Photo Credit: undoneclothing
Nothing to do with keys in a bowl or naked people in hot tubs, my Swap Party involved myself and ten lovely ladies who had been exhorted through email, Facebook and face-to-face invitations to:
"Bring any unwanted clothes, shoes, handbags, jewellery, accessories, books, CDs etc. A great excuse for a girlie gathering - and a chance for us all to update our wardrobes and keep a tight hold on our purse strings.
Come armed with your cast-offs and a bottle of booze/non-alcoholic tipple. Nibbles will be provided. Feel free to bring a friend - the more the merrier."
The day before, I'd decided to forget the nibbles idea in favour of something easier and more filling. The thing with nibbles is, unless you just buy crisps n dips readymade, they are a lot more time-consuming and fiddly to prepare than something like a huge bowl of pasta.
Seeing as I was working off-site all day and would only have a couple of hours between finishing work and welcoming guests to raid Waitrose, tidy the house, beautify myself and make dinner (Phew!) I turned to the marvellous Nigella Express for inspiration.
The other challenge was that, due to the numbers, it would have to be a lap meal for most of my friends as my dining table can only comfortably fit six. I fed my guests Festive Fusilli with Halloumi bites which went down a storm. I even found myself polishing off the leftovers for breakfast. Yum!
As a sweet treat I made my Cheat's Pudding. It's delicious and takes about two minutes to make - so it's a bit of a cheat really, hence the name. Although, when I serve it I announce it as Amaretto Pudding (much posher). Here's the recipe:
- Bash a bag of amaretto biscouits with a rolling pin or bottom of a jar/wine bottle (great fun, this bit).
- Mix biccies with equal quantities of creme fraiche and full fat greek yoghurt
- Add honey to taste
- If you're feeling fancy, mix in soft fruit such as raspberries (I used the frozen ones as to buy fresh in Winter is horribly expensive). You can even line a ramekin or wine glass with a layer of fruit first and then dollop the creamy biscuit mixture on top.
So delicious, I guarantee you'll get lots of praise and a few requests for the recipe.
We had such a giggle. We took it in turns to display our wares and if more than one person was interested then the one who looked best in the garment - as voted by the rest of us - got to keep it or, in the case of accessories books etc they reached a gentlewoman's agreement.
Including items other than clothing really helped to get over the size differences. If you just host a clothes swap you need to make sure you have at least two people per dress size so that no one is left out. Surprisingly, most of the girls at my party were size 8-10. Yes, these are my friends! Although a few of us were more 'averagely' sized at 12-14.
To get some of my favourite women together was a thrill in itself, and watching them get to know each other better was wonderful. Of course, some have been friends already for years, decades even, but like most people I no longer have one group of friends who all hang out together like we did in our early twenties. I have friends from different times in my life, who belong to different social circles, siloes of friends whose only link to each other is me.
As it turned out, the masterstroke was encouraging people to bring someone else. There were two people I didn't know at all, and one I only barely knew, which made the evening more exciting. I love meeting new people, it's so stimulating. The three in question are all intelligent, funny, friendly women and so got on with everyone else instantly - so much so, one of them suggested we all go for a girlie night out in January.
What a fun night it was - and a very productive one to boot. I got an amazing pair of shoes, several tops, two necklaces and some books. Brilliant.
My only regret is that a few of my closest friends couldn't make it, for various reasons including childcare issues and illness. Although, I could always host another one....
I'm thinking of a 'swap your unwanted Christmas presents' next. What d'ya reckon?!