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Stress free entertaining in a small apartment

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My teeny tiny living room

I love entertaining. I’m in my element when I’m planning menus, and my friends will tell you that no one commits to a theme quite like I do. When we were packing up to move to NYC, we unearthed all manner of party paraphernalia – it was a graveyard of sombreros, blow up cacti, children’s party toys, and an excessive amount of Christmas decorations. We had an amazing apartment back home for entertaining, but sadly we now live in a 2×4 with no balcony so I have had to tone down my soirees. That said, I have a few occasions on the horizon that require a trip to Party City, which is why I devised my handy list of stress free entertaining in a small apartment.

  1. Plan ahead. Whether it’s two for dinner or 20 for drinks, don’t leave it until the morning of to go to the grocery store or decide you need to clean the apartment. If you’re stressed on the day, it won’t be a fun experience, which is the exact opposite of what entertaining should be.
  2. Keep it simple. Good for you if you can bang out a vichyssoise, lobster ravioli with handmade pasta, and then a baked alaska like it’s no big deal. For us mere mortals the best thing to do is pick one thing and do it well. Make a great pasta dish? Fab – serve it up family style so everyone can share. Do a great dip? Let’s grab some corn chips and get this show on the road. Now is not the time to try new recipes. Not everything that comes out of the kitchen needs to be Michelin star.
  3. Do all your preparation beforehand. Regardless of whether it’s a dinner party or finger food, 75% of your menu should be prepared in advance. Nothing should require last minute construction or garnishing, and it definitely should not require you to stand in the kitchen over the stove while your guests mingle without you! Food stress does not lead to a…
  4. Relaxed atmosphere. If you’re tense, your guests will be tense. I’m sure we have all been to a party where the host ran around like a blue-arsed fly all night, and no one really felt at ease. If you do 1, 2, and 3, then you should be good for 4.
  5. Avoid useless work. This ties in with 4. We all wants things to be perfect, but I guarantee your guests care more about the company than whether your napkins are ironed or the top of your fridge is clean.
  6. Set the mood. Good music, somewhere for people to sit (a must if your apartment is small like ours with only one couch – rearrange your chairs to make people comfy), perhaps some candles for atmosphere. Added bonus – if the lights are dimmed and there are candles flickering, no one will notice that the top of the fridge is dirty anyway! Score!
  7. Delegate. People will always want to pitch in and help (and if they don’t, you may want to look at who you are friends with). Don’t feel bad about getting your friend to take the platter of nibbles around, or asking someone to open the wine.
  8. Keep things moving. Make sure everyone knows they have easy access to a bin so they can dump their scraps and bottles, rather than leaving little surprises for you to find later.
  9. The clean up. Nothing kills your buzz after hosting a great party than realising you have to wash up 30 dishes. My strategy is always ‘no food or drink left out’ – cockroaches and ants can sense a party – and then loading the dishwasher and abandoning ship. I don’t use my dishwasher all the time because the one we have is so big that it seems a waste to run it for two people, but it always gets a run (pardon the pun) when there’s a party. The good kids at Fisher & Paykel  have a range of DishDrawer dishwashers to fit every space and requirement, which is perfect for small apartments because you can get half-sized drawer dishwashers. Anyway, load, set, and walk away. When you wake up the next day, everything is clean! Ok, the dishes are clean. If only there was an automated way to clean the bathroom.
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Look how convenient that dishdrawer is!

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10 rules for being a good tourist in New York City

New York City is a hell of a place. I mean that both figuratively and literally – right now it’s so hot and dirty that it feels like hades. But in the figurative sense, it’s a crazy, packed in, intense concrete jungle with a lot of things to see and do. Not only are there 8 million people living on this island, but the place is constantly jammed wall to wall with tourists. As such, I have a few basic rules for New York that I think all tourists (and some locals) should take note of to make this place a little happier. There’s nothing that will ruin your day quicker than tourist rage, and really, most of these are common sense.

  1. When you walk out of a Subway station, don’t immediately stop at the top of the stairs to try and figure out where you are. Yes, it’s confusing – I can’t tell you how many times I have accidentally gone west when I should have gone east. Just step to the side to get your bearings. This goes double if you’re in a big group.
  2. If you need to stop and check your map, step to the side of the sidewalk. If you stop in the middle of the sidewalk, someone will probably run into you. I’ll apologise, others won’t be so kind.
  3. Don’t stare. I know this sounds weird, but think about it. There are millions of us jammed onto this island and you are never alone. There’s an unwritten rule amongst New Yorkers to respect each others personal space on the subway, so everyone needs to deal with that. Perhaps this is where the aloof reputation comes from, but it’s actually a sign of community – we’re all respecting each others boundaries by keeping to ourselves. Same goes for eavesdropping and staring into peoples windows.
  4. That last rule goes double for celebrities. New York is great for star spotting, but the celebs like New York because this isn’t LA – they can get their groceries and ride the subway without being mobbed. Tweet about it, blog about it, definitely update your Facebook status about it, just don’t harass them.
  5. Please don’t walk four abreast down Broadway.
  6. Please don’t walk four abreast down any street! I get that you’re on vacation, but if you insist on meandering, moseying, or strolling in a huge group and blocking the sidewalk, then you’re just making more work for me when I have to jump over things to get past you. Other people will just barge you (not me, I’m too polite, but I will probably think about it).
  7. Have your metro card ready to go when you get to the subway entrance. The black stripe should be facing you and down the bottom, hold it ready, and swipe! You’ll just piss people off if you fumble in your bag for it.
  8. Please ask me for directions. I am more than happy to point you in the direction of the subway station/Broadway/16 Handles, rather than let you walk in circles for 15 minutes. New Yorkers have a reputation for being gruff, but I think that’s just because everyone is always in a hurry. New Yorkers are really proud of their city though, and they will always help you with directions or make recommendations if you just ask (except the subway workers sitting in the booths – those guys are pretty useless).
  9. Look up. There is so much to see when you gaze beyond street level. You’ll notice all the locals very rarely do it, and truly they are missing out on the beauty of their own city. Just do it from the edge of the sidewalk, not the middle!
  10. For the love of refried beans, don’t ever eat in Times Square. This city is fully of amazing, amazing food, and yet the awful chains in Times Square are always heaving with tourists. I promise that the food you get at the local neighbourhood restaurants will be ten times better than anything you get at Red Lobster, Olive Garden, or Applebees, and you’ll get a proper New York experience rather than a homogenised chain that could be in any city in America.

 

Bonus rule – don’t ask someone where to get ‘New York pizza’. You’re in New York, all pizza is New York pizza! This subject often sparks debate amongst locals because everyone will tell you their local joint is the best pizza in town (but seriously, mine is…Prince St Pizza). Pretty much every slice you get here, whether it’s from Lombardis, a 99c store, or free with your beer at Crocodile Lounge, is going to be good.

Have you been to New York? Are you a New Yorker? What other tips do you have for happy touristing?

NYC Pride Rag and Bone window Houston St

NYC Pride! The graffiti in the window of Rag&Bone over Pride weekend

Flatiron Building NYC

The Flatiron Building, a New York landmark

Inside Grand Central Station NYC

Inside Grand Central Station. Magical.

All these pics are from my Instagram account – come follow me!

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How to cross the street in New York

Following on from my last post about New York, there is one major thing that you need to know in order to be a successful pedestrian in this city. Jay walking is not only accepted, but it is expected. To the point that, if it safe to cross the street but you don’t, and there are people behind you waiting to cross, they will (politely) shove you out of the way and or/barrel over the top of you to cross the street. Think of the little red man as a suggestion only.

You can always tell the locals and experienced city walkers because they look at the street first and the walk signal second. If it’s safe(ish) to go, you go. People are always in a hurry here!

Crossing the street in New York

Spotted this sign on the Upper West Side and thought it was pretty apt.

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Life hack: How to fix a shirt that has been ruined by the dryer

If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen me lamenting recently that I ruined not one but THREE t-shirts in the dryer. All three were accidents – we have a laundry room in our building so when I do laundry I do a tonne of it at once to save myself time and effort (walking up and down the stairs is a pain, doncha know). Obviously I wasn’t paying a lot of attention (duh) because I had set the shirts aside for hand washing and they ended up in the bag with everything else. I was particularly pissed when I realised my brand-new, worn-once 100% linen tee from Madewell had gone through spinner. Ouch.

Thankfully, I found a life hack that means all those ruined 100% cotton and 100% linen shirts aren’t set for the rag bag. Watch and learn, friends. And next time, pay a little more attention when you’re sorting the laundry (that one is directed at me).