The Days of Wine and Chocolate


So my resolution to have another party came true.  It was small, yes, but it was delicious.

In my post-Debbie-Downer phase, I decided to put together a tasting party for the two things I most enjoy: wine and chocolate.  Yum.

I have never done a tasting party of any sort, let alone one that people might expect to be well-planned and put-together, so I started feeling the pressure immediately after I invited a few friends.

What?  Did I really just commit myself to coming up with a menu of paired wines and chocolates?

To the drawing board!

Wine and Chocolate Pairings

After a lot of research at Lindt.com for learning how to “taste” chocolate and then reviewing a billion sites to get recommendations for pairing wine and chocolate, this was the tasting menu:

Sweet Champagne with White Chocolate that had Dried Strawberry by Matt BanksChunks

Sweet Moscato with a Swirled White and Milk Chocolate bar

Riesling with Milk Chocolate with Caramel Filling

Dry Sherry with Milk Chocolate with Toffee Chunks

Fruity Cabernet Sauvingon with Medium Cocoa Chocolate with Dried Cherries

Shiraz with Dark Chocolate spiced with Chiles

Merlot with 79% Cocoa Dark Chocolate

Deeee—-LISH!

My favorite pairs were the sweet champagne with white chocolate and strawberries, the Sherry (I was so surprised!) with the toffee chocolate, and the Cab with the chocolate with cherries – and normally I only eat dark chocolates!

Anyway, the night was a success, and I have already been asked to repeat the pleasure…I am thinking of hosting a 2nd evening of wine and chocolate over spring break. The words “wine and chocolate” seem to be all that is necessary to secure attendees, which is now a “note to self” for future Friendship Endeavor events.

by Simon Howden

Now if I can just convince the MeetUp.com group to go for wine and chocolate, I can keep perfecting my tasting skills!

 

Coffee and Parties and Lunches, Oh My!


I was on a roll for a bit, with hosting two parties in two weeks (one was the ladies night of wine and chatting, and then we hosted a party for my husband’s law school classmates, a few of whom have some potential for the FFFE as well. The only problem there will be how to get them to hang out when they ever have any time!

In addition to the parties, I was grabbing Sunday coffees, doing mid-week biostats phone consultations with some friends, and generally living it up for a while – effortlessly doing the FFFE thing, living the goal (or trying to) of networking and meeting people on a regular basis and building relationships based on that.

But now what?by ZirconiCusso

Where has my time gone?  Where have the invites gone?  Where has the will gone to keep checking MeetUp.com for a chance to spread my wings a bit?  And again, where has my time gone?  Work, school, an internship, some volunteer work, a house, a husband, and a dog are surely time consuming enough for two people, but before it was working out relatively well…right?

Taking Stock of the Friends Forever Friendship Endeavor

I am proud overall of my January accomplishments in terms of improving relationships, going the extra mile to get to know people, hosting parties, and just socializing in general.  But reviewing my progress since last September, it’s hard to tell if I would have been any worse off just by being my usual (less outgoing) self…I have never had trouble getting along with people, and despite all of my efforts, life just seems to be so busy at times that having regular time with friends doesn’t even seem realistic.

Maybe its the midterms, I’m-going-crazy frame of mind talking, but I feel like I will have to give myself a major reminder of why it’s worth it to work so hard at friendships if no one gets to see each other anyway!

I hope this down-in-the dumps, laissez faire attitude wears off quickly, because I do enjoy going the extra mile to hang out and build friendships – it’s just tough work.

Maybe another party is in order…

A Party in Summation


I was nervous – and rightfully so!  We had our first major snow of the season, most of the invited guests were unable to attend due to short notice, hectic work schedules, and prior plans.  I cleaned and prepped and planned and slaved over ridiculous appetizers, not to mention the fact that I spent three weeks worth of grocery money on the wine and snacks…

And of course, as any self-conscious newbie in the world of friendship would, I suppose, I worried that people would change their mind at the last minute, due to weather or perhaps a better offer for a way to spend their Friday night.  I fretted and stressed and sent my husband off with his guy friend for the night to spare myself the embarrassment of  having to watch him feel awkward for me if no one showed up.

Luckily, the party was a sweet success!

Exactly the number of people I suspected showed up.  We ate, we drank, we chatted, we played Catchphrase, and we had a great time.  Suddenly we discovered it was already 1am, and everyone was sorry to head home.  Now that’s what I wanted to experience!

I am happy to report that my first attempt at hosting a group of potential Forever Friends at the house was full of fun, and that I got the chance to know many of them much better than school and casual chats between classes or at lunch ever afforded us.  Spending time with people outside of work or school makes quite a difference in how you perceive them and what you learn about them (and how quickly!).

In terms of the main goal for January accomplishments on the Friendship Meter, the event was a success. In addition, I am pleased to say that I have a standing coffee date with a friend every weekend to review homework and catch up on each others’ lives.  It is nice to have a friend that I enjoy seeing regularly and who is interested in taking time to spend with me on a regular basis as well.

Now, onto the next goal for the Friendship Endeavor: MeetUp.com!

How to Plan a Kick-Ass Party


Pardon my French, but I didn’t know how best to describe what I was hoping to do in this post without that key phrase.

I am finally accomplishing my long-lived FFFE plan to host a party next Friday.  Small scale, ladies only, casual and low-key, but a party nonetheless.  I’m thinking wine, unhealthy snacks, decorations leftover from Christmas, and lots of chit-chat.

Party with Wine

Cheers!

But how to put together said shindig?  I figured I would head to the world wide web to get some pointers, and this is what I found:

Get the Basics of Your Party Planning Figured Out

  • Decide how many people you plan to invite or how many guests you expect will attend.
  • Decide what type of food and drinks you will serve.  Cocktails and appetizers?  A sit-down dinner or buffet?  Desserts and punch?

Set the Stage for Your Party

  • Will there be a theme?  What type of decorations will you need?  Will your guests need advanced information on the theme to dress accordingly or bring specific food or drinks?
  • Plan activities if the party won’t just be for socializing.  Do your guests enjoy board games?  Interactive games like SceneIt or charades?  Plan these in advance so you have something prepared in case of a lull in the activity.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help with Your Party

  • If you can’t cook or buy all the party fare yourself, consider enlisting the help of a friend or neighbor who will be attending, or ask each guest to bring a side dish and/or drink.  Alternately, plan your party as a potluck and have each guest bring a specific part of the menu.
Eat up!

Party Foods

  • Ask friends or family to help you prepare the house for the party.  Don’t kill yourself cleaning or prepping, but do make sure that the most visible areas are presentable: little to no clutter, clean floors and counters, dusted eating surfaces, tidy guest bathrooms, etc.  If you have a pet, vacuum to remove pet hair and use a lint brush to clean furniture so that party guests won’t get pet hair on their party clothes.

Prepare for the Party in Advance

  • Cook or bake everything ahead of time if possible, saving only the dishes requiring fresh assembly for last-minute prep.
  • Set out utensils, napkins, and clean glassware in advance to save yourself the stress of arranging these items when guests are arriving.
  • If you will be giving party favors, assemble them as far ahead of time as possible so that you can focus on more time-sensitive issues in the last few days leading up to your event.

Keep the Party Casual

  • Whether your house is packed to the gills or you have a limited guest list for an intimate party environment, don’t stress out your visitors by adhering strictly to formal party procedures (unless a fancy formal is the theme!).  Making guests fret over which spoon to use or whether it is appropriate to take their appetizer plate into the living room may kill the mood. Keep it simple and laid-back to help everyone get and stay comfortable at your shindig.
  • If you are hosting a party and you know that certain individuals may hamper everyone’s experience, consider whether they should be invited. If you are not close with the head honcho at work, or if you have feuding friends, choose carefully whom to invite or make sure the party is big enough that they can enjoy themselves without cramping the style of the rest of your guests.

Be the Gracious Host

  • Smile, and welcome each and every guest graciously – even if they are unexpected!  A party is a party after all, and living by the credo “the more the merrier” will help you go with the flow. Roll with the punches and remember that the purpose of the party is to have fun!
  • Keep an eye on how full the chip bowl is and tidy up if necessary, but don’t be so tied to scrubbing dishes between courses or filling every single glass that dips below half full that you miss out on the party.  People are coming to spend time with you, so don’t kill yourself by refusing to relax. People are forgiving at parties, so enjoy yourself and allow yourself to be present and socialize.  You can always clean up later!
  • Be prepared for the party to last longer than you expected.  When guests are enjoying themselves, or when alcohol is free, guests tend to linger!  Don’t stress over the time and just appreciate the fact that you threw such a good party that no one wants to leave!

 

Now that I have armed myself with the basic elements of planning and hosting a kick-ass party, I am hoping to succeed at doing just that this coming weekend.  Let’s hope these strategies help…Now, on to the party menu!

Long Winter Breaks are Fun!


After having lived the life of a professional for a few years between degree programs, I admit I forgot how cool school is when it comes to break time. Three weeks of (poorly) paid vacation is A-Okay with me!

Fun and blessings abounded this holiday season – my family is all in good health, and I managed to squeeze in several wonderful meals and outings with friends from AZ. Now that school is back in session, I suppose I must re-dedicate myself to the mission of the blog and continue with my friendship endeavors.

Hosting a party (or two!) this month will have to be my penance for slacking off (I am going to multitask and make it the first of many New Year resolutions)!  December was rather uninspiring on the Friendship Meter, so January and the fresh opportunity to meet new people will have to make up for it.

Details to come…

If All Else Fails, Make Food and Exercise Your Friends


For a recent project, I have been doing lots of research on mental health and how important exercise and the right diet can be to happiness and a positive mood. Although I am a ridiculously unreliable exerciser (despite my love for yoga, hiking, and looking good!), I must admit that every time I break a sweat I do feel good about myself. I also seem to see invisible physical benefits very, very quickly (yeah, I definitely have a smaller tummy now that I ran for 15 minutes…definitely).

Get Your Exercise

Physical Activity Improves Mood

Similarly, I have a love-hate relationship with health food. At times, I am all about whole foods, shunning processed or anything with added salt or sugar or fat or any ingredients I can’t pronounce. Other times (like around the holidays), I am a sugar, fat, and carb aficionado. The more chocolate, butter, and booze the better! On the whole, though, I like to think that I am a relatively healthy eater, and I take pride in forcing my husband to be the same.

The natural buzz I get from eating well  and yes, exercising occasionally, is not just self-righteous health-nut pride, but Mother Nature’s way of saying “Yes, this is good for you – do more of this and all will be well!”

Food and Exercise Can Improve Mood

Foods with complex carbohydrates, magnesium and selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, amino acids, and a variety of vitamins and antioxidants can help stimulate the production of feel-good chemicals in your brain. Boosting your production of serotonin, endorphins, fatty gray matter, and neurotransmitters in your brain translates to elevated energy levels, improved mood, better sleep, less frustration and anxiety, better stress management techniques, fewer symptoms of depression, improved memory, and even higher levels of motivation and alertness.

Some star foods for these benefits include bananas, spinach, salmon, walnuts, dark chocolate (hooray!), milk, brown rice, and turkey.

Get Fishy With It

Eat well to boost your mood

The somewhat harder pill to swallow is that exercise is not only essential for great physical health but also for excellent emotional and mental well-being. Working up a sweat, breathing hard, and stretching your muscles prompts your brain to release feel-good chemicals and produce hormones that have many of the same effects as the above-mentioned foods. Exercise can help you relax, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, and reduce symptoms of depression. As an added benefit, exercising in bright daylight can help people with Seasonal Affective Disorder combat  symptoms of seasonal depression.

So the next time you have nowhere to go on a weekend night or nobody to hang out with, swap the TV and the take-out line for a jog and a salmon and veggie-licious experience that will leave you feeling content and relaxed. Who knew that exercise and food could be such healthy companions for your mood? Sign me up!

A Friendly End to a Friendly Semester


Finals are over and I once again have claim over at least some of my time! Spurred on by my numerous attempts to socialize, meet people, and make friends, I have recently participated in or arranged multiple gatherings with potential forever friends. Then again, I have also passed up a few outings to celebrate the quarter’s end. I did so regretfully, but I passed them up nonetheless.

Despite my brief bout with post-exam antisocial angst, I have already scheduled a tentative round of drinks on the town and an outing to dinner and the Nutcracker with a few new friends from school and church.

Today, however, I hatched a crazy idea.

My December task for the Friends Forever Friendship Endeavor will be to host a party. Not just any party – a party with all of the best potential friends doing all the best things: eating, drinking, and being merry.

Considering I do have the continued need to work for a living, a commitment to a school/work internship, the frantic holiday traveling to look forward to, and all of my Christmas shopping to do, it will be quite a feat to organize and host a party within the next couple of weeks, but I dare say my newfound devotion to fostering friendship opportunities will serve me well – motivation and a healthy dose of stress can be a wonderful thing.

I craftily even used my decision today to not attend recent outings as an opportunity to shoot a few ladies a text about tossing back a few glasses of wine at my place sometime in the next week or two.

So now the December To-Do List kicks in:

1. Pick a day for the fearsome fête
2. Buy some wine
3. Choose some snacks
4. Send a few casual invites
5. Clean, clean, clean
6. Party hearty
7. Report on the successful progress on the Friendship Meter!

 

Host a party for friends!

Mine won't be quite this fancy!

All in all, I think I’ve had a great start these past few months toward finding potential Forever Friends. Granted, it has been easy to meet people at school – it is the perfect opportunity to find other people who are also looking to make new friends, and I hope that I am taking well enough advantage of the chances my new degree program has given me.

So beginning the next phase of my journey toward lasting friendships, I will host a party and head to the ballet. After that I foresee some of the general December to February Friendship Plans: 

December – February: Getting into the Swing of Things & Finding Some “Regulars”

I think I have made fair progress on this already for this month, but putting myself to the challenge of being the person responsible for inviting specific people and hosting a party is a bit of a big step.  It means I have to select some potential “regulars!”  Well, here goes!

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