Labor Day Mix Tape

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Labor Day is upon us and it couldn’t have come at a better time. After working a grueling schedule to cover the MTV VMAs and Primetime Emmy Awards, I am in dire need of some R&R. For me, long holiday weekends are synonymous with lounging on the beach, sleeping in, and BBQs with my nearest and dearest.  As a former mix tape enthusiast, the approaching weekend also gives due cause to create the perfect playlist. After all, what is any weekend without a killer soundtrack? Follow Videndae on Spotify, play my mix tape all weekend long and check out Jenna’s Labor Day book suggestions here!

 

 

Book Smart

Weekend Reading

With the long holiday weekend just around the corner, I am looking forward to catching up on some reading. I like to have a mix of fiction and non-fiction in my line up, so I stopped by BookCourt and picked up Gone Girl (which I have been wanting to read for quite some time now), #GirlBoss, and a few others that I am eager to dive into. What have you all been reading this summer? We would love to hear what you recommend!

Gone Girl // One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories // The Vacationers // Outliers: The Story of Success // #GIRLBOSS // The Goldfinch

Neighborhood Watch: South Kensington

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They say London is a city of villages, and I fully agree.  South Kensington, where I have been a resident all of four months, certainly has the look and feel of a village.  There are many French here, something I noticed during our move-in when a parade of little girls marched by on their way to school dressed exactly like the storybook character Madeline!  The Lycée Français is located around the corner, as are so many lush gardens, cobblestone mews, world-class museums, elegant hotels, and foreign embassies.

Flat hunting in London was a challenge with our two dogs in tow.  My incredulous pleas “but they’re tiny Yorkshire terriers – they belong here!” didn’t help any in our initial search in the East; newer-construction head leases rendered dog-friendly inventory null. Our real estate agents suggested we look West, where we’d find older Victorian flats we could rent directly from the owners who might be more amenable to dogs.  Our dilemma was a total blessing in disguise because it led us directly to South Kensington – a friendly, well kept, and historical neighborhood where we are finding it quite easy to live.  Let me show you around.

Neighborhood scenes just off Gloucester Rd.

Neighborhood scenes just off Gloucester Rd.

Kensington Gardens
Central London, west of Hyde Park
SW10 9UG

“A fine place to exercise your dogs,” my neighbor informed me. Nearly every morning we start along the flower walk (a sure squirrel sighting, and my favorite for its perfumed air and quiet).  We traverse up through the orangerie to the round pond where Gus and Lola chase geese and sometimes cool off in the water.  Evenings and weekends all four of us will visit with a picnic.

Gus and the Kensington Gardens flower walk.

Gus and the Kensington Gardens flower walk.

Canopy overhead during a picnic in the lush Kensington Gardens orangerie.

Canopy overhead during a picnic in the lush Kensington Gardens orangerie.

Kynance Mews and Veterinary Clinic
8 Kynance Mews
SW7 4QP

Gus and Lola’s caring vet is located just inside the mews gates off Gloucester Rd. It is a cobblestone stretch of mews homes (which used to be horse stables that served the nearby Victorian mansions).  Kynance neighbors plant potted flowers and vegetables, and  the short passage is lush and glorious.

Kynance Mews Veterinary Clinic, the esteemed practice of Dr. Keith Butt and team.

Kynance Mews Veterinary Clinic, the esteemed practice of Dr. Keith Butt and team.

Queen’s Gate Gardens
Located at the intersection of Queen’s Gate Gardens and Gloucester Rd
SW7 5LY

This is the private garden located just in front of our flat. Families bring their young children here to play and read, picnic and enjoy nature. We feel so lucky to have easy access to this beautiful plot.

Queen's Gate Gardens, the private Victorian-style garden square that I call home.

Queen’s Gate Gardens, the private Victorian-style garden square that I call home.

Brompton Food Market 
33 Thurloe Pl
SW7 2HQ

When I’m not in a rush, I’ll visit Brompton to stock up on special pantry items, organic fresh produce from local farms, high-quality cheese and carefully selected alcohol & wine.  In the back there is a secret garden (as advertised on the blue sign out front) with many tables and chairs set up for noshing on fare from the take-away deli counter.

Brompton Food Market, a high quality provisioner with fresh produce, pantry items, and a secret garden.

Brompton Food Market, a high quality provisioner with fresh produce, pantry items, and a secret garden.

Fernandez and Wells
8 Exhibition Road
SW7 2HF

Purveyors of small bites and coffee; F&W is so boutiquey feeling that you would never guess it’s a chain.  This morning I ordered their “stumpy,” which is a flat white but with less milk – my new favorite thing.  Head here for a tapas-style dinner knocked back with a glass of Montillado sherry.

Fernandez & Wells: go for the flat white or stumpy, and stay for the small plates.

Fernandez & Wells: go for the flat white or stumpy, and stay for the small plates.

Victoria & Albert Museum
Cromwell Road (just east of Exhibition Road)
SW7 2RL

“Interesting, beautiful, free.” I especially appreciate the view of the crowned top that you can see from further west on Cromwell road.  Their museum store is well known, and they are neighbors with the Brompton Oratory church.

Recognizable by its architectural crown, V&A is "interesting, beautiful, and free."

Recognizable by its architectural crown, V&A is “interesting, beautiful, and free.”

The Natural History Museum
Cromwell Rd (due east of Queen’s Gate)
SW7 5BD

Wonderful for both children and adults, this playful museum is massive and has a west-facing garden.  Walking by, you notice the slate and sand colored brick facade which glows most beautifully at sunset.

View of the NHM via the garden.

View of the NHM via the garden.

The Ampersand Hotel
10 Harrington Rd
SW7 3ER

Although I have not spent a night here myself, the Ampersand comes highly recommended and I can attest that its restaurant Apero is a great spot for brunch.

Looking for a place to rest your head and heart in south kens? Ampersand boutique hotel is it.

Looking for a place to rest your head and heart in south kens? Ampersand boutique hotel is it.

Aux Merveilleux de Fred
88 Old Brompton Rd
SW7 3LQ

“The marvelous things that Fred makes…” Inside this bakery are many pieces of heaven. The classic merveilleux are tiny cakelike confections made of layers of merengue, but I go for the chocolat cramiques which are essentially brioche with flecks of dark chocolate.  I panicked when they closed for 2 weeks in August (how French!) but thankfully it was only for summer holiday. I have to be careful else I would eat here every day, they’re completely addicting.

Peeking into the marvellous French bakery. Is that Fred?!

Peeking into the marvellous French bakery. Is that Fred?!

The chocolat cramiques (soft brioche) are irresistable.

The chocolat cramiques (soft brioche) are irresistable.

La Bottega Italian Delicaffè
97 Old Brompton Road
SW7 3LD

My favorite place to bring the dogs and sit outdoors for a cappuccino and a quick sandwich.  Indoors the main staple is a giant deli counter with prepared foods and ready-to-grill sandwiches (prosciutto + arugula, mozzarella + tomato, etc.)  Meanwhile you will enjoy fabulous people watching (so international!)

La Bottega, a delicaffe run by Italians who do breakfast and lunch right.

La Bottega, a delicaffe run by Italians who do breakfast and lunch right.

The Hereford Arms
127 Gloucester Road
SW7 4TE

Our local watering hole, with “five star ales.” According to the pub, Sir James Barrie, author of Peter Pan, lived a few doors down on Gloucester Road.

The Hereford Arms.

The Hereford Arms.

DIY Office Succulent

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When one of my closest friends finally got the promotion she had been tirelessly working towards, I felt the need to acknowledge her with more than the obvious congratulatory champagne toast. Since the new title also came with it’s own office, I began brainstorming small items I could gift her to spruce up her new digs. I landed on the idea of a small desk succulent. It was easy to assemble, affordable and so cute that I even made one for myself!

You’ll Need:
Succulent or Cactus
Farmers Market Basket (Large)
Saran Wrap
Gravel
Cactus Soil
Lime Green Moss
Cardstock
Circle Paper Punch
Mini Alphabet Stamps
Black Stamp Pad
Wooden Skewers

 

Steps:
1. Line the inside of the farmers market basket with Saran wrap. Make sure all openings are covered.

2. Pour a layer of gravel onto the bottom of the basket. This layer should be about a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch deep.

3. Pour a layer of cactus soil.

4. Plant succulent in soil.

5. Cover soil with lime green moss.

6. Using the paper punch, cut out a circle  of cardstock and stamp your custom message on the paper.

7. Tape the back of the paper circle to a wooden skewer and place in the soil.

Voila!

Materials from left to right, top to bottom: succulent plant, farmers market basket with saran wrap lining and gravel, cactus soil layer, and lime green moss.

Materials from left to right, top to bottom: succulent plant, farmers market basket with saran wrap lining and gravel, cactus soil layer, and lime green moss.

Sweet desktop version for myself: work hard, be kind!

Sweet desktop version for myself: work hard, be kind!

 

The cactus version is just as low maintenance but adds a pop of red.

The cactus version is just as low maintenance but adds a pop of red.

 

A Glimpse…

Schindler House

My job takes me to many amazing places with wonderfully talented people and this summer was no exception. We recently hosted an event at the Schindler House in West Hollywood, and it is truly a must see.

Forklift Fun

I laughed non-stop with my team while in Denver this past weekend. Here is an example of 8 hour overnight load-in delirium.

Sketches by Beth Martin

Loved these whimsical sketches by the very talented Beth Martin for our “family day” event.

Cacao - Atlanta Chocolate Company

On a trip to Atlanta last week, I tried these sea salted chocolate covered caramels from Cacao and they changed my life. Cypress black sea salt took these to the next level.

New England Weekend Getaway

 My happy place. Sitting in an Adirondack chair while watching a New England sunset.

Hot Sauce Heaven

Crazy amounts of heat on this wall. A jalapeno jam came home with me.

 

 

Late Summer Weekend in Porto, Portugal

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As August draws to a close, I’m keenly aware that summer’s days are numbered. Luckily, living in London means I can chase the last rays of summer sun by hopping on a jetplane.  Warmer climes are only a couple hours’ flight away in places like Portugal, southern France, Italy, and Greece, whose shores stay sublime through September.  I don’t want this summer to end, and as I plan my next weekend away I’m reminded of the perfect break we took in Portugal this time last year.

Stephen and I spent our second wedding anniversary (and 11th year of being together) on a work trip to London last September. Our main topic of discussion was whether to move to Europe (heavy stuff, I know!)  After 5 busy days in London, we tacked on a long weekend in Porto.  Aside from the ease of access from London, we were drawn to Porto because of Rosa et al Townhouse, a tiny hotel that embodied the essence of the city of Porto with all its grit, grandeur, and secret gardens.

Rosa et al sits in the center of a young and vibrant art-driven community near the well-known Rua de Miguel Bombarda. We were attracted to the townhouse’s simple yet elegant midcentury-modern décor, and we felt at home. The small staff was nearly imperceptible as they bustled about in the background, but were available at the ring of a bell to cook a meal or organize your day.

Within walking distance of the townhouse were boutiques, galleries, cafes, and decrepit but beautiful buildings with colored-tile facades.  Stunning works of modern architecture juxtaposed with ancient cathedrals. You could wander the labyrinthine streets and stairwells down to the waterside and marvel at the skeletal bridges built by the firm of Gustavo Eiffel. If the heat was too much, you could cool off with a day swimming in pools carved into the cliffside facing the Atlantic. The food scene lacked for nothing; tiny bistros boasted hand-crafted cocktails, local wine tastings, and ocean or farm-fresh fare.

Back at Rosa et al, its entrance marked only by a large white door along Rua de Rosario, we lingered in the lush back garden for 5 o’clock tea. Music drifted from the kitchen, a mix of jazz and American Motown, and smells of freshly-baked bread wafted in the air. It was heaven.

The owner Patricia told us the townhouse was a labor of love she undertook with her brother, an architect. She explained how a new generation of like-minded young Portuguese, hit hard by the recession and armed with education in art and design, had ambitions to rejuvenate Porto from the inside out. There were no jobs available so they created work for themselves. You could see evidence of their movement in the details: a fresh wine label for an old estate, a small organic grocer, upstart clothing designers, a classic brand of Portuguese fish in oil re-packaged with a colorful graphic attractive enough to grace the shelves of MoMa. To this generation it was important to preserve the essence of ancient Porto, but lovingly restore bits of it in order to keep the city alive. Porto’s transformation is underway; now is the time to visit.

Trip Notes

Accommodations: Rosa et al Townhouse (from 99 euros), Pensao Favorita (from 70 euros), Gallery Hostel (from 20 euros)

Restaurants: Book, Confeitaria do bolhao (for pasteis de nata – custard tarts), Mercado do Bom Sucesso, Urban Cicle Café (bike rentals + coffee), Casinha, Restaurante traca, O Paparico (classical, slightly upscale Portuguese dining)

Visit: Porto Cruz (wine tasting), Quintal Bioshop (organic grocer), Mercado do Bolhão, Ponte Luis 1 Bridge, Igr. Sto Ildefonso Church, Piscina das Mares (northwest of Porto along Avenida Liberdade), Rua de Miguel Bombarda

Hazy late summer panorama over Porto.

Hazy late summer panorama over Porto.

Rosa Et Al Townhouse in Porto, Portugal.

Rosa Et Al Townhouse in Porto, Portugal.

Mid-century modern furnishings in a guestroom at Rosa Et Al.

Mid-century modern furnishings in a guestroom at Rosa Et Al.

 

Pont de Luis I bridge designed by the architecture firm of Gustavo Eiffel.

Pont de Luis I bridge designed by the architecture firm of Gustavo Eiffel.

Cathedral in Porto with its classical colored-tile facade.

Cathedral in Porto with its classical colored-tile facade.

View over Porto.

View over Porto.

Walking along Avenida Liberdade facing the Atlantic.

Walking along Avenida Liberdade facing the Atlantic.

Hidden in Venice: LA Foodshop

Communal Dining Table at LA Foodshop photo credit: Myra Vides

photo credit: Myra Vides

Deep in the heart of Venice sits a nondescript warehouse that is home to one of Los Angeles’ most special semi-secret culinary treasures. LA Foodshop, the brain child of food enthusiasts Hyejin Cho and Itay Zach, offers a communal dining experience complete with a massive family style table, dreamy candlelight, hanging Edison bulbs, mismatched dinnerware, and a musician playing calming, yet familiar tunes on his acoustic guitar. But the romantic and unusual dining environment is only a drop in the proverbial bucket.

photo credit: Myra Vides

Mismatched dinnerware at LA Foodshop before the crowd shuffles in // photo credit: Myra Vides

Last month I had the great pleasure of participating in the underground experience that I had long heard whisperings of. The meal, which was prepared on site and spanned the course of three hours, began with homemade peach sangria to loosen up the guests and initiate conversation between the neighboring foodies.

The sweet sounds of an acoustic guitar filled the air at LA Foodshop // photo credit: Myra Vides

The sweet sounds of an acoustic guitar filled the air at LA Foodshop // photo credit: Myra Vides

As exchanges between the ravenous Angelenos escalated with comfort, it was easy to take a look around the dusty garage filled with wall-to-wall with power tools and wood scraps and wonder if the suggested donation of $65 would be money well spent. However, any doubt or suspicion was quickly put to rest after the first course was placed in front of us and as the scents of the courses to follow wafted in from the kitchen. Good conversation interlaced with steak frites, mussels, and cauliflower salad – it was suddenly all too clear why traditional restaurants and ill-conceived one-offs flounder in comparison.

It is in these settings that a true sense of community is established around a common passion. The ambiance, soul, and the warm heart of the evening is profound and unrivaled by any conventional dining experience. It wasn’t just dinner out on the town. We wandered into LA Foodshop inquisitive and emerged satiated and inspired.

Grilled mushroom at LA Foodshop // photo credit: Myra Vides

Grilled mushroom at LA Foodshop // photo credit: Myra Vides

About LA Foodshop:
1) LA Foodshop was founded by Hyejin Cho and Itay Zach, two architects and self-proclaimed foodies who liked cooking together with their friends. LA Food Shop grew organically over time into what it is today.

2) Menus are created by Hyejin and Itay at the end of each month. Once the menu is set, an email is sent out to their email list of previous diners. Reservations are made on a first to respond basis and requests for groups as large as 5 are permitted. If you have not previously dined with Foodshop, reservations can be requested via their website.

3) Foodshop is BYOB. The meal generally opens with one house made cocktail, but thence forth it is up to you to provide your beverage of choice.

Wardrobe Update: Frame Denim

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The moment I begin sensing autumn in the late August air, my mind ignores the 80 degree temps and begins dreaming of chunky knits and cashmere shawls. Don’t get me wrong…I love warm weather, but when it comes to investing in new clothing I tend to gravitate towards long sleeves, leather jackets, and boots, no matter what the season.

So with fall right around the corner, I couldn’t wait to update my wardrobe with a few autumn/winter staples I have been coveting this season. Starting off with the basics, I recently purchased two pairs of Frame Denim: one pair of Le Skinny De Jeanne (a classic skinny jean) and one pair of Le Garcon (more of a relaxed fit).

As a person who is constantly searching for the perfect skinny jean, the Frame Le Skinny de Jeanne is the closest I’ve found. They are extremely flattering, comfortable, and have the ideal amount of stretch. With a perfectly narrow 10.5″ leg opening, Le Skinny also has the versatility to be cuffed or rolled. I wear mine to work with an Equipment Silk Blouse and a pair of Rag & Bone booties for a simple, classic look.

Frame’s Le Garcon is an entirely different fit, but this pair is equally as comfortable and flattering. Soft, slouchy and laid-back, I have deemed these my go-to weekend jeans! In between a boyfriend cut and a slim fit, Le Garcon achieves an effortless cool style (without ever looking overly baggy) that can easily be taken from day to night. I especially love the gently faded Berkeley Square wash.

Given that both pairs of jeans fit me perfectly on the first try, I can honestly say that Frame is my new favorite brand of denim and is an essential for every closet! Can’t decide which style is for you? Get inspired by their gorgeous FW 14 campaign and pick up a pair (or two) at any of these stockists.

Frame Denim 3Frame Denim 1Frame Denim 5Frame Denim 2Frame Denim 4Frame Denim 6

Image Credits: Courtesy of Frame Denim

Date Night: The Electric Cinema

Electric_Cinema_Portobello_Road_Facade-1

Despite its fame, the Electric Cinema still feels like a marvelous secret hidden in plain view on Portobello Road.  Hands down the best date-night spot in London, the historic 65-seat cinema is more than a place to catch a flick.  Order up a delicious burger and a bottle of wine, sink into a deep leather armchair and rest your heels on the cushioned ottoman. Feeling that trace of autumn in the London air? Reach for that cashmere blanket stowed inside the ottoman drawer. You can even reserve a sofa or a double bed for unparalleled movie-going comfort!  There is nothing like it…

Currently under lease by the Soho House Group, this unique affair is not limited to the cinema alone; they also run the neighboring Electric Diner and Electric House.  Originally built in 1911, the theatre space has survived two world wars and has donned many faces in its lifetime.  We were fascinated to read about its rich history that they’ve carefully kept alive. You feel it in the air.

Movie Programming includes a thoughtful mix of new releases, classics, and cult films.  We always book online and tickets start from 18GBP depending on your seat of choice. Peruse their smart website and you’ll find Electric also hosts special events such as Edible Cinema where “taste, aroma and texture [are used to] heighten the viewer’s sensory experience of the film.” Parents take note, Electric also has a Kids Club that screens family-friendly shows.

Doors open about 10 minutes before the featured screening time; this is when you queue up at the in-cinema bar and fill your wooden tray with gourmet food + bevs.  Our menu favorites include the pea and mint dip + croutons, the single cheeseburger, honey fried chicken, raw vegetables salad, and the “good” bottle of red.  Also on offer is bubbly in the form of champagne, prosecco or draught beer, plus a full espresso bar to keep you from snoring through lulls (you know who you are). If you have a sweet tooth like me, grab a mini-popcorn box from the boxoffice teller and for 3.50GBP you can chock it full of penny candy from the old-timey “pick ‘n mix” sweets display.

In the words of one-time owner Martin Davis, “The Electric is special and the most wonderful environment to see cinema in London.”  Follow my lead, and you might just score that second date.

The restored theatre with its original 20th century arch surrounding the screen.

The restored interior of the small theatre, with its original arch surrounding the screen.

The "pick 'n mix" candy bar.  It's a slippery slope.

The “pick ‘n mix” candy bar. It’s a slippery slope.

The beautifully tiled entranceway.

The beautifully tiled entranceway.

 

Post-theatre scene: exit onto historic Portobello road at sunset.

Post-theatre scene: exit onto historic Portobello road at sunset.

Electric Cinema
191 Portobello Road
Notting Hill, London
W11 2ED
Box Office Tel: +44 020 7908 9696

Farmers’ Market Feta Three Ways

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One of my favorite ways to spend the weekend is with a trip to the Melrose Place Farmers’ Market. I spend my Sundays stocking up on fresh produce and planning out healthy and colorful meals for the week and I find inspiration as I peruse each of the different vendor’s stands. I will often challenge myself to dream up hors d’oeuvres or small meals that I can prepare quickly and easily for friends that might stop by unannounced (this happens more often that you might think). This Sunday I was drawn to the cheese stand and imagined making feta spreads three ways to serve with a toasted baguette. I stocked up on a few items to combine with the fresh feta in different variations– spinach, jalapeno, sundried tomatoes, garlic, and basil. Lo and behold, that evening a friend called to say that he would be in the neighborhood and would be stopping by – so I was able to put my concoction to the test!  The result was simple yet delicious. No muss, no fuss. And this morning I added one of the feta mixtures to my egg whites for a quick and easy omelet!

Spicy Jalapeno Feta Spread

Ingredients:
2 cups Feta
½ – 1 ½ cups Jalapeno (depending on your preference)
½ cup Spinach
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Steps:
1. Add ingredients to food processor.
2. Pulse to chop and blend ingredients.

Prep for the jalapeno spinach feta spread.

Prep for the Spicy Jalapeno Feta Spread.

Sundried Tomato and Basil Feta Spread

Ingredients:
2 cups Feta
¾ cup Sundried Tomatoes
½ cup Spinach
1 – 2 Garlic cloves (depending on your preference)
4 Basil leaves
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Steps:
1. Add ingredients to food processor.
2. Pulse to chop and blend ingredients.

Prep for the sundried tomato, spinach, basil, garlic and feta spread.

Ingredients for Sundried Tomato and Basil Feta Spread.

Spinach and Garlic Feta Spread

Ingredients:
2 cups Feta
1 cup Spinach
1 – 2 Garlic cloves (depending on your preference)
2 tablespoons Olive Oil

Steps:
1. Add ingredients to food processor.
2. Pulse to chop and blend ingredients.

Simple spinach and garlic feta spread.

Spinach and Garlic Feta Spread ready for the food processor.