Pairing Night // CARES

As I shared in my Painting Party post, we're the CARES Team at our apartment, which means we get to throw two events a month for our residents to enjoy! One of our events last fall was a "Pairing Party." As a CARES Team, we're not permitted to purchase alcohol, but we had heard from residents that they'd love some "grown up events."

 Zachary and I love a good cheese board and wine pairing. There's nothing quite so welcoming to us as an overflowing cheese board and good wine with some candles lit and Spotify on. It's our go-to hospitality touch, so naturally, we knew we could put together a night that any resident could enjoy while encouraging guests who'd like to, to bring their own wine to share, too, to give that "grown up" event feel we had residents requesting.

Since we have two events a month and a limited budget, we have to get creative and reuse many of our decorations. For this event, for food tags, I simply folded a note card and used a permanent marker to label each snack.

These trusty chalkboard stands and mason jars go with us to nearly every event. I snagged the chalkboard stands at Hobby Lobby on a 50% off week for $5. I buy mason jars from basically any grocery store. They come in all sizes and usually run $10-$12 for a dozen jars.

These chalkboard trays have also been a go-to party staple and I happened to score them at the Target Dollar Aisle for 3 bucks a few years ago.
I wanted the event to have that "overflowing" feel of abundance so we stocked the counters with plenty of cheeses, crackers, sweets, meats, nuts, fruits and olives- all the make up of a good cheese board.
There's something about "the cheese board" that reminds me of the Lord's table. I don't know if it's simply because it is so dear to Zachary and I's hearts and how we tangibly love to welcome others into our home, but there's just something about it that draws me to God. It reminds me of His goodness and care for us.
You gotta love glasses pics- oh that glare. I feel like the majority of my current pictures of myself, with my big glasses on, look like this. He's a cutie anyway.
After everyone loaded their plates, some guests stuck around for some games. We played Loaded Questions which has turned out to be a great party game. Loaded Questions is similar to Apples to Apples but requires a bit more creativity and is over all more interesting. 

To play, you go around the circle and have someone draw a card & read it. For example, someone might draw and read a card that says, "What is not a good first date location?" After the card is read, everyone writes their answer on a piece of paper before passing it to the "reader." The reader reads out all of the answers and the person who drew the initial card picks their favorite one. Whoever had the favorited answer gets a point. This game is more interesting than Apples to Apples because you have to use your wits and humor to come up with a clever answer. To "What is not a good first date location?" someone could write, "Your mom's basement." "The hospital." "A funeral home" Etc. Most questions illicit hilarious answers and help you get to know each other's personalities and senses of humor, too.

The Pairing Night turned out to be a great success. While we had fewer residents attend than events in the past, it was a great event to connect with our neighbors in a smaller, more intimate setting.

What's your go-to treat when guests come over? 


CARES: Painting Party

We have the great privilege of being the CARES team at our apartment Community. Our role is to help foster a sense of community within our apartment. Part of that role is to host two events a month! This has meant that my love of hosting parties and party planning has taken shape at least twice a month for the past year since we just came up on our year anniversary with CARES. I'd love to share some of our past events with you guys in the future but for today, I'l start with our painting party. 
Every month we try to come up with creative, fun events for our residents. We know the favorites and we know the magic word (It's free FOOD!) but we also like to provide a variety for the varying interests of our residents and to keep things fresh. The painting party we held in February was the first "hands on" type event we had and it was a great success! We were able to see the true talent of some of our residents. I mean, check out that Mickey Mouse above!
This adorable couple, Nitesh and Priyanka, planned out some fun paintings for the day! How cute are they?!

We love the opportunity that CARES provides for us to meet our neighbors! We love knowing the people around us. It's a great feeling to know the people you see when you take your dog for a walk in the evenings. It's very special. 
This little pack is our favorite. They are so full of energy! It's so fun to see them running and biking around the apartment.
For every party we host or party ideas we have, I create a Pinterest Board for that party. These boards serve the purpose of being a Mood Board for me! We have a very limited budget and for some events we have limited time to prepare things for it. While we can't do everything I pin, the Pinterest board for each event is very helpful in giving me ideas on how to make things special and personalized. Unfortunately, I don't have photos of the details (I'm the worst at playing hostess and taking pictures!) for this party but we made sure to have colorful decorations and of course, colorful snacks! Here's my "mood board" for our Painting Party.

11 Mile Hike & Overnight

Zachary has been a "big camping guy" (Sean and Kaitlyn, anyone?) since we've moved back from China. He has loved researching and learning about camping! As we all know, Youtube has a wealth of knowledge and Zachary has took full advantage for all things camping. He can tie basically any knot. He can clean a fish (we even bought whole fish for him to practice on! Hehe). He can set trot lines. He can identify plants. It's been very cool learning a bit here and there of all he has learned about camping. His dream would be that we set out on a several week hike somewhere. Maybe one day we will do it! But in the mean time, we have gorgeous camping and hiking spots all over the Austin area. Thankfully for Zachary, we also have some great friends that love to camp and hike, too! Our good friend Chris, being one of them. Zachary and Chris decided to go on an 11 mile overnight hike together a few months ago. They planned out their course, packed their bags and Megan (Chris' wife) and I dropped them off at the starting point of their adventure. 
Sawyer Camp was their starting point! The trail head started at a parking lot so Meghan and I could easily drop them off. 
Packing for any kind of camping is always a chore. Unless you do it like your friend Bernie or my brother Justin has on occasion, which is basically sleeping on the ground. In which case, you have nothing to pack! Zachary and Chris weren't going the ground trek but they were hiking to a primitive camping site which meant they had to pack everything to boil water and to cook and catch their food. They also packed snacks, a few drinks for guys time around the fire, fire starters, a tent and sleeping bags. There was also a few items that are rarely used but fun to take like a machete. 
We dropped them off and watched them walk down the trail until they were out of eye and ear shot, like some proud momma ducklings letting their chicks go off for the first time by themselves.
The rest of the shots were from the guys along the way. They had gorgeous views of the lake the whole hike.

They hiked 6.5 miles the first day before making camp. Once they reached their stopping point they set up everything, starting purifying water and set lines out for fish. Unfortunately, they didn't catch anything! Thankfully, they brought a few canned goods for just the occasion.
In the morning, Zachary made some bannock from grains and flour for the guys to enjoy for breakfast. The night before, the guys had their make shift dinner, fish-less, chatted and drank around the fire and then hit the sack. The only hitch that night was when they heard rustling outside their tent only to find a racoon greedily trying to get into the marshmallow bag! 
The next days hike consisted of 4.5 miles so they started off early. The day was just as gorgeous as the day before.
Here's a few pics of their mile markers! We missed Mile 1 but you can see how they became less enthusiastic as the miles went on! By mile 8 the next day they were sore, hungry and tired! They were ready to get home. 

The last few miles included some stream jumping- fun!

The guys were thrilled to hit the San Gabriel River Trail head because that meant air conditioner and Sonic slushes! Haha. Meghan and I picked them up and made sure to have cool drinks in hand. They were, oddly, soaking wet! Neither could give us a clear explanation as to why. They would just laugh and drink their drinks. Must have been the adventure! The guys had a great time and a few months later did a kayaking/camping trip that sadly, I have no pictures for. We are looking forward to more camping adventures in the future! Meghan and I will eventually go on some, too. I have a whole Camping board in preparation for it, too. ;)
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