Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Host a Blind Wine Tasting Party

Last year, two of our colleagues and friends entered into a debate about whether or not the price of the wine determined its quality and tastiness. The conversation resulted in a blind wine tasting party that is now a Fitzgerald tradition. If you enjoy wine, at any price point, I highly encourage you to host your very own blind wine tasting party. You won't be disappointed with the results!

First step is to identify your guest list. This year, we intentionally brought together couples that we keep hoping to connect with but for some reason or another, our schedules do not seem to match up. J and I enjoy bringing together friends from different aspects of lives. It is both fun and an open space for us to truly walk in community with others.

Once you've determined your guest list, you can invite them to bring their favorite bottle of wine. We like to leave it up to guests to choose a white wine or a red wine, and award a prize for each category. You could have folks sign up if you'd like or even assign regions from around the world. There are lots of fun ways to personalize this aspect. Our guests this time around really loved red and we ended up not having a white wine in sight {fine by this red wine lover!}.

Part of my wine love involves the bites to eat that often accompany the sips. Our guests were also asked to bring an appetizer to share. Wine + small bites for dinner. My kind of party, for sure.

For my food contributions, I made a healthier buffalo chicken dip and a baked brie in phyllo cups with a walnut and craisin garnish.

As guests arrived, we invited them to choose a number to attach to their bottle of wine. I found this free printable here.

When the tasting began, each guest received a scorecard to rate the tasting. I like to give a few minutes in between tastings for chatting and preparing for the next sip. As we tasted each wine, we identified the number on the bottle but keep the secret of whose bottle it was and what type of wine it was. For us, it lead to a lot of fun guessing as to who brought it and what type it was.

We prefer to provide mini cups for the tastings and then toss them out each time. You could also provide guests with one glass and a dump bucket if you preferred that. I also recommend some palate cleansing snacks such as: crackers, goldfish, etc. for guests to munch on in between samples.

After all of our tastings were complete, we asked guests to vote for their favorite white wine and favorite red wine. In the case that all of your guests bring one type, liked ours did, have them vote for their top 2. As we announced the top selections, the bottles were revealed! After that, everyone was free to enjoy glasses of any wines they chose.

The winners of our categories took home gift certificates to the newly opened Mini Doughnut Factory, a personal favorite of ours {get the cotton candy one!}.

Of course, decorating for your party is also a fun aspect. Or at least it is for me. A few little pretty things go a long way.

For this party, I used a roll of brown butcher wrapping paper to create a table runner, picked up a fresh tulip plant, and used some thought provoking cocktail napkins to spur on conversation. {I pick up cocktail napkins all the time for this purpose and to be sure that I always have fun ones on hand.} You can use any embellishments you'd like to represent you and add a little fun for your guests.

Write down your own great ideas and invite your friends over for a lovely and lively night with good wine and even better company!

If you're curious about our winners from this year, the favorites were:

Cupcake Black Forest

Dreaming Tree Pinot Noir

Yellow Tail Cabernet Sauvignon


Monday, March 21, 2016

Weekend Staycation

J and I have been married for almost 4 months (I promise to write about that soon!). How has the time flown so quickly?

Since the new year started, we've been busy bees at work and in life, making the transition to marriage and living together. We decided at the beginning of the year to take a day off in March to give us a long weekend together to celebrate our datingversary and reconnect after what we anticipated would be a busy few months. Two days off, no tasks, no lists, and adventures. They were so fun. And, so good for this girl's heart.

If you are in the Tampa Bay area, there are some good finds I suggest. Wherever you are, take a weekend to enjoy your city and get out to explore!

Welcome to our staycation!

We ended work on Thursday and took off in our already packed car to head to the sweet downtown streets of Dunedin for their St. Patrick's Day festival. I've married an Irish man so I anticipate this always being a big holiday in our home. The streets were packed with fellow celebrators. We made our way down to the Downtown Dunedin Deli for a burger (definitely give this spot a try). I know, not very Irish, but the festival surprisingly lacked Irish food so we opted for J's next favorite thing.

We spent the night in Dunedin and dashed out early in the morning for a quick breakfast at the famous Kelly's. A yummy breakfast with lots of pours of coffee is just the perfect start to the day, right?

We spent the rest of the day tucked away at the beach. It was surprisingly chilly for a March day in Florida but when you have your sweetheart and the waves are crashing, what could be wrong. Both of us enjoyed our newest books and soaked up the afternoon. 

Of course, no visit to the beach would be complete without a long walk and lunch picnic. For lunch, we picked up Publix sandwiches/wraps and enjoyed them waterside at a little park J discovered. My husband really likes to ask fun hypothetical questions to get your mind going. Sometimes I don't want to play along, admittedly, but I was glad I did on this day because it led to some sweet life conversations that you just miss out on having in your everyday normal life.

While in Treasure Island, we had to visit our favorite ice cream shop, The Candy Kitchen. Their vanilla ice cream with peanut butter is just unreal. I added a twist this time and also had their mocha chocolate chip. Yep, it was a great choice!

As if this day couldn't get better, we accepted a last minute invite from two of our friends to enjoy pizza and wine at their home. Talk about a great day and wonderful evening. It was a big ole' heart full kind of day. And this is all just Friday!

Saturday morning brought grey skies, late sleeps, movie watching, and pumpkin protein pancakes. When the skies cleared a little, we chanced it and took our bikes out to ride all over Tampa Bay, stopping at city events happening and Irish bars. Our final stop led us back to the place we first began flirting/finally admitting we flirt at The Dubliner. We also had THE best beer ever here.

Let me introduce you to The Cotton Candy: Half Angry Orchard + Half Seadog Blueberry + Fresh Blueberries = the best beer.

Two days of much needed quality time mixed with rest for us both = a pretty great staycation for us.

I anticipate more of these will be in our future so please share any ideas you have done or have come across - we love exploring and new adventures!

{We also learned on Saturday that I need a comfier bike seat for longer rides, insert soreness.}

Happy Monday! I hope you found rest this weekend as well.

Friday, May 1, 2015

{Friday Gratitude}

Dear imperfections, I'm falling more in love with you all the time. You're the sweet spot in my heart. Dear red skirt, you make a girl twirl. Dear city group girls, curling up with all of you to discuss life is always a highlight of my week. Dear J, you're still my favorite. Dear grads, so glad that we could all share the last two years with you. Go be great professionals! Dear weekend, I'm coming for you and the mac and cheese that you hold.

Friday, April 3, 2015

{Friday Gratitude}

Dear Florida, your water brings peace to my soul. Grateful for your waterways and paths to walk alongside the waves. Dear comfy couch, you are far from pretty but your cushions provide a great place to rest and I'm glad to have spent some minutes with you this week. Dear attempted bike ride, we will meet again, but glad the goal of you provided a lovely walk while the sun was setting and the sky was bright pink, like cotton candy. Dear God, I cannot comprehend the depths of your love for all of us. My understanding seems to only touch the surface of all that you are. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice of your son so that we could know your mercy, steadfast love, and faithfulness.

Friday, March 27, 2015

{Friday Gratitude}

Dear books, I adore your pages and taking in all of your words. Time spent with you is never wasted. Dear Miss B, thank you for creating a safe space for me to unpack my heart and understand it a bit more. Dear Lauralee and Angie, thankful for a friendship with you that continues to grow as we walk alongside one another in this life. Dear dreamer, take responsibility for those desires and big ideas. Trust the wisdom and understanding you've been given to shepherd them. Dear J, thank you for sharing a walk with me and the space to talk through so many of the things we are learning. Dear bravery, you are a gift that is given to us and while we don't always know why or understand you, I'm sure glad you keep showing up. Dear D & K, I'm grateful that I get to love you, know you and be your sister.