I'm the first one to say I would rather come home straight after work to veg on the couch or make dinner at home as opposed to filling my weekday evenings with activities, but lately I have found more and more excuses to keep myself busy. And that's a good thing. Of course, in my old age I don't have a lot of interest in all of those activities involving going out to the bar until all hours (yes, I'm aware I sound about 30 years older than I actually am.)
It is a balance though. The weeks where I find myself unable to have one night at home leave me a bit stressed. It means I've eaten out one too many meals, possibly drank one too many drinks and generally stayed up one too many extra hours.
My favorite part is that all of these activities involve different groupings of friends, which means I get to see all of my friends on a regular basis. Quite the feat nowadays as we spread out further, travel for work or even start to have families that keep us busy.
Meeting about every six weeks, I've been a part of my book club for 7 years now. And they were together for years ahead of my joining. We've seen some turnover in the last few years, mostly due to big moves, but have enjoyed bringing new folks into the fold. I wrote about book club early in this blog's life, check it out here.
Of course, our big joke within Book Club is creating its own blog. Which I actually finally did one day, but we have not kept it up at all (Pie in the Sky idea: throw up recipes, book ideas and more. . .). Everytime we can't remember whose turn it is to host or what book we read six months ago we blame it on the blog.
I recently hosted discussion on Beautiful Ruins - complete with antipasto kebabs echoing the Italian themes to match. I had made these at our housewarming party and the quick-to-make treats were too easy to pass up.
We have had a few Bunco get togethers so far and intend on picking them back up this fall, after a busy summer. If you don't know bunco, you are missing out on the easiest game this side of the Mississippi. 8 players. 2 sets of dice. Barely any math skills needed. And a bell.
Rather than provide potentially confusing directions, I'll point you to the World Bunco Association for the rules and regs. They recommend 12 players, but that can be a tall order for a monthly get together, so we work with 2 tables of 8. Short a player when I hosted, a stuffed bear managed to successfully fill in. Bear actually came pretty close to winning it all!
The players each put in $5 which is then split amongst the winners, so a bit of incentive to play beyond simple wine drinking and gossip. The host also provides a little prize to the lowest scorer, so never fear - even losers come out ahead in this game.
Starting with a visit to Sepia during Restaurant Week, our foursome of ladies have spent the summer sampling fine dining throughout Chicago. Usually with a Groupon in tow (hey, why not?), we've stuffed our faces at RPM (Bill and Guiliana Rancic's italian baby) and Geja's Cafe (dubbed the most romantic restaurant in Chicago - table for 4, please!).
Geja's Cafe was certainly a different experience, as it is a fondue restaurant. We started off with a cheese fondue and moved on to cooking our own main courses of scallops, chicken and vegetables before ending the night with roasting marshmallows over a flaming chocolate fondue. I am quite curious how many tables accidentally start on fire at this joint.
I'm due to pick next and have had my sights on a little french restaurant called Chez Moi. Just need to pull the trigger and pick a date!
Okay, this one's a little more formal than a club, but it has been the activity that keeps me out of the house on Tuesday nights these last 8 weeks. For my birthday, Bob and my sister went in on a Second City writing class for me! I spent the last 2 months learning basics in comedy writing and building a couple sketches.
It has been nice to focus on creativity and writing after a long day at work, so much so that I've signed up for Writing 2, starting in a couple weeks! Of course, I'm kicking myself for not taking advantage of these classes when I first moved to Chicago 9 years ago like I've always said I was going to. . .it took a gift to get me in, but I could be hooked!
Volunteering with Chicago Cares
My two favorite volunteer opportunities fall on Tuesday nights, now in conflict with the Second City class which means I'll need to start searching for alternative projects! One opportunity I used to take advantage of during the school year was library maintenance. We head to the Disney Magnet School right by my house to help re-shelve books, label spines and general upkeep to assist the librarians. It only takes two hours out of your evening, is quiet (it is a library after all) and hearkens me back to my library job through college!
The second opportunity is Read-With-Me-Junior, wherein we spend a couple hours wrangling 3 year olds with books and activities. The kids are part of a safe place and healing center for victims of domestic violence, so Chicago Cares provides support to help watch the kids during some evenings. Most are good to get through one book and then decide to do their own thing until it is activity time. I started volunteering with this project before my nieces were born and it was certainly good practice for someone like me with little toddler experience!
That wraps up the main clubs and activities that keep me busy! There are always the random bowling nights (like this past Wednesday where I managed to get a 112, a simply amazing score for this girl), happy hours and dates with the husband, but these regular activities give me a little something to look forward to with each month.
How about you?