I grew up surrounded by nature. Summer meant walking through the oak forests on the island where I lived, following a path to the ocean. Fall was a riot of orange, red, and yellow leaves, the crisp New England air reminding me that winter was coming. And nothing was better than looking for deer prints in the snow each winter, following their tracks in hopes of catching sight of the elegant creatures.
But no season was more charming than spring, with new life rising up from the unlikeliest of places, like green moss growing under rocks, ferns unfurling on the side of the road, and tiny violets blooming—even when there was still frost on the ground.
Now that I live in the city, it’s harder to feel so in touch with the seasons. But, determined not to miss out on the glory of spring, I decided to host a party in my small city apartment this year that would bring the spirit of the great outdoors in, if only for one night.
Setting a Green Scene
My apartment overlooks not one, not two, but three urban parking lots. Jealous yet? I couldn’t rely on the view to clue my party guests in on the spring theme so, instead, I decided to do an easy DIY project to spruce up my space.
I headed to my favorite thrift store and hunted down a few vintage reference and coffee table books with beautiful pictures of flowers, greenery, and landscapes. When I got home, I used an Exacto knife to cut out my favorite images. Using painters tape, I hung the gorgeous nature photography and illustrations throughout my apartment, clustering a few on the wall in my kitchen to make it look like a little garden, then added washi tape to frame them like pictures. Suddenly, my small apartment was teeming with flora and fauna, without doing any damage to the walls of my rental.
Sweet Spring Scents
Decor alone wasn’t enough. I wanted to bring the fresh newness of spring indoors, and what better way to accomplish that than through scent? After all, it’s considered the most potent of our senses, and closely tied to memories.
Nothing beats the smell of rich soil, tree buds, and warm breezes, but a little simmering pot of herbs and aromatics can do the trick in a pinch.
An hour before my guests arrived, I added a sliced Meyer lemon, a sprig of rosemary, and a handful of roughly chopped parsley to a small pot of water on the stove. I brought the pot to a simmer, then let it lightly bubble on low heat, filling my apartment with an incredibly fresh scent.
I also blended a cup of baking soda, a handful of parsley, and the zest of one lemon in my food processor. I put the mixture in some pretty vintage bowls and jars I’ve collected over the years, placing them on tables and counters around the apartment. When I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, I felt like I was taking a walk through a green field on a warm day. The scene was finally set for my springtime soiree.
Treating Your Guests to Seasonal Treats
I love dreaming up recipes and refreshments to serve my party guests. I decided on an array of herb-infused foods for my party (think fresh Green Goddess dip with baby vegetables, homemade rosemary crackers, etc), but I wanted to do something a little extra special. I decided to liven things up by offering my guests two bubbly flavors of homemade soda. And ripe red strawberries, just coming into season, and soothing chamomile flowers, would make the perfect bases for homemade sodas.
- 1 pound of strawberries
- 1 cup sugar
- Fresh basil (optional)
- Lemon zest (optional)
- First, I hulled the strawberries, then added them to a pan with one cup of sugar and two cups of water.
- I brought the mixture to a boil, stirring until the sugar was dissolved, then took the pan off the heat.
- Once it was slightly cool, I blended the mixture, then strained the strawberry syrup into a small glass carafe.
- When guests arrived, they added the strawberry syrup to their glasses, topping the drink off with some cold sparkling water. My best friend had the genius idea to muddle some basil and a strip of lemon zest in her glass along with the syrup—it was ten times better than any soda I’ve ever had out of a bottle!
For the chamomile soda, I followed the same process, adding one cup of dried chamomile flowers (purchased in the bulk foods section of my local co-op) to the simple syrup mixture, leaving out the strawberries. Then, instead of blending the mixture, I let the chamomile flowers steep in the syrup for an hour before straining into a pretty glass bottle. It makes for a lovely, subtle drink.
Bringing the Outdoors In
After all that decorating and cooking, I wanted to make sure my guests had something fun to remember the party by. I love plants, but a lot of my friends don’t have any in their apartments, so I organized a botanical Yankee Swap game.
Each guest was asked to bring a small plant, costing less than $10, to the party. One of my friends thought outside the box and opted for a basil plant from the grocery store! They still have roots attached, so the plant can live on long after you’ve plucked a few leaves to garnish a plate of pasta.
When all of the guests arrived, it was a pleasant surprise to realize that these little plants in my small apartment made it come to life. We clustered them on the coffee table while we enjoyed our snacks and soda, and then the fun began!
I wrote down a number on as many pieces of paper as there were guests at the party (making sure to include one for myself since I was dying to get my hands on a small cactus), put them in a hat, and had each guest draw a number. Next year, I think we’ll organize it a bit better with help from an online gift exchange website.
The person with the lowest number got to select the first plant. Each player after got to either choose a plant someone had already selected, or one of the plants on the table. We were all surprised to see that the plant of the hour was the little basil. I guess the fact that it wasn’t just for show really made it a star.
Finally, the player who originally drew the number one got to do a final swap. And wouldn’t you know, she traded with me, taking the small pot of pansies I wound up with and giving me the adorable cactus I had my eyes on!
I’m so pleased with how my springtime party turned out. I felt like I had just spent an afternoon lounging in the garden. When everyone went home, and after the dishes were done, I looked around and took a deep breath. The air was fresh with the scent of herbs and citrus, flowers decorated the walls, and my new cactus buddy was resting proudly on the window sill. Spring was here, and I couldn’t have been happier.
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