Monday, July 1, 2013

Baby Gear Survey: Sleeping, Soothing and Swinging

With 5(ish) (ok, still working on this one and we're looking at 3ish...and now 2ish) weeks left before baby Ellen's arrival, I'm now scurrying to finish up my Baby Survey posts.  Again, thank you to everyone who participated in this survey.  Your input has been beyond helpful for us as we prepare for our first baby!

This post focuses on the following: crib bumpers, sheets and other bedding, sleep sacks, swaddling, blankets, bassinets, rocking chairs, swings etc.  

Click here for the spreadsheet of results

Now that you've read what other people have said, this is what we chose: 

Crib bumpers and baby bedding: Yes.  It will be awhile before Ellen can actually move around in her crib.  Bumpers are pretty (I know that sounds selfish and shallow), but when she starts moving, we'll make sure she doesn't cuddle up with them and suffocate.  I just can't bring myself to use those mesh bumpers...they're ugly.  I went with custom bedding that my mom and I made.  I have really obsessed about the nursery and couldn't find anything within a reasonable price range that I loved.  No, I will not make bedding for you.  It was much more difficult that I thought it would be...but it sure is pretty!

Here's a little sneak peak:

Sheets: I decided on a mixture of sheets, all white- regular cotton, organic muslin (Aiden and Anais) and flannel.  Depending on room temperature will depend on what we use.  One great tip I've learned is to layer mattress pads and sheets (as many as you can layer) so that if your baby has an accident or spit up/throw up in the night, you can just take the top set off and have a clean set underneath.  I chose all white sheets so that they can withstand lots of cleanings.  Here is what we registered for:

Sleep sacks: Since Ellen will be a summer baby, I went with the lightest weight Aiden and Anais sleep sacks and swaddles.  I'm not sure whether we'll put her in a sleep sack or swaddle in the beginning, I think it will depend on what she prefers.  I also have a heavier weight Halo sleep sack and Aiden and Anais for winter.  I definitely advocate for sleep sacks a few months in when swaddles aren't preferable any longer. 

Swaddling: so far, I'm an advocate for swaddling.   I'm using all Aiden and Anais swaddles, or swaddles that are made from similar muslin material.  I think they're easiest to use, we won't have to worry about her getting too hot and they are SO SOFT.  They're also a great size. I've been a big fan of them for babies I've babysat/nannied in the past. 

Bassinets: We are going to use a bassinet near the bed especially for the first couple of months when we're figuring out feeding etc.  I don't know what brand ours is because its a hand me down from my sweet SIL, Elizabeth.  We are so fortunate to have a bassinet that carries so much love with it already!  I don't really think bassinet brand matters- you don't use them that long. However, if you're looking for something beautiful check out RH Baby and Child for their bassinets and moses baskets.  They. Are. Gorgeous.  If you don't care about style and you're looking for function only, most pack and plays have a great bassinet feature.

Swings: We chose the Mamaroo by 4moms.  I love the look of it and its functionality in theory (since we haven't actually gotten to use it yet).  I love the different swinging modes, the white noise options and that you can plug an ipod into it and play whatever your baby loves.  It can be pretty pricey, so look for one from a resale shop or borrow one from a friend).  When looking for a swing I recommend something with a pretty strong swinging motion and fairly loud music/white noise.  You'll also want something that plugs into the wall so that you're not going through a million batteries.  

Rock and Play: I have many friends who SWEAR by the rock and play; however, we decided against it.  While most babies love it, I've heard from many that breaking their babies from sleeping in the rock and play has been a miserable feat.  I didn't want to deal with that...and I don't like the monkey head on the back of it, so we didn't get it.  

Rocking Chair: The biggest advice I got regarding rocking chairs/gliders is to get something that you love and that is super comfortable because you'll spend a lot of time in it.  We chose a Best Chair Company chair.  I wasn't crazy about the fabric options (I'm not kidding, I've had some serious nesting issues with nursery style), so I found the chair I wanted on Craig's List and then had it re-upholstered.  It's really pretty and you'll see it in my nursery post that I swear will happen in the next 5 weeks.

Pacifiers: The jury is out on whether Ellen will use a pacifier or not.  We're not totally against it, but we'll definitely wait until she becomes a breastfeeding champ.  Here are the ones we've got in the paci arsenal just in case:

Secretly, if she needs a pacifier, I hope she chooses her thumb- so much cuter than a paci and MUCH easier to keep up with :)

Lovies: I strongly believe that every baby needs a lovie.  I also swore I would not be one of those mommies who forces a specific lovie onto her child.  I love when kiddos pick them out for themselves...I have a friend whose little girl loves a Grinch doll and it's adorable :)  That said- I picked a lovie that I will strongly suggest for Ellen.  It's this JellyCat bunny.  It's SO soft and pretty:

She also got this JellyCat bunny from some of my favorite people on Earth, the Rickels, and she can choose it if she prefers:

My overall advice about lovies that I've learned from babysitting and nannying is to have back ups.  If a lovie is lost, it's bad news for everyone and if a lovie is dirty, it's nice to have as second stream while the A team gets washed.

So that's it for sleeping, soothing and swinging!  I hope this is helpful.  I'd love any of your feedback or further advice!  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Baby Gear Survey: Diapering

I feel like all I do is apologize for being behind on the blog.  This baby survey has been so helpful for me and I really do want to share the results with you as well as some of the research I've done on my own!  Here's the diaper section- I'm sharing the spreadsheet here.  It's a little more confusing, I had trouble finding a layout that I liked, so this is what I came up with.

Overall results:
disposable diaper users: 23
cloth diaper users: 7
both diaper users: 3

Most popular disposables:

Most popular cloth:

Most Popular wipes:
Pampers Sensitive

Most Popular Diaper Rash Ointment:
Desitin followed by A&D

Wipe warmer vs. no wipe warmer opinions were about 50/50.  One good comment I saw was that if you only use wipe warmers at home, it's a shock to little baby bottoms when you're out and about and put a cold wipe on their bums...could lead to a fussy baby.  We're still on the fence.  I will at least need some sort of wipe container because we are planning on using reusable wipes while at home.

Diaper Genie- some people were for, some people were against, cloth diaper-ers use diaper bags and pails depending on where their changing diapers.  One helpful comment was not to buy a diaper pail that requires specific trash bags because it gets so pricey!

And now here's our plans:  After researching the pros and cons of cloth vs. disposables, we are going to give cloth diapers a go.  I can't promise that this is all we will use, but we're going to give it our best shot!  We are choosing cloth for these reasons: The cost savings is significant over disposables (there are many different people who have done analysis on these and they all turn out with slightly different figures...the moral of the story is that the cost savings is significant).  Using cloth diapers is better for the environment.  Sensitive skin babies often do better with cloth diapers...I thought I'd go ahead and assume I was going to have a fair-skinned redhead with lots of allergies and sensitivities...maybe I'm wrong, but I did marry one of those :)  Cloth diapers are environmentally friendly- no diaper trash in the landfill!  You can use the same diapers with subsequent children further increasing the cost effectiveness.  Studies show that cloth diapered toddlers potty train faster than disposable diaper wearers...and I'm all for early potty training! Finally, cloth diapers are pretty darn cute (that's just an added bonus, no, I did not choose cloth on the cuteness factor).  Since I'm getting to stay home with Baby Girl, I figured an extra load of laundry or two per day and diaper maintenance wouldn't kill me!

I registered for diapers at Terra Tots in Fayetteville, AR where they have amazing cloth diapering support.  We have registered for a mixture of different types of diapers based on Baby Girl's size, time of day and whether we will be out and about or staying at home.  I registered for diapers made in the USA and Canada so we're giving back to the North American economy...more specifically the AR economy because that's where Blueberry brand diapers are made.  The majority of products I chose are made from bamboo because I like the combination of absorbency and lack of bulkiness.  I also chose diapers with snaps instead of velcro, mostly because it seemed easier to deal with to me.  I won't go into cloth diapers any further because there are so many great blogs and videos already published on this topic.  I've read and watched them for HOURS!

Regarding diaper rash ointment, I'm not really sure what we'll use.  I do know that with cloth diapers you have to be careful on what you choose so that you don't clog up the absorbency of the cloth which means things like Desitin and Boudreaux's Butt Paste are out for me.  The recommended Northern Essence All Natural Salve looks appealing to me (who wouldn't want their baby's bum to smell like lemon pie?!) but we'll see what works when the time comes!

**UPDATE on cloth diapering** My friend Lindsay shared this diapering site with me.  I hadn't found her yet and she does a wonderful job summarizing cloth diapers.  Check her out:

That's it on diapering!  I'd love to hear your feedback!

**UPDATE ON CARSEAT AND STROLLER DECISIONS**After much deliberation we made a decision!  We went with the Maxi-Cosi Prezi carseat and the Maxi Cosi Foray LX stroller as well as a BOB for exercise.  I really liked the streamlined design of the Prezi as well as the safety ratings and the materials it's made out of and the Foray LX makes sense because the base easily converts to a snap and go with the infant seat and when Baby Girl moves to the toddler seat the stroller remains lightweight and streamlined.  I just couldn't imagine navigating crowds with a bulky stroller system.  We're going with the BOB as our second stroller because we loved our BOB test drive and EVERYONE recommends it for a jogging stroller over anything else...although I'm still tinkering with the Bumbleride Indie...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Baby Gear Survey- On The Go: Seats and Strollers

Well hello!  Embarrassingly, I haven't written a blog post since how time flies and things change.  If you didn't know, we're expecting a baby at our house in July!!  I realize I should've posted long ago to share our news and excitement, but I was embarrassed of my blog tardiness and it just kept getting worse and worse.  Today I decided it was time to get over it- I've got to re-start somewhere, right?

I sent out a baby gear survey about a month ago to gather the opinions of friends who already know much more than I do about outfitting our home with the perfect tools to make life with baby much easier and safer.  I've had many requests to share the results and I'm so excited that this survey will be helpful for others besides me!  I've been contemplating the best way to share the results as the survey was so extensive that comprehensive results seemed a bit overwhelming.

I've decided to separate each section of the survey into different posts.  This will help me stay organized and will help you find exactly what you need without sifting through results that you don't care about!  Please add input in comments if you have any and ask questions too!  We've been doing a lot of researching and test driving lately!

Thanks again to all who contributed to the survey!  Your input has been SO helpful!

It appears that I don't know how to embed a spreadsheet directly into Blogger so you'll have to click on the links below to see the Google Drive documents:

On The Go: Strollers and Seats
I have included links to each item so that you can see specs.  Orange highlighted comments were ones I deemed as "does not recommend" comments.   I added my "two cents" in the right column and tried to be as honest as possible.

I'd like to add a review for one more product that my friends hadn't used BUT we test drove this stroller this weekend and really liked it.  The Mamas and Papas Urbo Stroller is a bit pricey but VERY easy to maneuver. I loved the easy of flipping the seat from forward facing to rear facing.  This seat folds easily and has a very slim profile for transporting in the car.  The construction is very sturdy and I loved how short this stroller is (not from top to bottom but from front to back). ** Update: This stroller only has adapters for Mamas and Papas carseats and Graco carseats.  A bit of a bummer since I don't plan on purchasing either.**

I hope this is helpful and I hope to hear your feedback!  It takes a village to raise a child...and to choose the best gear :)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Thirsty for Thirty Part 2: The Menu

To save you from an endless list, I have created a Bloodworth Beer Birthday  spreadsheet for the food, beer and soda.  Please know I did not come up with all of the beer descriptions from scratch!  I combined descriptions from many resources so if you happen to be reading this and notice a familiar description, I am thanking you for that and not taking credit for it!

You'll see that non-alcoholic beverages that are within the spreadsheet instead of the bottom, I have highlighted them in brown.  At the bottom where the remainder of the sodas are placed, I just included food pairing suggestions, I didn't actually make that food.  

I'm not going to give you ALL of the recipes because it'll take up too much space, overwhelm you or bore you to death.  Here are some of the major crowd pleasers:

Follow the link above for the main recipe.  I added a full cup of apple juice to the recipe.  I also made my own tortillas by following this recipe.  In addition, I assembled the tacos as follow: tortilla, meat, a thin line of sriracha, a little bit of cabbage and 1-2 slices of avocado.

I modified this recipe slightly by rolling the poppers like little tiny crescent rolls because I couldn't make them look like the tents she made.  I boiled my chicken breasts whole with chicken broth, the whole package of ranch dip and the hot wings sauce then I shredded it and added the cream cheese before it cooled. That way when it was time for preparation there were fewer steps.  If you wanted to stop before you put this mixture in the crescent rolls, it'd make a kick-booty dip with some ritz crackers!  I scooped the mixture after it had been refrigerated with a mellon baller.  

Instead of using bleu cheese dressing in the dip, I used blue cheese crumbles and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil based mayo.  It worked well but you can't expect to store it for more than a day.

I pretty much followed this recipe above from Alton Brown for baked meatballs except I made the meatballs slightly smaller.  I used grass fed beef which made them extra delish.  To assemble the burgers, I used Sister Schuberts dinner rolls for buns and they fit perfectly.  I used a block of havarti sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices that fit over the meatballs and made sure they melted.  I used basic deli mustard then put a mini dill pickle on top with a toothpick that also served to hold the burger together. 

I used the Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe in the link above but did not use nuts (nuts in chocolate chip cookies?gross!) and then substituted half of the butter for butter flavored Crisco to keep the cookies from getting too hard when they froze. Once the cookies were baked and cooled, I paired them up by similar size.  If I would've thought ahead, I woud've used something that created a more uniform shape.  I then put them in a baggie and put them in the fridge.  

I cut butcher paper into uniform squares.  Sadly, I don't remember what size I (and Russell) cut them.  Butcher paper is awesome because it's nonstick on one side and paper on the other so it's great for freezing things and keeping them from getting freezer burn.  

I used Breyer's vanilla bean ice cream because in my opinion there's nothing better! I let it thaw a little while on the counter first so it was easier to manipulate.  I just used an ice cream scoop and a little spatula to form the sandwiches, wrapped them in the butcher paper with the non-stick side toward the sandwich, taped the paper and put a sticker on top.  Make sure to put the sandwiches straight into the freezer after making each one because if you don't they'll be a mess!

I THINK this is the recipe I used for these cookies...I actually can't remember!  Just like above, I halved the butter with butter flavored Crisco and omitted the nuts. 

I used Great Value Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream (it tastes just like Breyer's) because the artificially colored green mint ice cream from most other brands sicks me out.

Read the above recipe section to figure out how to put the sandwiches together.

Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin
I don't have a recipe for this one so here's how I think I make it:

2 pork tenderloins (because 2 come in a pack)
big pack of bacon
deli mustard
garlic powder
worchestire sauce

thaw the tenderloins
lay the bacon so it makes a sheet where the strips are vertical toward you
place the tenderloin on top
salt, pepper and garlic lightly on top of the tenderloin
rub mustard across the top
flip the tenderloin and do repeat the seasoning steps
criss cross the bacon around the tenderloin
lightly cover in worchestire sauce 
wrap in plastic wrap or place in a baggie 

repeat with the second tenderloin

bake in a heavy iron pot covered in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes or grill on a 350-400 grill for about 8 minutes on each side (don't quote me on that).

Follow the link above to get to the recipe.  This was named "crack" at the party.  It's pretty amazing and VERY easy.  I added a little kick by sprinkling red pepper flakes and cinnamon over the chocolate while it was still warm before I added the top layer of coconut.  

So there it is!  Hope you love these recipes as much as we did!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Lake Titicaca: Our Last Leg!

Lake Titicaca was our last stop on our trip and an amazing way to end our vacation!  Lake Titicaca is the worlds highest lake.  The culture is fascinating and the scenery is unforgettable.  It's been an embarrassingly long amount of time since we went to Peru and I don't know that I can accurately describe Titicaca without a barrage of pictures so here it goes...

We stayed at a beautiful hotel called Lake Titikaka which was out on the edge of a dirt road on a little peninsula with beautiful views all around!  We were here for 4 days (I think) and we loved every minute of it.

Our first excursion was to the Uros Islands....

Here I am all bundled up...I hate that darn hat.  Short haired girls have a tough time in those things!

This is the second half of our group, we were in a similar boat.

Our first glimpse of the islands!  The Uros people weave floating islands from reeds and root bundles.  In addition they weave their boats and their homes!  The islands are totally moveable!

I'm not really sure what this is a video of...enjoy!

Taking a look with our hotel friends from Brazil via New Zealand.  Very cool family!

This is the mother of this island.  The moms are the bosses!  She's cooking on a clay oven. 

...and I'm tasting the yummy popped corn she made!

These reeds are used by the Uros people to keep their teeth bright and shiny white.  They don't use toothbrushes and toothpaste!

The ladies of the island are weaving.  Each island is made only for one family.  The men of the islands build their addition when they're ready to marry.

I think this is a video of the women singing...

Yep! This is me, I got roped up into dressing like a young Uros woman.  The big yarn things on my "braids" indicate that I am single...I should have black yarn things (yarn thing is a technical term). 

And Russell had to dress up too!

This guy is about 12 years old.  He is learning to navigate the reed boats that are used for transportation to the school, village and for fishing.  He took us for a little ride!

In all honesty, the authenticity of the Uros people is up for debate.  They did not begin creating the floating islands until the 1960, I think.  Many of the young people go to school on the mainland and it is rumored that most of the people on the islands take boats to the mainland to live "real life".  Regardless, the traditions we experienced were cool and even if this is just a tourist gimick, it was really fun!

This is the back of the lodge.  Isn't it cozy?!  The back glassed in area is the dining room and lounge area.   We loved spending time here!
Most nights we ended the day with a bonfire with all of the guests complete with wine, champagne and snacks!  
This was one of our favorite parts of the day.  It was so nice getting to know the other hotel guests.  We met some really cool people from all over the world!

view from the bonfire as the sun was just beginning to go down

...and going...

and gone!

The next day we headed out to another island.  I think this one was our favorite!  This island has been preserved by UNICEF so that the native people are able to continue life in the traditional way.  The people are beautiful weavers and great cooks!

This is Julius Caesar (no lie) showing us some flashcards of history.  He got pretty upset if people weren't listening.  Good thing Russell and I have good listening ears!

and the treck up the "mountain" which was nothing more than a hill.  Lake Titicaca is SO  HIGH that it was like breathing in space!

our view from the top of the hill

Look at me, more being brave standing on the edge of things...

optical illusion!

Hmm, I don't know what this is a video of either, but I will tell you, somewhere near this point of our trip Russell took an embarrassing tumble.  I was sure he was about to smash his head and roll off of a cliff but to the surprise of all he was saved by his backpack- whew!

This is the leader of his family.  See that hat on his head?  He knitted it himself.  In this village only the men knit and your manhood is judged by your skill.  They literally knit ALL day even when they're talking to others. 

This is his homestead

and his girls

and his knitting wife and aunt

this little one was so adorable!

and this is the sandy beach that leads into the VERY cold lake...
...and this is Russell racing into the very cold lake because the Frenchman did it and he wouldn't be shown up.  I passed.

Yes, that IS a sunburn you see forming on my face.  We were REALLY close to the sun.  Even wearing sunscreen wasn't enough.  That cute girl beside me had just graduated from high school in France.  She was on her senior trip with her dad.  We absolutely loved getting to know them...and I loved her because she told me I looked like I could be an American movie star :)  

another beautiful shot of the hotel
We decided to be a little more active after the massive amounts of food and open bar we could feel our pants getting tighter by the day.  We took advantage of the bikes provided on the property and went out on our own for a little ride over this beautiful landscape
Do I look like a natural?

...and then we came upon this and if you know me, you know I can't ride bikes. we headed home!

Our last full day at Titicaca, we went on a special trip to see a family of weavers.  We went to their home and watched them in action.
This is the father using the amazing loom.  I'm embarrassed to say, I still can't figure out how that thing works!

I"m choosing my favorite souvenirs! I chose these white pillow covers I had been eyeing these all week at the hotel.  The hotel had these on their couches.  These beautifully woven pillow covers were made by a 12 year old and now happily live on our bed!  We also came away with some of those bright and colorful striped blankets.

This is definitely one of my favorite pictures.  

We went on a little hike up to some ruins and picked up some little friends along the way.  They loved playing "say this in English" by pointing to pieces of clothing and different colors and waiting our English response.  The little girl had a big goal to learn English and become a tour guide.

group pic!

This is me explaining to my little friend that if he doesn't stop jumping around all over the place, he's going to give me a heart attack.

Our view from the almost top...we stopped early because of my intense fear that my little friend would surely fall off the edge at the rate he was going!
My bull friend I made on our walk back to the car.  
and here I am in action!

Back at the hotel for another lovely bonfire

Another sunset.  I seriously couldn't get enough of these!

An overall review of Titilaka:
LOVED: the scenery, Armando our tour guide, experiencing local culture, the bonfires, number of included activities, pricing of extra activities, rooms were tiny but well arranged and decorated, cozy beds and hot water bottles, transfer shuttles were great
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: cuisine was consistently unimpressive, dining staff was disorganized,  and internet was spotty

Ok, I can't end our vacation blog without telling you about the craziness that was our transfer home!  While we were in Southern Peru, there were massive teacher strikes.  When I say massive, I mean we had to be rerouted through towns because of marching, protesting, burning roads, boulders blocking the way, barbed wire kind of striking!

At one point, Russell and I had to get out of the van and assist moving large boulders out of the road so we could navigate through to the airport.  When we arrived at the airport there were tons of machine gun armed guards to protect the airport from the teachers.  Doesn't that sound funny? Protection from teachers?!

Our flights were mostly uneventful until we got on our flight from Lima to the US and this is when we met the most adorable little girl.  She was 6 years old and headed to meet her father in Miami.  Every time I think of this little girl, I smile and wonder how she's doing.  Can you imagine putting your 6 year old baby on a plane and sending them to another country alone? She did just fine!  Her manners were impecable (and so was her English and Spanish).  She was so smart, so optimistic and so excited to meet her father.  She had not seen him since she was 2 years old except for on Skype.  Our little friend told us all about how she was going to stay with her dad and teach him about God.  It was just so sweet.  When we arrived she told us that she didn't sleep the whole trip because she was so excited, despite her cuddling up and sleeping soundly for much of the trip!

Couldn't have had a better vacation although it was THE LONGEST TIME we had been away from home and maybe, just maybe we'll never take another 21 day vacation.  At least not for awhile :)

Thanks for following our travels!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thirsty for 30: A Beer Tasting Birthday

Y'all, Russell turned 30 this past week.  I seriously can't believe I am old enough to be married to a 30 year old!  I remember when I couldn't imagine being 30 and how I couldn't possibly be in a relationship with someone who was 30 because we obviously would have nothing in common and wouldn't be able to relate (I'm pretty sure I was like 25 when I said that).  Well, I guess the truth is that I'm almost 30 myself and 30 isn't so old and foreign anymore!

Before we go on to checking out the birthday party, I have to say I am so proud of Russell, where he has been, where he is going and who is has become and is becoming.  30 is a really cool milestone (much cooler than 21) and I think Russell couldn't represent 30 better.  He is loving his job, we are settling in and we might even see being "real adults" peeking at us around the corner.  30 certainly sounds adult, right?

Ok, enough about that and on to the party!

I wanted Russell's birthday to be really special for him.  I knew he would just be meeting new people at work and this would likely be the first major party at our new home.  I love for my parties to be casual and comfortable yet well planned and put together.  I came up with beer tasting because I thought Russell would love it with all of his beer snobbery and it'd be a great way to mingle and learn about something new with new friends.  I think (I hope) I succeeded.

Not to brag (ok, I'm bragging) but I'm pretty sure this was the best party I've ever thrown.  Unfortunately we had a HORRIBLE rain and windstorm that began about an hour before the party started so turn out was a bit lower than expected.  Fortunately, I LOVED the crew we had!

Before I go any further, I need to give a special shout out to SaucyPants, Stylish Printable Parties.  Kristi Murphy was AMAZING to work with and has beautiful style that meshed perfectly with mine.  I'm pretty sure we're best friends who haven't actually met...just emailed a lot.  Kristi, your decor made the party casually beautiful!

The next shout out goes to my friend, Kate Spencer.  Her amazing photography skills made my food and decor look super yummy and recorded our party so that we can remember it forever!  Check Kate out.  She takes beautiful photos for engagements, weddings, babies, and parties!

And also very importantly, thanks to my helpers, Ashley-Brooke Holdaway, Kate Spencer, Mom, Dad, Fran (MIL) and Rusty (FIL), David Spencer and Russell.  There is absolutely NO WAY this party would have been ready to go on time without you all jumping in to help execute the plans.  Ashley-Brooke, your crafting/carpentry skills were amazing and your calm spirit kept me from freaking out all day on Friday.  Kate, your doodle skills, photography and grilled cheese focus and efficiency was awesome.  Mom, Dad, Fran and Rusty thanks for dropping your bags and rolling your sleeves up and diving into cooking, picking up, sharpening pencils, and taking out trash.  David had no idea I was going to bark orders his way and Russell did an awesome job setting out the beers and sodas and popping the tops :) This truly was an all hands on deck event and I appreciate you all!

Ok, back to the beginning.  Once deciding on the beer tasting, I wanted to make sure my food made sense with my beer and food choices.  While I love beer and I love food, I haven't spent a lot of time intentionally researching and remembering food and beer pairings.  I spent about a week working on the menu.  I used this chart developed by the Beer Association as well as Beer Advocate along with others to create it.

I used Paperless Post to send out invitations.  I highly recommend this electronic (and soon to be paper) invitation service.  Their organization and recording program is outstanding and I love their invites.  They are beautiful and classy!

Alright, here are the pictures:

These were taken by Kate Spencer Photography

From top left moving clockwise: We used 2.5 oz shot glasses that were shaped like pilsners for tasting glasses.  Oatmeal raisin cookies, goat cheese with fig preserves (thanks to my grandmother for making those).  Meatball burgers and an assortment of beers.  Buffalo chicken poppers.  Wedding cake cupcakes.

From top left going clockwise: It's not a birthday party in 2012 without a birthday bunting!  The starting table of the tasting.  Ashely-Brooke made these great "clotheslines" to hold category signs.  The beer list was made into a take home sheet where notes could be written on the back.  Rating cards were placed by each beer with user-friendly rating categories.  Category signs were placed over the top of each beer with descriptions of the beer type.  Oh, and we used chalk cloth as a table cloth (I'll be using this frequently, it was awesome!).  It erases easily and makes for really cute decorating.

Beginning at the top left and going clockwise: Notice we also included natural sodas to change things up and provide options for designated drivers and non-drinkers.  Gruyere cheese with lavash crackers and the yummiest chocolate coconut bark.  Grilled pepperjack with jalepenos.  Brussel sprouts with bacon.

Mom improvising with the grill pan because it was raining too hard to use the grill.  My awesome chalkboard :)

on the left going down: chocolate coconut bark, pulled pork tacos with homemade tacos, avacado, cabbage and sirachi, brussel sprouts and bacon.  On the right: cheese tortellini with bratwurst and mild cheddar

Thanks to Summer for these pics!

Thanks Rusty for these:

A little Kinect cheering break...David is a natural

Thanks again to everyone who came and celebrated Russell!!  It was the perfect start to 30!  Next post: The menu!