For those seeking a useful way to spend their time during social distancing—or anyone simply interested in forging a deeper connection with their homes—HB has launched Home Love, a series of daily tips and ideas to make every minute indoors more productive (and gratifying!).
It was my birthday last month, which seemed like a good excuse to slip into an A-line dress and put on earrings, a luxury I hadn’t partaken of in more than five weeks of low ponytails and yoga pants, thanks to social distancing. I made a chocolate-sour cream Bundt cake that my boyfriend and I devoured in 48 hours, and we had a virtual dinner with friends who were just a 20-minute walk away, eating mezze delivered to us from the same Mediterranean restaurant in our respective Budapest apartments. I wasn’t on a planned trip to Norway, as I had hoped to be, but I was healthy. That was reason enough to pour another glass of the Italian white wine I had been holding on to for almost a year, and rejoice.
Like Easter, Passover, and St. Patrick’s Day, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and imminent annual celebrations such as Mother’s Day and Cinco de Mayo have inevitably been upended in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Squashing once-jubilant plans is certainly disheartening, but staying at home doesn’t mean that these events should skid by without a little fanfare.
According to Emma Carpenter, a marriage and family therapist at A Better Life Therapy in Philadelphia, honoring these moments is more important than ever now. “Over the past couple of months, the world around us has completely changed, leaving many people feeling unstable. Maintaining rituals of connection help us hold on to some sense of normalcy in all of this,” she says. By getting dressed up and making a favorite meal, say, on a wedding anniversary, “you're gifting each other with the feelings of love and security that are so desperately needed in these dark and confusing times.”
Anxiety is pummeling all of us in different ways right now, but acknowledging an exceptional day with some indoor revelry will work wonders on your psyche. Here are six different ways to brighten round-the-clock routines.
Shake up original cocktails
Come Cinco de Mayo, bars are typically thronged with patrons, frosty Margaritas in hand. Elicit that same festive atmosphere in your own living room by upgrading ho-hum taco night with a libation starring smoky mezcal. Alex Negranza, bar manager at March, the forthcoming Houston restaurant from Goodnight Hospitality, recommends savoring it in his whip-up-in-the-blender Mezcal Escape, which pairs the agave spirit with the Czech herbal liqueur Becherovka, pineapple, honeydew melon, lime juice, and simple syrup. “I think everyone is wishing they could escape their house and sit on a beach and relax,” he says. “This tropical cocktail was designed to give you vacation vibes.” Bonus: Sans the booze, it still makes for a delightful afternoon quencher.
The Mezcal Escape (Serves two)
4 ounces pineapple chunks
4 ounces honeydew melon
2 ounces fresh lime juice
1 ½ ounces simple syrup or agave syrup
3 1/2 ounces mezcal of your choice (Negranza uses Mezcal Vago Espadin or Rey Campero Espadin)
1 ounce Becherovka
Add ingredients, plus 8 ounces of ice, into blender. Mix. Remove from blender and pour into glasses.
On celebratory evenings where Mexico doesn’t serve as muse, Sean Umstead, co-owner of Kingfisher Bar in Durham, NC, suggests giving the Martini—undoubtedly a Cocktail-Hour favorite already in heavy rotation—the herbal treatment with the Herby Quarantini. “Steeping hardy, pungent herbs like rosemary, sage, or thyme in your gin 10 to 20 minutes before you’re ready to make a Martini elevates and changes a classic formula without too much extra work,” he says.
The Herby Quarantini
2 ounces Beefeater gin
1ounce Boissiere dry vermouth
3-4 sprigs of rosemary, thyme, or sage.
Add the herbs to your gin at least 10 minutes before you are ready to make your drink. Lightly press them with a muddler or wooden spoon. Let steep until you are ready to make the drink. Remove the herb sprigs and combine the gin and vermouth. Stir with ice for 30-45 seconds until ice cold. Strain into a stemmed glass and garnish with a lemon twist, herb sprig, or a salty touch like an olive, onion, or pickled vegetable.
Home bartenders eager to weave some new glassware into their repertoire should consider the Elyx Cocktail Balloon Gift set. A glam, eco-friendly alternative to floating helium balloons, these oversized copper vessels are cheerful and visually alluring, exactly what you want to be sipping from during virtual fêtes.
Throw a virtual party
While you may not be able to serve up those cocktails to your friends in person, invite them to FaceTime or Zoom for a distanced catch-up.To make the group feel more connected, try sharing one drink or dinner recipe ahead of time and have everyone make the same thing to enjoy together, virtually. Or, for something more structured, check out our list of virtual activity ideas here.
Make a simple dinner that feels fancy
Kenny Gilbert, who has cooked for Oprah Winfrey and is gearing up to open a restaurant in Raleigh, NC, offers a fuss-free suggestion that feels fresh: red quinoa and jasmine rice congee. Place leftover cooked rice and quinoa into a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. “Add fresh minced ginger and small diced onion with a little salt,” Gilbert points out. “Cool until the congee is a porridge consistency.” Garnishes, whether it’s a soft-poached egg, crispy sausage, or basil, are all up to you—and what’s conveniently sitting in your fridge. “Its versatile. You can go super simple or elegant. I personally love adding lots of fresh cilantro, sesame, chiles, light soy, and sambal,” he says.
Another easy way to add panache to any simple meal? Caviar, says Julia Sullivan, the chef/owner at Henrietta Red and the Party Line in Nashville. And, despite what you may think, it doesn't have to be fancy: “My dad used lumpfish roe, which you can find near the tinned fish at a typical supermarket," she says. "The lumpfish roe is preserved with salt, deliciously balanced by sour cream. He served it with Carr’s Table Water Crackers.”
Buy an offbeat bottle
Sparkling wine often makes cameos during special occasions, but there’s no need to splurge on a pricey bottle of Champagne. Brent Kroll, wine director/partner at Albi and proprietor/sommelier at Maxwell Park in Washington, D.C. is keen on such under-the-radar selections as the Luis Pato Baga Rosé Brut from Portugal’s Beiras region because of its fresh-berry and kombucha notes paving the way to a tart finish: “It’s fruity and floral with the bubbles of Champagne and has a little extra body.”
Eduard Seitan, a partner at Chicago’s One Off Hospitality Group who presides over the wine program at avec, recently took part in a socially distanced engagement party and chose to sip Fins Als Kullons, a natural red from the white grapes Xarel.lo and Garnacha Blanca and the red Sumoll. It’s light and fresh, he says, and "it drinks more like a juicy, umami-sprinkled rosé." With all the resources available online (and many wine stores offering delivery or contactless pickup), now's the perfect time to dive into natural wines.
Bake an easy cake
One surefire way to commemorate the day is by baking a glorious cake. And no, you don't need a trip to the store: Angela Garbacz, owner of Goldenrod Pastries in Lincoln, NE, and author of the just-released cookbook Perfectly Golden: Adaptable Recipes for Sweet and Simple Treats, is partial to her straightforward vegan Depression-Era Chocolate Cake. "Simplicity is the most important thing to keep in mind when you are planning a celebration during these weird and unusual times," says Garbacz.
"Look around your kitchen to see what you already have," she urges. That might mean baking your favorite banana bread recipe in a round or square pan, and "if you don't have the ingredients for frosting on hand,” she adds, “just sprinkle a good amount of granulated sugar on top of the cake before you bake it. That adds a nice, glittery, sugary crust that takes your cake to the next level. “
Los Angeles baker Amanda Faber, author of Cake Portfolio, co-host of Flour Hour podcast, and season-two winner of The Great American Baking Show, also encourages digging into the pantry for dried or fresh fruit, shaved chocolate, and sprinkles for experimental decoration. She also has some solid advice for those "concerned about a large, tempting cake sitting on the counter: Cake freezes really well," she says. "If you want to bake a two- or three-layer cake, you can celebrate with one layer and wrap and freeze the extras for another day. It’s pretty comforting to know you have some spare cake waiting for you."
Bring out beloved items
By now, chances are you’ve become familiar with every nook and cranny of your home, but a milestone is just the right time to invigorate your interior—and that doesn’t mean tackling a complex painting project or splurging on a new couch. Nina Garbiras, principal designer at NYC-based FIG Interior Design, has more thoughtful measures in mind. “Pull out the special pieces you love and find a way to use them,” she says. “I once mounted a client’s Victorian inkwell on the wall by her bed. It was gorgeous and had meaning to her and I loved the idea of having it be more than another piece of ephemera in her office.” Or, Garbiras adds, find rejuvenation in flowers. If you can’t get your hands on a proper bouquet, “a single fresh flower by your bedside or in the bathroom, or a small branch from a tree or bush outside on your daily meander, feels hopeful and romantic.
Buy a gift that makes a difference
If you’re in search of a kind, creative gift for someone else—or a much-deserved treat for yourself—consider something from a brand donating proceeds to COVID relief, or a handmade, one-of-a-kind item that will support an independent maker.
One suggestion: The dreamy artwork just unveiled at the Wifey Flower Shop, a collaboration between gallerist Janine Foeller and artist Simone Shubuck. Shubuck made 50 petite floral drawings that sold out within 12 minutes of the shop’s launch last week and were shipped through the trusty United States Postal Service. Going forward, artists, designers, and makers invited by Foeller and Shubuck will showcase their own pieces, rotating weekly. The project is a way to illuminate Foeller and Shubuck’s “creative community while also supporting vital services such as the USPS, which is currently under threat,” says Foeller, noting that the Wifey Flower Shop is “a collective return to taking the time to make things by hand whether it’s a meal, a loaf of bread, a birthday card.”
Enjoy a relaxing moment
Just because you've been at home for several weeks doesn't mean you've been relaxing. Carve out some time to do just that. Draw yourself a bath, add some salts, and light a candle—some favorites below. A mix of scents will simultaneously transport the travel-deprived and conjure much-needed calm.
Take time to reflect
Cultivating mindfulness isn’t necessarily synonymous with celebrations, but it should be, because turning points lead to introspection, especially now amid a backdrop of uncertainty. Start off slowly with a journal to pour your thoughts into, like those in the eye-catching National Parks series from Field Notes (Bonus: They will temporarily stave off wanderlust with nostalgic illustrations).
Those eager to find more clarity by striking up a meditation practice should also dive in on their birthdays. Kristi Dickinson, director of spa & wellness at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in San Diego, says it’s a way of setting intentions. "We can shape our own reality by choosing how we observe a situation," she explains. "It is natural to be fearful of the unknown in our future, but try and focus on the other, exciting aspects we do not yet know about."
Dickinson's Be, Do, Have exercise—which consists of reflecting on who you want to be, what you want to do, and what you want to have—is particularly empowering when so much about our current state of living seems beyond our control. Because ultimately, she points out, it's all about perspective. "Let your mind run free. The opportunities are limitless now,” Dickinson says. “See the world through that lens. It’s profound.”
For more Home Love ideas, head here—we'll be launching a new one every day. And tag your own home project photos #homelove for everyone to enjoy.
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