Flocking Together

Chirped by Tina

Like it or not, an empty nest tends to leave us with extra time on our hands. No more school sports, plays, or club competitions to coach, costume, or cheer on, no PTA committees to join or school board meetings to attend. All the chauffeuring and homework help are things of the past. Mealtime has a tendency to get abbreviated without a full complement of nestlings to cook for and interrogate about their day… You may still be wondering how to use that new-found downtime? The answer varies from nest to nest. Some throw themselves into their work, pick up a part time job, volunteer for a non-profit, adopt a puppy(!), or start a blog (or if you’re Cass, all of the above!) The important thing is to find new flocks to fly with if you find yourself floundering. Here are just a few ideas for how to stay connected. 

Refresh School-Related Relationships

If a lot of your social life revolved around your kids’ school or extracurricular activities, it’s possible to lose touch with those peeps once regular reasons to get together fly away. If you enjoyed their company, but never saw them outside the shared parental space, make time to get together now to reconnect. Everybody’s gotta eat, right? Plan a lunch date, or invite them to dinner. We have a couple of empty-nester friends who are single or whose spouses travel a lot. Having them over for dinner several times a month makes for a more festive dining experience for all of us, as well as a reason to experiment with some new recipes. Find new things to connect over and let your relationship spread its wings.

Search Out New Birds of a Feather

Maybe you’re ready to branch out and discover brand new friends with common interests. Cass and I are obviously drawn to other creative, crafty folks. Social media can make finding similarly-minded people easier than ever. If you’ve got an idea for a crafty club, put it out there on your favorite platform, be it Facebook, NextDoor, or a community bulletin board. Try setting up a get-together at a public place, at least until you get to know each other. Libraries, churches, and community centers often have rooms that can be reserved for group activities, often at no charge to members.

Start Planning Some Activities!

Once you’ve found your peeps, get out of your nest and do stuff with them! Here are just a few ideas we’ve enjoyed with our ever-expanding flocks.

  • Group Crafting for a Cause

Our craft group, the Hilltown Haberdashers, formed last year to help with the local Earth Day Yarn Bloom. (That same Yarn Bloom just won a state award for “Excellence in Recreation and Parks”!) Now we’ve teamed up with the newly formed Perkasie Fiber Arts Group (familiarly known as Perkasie Stitch-n-Bitch) on a new project. We’ve begun crocheting “Crowns for Kids” for the Philadelphia branch of Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. Shriner’s is an orthopedic specialty hospital near and dear to the hearts of two of our members, one who spent a large percentage of her own childhood there and the other whose son is currently a regular outpatient. The idea is simply to provide a little pick-me-up for any child in the hospital, to make them feel special – and help keep their ears warm. As we get better at making the crowns we may expand to other children’s hospitals in the area – if there is interest and their policies permit.

We followed this Crown Ear Warmer pattern by Erangi Udeshika, with her permission. It uses a handful of very basic crochet stitches that are pretty easy to master. Even newbies like us were able to pick it up pretty quickly (with the help of some instructional videos that one of our crocheting pros made)! Because I couldn’t help myself, I added a little extra “bling” to my first two crowns – one with yarn and the other with beads. The beads wouldn’t be appropriate for small children who like to put things in their mouths, but they do add a little extra sparkle… We’re creating crowns in a variety of sizes and colors, with an aim to appeal to both boys and girls. Looking forward to seeing how they are received when we deliver our first big batch to the hospital later this month!

  • Creativity-Driven Evenings Out

Cass and I have both had a blast attending variations on Painting with a Twist, The Uncorked Artist, and Board & Brush workshops. You bring the friends, wine and goodies and the shop provides art supplies and facilitated instruction to help you make your own, artist-guided masterpiece.

Our recent visit to Scent and Sip in Lansdale, PA  was a new experience for both of us: a design-your-own-scent venue. After sniffing out your favorites from a wall of aromatic candles, the staff pulls bottles of your preferred oils. Each guest’s selections are then lined up around their personal little fragrance lab. Squeezing the bottles releases little puffs of perfumed air. These puffs blend to give you an idea of how they would smell mixed together. Once you have a combination you like, you start dribbling drops of each oil into a small jigger, stirring and adjusting proportions as you go, until you’ve concocted your own, personalized fragrance. Mix that into the scentable product of your choice and voilà! Your very own custom-scented creation! Then you get to design your own label and take it home to enjoy. It was great fun, in a kind of rustic-chic atmosphere, with music and of course our preferred beverages and munchies. What a great new outlet for our creative juices!

  • Fantasy Sports Leagues

Admittedly neither Cass nor I are into sports -fantasy or otherwise, but we didn’t want to leave out the menfolk or our more active and sporty female followers with our flock-building suggestions. My husband has actually been in a couple of different fantasy baseball leagues over the last twenty years. He and a co-commissioner have assembled a great group of guys pulled from their high school, college, work, and previous league friendships. They like the CBS Sports fantasy platform. At this point we host the big Draft Day Extravaganza in our living room. It’s the only time all year that the guys from all over the east coast try to get together in person to draft the players for their teams. Everyone chips in towards a hoagie and pizza spread and settles in for the five or six hour haul. Then they enjoy the fruits of their labors for the rest of the season: almost every game is more interesting if either side has a player earning stats for your fantasy team.

  • Real Sports Leagues & Other Athletic Pursuits

If you generally lean towards more active forms of recreation, perhaps a paintball, target-shooting, fishing, biking, or rock-gym outing would be just the thing to spice up a quiet weekend? If you miss the competition and athleticism of team sports, join an adult softball or basketball league. One of our friends is absolutely loving her co-ed adult hockey league, despite the broken wrist and concussion she’s sustained in the past couple of years! And I got to design the jersey for another friend’s “Not So Good League”, which was fun. That’s really how I interact best with sports… (-;

  • Ladies’ Craft Weekends

If you or a friend are lucky enough to have access to a vacation house that doesn’t get a lot of use off-season, schedule a weekend getaway to focus on your craft projects! In the absence of such a house, keep in mind the increasing availability of rental houses targeting exactly this crafty niche. Remember the post about our Scrapbooking Weekend? Split between a group of eight, the rental cost for that scrapbooking house was quite reasonable, and everyone pitched in on food preparation to keep the costs low. In our experience, we all get more work accomplished on our creative endeavors when we’re physically removed from our usual day-to-day chores and obligations. You can certainly host craft sessions in your own house (and we do, regularly!) but it’s just not the same. Plus it’s much more difficult to pull off a whole dedicated weekend, particularly if you have pets and partners pining for your attention…

  • Couples’ Nights

We don’t mean to suggest that your blossoming social life can’t include your partner! Romantic date nights or dinners out with other couples are both delightful ways to spend a free evening. We like to combine dinner with a play at the local theater, or even make a weekend of it and venture into the big city to catch a concert, exhibition, symphony, or whatever looks good. Game nights with the neighbors, bowling, axe-throwing (yes, that’s a thing now), or trivia night at the local pub can all be entertaining ways to spend time with your honey, but still mix things up a bit outside the nest.

  • Join a Book Club!

You know Cass and I love our book clubs. Not only do they get us to read amazing stories we might never have thought to pick up, they also serve as a form of group therapy. Book clubs provide a safe place to talk about issues we connect with in the context of the books we’re reading – which can be pretty great. If you’re looking to join a book group, your local library might be a good place to ask around. If you’ve got a few friends who might be interested, consider starting your own club with our handy dandy tips from a couple of Book Club in a Basket raffle prizes we created for a local fundraiser!

There are so many fun ways to stay connected. If you or a fellow empty nester are feeling a little isolated in your overly quiet nest, hopefully you can take some inspiration from this partial list of activities. We’d love to hear how you and your friends have branched out since the nestlings left! Leave us a comment below – we’re always looking for new ideas!

February’s Cheep Trills

Chirped by Tina and Cass

February has left us with some crazy weather patterns here in PA (though nothing compared to what friends and relatives in the “polar vortex” experienced last month!). Temperatures have bounced from the 60s one day to below 30 the next, bringing alternating snow, sun, ice, wind and lots of rain. As a result, our favorite things are a mix of indoor and outdoor gems, and what a selection we have!

Why We (mostly) Love Winter in PA!

It’s so much shorter and milder than in New England, while still having a smattering of snowstorms (or even the occasional blizzard) to mix things up. Continue reading

Flight Paths: Yosemite National Park & California Wine Country

Chirped by Tina

Wine tasting is obviously an adult activity (and one that we really enjoy), so we scheduled a big “adults-only” trip to California for last fall, when our kids would be back at college. (Don’t feel too bad for them – we all spent a week in the Galapagos at the very beginning of the summer! Check out our Galapagos Getaway in an earlier post.) I’ve also always wanted to see the giant redwood and sequoia forests, and we’ve never been to Yosemite National Park, so my awesome hubbie, the family vacation planner, worked out a trip that would encompass all of that and more. Take a gander at our photos, flit through my descriptions, take note of the Hubster’s scheduling tips, and decide for yourself whether to add this particular “flight path” to the list of destinations you might like to soar to some day!

Day 1 – Welcome to California!

Half-Dome-from-a-distanceThe first leg of our journey took us nonstop from the Philadelphia airport to San Francisco International. Happily, we were able to convince another couple to accompany us on our trip, which always makes for livelier banter at cocktail hour and on long road trips than when it’s just the two of us! Continue reading