Décor ideas, tips and recipes to host celebrations in lockdown

 

While, in our lifetime, we will go through many unpredictable cycles of joys and sorrow, the one thing that will remain constant is our pursuit towards happiness. Whether it’s a child’s first birthday, your grandparents’ golden anniversary that gives you a renewed belief in love, graduation or getting that promotion you’ve worked for tirelessly, the joy of these milestones will be celebrated with a grand party, a small gathering or even an intimate meal with the one you love.

And, while an ongoing pandemic, at first, worked as a dampener on any form of celebration, as human beings we turned to another constant in our lives once again—our ability to be resilient by adapting and evolving to the times. With invitations to Zoom parties, online discos, and music gigs, and virtual sports cropping up more and more as the days go by, we’ve rounded up an exhaustive guide to celebrating and hosting in the comfort of your own home, with minimal fuss and the least wastage.

 

HOW DOES ONE PLAN A PARTY DURING A PANDEMIC?
For party planner Prerna Makhija, a former food and drink journalist and restaurant critic, a pandemic and nation-wide lockdown didn’t deter her from starting her own company Party Like Peru in March. “Since I've used many gifting services myself, I realised that a lot of these services missed the element of truly understanding a client’s personality. As a journalist, it was natural for me to ask a lot of questions, so I’d get to the crux of every detail about the receiver to completely customise their present or party requirement. All my friends now call me their Corona concierge!”

Besides organising presents and gift hampers, Makhija also plans everything from Instagram games and posts to online concerts, game nights with singers and MCs, video greetings, cards, and

A gift hamper in a wooden basket full of goodies and with a 'Do not cross' label wrapped around it

A completely customised hamper makes for a thoughtful and personal gift. Image Courtesy, Party Like Peru

digital graphics. Working with clients across the country and overseas, she’s even worked with Shaadi.com to create video activities and e-sangeets for an online wedding. Here are her tips for planning a party during a pandemic:

1. Do not cancel 2020
While it might seem impossible to celebrate with shops, restaurants, and bars staying shut indefinitely, a little celebration at home will go a long way. Give your loved ones the day off from their daily chores or work, cook them their favourite meal, and, if a cake is too much, the order in ice cream or whip up the only sweet treat you know. 

2. Teamwork is key
Don't think twice before asking friends, family, or even neighbours to help out with planning something special. Set up a WhatsApp group, an email chain, or a best friend in charge of getting a few people to pitch in. This not only ensures that a select group of people will call and wish your loved one but they'll have additional ideas on how you can celebrate at home. Either way, you’ll have a companion through the planning and execution. 

3. A video greeting will make up for not being there
Get everyone you know to send in short clips of them celebrating the person you're planning something special for—it could be a little jiggle to their favourite song, lighting a candle or shouting a greeting. Patch these together using the many available software on your smartphone (Quik, InShot, PicPlayPost, Splice, iMovie), add in their favourite song, and voila—you have a video greeting! 

4. Recall memories through a playlist
On apps such as iTunes, Spotify, or YouTube, create a playlist of all the songs that hold strong memories with the person you’re making it for. You could go the extra mile and get friends and family to pitch in and share their tunes as well.

5. The missing link
Think of that one thing your loved one is missing the most. If it’s a restaurant or coffee shop, order in their favourite food or a cuppa and recreate the table setting at home. Put on an ambient playlist, and enjoy recreating a date out in the confines of your home
Several eateries are sharing their favourite playlists, such as this one from Perch.
To plan a celebration at home, contact Prerna Makhija on +919324990073 or via email

 

STYLING YOUR HOME FOR A PARTY
“While you may feel daunted at the idea of styling a space to create a party or celebratory mood around the house, the point is to create memories and make the day special,” says interior stylist Keshav Murugesh. “Don’t make the mistake of focusing on over-the-top styling or scouring the internet in a panic to buy new things. Work with what you have to help you focus on enjoying the time you’ll share with the people around you,” adds interior designer Pooja Bhandary. Here are their styling tips:

1. Uplift the décor in your home
If you’re planning an evening celebration, light a few candles around the room for a festive mood. If it’s in the day, add colour to space with bowls of fruit, fresh flowers, or string garlands made with leaves from the garden. 

 

A table setting with white cutlery, sweets, flowers, walnuts and bread

Dressing your dining table with fancy crockery will uplift its look and make you feel special. Photography by Prachi Damle, Styled by Ritu Nanda

2. Focus on bringing everyone together
Pick one room in the house, and move all the furniture out of it or shift it to one corner. Throw a huge rug on the floor with cushions and pillows so that the entire family or your loved ones can huddle together for long chats or a few rounds of games.

3. Dress up your table
Even the smallest additions to your dining table will make you feel special. This is a good time to bring out your heirloom china or the crockery you’ve been saving for a special occasion. Lay your table a little more formally than usual to feel like you’re dining out at a fancy restaurant.

 

4. Create a space for memories
Whether it’s a big tree in your garden or a humble potted herb on your kitchen windowsill, create a space around the tree or bring the plant to the dining table for everyone to tie little notes on its branches recounting memories or making wishes for the future. You could even tie coloured threads or ribbons while making a wish together as a family.

5. A space for the kids
Since children haven’t seen the outdoors in a while and must be going stir crazy, create a space for them where they can let loose and enjoy themselves. Remove any breakables and valuable accessories or cover for furniture with large bedsheets. The joy of them running around and playing will bring a smile to your face, as well.


A FEAST AT HOME
Anisha Oommen, co-founder and editor of Goya Journal—a digital publication that focuses on food and culture in India—and co-founder and editor Aysha Tanya, who also runs The Malabar Tea Room, share some simple recipes: 

 

Hummus with white miso
“This starter is a twist on the classic to be served as a crudités platter with a few colourful vegetables. It can be made ahead, which means more time enjoying the celebrations and less time in the kitchen,” says Tanya.

Ingredients
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1/2 cup tahini
2 tsp white miso
1/4 cup cashew
1 clove garlic, peeled
juice from half a lime
cold water, as needed

 

A bowl full of hummus garnished with herbs and chilli flakes and a plate full of cut carrots next to it

Hummus with a twist of white miso is a mix of both, yummy and healthy. Image Courtesy, Aysha Tanya

Method
- In a food processor, blitz the chickpeas and cashew till crumbly.
- Add the tahini, miso, garlic, lime juice, salt, and blitz again to combine.
- Pour cold water as needed until it reaches the desired consistency.
- Blitz for two minutes or until the hummus becomes smooth and fluffy.
- When serving, top with olive oil and garnish with a sprinkling of chilli flakes, paprika, and coriander.

 

Apple crisp
“There really isn't a dessert quite as elegant as a simple fruit crisp or crumble—easy to make, and perfect for breakfast, the next morning. While it can be prepped ahead, simply pop the crisp into the oven as you're sitting down for dinner, and the dessert will be ready just as you're finishing your meal,” advises Tanya.

A spoonful of Apple crisps and a bowl in the background

Apple crisp is an easy to make dessert, that works well for breakfast time too. Image Courtesy, Aysha Tanya

Ingredients
For the topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats
100 g butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 scant teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling:
750 g cooking apples, (red or green) cut into chunks of about 3/4 inch
2 tsp lime juice
1/3 cup granulated sugar
30 g butter

Method
-  Rub the apples with lime juice to prevent oxidation. Add the sugar and mix well.
-  Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat. When it starts to sizzle, tip in the apples and sugar.
-  Without moving it around too much, let the apples caramelise. This should take anywhere between 10-15 minutes.
-  Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, add the oats, sugar, flour and cinnamon. Gently rub the butter into the mixture, until it becomes crumbly.
-  When the apples have caramelised, tip them into a large baking dish along with the pan juices. 
-  Sprinkle the apples with the topping and bake at 180 degrees Celcius for 45-50 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown. 
-  Serve warm.

 

GET CREATIVE WITH COCKTAILS AND BEVERAGES
For Eeshaan Kashyap, partner at PassCode Hospitality and has been getting creative with recipes to brew the most delicious drinks and also using ingredients that we would normally think of as waste. These are a treat for celebrating cocktail hour, which he thinks we all deserve while working from home.

 

Mint Juleps
“A summer favourite of mine that’s very easy to make, but with a twist! I use a home-made syrup of mint and lime made with leftover mint stems and squeezed limes. There is so much flavour intact in the stem and the peel! This syrup can be stored in the fridge for a long time, and even mixed in plain water to make nimbu paani. Beyond the bourbon and mint-lime syrup, the only other requirement is crushed ice—other forms of ice are a strict no-no.”

For the mint-lemon syrup
Ingredients
1 ltr water
500 g sugar grain
A bunch of mint stems
15-20 lime halves

A couple of steel glasses full of Catalana Juleps filled with ice and garnished with mint leaves

This cooler will easily refresh you and is perfect for a hot day. Image Courtesy, Eeshaan Kashyap

Method
1. Mix the water in a saucepan with the sugar, mint stems and lime halves without pits. We don't want the stock to be bitter. 
2. Simmer this stock for 25 minutes or less till the sugar is completely dissolved. Sieve this mixture and allow it to cool. 
3. Store in a clean, dry glass bottle and store in the refrigerator. 

For the mint julep

Ingredients
60 ml of your favourite bourbon whiskey
30 ml of the mint-lime syrup 
Mint sprigs for garnish 
Lots of crushed ice. 

Steps 
1. Gather all your ingredients
2. In your julep or tall glass add the syrup and top it up with crushed ice. Add the bourbon. 
3. Stir this mix gently and make sure the syrup and bourbon are mixed. Top it up again with more crushed ice. 
4. Garnish with a nice big sprig of mint and enjoy. 

 

A glass filled with Hibiscus bloom placed on a surface along with a hibiscus beside it

Hibiscus bloom, will not only add an interesting flavour, but also a fun colour to your celebration. Image Courtesy, Eeshaan Kashyap

Hibiscus Bloom
“For this infusion, I use bright red hibiscus flowers that bloom in the summer. This syrup is your answer to the ultra-sweet, synthetic grenadine you get in the market. Add this to your margaritas, rum punches, and daiquiris, or pour it over ice and add club soda. The syrup keeps in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.”

For the hibiscus syrup
Ingredients 
2 cups water 
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1/3 cup of dried hibiscus flower
1 small knob of ginger thinly sliced (for heat and flavour)
1 lemon zested.

Method
1. Bring the water, white sugar, hibiscus, brown sugar, ginger, and lemon zest to a boil. Reduce heat and let it simmer until the sugars dissolve and flowers soften for at least 10 minutes. 
2. Remove from heat and steep the syrup until the flavours combine about 15 minutes.

3. Strain the syrup into a container through a fine-mesh strainer, pressing solids with a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.
4. Label your bottle and store it in your fridge.
5. Take a tall glass with ice cubes, add 30 ml of the syrup and top it up with club soda. Garnish it with any fruit slice, peel, or herbs. 

 

A BIG FAT PANDEMIC WEDDING
While the pandemic hasn’t deterred couples from getting married during the lockdown, the idea of a wedding celebration has changed accordingly. “This is a time for personal and intimate celebrations. Homes have a far richer story, filled with memories and laughter than impersonal halls, any day,” says wedding designer Devika Narain. Here are her tips for planning a wedding at home.

1. The guest list
Just because you’re planning a wedding at home, doesn’t mean you forget about social distancing. Make sure your seating arrangements are adequately distanced to keep all your guests comfortable, as well. For all the people entering your home, including the ones helping plan and execute the wedding, take some time to know their travel history, hygiene and past expose, too.

2. Find the best backdrop
From a garden at home to a gorgeous sofa—find a backdrop and space in the home where you’d like to set your ceremony against. This is the most special day in your life, and your surroundings should imbibe that. Piece together all the furniture in your home to tell a beautiful story of the home and your family’s history, as well. These can include keepsakes, paintings or art, heirlooms, and more.

3. Work with seasonal flowers
As a rule of thumb, it’s always much easier to work with things that are locally available. Fill your home with seasonal flowers or potted plants available in our local nurseries, and pair them with candles to add to the celebratory décor.

4. Don’t forget the restrooms
You will have guests using the powder room frequently, so pay attention to this space as much as possible. Keep room fresheners and fragrances at hand, and also spruce it up with a few candles and flowers like the rest of the home.

5. This is your wedding
…and it has to tell your story. While it will be cosy and pared-down celebration, you have to choose elements that work for you, you feel comfortable with and tell your story. Not someone else’s.

For planning a wedding at home, contact Shweta on +919811936206 or via email


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