Nayarit’s hippie chic surfing town north of Puerto Vallarta–Haramara has thatched-roof palapas complete with hammocks, open-air yoga studios with 360-degree views of the jungle and ocean waters, vegetarian-based gourmet meals and a rotating array of famous yoga instructors. With no electricity in the rooms or restaurant, turning off the external noise becomes second nature here. Customized private sessions, group classes, and locally derived food set the tenor for a successful mind-body experience. $1159 and up for two people when you book the 3-night Sampler Package, which includes two yoga classes, two daily meals, a 60-minute massage each, and $60 voucher to be used on site.haramararetreat.com

Rancho La Puerta

Yoga pioneer Indra Devi is considered by many to be the godmother of western yoga. Having lived in India and studied under the nation’s most influential yoga master, Krishnamacharya, she broke both east/west and male/female barriers by becoming a master herself in the mid-20th century. She brought her skills to Shanghai and Hollywood, and finally to Tecate in Mexico, where in 1953, she opened her own yoga estate —just across the border from San Diego. Today, her legacy can be experienced at the renowned Rancho La Puerta, located near Devi’s original yoga hideaway. At the Ranch—as it’s called by its guests–, Devi developed a strong yoga program in 1955, which the resort still honors. With 3,000-acres at the foot of Baja’s mystical mountains, salubrious Rancho La Puerta restores and revitalizes its guests with healthy cuisine and more than 80 activities, from hiking to cooking to kickboxing. But, yoga fans can take advantage of varied yoga classes and Devi-infused retreats year round, many of them embracing a theme, such as Spirit Week: Yoga and Everyday Mindfulness in February and Prime of Life Yoga in March $1,393 and up, includes meals and all fitness classes. Rancholapuerta.com

Resort at Pedregal

Perhaps Los Cabos’ most swank address, this resort took a hit during last year’s unbridled Hurricane Odile. But, the storied Resort at Pedregal reopened better than ever and artfully re-imagined. Be among the first to experience the 24-acre site and its beach front villas. A new culinary component called the Champagne Terrace specializes in bubbles and canapes, but don’t let it lure you away from your yoga practice. Sign up for the Yoga Getaway and be under the tutelage of the curative Luna Y Mar Spa. With three private yoga classes, including an evening outdoor yoga/meditation, a spa treatment, and a luxurious beachside room, and butler-style service, regeneration is bound to happen. $525 and up per night. theresortatpedregal.com

Becca Hensley spent her summers in Mexico’s colonial city, Puebla, with her ex-pat grandfather. A widely published freelance writer, based in Austin, she has been practicing yoga since age 17, when she met a yoga master from Rishikesh, India.

 

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All Things French in the South of Fifth – Café Nikki Miami

Photo credit Gianfraco Bianchi

All photos  Gianfraco Bianchi

Start your day in the South of Fifth, neighborhood that is, while you’re transported to the South of France at Café Nikki, a new French cafe in the courtyard of Nikki Beach. Newly opened, this cafe offers coffees, teas, and delicious bakery items including croissants, quiches, and pastries. Freshly baked bread by Zac the Baker is also available as well as Allain Milliat marmalades. I just recently learned, from a dear British friend of mine, the appreciate of a fine European marmalade made readily available in the States. The outdoor terrace setting provides the perfect spot for stimulating conversation and getting the day off to a great start. Or cozy up inside the cafe among stacks of books, comfortable seating, and the bountiful case of enticing baked goods. We all know and love Nikki Beach for its idyllic setting for Sunday brunch and dancing the night away and now we can start the day right at Café Nikki, a welcomed addition, oui oui!

If you’re one of the lucky few to call the South of Fifth neighborhood home, enjoy free coffee now through September 30, 2015.

For more information please visit, www.nikkibeach.com

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The Resurgence of Vodka – Why You Should Rethink Your Drink

Elyx Vodka Recipe

Driving Miss Daisy photo courtesy of Elyx Vodka

The craft cocktail scene has taken the nation, and possibly the world, by storm – is a good way – for the past few years. Bartenders or mixologists have bravely taken us out of our comfort zones and have gotten us to not only like, but prefer, spirits we would never think of drinking, let alone order at the bar. You know the drill, a vodka soda, a vodka tonic, etc and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, welcome to the “new” world of luxury brand vodkas and rediscover this classic spirit worthy of a sip or two.

Photo courtesy of Elyx Vodka

Photo courtesy of Elyx Vodka

In the recent past, we wrote about Ultimat Vodka, a fine vodka that we, personally, enjoyed on the rocks with a simple twist in the stunning Riedel glasses that accompanied the cobalt blue decanter-style bottle. Welcome Elyx by a brand we know and trust, Absolut. The bottle alone is a work of art and one worthy of being on display. The brand debuted at a pop-up club of  Ian Schrager’s EDITION Hotel in Miami during Art Basel.

Curious about the copper pineapple pictured above? It’s symbolic of the filtration process done by hand in a 1921 copper rectification still, or a Column 51, as it’s called, and made entirely of copper.  The copper purifies the vodka and lends a silky texture and taste. While we enjoy a mixed drink, we enjoy this luxury vodka martini-style, up, cold, and a little dirty. For those who are more adventurous behind the bar, we’ve included a fabulous cocktail recipe below. As Keith Richards says, “I’ll have a screwdriver and throw a hammer in it!”  Take our word for it, this is is one heck of hammer!

Recipe:

Driving Miss Daisy

4 PARTS ABSOLUT ELYX
2 PARTS SWEET VERMOUTH
6 PARTS HIBISCUS FLOWER TEA
3 PARTS SUGAR SYRUP
2 PARTS FRESHLY SQUEEZED LEMON JUICE
2 THUMBNAIL SLICES GINGER

COPPER PINEAPPLE VESSEL, GARNISHED WITH EDIBLE FLOWERS

SHAKE AND STRAIN INTO COPPER PINEAPPLE OVER CUBED ICE. CAP WITH CRUSHED ICE AND GARNISH

 

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Fast Cars and Fabulous Hotels – Porsche and Four Seasons Pair Up

Porsche Headquarters Atlanta, GA

Porsche Headquarters Atlanta, GA

You already know we are big fans of Atlanta, when we wrote about a weekend getaway there,  and while there a stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta is the icing on the cake! When we learned that the stunning hotel hooked up with Porsche we couldn’t wait to find out more and share the news with you, our wonderful readers.

Porsche Experience Center

Porsche Experience Center

Porsche brings an extraordinary driving experience and has upped the ante with their Porsche Experience Center located in Atlanta, GA. The center features a 1.6 mile driver development track, a fine dining restaurant, classic car gallery, restoration center, human performance center, and driving simulator lab.

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta

Pairing up with Four Seasons and their “Extraordinary Experiences” program was a natural fit for Porsche. Customers of the Experience Center enjoy special VIP treatment at this Midtown Mecca including special rates and amenities, spa discounts and food and beverage credits. Fast cars + a fine hotel = a fabulous fit!

For more information please visit,  www.porschedriving.com/centers/Atlanta or www.fourseasons.com/atlanta

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