Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How to Host Friendsgiving

For years, Beau and I have been talking about hosting Friendsgiving.  We were first inspired by our across-the-street neighbors, Chris and Windee, who did Friendsgiving before it was actually coined with the term Friendsgiving.  Both from out of state, they saved up their travel miles to see family for the longer Christmas break and would gather around the Thanksgiving table with other UNI faculty members living miles away from their families, too.  And while we love our families dearly and are thankful to be able to make it to both sides all in one day, we loved watching this group of people gather together each year, each bringing their favorite Thanksgiving staples from home, sharing the table together, and proving that family doesn't always mean blood-relation.


So when I came upon an entire end-cap full of Friendsgiving-inspired decor in that darn Target dollar section, I knew this year was meant to be.  I found a cute banner, sent out a few messages, and had a date on the calendar early enough to not interfere with everyone's holiday plans.

And last Saturday night, we gathered around the table with some of our closest friends for one of my favorite evenings together.  While Cruz and Mila had their own fun with the Gabel girls down the street, we enjoyed slow, adult conversation, laughs, and some pretty amazing food and cocktails well into the wee hours of the night.  We congregated around the kitchen island, where we watched Beau carve the turkey, congregated around the table for one delicious dinner, and then congregated in the living room for drinks, pie, and board games that made us laugh until our faces hurt.  I used to judge a night's success based on how much wine was consumed, now I look for how warm everyone's faces look from good food and lots of laughter (and wine, too). :)

Want to pull off your own Friendsgiving this year?  It's not too late!  Here are a few tips to make things doable and most of all, enjoyable for you and your guests!

1.  Make it potluck style.  Beau wanted to smoke the turkey, and I established a a couple of side dishes I wanted to make.  Then, I asked others to bring their favorite Thanksgiving side dish to share, too.  If you have a friend who doesn't cook, ask them to bring bread or their favorite bottle of wine. 

2.  Don't be afraid to order in!  If cooking's not your thing, or in my case, can't carve out an extra afternoon to bake a pie or two, support a local business instead.  This was easy for me, as one of my favorite small businesses in town, Try Pie, happens to make the most amazing fresh baked pies.  I ordered a dutch apple and a raspberry, and then picked up another apple for our family's Thanksgiving next week.  And even better, helped to market a local enterprise with one pretty wonderful mission.

3.  Have a fun, seasonal cocktail to share.  I made this pretty apple sangria for dinner, and had a warm spiked cider simmering on the stove top all day.  This was a win-win, as not only did it taste good, but it made the house smell good, too.

4.  Leave something to make after guests arrive.  This keeps people in the kitchen and makes the food a part of the whole experience.  These pear and brie crostinis were perfect for this.  I toasted the crostinis beforehand and mixed up the balsamic honey glaze, but left the rest to assemble while we waited for the other dishes to finish cooking.  They were pretty and most importantly, delicious, and I felt fancy spooning the glaze over them and topping them with fresh thyme leaves before they were devoured.  

5.  Music.  The Alabama Shakes station on Pandora is my absolute favorite.  They play a perfect mix of old and new, everything from Louis Armstrong and Etta James, to the Lumineers and Chris Stapleton.            

In my current quest of self-discovery, my attempts to weave together the threads of my life in order to gain some clarity and confidence in discovering my gifts, my passions, and the things that God put me on this earth to do, I am learning that I crave deep connections, intimacy, and places that inspire me and allow me to be present and awake to the beauty around me.  For the time being, this is where I see my place in God's story.  I feel called to open up our home more, to friends and strangers and college students, to serve them well with good food and an inviting place for connection.  And Friendsgiving was all of these things.  I'm pretty confident this will become a new tradition, one I'm sure will change and evolve as we do.  But as for that Target Friendsgiving banner that inspired it all?  I hope it makes its annual presence on our hutch at the start of each holiday season.      

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