I don’t know about you, but I’m not really into the “cocktails and wine bars with the girls” lifestyle anymore. The way I used to socialise with friends in my twenties suddenly felt “so not cool” when my lifestyle changed, and it took a while to find my feet and find fun things to do instead. The joy of getting older is realising what you really like to do, even if it means hanging out and doing “Grandma things” with your besties…
June has not only arrived with overwhelming heat here in England, but lots of wholesome fun too. Planned for the last six months or more, I finally got to pack up my little vintage suitcase and headed down to Kent last weekend to spend it with my girlfriends.
It’s an annual trip that we all look forward to through the year, and this time I managed to capture some of it for you! Our weekend was spent doing the simplest of things, cooking, knitting, chatting, and a spot of secondhand shopping.
Quiet, penny-wise, and cup-filling sunny days full of bliss - spent with three of my favourite people.
Below my latest YouTube video are a few ideas for things to do with your friends that are a little more wholesome and not quite so centred around “night life” or spending a fortune.
The Blenheim Circle ~ a wholesome girls’ weekend in Kent
Wholesome, healthy, and cheap ways to spend time with your friends
Quite often, when we think about socialising we can feel a bit of pressure to rely on the easy option of going out at night and “getting drunk”. This is a bit harder in the in-betweeny years when you’re no longer a spring chicken, but not quite ready for retirement either. Understandably, as many people are working full time jobs, or can only obtain childcare when partners are home from their work to watch the children, it can be somewhat hard to think up ideas to the contrary.
Nights are thought of as the only time we can “let loose”, and day time activities are sold as a bit of a bore. Oh, and everything seems so expensive. We don’t all have the budgets for trips to Europe, endless shopping trips in fancy boutiques, or expensive spa-days with the girls.
Hanging out in the daytime, or at home, and without alcohol can be fun too! It just requires a little forward planning.
I wanted to share some quick little ideas for things to do with the girls next time you get together.
Have a bake-off party
If you like baking, then this is a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening with friends. Decide on your “points system” such as taste, presentation, texture etc and then ask one friend to be the sole judge, or use a blind/ballot scoring system whereby you are all surprised by the winner at the end!
Make sure there is plenty of tea on hand to wash it all down, and go to town living your best life enjoying the sweet treats! Don’t forget to supply some doggy-bags or cake boxes so extra slices can go home for hungry housemates, or husbands and children.
You could all compete by baking the same item (such as a carrot cake), or allow complete creative freedom and go wild with your imagination! Plan monthly meet ups, or in-line with the seasons/quarterly so you can mix up the tasks and menu. Take turns to host and have a grand-final at Christmas.
Prizes can be something cute but low value such as pretty kitchen items, a basket full of sprinkles for future bakes, or even a bunch of flowers. Oh and take print-outs of your recipe to share with friends! You can pop them in a binder with notes. They’ll be a lovely memory in years to come, and will help build upon your own baking repertoire.
Go foraging with your friends
Every single month has something new to forage! From Wild Garlic, to Elderflowers, Sloes, Blackberries, Apples and more… The opportunities to get out in the fresh air and essentially collect food for free is amazing. You can then bring it home to pickle, jam and preserve. You can even get the children involved (though: from experience, they do like to run about like nutters while you do the hard work and picking, but at least it gets you all outside).
There are plenty of books for ideas of what to pick, the ideal methods of preserving your bounty, and if you don’t have ready access to safe, public spaces - head to your local “pick your own” farm instead.
Host a pot-luck dinner party
Hosting is one way to bring even the most accomplished women out in a sweat, but why not take the pressure off and host a pot-luck dinner party? Go as casual or as fancy as you like - it can still have the same elegant reverence as a self-hosted party with a little effort here and there. Lay the table as you normally would with pretty tablecloths, lay out beautiful china, light candles, arrange flowers and encourage everyone to dress up - but share the work load!
One friend can bring the starter, another the main, one pudding, and another can make truffles or a cheese board for later. Just prepare to share your kitchen (but the best part is also sharing in the clean-up).
Join a workshop or craft group together
This is a good idea if you might be too nervous to try one out alone. I know from experience as a very inexperienced knitter that the idea of parking my bottom on a chair next to a woman who can knit a million miles an hour and with her eyes closed is a very scary thing.
Going as a pair, or a small group can take the pressure off being the “newbie”, and means you can practice together at a similar pace.
Ideas are floral arranging, sourdough, cooking classes, chocolate making, crochet, knitting, basket weaving, whittling, pottery, sewing, stained glass, book clubs, art… the options are endless.
Go on a “date”
Is there a fancy restaurant your spouse is unlikely to take you to? Somewhere you’ve been dropping hints about but are yet to visit because it’s not their scene or idea of fun?
Invite a friend along instead! You’ll have to go Dutch, but the experience will likely be just as good. It can also take the pressure off the idea of having to have a wonderfully romantic time, and living up to high expectations.
Sometimes sitting across from a friend, enjoying food, and being able to chat without the distraction of “life” can be really cathartic. Why not make a little effort? Our friendships are relationships too - and healthy ones deserve a bit of spoiling here and there.
Have a wardrobe swap
Get the girls to raid their wardrobes for things that no longer fit, they’ve grown tired of, or things they’ve never worn and plan a wardrobe swap! Present all the (clean) clothes nicely on a rail or in neat piles, like you see in the shops, and have a little swapping-shopping session in your living room. Accessories you no longer use are a good idea to bring along too.
No money should change hands, and things can be temporarily borrowed, loaned long-term, or permanently claimed. Chances are your friends already have similar tastes to you - or you can try a whole new look without the risk and commitment of buying!
This is a great way to have a wardrobe refresh without having to spend anything and will keep perfectly good clothes out of landfill, not to mention free up some space in a cluttered wardrobe.
Go thrift and secondhand shopping
This is one of my very favourite things to do with the girls, we all love a bargain. Having a good rummage for treasure in charity shops and antiques centres is always fun. Nothing is ever “current trend” so you never know what you are going to find!
Car boot sales are also very fun, and usually start at the crack of dawn, so meet up with a friend, grab a Thermos or travel mug of tea and coffee to take with you as you browse, as well as some cash and a basket - then go find those bargains! I was very excited when I found a British made 1930’s wall mounted can-opener at the last boot sale for the grand sum of £2… Vintage kitchenalia is clearly my love language.
The best thing is, as they’re so early, you have the rest of the day ahead of you to spend with your family too, but you still manage to squeeze in some girly time before the demands of weekend life are upon you.
Check back soon for my top-tips for secondhand shopping, but in the meantime I’ll let you in on my secret…
“Market towns” are the best spots to hunt for true vintage or designer goods. Avoid cities (too many people and full of small temporary homes for people just starting out). You want to gravitate towards lovely market towns with big old country houses or huge suburban executive homes on the outskirts. Yummy mummies, and ladies of the manor will donate to those shops as its most convenient for when they’re popping in to do the school run, get their nails done, or cruise the aisles of Waitrose and the M&S Food Hall.
Older ladies too probably spent their entire adult lives in lovely old well-maintained homes, and their children would have cleared out that “really old Granny stuff” when she graduates to heaven… You, know, the stuff vintage lovers adore ;)
Make a day of it, take your biggest shopping basket, have a light lunch at an independent cafe, and make sure to visit every shop, leaving no stone unturned. Just be sure to wear sensible shoes!
Go on a picnic
In finer weather, eating al fresco is a lovely way to spend time together. Why not plan a visit to a National Trust property or National Park in your local area and take a picnic with you. If you’re lucky enough to live on the coast, head to the beach! The weather needn’t stop you if you’re a little hardier than most, just wrap up against the elements and take a Thermos with tea, or soup.
Something as simple as taking a walk outdoors, admiring nature and getting some Vitamin D can be a great tonic.
The picnic itself doesn’t need to be anything elaborate - think back to your packed lunches at school, a sandwich, some fruit and something sweet is enough and can be packed easily in a pretty handbag or cooler bag.
We like elaborate picnics, like this one we had at Highclere Castle, and simple ones on the beach too.
I hope this has given you a few little ideas of what to do for fun with friends that are also wholesome and cost-effective. I’ll be back soon with some very vintage posts, and a few summer recipes.
Please bear with me if the blogging is a little sporadic over the summer, we have some things in the pipeline and my family will need my focus, but when I can reveal all it will be very exciting indeed.
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