Fun Summer Activities to Do with Friends


Looking for something fun to do this summer? Make a “Summer Bucket List” of sorts and see how many items you can cross off by the time Fall rolls around!

Summer photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On my Summer Friendship Activity List (June-August Friendship Plans!):

  1. Check out a live outdoor concert
  2. Buy yummy produce at a farmer’s market
  3. Take a nature walk/hike/bike (maybe all three!)
  4. Throw a BBQ Bash (with veggies from the garden!)
  5. Make some jam/pie/salsa with fruit from my peach tree
  6. Celebrate a wedding (hooray!)  🙂

That should be good for starters…I’m not even sure how many of my friends are staying in town for the summer. The weather has been great, and the season promises a host of great outdoor activities that I’m willing to try – summer should be the time for friendship fun!

What are your plans for summer activities with friends? 

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Ideas for Finding Time for Friends


If any theme exists in this blog, it is likely that of too little time – too little time for meeting new people, too little time for trying new things, too little time for blogging!

In an effort to find more time in the day, I rounded up these time-saving strategies.  Enjoy!

by HealingDream

Ways to Save Time During the Day

1. Learn to focus. Stop multi-tasking or leaving yourself open to distractions when you are working on something important; concentrating on what you are doing cuts down on time spent getting into and out of your activity. Reducing start-up time means you start and finish without delaying yourself for unimportant activities, and have the chance to accomplish more in less time.

2. Make technology time count. Don’t mindlessly browse the Internet, slow your progress with school work by half-listening to the TV, or text non-stop while you try to get something (anything) done – back to the multi-tasking idea. If you are going to use technology, use it for what you planned to do and only that – checking out one site or status update after another ends up equaling a whole lot of wasted time.

3. Learn to say “No.” Being overcommitted and never saying “no” to offers and requests fills your time quickly and unnecessarily. Prioritize and only agree to participate, volunteer, or step up to the plate when you can realistically accomplish the task without stressing you or overwhelming your schedule.

4. Delegate. Whether at work or at home, don’t feel like you have all the responsibility. Make the kids wash the dishes, ask the hubby to take out the trash, and don’t do unnecessary work at the office. Above all, don’t do others’ work for them – if it is someone else’s job to print reports or answer the phone, don’t make a habit of picking up the task for them.

5. Prioritize your activities. If you can’t convince yourself that drinks with friends is worth another day of an un-mopped floor or that lingering over dinner is more important than hand-washing the stemware, then don’t complain about having no time for friends!  Sometimes a healthy response to a houseful of clutter is to leave it while you go dancing – after all, it’s not going anywhere, so it can wait!

6. Stop procrastinating. No excuses, no delays. If you can get it done now, do it. This especially goes for quick tasks – save yourself from adding them to your to-do lists the next five days by just crossing it off right now. Breathe easy with a new sense of accomplishment and all of your extra time!

The Friendship Meter Beyond FFFE


So I was doing some review of my site to find out how on earth I ended up getting ANYBODY checking out my blog, and it turns out quite a few of my visitors come for the term “friendship meter.”

As it turns out, mine is not the only one (and probably not the most interesting one, either!).

There’s an App for That

Apparently, Facebook has a friendship meter to help you keep track of who posts on your wall or interacts with you on Facebook the most. Doubtless, this will be an infallible guide to who your most intimate friends are.

Friendship Information from Tarot Cards

If Facebook isn’t a trustworthy enough guide for who matters to you, perhaps the stars can provide the answer. Astrological predictions for who your true friends are can be used on a variety of websites and are invaluable to those who want a neat horoscope-based read about compatibility.

Online Games and Friendship Meters

The Sims fans among you will also be familiar with friendship meters – aka Sims Social – for computer games that measure who you associate with online and how friendly your characters are with each other.

The Friends Forever Friendship Endeavor’s Friendship Meter

Perhaps bland in comparison, the FFFE’s Friendship Meter tracks me on my journey toward finding and keeping friends of the lifelong quality. If it had a visual representation, it would look like a fundraising thermometer, but with all of the measurements in single digits! Perhaps like this:

I am sorry to say, it certainly would not look like this!:

Making lots of friends!

So alas, if you have come in search of one of the other friendship meters, I am sorry to have to direct you elsewhere. My Friendship Meter comes from the world of Microsoft ClipArt Galleries.  But I’m happy with it all the same!

The Days of Wine and Chocolate


So my resolution to have another party came true.  It was small, yes, but it was delicious.

In my post-Debbie-Downer phase, I decided to put together a tasting party for the two things I most enjoy: wine and chocolate.  Yum.

I have never done a tasting party of any sort, let alone one that people might expect to be well-planned and put-together, so I started feeling the pressure immediately after I invited a few friends.

What?  Did I really just commit myself to coming up with a menu of paired wines and chocolates?

To the drawing board!

Wine and Chocolate Pairings

After a lot of research at Lindt.com for learning how to “taste” chocolate and then reviewing a billion sites to get recommendations for pairing wine and chocolate, this was the tasting menu:

Sweet Champagne with White Chocolate that had Dried Strawberry by Matt BanksChunks

Sweet Moscato with a Swirled White and Milk Chocolate bar

Riesling with Milk Chocolate with Caramel Filling

Dry Sherry with Milk Chocolate with Toffee Chunks

Fruity Cabernet Sauvingon with Medium Cocoa Chocolate with Dried Cherries

Shiraz with Dark Chocolate spiced with Chiles

Merlot with 79% Cocoa Dark Chocolate

Deeee—-LISH!

My favorite pairs were the sweet champagne with white chocolate and strawberries, the Sherry (I was so surprised!) with the toffee chocolate, and the Cab with the chocolate with cherries – and normally I only eat dark chocolates!

Anyway, the night was a success, and I have already been asked to repeat the pleasure…I am thinking of hosting a 2nd evening of wine and chocolate over spring break. The words “wine and chocolate” seem to be all that is necessary to secure attendees, which is now a “note to self” for future Friendship Endeavor events.

by Simon Howden

Now if I can just convince the MeetUp.com group to go for wine and chocolate, I can keep perfecting my tasting skills!

 

How to Plan a Kick-Ass Party


Pardon my French, but I didn’t know how best to describe what I was hoping to do in this post without that key phrase.

I am finally accomplishing my long-lived FFFE plan to host a party next Friday.  Small scale, ladies only, casual and low-key, but a party nonetheless.  I’m thinking wine, unhealthy snacks, decorations leftover from Christmas, and lots of chit-chat.

Party with Wine

Cheers!

But how to put together said shindig?  I figured I would head to the world wide web to get some pointers, and this is what I found:

Get the Basics of Your Party Planning Figured Out

  • Decide how many people you plan to invite or how many guests you expect will attend.
  • Decide what type of food and drinks you will serve.  Cocktails and appetizers?  A sit-down dinner or buffet?  Desserts and punch?

Set the Stage for Your Party

  • Will there be a theme?  What type of decorations will you need?  Will your guests need advanced information on the theme to dress accordingly or bring specific food or drinks?
  • Plan activities if the party won’t just be for socializing.  Do your guests enjoy board games?  Interactive games like SceneIt or charades?  Plan these in advance so you have something prepared in case of a lull in the activity.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help with Your Party

  • If you can’t cook or buy all the party fare yourself, consider enlisting the help of a friend or neighbor who will be attending, or ask each guest to bring a side dish and/or drink.  Alternately, plan your party as a potluck and have each guest bring a specific part of the menu.
Eat up!

Party Foods

  • Ask friends or family to help you prepare the house for the party.  Don’t kill yourself cleaning or prepping, but do make sure that the most visible areas are presentable: little to no clutter, clean floors and counters, dusted eating surfaces, tidy guest bathrooms, etc.  If you have a pet, vacuum to remove pet hair and use a lint brush to clean furniture so that party guests won’t get pet hair on their party clothes.

Prepare for the Party in Advance

  • Cook or bake everything ahead of time if possible, saving only the dishes requiring fresh assembly for last-minute prep.
  • Set out utensils, napkins, and clean glassware in advance to save yourself the stress of arranging these items when guests are arriving.
  • If you will be giving party favors, assemble them as far ahead of time as possible so that you can focus on more time-sensitive issues in the last few days leading up to your event.

Keep the Party Casual

  • Whether your house is packed to the gills or you have a limited guest list for an intimate party environment, don’t stress out your visitors by adhering strictly to formal party procedures (unless a fancy formal is the theme!).  Making guests fret over which spoon to use or whether it is appropriate to take their appetizer plate into the living room may kill the mood. Keep it simple and laid-back to help everyone get and stay comfortable at your shindig.
  • If you are hosting a party and you know that certain individuals may hamper everyone’s experience, consider whether they should be invited. If you are not close with the head honcho at work, or if you have feuding friends, choose carefully whom to invite or make sure the party is big enough that they can enjoy themselves without cramping the style of the rest of your guests.

Be the Gracious Host

  • Smile, and welcome each and every guest graciously – even if they are unexpected!  A party is a party after all, and living by the credo “the more the merrier” will help you go with the flow. Roll with the punches and remember that the purpose of the party is to have fun!
  • Keep an eye on how full the chip bowl is and tidy up if necessary, but don’t be so tied to scrubbing dishes between courses or filling every single glass that dips below half full that you miss out on the party.  People are coming to spend time with you, so don’t kill yourself by refusing to relax. People are forgiving at parties, so enjoy yourself and allow yourself to be present and socialize.  You can always clean up later!
  • Be prepared for the party to last longer than you expected.  When guests are enjoying themselves, or when alcohol is free, guests tend to linger!  Don’t stress over the time and just appreciate the fact that you threw such a good party that no one wants to leave!

 

Now that I have armed myself with the basic elements of planning and hosting a kick-ass party, I am hoping to succeed at doing just that this coming weekend.  Let’s hope these strategies help…Now, on to the party menu!

If All Else Fails, Make Food and Exercise Your Friends


For a recent project, I have been doing lots of research on mental health and how important exercise and the right diet can be to happiness and a positive mood. Although I am a ridiculously unreliable exerciser (despite my love for yoga, hiking, and looking good!), I must admit that every time I break a sweat I do feel good about myself. I also seem to see invisible physical benefits very, very quickly (yeah, I definitely have a smaller tummy now that I ran for 15 minutes…definitely).

Get Your Exercise

Physical Activity Improves Mood

Similarly, I have a love-hate relationship with health food. At times, I am all about whole foods, shunning processed or anything with added salt or sugar or fat or any ingredients I can’t pronounce. Other times (like around the holidays), I am a sugar, fat, and carb aficionado. The more chocolate, butter, and booze the better! On the whole, though, I like to think that I am a relatively healthy eater, and I take pride in forcing my husband to be the same.

The natural buzz I get from eating well  and yes, exercising occasionally, is not just self-righteous health-nut pride, but Mother Nature’s way of saying “Yes, this is good for you – do more of this and all will be well!”

Food and Exercise Can Improve Mood

Foods with complex carbohydrates, magnesium and selenium, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, amino acids, and a variety of vitamins and antioxidants can help stimulate the production of feel-good chemicals in your brain. Boosting your production of serotonin, endorphins, fatty gray matter, and neurotransmitters in your brain translates to elevated energy levels, improved mood, better sleep, less frustration and anxiety, better stress management techniques, fewer symptoms of depression, improved memory, and even higher levels of motivation and alertness.

Some star foods for these benefits include bananas, spinach, salmon, walnuts, dark chocolate (hooray!), milk, brown rice, and turkey.

Get Fishy With It

Eat well to boost your mood

The somewhat harder pill to swallow is that exercise is not only essential for great physical health but also for excellent emotional and mental well-being. Working up a sweat, breathing hard, and stretching your muscles prompts your brain to release feel-good chemicals and produce hormones that have many of the same effects as the above-mentioned foods. Exercise can help you relax, reduce stress, relieve anxiety, and reduce symptoms of depression. As an added benefit, exercising in bright daylight can help people with Seasonal Affective Disorder combat  symptoms of seasonal depression.

So the next time you have nowhere to go on a weekend night or nobody to hang out with, swap the TV and the take-out line for a jog and a salmon and veggie-licious experience that will leave you feeling content and relaxed. Who knew that exercise and food could be such healthy companions for your mood? Sign me up!

Jane Austen on Friends


I hereby admit that I am an unabashed and full-fledged Jane Austen fan.  I have read the novels and seen pretty much every single silver screen and TV version of her books (even the old-school ones!).  She pretty much rocks on every account.

Instead of focusing on her general fabulousness, I have decided to make a brief analysis of her treatment of friends in her books.  Yay, Jane and friends!

The Books of Friendship

Sense and Sensibility: In life, as in fiction, sometimes sisters can be the best (and worst) of friends.  It is no secret that I love my sister like – well, a sister – and that at certain times of my life, she has been the best friend a girl could ever ask for.  From our twenty-minute sobbing hug before I went to Spain for a semester to her wonderful speech as the maid of honor at my wedding, my sister has always been and will always be the perfect Forever Friend.

Scene from Austen's Books

Pride and Prejudice: Lizzie and Charlotte have a friendship, perhaps strengthened by convenience, that allows them to remain friends even after one of them gets married to the man who first proposed to the other!  How many ladies do you know nowadays that would still be cool with visiting their friend and her new hubby when that was hanging over them?

Mansfield Park: Another sisterly tale here, wherein even the distance, education, and circumstances separating Fanny from her younger sister couldn’t erase their bond.  It seems that sometimes the falsity of other friends or acquaintances can make us appreciate the stability and permanency of our siblings all the more.

Emma: Not only do Emma and her old governess maintain a wonderful friendship that surpasses the boundaries of age, class, and separation, but Emma somehow manages to save her friendship with Harriet after they both vie for the love of the same man.  If Emma’s misguided matchmaking attempts hadn’t alienated her poor and simple friend enough, winning the prized gentleman would typically be enough to part them for good.  But true to JA’s happy endings, their friendship remains intact.  Score.

Northanger Abbey: Unfortunately for Catherine, her first tale of friendship is unhappy and brief.  After all, girls can be catty, petty, conniving, and crude.  Thank goodness her young suitor’s sister is the model of a Forever Friend!

Persuasion: Contrary to popular preference, I absolutely love this book.  It also happens to be a delightful account of friendship against all odds on two accounts: that of Anne with Lady Russell (old, proud, and contrarian!) and that of Anne with Mrs. Smith (poor, gossipy, and ill!).

When Jane Austen Writes About Friendship…

Lady A

No matter their station, no matter their situation, Jane Austen had a wonderful way of capturing the many ups and downs of female friendships.  At their best, girlfriends can be our soul sisters, our second selves – true companions during hardship and true joys when life is good.  At their worst, girlfriends can be disingenuous, backstabbers behind smiles – false friends and even true enemies.

It is no coincidence that Jane Austen’s novels covered the best and the worst of women’s relationships, because her novels detailed the best and the worst of human nature.  Although I personally have been most able to identify with her humorous and kind treatment of the sisterly bond, I have also been fortunate to avoid the worst in her stories.  I don’t know if this is because of lack of experience with female friendships (maybe one is less likely to be betrayed if one never gets close to anyone…), or if is simply a blessing I have been granted.  Whatever the cause, I am grateful to have a host of good books, a growing number of potential friends, and a wonderful sister.  I wish all of you the same.

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