If you’re big on event planning, it’s safe to say that Thanksgiving is probably one of your favorite holidays. For many of our associates, it’s most definitely up there. Who doesn’t love an opportunity to spruce up their tablescape, dine on the crème de la crème of dinners and enjoy the company of those they love most?
We don’t mean to brag, but our party-throwing skills here at Vera Bradley are pretty top notch. No matter if we’re arranging bridal showers for fellow associates, holiday office parties or even our annual Tickled Pink event, we can proudly say that we know how to host a spectacular soirée. Since we like to think we’re the best in the biz when it comes to putting on a stellar event, we want to share our associates’ top tips and traditions for hosting the best Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving ever.
how to get the best gobble
There are few things as daunting as the turkey, but this main dish is a must for nearly every table. Thanksgiving without a turkey is like Halloween without pumpkins! However, it’s not an impossible dish to conquer and you don’t have to let the cooking time slow you down.
Our Digital Merchandising Analyst Maggie has making this delicacy down to a science that cuts the cooking time in half (say what!?). Essentially you remove the backbone of the bird before putting it in the oven. For the full directions, Maggie likes to follow this spatchcock roast turkey tutorial.
show off a little
Our Database Administrator Kelly likes to put her family members’ best talents to the test on Thanksgiving! Each year Kelly organizes a talent show for everyone to take part in. She says it’s guaranteed to bring a mix of laughs and meaningful moments.
“Thanksgiving to me is all about celebrating love, friendship and family. What’s a better way than opening yourself up and playing a special song for grandma and grandpa on your guitar, telling your best jokes, or singing your best rendition of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Our House” for the ones you love? I can think of nothing better.”
who said coloring is just for kids?
For our Trend and Material Developer Rachel, last year was her first time hosting her very own Thanksgiving. One accent to her tablescape that was a home run for the children AND adults was the place mats that her guests could color! Rachel liked these printable place mats that range from normal coloring sheets to crosswords and trivia.
invite someone new to your table
When Vice President of Product Development Veronique and her family moved to Indiana 17 years ago, relatives were a little too far away to visit for Thanksgiving. So her family decided to start a new tradition for Thanksgiving. Each year she likes to invite someone new to share Thanksgiving with her family. Whether it’s a colleague who’s new to town or a neighbor from down the street, each Thanksgiving she asks someone new to share dinner at her family’s table.
“It’s a great way to get to know the people around you and to have a Thanksgiving that’s a little different every year. Not to mention that it can be a good excuse to avoid that annoying relative … If you ask around, you’d be surprised to find that a lot of people aren’t able to make the hike home for Thanksgiving so inviting them to your table can make their holiday!”
potlucks are always the answer
When Full Line Channel Specialist Amy travels home to Chicago for Thanksgiving, a Friendsgiving is always in order as well. She finds that the best way to take on essentially a second Thanksgiving is to cut down the workload and have each friend bring one dish. For Friendsgiving don’t feel so tied to traditional dishes, branch out and bring something different to the table!
what are you thankful for?
Our team thought of this tip just for the blog, so feel free to bring this new tradition to your family! Give everyone at the table a blank piece of paper with the prompt to write down something they’re thankful for. Put all of the answers in a hat and go around the table pulling papers and guessing who said they were thankful for what. No matter if you’re thankful for your cat, Beyoncé’s existence or maybe even the person sitting next to you, you’re sure to get some laughs and hugs by the end of the game.
it’s all about the tunes
Something that’s almost as important as the decor on your table is the music playing as your guests mingle before and after dinner. Browse around to pull together a playlist that creates the ultimate Thanksgiving vibes. If you find yourself pressed for time but still needing a list of tunes to play, check out our playlist made specifically for Thanksgiving.
divide and conquer
When it comes to our friend (and Olympic Gold Medalist!) Shawn Johnson East’s favorite holiday, she says it’s Thanksgiving, hands down. Shawn’s family has a tradition that makes Thanksgiving a whole lot easier for everyone: Whoever is hosting Thanksgiving makes the turkey and everyone else is assigned a different ingredient that they use to make to a dish. This year Shawn and her husband, Andrew, have potato and pumpkin to work with!
a finishing touch to remember
Perhaps our favorite part of Thanksgiving is becoming an interior designer for a day as we decorate for our guests. One touch we love to use year after year is name cards made specially for each guest. This year’s card has accents from our fall pattern Bordeaux Blooms that you can print off and add names to for that something extra that’ll make your tablescape stand out from the rest. Download your own here.
a champion treat
Every fall at our Vera Bradley headquarters, we have a bake-off. This year Digital Merchandising Analyst Jessica won with her Caramel Apple Cupcakes! This original sweet is the perfect addition to your Friendsgiving table for a little something new for dessert. Here’s Jessica’s recipe:
Caramel Apple Cupcakes
Fresh Apple Cake:
- 1/2 cup butter, melted
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups all-purpose soft-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 4 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
- Paper baking cups
- Vegetable cooking spray
Old-Fashioned Caramel Frosting:
- 1 cup butter
- 1 (16 oz) package dark brown sugar
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- 6 oz bag pecans, toasted
Apple Cupcake Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together first 5 ingredients in a large bowl until blended. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture, stirring until blended. Stir in apple. Place paper baking cups in 2 (12 cup) muffin pans, and coat with cooking spray; spoon batter into cups, filling two-thirds full. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks, and cool completely.
Caramel Frosting Directions:
To prepare frosting, melt butter in a 3-qt. heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add brown sugar; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in evaporated milk, baking soda, and corn syrup; bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and let cool completely (about 1 hour). Transfer to a bowl. Gradually add powdered sugar to caramel mixture, beating at medium speed with an electric mixer until blended. Beat at high speed 2 minutes or until creamy. Use immediately. Makes 3 cups.
Toasted Pecan Directions:
Chop pecans into desired size, and bake them at 350 degrees about 4 to 5 minutes or until toasted, stirring occasionally. Frost each cupcake with caramel frosting, then top each with toasted pecans.
Want to catch up on all the new arrivals and blog posts coming this November? Check out our Monthly Edit to stay in the loop on everything happening this month!