Friendsgiving: The Week Before

I intended to do a lot to plan Friendsgiving this past weekend, but did not get out of bed on Saturday, which really did not help the whole process. However, I did manage to get some things done which will hopefully help get everything prepared next week!

Errands: Food

“American food” is hard to find in London. Basic Thanksgiving things such as canned pumpkin and fried onions are not so easy to come by in normal grocery stores. Thankfully, Partridges has a little Thanksgiving section in the front of the store which has it all. I stopped there over the weekend to get the important ingredients (and the things I am not 100% sure I can find elsewhere) so we do not have any emergency food runs over the weekend.

Errands: Decorations & Table Settings

I have been trying to find items to help create a fall-themed centrepiece for awhile no, with little luck. I ordered some acorns from Amazon, but cannot find the other items I need. While I picked up the table runner, tablecloths, and napkins this weekend, I still do not have the rest of the centrepiece. I’m weighing this one as extremely important since it will bring nice life to our folding tables, so have become quite stressed. Who knows – I might end up picking sticks and leaves up outside and including them!

I stopped at Peter Jones to pick up the table runner and a few other things, and obviously got sidetracked and bought other things I did not need. Specifically, a polar bear mug (see below). I couldn’t resist…I mean look at that thing!

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Cleaning the House

This is the prep that I completely failed at this weekend. I did some laundry, and washed all the dishes, but could not be bothered to do a full deep clean. The house needs a good sweep and wipe down before we have fourteen people over, so I need to prioritize that this week.

 

 

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Friendsgiving: Advance Planning

Sean and I are so eager to host Friendsgiving at our new house. While we just had the wine tasting, this will be our first event with so many people, and we know we are going to struggle for space. However, being the typical American that I am, I refuse to miss out on the feast this year (Sean loves it just as much!) and we have plenty of English friends who are looking forward to finding out what all of the fuss is about.

Due to work schedules, we settled on 22 November as the date for our Friendsgiving, at the typical Thanksgiving meal time of about 3pm. If it’s not a Thursday, we figured Sunday would be the next option…at least American football will still be on! We will be having twelve of our friends over, over half of which have never experienced Thanksgiving. Therefore, in order to maintain America’s incredible reputation, I’m really stressing about this being a fantastic event!

I’ve broken my planning and errand running down in three stages: Advance, One Week Before, and The Day Before. I figured I would post about each of these stages on here (as well as the final product) for any future Friendsgiving planners! The Advance Planning has definitely been stressful, but I have finally solidified everything…yippee!

The Menu

Since we are having so many people and have such a small kitchen to prepare stuff in, we decided on a potluck style dinner. The menu was therefore the easiest part, but needed to be announced ahead of time so everybody could call dibs. Sean and I are taking care of the turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie (realistically some brie as well, but that’s just a given). We’ve asked our friends to provide the rest: mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, etc. We settled on the basics simply because it is so many peoples first “Thanksgiving” that it needs to be a classic (and easy) as possible. However, everybody is already planning on their own twist on their dishes, so I’m excited to see the final product!

The Turkey

I’m going to admit this ahead of time so nobody is surprised or disappointed down the line – Sean and I are cheating. Not on each other, but on Thanksgiving. As in having the Turkey made for us (cue the gasps). I promise this is justified, though! First of all, he’s never made a Turkey and nobody could live up to my dads. Second, there’s the small oven issue. We’re serving 14 people, which means we need a big turkey. I didn’t want to go out and buy one to come home and find out it didn’t fit in the oven. Third, my dad offered to cover the turkey for us this year since I was so stressed about it. This means that we could actually afford to have the turkey made for us, and the ones from Whole Foods just look delicious. So that’s the situation – we will be picking up a turkey on the morning of Friendsgiving and serving it as if it were our own (don’t worry I won’t actually take credit).

The Furniture

This has definitely been the trickiest part of planning our meal considering our house lacks a dining room table. I’ve searched for hire companies who would be able to get me tables and chairs, but they were coming back too expensive for just one day. Thankfully, I found 12 folding chairs down in one of my offices and one of my coworkers offered me his two folding tables. I pulled out my tape measure yesterday and think it will all fit so everybody will have a seat at Friendsgiving. Now that’s something to be thankful for!

The Amazon Order

The Amazon order was fun. We’re talking attractive paper plates, plastic wine glasses (which are surprisingly nice), and bits and bobs which will be part of the centerpiece. I felt extremely satisfied when I pressed the order button, knowing everything would get here on time as well…except everything was shipped individually. We are now dealing with what feels like a hundred “missed delivery” slips and will have to do a mix of running to the post office and tracking down couriers. At least Sean has the day off tomorrow and can deal with all of this for me. Another thing to be thankful for!

Once all of the Amazon orders have been collected, we will be able to tick off all of the advance planning and will be one step closer to a successful Friendsgiving.

The Royal Treatment at Paradisus Punta Cana

Paradisus Punta Cana is an incredible resort. Since we were taking a break from work, we did not want to be dealing with a ton of crowds and children, so we chose to book in the Royal Service section of the resort. This included an exclusive lounge, beach, pool, bar, and restaurant, as well as our personal butler. Oh, and we still had access to everything else in the resort, as well!

Upon arrival, Sean and I were immediately upgraded from a garden view suite to an ocean front suite. The room was massive and I’m pretty sure the bed does not even fit on the size charts! Plus, nothing beats opening the curtains to the beach and ocean directly in front of you. We were introduced to our butler, Enrique, who gave us a tour of the hotel and explained all of the things we could do. After just arriving, we were so eager to just relax that I don’t think we processed anything he said.

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Since we arrived late in the evening, we just met up with my dad and his friend for dinner at the buffet restaurant, Gabi Beach (it was Asian themed and the sushi was amazing!), and a few drinks.

Our days at the resort pretty much consisted of lying by the pool, getting in the pool, and drinking in the pool. We mixed it up by going to the beach a couple of times, and even went golfing one day, but the pool was pretty much our home for the entire trip.

The Facilities

The resort itself was gorgeous. It was so green while simultaneously being directly on the beach. There were flamingos and herons in the ponds, and incredible trees towering over. I do not think I could ever get sick of walking around that place!

We did not explore the gym or the actual spa facility, but did have massages on the beach in a private hut (AMAZING!).

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The Restaurants

During our week at Paradisus, we ate at the following restaurants: Vento (Mediterranean), Bana (Japanese Tepanyaki), La Palapa (the private Royal Service restaurant), Fuego (steakhouse), and Passion (their fanciest restaurant, and the only one not included in the all-inclusive).

My favorite restaurants were Bana and Passion. Unfortunately, I was not feeling well when we went to Bana so did not get to eat as much as I had wished, but the dishes I did try were absolutely amazing. We had the chef cooking at our table, with a sushi starter and trio of desserts as well. Honestly, the food just kept coming. I’m used to restaurants like this where you pick either shrimp, chicken, or beef as your main. At this one, we had chicken…and then beef…and then salmon.

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[I tried to take pictures of all of our courses at Bana, but only managed to get two because I got distracted by eating]

Passion was on an entirely different level. The menu was designed by a chef who is backed by eight Michelin stars. Sean and I both couldn’t decide what to get so we got the tasting menu with the wine pairing. It was seven courses with five glasses of wine. I was stuffed after course three! However, we powered through and enjoyed every course.

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Royal Service

I highly recommend this for anyone traveling on an adults only trip. Enrique took care of absolutely everything we needed, from reservations to restocking the mini bar to arranging our transport to the airport. It was so nice to have someone there checking in on us and solving any issue we had upfront.

The Royal Service facilities, as well, were pristine. The pool was extremely private, with a swim up bar that had the friendliest bartenders ever! There is a huge patch of beach reserved for Royal Service guests that was essentially empty the entire time we were there. Both the pool and beach had comfortable sunbeds and plenty of shady spots when we needed to hide from the sun. The pool had little cabanas that were just way too much fun to curl up in for an afternoon nap!

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La Palapa was a very good restaurant, with a buffet breakfast and then a la carte lunch and dinner. The menu had enough variety on it that we could choose something different each time we were there, and all of the food was so good.

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[The greatest starter of avocado, cheese, and smoked salmon]

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Overall, we had a fantastic stay and I would definitely like to return to Paradisus, or try another one elsewhere in the world! After a week of constant rain in London, I’ve been dreaming of sun and sand and relaxation more than ever.

Punta Cana – Our Fall Retreat  

Sean and I just got back (well, a week ago) from a weeklong holiday in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. We planned the trip with my dad, so he was there too, but we booked ours completely through British Airways. It was my first experience booking a complete holiday package and it made the entire process so easy! We selected the Royal Service section of Paradisus Punta Cana as our all-inclusive resort of choice.

We had so much fun and spent so much time relaxing that I actually came back fully rested and stress-free for the first time in forever. I even came back with the slightest hint of a tan, which is a huge accomplishment for me. I’m going to write more about the resort we stayed at, as well as our horseback-riding excursion, but wanted to start off by sharing some of my favorite photos & memories.

Side Note: Mid-October is the perfect time to go to Punta Cana. It was right at the end of hurricane season, so we did not have any bad weather, but there also weren’t many people there. The resort started to fill up again as we were leaving and I was so happy it wasn’t like that the entire time we were there.

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[Sean had too much sun after about the first day and made the shaded cabanas his home for the rest of the trip. I spied on him from my spot in the sun!]

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[Paradisus found a way to make every single dinner amazing and incredibly romantic.]

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[I was an excellent supporter on the golf course, taking photos of everyone and the scenery while my dad, his friend, and Sean all played in the scorching heat.]

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[We had a blast meeting new people and hanging out at the pool bar in the evening once it cooled down a bit]

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[Sean and I enjoyed couples massages in the private beach cabana. It was early enough in the morning that the only sounds we could hear were the waves crashing. I’ve never been so relaxed!]

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[We treated ourselves to a romantic dinner on our last night there at the only restaurant you have to pay separately for – seven courses and five wines made it well worth it!]