Rut busters

Banish boredom and try a new activity – with your girlfriends!

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When’s the last time you learned something new – just for fun? Dabbling in something different can help you de-stress and build your brain power. And why not use it as a reason to connect with friends? Here’s how to host a Rut Buster Party – guaranteed to spark your inner crafter, chef, dancer, crooner or fashionista. Gather your girlfriends and try one of these fun, easy ideas.

“Knitting gives you a reason to slow down and relax,” says Leanne Dyck, a knitwear designer from Mayne Island, B.C. Invite a mix of knitting neophytes and old hands willing to share tips. Newbies should each bring size 6.5 mm knitting needles and “chunky” acrylic yarn. Dyck recommends light-coloured yarn so you can easily see your stitches. Enjoy munchies and drinks as you learn to cast on, knit, purl and start a scarf. For more help, see the free online knitting videos at www.knittinghelp.com or Stitch ‘n Bitch: The Knitters’ Handbook (Workman) by Debbie Stoller.

Gather cooking-phobic friends in your kitchen and learn to create incredible edibles. It’s as easy as plunking squares of phyllo pastry in muffin tins, adding yummy fillings (such as brie and mango) and baking. Parties – including recipes, food shopping, a one- to two-hour professional cooking demonstration, meal service and cleanup – typically cost about $50 per person, depending on the menu, says Glenna Rebick of Bistro Six restaurant and Bistro at Home Cooking Classes in Guelph, Ont. Invite six to 12 friends max and ensure you have enough space for the demo (a kitchen island is ideal). Ask the chef if she provides her own cooking equipment and ingredients. Some will teach a lower-cost appetizer-only class for a larger home party. See www.cdnpca.com to find a chef in your area. Or just print out recipes from Chatelaine’s Recipe file and cook together. “Don’t be afraid,” says Rebick. “A mistake can turn into a delicious invention!”

Grab your comfy fitness clothes, wrap a scarf around your hips and get set to shimmy with friends. The best way to learn is from a professional instructor, says Belinda Ferguson, owner of Belindance Belly Dance Studio in Halifax. Cost is about $200 for a home performance and lesson. Or try instructional videos from the library, www.azizashop.com or www.hadia.com. Tempted? Try this hip circle described by Ferguson: “Imagine yourself standing in the world’s largest (full) margarita glass and wipe the salt off the rim with your hips – without spilling the drink.” And to really get the atmosphere right, serve a few Middle Eastern dips with pitas.

Banish the blahs with a joyous jam session. Buy a pop or country karaoke DVD or CD and belt out the tunes. More of a folk fan? Pick up Rise Up Singing: The Group Singing Songbook (Legacy Books) edited by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson and choose from 1,200 folk songs. Ask your party guests to each bring one instrument (a shaker, recorder or harmonica is fine) to play along. More experienced musicians can demonstrate how to strum a chord or blow a trumpet. Help your guests relax and serve wine!

Buried a pricey sweater in your closet because it’s just not you? Invite friends to bring clean, good-quality clothes, scarves or hats to a fashion-exchange evening. Take turns modelling outfits for one another. Claim at least one clothing item you’ve never dared to wear before – a deep-cut frilly blouse or a cape? At evening’s end, donate any unclaimed clothes to charity. Serve fruity cocktails and sweet treats to make it a complete girls’ night out.