While it isn’t always possible to visit your dream travel destination or reunite with family when you get time off from work, you can certainly produce the feeling of escape from your day-to-day. If you’re staying put for the holidays this year (but wish you were headed someplace else), here’s how to make your space feel like a faraway oasis.
Start preparing a couple of days before your get-together. If you live in a studio, experiment with a new seating configuration to maximize space. Or, try rearranging smaller decor items for a mini refresh. Next, thoughtfully incorporate key seasonal decorations. For instance, adorn your house plants with delicate string lights and hang festive garland along your curtain rods or bookcase. Whether the changes are big or small, give yourself plenty of time to make adjustments, so you attend to other hosting responsibilities and of course, your guests.
Kick-off the evening with a bright, effervescent drink that packs a punch. The best cocktail recipe is an easy one, which is why this is one of our favorites. This finger food menu, planned by Rachel Nichols of The Fond Life, is apropos for informal affairs. Plus, it’s as delicious as it is simple.
Spiked Sparkling Lemonade
For the Drink
4 mint leaves
2 oz tequila
4 oz sparkling lemonade
For the Garnish
Fresh lemon, sliced thinly width-wise
1. In a large flat-bottomed glass or cocktail beaker, muddle mint leaves with tequila. Add 1 cup of ice and pour in sparkling lemonade. Stir together and pour into serving glass through a strainer.
2. Garnish by floating a thin lemon round, small sprig of mint and pinch of cayenne.
Homemade Hummus with Warm Olives & Pita
For the Hummus
The juice from 1 large lemon
2 garlic cloves
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2/3 cup tahini
1 15½-ounce can of chickpeas
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Salt to taste
For the Olives
½ cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves
¾ cup castelvetrano olives
The zest from 1 lemon
½ cup crumbled feta
2 teaspoons za’atar
Warm pita for serving
1. Make the olives: heat olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. While the oil is heating, drain olives, and stir in the lemon zest. Place crumbled feta into a heatproof bowl.
2. Once the olive oil is simmering, add the garlic cloves. Stir until fragrant and the garlic begins to soften (about 1 minute). Add the olive mixture and continue to cook stirring occasionally for about 5-8 minutes until the olives are soft and warm.
3. Pour warm olive mix over feta in the heatproof bowl. Stir in za’atar and cover with tin foil. Let rest so the flavors can mingle while you prepare the hummus.
4. To make the hummus, add lemon juice, peeled garlic cloves, and cumin to a food processor and pulse until garlic is finely minced. Add tahini and blend until smooth. Add chickpeas and olive oil and run the food processor until the mixture is smooth (about 20-30 seconds).
5. Turn the food processor off and taste for salt. Add salt as needed and blend, then taste and adjust again.
6. If hummus is too thick, turn on the food processor and trickle in water 1 Tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved.
7. Pour out hummus into a serving dish and use a spatula to create a circular indent in the middle. Pour olive mixture over hummus and serve with warm pita.
Meatballs with Mint Chimichurri
For the Meatballs
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
¾ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon salt
1 lb ground beef
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 clove of garlic, finely minced
For the Chimichurri
½ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup cilantro, finely chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
3 Tablespoons mint, finely chopped
¾ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon)
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Prepare the chimichurri: whisk ingredients in a large bowl, adding salt to taste. Set aside to let the flavors marry.
3. Place walnuts on a dry sheet pan and roast in the oven until fragrant and beginning to take on color, about 5-10 minutes. Check every few minutes, shaking the pan to ensure the walnuts brown evenly and do not burn. Set aside and let cool.
4. Mix bread crumbs, parmesan, cayenne, cumin, and salt in a small bowl.
5. Combine ground beef, egg, and garlic in a medium bowl, mixing together with your hands until combined.
6. Add the bread crumb mixture and cooled walnuts to the beef mixture, combining with your hands or mixing thoroughly with a wooden spoon.
7. Line a baking sheet with tin foil. Wet your hands with a little olive oil and form 1” meatballs and evenly space them on the baking sheet.
8. Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning twice to ensure even browning.
9. Serve immediately on a platter alongside a bowl of chimichurri.
Bring on the Good Vibes
Change into your favorite sweater and round up all of your blankets and throw pillows. “Cozy” is the name of the game, so embrace the layers on layers on layers. Light a few candles, pour yourself a drink, and wait for your crew to roll in. Task your guests to bring a small gift to exchange with the group. This party activity gets is a fun way to get everyone involved and spread instant holiday cheer.
Make your holiday gathering all the more memorable by throwing on a sing-along-worthy playlist. From The Beach Boys’ cheery renditions of old classics to the top tracks of Kacey Musgraves’ Christmas album, this eclectic mix has something for everyone.
Happiest holidays from the Havenly team to you and yours!
You don’t need a grand space to get the look. Our designers cherry-picked the perfect items that will make your space feel festive. Shop our designer-curated assortment. And find more tips and inspiration on the vacation look here.