5 Tips For Hosting Friendsgiving In NYC

Growing up, my Grandma was always in charge of the Thanksgiving festivities.  I always cherished this special day at her house…hearing her wake up before sunrise to prep the turkey, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the family room with all the cousins, the beautiful table spread, and the crazy clean-up…sans dishwasher;-)

Now that I have my own little family (read: me + hubby + chihuahua), I’m always looking for ideas of starting our own traditions, merging inspiration from both of our childhoods.  While our NYC apartment is definitely not equipped to host as many people as Grandma’s house was, we decided to go with a mini-version of her big day…Friendsgiving (Thanksgiving, but with friends!)

Friendsgiving in and of itself is certainly not a new concept, but here are my tips for making it successful, NYC style:

1. Host On A Friday (or better yet…weeknight!)

This is two part.  First, if your friends group is anything like ours, you know that weekends in this city fill up months in advance…birthday parties, weddings, weekend trips, the list goes on.  So trying to find a weekend that works for everyone is a little tricky.

Secondly, if you host on a Saturday, you spend ALL day prepping, and then ALL day Sunday cleaning up.  What was supposed to be a fun celebration ends up being a drain on YOUR weekend.  So the solution?  Host during a weeknight or Friday.  Folks will be coming from work, so the expectation of a fancy dinner party is already lowered…really just relaxing with friends and a glass of wine is where the mindset is.


2. Plan Your Menu Around What Others Are Bringing

So I didn’t do this, but will absolutely be switching it up for next year.  If you plan on having your guests each bring a dish, put them all on an email chain and have them respond ahead of time with what they are planning to bring.  And then, as the host, YOU create your dishes around those, filling in the gaps.  This way you don’t end up with lots of potatoes and no greens.


3. Icebreaker Game

Living in NYC, we’re faced with the unique situation of having a variety of friends from different walks of life (work, old college buddies, yoga class, the dog park…), none of whom actually hang out in the same social group.  While we weren’t too worried about this, since all our invitees are pretty social people, I still thought it was important to have a way to break the ice and get everyone engaged.

It being Friendsgiving and all, we had everyone fill out an “I’m thankful for…” card when they arrived and stick it in the Gratitude Jar (i.e. mason jar;-)  When we sat down for dinner, we passed the jar around, and everyone picked someone else’s card.  We then played charades, acting out what the “thankful for” items were, and based on the answers all guessed who we thought wrote the card.  Tons of fun!

(Note: on my cards I chose to give categories rather than leave it blank…I figured it would lend to more creative answers than “I’m thankful for my significant other, my dog, etc.”;-)


4. Bite-Sized Desserts

Again, we’re taking into account small space and cleanup here.  While my Grandma would always clear the table and reset for a proper sit down dessert featuring a million and one pies, our living space is entirely too small for this.  Since our kitchen is basically in our dining room which is basically in our living room, there was no way I was going to start the cleanup while my guests were still here, cause I knew it would spark everyone to pitch in…and that was just not the vibe I was going for.

So to eliminate the problem, I made desserts that were small and could be eaten with your hands…fudge, mini cheesecake bites, and cookies.  I put them on plates on the coffee table, where I herded everyone to sit after dinner was over.  We noshed on sweets while playing a few crazy rounds of Cards Against Humanity.  Perfect way to wrap up the evening!


5. Decant That Cheap Wine

And my final tip…(and yes I’m aware that this is going to make me sound like a total cheapo, but NYC wine stores are expensive!)…is to decant your cheap wine.  When hosting a dinner party of 9 people, you go through bottles of wine in no time.  I always think it’s nice to start with the good bottles early in the night when people are still able to appreciate its oaky finish, but after a few bottles, I decant the cheap stuff…ensuring it still has a nice presentation, but not feeling guilty about blowing a bunch of money on alcohol.  While we probably had one or two folks in the mix with discerning palettes, I’m pretty sure the rest couldn’t tell the difference, and if they did, were too tipsy to care much at that point;-)


All in all, it was a lovely evening, and the hubs and I are so happy to have started our own little Friendsgiving tradition, NYC style!

Do you celebrate Friendsgiving?  Share your tips/tricks below!


By: Jessica Tiare Bowen

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox.




UsedYorkCity Inspiration #10



^^Love when our readers share THEIR favorite NYC moment of the week, with the hashtag #UsedYorkCity.  You guys are the best!^^

1. Do you work from home? I love these 10 tips to keep your productivity level high. (via Cupcakes and Cashmere)

2. Prep for another NYC winter!  Here’s an investigation of the warmest winter coats on the market. (via Chicago Tribune)

3. Too early to start talking Christmas?  I know, I know.  But super stoked for this holiday album being released by the Broadway Boys! (via Playbill)

4. Love is ageless.  This November, adopt a senior pet for free, making one little New Yorker very happy. (via Best Friends Animal Society)

5. Researching cocktails to serve for Thanksgiving?  The Village Voice is hosting their 2nd Annual Holiday Spirits tasting event, so get your tickets and join us on the boat! (via The Village Voice)

What’s been inspiring you this week? Share below!






Intermission: Love Letters


Constructing a letter … such a meaningful but disappearing mode of communication ….you put “your best self on paper” as stated  by one of the  players in this telling play….especially when composing the love letter – a lost art. There’s a reason we keep our love letters forever – we can’t bear to throw them out.  So we hide them in a special place – they are unique, sacrosanct, personal – proof of our real, better selves of a time and place long ago and far away.

Ah, those were the days….those were MY days.

You spill out a myriad of thoughts on carefully selected writing paper and put great deliberation and drive into emotionally packed sentences highlighted with some mighty clever quips – not to mention the meticulous attention paid to your penmanship. You take great care in addressing the envelope, purchase a stamp, and search for a mail box…. Now how can the rapidity of electronic, digitized email zapped thru cyberspace in a nano second ever replace the intensity, work and time that goes into a hand written actual letter that will arrive days after it is mailed… and how telling is one’s personal handwriting?  An actual OBJECT verifying one’s ideas and feelings, a testament of mind and ultimately memory… sealed with a kiss? cautiously perfumed? These were not Shakespearean sonnets, but honest from the heart emotions on paper – perhaps not perfectly penned – but always meaningful, emotive and sincere.

A play like A. R. Gurney’s “Love Letters” currently running at the Brooks Atkinson is a large leap back into a set, carefully organized, measured world – a time and place teeming with social conventions and constraints – surely a different culture then our own.  One in which words on paper created a permanence lacking in today’s disposable – i.e. press “delete” – society.


This is a pitch perfect, a capella duet, a two character drama clearly defined by prominent treble and bass lines – sometimes in harmony, sometimes solo, yet always resonate with sharps, flats, overtones and undertones.  A raw, male/female absorbing story of perpendicular, crisscrossed, intersected lives.  Melissa is the moneyed, liberal artist and Andy the responsible, constricted “WASP” – performed with no sets, no costumes, no blocking, no stage direction/ movement and no intermission. A continuous, strictly verbal play in which two adult characters of a “certain age” sit at a table and read the chronology of their lives – using only their letters to each other to tell their tale – while directly addressing an audience of rapt theater goers.  The actors on stage never look at each other.  What follows are two lives unfolding with all the conflicts, joys, ditsy details, tragedies, ironies, absurdities – and the strength (or lack thereof) necessary to get thru it all. Such an intense, overwhelmingly compelling game of verbal volleyball – with an evolving, yet revolving score of “love” continuously underscoring this “match.”  You never quite know where the ball will bounce, you are not even certain if it will clear the net. I was totally drawn into this world of words … although often silence speaks louder … what is not said, says much.  The actors may never move on stage, but make no mistake – this play is full of action emanating from the head and soul of this duo, ultimately hitting the hearts of the audience in some surprisingly unexpected ways.

A.R. Gurney has written a remarkable, intimate piece of theatre and the Brooks Atkinson Theatre presents the perfect venue.  The two players- I was fortunate to catch it with the legendary Carol Burnett and marvelous Brian Dennehy- must modulate thru a seamless antithesis – from innocence to experience, from the comic to the serious, from young to old.   Indeed, the players seem to actually physically grow on stage, they are just that good in their roles – and recreate duel lives using only the written word, their own natural  talent and every ounce of  their stage skills.  Every facial movement, hand action, eye contact, inflection, every tonal nuance and vocal dynamic must fit and further the story.  You have to be at the top of your acting game to deliver this narrative duet while playing only from the waist up! Ultimately a depth of maturity is called for here, so rarely seen on stage.


The two person cast is a revolving one for this 2014 extending into early 2015 showing.  Here’s the expected lineup:

Candice Bergen /Alan Alda – November 9 – December 18

Diana Rigg / Stacy Keach – December 19January 9

Anjelica Huston / Martin Sheen – January 10 – February 15

What an array of talent, and each will bring their own singular strengths to their role. What possibilities!

An intelligent, closely felt, moving drama is hard to find these days on Broadway. The Great White Way seems riddled with some real nonsense. Don’t let a night of theater at its purest go by, this opportunity may very well never again occur; there are not many producers around willing to take bold risks any more. Such an amazing, legendary cast of players waiting in the wings, it’s a win/win.     

Now for a bit of truth…do you still have love letters buried in a drawer, and if so, what would those letters say about you?  Let’s talk in the comments below!


By: Joanne Theodorou




Unleash Your Inner Mixologist At Harding’s


After-work cocktails are kinda a thing in NYC.  While my drink of choice is usually a cracking cold glass of white (or champers if I’m feeling really fancy), I’ll occasionally splurge on a $14 cocktail…and savor every last sip.  But, like many New Yorkers, I’ve often wondered what makes these cocktails so expensive special…how hard could it be to add a splash of vodka into a glass of cranberry juice?  And when I’m ordering a fancy bevvy, how do I know the bartender is giving me $14 worth of spirit?  Perhaps most importantly, why are there never cocktails made with Dr. Pepper?!  (I kid, I kid, but this was a legit question asked in the class!)


So to get some answers to my questions, I headed to Harding’s for their monthly Bartending Class with Mixologist Derrick Turner.  First off, Harding’s is essentially the PERFECT venue for a class of this sort…classic Americana, with the sweetest little back room perfect for getting one’s mixology on.  I swear, I think there was even an old Singer sewing machine turned table for two!

unnamed-2 unnamed-1

Ok, onto the class.  Derrick taught us 3 different drinks, all featuring St. George Spirits (themes change monthly though, often according to seasonal variety.)  My favorite was the “Simply Wicked”.  I included the recipe below for your drinking pleasure;-)

How do you know your bartender isn’t skimping on the booze?  An 8 second pour, my friends (8 seconds = 2 ounces of liquor).  Any less, just give him/her the stink eye and they should know exactly what you’re referring to.  (Thanks, Derrick!)

Oh, and I have a totally new appreciation for paying top dollar for the fancier drinks…seriously, not easy work!  By the end of class I had splashed liquid all over my work station (and myself!), and while my drinks certainly tasted delicious, they were no where as pretty as Derrick’s…in fact, they were pretty sloppy.  Bartending fail, Jess!  And the fact that bartenders have to memorize all these crazy concoctions, while making them, AND carrying on a conversation about your day?!  Major, major props, mixologists!


To RSVP for a class at Harding’s, visit their website.  And in the meantime, head to your home bar cart (cause I know you have one!;-), and give this delicious little number a try:

 Simply Wicked

1/4 oz. St. George absinthe

1/2 oz. agave syrup

Pinch of watercress

1.5 oz. gin

Garnish with watercress

{give it a proper mixing in a chilled glass with ice, and then strain into your glass.  as Derrick said, “you’ll be drinking pure happiness.”}


Now it’s your turn…drink of choice?!  Share in the comments below!


By: Jessica Tiare Bowen




Lypsinka! The Trilogy + Giveaway


This contest has officially ended. A huge New York thank you to all who participated, and congrats to our winner, Teri! Stay tuned for more exciting giveaways!

Happy Friday, readers!  Super stoked to be bringing some weekend cheer to you with this giveaway of free theater tickets to a fiercely fabulous show…!


1 STAR! 3 SHOWS! 8 WEEKS!: Lypsinka! The Trilogy

LYPSINKA! THE BOXED SET, Directed by Kevin Malony: Not seen in New York since 2001, this full-length ‘traditional’ Lypsinka concert is the award-winning revue of the Lyp’s greatest bits that has toured the world, flabbergasting audiences from Los Angeles to Sydney to Glasgow. Using a soundtrack created from films, musicals, and concert recordings, the New York stage’s supreme archivist of irony showcases the modern woman’s challenge of being over-blessed with femininity and celebrity.

THE PASSION OF THE CRAWFORD, Directed by Kevin Malony: The Lyp’s tour de force embodiment of towering screen queen Joan Crawford – featuring a re-enactment of Crawford’s onstage interview from 1973 – is a fantasia of fame and insecurity, grandness and identity. Last presented in New York in 2005, this tribute to Hollywood and ego crisis has since been mounted from San Francisco to Sarasota.

JOHN EPPERSON: SHOW TRASH, Directed by Barry Kleinbort: An autobiographical multi-media pastiche, starring Epperson – unmasked and in street clothes – tinkling the ivories and spinning yarns of Mississippi, Manhattan, and Hollywood. Now making its New York City theatrical premiere, the anecdotal Show Trash reveals the man behind the madness.


Here’s how to enter:

1. Subscribe to Used York City, which signs you up for our monthly newsletter. (Don’t forget to respond to the verification message you are sent via email. Former subscribers are automatically entered!)

2. For a bonus entry, tag your favorite NYC moment of the week on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #UsedYorkCity


The contest will run until Wednesday, November 12th, at which time a winner will be randomly chosen and announced on this post and via Twitter, and the winner will be notified directly by the email address that they subscribed with! Best of luck to all our readers!

p.s. if you don’t win the tickets, here’s a code for discounted ticket prices: RRMGNRL1.


By: Jessica Tiare Bowen