Reclaiming Her Grace: Beauty of Elegance

Good morning friends. Sometimes you need to take a step back from a project to cropped-afternoon-beverage-break-1549706-1.jpgreevaluate and assess your goals. That’s what I’ve been doing. I can’t say I have it all figured out, but I have been inspired to share the origin of the name of this Blog/Company. I’ve been using the name Reclaiming Her Grace for my website, blog, and coaching/teaching business now for a year, but I’ve never explained the meaning behind it. You may have guessed at it, or figured it out by the subject matter we talk about, but I want to spend this time by going into why I chose this name and what it means to me.

Grace:

“elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action: a pleasing or attractive quality or endowment”

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Too often, in our modern world, we decide that it’s ok to let go of another social grace. Pleasant qualities, elegance, and manners are dated as old fashioned. Humanity is more self-focused, conflicted, divided, and unpleasant than ever. What happened? When did we decided that elegance was unattractive? Why did we decide manners were outdated? We’ve slipped in to a fast paced, disconnected society, with the idea that to get ahead we have to push and shove everyone else out of the way. We desperately need to reclaim the grace that has long left our culture. This idea that we can live how we want, say what we want, and act how we want is terribly wrong. We have freedom yes, but we also have responsibility. We are responsible for the impression we leave on others. We are responsible for how we treat others. We are responsible for those whom we have an influence over. I’d like to look deeper into different areas of our lives that need to be reclaimed by gracious living. These areas fall into five main categories:

We need to Reclaim the Beauty of Elegance
We need to Reclaim the Beauty of Form
We need to Reclaim the Beauty of Etiquette
We need to reclaim the Beauty of our Actions
We need to Reclaim the Beauty of Attractive Qualities

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look at these 5 areas closely and do an inward evaluation of our own lives and how they reflect a gracious lifestyle.

We need to Reclaim Elegance

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1.) We need to Reclaim Elegant Living

When was the last time you really enjoyed watching a good educational documentary, or listening to Classical music, or reading a good non-fiction book? We’ve become too easily entertained by the junk of this world. Most would rather pick up People Magazine than a good home improvement journal. Most would rather listen to noisy pop music than enjoy the beauty of a Beethoven number. If we are to start reclaiming areas of our lives for elegance, why not start with our tastes in entertainment and daily living? Here are some practical ways we can introduce elegance back into our lives:

-Instead of always going to a movie, try attending the local Symphony one evening. chords-sheet-on-piano-tiles-210764

-Instead of ordering that diet Coke, order water with lemon (Or sparkling water to feel extra elegant)

-Instead of reading the latest romance novel, pick up a copy of “French Women Don’t Get Fat” or “Rhythms of Renewal” and read about how to live a life you love and take care of your body at the same time.

-Instead of reading People magazine, pick up Southern Lady or the Magnolia Journal.

-Instead of playing pop music, what about listening to some Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, or Michael Bublé? Listen to some smooth instrumental Jazz or Classical piano for relax time. (This is especially nice with a bubble bath and candles.)

exhibit-painting-display-69903-Instead of going to the club, visit a nearby Art Museum or Museum of History.

-Instead of sending a text, sit down and write out a card by hand.

-Instead of going to the airport/grocery store/doctor office in sweats, put on a real outfit and pull yourself together.

-Instead of choosing a video game every time, pull out a good old fashioned board game with real pieces.

This is just a small list of ideas to help add some elegance back into our everyday living, but you’ll find when you start making more elegant choices you feel more elegant. When you feel more elegant, you act it out. When you act it out, that’s gracious living.

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2.) We need to Reclaim Elegant Habits

If you had to list the #1 bad habit of American culture what would you say? I asked this question over on my Instagram account and the responses I got included foul language, ungratefulness, excessive phone use, and tardiness. These are just the top common answers I received.

If we are to gracefully refine our habits we must recognize what our bad habits are and understand why they need to be refined. Bad habits can be devastating to the impression we leave for others. They can turn people away from listening to what we have to say. I mentioned before, but we are responsible for the people we have influence over. Elegant habits to reclaim include:
-Saying “please” and “thank you”20200212_094151_0000
-Keeping your phone away from the table
-Smiling
-Sitting up straight
-Keeping your hands out of your mouth
-Avoiding foul language
-Listening with intent

This small list certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it can be a great start. For additional reading check out “Modern Manners” by Dorothea Johnson and Liv Tyler or “A Kid’s Guide to Manners” by Katherine Flannery, written for children and their families!

3.) We need to Reclaim Elegant Words.

In Ephesians 4:29 (NIV), we’re told “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”. Again in Colossians 4:6  (ESV) we’re told “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”. There are well over 100 verses in Scripture that specifically address the way we talk. We should pay special close attention to something God tells us over 100 times! Our speech can do so much good, and so much damage. We must choose our words carefully, and choose them with kindness and respect. Remember, once something is spoken it can never be unspoken. Make a habit of thinking before you speak. Pray this prayer from Psalms 141:3 (ESV) Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”

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To avoid saying something you will later regret, or that would undermine your influence, remember these key questions before you open your mouth to speak:

-Am I speaking from anger or bitterness? If yes, then go take a walk before you respond.

-Would I feel comfortable say this word in front of my sweet, 95 year old, innocent, Southern Baptist, great-grandmother. If no, don’t use it in other conversation.

-Is what I’m about to say helpful or hurtful?

-Is it necessary that I share my opinion, or was I asked for my opinion?

-Is there a more gracious way to say what I need to say?

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Elegance is a lost art. One that desperately needs to be reclaimed. As we go about our lives and daily tasks, lets ask ourselves if we’re portraying gracious elegance in our choices, in our habits, and with our words. If not, we have some work to do.

~Paige Baldwin

Word for 2020: THRIVE

white-and-black-2020-with-confetti-3496994Happy New Year! It’s so hard to believe that we’ve started a new decade. When I look back at where I was at the start of this last decade, I’m amazed to see where I am now. Life has a funny way of throwing you curveballs, and that’s ok. I’m grateful for what God’s done in my life these past 10 years. Through the highs, the lows, and the unknown, He was there and He was faithful.

When we hear New Year, we automatically think resolutions. Friends, I stopped making New Years Resolutions years ago. Most of the time they were long forgotten by mid-January when the gloomy weather got the best of me. I started making goals for my year, but the curveballs kept coming and disrupting every ounce of progress I may have made. Instead, I started coming up with a word for the year. My word for 2019 was Hospitality. Surprised?  Having a word to focus on through the year allowed me to create goals to support that word. One goal for 2019 was to have 100 unique people walk through the doors of our home. We ended the year with 116. Focusing my goals around my Word of the Year, allowed me to meet the goal easier than just setting the goal and not having a focus.

When it came to a word for 2020 I started reflecting on the past twelve months. 2019 was lived more or less in survival mode. My husband and I overcommitted to be anywhere and everywhere we were needed. We worked hard, bought our first home (and all the lovely surprises that come with), my darling husband started back in Seminary, and we both committed to a life of hospitality and discipleship. 2019 was a good year, but it was also a challenging year spent mostly in survival mode. This year I don’t want us to just survive life, I want us to thrive in life.

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The word thrive mean to flourish and prosper. You might be asking how you could plan to flourish and prosper this year? I’m going to share with you 6 things you should do the THRIVE in 2020. These are the steps that we will be taking to T.H.R.I.V.E. and we will build our goals around these steps.

1.) Think positively about your future.

No, it’s not magical to think positive and therefore life will be sunshine and rainbows. However, science has proved that there is a certain power to positive thinking. According to a 1987 New York Times article:

Optimism – at least reasonable optimism – can pay dividends as wide-ranging as health, longevity, job success and higher scores on achievement tests.

Pessimism not only has the opposite effect but also seems to be at play in such psychological disorders as extreme shyness and depression.

When we choose to think positively about our life and the events of, we can actually change our brainwaves and improve our mood which will then have a positive impact on your relationships and ventures. We must be careful with what we speak to ourselves. We have a lot more influence over our attitude than we believe.

“I can’t wait for Friday” vs. “This is the Tuesday that God has given me and I will use it for him.”

“I am so stressed” vs. “I have a lot going on, but I can handle it with God’s help”

“I’m so disappointed” vs. “That did not go the way I would’ve liked, but I will try again”

Thinking positive does not mean that we are happy robots all of our days. It means that we understand lifer will bring disappointments, but we know they do not define us. We choose to use the good and bad in life for our benefit. That is positive, and powerful, thinking.

2.) Hydrate your body.

woman-drinking-water-1458671You wouldn’t think something as simple as drinking water could help you thrive but it does. Drinking water improves circulation, improves energy, reduces kidney and heart failure risks, improves sleep, and improves your skin tone. You should be drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water. (No, sweet husband of mine, caffeinated beverages do not count.) It’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and it’s something you can start to improve your life right now.

3.) Rest on the Sabbath.

Mark 2:27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.

We were given the blessing of rest, but so often we don’t use it. God has invited us to bedroomenter into Sabbath rest with Him every week. As we step further away from the practice of resting, the deeper we’ll find ourselves in survival mode and not thriving. Rest is essential to our bodies and hearts. You can’t go full steam ahead and not run out at some point. We all need refreshing and we all need rest. Click here to read my post on Choosing Rest. God beckons us to come to Him and find rest for our bodies and souls.
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

4.) Invite God to guide your steps.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Controlling our own life is messy and unwise. We are told to trust God and lean on His wisdom for our life. David asks of God in Psalms 119:35  “Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.” and in verse 105 David says of God’s Holy Word, the Scriptures, “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.” David understood the importance of inviting God to step in and direct his life according to God’s own wisdom.

I know it’s easy to say and harder to do, especially when you’re a type A personality who feels the need to have complete control over every aspect. (guilty) But we can’t have complete control can we? Remember those life curveballs? We don’t get to choose when or how they’re thrown. We’re better off trusting God to guide our steps and letting Him take responsibility for those curveballs. This doesn’t mean blaming God when those not-so-pleasant things happen. This means trusting Him to work all things to our good.

5.) Value yourself enough to practice self-care.

bath-bathroom-bathtub-indoors-374148.jpgSelf-care is not selfish. I wrote an entire blog post explaining how important and selfless it really is. (Read here.) We must learn to take care of ourselves if we are to minister to others. We must learn to care for ourselves if we are going to thrive in life. Self-care can look many different ways, but it is consistent. There are 5 areas in which we should practice self-care and an example of what it could look like.

-Physical (take a bubble bath)
-Spiritual (Spend time daily in prayer)
-Emotional (Journal your thoughts and feelings)
-Mental/Intellectual (Read a new book every month)
-Social (Have a dinner date with your friends)

 

6.) Eliminate clutter, both physical and mental.

I don’t know about you, but I have noticeable anxiety when my space is cluttered. I won’t go into my study right now because that’s where all of my new books are piled on my desk waiting for bookshelf space. This weekend I’ll be making time to clean out some clutter in my home by reducing the overall possessions my 25%. (At least that’s the goal. I’m also a sentimental romantic so I’ll probably fight to keep that receipt from our wedding, or that rock I picked up on our honeymoon. Lord, help my husband and keep him patient with me.) If you have possessions taking up space that you never use, and honestly won’t use again, it’s time to give them away or pitch them. If you can’t remember why you bought it, if it doesn’t fit, if you look at it with distain, if it’s broken beyond repair, it’s time for it to go. No, you’re most likely not going to “need to keep it just in case” that impossible situation were to arise. Yes, I’m talking to myself here. Hand held high, I’m guilty. roomguest

Like our homes, our minds can get cluttered to. Cluttered with worry or anticipation. Cluttered with ideas and musings for a project. Cluttered with junk music and TV. We have to work to declutter out mind as well as our physical space. Christy Wright, owner of Business Boutique and a Dave Ramsey Personality, said once “Your brain is for having ideas, not storing them.” So then how do we declutter our minds from the thousands of ideas we have in a given time? We journal them out. Either in a written journal, or a video journal, get the ideas out of your head. The same method can go for our worries and fears as well. Write them down and then forget them. Start replacing the junk with good and helpful information. Instead of turning on the TLC channel when you have to clean your house, turn on a motivational podcast. Instead of watching TV to go to sleep, try reading an encouraging book.

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I hope you have found some encouragement and a challenge in this word “Thrive”. I’d love to hear your word for 2020 and what it means to you! Drop a comment below or email me at ReclaimingHerGrace@gmail.com.

Happy New Year!!

Paige Baldwin

Cookies for Christmas

Is there anything better than a plate full of freshly baked Christmas cookies? Any other bake-bakery-baking-candy-264779time of the year cookies are, at best, good. But Christmas cookies? You can’t beat those if you tried. If you don’t like Christmas cookies, then I’m sorry my friend, but there’s little hope for you. One of my favorite memories is gathering around the table, blasting Christmas music, and decorating my mother’s melt-in-your-mouth sugar cookies. They may have not looked pretty when I was done decorating, but they were still the tastiest cookie you’d ever try.

Now that I’m grown and married, with a home of my own, I’ve started thinking about Christmas traditions and events that I’d like to start. I can’t imagine anything better than a house full of people baking and decorating cookies. I started thinking through ideas for those cookies. What if we used cookies to be a blessing to others? What if we used simple Christmas cookies to show God’s love and practice the hospitality we were commanded to practice? What if hospitality isn’t necessarily about opening my home, but taking love to those who cannot come to my home?

I’m going to share with you 3 ways to turn your Christmas cookie bake-off into a beautiful hospitality opportunity to show a bit of Christ’s love to others during the busy holiday season. I will also be sharing 3 recipes below; a holiday cookie recipe, a no-bake treat recipe, and a holiday bread recipe.

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1.) Bake Christmas cookies for your neighbors.

What better way to get to know your neighbors, and show them some holiday love, than taking them a basket of fresh Christmas cookies that they didn’t have to purchase or bake. Consider a variety box with cookies like sugar, chocolate chip, mint chip, rice crispy treats, thumbprint cookies, and no bake treats. There are so many varieties that can be chosen from and combined. I would recommend a half dozen per person living in the home. If you don’t know for sure, then 2 dozen would be a good guess. You can find cute Holiday tins at Hobby Lobby or Target to package them.

2.) Bake Christmas cookies for shut-ins.cookiedough

Talk to a pastor in your church and see if you can get a list of shut-ins. Those who can’t make it out of their homes for the Holidays would feel so loved knowing that there were people thinking about them. If they’re shut in due to illness, they likely don’t feel well enough to bake for themselves. You can bake and deliver baskets or tins of Christmas goodies and a Christmas card, or get a group together and deliver multiple Christmas cards. Maybe sing a Carol or two while delivering your sweets and bring a smile to their face. The holiday season can be so lonely for those unable to get out to see family and friends. If there is something we can do to brighten their Christmas, then we should. This shows just how important taking hospitality outside your home can be.

3.) Bake Christmas cookies for those who have to work on Christmas.

cookiesSome of us take for granted the fact that we have Christmas off. But there are those who must work on Christmas to keep you and your families taken care of. Think about the police officers, fire departments, EMS team, hospital staff, fuel station attendants, military personnel, and so many others who are working and away from their families so you can be with yours. We can’t possibly reach them all, but wouldn’t it be nice to gather with friends and take a section around where you live. (*Check with your local police station and military bases regarding what is allowed to be brought in) Bake some tins, or baskets, full of cookies, breads, and other sweets and drop by on Christmas Day with a carol, or just a smile and thank them for working. It will mean the world to them. As a nurse who has worked Holidays, I know how encouraging it is for someone to acknowledge you and wish you a Merry Christmas.

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You may be trying to talk yourself out of this right now using the excuse that you can’t bake good cookies. Guess what. Me neither. I can cook fairly well and I love to bake, but my cookies are nothing to write home about. However, I do make good breads and scones. And anyone can put together a no-bake treat. If you find yourself unable to produce any edible treats, check out some local bakeries for Christmas specials. Remember, it’s not about impressing someone with your skills. It’s about blessing them with your heart. The treats don’t matter as much as the heart behind delivering them. Don’t be ashamed if you have to use boxed mixes, frozen dough, or even ready-baked goods. When you deliver those goodies, you don’t need to apologize for the fact that they’re not homemade. Don’t lie about it either, but there’s no need to make a fuss and stumble over an explanation as to why they’re not homemade from scratch with every bit of Taste of Home lover you could muster.

Below are the three recipes I promised in the beginning of this post. There is one for cookies, one for bread, and one for a no bake truffle treat. I hope you enjoy them and that you are able to get together for a bake-off this holiday season.

Happy Baking!

Paige Baldwin

Cranberry Bliss Bread

Bread
1 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Vanilla Icing Ingredients
2 cups powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 Tablespoons milk

Toppings
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips, melted

Instructions
*Preheat oven to 350°F and prepare a 9″ loaf pan with butter.
*Sift together dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl.
*Using a standing mixer, cream together the butter and sugar.
*Add eggs one at a time, mixing until combined
*Alternate adding dry ingredients and buttermilk to your bowl with butter mixture.
*Stir dried cranberries and white chocolate chips into your batter.
*Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake for 1 hour.
*Allow to cool completely before removing bread from pan then transfer loaf to a wire rack, placing a cookie sheet underneath it to catch icing drippings.

To Make the Vanilla Icing:
*In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, vanilla and milk until well combined.
*Pour icing over the cranberry bliss bread and allow to dry for at least 30 minutes, then top with chopped cranberries and white chocolate drizzle.
*Allow all toppings to set before slicing.

Chocolate Cherry Cookies
 

Ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar
3 sticks (1 1/2 cups) butter, softened at room temperature
1 egg
1 teaspoon almond extract
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (10 oz.) jar Maraschino cherries (drained and chopped into pieces)

Instructions
*Preheat oven to 350°.
*Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
*In a large mixing bowl, add the sugar, butter, egg, and almond extract. With an electric mixer, cream until light and fluffy.
*Add the flour and salt and mix until just combined.
*Add the chocolate chips and stir until well distributed. Gently fold in the chopped cherries.
*Chill cookie dough for 30 minutes.
*Roll dough into 2 inch balls (the cookies will not expand much in the oven) and place on parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake 12-14 minutes or until light brown.
*Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

No Bake Oreo Peppermint Truffles

Ingredients
1/2 cup finely chopped peppermint candy canes, divided
1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
36 Oreo Cookies, finely crushed (any flavor, but original work best)
4 pkg. (4 oz. each) Semi-Sweet Chocolate, broken into pieces, melted
½ teaspoon coconut oil (for melting chocolate)

Instructions
*Reserve 1 Tbsp. chopped candy.
*Mix remaining candy with cream cheese and cookie crumbs until blended.
*Shape into 48 (1-inch) balls.
*Freeze 10 min.
*Dip balls in melted chocolate; place on waxed paper-covered rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with reserved candy.
*Refrigerate 1 hour or until firm.

Lessons From a Messy Kitchen

There have been many times that I’ve stood in the middle of my kitchen after an event thinking why do I do this to myself? My sink is full. There’s not enough room for another dish on my counter top. There is food and empty packaging everywhere. My stove is disgusting. My floors are a mess. This is the state of things every. single. time. I host an afternoon tea or a party. So why do I continue to do it? Because I’ve learned that the heart of hospitality is not showing off how organized or tidy  I can be while hosting. The heart of hospitality is how my guests feel when they walk out my door. Do they feel that this was time well spent? Are they satisfied and full? Do they feel welcomed and loved. If the answer to any of these questions is no, then I failed. It doesn’t matter how clean my house is or how tidy I kept my kitchen during preparations.

Here are 3 lessons that I’ve learned from my messy kitchen:

20191105_193745_00001.) Every dirty tea cup is a testimony to a friendship.

As I wash each teacup, I can’t help but think of the sweet friend who held it that day. I thank God for her friendship and influence in my life. I am reminded that the Bible says in Proverbs 27:9b “A sweet friendship refreshes the soul” I thank God that He has blessed me with a home to open and tea cups to use. I am reminded that James 1:17a says “every good and perfect gift is from above.” I pray that God used me to be a blessing and draw that women closer to His heart. I remember that Matthew 5:16 says “…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” I pray that whoever held that tea cup left my home feeling loved and cherished as a daughter of God, or that she would feel Jesus calling her to Himself. I remember that  John 15:12 says My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

 

2.) Every empty package laying on my counter is a fed 20191120_092634_0000and satisfied stomach.

Have you ever been emotionally unavailable or just plain grumpy…because you were hungry? Sometimes, people just need food. There’s a reason they say the quickest way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. It’s not just men y’all. Women need food too! It’s hard to think straight, or focus energy on relationships, when you’re hungry. Sometimes, people just need a hot meal that they didn’t have to cook. Food has a way of bringing people together and making memories. J. R. R. Tolkien said “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” If we would spend more time around a table with a friend, or stranger, I think our culture would cease to be so self-involved and start opening their hearts.

“Cooking is love made visible “

20191105_193832_00003.) Every minute I spend cleaning reflects a priceless moment of fellowship.

People would much rather have your attention than your perfection. We see this reflected in the book of Luke chapter 10, verses 38-40.  “As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made…” If I’m spending my time in the kitchen fussing over dirty dishes, and my guests are sitting alone in my living room, what was the point of inviting them into my home? They’re probably sitting in there feeling awkward and bored to tears. The dishes can wait. My priority is making sure the people under my roof feel cherished and most of all, feel God’s love through me. Take time to spend with your guests when you host an event. Don’t spend your time running around making sure your home is perfect. Don’t busy yourself with clean up and forget the people in your home.

I love having a home full of people. I like filling bellies and putting smiles of faces through food. I like making people feel loved and cared for. So whenever I survey my kitchen littered with empty spice containers, meat wrappings, butter crocks, and food scraps, it fills my heart with joy and I will always look forward to the next time.

 

Paige Baldwin

 

3 Ways to Host Friendsgiving

A few years ago I was first introduced to the term “Friendsgiving”. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but as I was preparing for Thanksgiving season festivities this year I was re-introduced to the concept. 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. This 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. 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 chose to celebrate Friendsgiving this year. Instead of a formal sit-down tea party, I planned a cozy autumn tea with open seating and buffet style food arrangements. The menu was quite simple, but a delicious Fall inspired spread. This menu will be sufficient for a party of 10-15. If you have more guests, add another type of sandwich and dessert. 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 décor without breaking the bank. If you can splurge a little more on décor, T J Maxx and Pier One 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.

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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 correct 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 scape

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 and final 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 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. Below are some delicious options for guests to bring.

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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) depending on the number of people you’ve invited 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

Halloween Etiquette: Trick or Treat

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There is nothing wrong with celebrating Halloween. Whether with a fun party, a creative costume, or some delicious candy while you’re curled up on the sofa watching Hocus Pocus in the dark. It can be so fun, especially for kiddos who have been waiting to be a super hero and princess all year.

There is also nothing wrong with choosing not to celebrate Halloween. Whether due to religious preferences, or personal dislike, that choice is yours. You shouldn’t feel pressured into celebrating something you’re not comfortable with, or just don’t like.

However, whether you’re a celebrator or a stay-away-from-witches-and-ghosts kind of person, there are some etiquette rules you should be aware of for the coming holiday festivities.

If you choose to celebrate:

  1. Please choose an appropriate costume for Trick-or-Treat. No, your child should not be a “slutty” anything, and neither should you. Also, keep their age in mind. The most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen was a 7 year old dressed like Pennywise the Clown from IT. For the love of everything good, please use some common sense when dressing your child for Halloween.
  2. Knock one time, and then move on. Don’t sit at one house and knock 10 times until someone finally opens their door. If you don’t get an answer within 30 seconds of your first knock, move on to the next house.
  3. If the light is off, do not knock. Dark porches are a sign that Trick-or-Treaters aretrickortreat not welcomed to that home, or that the owners are out. Move along to the next home.
  4. Don’t complain about what you’re given. If you get a handful of wax bottles and gumdrops, smile and say thank you. Remember, strangers spent their money to provide candy for you. Be thankful and move on.
  5. Say Thank you and you’re welcome! Please don’t forsake your basic manners just because it’s a chaotic holiday and you’re hiding behind a mask.
  6. Do not step into the house of a stranger. Even if it’s the sweetest elderly lady who invites you in for cookies, if she’s not your grandmother or well-known great aunt, politely decline and leave.
  7. Don’t handout homemade treats. Please spend a few extra dollars and buy pre-packaged treats or candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters coming to your door. If you can’t afford that, flip your porch lights off and curl up with the original Addam’s family on TV. It’ll be over soon.

If you choose not to celebrate:

  1. Turn your porch light off. The symbol that you do not want trick-or-treaters is a dark porch. What if they ring the doorbell anyway? Easy: no light means no candy. Don’t answer the door.
  2. Don’t judge those who do choose to celebrate. Again, not celebrating is your choice, but celebrating is theirs. It goes both ways.

Either way you go, be sure to be courteous and respectful this Halloween!

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Happy Haunting!

Paige Baldwin