Living Entertaining:

Swoonify The Season….

In partnership with Holt Renfrew at Apparatus Studio
Photography by Sarah Elliott | Props by Jenna Saraco

I absolutely swoon the holiday season. Beyond cozy, indulgent food synonymous with festivities, the holidays also mean joyous family gatherings. From childhood and even into my adult years, these gatherings meant a bustling mix of immediate and extended family all hosted in my mother’s Long Island home, the very house I grew up in.

As a child I’d awaken to the aroma of a savory roast in the oven, and it put a smile on my face to know that my mother had risen at 6am to prep our feast of lasagna, meats, fish, stuffed mushrooms and plenty more holiday classics. The day always involved a classic Christmas movie on the TV, moving furniture and pushing tables together, breaking out Nona’s fine china, and finally, my aunts, uncles, and cousins galore would arrive around 1pm. I always felt a palpable pride in beautifying the house, and a sheer excitement of stuffing myself with far too much holiday food.

Two years ago mom sold my childhood home where I celebrated about 35 holiday dinners. It felt a bit wistful, but traditions must change, and this year marks my first year hosting the holidays in my home. My mom will pass the baton, teaching me how to make all of her tried-and-true classic dishes that my Nona taught her (she joked that I can swoonify and organi-cize her recipes). This year will be different indeed, as my brother and sister-in-law now live in Florida, so it will be just Victor, Jivan, my mom and myself at the holiday table—a huge contrast from my childhood memories of holiday dinners about 30 family members.

In light of these changes, I began thinking about new traditions to reflect our more intimate gathering, to spark excitement as we navigate new beginnings. I also chose to hone in on the positive aspects of a smaller group—I could delve even further into a beautifully curated tablescape and more elaborate, refined dishes and desserts—details that often get overlooked in large family events. Hosting in my own space offered a unique opportunity to get really swoony, and one creative choice led organically to the next.

Hop on over to Holt Renfrew to snoop their story!

Dress Stella McCartney | Plates Handmade Studio, Nashville TN  | Ceramic cups Nalata Nalata | Slate Board Brooklyn Slate Co. 

Setting the Scene

make it swoony....


I immediately knew my new traditions would involve offerings of gratitude. I asked each family member to email me a quote about what they are most grateful. Next, I shot a beautiful festive scape on my iPhone: a variety of pears from the local farm stand, carefully placed on a moody texture—the perfect backdrop to display our quotes. I called upon Artifact Uprising to print the square quotes on matte paper with a white border (this can easily be done on home printer as well). As our small dinner did not require formal printed menus or name cards, these quote cards offered beautiful and heartfelt expressions to read aloud, and inspire a conversation about gratitude.


I yearned for our table to reflect the dark and moody tones of the season (and the quote cards). Deep grey plates took center stage with a cohesive muted black linen napkin. The matte black flatware followed suit, but with delicate and dainty lines to soften their harshness. I had originally purchased a linen tablecloth, but once I set the table—a trial run is always a good idea a few nights before—I realized those dark tones needed some relief. I rediscovered a beautiful homespun textile runner I’d bought ages ago, and decided to hand-dye the nubby linen style grey to create some varied inconsistencies. It provided a rustic touch to counterbalance the lush scene, while showcasing the wooden table and adding a warm textural element.


The deep and burnt tones of the pears made their way onto the table, and I opted to bring nature onto the table without typical flowers. Instead, I went to the market and discovered some berry clung branches: they felt intrinsically wintery, adding a touch of the wild and evoking the red hue in the pears. Lastly, I snatched up some mini pears so freshly picked that their leaves were still attached, and I placed the delicate treasures atop the quote cards just before my guests arrived.


It was obvious that a pear theme had surfaced, so I dug into my archives for my absolute favorite French pear tart recipe. This recipe is hugely nostalgic for me, as it was my very first endeavor into proper tart baking almost 15 years ago. This time around, I crafted the tart in a rectangular tart pan to offset our dining at a round table, and I felt the rectilinear shape would better suit the scape. A drizzle of wildflower honey, crushed pistachios, and a dusting of powdered sugar atop the whole pears wrapped in a classic butter pastry added a the final touch of indulgence as we sipped on tea, wholly grateful for new traditions.

More Recipes from this Swoon

Recipes Desserts:

Pear + Almond Tart

Share this Swoon   –  

Necessary Objects

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