3 Ways to Host Friendsgiving

A few years ago I was first introduced to the term “Friendsgiving”. I fell in love with the idea. Our friends are often as close as family and should be celebrated. For those of you who are not familiar with the idea of Friendsgiving, allow me to explain. The concept was introduced in the early 2000’s and has been slowly growing since. Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time spent with family, but people had started to realize that they also wanted to spend this beautiful holiday with their friends. Friendships are so sweet and they give us much to be thankful for. Thus began a tradition of Friendsgiving. A Thanksgiving inspired meal with friends.

Proverbs 27:9b (MSG) says …”A sweet friendship refreshes the soul”

Friendsgiving does not have to be any one set way. Last year I decided that I wanted to celebrate in the style of an afternoon tea. I invited some dear ladies to gather around and catch up over a cup of tea. It was such a sweet time of fellowship and fun and will be an annual event. There are so many fun ways to celebrate with friends, but sometimes it’s nice to have choices narrowed down. Below we’ll look at 3 ideas for celebrating Friendsgiving.

1.) A Friendsgiving Tea

This is how I choose to celebrate Friendsgiving. It’s super fun and allows everyone to slow down before the rush of the holidays. Instead of a formal sit-down tea party, I plan a cozy autumn tea with open seating and buffet style food arrangements. The menu is usually simple, but it is a delicious Fall inspired spread. This was the 2019 Friendsgiving Tea menu. This menu will be sufficient for a party of 10-15. If you have more guests, add another type of sandwich and dessert. (TIP: If you have guests with a known gluten allergy, it would be kind to offer some sandwiches on gluten-free bread.)

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To create a buffet style tea, you’ll need two or three tables. I used three. One for food, one for tea, and a third for cold drinks such as punch (recipe below), ice water, and sparkling cider. Purchase a few fall colored (or neutral) table cloths and a roll of tape (trust me).

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To set the food table, use platters and serving tiers with varying height . Arrange taller platters in the back and plate platters in the front. Place plates and napkins at the far right end of the table and have guests start there. Unlike a traditional tea party, it doesn’t matter in which order you place the food. For this style it is not important. To decorate a food table, I use simple thin milk glass vases with 3-4 flowers and a sprig of green. (TIP: Purchase an autumn bouquet from your local grocer and split it up between 3-5 vases depended on bouquet size) I also used small ceramic pumpkins in neutral colors and fresh pears as part of the decoration. (TIP: Dollar tree and Hobby Lobby are the best place to get awesome Fall decorations without breaking the bank. If you can splurge a little more, T J Maxx and Target have beautiful selections that are impossible to resist.)

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To set a tea table you will need:
*Tea pot(s)
*Assorted tea cups and saucers
*Tea spoons
*Tea bag rest (if offering tea bags)
*Sugar (cubes preferably)
*Honey
*Milk
*Lemon, sliced or wedged (optional)

*Spice Pear Punch Recipe*

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6 cups Pear Nectar
4 cups Ginger Beer
Juice from 2 Lemons
~Garnish~
1 cup Fresh cranberries
4 Sprigs Fresh rosemary
3 Cinnamon sticks

2.) A Formal Friendsgiving Dinner

A formal dinner party is always a fun option if you have the time and the budget. For this you will want to send invitations 2-3 weeks in advance. You can send paper invitations through the mail, e-vites through online services, or even create a Facebook event. My favorite for formal dinners in traditional paper invitations through the mail. These invitations add a special touch of elegance to your event.

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The Menu can be tailored to fit any needs. This is often the most fun, and most stressful, part of planning a formal dinner. With a formal dinner you’ll want to plan everything well in advance. Sit down and write (or type) out your menu and the grocery list. You’ll also want to think about you decoration and color scheme. Keep in mind that less is more. Don’t overfill your table with elaborate floral displays or a full golden pumpkin patch. Keep it elegant, but simple. To save yourself some time the day of, I recommend setting the tables and dishes the evening before your dinner. Be sure that all linens are cleaned and pressed in advance. Try to steer clear of china with pinks and reds.

To set a formal dinner place setting you will need the following pieces: Charger, dinner plate, salad plate, soup bowl, bread plate, salad fork, dinner fork, soup spoon, meat knife, butter knife, water glass, wine glass, and napkin. You will place the charger an inch away from the table’s edge. The dinner plate is to be set next, followed by the salad plate, and finally by the soup bowl. The bread plate is to go at the upper left corner of the charger with the butter knife. The drinking glasses at the upper right corner of the charger.

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Example Formal Table Setting (With dessert fork and tea spoon) Add a charger and pumpkin for a beautiful formal Friendsgiving table setting.

The dinner fork belongs directly left of the charger with the salad fork resting to its left. The meat knife rests directly to the right of the charger with the soup spoon directly on its right. The napkin can be folded, shaped, or draped and placed either to the right, or on the dinner plate under the salad plate.

To serve the dinner you will start by seating guests and pouring drinks. (TIP: Consider hiring a professional wait staff or eager teenagers from your local church to help serve the meal.) The soup course is served first followed by the salad. Keep portions smaller as these are not your main course. After the salad is finished and cleared, the main course is to be served. There are 2 ways to do this. Scenario one: Have wait staff serve meat. The sides can be brought in and placed on the table for guests to pass around and serve themselves. Scenario two: You can have the dinner plates taken to the kitchen when the salad plates are cleared and have dinner served already plated. (TIP: Food is always served from the left and cleared from the right of the guest.)

Dessert can either be served at the table after dinner plates are cleared, or in the living room around a low table. Be sure to offer your guests coffee or tea with their desserts.

cranberrysauce.jpegPaige’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tsp grated orange zest
12 oz fresh cranberries rinsed
Dash sea salt
*Cinnamon stick (optional)

Instructions
1) Combine the sugar, water, and orange juice in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved, and bring to a boil.
Add cranberries and return to a boil, then reduce heat and cook 10-15 minutes until berries have popped and have slightly reduced.
2) Reduce heat to simmer and add orange zest and salt. Stir and cook for 5-10 minutes longer. The longer you cook your cranberries the thicker your sauce will be. (TIP: Your sauce will also thicken up after cooling) *If you would like a little extra holiday flavor, throw a cinnamon stick into the pot with the orange zest and let cook for 5-10 minutes. Remove the stick before serving and garnish with orange peel and a fresh cinnamon stick.
3) Transfer mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool for at least 20 minutes at room temperature. (Can be made ahead and kept in the refrigerator until ready to be served)

3.) A Potluck Friendsgiving Dinner

The third style of Friendsgiving that we’ll look at is a potluck style dinner. This is the simplest way to host with a large crowd. Invitations don’t have to be formal, but can still be sent via mail if you’d like. I’ve found that for events with everyone bringing food, I like to use Facebook Events. It allows guests to post and see what others are bringing.

With a potluck style dinner, the host/hostess usually provides the meat and dessert. You could do a traditional turkey and a beef brisket, or you could go rogue and do ribs and salmon. The choice is yours. Below are some delicious side dish options for guests to bring. You can create a sign up list where everyone chooses from a side and signs up to brings it, or you could get brave and tell your guests to bring whatever they want. This will depend on the style of dinner you want.

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The easiest way to set up for a potluck is to keep everything super simple. Check places like T J Maxx, Hobby Lobby, and Target for fun themed disposable plates, cutlery, and cups. Set up 6ft folding table(s) and cover with a cute tablecloth. Go easy with the decorations, don’t choose anything that will take too much space, or be in the way of guests reaching for food. If you want candles, go for LED tea lights or battery operated candles. They pose a much lower risk for accidental fires.

Think about where you want the line to start and place the plates at that end of the table. Cutlery can be placed in caddies and set near the plates. Napkins can be placed next to the cutlery caddies. Always have a separate table for drinks because pouring beverages can slow the line down and cause potential messes. The food line up should be hot foods, cold foods, room temperature foods, salads, and finally breads and rolls. Be sure to put condiments near the type of food they pair with such as salad dressings with the salad, and cranberry sauce near the turkey. To help with temperature control, you can use chafing dishes to keep foods hot, or ice platters to keep food cold.

Paula Dean’s Green Bean Casserole

1/3 stick butter
1/2 cup diced onions
1/2 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cups sliced green beans
3 cups chicken broth
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of mushroom soup
1 (2.8-ounce) can French-fried onion rings
Pinch All purpose Seasoning (or dash salt, pepper, and garlic)
1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2.) Melt the butter in a large skillet. Sauté the onions and mushrooms in the butter. Boil green beans in chicken broth for 10 minutes and drain. Add the green beans, mushroom soup, onion rings, and House Seasoning, to taste, to the onion mixture. Stir well. Pour into a greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, then top the casserole with the Cheddar and bake for 10 minutes longer, or until the casserole is hot and cheese is melted.

These are only three of many ways you could host Friendsgiving. The most important part of the event, any way you choose to celebrate, are the friends that will join you to celebrate this beautiful holiday. Take a moment during the evening to look around and reflect on each amazing friendship in your life. Join together to say a blessing over each other, and praise God for the people he placed in your life.

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“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali

Happy Friendsgiving!

Paige Baldwin

How to do a “Mocktail” Mimosa Bar

This past weekend my friend, Lauren, and I hosted a baby shower for another dear friend of ours. It was so fun to plan and pull off! We sat down together one evening and started planning, but got stuck. It was a tea party so of course we’d serve tea,  but we were struggling with fun drink options to have in addition. We didn’t want just lemonade and iced tea and all the punch recipes seemed boring. So we brainstormed, researched our trusty source, Pinterest, and came up with the brilliant idea of a “Mocktail” MOM-osa bar. We were giddy with excitement as we planned out our drink bar. We started with a list of juices.

We Chose:

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Orange
Pineapple
Cucumber Mint Lime
Peach
Watermelon
Cranberry
Raspberry
Pomegranate

For the bubbly addition, I chose unflavored sparkling water and raspberry sparkling water. However, there is a large variety of flavored sparkling waters out there and any of them would be delicious! (TIP:  I suggest limiting the selection to 2 flavors of sparkling water so your guests don’t feel overwhelmed at all of the choices. Pick unflavored and 1 flavored.) Next you’ll want to choose some fruits and herbs for garnishes.

We chose:

Strawberries BabyShowerFruit
Blueberries
Blackberries
Raspberries
Peaches/Nectarines
Chopped fresh Mint
Other good options:
Pineapple
Basil

Other items that you’ll need include a variety of small fruit bowls and serving spoons. You’ll want a selection of Mimosa or Champagne flutes. (TIP: Visit your local dollar tree for a variety of special drink glasses. I purchase all of mine there because I’d much rather accidently break a $1 glass as opposed to a nice $7+ glass) You’ll want a stack of cocktail napkins available, and for fun you can add a jar of fun paper straws. Amazon is a great place to find bulk party items. Check out this set of 6 fruit bowls great for parties and drink bars.

How do you make a Mom-osa?

It’s super easy! Choose your glass and select your juice(s). Pick your bubbly. Pour a half BabyShowerDrinkglass of juice, followed by a half glass of sparkling water. Then add your fruit and/or herbs. There are endless combinations you can make and it’s such a fun activity, as well as a beautifully displayed refreshing station. We were so happy with how this drink bar turned out, that we’ll definitely be using it again! This is a great option for Baby showers, Bridal showers, graduation parties, retirement parties, birthday parties, and much more.

Favorite Combinations from this weekend include:

From Paige: Peach juice, unflavored sparkling water, strawberries, and chopped mint

From Jamie (aka Mommy-to-Be): Cucumber Mint Lime with blueberries and chopped mint

From Anika: Watermelon with unflavored sparkling water, raspberries, and chopped mint.

From Lauren: Cucumber Mint Lime with unflavored sparkling water, strawberries, and chopped mint

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A special thanks to Elizabeth Anne Photography for the beautiful  photos.

I’d love to hear if you used this idea and how it worked for you, as well as any flavor combinations that were popular!

~Paige Baldwin

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Tips for Hosting a Backyard BBQ

July is almost here and that means that we are gearing up to celebrate our 243rd birthday as a country. There will be countless parties, picnics, and backyard barbeques administration-america-american-flag-1202723in the works. Today we’ll look at how to host a backyard barbeque with a few helpful tips and tricks.

For backyard party, the easiest way to plan and invite is through Facebook Events. You can create an event, invite guests, and post details in one area. This especially works well if you’re doing a potluck style where everyone invited brings a side dish because everyone can post what they will be bringing. I would recommend sending the invite 2-4 weeks in advance.

The best way to handle food for this type of event is potluck style. The host/hostess provides meat, drinks, and a side dish or two. Every guest that attends brings a side dish or a dessert. Menu options for meat can include burgers, hotdogs, beef brisket, shrimp, sausage kabobs, or steak. Almost anything tastes good grilled so there really isn’t any limitation. Watch grocery ads closely as many markets will have fantastic deals in July. It’s always beneficial to compare pricing for a large party .

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Grocery stores that typically have good summer sales (in St. Louis) include Aldi, Dierburg’s, and Fresh Thyme. When I do my shopping, I usually go to Dierburg’s for meat, Fresh Thyme for produce, and Aldi for everything else. I’ve found the best deals by doing this. You may have different grocery chains where you live, so I encourage you to watch ads and online sales closely.

Side dishes for outdoor events are fun. You want to be sure that whatever you’re sitting out won’t spoil within an hour of being out. Limit dishes with a lot of cream cheese and milk. During the Summer, seasonal dishes full of flavor are going to be magic. Lot’s of fresh ingredients and colorful choices.

Popular BBQ party sides include:
Potato salad
Coleslaw
Veggie skewers
Corn on the cob
Veggie tray
Chips and dip
Caprese skewers
Grilled pineapple and watermelon (see recipe below)

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There are all kinds of smart hacks for keeping bugs out of drinks and food, keeping children occupied, and keeping guests comfortable. Some of my favorite include:

1.) Use cupcake liners upside down over drinks to keep bugs out. Insert a straw straight through the liner to keep drinking.

2.) Use large apothecary jars with lids to hold potato salad, fruit salad, and pasta salads.

3.) Use a garden flag pole and bucket to keep things like sunscreen, bug spray, and extra sunglasses on hand for guests.

4.) Plan a simple scavenger hunt for children to keep them occupied. If you really want to take it up a notch, you can draw and copy “maps” of the back yard and have a treasure or prize at the end.

5.) For super easy clean ups set out a roll of paper towels, a bottle of hand sanitizer, and a tub of baby wipes. This will also minimize indoor traffic.

6.) Use large metal tubs or large planters full of ice to keep canned and bottled beverage cold.

7.) Have a playlist with soft party appropriate music set up and ready to go. My husband and I use Google Play music with our Google home system, but there are many other options.

I’m looking forward to backyard barbeques and parties this Summer. I hope you are too. I’ve created a guide to food amounts for parties, completely free for you! Click the link below to download and use.

How Much Food do I Need for My Party

Happy barbequing!
Paige

 

Grilled Watermelon:

Ingredients:
1/2 Watermelon sliced into triangles

Olive oil of coconut oil for brushing
Juice from 2-3 limes
2 TBS Honey
Sea salt to taste
1/3 cup crushed walnuts
1/4 cup mint leaves

1.) Brush triangles with oil. Grill on hot grill just until charred. Do not overcook.
2.) Drizzle with lime juice and honey, sprinkle with sea salt and walnut, and garnish with mint leaves.
3.) Serve as fresh as possible.

 

 

 

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Easter Brunch

I love brunch. You’re most likely going to read about it a few times as you’re reading through my posts. Brunch is one of the funnest (not a word?) events to do. The food is amazing, you can use more florals, and who doesn’t like brunch?? Today, we’ll look at Easter Brunch! Now that we have moved into our new home, the very first event I’ll be hosting is an Easter brunch this Saturday for family. I’m going to share my menu and decoration plans, as well as a few tips I’ve learned over time.

I’ll be using the following to create my tablescape:

Pastel and floral plates
Pastel faux eggs

Pastel Eggs

Crystal glasses
Floral tea cups

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White bunnies
Milk glass vases
Tulips
Vintage floral handkerchiefs
Monogrammed Silverware

I’ll be using a mixture of pastel and blue floral dishes, with crystal and pale pink glasses. Centerpieces will be simple milk glass vases of tulips and surrounding the vases will be miniature bunnies and chocolate eggs in a nest of edible grass. I’ll be using white egg cups holding pastel faux eggs for name cards. We’ll be using our wedding monogrammed silverware wrapped in vintage floral handkerchiefs for napkins. Don’t be afraid to mix patterns when it comes to incorporating floral into your Spring table. Also, don’t be afraid of color. You want your table to look alive and celebratory.

TIP 1) Don’t have or like milk glass? Raid the vase aisle at Dollar Tree. They have a great selection of study vases for only $1 a piece.

TIP 2) Explore your local antique shops and flea markets for vintage handkerchiefs. They make wonderful brunch and tea linens

TIP 3) Hobby Lobby is heaven on Earth to an event planner. The day after a holiday, decor goes 50% off. And a week after, decor goes up to 90% off. You can’t beat those sales. It’s a great way to stock up for next year’s festivities.

Now on to the important part: the menu. This is just what I’ll be serving. Feel free to change it up, change recipes, and make it your own.

Easter Brunch Menu

Berry French Toast Casserole*

Omelet Cups with Ham

Cheesy Hash-browns

Mini Pancake Stacks

Sausage Patties

Donut holes

Brunch is one of the easiest meals so don’t make it more difficult than it has to be. I chose the Berry French Toast Casserole because it can be prepped the night before and then all you have to do it pop it into the over the morning of the event. *Recipe at the end of this post* For the omelet cups, all I do is take a muffin tin and place a slice of ham in each cup. Then add an omelet mixture and bake at 325 until eggs are cooked. You can sprinkle with cheese if you’d like. There are multiple ways to do hash browns, and several recipes can be found on my Pinterest board.

TIP 1) I’ll use frozen sausage patties, mini pancakes, and store-bought donut holes. I try to make it as easy as I can, especially when I’ll have a house full.

TIP 2) To dress up the mini pancakes, attach 2-3 with a toothpick and top with a berry and confectioner’s sugar.

TIP 3) If someone asks if they can help or bring something, let them. Assign them something small, but it takes a task away from you and makes them feel good about contributing.

Drinks

Mock Mimosa (1/2 orange juice and 1/2 sparkling water with a dash of cherry syrup)

Orange Juice (Or any kind of fruit juice)

Hot Tea/Coffee

I’m looking forward to this brunch, and the many more to come! What are some tips you’ve discovered over time? Comment below with your thoughts, questions, or tips!

~Paige

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*French Toast Berry Casserole

Ingredients

  • 12-14 cups cubed bread
  • 8 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup strawberries sliced
  • ½ cup blueberries (or mixed berries)
  • 1-2 tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
  • maple syrup

Instructions

  1. Butter a 9″x13″ casserole dish. Cut bread into cubes and add to dish (fill up to ¾ way).
  2. In a large bowl, combine eggs, milk, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and brown sugar. Whisk mixture and mix well. Pour mixture over bread.
  3. Top mixture with strawberries and blueberries.
  4. Wrap the casserole and refrigerate overnight (or at least 4 hours)
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes at 350 degrees
  6. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.
  7. Serve with maple syrup.

This will typically serve about 8 people.