Sunday, July 27, 2014

Event Planning - One Detail at a Time

The most important advice for planning any event is to be organized. Make a detailed list early in the game of what needs to be done within a reasonable time frame. Having more time is better than not having enough.
Probably the two most important details to decide upon immediately are the venue and date. When choosing the date, be conscious to not plan an event during a religious holiday. The date of the event will help in determining location. Consider the following:

  • Is the event taking place in the summer or winter?
  • What is the purpose of the event?
  •  Is it to entertain, inform, honor, socialize, or advertise?
  • Is the event going to be informal or formal?

Once these decisions have been finalized, a location needs to be locked down. Too often people plan out an entire event only to discover that the location they had counted on being available is not available on the date needed.

If at all possible, think outside the box when choosing a location. Try some place unique. Even when these important details seem to be finalized, always have a backup plan. Other options are especially crucial in spring and summer months when an outdoor event may be rained out. When my sister graduated from nursing school with her degree as a nurse practitioner (which is a huge undertaking!), I had planned to have a lakeside brunch. Of course, it rained us out, so I was luck to have had the cafe to fall back on.

The next broader decision that will help narrow down later choices is the budget. Whatever happens, do not overspend the designated budget. The budget will determine the possibilities in publicity, entertainment, and food choices. 

Once a location and a date have been nailed down, send out invitations that are appropriate for the venue and formality of the event. Great invitations can be bought at a decent rate on Etsy - it's my go to site. On the invitations be sure to include the date, time, location, and any specific details that may be helpful, for instance, a suggested color scheme, particular theme, or parking provisions. (If the invitations mention a theme, make sure the theme is a major part of the event.) 

Remember that the invitation is the first aspect to the event that the guests will see. The invitations should grab attention and impress. Be sure to contact the invitees a few days before the event to confirm their reservations.
And of course, thank those who come for their attendance afterward. Be aware of any dietary allergies or convictions. 

Be sure to accommodate all food preferences among those invited. An event should be enjoyed in all aspects by all people attending. Include possible opportunities for making money in the budget as well.

Some general tips center around being prepared. Always have items ready in case of an emergency. These items may include disinfectant wipes, bandages, over-the-counter drugs, stain remover, or a portable sewing kit.
More often than not, the guests will come to the event coordinator in any sort of emergency, whether it be medical or fashion related. Have umbrellas handy in case of rain. 

Go through all the technical aspects involved the day before the event takes place, especially if technological aspects are integral to the entertainment.

All these details can be easily kept track of using an Excel spreadsheet. Keep the information even after the event is over. Copy and paste the information to keep track of people attending, dietary restrictions, and people's addresses. Also, if you plan to store valuables on the premises, you can do what I did: look over gun safe reviews to find a good option to carry with me. While I'm not carrying a gun, I figure if a safe is good enough to hold a gun safely, it should offer protection for anything I have to store in it.

The information can also be used in the creating of place cards and thank you notes. Do not be afraid to make the work easier. Have a group of people help plan the event. Ask for volunteers for setup and cleanup. Be sure to provide some form of refreshment for the voluntary help.

Anyone on the committee should have a nametag or some form of identification for the guest in case of questions and emergencies. Have a program for the guests as they arrive to give them an idea of what to expect during the festivities.

Before the guests leave, have them fill out an evaluation, like these. No matter what the occasion, something can always be learned and improved. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn for the next event from the feedback. Remember to take any event one detail at a time. 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Unique and New Ways to Brew Coffee

There are multiple ways to brew a good cup of coffee. With the convenience of automatic coffee makers and bulk stock of instant coffee in the grocery stores it is easy to forget that we have options. Some options are more affordable than standard coffee making and others provide unique flavor or style of coffee. This article will discuss three different ways you may not have been aware you can brew coffee. 

Moka Pot in Action
One option to brew that many espresso fans are fond of is using a moka pot. A moka pot allows an individual to brew dark strong coffee without the requirement of an espresso maker.  It is recommended that you purchase a stainless steel moka pot over an aluminum one for best taste results. 

The moka pot requires you to put heated water in a chamber on the bottom, put the filtered grounds into a screen that is above it, once all pieces are in place you put the moka pot over medium heat on your stove. After about 4 minutes you should hear a “gurgle” noise that indicates that the Moka pot is done brewing. This method of brewing is most popular amongst drinkers of dark and strong coffee. 

Pour Over Method
Another unique method of brewing coffee is known as the “pour over method.” This method requires the brewer to use a cone and a filter to brew the coffee slowly. In order to brew you must grind the coffee grounds and place them in a cone already lined with a filter damp from warm water. The grounds should be evenly placed in the filter. 

The brewer is then required to periodically pour heated water over the grounds and allow the funnel to direct the coffee into a cup or container.  It is important to know when to pour more water so that the coffee does not build up on the sides of the filter. This method is ideal for coffee enthusiasts experimenting with new coffees. 

Probably one of the most popular alternatives to automatic coffee makers is using a French press. A French press allows a brewer to create a rich tasting cup of coffee  One key difference with a  French press over other options is that the grinds are typically going to be larger. 

French Press Being Plunged
In addition, the brewer should be aware that brewing with a French press is more time consuming then other methods. The first thing to be aware of is making sure you are using the correct temperature of water of 200 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition, after pouring the water over the grounds you must allow the correct amount of time of three to five minutes to pass before using the plunging the mechanism to press the coffee. 

This method is best used by coffee brewers who are familiar with the method as getting the process incorrect can cause the flavor to not be correct in the end product. 

Not all of these methods will meet the needs of all coffee brewers. The moka pot is for those who enjoy darker coffee but not the expense that comes associated with espresso, the pour over method allows you to try small amounts of coffee, and the French press allows for a richer experience of your chosen coffee. 

If you are not a fan of dark coffee the moka pot may not be ideal for you the same as the pour over method may not be worth perfecting if you find that you consistently drink the same types of coffee. Like all the different kinds of coffee it is important for the individual brewer to decide the best method.

Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee at Home

Many consumers are so used to using automatic coffee brewers that they are unaware of how to properly brew a cup of coffee. Though it may take more forethought there are a multitude of steps that you can take to make yourself the perfect cup of coffee. Making small changes to how you prepare and select your coffee you may find yourself, like so many other enthusiasts, immersed in a new hobby.  

This article will discuss tips to brew the perfect cup of coffee.

One of the first things that any coffee lover will tell you about brewing the perfect coffee is that you need to select fresh beans. The ideal coffee beans are grown in favorable conditions and have recently been roasted

Also, selecting coffees that are stored in vacuum sealed bags or dark containers are ideal as many beans sold in supermarkets are exposed to a lot of oxygen and light. If the coffee beans are not properly stored during production the flavor could come out altered.  

If you do buy fresh coffee beans it is important to properly store them away from light and heat and in a dark or ceramic glass container. This will ensure the beans stay fresh and the flavor will last until you are ready to brew. 

Another tip to brew great coffee is to not grind the beans until right before you brew.  Coffee loses its quality of flavor quickly after grinding so for best results it should be put off as long as possible. If you do find that you are not able to brew all that you have ground you may store it properly in a dark container and use as soon as you are able to.

When grinding coffee beans it is important to remember that the finer the grinds the better the overall brew will taste. Some experts say that grinding right before brewing is the most crucial step to brewing the perfect coffee. 

            When brewing the perfect cup of coffee it is important to create the correct measurements of water to coffee ratio.  The ideal measurement is 2 tablespoons of coffee for each 6 ounces of water. In addition, to making sure that the coffee is properly measured out, using a quality water filter is also important. Using cheaper low quality filters can distort the flavor and it is recommended that consumers use “oxygen-bleached” or “dioxin-free” paper filters.   
It is also important to use quality water when brewing the perfect cup of coffee. A lot of coffee brewers prefer to use bottled water but many are satisfied putting a proper filter on their tap water sink. 

Chlorine and other chemicals in tap water can create problems with flavor. Brewers should be aware though that softened water is not ideal for the perfect cup of coffee as the minerals in water enhance the taste of the coffee. If you're not sure if you own a water softener, this list should be reviewed to see if you have one installed on your water line. If so, you have a water softener.

Water used for brewing coffee should be no hotter than 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Water that is hotter than boiling can warp the grinds and create an off flavor.  Once the coffee has been brewed you will need to make sure you properly clean the equipment to prevent build up that could affect future brewing. 
Like most anything there are different grades of quality with different types of coffee . Each individual person will have their own preferences to the types of coffee that they enjoy and to ones that they would prefer to not further explore. 

Trying different brands and noting preferences will help you find the perfect taste of coffee that you like. Though you can use tips to create the perfect cup of coffee it is ultimately up to your personal tastes to determine the “perfect” cup.