Connecting with Friends
Chases Away Stress

by Christa Melnyk Hines

Though we’re rarely alone, motherhood can sometimes feel a little lonely. Spending time with a few understanding friends to vent, laugh and reenergize in a kid-free zone is a great way to shake off the blues! “We tend to be able to schedule nap time for toddlers, bath time for babies to help them relax and even make it easy for our partners to hit the basketball court with buddies. But when it comes to us, we forget that we need the same recharging,” says Maria Bailey, host of Mom Talk Radio, author, talk show host and founder of National Mom’s Nite Out. Whether you have a gaggle of friends or just a few you’d like to know better, here are 14 ideas to fire up some fun.

Pamper and primp.

Kick off sandal season looking and feeling refreshed. Schedule manicures and pedicures for you and your friends. Depending on the size of your group, some spas will book an evening just for your party.

Make like Matisse.

Studies suggest that artistic engagement can reduce stress and anxiety. Many art studios offer instructor-led, one-time classes created specifically for ladies’ nights out. Feel a pleasant drop in your blood pressure while painting and sipping wine in the company of friends. No clean-up required! A number of businesses in metro Atlanta offer classes, canvas and paint – you supply the beverages. Try Sips n Strokes ( with locations in Sandy Springs, Toco Hills and Woodstock; Creative Art Connection ( at North DeKalb Mall, or Cork & Canvas ( in Roswell.

Swap books.

Invite your friends to bring gently used books, cookbooks and magazines they no longer want. Guests can choose as many books to take as they brought to give away. Stephanie Perry,, suggests providing post-it notes so your friends can share their thoughts about a particular book. “As they peruse, guests can write in their own responses, and some interesting ‘conversations’ can result,” Perry says.

Sip and score.

Head to a wine tasting at an Atlanta restaurant or bar or host your own. For a home tasting, choose a group of wines from a specific region, ranging from dry to sweet and hide the labels. Place a placard with a number in front of each bottle. Give each guest a glass with her own wine charm. Provide scoring sheets for each wine they taste. Serve light appetizers including cheese and crackers, chocolates and palette-cleansing fruits. Some suggestions for wine tastings: Vine and Tap (, Atlanta; Marietta Wine Market, (, Marietta; or find listings for wine tastings at Another idea: Consider an overnight friends’ getaway to sample North Georgia’s wineries (

Carve out craft night.

Invite your friends to join you for an evening of delving into your favorite crafts or finishing up lingering projects. Turn on some background tunes, include buckets of supplies, share techniques and inspire each other. Someone in your group has a passion for scrapbooking, jewelry making, knitting and more, and can teach others the basics.

A favorite things party.

Share your favorite kitchen gadget, make- up product or go-to recipe with your friends! Invite guests to bring five of the items to the party to exchange. Each participant explains why she loves a particular product and then gifts her items by pulling the names of five friends from a basket. Provide each guest with a notepad and pen to keep track of ideas or clever tips.

Stock the freezer.

Prepare for those lazy days of summer, when you’d rather be playing than cooking, with a frozen meal exchange. Each friend should arrive with enough four-person servings for the number of attendees. If five of you participate, each should arrive with five meals. For a simpler exchange, agree on a budget in advance and choose guests who have similar dietary requirements. Casseroles, lasagnas, marinated meats and soups/stews work well.

A covered dish party.

“I love this idea because it allows you to have meaningful conversation with other moms and deepen those relationships,” Bailey says. Keep the event simple for your friends by requesting that each dish include five ingredients or less. “If you can’t find a house without kids in it then take your covered dishes to a public park or watch the sunset from a picnic table where you can enjoy the outdoors with other moms.”

Get away for a night.

Plan a getaway with friends to a nearby resort, such as Barnsley Resort ( or Callaway Gardens (, or rent a cabin in North Georgia – some come with hot tubs!

Catch the latest flick.

Head to the theater to watch a movie with friends. After the film, review together over dinner or dessert. Budget tight? Take turns hosting movie-watching parties at your homes, or consider one of the dine-in movie theaters in Atlanta, such as Movie Tavern in Roswell, Suwanee and Tucker (, Studio Movie Grill in Alpharetta and Duluth or AMC Fork & Screen in Buckhead (, where entrees can run as low as $10.

Explore local cuisine.

Gather your foodie friends to sample area eateries while enjoying great conversation. Take turns choosing one restaurant per month. To build continuity, schedule the event on the same night at the same time each month. Your group could set some goals – maybe agree to sample Atlanta Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants (, concentrate on visiting every local restaurant in your area, or dine at the newest restaurants.

Form a culture club.

Experience the fine arts with other friends who share a similar zest for integrating more local culture into their lives. Attend different events every four to six weeks, like jazz concerts, live theater, the symphony, or the museum’s latest art exhibit.

Be a free spirit.

Invite a few friends over for a last-minute glass of wine or lemonade and snacks. By simply creating time for you and your friends to chat, you will deepen your friendships and nurture your spirit, too.

Melnyk Hines is the author of Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life.

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