In Bruges

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Known as the “Venice of the north,” Bruges is an über-clean, idyllic Belgian village.  Its landscape is stitched together with a network of canals that are crossed by cobblestone bridges, where swans and families of ducks peacefully coexist.  The waterfront-facing architecture is a mix of modern renovation and richly-colored stone homes with lacy, stepped-roof facades in the traditional Flemish style.  Bruges is an easy 3hr train ride from London, so a weekend escape here is simple and requires little planning.  The only worry will be how to lose the kilo or two you’ll gain from eating all the delicious moules frites, crisp Belgian crafted beers, waffles, chocolate and cheese! Read on for our Videndae guide to Bruges.

Stay:

The townhouse Ter Dwignen is technically a boutique hotel, but felt like a B&B.   The rooms were cozy and clean, and you cannot beat the freshly-squeezed orange juice with your morning breakfast!  The owners and staff are jovial and brimming with local knowledge.

Visit/Do:

The city is extremely dense and walkable so stay on foot for meandering through the cobblestoned streets of Bruges.   If you wish to expand your reach, travel as the locals do and ride a bicycle!  There are several purveyors, but we recommend the rental shop at the southeast end of the ‘t Zand market for the best selection of Lombardi bikes. While you’re there don’t forget to roll through the north end of the ‘t Zand Food Market and sample the local cheese.

On a crisp sunny day, motivated by good spirits and a sense of adventure (or “if you are in a good mood,” as our B&B proprietor put it) it is easy to bike the 25 minute ride northwest from Bruges to the town of Damme.  The route follows a canal that is lined with linden trees and is paved with a special path that safely segregates bikes from car traffic.   Along the way you will pass a sweet red windmill, and you are able to visit the interior to see the process of grinding down different grains into powder.   Once you arrive in Damme having worked up a nice appetite, there are a plethora of options for lunch.

Although to some a Canal Boat Tour might sound ultra touristic, you’d be missing out if you didn’t take the chance to observe Bruges from the perspective of the canals.  No need to pre-book – just seek out one of the kiosks vending tickets along the waterways.

On the hunt for a Sunday evening scene we found a buzzy live-music bistro called ‘t Zwart Huis.  The blues band was top notch, the room was packed, the food & beer was excellent, and we were thrilled to discover a fireplace roaring in the back.

Despite its small size, Bruges rivals any major European city for shopping.  There are plenty of boutiques and recognizable brands up and down the main arteries heading south west from the central Market Square. Along Geldmuntstraat (which becomes Noordzandstraat), look for the shop called L’Heroine which stocks a variety of independent labels.

Eat/Drink:

Here’s the main event!  Bruges is a foodie’s haven.  If you so choose, you can research and book a table for your meal in advance, but there really is no need to.  As you stroll along it is easy to stumble across good-quality restaurants, cafés, bistros, bars, chocolate shops, waffle stands, you name it!  Here is a selection of notable watering holes and eateries that we found while wandering: Bistro Maurice‘t TerrastjeDe Garret’ Bruges Beertje.

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Trip Notes:

Stay: Ter Dwignen

Visit/Do: Rent bikes, ‘t Zand Food MarketCanal Boat Tour, Ride to Damme, shopping at L’Heroine, live music at ‘t Zwart Huis

Eat: Bistro Maurice‘t TerrastjeDe Garret’ Bruges Beertje

Grown Up Grilled Cheese Two Ways

grown up grilled cheese

Sunday afternoons in the Stephens household growing up were synonymous with a comforting plate of grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. As a child with a rather limited palate, this was my version of a happy meal and I couldn’t wait to get home from Sunday school so I could dig in. Despite being in my 30s (gulp!) and having developed a more sophisticated and adventurous palate, I still crave the classic American meal from time to time. Sunday was National Grilled Cheese Day and seemed the perfect opportunity to take my sandwich game to the next level. Check out my grown up grilled cheese two ways and let me know how you make your grilled cheese a little fancier in the comments section below!

Grilled Nectarine with Burrata, Prosciutto, Arugula, and Balsamic Reduction Grilled Cheese
Total Time: 15 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients: 

2 slices of bread (I used sourdough)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 nectarine
2 medium sized burrata balls
4 thin slices of prosciutto
1 handful of arugula
1/2 tablespoon balsamic reduction

grown up grilled cheese

All the ingredients for a fresh and grown up grilled cheese: arugula, nectarine, prosciutto, burrata, and a balsamic reduction.

Steps:

1. Begin by making your balsamic reduction. Pour a cup of balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the heat to a boil without reducing the heat on the stove.
2. At this point, turn down the heat so that boil reduces to a simmer. Stir occasionally and allow to simmer until the vinegar has reduced by at least half.
3. Allow to cool and set aside.
4. Slice nectarines thinly and grill for 1 minute on each side. Remove from heat and set aside.
5. Spread burrata on one slice of bread. Layer on arugula, prosciutto, and grilled nectarines.
6. Drizzle balsamic reduction on top of layers and close sandwich with second slice of bread.
7. Spread thin layer of butter over outside slices of bread.
8. Heat pan for 2 minutes on medium heat before grilling sandwich.
9. Place sandwich on heated pan, reducing heat to medium/low.
10. Once the bread is a golden brown, flip and repeat.
11. Once the bead is a golden brown, remove from heat and enjoy.

grown up grilled cheese

Sweet and savory perfection!

 

Pear with Brie, Walnuts, Dried Cranberries, and Honey Grilled Cheese
Total Time: 10 minutes
Serves: 2

Ingredients:
2 slices of bread (I used sourdough)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pear
1/2 wedge of brie
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup dried cranberries
2 tablespoons honey

grown up grilled cheese

A sweet take on grown up grilled cheese: pear, walnuts, dried cranberries, brie and a drizzle of honey.

Steps:
1. Slice pears thinly and set aside.
2. Lay down thin slices of brie on one slice of bread. Layer on walnuts, dried cranberries, and pear slices.
3. Drizzle honey on top of layers and close sandwich with second slice of bread.
4. Spread thin layer of butter over outside slices of bread.
5. Heat pan for 2 minutes on medium heat before grilling sandwich.
6. Place sandwich on heated pan, reducing heat to medium/low.
7. Once the bread is a golden brown, flip and repeat.
8. Once the bead is a golden brown, remove from heat and enjoy.

grown up grilled cheese

All the yummy layers before hitting the grill.

 

grown up grilled cheese

A sophisticated twist on my childhood favorite.

A Glimpse…

Sipping an end-of-lunchtime espresso at Terroirs.

Sipping an after-lunchtime espresso at Terroir in London.

 

Cherry blossoms in bloom inside Regent’s Park.

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A favorite Marylebone haunt, the Natural Kitchen, has the best seasonal produce for on-the-go snacking!

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I adore custom neon letter art and I would love to find a small piece for my own home.

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Admiring the home-like vibe inside Club Monaco on Sloane Square.

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Lovely red ranunculus caught my eye in these mini bouquets!

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My most comfortable new sneaks, Chuck Taylor all star high tops.  I realized they’re a wardrobe essential…

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Studying for my French class al fresco one sunny day at Thomas Cubitt, an excellent gastropub near Pimlico.

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Museum breaks at the Portrait Gallery. Third column from the left, second row: he’s my fave.

A Smarter Way to Clean to Enjoy #MoreSpring

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Jenna's bathroom was cleaned to perfection after a visit from Homejoy!

Spring has finally sprung! This weekend in Brooklyn, we had 60 degree temps and we’ve been spotting daffodils at every corner deli.  After spending an impossibly long NYC winter stuck indoors (we’re talking snowflakes just last week…) we’re dying to pack away our thick layers!  Over in LA, the sun is out and the high temperature has justified leisurely trips to the beach. We are so excited to spend these beautiful Spring days dining al fresco, drinking rose at Malibu Wines, and taking long hikes along Runyon Canyon with friends.

Spring is also the time of year that inspires new beginnings and fresh starts. Come April, we inevitably get the itch to hit the reset button, fling the windows open, and tackle a deep clean of our homes and closets. But given our jam-packed schedules, devoting an entire weekend to a proper Spring cleaning is simply not realistic, no matter how badly we want to freshen up!  Jenna travels relentlessly, producing events all over the country and Hallie wakes at 2AM to get prepped for the camera as the celebrity news cycle never stops!  Time is our greatest luxury and we are always striving to spend it wisely.

We both knew we needed help cleaning our homes, but we have never been able to find the right solution. Most of our friends found their housekeepers or home organizers through word-of-mouth and while that method does work sometimes, it can also be tricky and requires some trial and error. Jenna tried a service in NYC that was very inconsistent. Sometimes her apartment would be spotless after being cleaned by a top-rated professional, and other times it looked like it hadn’t been cleaned at all! Hallie had her share of difficulty finding a service she could rely on. In fact, the professionals she hired would often either A) not show up at all for the scheduled appointment or B) cancel an hour before the appointment. Imagine the stress of throwing a dinner party and having that last minute cancellation. Oh the stress!

Homejoy

It’s time to open your windows and enjoy Spring!

Enter Homejoy, a new platform that connects cleaning professionals with clients like us. When we were invited to try their services we felt our prayers were being answered. This young company has figured out that we are all looking for automated solutions that are trustworthy, efficient and simplify our busy 21st-century lives.

The process of booking a cleaning appointment was quick and painless. After answering a few short questions about our space (number of bedrooms, bathrooms, whether or not we have pets or carpeting) we were prompted to choose a date, time, and frequency (one time only, once a week, once a month, etc) for our appointment.  We also had the option of paying an additional $5 to have the cleaning professional provide their own cleaning products.  We especially liked that we could request non-toxic cleaning products to protect our family and four-legged friends from harsh chemicals (we are total advocates of this – remember Brooke’s DIY for natural cleaning products?). After entering a few specific needs and special preferences (change bed sheets, clean window sills, vacuum behind furniture, pay special attention to floors) our appointment was booked with the click of a button.

Knowing that every cleaning professional on the Homejoy platform has been screened and background checked really put our minds at ease; the requirement for each professional to maintain stellar customer reviews also ensures you will get someone who does a consistently good job. Homejoy also offers a “preferred cleaner” feature, allowing customers to request the same cleaning professional again and again.

Homejoy App

The convenient Homejoy app allows you to schedule your cleaning appointments anytime, anywhere!

Jenna’s Experience:

I scheduled a 2.5 hour Homejoy appointment on a Saturday morning and I couldn’t be happier with the result! The cleaning professional (Yvette) courteously texted me to let me know she was on her way and that she was going to be slightly early. Upon her arrival, I gave her a (very quick) tour of my one bedroom apartment and was extremely impressed that she was able to recount all of the special needs and preferences I called out in my booking! I had a few errands to run and a gym appointment to attend, so I left Yvette to work her magic on my neglected apartment. When I returned a few hours later, I was absolutely floored (pun intended). My apartment was literally sparkling and smelled wonderfully fresh (not at all of chemicals). As I walked around, I noticed she had gone the extra mile and made up my bed with brand new sheets, organized the items on my bedside table, windexed all of my mirrored furniture (bar cart and console table), thoroughly mopped the floors, and even cleaned on TOP of my refrigerator! My apartment was cleaned to perfection in the time it took me to go to the gym, grab a coffee and do a little farmers market shopping, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Homejoy gave me more time to enjoy the things I love, and freed me from spending hours cleaning my home! Yvette did a beautiful job, and I truly felt it was worth every penny.

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Yvette made up my bed with fresh sheets and even straightened up the items on my nightstand!

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My windows were sparkling, my pillows were arranged perfectly and my hard wood floors were meticulously cleaned!

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My kitchen was spotless, and Yvette even cleaned on top of the refrigerator!

Hallie’s Experience:

I scheduled a 3.5 hour Homejoy appointment (the suggested time allotment for my 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home) on Tuesday morning, bright and early. After having my parents in town for 9 full days, my place was in dire need of a deep cleaning. Sand from our trips to the beach had made its way into the house and the bathroom and kitchen were in need of a little T.L.C. I recieved a text from Homejoy while I was at work informing me that Herbert, my cleaning professional, had arrived at 5:55am, 5 minutes before the scheduled appointment time! When I came home later in the afternoon from a grueling day at the studio, I was delighted to find that my place was the cleanest it has ever been. The floors were spotless, the surfaces dust-free, the bathroom and kitchen (my least favorite spaces to clean) had been scrubbed to perfection, and the beds were made to hotel standards. Herbert paid close attention to detail, fluffing the pillows on the sofa, arranging the books, candles, and flowers on my coffee table and even displaying my nightstand items in the most pleasing manner. It felt like Christmas morning and I was 5-years-old all over again – giddy and grinning ear-to-ear. Thanks to Homejoy and Herbert, my afternoon was spent catching up with an old friend at Alfred Coffee & Kitchen and not scrubbing the bathroom floors.

Hallie's Living Room

Herbert fluffed my pillows perfectly, dusted every surface and even styled the items on my coffee table!

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The floors were swept and mopped so thoroughly that not a trace of our beach adventure was in site.

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Herbert arranged my nightstand in the sweetest manner: iPad, gratitude journal, votive, bud vase, alarm clock and all.

We were over-the-moon with the service Homejoy provided!  Not only did they leave our homes spotless but they freed up our time to do the things we really want to do this Spring (hello flower mart / farmer’s market / patio dining). While we know that we will have to dedicate a few hours to organizing our closets and decluttering our drawers (check back next week for our tips on home organization), Homejoy cleared up the time that it would have taken to do the dreaded deep clean.  Ultimately we were given the gift of time to enjoy our favorite season and we couldn’t be more grateful. #MoreSpring!

Homejoy is generously offering Videndae readers $25 off their first Homejoy cleaning! They are located in 30 cities across the US and Europe, so click here to find the Homejoy professionals in your area!  Book your appointment today and let us know how you’ll be spending your extra free time by hashtagging #MoreSpring and #Videndae on Instagram and Twitter!

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(This post is in partnership with Homejoy. While we occasionally feature sponsored posts, all opinions are our own! Videndae chooses to work only with companies and brands that are a natural fit to our philosophy and style. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Videndae!)

Link Love: Saturday Edition

Saturday Link Love

Wishing everyone a happy holiday weekend! I am working on getting my apartment organized today and I am really looking forward to having a casual Easter dinner with friends tomorrow! What are you up to? We would love to hear from you…but in the meantime, here are a few of our favorite links from around the web this week:

1. 9 do’s and don’ts of interviewing for a job.

2. Taking cues from these top runway nail looks from Spring 2015!

3. How much do you love these gorgeous easter egg DIY ideas?

4. Sanda Bienkowski sharing her life lessons in 48 Things I Know for Sure.

5. This amazes me…and makes me smile.

6. How to cuff your jeans like a pro!

7. This 20 minute, full-body workout is a killer (in a good way)!

8. 15 amazing Easter Brunch recipes!

9. 20 embarrassing phrases even smart people misuse!

Ombré Easter Eggs

Ombre Easter Eggs

I could literally ombré everything.  My hair, a layered cake – you name it – I want to ombré it. Since the Easter bunny is a mere hop, skip, and jump away I was inspired to make ombré Easter eggs. I had recently read about coloring eggs with natural products from the kitchen and was game for the challenge. The result was everything I was hoping for and more! I opted for a cool blue ombré using cabbage but the options are endless! Red wine, green tea, turmeric powder, blueberries, red onion skins, saffron, coffee and beets can also be used to achieve rich and beautiful dye.

You Will Need
1 Head of Red Cabbage
Knife
Water (enough to cover your eggs with an inch to spare in the large pot)
Large Pot
Colander
Large Bowl
Vinegar (1 tablespoon per 2 cups of water – I guesstimated here)
Eggs

Steps
1. Hard boil eggs and set aside.
2. Chop half of a red cabbage and put it into a large pot with water.
3. Bring the water to a boil for about 30 minutes.
4. Using a colander, drain the cabbage water into a large bowl (if you want your eggs to have a more textured look, do not drain the cabbage).
5. Add 1 tablespoon of vinegar per 2 cups of water.
6. Gently add the eggs into the dye and let them soak in the refrigerator. The longer the eggs soak, the darker they will become. In order to achieve the deep tone of the darkest egg, I let them soak overnight.

Ombre Easter Eggs

When you are ready to eat your ombré eggs, make these killer Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs.

I’m also loving these DIY Easter egg ideas:
Glitter Eggs
Sprinkle Eggs
Painterly Easter Eggs
Golden Leaf Eggs
Washi Tape Eggs
Black & White Eggs