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Thursday, February 26, 2015

13 Ideas for Getting the Good Inside 'Em

When I was a little girl I remember my mother making Brussel sprouts...once. I gagged on them. 

I took small servings of salads. Peas and corn were favorite "vegetables" (known today as "carbs") and I did eat whatever we had, but squash? Oh my. Thankfully, my mother didn't serve mushrooms very often!





Fast forward an untold number of years--veggies are some of my favorite foods. While I'm not especially a squash fan, I can find ways to make it good that don't involve excess quantities of butter and sugar. But I do love vegetables and have taught myself to fill up on salads until I liked them.

But how can we get those good things into kids without threatening ("You will eat this or else") or bribing ("if you eat your broccoli you can have this triple chocolate brownie with ice cream and whipped cream.")

Here are some ideas that have worked in our family:


  1. Dress it! -- when our kids used to come home from school sometimes the snack was bread or crackers with some peanut butter and a small pile of raisins and a few pieces of cereal to create their own design. Most popular design: a smiley face.
  2. Dip it! -- My grandkids will eat just about anything if they can dip it in something. Veggies can be dipped in a bit of ranch dressing; bread in a bit of jam; quesadillas in yogurt with a touch of salsa.
  3. Name it! -- A "tree" is much more fun to eat than broccoli. Carrots can be called, "bunny food." How about making "blocks" out of bits of cheese? Or the special food can be named after the person who made it for them first: "Aunt Matty's stew" and "Grandma's Toast."
    Photo Credit (name added)
  4. Puzzle it! -- I can remember taking quite a while to cut an apple into two zigzagged pieces to have my kids put together. Time to cut: 3 minutes per apple. Time to solve: 10 seconds. But they ate the apples! You could do 4 pieces to make it a bit more challenging. Or cut a sandwich into various shapes and have them put it together and then eat it piece by piece.
  5. Choose it! -- Have them help decide what will be for dinner. Guide them to have a balanced meal and they will probably eat happily what they chose.
  6. Buy it! -- If they are given money for a meal to make for the family, and buy their own, they will want to eat it.
  7. Grow it! -- My kids happily ate radishes that they grew in our tiny front garden. They had planted, watered, and picked them. Of course they were going to eat them!
  8. Prepare it! -- When they do the work of putting a meal together they will want everyone to eat it all and not waste it...including themselves.
  9. Mess with it! -- Let your kids have fun while they eat. Don't hyperventilate about messes. Sure you want them to learn to not be sloppy, but so long as it's not deliberate, be willing to clean up small messes.
  10. Alphabetize it! -- Try having a meal where everything starts with one letter of the alphabet like chicken, corn, cauliflower, and croissants.
  11. Colorize it! -- Go for a color theme. Like red meat, peppers, beets, apples, cranberry sauce, and cherries for dessert.
  12. Internationalize it! -- Learn about another country and try some food from there. We used to do this to teach our kids about missionaries. We got letters, pictures, recipes, a few words in their language, and prayer requests from a missionary family and then after dinner we prayed for them and then wrote them letters. 
  13. Try it! -- My grandchildren have to eat a "No Thank You" bite of new, grown up type foods. If they don't like it after one bite they can say, "No thank you" to more that night. Knowing they don't have to eat more helps them to try that one bite without protesting. I'm not certain of the rules in their house for the second time, but when I was growing up I had to try two bites the second time, three the third, and from then on a small portion.


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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Unsurpassable Memories Around the Table

Two weeks ago I got to spend a week with my son and daughter-in-law helping after their third child was born. Every meal was a delight to this grandma. Here's a sample of the joys that only come at family meals.

Two year old "Keyfin" came gallop-jumping into the kitchen calling out, “Da! Da! Da!” and holding his beloved toy dog, Da. Mommy reached over, retrieved Da, and said, “Da can watch you eat from here, as she placed him safely out of reach.


Three and a half year old "Manna" took longer to arrive, coming in belly crawling. When she arrived at our feet she said, “I’m a snake!”

Daddy answered with a smile, “I can sssssee that. Missssss Sssssnake please come sssssit in your chair.”

Both children climbed up into their chairs. Manna struggled with the buckles on the booster seat until she was snapped in. “Well,” shrugging, Mommy said, “At least she has to sit facing forward that way.” Manna also managed to fasten the velcro on her bib while Mommy helped Keyfin with his.


Manna surveyed the breakfast table. “Pancakes! Blueberries!” she exclaimed.

“ ‘An. Cakes. Boo. Bewwies.” echoed Keyfin, who says every word with a period after it.

We all held hands and Daddy asked Manna if she would like to pray. Eyes scrunched tight shut she said, “Thank you for this good day and for Mommy and Daddy and baby and the snow and this good meal. Amen!”

“Ah. Men.” echoed Keyfin.

While Daddy put peanut butter and jam on Manna’s pancake, Mommy took care of Keyfin’s. “Can I please have some blueberries?” asked Manna. 

“Since you asked so nicely you may have a few now, but then you need to eat your pancake before you have more,” Daddy answered.

Watching Manna get a dozen or so blueberries, Keyfin said, “Boo. Bewwies.”

“How do you ask?” 

“Boo. Bewwies. Peas.” Head nodding in emphasis of each word.

Manna daintily ate her blueberries two at a time while Keyfin stuffed half of his in his mouth at once. Manna carefully ate her pancake so the jam and peanut butter went mostly into her mouth. Keyfin grabbed his with two hands and took a bite out of the middle, leaving a smear of peanut butter and raspberry jam on both cheeks. 

When Manna had finished she announced, “My plate is empty.”

“Yes it is,” said Daddy.

“I want more,” said Manna. 

“How do you ask?” prompted Daddy.

“Please may I have some more pancake?” 

And she got some more. Which caused a little more jam to stay on her face. 

Manna and Keyfin looked at each other and saw the food on the other’s face, each made a face, and then giggled impishly, which struck them even funnier and the giggling got louder until all of us were smiling. 


“Keyfin, do you want some more pancake?” asked Mommy. 

Being two, Keyfin said, “No,” and held up his plate for more.

When Manna had finished four pancakes and Keyfin was mushing up his third, Mommy asked him, “Keyfin, are you all done or still eating?” 

“Till. Eatin’.” But after a few more mushes he proclaimed, “All. Done.”

“Would you like to say some verses to get some raisins?” Daddy asked.

“Yes please!” said Manna.

“Eth. Peas.” echoed Keyfin.

Manna said four review verses, complete with motions, and received a small handful of raisins. Keyfin said, “God. Is. Love.” and got some raisins. When they had finished eating those, they each said their new verse for more raisins.

Daddy ran some water till it got warm and dampened the wash cloths. Manna took her own and started playing with it. “I’m Mr. Washcloth and I’m going to eat your nose!” The cloth in her hand grabbed her own nose and said, “Nom, nom, nom” in a deep growly voice. Then Manna held out the washcloth again and said, “I’m Mr. Washcloth and I’m going to eat your cheek!” The cloth scrubbed the side of her face while saying, “Nom, nom, nom.” And so it went until Manna was all clean. 


The two got down from the table to go play, leaving behind a sticky mess on the table, raisins on the floor, milked dripped down the chair, lots of smiles, and unsurpassable memories.



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Do you have a meal to tell us about? 
Write me and let me know. 
I'd love to share it with my readers.

aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

60 Printable Conversation Starters

I want to get to know people, their likes and dislikes, their hurts and joys. I want to give them a hug, squeeze their hand when they need it. I want to bring them dinner or take them out for coffee. I want to listen to their stories and their favorite music. I want to welcome them into my home and share all that God has given me.

I want to tell them my story and let them know what's important to me. I want to be free to share on a deeper level and not intimidate or be intimidated. I want to talk about what God is teaching me and hear what they think about it.



So why on earth do I talk about the weather? Or baseball? Or the price of gasoline? Or my aches and pains? There is so much worth talking about and I can't get beyond the very superficial!

I know I don't talk about the things I want often because people might 
  • think I'm prying
  • feel like I'm too deep
  • be uncomfortable
  • think I'm artificial
  • think I think I'm better than them

But I just want to get beyond the superficial and delve into topics that make me think and let me know others.



Because I'm the way I am, I like "directed conversations". By that I mean, some kind of game where the conversation is intentional. I think that's why I love conversation starting questions so much. 

There are lots of great uses for these cards:
  1. Keep them at the dinner table and let everyone choose one each night to ask of everyone in general.
  2. Keep some in the car for long car rides. They really break up the monotony.
  3. Carry a few in your purse or wallet to ask when you get together with a friend or meet a new colleague. Sneak a peek and then ask the question as though it was on the tip of your tongue.
  4. Take a card to church in your Bible and ask it of the person next to you during coffee break. 
  5. When you have guests over, toss a few cards in a basket and have each person choose one, read it and answer it.
  6. A group of people can pick a question and choose someone in the room to ask the question to.
So today I'm offering 60 more conversation starter questions.



Click the links below to get printable versions of the conversation starting question cards. They are formatted to print directly on Avery® Business Cards 28878  (Avery®  Template 8371or print them onto cardstock and the guidelines will show where to cut to get cards of uniform size.

Conversation Starters 1

Conversation Starters 2
Conversation Starters 3

For 50 more printable conversation cards, click here.

And even 50 more click here.
For trivia question cards, click here.
For end of year conversation starter cards click here.

And for special conversations for married couples click here.





aroundthetableblog (at) gmail (dot) com


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Can't wait to read Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at MealtimesDid you know it is available on Kindle?

You can get a copy today for only $4.75!


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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Fit This In {A Dinnertime Game}

One time we were planning to have a group over who we felt were prone to negativity and critical remarks and we wanted a way to head this off before the pass. After praying for creativity and the ability to always respond about the glass being half full, I started researching after dinner games. That's where I found a game I call, "Can You Fit This In [Around Your Table]?"



I wrote up and printed out three statements for each person at the table. These phrases were things I didn't expect anyone would say without being prompted. The first one wasn't too outrageous, the next one a little moreso, but the third was ridiculous. These were things like""I'm sorry. If you were right, I'd agree with you." "Did Adam and Eve have navels?" "I choked a Smurf to see what color he would turn."

Under each plate I placed one slip of paper without thought for who would sit where. After we gave thanks, I told each person about the paper and told them to slip it out without letting anyone else see what it said. Their goal was to "Fit In" all of the statements during the course of the meal without anyone discovering it.



At first everyone was busy reading their crazy phrases and trying to think how this was going to work and I began to wonder if the silence was a death knell for any conversation. My first phrase happened to be, "How silently, how silently," so I used it then and everyone laughed nervously and started general conversation.

Because I had written all the statements I soon started picking up hearing one here and there. Sometimes people gave the speaker funny looks, but no one really called another out on it. I started getting smirks from people as they delivered their lines. My husband winked at me and said something ridiculous that I recognized as one of my masterpieces.

Conversation picked up and, at times, became completely silly, but everyone was having a good time and no one was griping, criticizing, or making sarcastic comments--at least no comments that hadn't been scripted.



The evening turned out great and I'm looking forward to trying this again sometime, even when I'm not expecting the worst.

Whether you are trying to avoid unpleasant conversation or just want to have some fun with family or friends, this would be a great table game to try. To make it easy for you to try, I have written up some phrases for you to use with your guests. Click here for printable game instructions and phrases.



*Disclaimer* The people in the photos
 are not the people I thought would be critical!




NEWS: Monday I became a grandmother for the third time! Little Martin and Mommy are healthy as are his big brother and sister! I'm at their house helping out this week.


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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Home Depot Meals: Can You Top This Pizza?

When I was in grade school, our school would have a fund raising night at Straw Hat Pizza. The restaurant donated a portion of all their earnings for the evening to our school project. The project is long since forgotten, but I well remember that I did not like cheese, so I didn't want pizza! I ordered a hamburger!

Happily I grew up.

Not only do I love cheese (and had a really hard time imaging going without when I did a food allergy test--thankfully not allergic!) I love pizza too.



In fact, my whole family loves pizza. So this Christmas when we had all 12 of us together (kids, spouses, grandkids, and my parents) we did a 4 generation Can You Top This pizza meal. 

Here's How:
First I made the crusts ahead of time using this very easy recipe.

I quadrupled the recipe and divided the dough into 16 balls which I then rolled out and baked at 400F on cookie sheets for just 3 minutes each. I place the partially cooked crusts on cookie racks to cool.

Do you make perfectly round, magazine ready crusts? I don't! But they taste just as good. Of course, you can buy frozen, par baked pizza crusts that will be perfectly round.

I froze these crusts and brought them out about 15 minutes before we were to top our pizzas. 



On the counter I placed every pizza topping I could think of along with a jar of spaghetti sauce. I preheated my oven to 400F and let everyone Top Their Own pizzas and bake them by placing them directly on the oven racks. The pizzas needed about 10-12 minutes to bake.

I love these "do your own" meals because it feels like I'm not doing the work, everyone gets what they want, and it's just fun to work around each other and discuss kinds of pizza toppings they like. 

We're family, so we already know and love each other, but this can be a great ice breaker for a group of people who don't know each other well. I guarantee they'll start talking!



For more of my "Home Depot" (let your guests make their own) meal ideas click here!

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Did you know that Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes is available on Kindle?

You can get a copy today for only $4.75!


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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Winter: Slow Cooker Time

Stepping into the house from church Sunday mornings, guests in tow, is always an act of faith! Can I smell lunch or did I forget to turn on the slow cooker?

I think my fears come mostly from our days in South America when the electricity could go off at anytime without warning. In fact, we used to joke that if they warned us that the power or water would be off we were safe! (I always filled every pan in the house with water when they said it would be cut, even though I never needed it when they told me I would. Twenty four years in South America was not beat by twenty-four years growing up in the states!)



I have to admit that I'm pretty proud of myself when I manage to get a meal into a slow cooker before I head out of the house and come home to the satisfying smells of a meal ready to eat (far better than military MREs!)

And somehow when it's cold outside, those slow cooker meals seem even more appropriate. Since we are in that season in the northern hemisphere, I thought I'd do a collection of slow cooker recipes (in alphabetical order) that our family enjoys to help you with your meal planning.

Beef Daube Provan├žal -- I think that's French for "beef stew" except stew never tasted this good! I've made it both in the slow cooker and the oven and it is always appreciated. Sometimes I serve it with rice instead of egg noodles.

Coconut Chicken and Veggies -- I at least double the spices in this recipe and love the sophisticated taste. (It's already on next week's menu!)

Cranberry Chicken -- This is just too easy. I serve it with brown rice, roasted veggies, and a harvest salad.

Chicken Parmesan Soup -- How can you think "slow cooker" without thinking "soup"?

Chicken Taco Soup -- Spice and Texture!

Chicken Fajita Soup -- are you seeing a pattern here? Our family loves what my 4 year old son once called "tasteable" food!




French Onion Soup -- With a salad this makes a whole meal.

Mac'n'Cheese -- Quick and a favorite with kids. Don't let it cook too long!

Pork Tenderloin -- Easy and delicious! I live in pork country and since it's the cheapest meat around, it's often what I feed my Sunday noon crowd.

Pot Roast -- My only complaint is the price of chuck roasts. But I've made it with rump roast when it's on sale and it's just as good! I love her side suggestions, too.

Sloppy Joes (hot and spicy) -- find the recipe below! I like to double this because it freezes well. Then later I get a day off from cooking!

Spicy Meatballs and Spaghetti Sauce -- Even my Korean guests enjoyed this truly non-Asian meal!



Vegetarian Chili - warm and full of comfort, even the meat lovers in your home will enjoy this hearty meal.


Hot and Spicy Sloppy Joes

2 pounds ground turkey
4 medium onions, chopped
1 large green pepper, cut into short strips
1 medium red pepper, cut into short strips
2 6-oz. cans tomato paste
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
10-12 hoagie rolls

In large skillet, cook and stir to break up ground beef and onion until meat is no longer pink at all.

In a 5 - 6 quart slow cooker, combine everything except the rolls. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-5. Serve on toasted rolls.

Serve with: apple slices and dip.







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Can't wait to read Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at MealtimesDid you know it is available on Kindle?

You can get a copy today for only $4.75!


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Thursday, January 15, 2015

National De-Lurking Week!

Photo Credit


Three years ago I started a on a venture called blogging. When I studied communications in college and even before that in high school when I read regular columns in the paper, I thought I would love to have a "column" in a magazine where I could write about things that I considered important or interested me.

Although I sold some articles to magazines over the years, I never had the opportunity to write on a regular basis. There were too many other important things going on in my life to pursue it, things like mothering and missionarying. Besides, although I have always loved to write, I never wanted to write with out a purpose, without being able to inspire people to live more closely to the life to which God was calling them. That meant I needed a reason to write.

That reason came about unexpectedly. I certainly didn't plan it. But it was exactly the kind of topic I wanted--one that I had truly lived out, that I felt strongly about, that I believed was biblical, and that is important. 

So I've been writing about family mealtimes. I've included ideas for getting young children and teenager to talk to you,  and the benefits all that talking has when the kids are adults.

I've written about Mom and Dad talking to each other regularly and on special occasions.

I've talked about manners.

I've suggested creative devotion ideas.
And holiday devotion ideas, for Easter and for Christmas.
And devotion ideas for everyday.

I've posted all kinds of recipes and menus.

And every once in a while I go off topic.

You know, I see that I get some people reading my blog, but I wonder if it interests them, if it helps them, if they are inspired at all by it. Because inspiration to have a meal with your family is my goal!

I'm glad you read my blog, but what I'd like is if you would tell me once in a while that you appreciated an idea or thought, that you tried a recipe (even if I left an ingredient out), or if you disagree with me or have a better idea. 

This week is National De-Lurking week for blogs. That means that we bloggers want you to comment on our blog. So please take the time to write a line or two about why you read my blog and what you get out of it. Then you will inspire me!


Thank you

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For more of my ideas on prayer, click here here, and here,


Did you know that Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes is available on Kindle?

You can get a copy today for only $4.75!


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