08/22/2014 04:40 pm ET Updated Oct 22, 2014

Mom's Night, Our Version of a Playdate

Yay for the weekend and yay for mom's night in!! After weeks of running from the pool to carnivals, hosting slumber parties and so on, school is back in session and we ALL deserve a night with good friends! This, of course, includes some great food and drinks, be it cocktails or fruit-infused water. We moms need this kind of time together!

My group of friends here are all similar to me in that we are busy running most of the day. Some work outside the home. We're not always up for getting all dolled up for a night on the town, but still need to unwind and connect with other women. Not only is it fun to get together and indulge in a little fun and food, it's important to have a good group of pals around to vent to, talk parenting and just blow off a little steam. Like most of you, we all migrate towards people who are similar. In my group, it means we're all loud. I blame it on being Italian. But we also have similar parenting and lifestyle techniques, not to mention we share in interests like cooking, beauty, and of course, style and fashion! It's a great time for everybody any time we designate a Friday or Saturday night to a little group time together.

Some are stay-at-home moms, some are full-time professionals, some work part-time, but we all have busy schedules and when we make time for ourselves, we want it to be a good time for all. When I am hosting, I'm always sure to have some delish red wine on hand, plus a few bottles of white for the women who prefer something lighter. I personally love some moscato or a good bottle of champagne on hot summer nights. I love rolling wet grapes in a little sugar and popping them into the fridge -- it makes a lovely accompaniment to a glass of champs. When it comes to drinks of any kind, you can cut a lot of cost by looking around for deals. If you'll be serving liquor, give a good liquor store a try as the larger selection often inspires creativity with making interesting concoctions. I'm constantly experimenting with ideas here. Most recently it's been pineapple juice mixed with cake-flavored vodka with an amaretto-soaked cherry. It tastes similar to a pineapple upside down cake and can be such a treat after a hectic week of juggling life and kids. For moms who skip the drinks, fruit and vegetable flavored waters, infused lemonade and fresh-squeezed juices can be just as fun to unwind and talk parenting.

When my mom group gets together for a night in, we prefer light appetizers and sweets instead of a full spread, which enables everybody to graze all night while sipping drinks without feeling stuffed from a meal. So I make some simple things for us to nosh on like crudités and bite-sized treats like italian sausage skewers, eggplant parmesan bites and other goodies. The sausage skewers are so easy to make -- basically a small piece of sausage with a cherry tomato and a ball of ciegleine which for my non-italian friends is a small mozzarella ball. I spear all three on a wooden skewer and give a light drizzle of a balsamic glaze that I like to use. It has a good thick consistency which allows it to stick to the food versus traditional balsamic. When it comes to finding good ideas and recipes for food and treats during mom's night, I use Pinterest regularly (though somehow my delicacies never turn out as good as the pictures!). But sometimes it is easier and more time-efficient to head over to Whole Foods or a speciality store and grab pre-made apps and salads or desert treats. Believe me, none of your friends are going to judge you for buying something yummy versus home cooking, especially busy moms! For something on the sweeter side, who doesn't love cream cheese? I swear we would eat it by the spoonful in my group! For an easy two-minute creation, take a stick of cream cheese added to a small container of Fluff marshmallow creme, then add a half bag or so of mini chocolate chips. This simple dish is so fab you'll want to make extra for the next day, and trust me if your kids are like Gigi, you'll want to make a little extra for them too. Any dessert that involves fruit makes you feel like you're not eating too badly, and you can do so many things with it -- serve with graham crackers, Nilla wafters, etc. Since it's mom's night, everybody's in comfy yoga pants and can indulge a bit.

I often have the intention of us all playing fun board games and I pull them out, but to tell you the truth, we never stop talking long enough to play. I find that even though many of us talk or text each other daily and we all communicate regularly through social media, when we are all together in one room it's non-stop storytelling and yapping. The topics switch quickly with no notice from kids activities to complaints of husbands habits to work place antics. We compare notes on local nail salons and hair stylists, we discuss local events, bands and of course restaurants. And at our age, we have to throw in some doctor talk and discussion of our aches and pain. If you're group is new to each other, you can spark conversations on virtually any topic. Don't get discouraged or be afraid to keep everybody chatting if needed until you've gotten more comfortable together. The thing about mom nights is that you can let loose and unwind with no pretenses. That's why we prefer it to getting dressed up and going out, which of course can be much more cost and effort, too. Though if you and your mom group prefer to hit the town by all means do. The key is to get your time with other women!

We all have kids and many times, everyone will bring theirs along to have a little kids time together while we chill mom style. This works out fine since if the kids are happy and entertained, then we get a night of no 'Hey moooom, can I ask you something?' I usually let Gigi get away with a little kid style junk food since after all, it's meant to be a little special for her, too. I set them up either upstairs or in the basement to have their own kids night in. Toys, games and movies are on hand to keep them busy, or sometimes I pick up a craft project to keep the little ones busy while we moms have fun. Win-win! Since most of us are over 40, things don't get too wild during our time together and since many are in the neighborhood, it's just a short walk over. Not to mention soon its 9 a.m. and out the door we go to the day's activities once mom's night has wrapped. There are many times where the kids do not have kids night during our time together -- in those instances, buddy up with another mom in the group to have your little one over at her house for a sleepover with a sitter. Though I have to admit, it can be a lot of fun for Gigi and the other kids to get together while we moms share some food and laughs together.

If you don't yet have a good group of fellow moms, or want to make more of an effort to schedule time with those in your group, simply starting the ball rolling can make it happen. Greet the moms you don't know at school or in the neighborhood to get to know them. If you seem to have a lot in common or of similar personality, invite them to grab lunch. Or, let either the moms you know already or new moms in the area know you regularly get together with other moms and would love to invite them. Plan your food and drinks early and keep in mind everybody's different tastes. These days we have moms who may be vegetarian, gluten-free, etc., so try to have a little something for everyone. You usually can't go wrong with veggies, a little cheese and other easy snacks. Be sure to let moms know you want to get together with enough advance notice to work around schedules. As for husbands, while they may not love all the cackling and loudness during mom's night, they certainly love the snacks and treats leftover after.