While we may not be able to meet up for coffee or head out for a Saturday night dinner for the foreseeable, there are still ways of keeping in touch with family, friends and loved ones during this social distancing lockdown period. It’s important for our mental health as much as anything to maintain our relationships, reconnect with loved ones and lift our mood. It’s also nice to have something in the diary to look forward to and there are certain advantages to going socially virtual.
For one thing, you won’t need to worry about babysitters or how you’re going to get home and you can spend some quality time with invited guests without having to leave the house. Businesses are already hosting video meetings and virtual face-to-face conference calls so why not extend this to your social life, too. So how do you start? Firstly, think about whether you want a casual coffee morning with a wide range of friends or a Saturday night supper club with your nearest and dearest. Download one of the free, face-to-face social networking apps or web-based video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Houseparty or Skype onto your computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone. You can also use FaceTime and Facebook Messenger, too. A larger screen will enable you to see faces more easily on the split screen so this is better than using your phone if you have a large group. Suggest a date and time for your virtual get-together then send invites out via the app of your choice, by WhatsApp or by email to your guests. As well as local family and friends, this is a great opportunity to catch up with those who live further afield or even those who have moved abroad that you haven’t seen for ages.
To start the ball rolling, perhaps start with a coffee morning or afternoon tea to get the hang of using the tech. Ask everyone to bake their own cakes, biscuits or sweet treats for the ‘party’ and indulge yourself with a pot of loose leaf tea or your favourite coffee fix. We have a wide selection of recipes for you to try at home that don’t require too many ingredients and should be easily available, with Chocolate Brownies, Vanilla Cupcakes and Home Baked Fruit Scones to name just a few. You could always email the link to your guests a few weeks in advance, so everyone has the chance to home bake the same treats for the occasion. And don’t forget we also have a fantastic selection of countertop coffee machines that can be safely delivered to your doorstep in time for your get-together.
Once you’re into the swing of virtual gatherings, step it up and host your very own supper party online. Think of a tasty yet simple to cook menu or one-course dinner with easily sourced ingredients or items that everyone is likely to already have at home - we have plenty of ideas and inspiration for starters, mains and desserts - and send it out well in advance to all your guests. Everyone will have to cook their own of course, but it’s so much fun sitting down and eating the meal together. Even more so if there’s a dress code such as 1920s glamour, black and white or maybe even blue in honour of our wonderful NHS. For the best virtual experience, set a start time and an end time too. This way everyone knows how long they will be online and it helps those who are juggling other things at home. It can be as short or as long as you like but an hour is probably all that anyone needs or can manage right now. If evenings don’t work for you or your guests, try a midweek or weekend brunch or lunch instead.
While it’s important not to stress anyone out over the preparations, there are some things that will help the event run more smoothly.
Smiles all round
There are so many benefits to virtually socialising right now. As well as catching up with everyone’s news and checking in to make sure they are ok, it cheers us up, makes us laugh and releases those all-important endorphins. It helps us reconnect with family, friends and loved ones and is so good for our mental health. As well as socialising online, there are also plenty of online book clubs, exercise classes and even choirs that you can join in and interact with. So what are you waiting for? Draw up that guest list, set the date and send those invites out. You may even end up making it a regular thing with everyone taking it in turns to host.
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