Planning a Friendsgiving Dinner

This is a little untimely, but it’s been on my to-write list for over a year and I’m finally finding the inspiration to get it done…and hey, who says you have to wait until November to throw a Friendsgiving dinner?! ūüôā

For all non-wedding events that I plan, I’ve developed this template to keep track of things. ¬†It helps me make sure I’ve covered all bases (food, activities/entertainment, decor, etc.) and I can keep a list of things I need to do/make/buy/bring.

We didn’t have too much space to work with in our little home, so the tables were a bit crowded but I was pretty happy with my decor/set up. ¬†Some of my inspiration:

Things to think about: centerpieces, decor for food/dessert tables and drink station, accents for each table setting (leaves, or in my case, individual labels that each said “Friendsgiving 2015,” “Be Thankful,” “Gratitude,” or something similar). ¬†I also placed ice water carafes at each table (with lemon and cucumber) which worked out great so people didn’t have to get up during dinner for a refill (which means you need a glass at each table setting).

This was the sixth or seventh year that we’d had a Friendsgiving, so part of my decor was framed pictures of past Friendsgivings: it was amazing to see how our group has grown with husbands/wives, children, and more friends!

Note to self: make sure your photo background is large enough for group photos…

For entertainment, we borrowed a friend’s giant Jenga and had that in the backyard, along with a fire pit surrounded by chairs and blankets. ¬†Corn hole would be a good addition.

But I guess most important of all at a Friendsgiving dinner is….THE FOOD. ¬†We do a potluck style dinner every year, but it does require some organization. ¬†Enter: google docs. ¬†I love google docs. ¬†I have this template¬†on a google sheet and add a new tab every year (or you could clear it out every year, or make a new one every year-although with a new doc you have worry about re-sharing it with everyone) and share it with everyone, and people can sign up for whatever they want to bring. ¬†This helps to ensure you don’t end up with 20 desserts but zero side dishes, and that everything is covered before the big day.

If you’re a traditionalist, your menu has to include: turkey and gravy (!), green bean casserole, sweet potatoes of some kind, mac n cheese, stuffing, cranberry sauce, bread rolls, and some pumpkin pies!

Here are some other appetizers and sides that have been huge hits in the past:

  • ham sliders
  • cheesy spinach rollups
  • cheese tray
  • chips & dips
  • mashed potatoes
  • salad
  • roasted veggies
  • brussel sprouts
  • creamed corn
  • German potato salad

Obviously, anything edible is fair game!

My favorite part of Friendsgiving, aside from the food (I could eat Thanksgiving dinners all year), is that after everyone has served themselves, we go around the tables and everyone shares what they’re thankful for. ¬†It’s a great time to reflect on the year and what’s happened in our lives since the last Friendsgiving, and find the things that made that year great.

Do you celebrate a Friendsgiving?  What are your favorite traditions or ideas?

 

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Winter Formal: Winter Wonderland

So every Christmas, since I was about 15 years old, I get a bunch of friends together and we make gingerbread houses, out of graham crackers. ¬†It’s always a stressful but fun event (if you haven’t done these before, getting those walls to stay up using just frosting is a bit of a challenge!), and it’s gotten more fun with the introduction of wine.

Last year was the first year that I tried to do this along with a baby (Jake was 4 months old), and I gotta admit, it just wasn’t as enjoyable, haha. ¬†Other friends have babies as well, and keeping them away from all the candy and frosting is just not really worth the satisfaction of seeing your completed gingerbread house! ¬†I’m excited to get this tradition going again once the kids get a little older and they can make gingerbread houses of their on, but for now we decided to switch to an adults only holiday dinner. ¬†So this year we had our very first Winter Formal!

I was able to book a reservation over a month in advance with Cucina Enoteca at the Irvine Spectrum, and I worked closely with their event coordinator, Ruth, to make sure I could bring all sorts of little details and decorations. ¬†I got started with centerpieces and decorations far enough in advance so I wouldn’t be freaking out the day before!

photo 1

Found these plastic reindeer at Michael’s, and I’m pretty sure I snatched up the last ones in the whole area. ¬†I went back to several stores to try to buy more and they were all gone. ¬†Glad I bought the ones I did when I did! ¬†I added a little silver spray paint and they looked great!
photo 2

I collected branches and pine cones and did a bottom layer of white spray paint, then I used spray adhesive to get some good layers of epsom salts on there, then did a final layer of glitter to give them a little glimmer.  I ended up putting the branches in two separate clear vases to have to large centerpieces, and they looked great!  I will say that these need to be done close to the event, because the epsom salts can dry out!

photo 3

I also made a photo back drop using a large baby blue cloth, and added some Christmas trees that Jeff drew out and cut out for me (Christmas trees are NOT one of my strengths), a couple gold stars, some glitterey white fabric for snow, and some snowflakes. ¬†I added some stuffing to the trees and snow to give it a little more form, and I must say, I’m pretty happy with the outcome!
chalk sign

On the day of, I packed up a few boxes with all my goodies, and thankfully had Jeff’s help to unload and carry everything over to Cucina Enoteca to get set up before everyone arrived. ¬†Above is my first attempt at some chalk art ūüėČ (credit also goes to Jeff who helped with some key elements!).

WW1

Testing out the photo backdrop ūüôā
photo table

Cucina Enoteca provided an extra table for photo props as well as this little set up, where guests wrote out what they loved the most about Christmas on a paper ornament, then hung their ornament on one of the branch centerpieces.  During dessert, we went around and read these aloud and tried to guess who wrote each one.

cucina enoteca¬†Each plate also had a hand-picked bunch of pine needles to add a little Winter Wonderland feel ūüôā ¬†We even had a personalized menu, eek!
WW3

I brought silver charges to add to the table set up, as well as silver candle holders, both of which really added a nice look to the table.
WW2

I didn’t get any pictures of the food, but it was all delicious, the service was great…

girls group

And the company was quite spectacular ‚̧jeff and iMe and my #1 helper and supporter!

I had such a great time putting this event together, and from what I can tell, everyone that attended had a good time as well.  Glad our first year sans gingerbread houses went ok!

A little update here and there

So many ideas, so little time! ¬†Jeff and I have been talking constantly about all the stuff we want to do with this humble little website, and all these random & combined talents we have, but between our regular 9-5s, and a toddler that’s on the verge of running, it’s hard to do anything after bath and bed time, haha.

But here’s a sneak peak of what we hope to achieve. ¬†We’re still working hard on our photography and event planning: Jeff and I had a wedding photo shoot last month that we’ll be sharing on the blog soon, and I’ve been assisting with wedding coordination through Events by Katherine. ¬†Working with Katherine I have been able to work weddings at El Adobe in San Juan Capistrano, Center Club in Costa Mesa (with a full Irish band!), the Fairmont in Newport Beach, and Casa Romantica in San Clemente. ¬†Each of these venues had something special to offer!

Aside from these services, we want to offer event rental services for props and decor items (who wants to buy stuff they’re only going to use once?!). ¬†We are currently working on adding to our inventory, and I hope to have some unique and desirable items up on our website for your use in the next couple of months. ¬†Stay tuned!

Transitioning.

Although we started out this website to promote our little shop that we had in an awesome vintage camper at The Camp, it’s now taking on a whole new life!

Due to various reasons, we had to close up shop early last year (2013), but we’ve recently decided to pick up our entrepreneurial spirit again. ¬†We’ve also decided to keep the name “Nuestras Manos,” since the whole reason we liked that name was because it reflected that we were doing this together (with our hands), and even though we’re transitioning to something completely different, the concept of what we want to do is still the same: use our talents and skills, combine them, and work together doing something we love!

So, the idea is to combine our talents (photography, design, planning, organizing, wood work/crafting), and offer them to people for special events. ¬†Jeff and I had a great business meeting last night, and we’re excited about the potential this has and where it can lead us. ¬†I hope you’ll follow along!

Bachelorette Weekend in San Diego

What better way to re-start this blog than by sharing a wonderful bachelorette weekend in San Diego for one of my dearest friends?

It’s always funny to hear how boys plan the bachelor party the week of…not so for girls! ¬†We spend months sending a flurry of emails back and forth trying to nail down every single detail. ¬†In the end, everyone has fun, but I definitely like knowing way ahead of time that everything is taken care of ūüôā

My good friend Sarah and I drove down to San Diego from Orange County, while the rest of the 10 ladies took the train, so that we could check in and get the room set up and decorated. We stayed at the Omni and I have to say: it was amazing! ¬†The rooms were clean, but what really impressed me was the service–they were amazing and provided all the little (and big) extras that we requested.

As far as decorating the room, I was quite proud with the end result!

bachelorette display

I made a cute little banner that said “bride to be” using fabric and a nice, glittery burlap from Joanne’s. ¬†The colors for the wedding are a rainbow of pastels, so I tried to go with that. ¬†I also handmade some decorative garlands that we threw around the whole room. ¬†I found these great little personalized hangover kit bags on Etsy, which I then filled with:

  • a couple pony tails,
  • mini pack of gum,
  • couple tablets of peptobismal,
  • chapstick,
  • an Emergen-C packet, and
  • a single dose pack of either Advil or Tylenol.

I wanted to put more in there, but space was limited, haha.  I placed these bags in each wine glass with each girls name, and I think the over all effect was pretty nice!

After the girls arrived, we went to The Blind Burro for lunch.  Delicious, happy hour specials, and no wait to be seated!

After the girls arrived, we went to The Blind Burro for lunch. Delicious, happy hour specials, and no wait to be seated!

Back at the hotel, one of the games I decided to go with was to have each girl buy the bachelorette a pair of underwear, and bring that (unwrapped) along with a “wish” for the bride and groom. ¬†The point of the game is for the bride to try and guess who provided which pair of underwear. ¬†I provided a form that could be typed in so the bride wouldn’t recognize everyone’s writing, since that would make the game way too easy! (You can see it here:¬†Annie’s Bachelorette Wishes.)

bachelorette panties

It ended up being even more fun than I thought, mostly because of someone’s recommendation that the bride put on each pair of underwear that she guessed correctly. ¬†Definitely my favorite part of this game. ¬†Well…hearing everyone’s wishes was also pretty great! I had decided that the “winner” for prize purposes would be the girl who’s wish and underwear were guessed correctly by the bride; however, this bride had really good deductive and detective skills, so all the girls that she guessed correctly ended up picking a number to break the tie!

Along with the underwear and wishes I also hung up a gift for the bride: a personalized hangar that she could use on her wedding day for her wedding gown photos.  Another Etsy purchase.

We ended the games with a simple “kiss the guy in his boxers,” then headed out!

bachelorette kissesWe stopped by a random sports bar for a drink to kill some time (we had planned on hanging out by the pool, but the weather was not agreeable with these plans), then decided to head early to BarBasic where we had a reservation made. ¬†This place was good (great vibe) and interesting, but don’t believe them when they say a medium serves only two! ¬†We ended up with soooo manny pizzas! ¬†We were all obsessed with our waitress who was stunning.

After this we tried to get into a speakeasy (I think it was Noble Experiment), but our party was too big for the area, and they were booked with reservations.  BUT, it was cool to try to get in through their secret keg wall!

Instead we headed to the Tipsy Crow, where we had to wait for the dance floor to open (we all quickly realized how old we are really getting!). ¬†The website says there is a cover charge, but we never paid anything to get in–probably because we got there so early, haha. ¬†This place had perfect music to dance away! ¬†I think everyone had a great time showing off their dance moves.

We had plans for the hotel spa after this, but it was closed, and I think everyone was pretty happy to just head to bed!

Our last planned event was brunch at Bailiwick. ¬†The food was ok, but I think the style of the place was the best part. ¬†I couldn’t stop obsessing over everything!

bachelorette brunch

This was also where we gave the bachelorette her last gift of the weekend: a photo frame kissed by all the girls that attended!

bachelorette frame

My one suggestion: practice your kisses before you do it on the frame…mine ended up looking super sad, haha.

And who doesn’t want to end their time in San Diego by enjoying a free hopscotch across the intersection?

bachelorette hopscotch

It may have been months in the planning and at least a hundred emails back and forth to coordinate, but damn, I love when things go perfectly as planned!