Word for 2021: PEACE

Thinking back to this time last year I can’t help but laugh at the events that transpired. I was in the middle of choosing my word for 2020 and I was so excited about the new decade and what thrilling adventures it would bring. We were all excited about kicking off a new decade with “20/20 vision”. We were planning to push ahead with dreams, desires, goals, and achievements. We were going to travel more, spend more time with family, work harder, show more hospitality, learn new things, and really start enjoying life as it should be enjoyed. We were going to thrive.

We can all agree that the adventure that was 2020 can be described as anything but thrilling. Other events had been set into motion that none of us could have even imagined at the start of this new decade. Events that were beyond our control, events that would change our lives, events that would effectively bring our world to a halt.

2020 hit and had a promise of a good year…until we heard the word COVID-19. In early March our country was hit with this brand new virus and we shut down. Many lost their lives, many more lost their livelihoods. Churches were closed, schools and sports were cancelled, business shut down, families were separated, and we were isolated from everyone and everything. Fear set in and has only taken deeper root in the hearts of most. Graduations were missed, weddings were cancelled, birthdays were celebrated via Zoom, and we all got used to hearing “social distancing” driving a deeper wedge between each other. Depression and anxiety soared, fear gripped the hearts of all, and it wasn’t long before unrest set in. We then turned to face political turmoil, increased violence, angry protests and riots, and even natural disasters with devastating fires. It was easy to lose hope and give in to the darkness settling in around us.

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With the pain and suffering that 2020 brought, how do we go into another new year without fear and trepidation of what more we will face? How do we get excited about hope when we can’t see an end in sight to all of the heartache this year has brought? It’s easy to quote verses like I Peter 5:7 (“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”) at each other, but it’s a lot harder when it’s you having to do the casting. When it’s the person we look at in the mirror having to actually put in to practice what we’ve been preaching, well that’s a different story right? It’s easy to read stories in the Bible and say “well that was different” or “that’s not like this at all”. It’s easy to pass the story of Peter in the midst of the storm off as just a story, not to be taken seriously. It’s easy to say “well Jesus was right there with him so that’s different”. My friend, Jesus may not physically be standing in front of you today, but if you are a child of God you are not alone. He has sent another in His physical place and the Holy Spirit has just enough power to calm the storm as Jesus in the flesh had 2,000 years ago. You may look around at the turmoil in the world today wondering where in the world our Savior is, but friend all you have to do is look up. The curse that sin left on this world is dark, and tribulation is part of the effects that curse has had. While Jesus may not be calming the storm we’re in right now, He sure is standing with us in the thick of it.

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With this is the forefront of my mind, the word I have chosen to focus and meditate on for 2021 is the word

Peace

Peace is a word with many meanings. One definition is to represent the absence of war or conflict. Another definition refers to a state of rest, calm, or quiet. However, Biblical peace is more than just the absence of conflict or state of rest. It means completeness and it points to the presence of something, or someone, else. It points to our Savior and it is a peace only He can provide.

How then do we get to a point where we can experience His peace?

1.) Separate the Lies from the Truth

Fear is the biggest liar.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

We all have to be honest and admit that 2020 was a fear filled year. Some more than others, but all nonetheless. Fear will rob us of God’s peace by taking our focus off of Him and putting it on the circumstances surrounding us. Fear will lead us to believing the lies spread by media and news. Fear will have us believing that God is no longer in control, but that we have been abandoned. Fear is a liar.

The truth is that God is in control of every situation. While He may not stop the storm, he knows every outcome and every consequence. That alone should bring comfort to our hearts.

2.) Stop Trying to Gain Control

We cannot control the curse we were brought under, nor can we control the outcomes. When we learn to stop grasping for control that we will never have, we will find calm while the storm carries on. Instead of grasping for control, grasp the Father’s hand.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34

Cling to His promises for you and let Him carry you through.

“The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:15-17

3.) Realize the God is Sovereign

God may allow the consequences of the sin curse to play out in our world, but He is still sovereign over all. In the end, He gives and takes away. He allows and he halts. He creates and He destroys. He judges, and He loves.

 “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” Isaiah 45: 7

The most important thing to remember is that God does not work on our timetable.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, ”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55: 8-9

4.) Renew Your Mind Daily with Prayer and Meditation

Choosing to ignore the things of this world and choosing to focus your mind on Christ will bring calm and peace in troubled times. Read and meditate daily on the scriptures. Keep a scripture journal as you study and note the things God is showing you as you read through His Word. Put yourself in a quiet place and note the emotions your heart feels. Pray though and tell God specifics on what has you anxious, and then leave those things with Him. If we start each day like this, we will experience God’s peace and calm in a chaotic world.

“He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.” Psalm 201:17

This year it is going to be really hard for people to want to set goals. It’s going to be hard to dream again. It may be hard to continue on with no knowledge of where this year will take us. Hopefully you found some encouragement in the above words. May you find God’s peace this year and experience it like you’ve never before. May your heart be calmed as you go about your days. May you find rest in God’s promises knowing that He knows the end of the story. May you learn to trust Him more and cling to Him during this storm. And may your 2021 be the start of a renewed relationship with our Savior.

This song has been an uplifting encouragement to me, especially as I wrote this. I hope it is the same encouragement to you as you start the new year.

Paige

A Thrill of Hope Far as the Curse is Found

Christmas week is finally here. I wanted to share something with you that encouraged me as we head into this week. With the darkness that this year has brought has also come the very painful reminder that we are living under a curse. A curse that was cast thousands of years ago during the fall of man. A curse that seems to be building as time marches forward. Heartaches of all shapes and sized remind us that this isn’t the way it was supposed to be. Genesis 3 tells the painful story of the fall of man that changed our future and cast humanity into shadow.

Genesis 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’ ”4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,“ Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it, ’“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

However, as the long awaited season of Christmas approaches we are reminded not only of the curse we live under, but we are also reminded of a promise. A promise of a hope. A promise of a Savior. A promise that one day that curse would be broken. A promise that we would be provided a way to restore fellowship with our Creator.

Isaiah 9: 6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Matthew 1:20-21 …an angel of the Lord appeared to him (Joseph) in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

As we approach and celebrate Christmas this year, let us not do so with fear and trepidation of where the year has led us, or where the next will lead. Let us celebrate Christmas under the hope of the fulfilled promise that we were given over 2,000 years ago. Let us approach the new year with confidence in our Savior and a hope like this world have never seen.

I truly hope you feel the thrill of hope that this reminder brings to us at this time of year. Take a break this Christmas from the presents and the food, and meditate on the greatest gift that we’ve received. The gift of a Messiah, a Redeemer, a Friend, a King, and a broken curse.

Merry Christmas friends,

Paige

A Different Kind of Christmas

I’m going to be honest with you, I am having a lot of trouble writing about hospitality this year. Whether it’s people to fearful to gather or governments imposing restrictions we all have to admit it’s hard to practice hospitality in 2020. I had my entire December posting schedule mapped out. It was breaming with hostess secrets and tips on Christmas dinner, bake-offs, parties, gift guides, open house events, and so much more. I have been pumped to write and share since last Christmas.

I feel lost friends. I’m sitting here realizing that Christmas is only 1 week away and there hasn’t been a single party, dinner, gift exchange, or bake-off. I’m even behind on my own Christmas shopping. I do have a little bit of an excuse as I announced the expected Summer arrival of our first child early this week over on my social media, but it’s hard to even use that as justification for slacking off this Christmas.

With the pandemic stealing so much from us this year, how do we go forward in love? As we quickly march forward into the holiday season and the new year that is waiting just around the corner, how can we still practice hospitality and kindness to those around us?

Here are 5 unconventional ways to show Christmas love and kindness to others without gathering together:

1.) Send a week worth of groceries or meal delivery kits.

Meal kits such as Hello Fresh will have great deals around Christmas time. Consider gifting someone a week of meals. If that’s not an option, consider going shopping and buying them a weeks worth of groceries instead. Items such as cereal, oatmeal, pasta, crackers, canned goods, and jar soups are great options for meals that will stay good for a long time.

2.) Send a Christmas card with a variety of gift cards.

If you have a larger blessing budget consider blessing someone with a variety of gift cards. Include establishments such as grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants to hit all essentials. If you’re sending them farther away, consider a Visa or Mastercard gift card to be sure they can be spent anywhere as some local chains might not be available across country.

Write a letter to include in that card telling the recipient how much they mean to you. Offer some encouragement and maybe a written prayer for them that they can go back and read when needed.

3.) Send a surprise box with games and activities.

I like sending packages from Amazon. I can shop and send straight to the recipient all while hiding payment information. There are many places that will allow you to send packages straight from the shop, so do a search and pick the best option for you.

Board games, card games, activity books, puzzles, and brain teasers are excellent choices to provide cheer and entertainment through the winter (and pandemic) months.

4.) Do a surprise porch drop.

Put together a cocoa bar basket with drink mix, peppermint sticks, mini chocolate chips, and marshmallows and drop it on their porch for a fun surprise. You could also do a basket with freshly baked breads and cookies.

This is an excellent choice for someone who is sick or recovering, new parents, single parents, older adults, and quarantining friends.

5.) Put together an essentials package for someone in need.

Include items such as toilet paper (a rare commodity these days), laundry soap, hand soap, toothpaste, sanitizer, Lysol wipes, diapers, etc.

This could mean the world to someone who has lost their job or part of their income for the holiday season. If no names come to mind consider reaching out to your local church and see if they have some people that need an extra blessing this season.

This might not be the Christmas hospitality we were hoping to share this year, but we can still be a blessing to those around us! So many are suffering in many ways this year. Whether it’s health, relationships, or finances, we don’t have to look long before we find someone in need of encouragement and help. This Christmas I encourage you to look around and ask God to show you who you can be a blessing to this year.

5 Quick Holiday Hostess Tips

I love hosting get-togethers at Christmas time! My house looks bright and festive, peppermint is everywhere, and the feeling of goodwill and hope can be felt throughout. December is probably my favorite month to host dinners and parties. Today I am sharing 5 quick tips to make your holiday hosting smooth and effective.

1.) Have a Playlist Ready.

Don’t wait until the last minute to search through your music library to find something suitable for entertaining. Have a holiday playlist ready to go and have it playing softly before guests arrive. Check out my top 25 favorite Christmas songs for hosting.

Keep the music soft so it does not interfere with conversation. I recommend getting a home smart system and placing small speakers throughout your home to keep music consistent in otherwise quiet rooms. I have small google nest speakers in places like my guest room, bathrooms, and study. This allows the same music to play throughout and provides a little noise to otherwise boring rooms.

If you don’t want, or feel comfortable with, a home smart system you can purchase small inexpensive Bluetooth speakers and play music the same way using your phone as a base for the music.

I also have a list of favorite Christmas artists if you prefer to add full albums:

  • Michael Bublé
  • Pentatonix
  • Francesca Battistelli
  • Chris Young
  • Point of Grace
  • Brett Eldridge
  • Lauren Daigle
  • Idina Menzel
  • Andrea Bocelli
  • Straight, No Chaser

2.) Utilize Candles.

There is something very cozy and inviting about candles burning in your home. You also get the added benefit of the delightful aroma.

My favorite scents for hosting are vanilla, cream, candy cane, fig, cotton, lavender, lemon, birch, or fresh snow. Be careful not to choose scents that are overpowering or heavily musky. Also, consider if your guest has allergies or is expecting. Certain scents can cause sneezing or vomiting that you don’t want you guests to have to deal with (and neither do you).

To add an extra special touch to your dinner table bring out that pair of candlesticks, or those special tea lights. Just be sure any candles on the dinner table are unscented as you don’t want anything to unpleasantly mix with your food.

3.) Make Coffee.

Even if you don’t drink it, your guests may welcome a cup. If not, then the smell itself is very warm and inviting. Be sure to have basic cream and sugar for guests who do want to drink a cup. If you want to make it extra special keep a few syrups or flavored creamers on hand to dress up plain coffee.

If I will be serving coffee I like to make up a tray with a French press, cream, sugar, and use coffee cups with saucers.

I recommend having an electric kettle for quick heating of water to make your own French pressed coffee. It’s an elegant presentation and it makes guests feel extra special. Besides that, it’s fun and tastes so much better!

4.) Set an Appetizer Out.

If dinner will take a few extra minutes of prep work, be sure to have an appetizer set out to keep guests satisfied. It doesn’t have to be big or elaborate, you can choose something simple or complex. It’s entirely up to you and what time you have.

My go-to appetizer for snacking before dinner is usually a light cheese, a thin cracker, and thin cut deli meat such as salami or pepperoni. Be sure to communicate with guests how long dinner will be so they can snack accordingly.

If you have a little more time and want to step it up, Ritz crackers with an herbed cream cheese and smoked salmon is a beautiful hor d’oeuvres to serve as long as there are no seafood allergies or aversions. Other quick options include berries, veggies, cocktail shrimp, or nuts.

5.) Know Your Guests.

You may not know everyone as well as you’d like; after all getting to know them may be why you’ve invited them into your home. However, make an effort to know something about them and their life for conversation starters. Look on their social media page or ask a mutual friend.

Things to know would be: Do they have kids? What do they do for a job? Are they religious? These points can give you enough information to start a conversation and dive deeper.

Hopefully these quick 5 tips will help you during this holiday season of hosting. My ultimate goal is to make you more confident with every meal you cook, every party you throw, and every person you bring in to your life.

As always, if there are any particular subjects you’d like to read about or learn more about, please contact me via the Contact Us page! I would love to know more about what YOU need!

Paige

Preparing For Thanksgiving (When You Don’t Feel Thankful)

This year has been tough. Humanity has been hit with a major health crisis, political turmoil, and natural disaster. Many have lost loved ones, jobs, and livelihoods. Churches and schools were forced to close due to the pandemic so there was no social outlet. People lost touch of reality, lost touch of friends, and lost part of themselves. Others watched doors close, dreams die, and lost all hope. For many, this Thanksgiving season is going to be difficult to go through with a grateful heart because they are carrying heavy burdens of pain and suffering.

While we do go through painful seasons, these seasons do not define our life. One of my hero women, Christy Wright, says this “You are not the season you are in”. Psalms 30:5b says “weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” If I can offer you some encouragement friends it would be this: painful seasons do not last.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. Come and see what the LORD has done, the desolations he has brought on the earth. He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire. He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalms 46: 1-11

Gratitude is the art of being thankful. Thankful for what we have been given, and thankful for what we have been spared.

  • Did you wake up this morning? Some did not.
  • Did you eat breakfast? Some could not?
  • Did you drive to work? Some had to walk.
  • Did you wake up with your spouse? Some lost theirs this year.
  • Did you kiss your children? Some can’t have them.
  • Are you reading this? Some can’t see.

Did you know the art of gratitude actually has a chemical and physical effect on our bodies? Yes! Practicing gratitude releases dopamine. Dopamine is our “feel-good” chemical messenger. It tells out brain that we are experiencing pleasure. Practicing gratitude is just as pleasurable as eating our favorite foods or taking part in a fun activity. It reduces our stress and anxiety, and tells our brain that we’re happy so we feel happy. Even in the rough seasons, there is still so much to be grateful for. One of my favorite Thanksgiving passages comes from Psalms 100.

“Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalms 100:1-5 

How do we do this then? How do we go in to a season of Thanksgiving with a heavy heart?

1.) It’s ok to acknowledge your pain.

You do not have to guard your heart with God my friend. He made that heart and He knows when it is breaking. Hebrews 4:15 tells us “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” When Jesus came to earth wrapped in human flesh, He did not do so void of all human emotion. He took on that which we experience. Jesus experienced loss and grief, but was able to turn it for the glory of the Father. He’s not scared or disgusted by your pain. Psalms 34:18 says “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” We can be assured that our Father does not run when we tell Him we’re hurting. He is close, begging us to rest on Him and in His grace. He says “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

2.) Make gratitude your first response.

When you wake up in the morning, make a habit of vocalizing gratitude first thing. Start your day with prayer and a gratitude journal, or have an accountability partner you text with your daily gratitude. It’s amazing what starting with Thankfulness will do for our daily mood. We don’t have to pretend there is no pain, but we should learn to give thanks for what we have been given.

3.) Reach out to someone else who may be hurting.

It’s always harder to focus on your suffering when you are helping someone else through theirs. Reach out to someone who lost a spouse and invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. Reach out to a family who lost their income and offer to bring groceries for Thanksgiving. Reach out to someone who has had little human interaction and ask if you could come visit and bring dessert. Check with your local church for some names who need help paying a bill, an encouraging letter, or just some extra prayer. When we get our eyes off of our misery and focus our energy on others, we start to notice our own blessings even more.

4.) Plan Thanksgiving Dinner.

There’s nothing like sitting down and planning a holiday menu to lift my spirits. If that works for you, then grab a notebook and start planning. Whether you want family, friends, or both. Whether you want potluck style or formal sit-down. Whether you want traditional turkey or more modern baby back ribs. It doesn’t matter. Just start planning and make it happy for you and your family.

My prayer is that even in the midst of this rough season you can find encouragement to continue on in thanksgiving and praise to our Creator and Savior. Happy Thanksgiving!

~Paige

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