Weekends are so 2009! Cinco de Mayo falls on a Monday (excuse me, lunes) this year, and that plays right into my margarita-mixing, tortilla-chip- dipping hands—because Monday is one of my favorite nights to entertain. For one thing, it makes scheduling a snap. Finding a weekend night when four or five friends are all available? Forget it. It seems the later in the week a get-together is scheduled, the more likely people are to cancel as the snowball of obligations threatens to roll over them. But on Monday nights, everyone seems to be free! Even more importantly, Mondays have a built-in low-key vibe—you’re practically prohibited from making a fuss. Here are my three relax-the-rules rules.
1. No Elaborate Hors D’Oeuvres
On Mondays, pre-dinner nibbles are anything I can pour directly from a bag, box or jar into a bowl, or unwrap and plunk on a plate: olives, fancy potato chips, cheese and crackers, salted nuts. For a Cinco de Mayo party, the classic is also a crowd-pleaser. Chips and salsa coming right up!
2. Serve a Make-Ahead Main Course
The beauty of Monday is it comes right after Sunday, a day I actually do have time to cook. The goal is to make a one-dish meal, like chili or chicken enchiladas, that I can simply heat up the next night when everybody arrives. That way, it’s no big deal if I race home from work at 6:45 and guests are due at 7.
3. Put Someone Else on Dessert Duty
I remind whoever it is that we’re on the no-shame-for-store-bought plan. If she gets the urge to bake brownies, fantastic. But if she wants to swing by the store for a few pints of ice cream? Make mine chocolate-chocolate chip, please!
My Margarita Musts:
1. A salt rim.
I’m easygoing about rocks versus no rocks—ice changes a cocktail’s strength, not its taste. But salt is mandatory to brighten and balance a margarita’s sweet-sour flavors.
2. Mid-shelf tequila.
Save the smooth, aged, expensive tequila for sipping on its own. Margaritas are best when they’re a little rough around the edges
3. Fresh lime juice.
You’re forgiven if you like your margaritas no-salt, top-shelf or served in a plastic tumbler shaped like a saguaro cactus, but back away from the bottled lime juice. If that’s all you’ve got, switch to beer!
Now that our editor-in-chief, Lauren Purcell, is finally done with her kitchen renovation, she’s sharing her thoughts on what she would do differently next time.
1. Took a Vacation
During the dustiest, loudest, most disruptive phase of the renovation–the demolition of the old kitchen–I was at the beach. Smart move.
2. Relied on Expert Advice
Luckily for me, my designer understood my insane schedule, and for most big design decisions, she presented me with a carefully curated array of options (five paint colors, not 25), so I could make choices quickly.
3. Listed My Major Must-Haves
For instance, I clearly articulated my ideal appliance layout (fridge and range on the same wall); cabinet configuration (floor to ceiling); and flooring (cork). That helped streamline the process.
Shoulda Done This, Too
1. Planned Another Getaway Six Weeks Later
That’s around the time I really hit my limit on living in my bedroom on toaster-oven cuisine and takeout Thai. By the time I was able to emerge from my lady-cave, I was almost too cooped-up and cranky to appreciate the beautiful new space.
2. Picked a Few Details to Focus On
Making choices from a limited selection was definitely efficient. But as it turns out, the aspects I love most about my new kitchen are the ones I got more involved with–like the ceiling fixture, which I picked out after a long, enjoyable afternoon at the lighting showroom. In retrospect, I wish I had done the same with a few other items. I think I’d love my backsplash even more if the tile felt like my personal discovery.
3. Mentioned the Little Stuff
What I didn’t communicate very well were some of the details that make a big difference in my day-to-day. All my lights are on dimmers (big request), but the switches themselves aren’t the kind I prefer–too fiddly. of course, they’re easily changed. But next time, I’ll remember to bring up anything I’m opinionated about, not just the biggies. Wait! Did I just commit in writing to a next time?
I was that kid who in kindergarten was an avid earner of gold stars. In grade school, I cared a lot about my report card. Which may explain my dismay that years later I’m scraping by with a C-minus in kitchen renovation. I have yet to create the binder of inspiration pages torn from magazines that I imagine every “good” renovator has. It took me three weeks to sign off on the refrigerator my designer recommended because I insisted on seeing it in person. I’m the worst kind of perfectionist—one who’s also a procrastinator.
Or maybe I procrastinate because I’m a perfectionist. That’s the diagnosis I got when I confessed all to my “kitchen therapist,” ApartmentTherapy.com’s Maxwell Ryan. “You want the renovation to be perfect, but you’re also afraid it’s going to fail,” he said.
Maxwell has a hilarious (but scarily right-on) trick for grouping renovators into four types: Each is one of the Beatles. “You’re George Harrison, the idealist, the guy who took the band to India,” he teased me. “You’re making a simple kitchen renovation into a whole journey.” Luckily, he also told me what I could do about it—and I asked him for advice for the other Beatles, too, so you can identify yourself and make good progress on your own project.
–Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief
What Type Of Renovator Are You?
Tell us below in the comments.
YOU’RE A TOE-TAPPER IF…
you’re take-charge and decisive but can be impatient. You’re fiery, with a bit of a temper.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE: John Lennon. “He ran off with Yoko,” Maxwell says. “He pushed boundaries to get results.”
SO NOW WHAT? To avoid making snap decisions you might regret later, “readjust your time line to account for the fact that some details require a little reflection,” Maxwell says.
YOU’RE AN ENTHUSIAST IF…
you’re easy to please, sometimes too easy. Does “Oh, but I like all of them!” sound familiar?
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:Paul McCartney. “He’s charming, always happy and never cared how much time it took to finish an album because he enjoyed the process,” Maxwell says.
SO NOW WHAT?Let your designer know that less is more—fewer options means you’ll make decisions more quickly.
YOU’RE A PERFECTIONIST IF…
you want—need!—things to be exactly right. So you agonize over even the smallest detail.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:George Harrison. “He was the introspective one, the idealist,” Maxwell says.
SO NOW WHAT?Hire a designer who’s also a perfectionist. That way you can trust that she’s picking the four best backsplash tiles from the hundreds of options. And you can stop obsessing.
YOU’RE A ZEN MASTER IF…
you believe in the slow and steady approach. You take direction well and appreciate support.
YOUR SPIRIT-BEATLE:Ringo Starr. “He’s calm and cool,” Maxwell says. “He’s probably got the lowest blood pressure, too!”
SO NOW WHAT? You may need a slight kick to get things moving, so set goals and deadlines with your designer—and then ask him to really push you to meet them.
Follow along with Lauren as she shares her progress and everything else, from the appliances to keeping costs down to injecting personality into one of the most important rooms in her home.
Last night I had dinner at Cole’s Greenwich Village. While I was waiting for my dinner guest, who was dragging himself through the swamp that is New York City in nearly 100-degree weather, I sat at the bar and tried the Cole’s Cocktail (I assumed if they’d named it after themselves, they’re pretty proud of it). Menu description: Crop organic vodka, ver jus, St. Germain, rosemary. It went down very easily, since I’d just come in from that same swamp myself.
A small starter sent out from the kitchen: Heirloom Tomato and Watermelon Salad. It was made that night with burrata. Delicious. Which is why I forgot to take the photo first and all you get to see is the last bite.
Next came stuffed squash blossoms and Quick Seared Squid—both great. Forgive the picture quality. It’s dark in there! (And I never use the flash in a restaurant.)
Main course: cod with bok choy and maitake mushrooms in a red pepper broth. My guest had pork tenderloin with a bourbon glaze with corn succotash and black-eyed peas. We ended with a dessert brought over by Chef Daniel Eardley, who sat and talked for a while. Great guy, fun restaurant. If you’re in the New York City, go check it out. –Lauren Purcell, Editor-in-Chief