Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Good Manners Build Connected Families

Once upon a time there was a little boy about four years old. Every time he was spoken to, but didn't hear what was said, he answered, "Pardon me?" After this occurred several times a grandpa-aged man turned to his parents and asked, "How'd you get him to do that?"

In another kingdom there was another little boy, also about four, who was invited to a friend's house for dinner. The host-mother thoughtfully made pizza, assuming that all kids like pizza. The little boy looked at it, decided he didn't like it and announced, "I'm a vegetarian." Since there was ground beef all over the pizza, the mother suggested he eat the salad and garlic bread. Using the tongs, the little boy picked a few tomatoes out of the salad and proceeded to scarf down most of the bread. The host-father said, "You aren't a vegetarian. You're a 'pick-a-tarian'!"
photo credit: Clarskston Scamp

Oh my, which boy would you be happy to claim as your own?

These are true stories where I was involved, but I won't give away any clues as to who the parents were!

Wouldn't you love your child being the one who exhibited good manners at your house and at others? It is possible. Here are some simple suggestions to make it possible at your house:

  1. Model good manners--You've heard it said that behavior is caught more than taught. So sit at the table, say please and thank-you, don't slurp, burp, or grab. Etc...etc...etc.
  2. Keep it simple--If you are starting with young children, don't make too many rules. Maybe "stay in your chair" would be a good first rule. Or perhaps you want to hear "please" more often. Start with no more than three rules and when those are mastered, move on.
  3. Make it a game--the Dobsons (as in Focus on the Family founder) used to have a "rule" that if you forgot to put your napkin on your lap you had to walk out of the room and come back and try again. Even parents! What about if you are looking for that magic word? Maybe if they ask for the bread without saying, "Please" you could pass them something else, like the pepper. Every time they ask without saying, "Please" pass the wrong thing! Do it with a smile and if they don't get it after a couple tries, give a clue about what you want them to say. What other upbeat game can you make up?
  4. Talk about it--when your kids are a little older, discuss what manners are and what they are for. Maybe look up the words manners, etiquette, deportment, and courtesy together and talk about them. Help them come to the conclusion that manners are to help everyone in the situation feel comfortable. Then ask, 
Photo credit: Pink Poppy Photography
  • "What makes you comfortable when we're at meals together?" 
  • "What makes you uncomfortable?" 
  • "What makes you comfortable or uncomfortable when eating at someone else's home?" 
  • "What do you think makes Mom/Dad/Grandma comfortable?" 
  • "How can we work together to all be comfortable when we eat together?"
Help your children come to an understanding that it's not all about their comfort, but it helps to know the mores (another good word to look up!) in a society so that in the future, they will feel comfortable in new situations.

When your mealtime is marked by people enjoying being together, eating together will be something your family will want to do. Being together is the first step in building those family connections we all long for.



For more ideas on how to teach manners and another great game we used with our kids, check out my book.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Family Memories on a Placemat

Today's post is written by guest and friend, Peggy Covert. She's got a great idea for helping your family connect at the table and remember fun times you've had together. Read on--there's the techie and non-techie way to do this so follow your bent and connect with your family even more!

In one of her blog postings, Sharon challenged her readers with the question, “What’s on your kitchen table?”  I replied, “Nothing—all the clutter ends up on the kitchen counter.”  But I hated to admit that I really had absolutely nothing on the table; after all, Sharon’s blog is all about having a nice looking table that shows your family you care about meals with them!  So, I followed up by telling her that, even though I’m not into centerpieces, I do dress up the table a bit with colorful placemats.  


Some years ago, on a trip to Israel, I discovered a fantastic souvenir—placemats made of laminated photos of scenes in the Holy Land.  They were relatively inexpensive, light weight, and fit perfectly into a carry-on suitcase.  And there were lots of them.  Every tourist site had an assortment and I ended up with more than a dozen.

One day it occurred to me that, with the technology available at self-service print shops, I could make my own personalized placemats.  

The first one I made shows our party riding camels in the desert.  

Our shadows are on the back side of the placemat.



I have found two ways to make placemats.  The first is very low-tech, involving 4x6 photo prints.  The second method took some help from the experts, as I went to the print shop with my pictures on a flash drive and got the technician to help me with the process.  I also wanted to compare two different print shops, so I went first to FedEx Office and then to Office Depot.


At FedEx Office I put my 4x6 color print onto the copy machine screen, chose “color” and set the enlargement to 283% to increase the size of the finished picture to 11x17 inches.  I enlarged two photos to that size and then put them back-to-back, securing them with a bit of “Glue Stic”.  One of the employees helped me with the laminating process.

Before going to Office Depot with my pictures on a flash drive, I worked with them in the computer, trying to make them the right size.  (For a standard placemat, you want the ratio of height-to-width to be 2:3; the original pictures had a more square shape, the ratio being 3:4.)  At Office Depot a technician put my flash drive into their computer and told me that I had a little problem—my pictures were in jpg format, and they needed to be in pdf format.  I don’t have the right software to do that, but the fellow told me that they could do it for me—at $1.00 a minute.  Fortunately, he was a fast worker and this part of the procedure only cost $5.00.  He also had to resize some of the pictures.

Once that step was done, he pushed some buttons and soon my 11x17 pictures were sliding out of a printer.
Then he put the pictures back-to-back and ran them through the lamination process.  Office Depot offers two weights of laminate, 5 mil and 10 mil.  Five mil seems most suitable for placemats.

Cost comparison: 

FedEx Office charged $3.56 for two color copies, size 11x17.  The cost for laminating was $3.99.  So, the total for one placemat was $7.55.

At Office Depot I had three placemats made for a total of $15.17, including the $5.00 for changing to the pdf format.  The color copies were 20 cents each (I expected the price to be 49 cents—maybe they were having a special sale that day) and the laminating was $2.99 for each placemat.  Office Depot’s lamination was lighter weight than what FedEx offers, and I like it better.  With the lighter lamination the pictures seem brighter.

With four new placemats in hand, I was ready to show them off to my family on Friday night when our two adults sons usually have dinner with us.  We staged the photo after the meal because you wouldn’t be able to see the placemats with food and plates on the table.



Peggy lives in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, has a semi-retired husband (Dan), and two adult sons (Paul and David).  Dan and Peggy have shared interests:  missions, MK’s, travel and archaeology.  Biennially, they have been going to France to lead a children’s program at a conference for English-speaking missionaries.  In between those trips, they have visited missionary friends in South America and Asia and made several trips to Israel.  She enjoys taking pictures of their travels and playing tour guide in Israel.

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Don't forget the Giveaway!
The lovely table runner from Turkey (at left) can be on your table! Read the details about this giveaway here. Only 2 weeks left to  enter.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Table Talk Conversation Starters

I am always looking for good questions to ask people to keep conversations lively and meaningful. I think I need to have questions planned out ahead of time because I suffer from brain freeze. Not the kind you get from downing an iced skinny vanilla latte too quickly, but when you really want to get to know people better but you can't think of one word to say. 



Perhaps you don't suffer from this paralyzing infirmity, but you can still find yourself wishing for something to help make your conversation more meaningful and less of same old same old.


Now that we're into the school year and--hopefully--more of a schedule, you might like help taking your mealtime conversation beyond "What did you do in school today?"

(Hint: the answer is always "Nothing.")

Enter the conversation question. 



love Mimi Wilson and Mary Beth Lagorbourg's creative conversation starters in Table Talk: Activity and Recipe Ideas for Bringing your Family Closer at Mealtime. Here are a few of my favorites:


What is your favorite room in our home? Why that room?

What is your favorite family tradition?

What famous person would you like to have as a guest at the table? What would you talk about?

Who has been your favorite teacher and why?

Ask a teenager in the family to read the lyrics of a favorite song from the CD wrapper and discuss it. How does music affect your life?

Devise a family plan for evacuating your home in an emergency.

Which of your friends’ parents do you respect most and why?

Who-Does-It-Belong-to-Night: Bring out a bag of out-of-place objects one by one. Who does it belong to? (Keep it light.) Does it work? Do you want to keep it? Then you may be excused to quickly put it away.

This could actually be fun! One day while my kids were all at school, I was fed up with their things all over the house and other things all over their rooms. I piled each child's things in the middle of their bedroom floor. When they got home I told them that before they could have their snack everything in their pile had to be put away in it's proper place. Somehow I made it lighthearted and they spent about 15 minutes laughing and making comments to each other while running around the house carrying things to where they belonged.

What characteristics do you see in yourself that came from Mom or Dad?

I hope this isn't an "Ouch!" question!

This book is worth having for the wit and wisdom, the recipes and the conversation starting topics. If you can get a hold of a copy, by all means do it. But even if you can't, now you have some questions to use around your table tonight.


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Remember the square Turkish Table runner giveaway this month. Get your friends to like the Facebook page and/or become members of this blog so you are entered more times. See complete details here.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

W is for Waffles

When Christina was in kindergarten her teacher called me to ask if she could borrow my waffle iron. It was "W" week. Soon Christina came home with the life ambition of being a Waitress! 

Did you know this week is National Waffle Week?

And just in time, a friend gave me their Belgian waffle maker so I could share my world famous Belgian Waffle recipe with you. Here it is:
I don't usually use a mix as I like to make things a little more high fiber, but the mix came with the waffle iron and it was easy...and good!

I remember once when we were at a guest house, the host had a couple of waffle irons going at the dinner table and offered us creamed tuna on our waffle or the normal butter and syrup. Later, my teenaged brother commented to me, "Tuna on waffles--that's just not right."

If you want a more dinner-y meal, you can do creamed tuna or chicken or any kind of crepe filling on your waffle, but I see no problem with having breakfast for dinner.

Fleming Waffle Glossary:
Raw - what Jim calls waffles the way I like them
Burnt - what I call waffles the way Jim likes them
Golden - what we both call waffles the way we, ourselves, like them
Crocodiles - the crunchy piece of waffle that cooks outside the intended waffle cooking part of the waffle iron. As in: I call the crocodile! (Yelled while grabbing and breaking off said piece. This is most delicious when stolen before the meal has started.)

Other bits of Fleming Waffle trivia:
When my grandmother was a little girl, she insisted on having melted butter pool in every square of the waffles her mother made her. (Waffles go way back in our family.)

When I was 5 I was allowed to open a present from my Grandpa Hamilton. Before opening it, my mom said, "This has something for everyone in the family." I pulled out a waffle iron and handed it to my mother. Then I looked back in the box and said, "There's nothing else in here!" I thought each person was going to get their own present.
When Jim and I were first married we had Monday's off and he worked on Saturday, so every Sunday afternoon we borrowed his parents' waffle iron for our Monday breakfast. But his dad was worried that one week we wouldn't return it in time for his Saturday morning waffle breakfast, so for Christmas they gave us a waffle iron--something for everyone in the family.

So bring your family together this week--or any week-- for a waffle meal!



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Reminder: Don't forget the giveaway! I'm giving two table runners from the country of Turkey to a new reader and the person who recommended him or her. To enter, "Like" the Facebook page (you need to be signed into Facebook for that link to work) and write a comment telling me your name and the name of the friend who recommended it. Also you can become a member of this page and write a comment with your name and a friends for another opportunity to win. The more friends you get to say you told them about it, the more possibilities that you will win! See my previous post for details.

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