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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Why You SHOULD Have Internet at Dinner

Be honest now. How many of you have played the game "Can We Guess Your Level of Education?" 

I'll be truthful, I did.

And I got PhD level! 

Even though I only have a bachelor's degree.

Okay, I think the quiz was designed to make you feel good about yourself, but there were a lot of questions on there that were topics around our table over the years, either when I was a child or when I was raising children.


When I was growing up and when our children were young, whenever a topic we had a question about came up, we walked to the bookshelf and chose the appropriate World Book encyclopedia to look it up.

But then came Google.

At some point during our children's upbringing we stopped lugging books to the table and ran to the desktop computer to "Google" whatever information we were interested in, reading loudly from the other room so everyone could hear.

We no longer have to shout.

If it's not a phone it's a tablet that can answer our questions. And I don't think it's all bad. 

Don't get me wrong; I still think there should be strict rules about phones, computers, and tablets at the table. Unless it is very important (and that is defined by the parents) no one should be holding an electronic conversation with someone while at the table. But using the Internet to learn, that can be useful. 

Everything in moderation.

We have also used the Internet to "eat" with people across the country or around the world. Our daughter lives in Germany so we have brought her to the table with us via the wonders of the Internet. It's fun!

Whether you are finding out where in the world a place you heard about is or are discussing current events the Internet can be a help.

Just don't let it be an interruption to your family time around the table.







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For More Ideas and Inspiration:
Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes. You can read the first chapter at this site and order a copy of the book.

Attention Introverts!
We know we like people and we do like to talk, but we want to have something to say, right? I can help. Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page, and always have something worthwhile to talk about.



Thursday, April 9, 2015

If It's Monday, It Must Be Breakfast for Dinner!

When I sit down to make a menu for a week, a lot of it depends on what I feel like eating at the moment I'm writing the menu. Sometimes it depends on who is coming, what's in season, what events are included, but mostly just what I can think of that sounds good.



Is there a better way?

One of my daughters-in-law has three small children three and under, so there's not a lot of time to think about planning meals and especially not time to run to the grocery store for forgotten items, so she has come up with a weekly meal plan.

It works like this:
Monday--Breakfast for dinner
Tuesday--a familiar recipe 
Wednesday--something new 
Thursday--a favorite 
Friday-- appetizers 
Saturday--Random  
Sunday--Wing it 

Abby has a rationale for each day being what it is as well. On Monday she needs to get to her Bible study, so she wants a meal that's quick to put together. 


Tuesdays her husband gets home late from work so she wants something that she knows how to put together even with three little kids at her feet. 

Like all of us, she has a whole Pinterest board of recipes to try. My son is there to entertain the kids on Wednesdays, so she tries something new that night. 

After the children have tried something new, they get an old favorite on Thursday, well they all do. We all have meals we enjoy repeating often.


Friday night is "date night". When you are a couple with a young family "dates" usually mean staying home, it's easier and  cheaper! So they feed the kids early and then have fun appetizers together while they play a game or watch a movie.

Sometimes on Saturday there's a plan she follows and sometimes it's what's-left-from-the-week-that-I-can-put-together?

Sunday night is AWANA night for their "Cubby" so often she gets a PB&J "lunch" to eat on the way home. Even that's a special treat for someone who usually gets to eat at a table with the family!


Abby even has all her recipes on Pinterest set up in these categories so she only needs to go through each category and pick out a meal. She also very carefully goes through the recipe to make sure she has everything she needs or puts it on her grocery list.

This plan makes a lot of sense to me. I literally a-g-o-n-i-z-e over my menus at times. This system just seems to take the difficulty out of choosing.

How about you? 
How do you plan what menu you will have for the week
 or what to buy?




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

aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com


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Sunday, March 29, 2015

An Easter Hunt With a Twist!

I wrote this last year just in time for Easter. I had planned to have it published a couple of weeks ago, but life got in the way of blogging. However, it's been popular on Pinterest, and I believe it's an idea worth thinking about and adapting for your family, Sunday School class, or children's ministry. I'm hoping to do it with my grandchildren again. --Sharon


When my husband and I had the opportunity to to go to Russia for ministry, I began reading about the country, it's people, and their traditional faith. One thing that fascinated me was the Russian Orthodox Easter service. 

From what I understand, at some point during the early Easter morning service, everyone files out of the church following the priest. They walk around the church. When they come back, the doors are closed. The priest knocks on the door. An altar boy is inside and opens the door and says, "He is not here, He is risen!" And everyone answers, "He is risen!" 

It gives me tingles to think about it. I would love to organize an Easter service like that! I guess that is part of my inspiration for this fun and meaningful Easter Hunt I made up for my grandchildren.


Perhaps you could call it "The Hunt for the Meaning of Easter" or "The Better Kind of Easter Hunt" or simply "The Easter Story Hunt".

I did this with my grandchildren last year. I had as much fun thinking about this and planning it as they had doing it. Here's how I did it.

Gather:

  • 4 very large plastic eggs, or medium sized Easter gift bags
  • a boot-size (or larger) box with lid
  • green tissue paper or one of those disposable plastic green tablecloths (that's what I used)
  • Fig Newtons (enough for each child to have at least one)
  • Small bread rolls and boxes of grape juice (one of each for each child)
  • Two boards nailed together to form a cross, two or three more nails, a hammer
  • an old sheet or rag torn into a long strip
  • a favorite stuffed animal
  • 3x5 cards or computer printed cards
Printables for the cards can be found here.

Once I had all the supplies, I put the Hunt together into the Easter gift bags.
Bag 1:  One folded piece of green tissue paper or pieces of tablecloth cut into large "palm leaves" --one for each child and one for me
On one side, the card in this one said: When Jesus came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey the people were excited and waved palm branches and shouted, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" Hosanna means 'Save us'. Why don't you pretend Jesus is coming? Wave your palm leaf and shout!
On the other side: The next item will be found ______. (My grandchildren are very small, so I told them exactly where to look. If your children are old, you can give them clues so they have to hunt.)


Bag 2: Fig Newtons for everyone
Side one of the card: A fig is a fruit that grows in hot climates. Jesus used a fig tree to teach His disciples a lesson. You can eat your Fig Newton while I read you the story--One day Jesus was hungry and saw a fig tree. He looked to see if there was fruit on it, but there was none, so He said, 'This tree will never again have fruit.' The next time Jesus and His disciples passed the tree, it was withered up and dead! The disciples were surprised. They asked Jesus about it and He told them, "Have faith in God. Whatever you ask of God He will do for you, even if it is hard, like forgiving someone." We know this was important because it was one of the last lessons Jesus taught His disciples.
Side Two: The next part of our Easter Hunt can be found _______.

Bag 3: Bread rolls and juice boxes
Side One: At the last meal Jesus had with His disciples before He died He gave them bread to eat and said, "This bread is to remind you of my body that will die for you." Then He gave them juice from grapes and said, "This drink will remind you of how I shed my blood for you. Remember Me." Eat your piece of bread and drink the grape juice and remember that Jesus loves you.
Side Two: The next clue can be found ___________.


Bag 4: The wooden cross with nails pounded part way in where the hands and feet would go and a hammer.
Side One: Soon after this all the people who had been so excited to see Jesus on Palm Sunday, were talked into asking their ruler to kill Him on a cross. Nails were pounded into Jesus' hands and feet. It sounds awful, and it was, but God had a reason for this. When Jesus died, He was paying what we should have paid. It should have been us, dying for our own sins, but God let Jesus pay for them so we could go to heaven if we would believe on Jesus. Can you pound the nail into the cross and think about how much it must have hurt Jesus to pay for our sins?
Side Two: Go find _(name of favorite stuffed animal)_ and then look for the next part of the hunt in a box in ___________.


Box: cloth strip(s)
Side One: When Jesus had died, they took His body and wrapped it in strips of cloth and put it in a tomb. Everyone was very sad. They had thought Jesus was going to be their Savior, but now He was dead.
   Wrap _(stuffed animal) _ in the strips of cloth and put him in the box. Then put the lid on the box. Do you feel sad to think of _(stuffed animal)_ in the box? Remember, Jesus' friends were very sad, too. But there was something very good that they didn't know! It happened three days later. Run around the house three times to pretend like three days have passed.


Unless your children are old enough to run around your house alone, while you are running with the children, you need an accomplice to take the stuffed animal out of the bag and place him in a prominent spot nearby, fold up the cloth strips neatly, and place this note on top of them.




Celebrate the fact that Jesus is alive with your kids! Cheer and clap and jump up and down. Hug the stuffed animal and hug each other. Tell them this is the true meaning of Easter.


Links for Printables

For more ideas on how to bring the true meaning of Easter to your family in a fun way click here.




*  *  *  *  *

For More Ideas and Inspiration:
Check out the book Around the Table: Connecting With Your Family at Mealtimes. You can read the first chapter at this site and order a copy of the book.

Attention Introverts!
We know we like people and we do like to talk, but we want to have something to say, right? I can help. Get a Conversation Starter question each week night by *liking* the Around the Table Facebook page, and always have something worthwhile to talk about.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Trivia Questions



This year on St. Patrick's Day I'll be in San Francisco...and Dallas...and Cedar Rapids, Iowa...and, finally, home. I hope to get home around 1 a.m. if all the flights are on time, thanks to a miles ticket to get me from my mom's house (where I've been helping her sort and pack to get her house ready to sell) to home. So I won't be doing my own celebrating, despite the fact that my grandfather immigrated to this country from Ireland, in fact, from the very county where Patrick is buried! 



However, I'd love to help you celebrate the day with your family. 

I know that the world thinks this is a day to drink (green) beer or Guinness, but then the world pretty much thinks that any celebration requires drinking, even to the point of getting drunk, but I really can't imagine that's fun. It's so much more fun to laugh and talk and connect with the people we love.



So my St. Patrick's Day gift to you is St. Patrick's Day Trivia Questions in the form of printable cards. You can take turns asking these questions to your family or friends around your table on St. Patrick's Day.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!
And don't forget to wear green.





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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, March 5, 2015

St. Patrick's Day Idea Round-Up

I love a celebration.

When my kids were little, I celebrated everything I could think of--George Washington's birthday, Groundhog's Day, Valentines, St. Patrick's day...and on and on. Since we lived overseas, far from extended family, we celebrate all their birthday with a cake, candles and a song on the day!

Celebrations create joy, happy memories, and--usually--dessert!


So why not celebrate St. Patrick's Day this year? It not only adds to the fun, but there's a missionary story involved that's worth letting your family in on.

Here are some ideas I've found:

Breakfast
For the Littles (and not so littles): Green Milk--Every year when my kids were at home, we would have cereal for breakfast on St. Patrick's Day. Since our milk came in bags, I always poured it into a ceramic old fashioned milk jug. On St. Patrick's day I added green food coloring. The first one to pour them milk was usually surprised! I had fun watching their reactions. As they got older, they knew to expect it, and my oldest son repeats it with his children now.

Grown-Up: Shamrock Eggs--I tried this and it actually works! It probably requires a grown-up palate, but my husband and I loved it!


Snack Time
For the Kids: Lucky Charms and Green Milk--My grandkids love eating little snacks where you pick up one at a time, so how about serving Lucky Charms cereal in a muffin cup (extra points if it's green!) along with milk (maybe green, too)?

Activities
For the FamilyLeprechaun Photo Shoot--With these printables your family will have as much fun as a barrel of leprechaun's taking pictures together!

For the Bigger Kids: A Treasure Hunt! --When my son was a freshman in high school we hosted a St. Patrick's Day party that included running all over the neighborhood for a treasure hunt. This link has pre-written clues for an indoor treasure hunt. If the weather is warm enough, you can have the kids go further abroad. The prize? A "pot" of gold (foil covered chocolate coins). 

For the Littles: Shamrock Stamping--even my young granddaughter had fun with this one! When my kids were little I had them paint shamrocks on the kitchen window for me. They had a great time and washable paint is so cleanable.


Devotions
For the Family: The True St. Patrick's Story--My daughter-in-law wrote this story to explain who the real St. Patrick was to her preschool class. It is one of my most popular pins on Pinterest! But I think it would work with any family for a change of pace family devotion.


I hope you have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day.
As they say in Iowa:

Kiss Me
I'm Iowish


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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 "Kiké" 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 "Preciosa" 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. Preciosa 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.” Preciosa also managed to fasten the velcro on her bib while Mommy helped Kiké with his.


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

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

We all held hands and Daddy asked Preciosa 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 Kiké.

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

“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 Preciosa get a dozen or so blueberries, Kiké said, “Boo. Bewwies.”

“How do you ask?” 

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

Preciosa daintily ate her blueberries two at a time while Kiké stuffed half of his in his mouth at once. Preciosa carefully ate her pancake so the jam and peanut butter went mostly into her mouth. Kiké 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 Preciosa had finished she announced, “My plate is empty.”

“Yes it is,” said Daddy.

“I want more,” said Preciosa. 

“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. 

Preciosa and Kiké 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. 


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

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

When Preciosa had finished four pancakes and Kiké was mushing up his third, Mommy asked him, “Kiké, 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 Preciosa.

“Eth. Peas.” echoed Kiké.

Preciosa said four review verses, complete with motions, and received a small handful of raisins. Kiké 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. Preciosa 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 Preciosa 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 Preciosa 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.



*  *  *  *  *  *  *  
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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To never miss an Around the Table blog post, simply sign up in the space on the right side of the blog, below the picture of the book. Each week you will receive one email that looks like this:



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