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Archive for the ‘Everyday Events’ Category

oct22October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. I know, the month is almost over, but little bit of recognition counts. In my nine-to-five job, I work with men with prostate cancer and women who’ve been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. My job is to enroll my patients on clinical research cancer trials and follow them throughout the course of the study. It seems like on a weekly basis, tears are brought to my eyes by stories of strength, love, triumph and loss. The next few posts are dedicated to bringing breast cancer awareness to you and your loved ones.

During September 18-20th, the Susan G Komen for the Cure Race and Celebration was held in Portland, Oregon. My work (Oregon Health & Science University) had a table at the Convention Center and tissue poms made an appearance!! During the two day event at the Convention Center, my colleagues and I gave out about 7000 grocery bags and brochures.

2009 - Komen

Their Pink Phone Campaign (@OHSUPinkPhone) made its way across the beautiful state of Oregon. You could listen to personal stories of how breast cancer has effected one’s life or share and record your own story for others to hear.

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The Race was on Sunday and my friends and I joined 45,000 other supporters and survivors. It was an exhilarating event. This year was my fourth year doing the race and I am already pumped for next year’s celebration.

Personally, the fight for the cure is everyday. Be aware and keep strong!
(Psst! Come back tomorrow for a lovely Breast Cancer related giveaway!)

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oct05Unlike hosting a dinner party or planning a bridal shower, a wine tasting event requires hardly any planning. With a wine tasting, you can spend less time prepping for the event and spend more time enjoying your guests. This is a stress free way to host. It also gives a great excuse ends to test their palette. Now let’s go on a grape exploration.

Theme
Picking a theme is necessary, as it will help you decide which wine to buy. Start by deciding if you want red, white, sparkling, or dessert wine. Or just stick to wines within a specific region (Willamette Valley or Napa Valley), or taste the same varietal produced in different parts of the world (Cabernet Sauvignon). With the surge of eco-friendly trends, organic wines are now available, perfect for a eco-friendly theme.

wineThink about your guests and how much they know about wine. If you’re hosting a group of novice wine drinkers, a more basic tasting such as an introduction to one of the major red wine grapes works best. If your group is more experienced, try experimenting with lesser-known varietals or different years (vintage) of the same wine. Also think about the season: heavy and full reds don’t mix well with a hot and dry August evening, but they would be perfect in February around the fireplace.

Budget
You can host a wine tasting on any budget. While some bottles can costs hundreds, even thousands of dollars, yet a great tasting can be done on almost any budget. Go to your local grocery, Trader Joe’s or World Market to find some budget friendly bottles. Ask the reps from the store, one might be able to recommend a bottle for you.

Food

To share the cost of the event, make the tasting a potluck style tasting. Or have tiny bites to supplement your tasting. Prepared food and no-cook items can easy bulk up a menu.

No Cook Items: cheese, crackers, breads, chutneys, fresh or dried fruit (apples, pears, grapes and figs), pickled vegetables, nuts, honey, jam, salami and other dried/cured meats,

Prepared foods: deli counter sliced meat, pre-made desserts from your local grocery or bakery. Remove wrappings and transfer everything to several serving dishes. Then clean afterwards is a snap. cheese

Offer food or drink that will help cleanse the tongue (palette) of any flavor remnants.  Chilled water and bland crackers are a great example. Try to avoid flavored breads or crackers.

If you want to trim your budget, skip the crackers and bread, but water must be offered.

Tips

Line up wines in the order in which they will be tasted. Although there are no set rules, Cheney recommends starting with whites and finishing with reds, and going in order of driest to sweetest and lightest to heaviest.

Six different wines are enough to keep your guests entertained with flavors. Offering more than six can make your guests feel overwhelmed and rushed to try them all. In addition, it can get your guests beyond drunk. :)

After the tasting, if you your guests are not too full, offer them dessert. Pairing something light with coffee or tea will help settle the stomach. Don’t forget to offer nonalcoholic options to your  guests whom are driving.

Chill the Wine

In general, white wines are chilled and reds room are at temperature. If your house is warm, you can put the bottles in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes or just until they are cool to the touch. Red wines should not be served cold, so be sure to take them out of the fridge about one hour prior to pouring.

Opening and Pouring Wine

Opening all your bottles ahead of time can streamline the tasting process, especially if you have a large group. But if the party is small enough, opening the bottles at each round is acceptable (and more fun).

The Tasting Steps

1. Introduce the Wine
Start by introducing and pouring your first wine, then walk the group through the tasting process detailed below. Throughout the tasting, encourage your guests to keep in mind that this is a fun, social occasion, so it is not a competition. Just a relaxed way to try to new.

2. Look
Hold the glass at a 45-degree angle over a white tablecloth or napkin and examine the wine’s color and intensity. Is it a deep red, a light gold? Is the color saturated throughout or does the wine look watery around the rim/edges? Does it look viscous or watery?

3. Smell
Place the glass on the table and swirl it vigorously to release the wine’s aromas, then bring the glass up to your nose and inhale. What does the smell remind you of? Cherries? Tobacco? Oak? 

4. Sip
Take a small sip and swish around. Allow some air to help release the aromas and flavors. Think about what flavors you taste as well as the wine’s acidity and sweetness. Also consider the wine’s body and texture: Is it light or heavy? Thick or thin? If you’re sampling red wine, think about the tannin level—tannins make for a dry, almost cotton-dry. Again, you may want to close your eyes to focus on what you’re tasting.

5. Swallow
Swallow the wine and think about its finish and aftertaste. Does the flavor linger (have a “long finish”) or disappear quickly? Is the wine one-dimensional or more complex?

6. Evaluate
Do you like this wine? Try to identify exactly what you like or dislike, as that can help you identify wines you’ll enjoy in the future. And, keep in mind that there are no right or wrong answers—it’s all a matter of personal preference.

7. Samples #2 to #6
In between each sample, be sure everyone cleanses their palate with water. Sample the wine with a morsel of food. Does it bring out hidden flavors?

For subsequent wines, you may want to once again lead the group through the formal tasting process—this can be especially helpful for newbie tasters. But, if you think your group would prefer, feel free to let everyone taste on their own.

8. Final Discussion
Once all the wines have been sampled, lead the group in a discussion about all six wines. (If you held a blind tasting, this is the time to reveal your bottles.) For fun, have everyone vote for his or her favorite and rank the wines in terms of preference.

A prost to you and your next party! Cheers!

(Credits: Photo – Pottery Barn; Thoughts and Ideas from: Wine Lovers, Forbes, Epicurious and my past experiences)

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feb191In this time of economic slowdown, it is hard to justify any extra expenses. It is sad to say that I consider buying books a frivolous expense. A way to beat this slump is to host a book exchange party. You can gather a group of your friends, enjoy some snacks and find new reads without spending a buck. Not only do you get to update your library, you also get to share your books with others (and then rest to charity).

Hosting a Book Exchange party is easy and fun. There are no rules – but there are a few things to keep in mind.

The Index:

  1. Need between 9 – 15 people to provide a range of options
  2. Send out an evite (Triple yay: no waste, save money and it’s free)
  3. Every person should come with at least 5 books (you can specify a genre ie. cookbooks, or just say fictional)
  4. Request they bring a bag to hold their items books
  5. Provide warm refreshments such as tea, coffee and hot chocolate; cold refreshments such as juice, water and snacks. A potluck is a great way to avoid putting all the cost on the host. Evite has a sign-up sheet associated with each invite. You can designate several categories: sides, appetizers, dessert, salad. etc).
  6. Whatever is left over at the end of the evening gets donated to charity/or kept for the next exchange.

Before the event / Planning Process:

  1. Make sure your home can accommodate 9-15 people. If not, consider using a friend’s home that may have more space.
  2. Set the date a few weeks in advance.
  3. Find sufficient seating for the area. Once you snag a book novel, all you want to do is curl up and enjoy it.

The day of/Before your guests arrive:

  1. Clear two spaces in your home that will comfortably fit up to 15 people. One space for the food and drinks and the other space for your guests to peruse the books.
  2. Create some numbered tickets for your guests.
  3. Make sure the food and drink table is stocked with cups, napkins, plates, serving utensils and utensils.
  4. Put in your favorite listening CD or radio station.

Let Exchange begin:

  1. As your guests arrive, give them a number, introduce them to new faces and direct them to the food and drinks area. Let them mingle for a bit, while you start organizing the books (alphabetical order by author is easiest/fastest). Spread the books around the space so there isn’t an overwhelming amount of people in one area.
  2. Once the books are organized, ask the guests to file in the book area according to their number. The guests will pick one book. When they are done, head back to the food area. Repeat until everyone has picked. Then let the guests with the largest number go first and work towards one. Then let even numbers go, then odd, etc. So there is not a favor in who goes in next and all the “good” books are taken. This way, the first person who arrived, won’t pick out all the best books.

Once everyone has arrived, go over the “rules” before you start.

  • The number of books you bring, is the number you can take. Unless no one wants them and they are being donated to charity. Then it is a free for all.
  • You don’t have to pick a book every time, skipping a turn is okay.

Some tips:

  • Good to go in with both a playful and assertive attitude
  • Don’t take it personally when people aren’t choosing the books you brought

At the end:

Once everyone is done choosing their books, sit relax and nibble on the snacks. All the books that are left over are sent to charity or kept for the next book exchange event. If you do donate them, always a good idea to call the charities ahead of time to make sure they are in need of the books.

What do you think? Post your thoughts.

(book image from fromoldbooks.org)

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