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?! 🙂

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 😉 (credit also goes to Jeff who helped with some key elements!).

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Testing out the photo backdrop 🙂
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 🙂  We even had a personalized menu, eek!
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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.
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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!