Thursday, May 25, 2017

What Does Your Family Meal Look Like, Betty Predmore?

Can family mealtimes happen with teenagers, younger kids, and grandparents? They can! Betty Predmore, a fellow blogger and speaker, tells us how with humor, hope, and honesty. Join me as I talk to her.

Tell me about who is regularly around your table:
My husband, myself, my dad, my 18 year old daughter Emily, my 13 year old son Bryan, my 9 year old son Jovanney, and my 8 year old daughter Lizbeth. (And of course the 2 dogs are UNDER the table!)



What unique thing I would notice about your mealtimes if I were at your house?
It is one of the noisiest times of our day.  Everyone wants to be heard, there is laughing, arguing, and event sharing going on all around the table.  At least 3 people will be trying to tell me something at the same time.


My kids would always say I am on their case about:
Having patience to let someone else finish talking before they begin, and about eating everything they are served.


How do you handle cellphones at the table?
There is a NO ELECTRONICS rule at the table.  My son has even tried to bring his tablet to the table...but that didn't fly!

When have you found yourself channeling your mother?
Once I was trying to get my son to realize the importance of not wasting food and the same words my mother used to speak to me came right out of my mouth... "There are children starving all over the world and you want to throw away your vegetables?"


What is your go-to meal these days?
With 3 kids in baseball, and two parents hospitalized, not to mention our regularly hectic schedules, I am ashamed to say our go-to meal of late has been Mac-n-cheese.  The kids love it, it fills them up, and it is relatively quick.  We are so looking forward to our schedule slowing down beginning this week!

If you could bottle anything and spray it over your table, what would it be?
It would be peace.  We are always in a rush, everyone is always trying to over talk the other, and I lose my patience. I would love a peaceful meal.

What makes celebration meals special at your house?
They are special at our house because we really try to make the one we are celebrating feel loved.  We take photos and videos, and always try to serve their favorite meal. Typically, the adult kids try to be there to share in the celebration.



What running joke do you have about your mealtimes?
You can't leave your plate alone for even a second.  Our littlest dog will be up there in a flash, consuming the entire plate of food.  The kids think it is hilarious!  Me...not so much.

What is the best compliment you could ever receive about your mealtimes?
The best compliment I could receive about our mealtimes is that we are a crazy, chaotic bunch of love.  The youngest three are adopted and have blended so well into our family. We are truly blessed.

What is the most unusual meal you have ever had?
That would probably be the time my husband made risotto stuffed pork chops with a carrot-pineapple glaze that my husband created as an entry into a cooking contest.

What is one invention you would like to see to make mealtimes easier?
A machine that would not only wipe the table, but sweep and mop the floor as well.  Oh wait...I have that...it's called my children!!

Finish this sentence: My ideal dinner would include 
every single one of my children, my parents, my husband and I gathered around my huge farm table that was built by my husband, eating spaghetti...which is a family favorite.  


How do you bring Christ to your table?
By always praying a blessing over our food, and by talking about Him during our meal.  There are also many opportunities in mealtime conversation to teach the principles of the gospel.





Betty Predmore is an author, speaker, blogger, and ministry leader. Betty has dedicated her life to sharing God’s Word in an inspiring way, sprinkled with honesty, humor, and encouragement, and reflecting the love of Jesus to all she meets. Find her blog at https://momsense.blog/  Interact with her through her Facebook page or visit her website at www.bettypredmore.com. 



If you would like to be interviewed about your family mealtimes, please write to me at aroundthetableblog(at)gmail(dot)com. If you have a blog or website, I will be happy to provide a link.


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Thursday, May 18, 2017

10 Reasons for More Picnics

It was our first time back in the states after three and a half years in Lima, Peru. My mother-in-law kindly (and excitedly) asked us, "What things do you want to do? Where do you want to go to eat?"

Our answer? We want to go on picnics!




Lima, Peru where we were missionaries is in the middle of a coastal desert on the western side of South America. It doesn't rain there. Everything is brown. Everything is dusty. And what few parks there are mostly weren't places you want to have lunch and let your toddler run around. So we were honestly craving green and outdoor eating.

Today we live back in the states and have a wonderful backyard and several nice parks nearby and I'd still rather go on a picnic than to a restaurant.

You might think a picnic is more work. But think about it. If you have to work at your job for 1-3 hours to pay for a dinner for two at a medium priced restaurant, you've worked pretty hard. 

Here are 10 reasons I think picnics are better:

1. I'm eating healthier--I can make veggie salads and I don't deep fry anything! My potato salad isn't mostly mayo. Whatever I make is probably going to be fresher, cleaner, and healthier than average restaurant fare.

2. I'm wearing off calories instead of putting them on--Picnics lend themselves to walking around or even actually playing sports. Whether it's strolling over to the fence to watch the boats on the Mississippi, playing a game of bean bag toss, or an all out game of touch football, I am walking far more than I would be between the car and the restaurant booth.

3. I'm in the fresh air--Fresh air and sunshine is good for you, right? Not just your lungs and your vitamin D, but it's just good for you mentally to get out of doors and enjoy nature. I'm pretty sure that's why God created it so beautiful.

4. I'm appreciating God's handiwork--Nature is amazing. I love watching birds, squirrels, chipmunks, and sometimes other animals. The variety of greens that God has created is amazing. I just look around at everything I see and say, "How Great Thou Art!"

5. I'm saving money--See comments above!


6. I'm actually able to have a conversation--Restaurants are crowded and noisy and so many of them have TVs going now that it's hard to carry on a conversation--especially when you have hard of hearing people in the family, a demographic I'm becoming part of too quickly!

7. I have a quick escape from the ordinary--My husband is game for anything. So if I want to take a picnic to the park at the end of our street (really a very pretty place!) he's willing to take an hour and do that. We don't make a big deal, just go there and eat, maybe take a short walk and then come back to do our yard work or whatever we need to do at home. It's a wonderful change of place.

8. I can make the menu whatever I want--Do you have a signature sandwich of something like Nutella and cucumber? You can have it on your picnic! I enjoy lots of fresh veggies and fruit that restaurants can not keep on hand, at least not at an affordable price!

9. I'm relaxing more than in a noisy restaurant--The noise, the activity, the constant questions about if everything is fine (or the stress of trying to get your server's attention), is just not relaxing. Sitting with a sandwich or a simple casserole of mac'n'cheese and iced tea, is much calmer.

10. I'm having more fun--Whether or not we have kids along, we have fun. We can laugh, get up and walk around, play a table game, play a lawn game, visit, or do whatever we consider fun...things we wouldn't be comfortable doing in a restaurant.

Make it a goal this summer to eat out once a week...outside, I mean!

Looking for ideas for eating outside this summer? Click here.
And here are some picnic ideas for kids and adults.



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Thursday, May 11, 2017

One Small Change

Most of my dishes and my tablecloths are hand-me-downs. 

Don't get me wrong. I love the pink flowers on ivory Franciscan "Desert Rose" my mother-in-law gave me. I probably wouldn't have chosen it, but this was her wedding china and we've used it for nine years now so it is part of our family legend and I'm not about to get rid of it.



In all the world, my favorite color is blue, but I also really like yellow, and spring green (real spring green like the grass and trees right now), and red and...but blue catches my eye. My blue and white dishes are a treasure. They were actually "handed down" from my daughter-in-law who in turn was given them second hand. The Johnson Brothers "Coaching Scene" dishes are fascinating to find the detail in. 

To go along with those, my sister-in-law found some Spode "Blue Room" china at Marshall's and bought me six place settings so I would have enough along with the others. Each one is a different design so I can intersperse all the blue and white plates and feed quite a few. They are beautiful and perfect for Italian food.



My Dollar Tree fake Fiesta Ware is a lot of fun. Bright solid colors in red, blue, yellow and green. For everyday, I probably use these dishes more than any others. 

And my tablecloths come from my aunt, my mother, and my mother-in-law downsizing. They are very nice and I can use them on Sundays and for certain guests. But I was looking for a "casual" tablecloth. Something that would work when we have more than six (because more than six placemats just doesn't work) and yet I don't want it to say "fancy" like lace or shiny damask does.


I finally found one. It is the perfect shade of blue. It goes with all my blue and white dishes and my dollar store ones as well. It fits my table with one leaf, the most common size when we have more people. And you know what? It made me excited to have company over! It was just one small change, but I looked forward to making dinner and sitting down at my nice looking table.

If you think you have no motivation to make dinner for your family. Think about one small change for your table. For you it could be fresh flowers in a vase, a pretty candle centerpiece, new placemats, eating outside, using your "good" dishes, or making lemon water instead of regular. Think about what could make you happy and give it a try. You might be surprised at how happy it makes you feel.


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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Date Night Tarts for Two

We have so much fun now that the kids have all moved out!
Disclaimer: My favorite thing is when one--or better yet all--of them comes home for a meal, a day, a week or longer. I love my kids, their spouses, and our adorable grandkids.
It's just that evenings are different now. We do what we want to. We laugh about Friday nights. "We're big kids now, we can stay up as late as we want," we tell each other as we turn the lights out at 10:15. 



Mainly we do what we always did, dinner together, desk work, yard work, a craft or project, read, maybe watch something (most recently we watched Crown on Netflix). But date night, now we don't have to sneak around for alone time, and we don't have to set an example for balanced meals and eating our veggies before dessert, so that's when it gets fun!

Whatever night we happen to be free we plan "our" time together. I scour Pinterest for appetizer meals and make two or three different things that may or may not involve shrimp, cream cheese, smoked salmon, bacon, and chocolate. Finger food all. 



It's our evening to eat in front of the fireplace, (or on the back patio in summer) talk, play a game, some romance, a stroll, maybe catch another episode of Crown and just enjoy each other.  

Last weekend I was in California to speak at a Ladies' retreat at the church I grew up in and has commended us as missionaries. I got to stay at the home of a good friend and visit with many others. One evening we were visiting with a cooking program on in the background. All of a sudden I focused on the TV when I saw how easily they had made two tarts, one savory, one sweet and I knew what the menu would be for our next date night.

When I got home blueberries and strawberries were on sale at Aldi--perfect! I had seen them make a pie crust in a food processor in literally seconds so I put that together the day before so it could chill (it only needs an hour, but I gave it a day--guess I was excited!)



The next night we had the savory tart and salad for dinner and the berry tart as our dessert (we don't often do desserts, that's one of our date night treats). We liked the dessert tart so much I made a larger one for our guests the next night.

For printable copy click here.

Crust: 
(food processor directions or follow cookbook directions for a 1 crust pastry)
1 cup flour
1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into about 12-15 pieces
1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 Tbsp ice cold water

Place flour and salt into food processor. Pulse briefly to mix. Distribute butter chunks in processor and pulse 3-4 times until the chunks of butter are smaller than small peas. Turn food processor on and add water one tablespoon at a time until it begins to form a ball. The processor will probably begin to make a different sound. Turn off immediately. Gather all the dough and wrap tightly in plastic wrap or place in airtight container and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to 3 days. (Can be frozen for 3 weeks as well.)

When ready to bake, divide dough in half and roll into two rough circle about 8-9 inches in diameter.

Preheat oven: 400F

Tart Fillings
Savory:
1/3 cup ricotta cheese (I actually didn't have any so substituted sour cream!)
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp basil
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 Tablespoons fresh parmesan cheese (or substitute feta)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 small mini peppers sliced into rings
1/2 small onion thinly sliced
1/2 tomato sliced or 4-5 grape tomatoes halved
2 tsp olive oil
dried parsley
freshly grated pepper

Mix together ricotta, garlic, oregano, basil, salt and parmesan. Beat egg lightly and stir into cheese mixtures. Spread on middle of crust leaving about 1 1/2 inch border all the way around.

Heat oil in small non-stick frying pan. Stir fry peppers and onion until they begin to brown. Place tomatoes on cheese and pile onions on tomatoes. Fold dough over edges of vegetables, overlapping as needed. Sprinkle lightly with dried parsley and freshly grated pepper.

Berry Tart
1/3 cup fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries, rinsed
1/2 cup sliced fresh or frozen (thawed) strawberries
1 Tbsp sugar.

Spread berries around middle of crust, leaving about 1 1/2 inch border all the way around.

For both: Beat one egg lightly. With a pastry brush, spread egg over all of both tarts, berry first and then vegetable. Sprinkle sugar over berry tart.

Place both tarts on parchment paper on cookie sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes or until crust is shiny golden brown. 

Serve hot or room temperature.




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Thursday, May 4 is the National Day of Prayer in the United States. Even if you aren't participating in an event, take 5 minutes right now to talk to God, you'll be glad you did!





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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Making Your Table an Attractive Meal Zone

Or Making It Easy to Get to the Table (Part 7)

Sandy got the chicken in the oven and had the vegetables cut up and ready to steam. She washed up the dishes she'd used so far and wiped down the counter. She opened a cupboard and pulled out four plates and got four forks and knives out of the silverware drawer. Then she turned around and looked at the kitchen table and let out a deep sigh.




Cookie crumbs, an empty milk glass, and a paper towel "placemat" from her son's after school snack were at one end. Next to that his school books sat in a pile and a few papers had spilled onto the floor. Her daughter's computer was set up at the other end with papers and pens strewn around it. An iPod also decorated the table with its earphones dangling off the edge. The day's mail was in an unopened pile. Hair bands, a key, a deck of cards, and a magazine opened to the article she'd been reading at lunch were the finishing touches. 

Now Sandy had a decision to make: should she clear off the table and set it for dinner or could they just eat standing around the kitchen as had so often happened recently. If she opted for clearing the table, what should she do with all the stuff cluttering it?

Does this sound at all familiar?



I well remember those days when the kids came home, had a snack, and left everything sitting on the table. Our table was in a great spot for a "catch-all" --anything I wanted to take down to the bedrooms or up to the loft of our tiny town house in Bogota got set there, as well as what the kids might set down on their way between the living room and kitchen to get a snack. Even though they had desks, they often used the table for school projects which left scissors, glue and scraps of paper on it. 

While I realize that some tables have to do double or triple duty as homeschool station, sewing table, game table, or craft area, a table that is cleared of clutter and made attractive even between meals says,
  • "This is an important spot." 
  • "This table serves a pleasant and familial function and is not a catch-all for everyone's stuff." 
  • "We care about our family meals and keep a place ready for them."

So how can our tables become a place that attracts our families to meals? Here are some ideas:


  • Keep your table a clutter-free zone as much as possible. One idea is to take all that clutter and place it in a basket. At dinner bring the objects out one at a time and ask, "Whose is this?" No fair putting your own away beforehand! Make it light and fun. Maybe keep score as to who has the most, least, biggest, most valuable, etc. But ask them to put their stuff away after they've used the table so it can be ready for dinner. To help, keep a pretty basket near the table for those things you want to eventually carry to another part of the house rather than "storing" them on the table.
  • Make the table attractive between meals. If you've read my blog for long, you know I'm big on this. My table is in a throughway between our living room and family room, so I consider it a part of our decor and decoration. I want it to look nice and frequently change what I have on it. This also helps make it "meal ready." Some ideas:
    • a favorite runner and a hurricane lamp centerpiece
    • a bowl of fresh fruit
    • a variety of knick knacks collected from around the house
    • silk (or better yet fresh) flowers in a pretty vase

  • Discipline yourself to use the table. If you want your table to become a "meal zone" you will have to work to retrain your family. The more often you sit down together to eat, the more they will get to enjoy it. Standing around the kitchen or sitting around the family room invites people to leave quickly. Sitting at a table encourages them to linger longer.
  • Use placemats or a simple tablecloth. When our kids were little most of our placemats were vinyl. The kids each had their own favorite--Thomas the Train Engine, the Little Mermaid, Winnie the Pooh--and we had photo placemats of places we had visited, too.Click here for a tutorial on making your own personalized placemats. Now we use cloth, but a tablecloth still usually only lasts one meal, while placemats seem to do better.

  • Add candles frequently. Their glow adds to the warm welcome.
  • Play soft ambient music that won't interrupt the conversation or annoy anyone.

  • Be as consistent as possible with the time. If everyone knows dinner is at 6, they can plan their day better. Though I still get many pleading they "didn't know" what time it would be or asking for a time change.
  • Prepare a meal that is pleasing to the senses. Remember to make it look and smell appetizing as well as tasty to bring them running.
I believe that if you work to keep your table a "meal zone" and make mealtime pleasing to all, you will find that your table attracts your family together.

To read more on this check out this post, Looks Inviting, and this one, What's On Your Table?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

There. Is. No. Need. To. Yell.

Or Making It Easy to Get to the Table (part 6)


Has family dinner every sounded like this at your house? It never did at ours, well, not often...at least not every night.

But there were those nights.

How do you keep the atmosphere pleasant at your family mealtime table? Here are some suggestions:

1. Keep your sense of humor.


2. Discuss your atmosphere goals with your husband or wife. If you guys aren't in agreement about this it's not gonna work. We tried to have a signal to say to the other when we were getting worked up about something. One would say to the other, "Elephants" or whatever we chose. I have to admit, however, that this didn't always work. (I will take the 5th amendment on who it was that had trouble cooling down.)


3. Have a talk with the whole family about it. We were never big on formal "family meetings" to discuss issues, but we did have a family meeting of sorts, every night at the dinner table. I can remember asking questions like:

  • What do you look forward to about dinner?
  • Is there anything that makes you cringe when you think about our family mealtimes?
  • What can we, as your parents, change to make it a happier time?
  • What can you do to help make the atmosphere pleasant and inviting?


4. Keep your sense of humor.

5. Have fun family reminders to use, especially if guests are present. The family of one of my good friends signaled each other with the silverware. The fork meant "get to the point." Holding up a knife signaled "cut it off." And the spoon meant, "Feed it to him!" You can use whatever your reminder is to help stop ranting, arguing, gossiping, or complaining. (Not that I think any of that would happen at your table!)


6. Agree to work on this together. Does one person feel never listened to? Another like everyone disagrees with him? Someone else feels hurried, or slowed? Ask them what would make them feel better. Get each person to offer a compromise they can do and give a commitment to do it.

7. Get a theme verse that you all want to be the working principle for your family mealtimes. Cross-stitch it and hang it on the wall!


8. Oh, and did I mention, have a good sense of humor?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Do You Have Energy to Get Your Family to the Table Tonight?

or Making It Easy to Get to the Table (Part 5)

Do you wish you had more energy?

Most people do.




Life takes energy and in our society the meal we can most often get together for is toward the end of the day after we've used most of that energy on other projects. 

How can we get the stamina to keep going, so we can get a meal on the table and have the pizzaz to have an interesting conversation?

One thing I do is exercise.

Dreaded word, I know. But it's as simple as taking a twenty minute walk.




That's my favorite kind of exercise, especially in spring and fall. I actually go for about thirty minutes. My dream is to have an hour to walk, but I'm not sure when I'll have time for that on a regular basis.




One website that encourages me in this is runkeeper.com. I can plot a map of where I walked, how much time it took, and other notes. They tell me how many calories I burned! They'll also let me know of progress I'm making, like if I have better time or more activities or longer walks.



It's just fun to have that extra information. And besides, if I ever need an alibi, this should help, right? 

In the winter or on rainy days I do exercise videos. My favorites are the Walk Away the Pounds series by Leslie Sansone.



This is the first one I got and the one I still use the mostThe One and The Two Mile Walks . I try to do the two mile walk mostly, but some days I just run out of time and the one mile walk only takes about nineteen minutes. In it she combines a little bit of weight work.


This is my favorite one! Because she does strength training and aerobic exercise in three-minute intervals, the time seems to go by so quickly. Plus, I can feel the muscles working as I use the weights. I've worked up from tuna can "weights" to five pound weights and sometimes I even use eight pounders.


It seems like an enigma, using energy gives you energy. But I think I'm proof. I am 56 and have low blood sugar, low blood pressure (last count 90/61), asthma, and no thyroid, but I have energy to make dinner every night. 

For insight in what I think about while I'm walking take a look at this post!






Photo Credits


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