The holidays are a hectic time. If you live in New York, they can be dizzying, and even maddening.
Each year though, I vow to savor them, and not just admire those glittery strings of white lights in passing on my commute home from work.
Even parties this time of year seem stressful, which is why it’s important to slow things down.
Forgoing my seasonal open [field]house with passed and stationed hor d’oeuvres, and a galvanized tin filled with BYOB bubbly, I opted for an intimate brunch instead. I set aside a Saturday to pause, reflect, cook, and surround myself in good company. Because that’s what the holidays are all about.
If you, too, are looking to slow down and celebrate the holidays, here are some tips for making them memorable, even on a budget, and in a small New York City apartment.
1. Take time to plan your menu
Eggs are cheap and easy. Add some tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella, and you’ve got yourself a festive crowd-pleaser. Make sure to balance the naughty and nice dishes, too.
Here’s the menu I planned:
2. Keep the decor simple
Although there is nothing I love more than the scent of fresh pine (my latest obsession is Stonewall Kitchen’s Maine Woods collection), buying a wreath or a tree is expensive in the city. And when I used to walk out my door to bring the outdoors in for free, it’s hard to muster up the thought of actually paying for it. Instead, opt for fragrant branches or other seasonal greenery that can be put into a vase. A little goes a long way.
For other easy decor, I like to thread the holiday cards I receive with a red satin ribbon and string them as garland in my kitchen. It’s nice to be in good company while I cook.
3. Keep the table simple
Printed, personalized menus are a little touch that goes a long way. They’re impressive to look at, even when printed on standard computer paper. It means you’ve put time into the meal, and everyone loves to see their name. I used pinecones and tea lights as the centerpiece (knowing that there would be barely enough room for four wine glasses). I’ve always found that paper napkins can generously carry the theme of any party — and it’s cheaper than a tablecloth, napkins, plates, etc. It’s not frugal, it’s tactful.
4. Make spirits bright
Go ahead, turn that Yule Log on. Get your holiday playlist going (I use Pandora’s Christmas Classics). And light those tea lights (and opt for a scented one in the bathroom).
My holiday brunch began at 1pm and went until about 7:30pm. I’d say it was a success.
All was not calm, but all was most certainly bright.