Thursday, August 31, 2017

Interviewing Myself!

Recently I've been doing some interviews on my blog of women at various stages of life and their family mealtimes. Just for fun, I thought I'd interview myself. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you might think you know what I'll say, so why not read the question and, before you read my answer, guess what it will be. At the end let me know how well you really know me!

Who is usually around your table?
It seems like anyone from anywhere in the world might be at our table. Our four kids are grown and out of the house, but the nest is seldom empty. Although my husband and I have breakfast and dinner together every day, we are often joined by one of our two children who live in town, a daughter-in-law, and granddaughter and/or one or both sets of our parents. When it's not family, we have missionaries, neighbors, people from church, or contacts my husband has from his ministry/job as International Coordinator of Emmaus International.

What was the first thing you learned to cook?
Does baking count? It was chocolate chip cookies and even though I'm not supposed to eat sugar any more, chocolate chip cookie dough or partially baked cookies is still my favorite guilty pleasure food! (Kids, don't try this at home.)

Good manners are designed to make everyone comfortable and help them enjoy a meal. What did your mom have to repeatedly remind you of at the table?
On the rare mornings we had cereal, my brother and I liked to take three boxes and make a "fort" around our bowl. This drove my mother crazy. She wanted to talk to us! As a mother, I understand her point of view, but as a kid, I thought it was fun to hide in a corner once in a while.

If I came to your house for a meal, what unique thing would I notice?
We sit at the table for a long time. If it's just the two of us, we might be at the table for three-quarters of an hour, but with others we may sit there for two hours enjoying the conversation

How do you handle cellphones and electronics at the table?
Being "Mrs. No Electronics" this is an embarrassing question to answer. When the kids were growing up we didn't answer the phone while we had dinner. The computer was in the other room, so it wasn't a factor. But when we had a question someone ran for the World Book Encyclopedia for more information. Now my kids are grown and often have their phones at the table. They might answer a text or two, but if they were on it continually we would ask them to be more present. But my husband and I often have our phones or tablets there. The thing is we aren't conversing with someone else unless we are all included in the conversation. It's probably there for music, to check the weather or the calendar, and, yes, sometimes to look up the answer to a question. 

If you could bottle anything up and spray it over your table what would it be?
Laughter. Not constant, "canned" laughter, but real enjoyment laughter. Laughing at quirky things, funny jokes, someone's quick wit, and the thing that "you had to be there" to truly enjoy. I believe laughter is a great way to connect.

What would you say to someone who is afraid to try hospitality?
I'd ask them what scares them--inviting (with the possibility of rejection), cooking, having a house good enough, being able to converse and give a good time, non-matching dishes, all the work involved--whatever it is, who is that about? The hosts. But hospitality is about the guests. Most people don't mind any of these things if someone just invites them over. And it's a great way to make a new friend.

Do you have a standard question you like to ask guests?
No, I love a variety of questions, but one that has always interested me about people who didn't grow up hearing the gospel is, "Who do you know that was praying for you before you got saved?" Everyone has always been able to point to at least one person.

What is your go-to meal these days?
It's summer so it's been a nice piece of grilled fish and grilled veggies or a green salad. My husband and I have reached the age where we have to really watch how much we eat, so this is a meal we enjoy. The other one is a $5 rotisserie chicken from Sam's! So easy and so good. I never thought I'd be the person who cut the corners cooking like that, but I guess it comes to us all.

Describe your ideal dinner:
It would include our four generations, with all of my kids and grandkids there. Everyone would be able to hear and even the one-year olds would be calm enough to sit a while. The food would be simple, tasty, and plenteous and there would be lots of chatter and laughter. After the meal everyone would heartily and meaningfully join in a spontaneous hymn sing. I'm praying this meal will happen one day soon.

How do you bring Christ to your table?
We give thanks before the meal and read a chapter from the Bible or a devotional after and pray again. Sometimes we sing (when there are a lot of us.) And we talk about the Lord, about the church we go to, about ministry.

How about you? What's unique about your mealtimes? How do you bring Christ to your table? I'd love to hear what about your family mealtimes! Write to me at:


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Thursday, August 24, 2017

This Week In My House

This week my house is quiet. My daughter and her 13 month old daughter were here for a month. We had lots of family get togethers and a week at the lake with all 16 of us, three of whom are 1 year old! So yes, this week at my house it is quiet.

What else is going on?

Our 35th Anniversary
By the grace of God we have been married for 35 years! My husband gave me these two roses to commemorate the day and here they are over a week and a half old, still in all their beauty. As is our love for each other.

I decided I wanted water goblets to dress up our table so that has entailed several visits to our local thrift store and I have found two different kinds in sets of four. I'm pretty excited. I plan to mix and match when I need more than four. See how great they look?

I decided I wanted to look through my old journals. This is only about the last 20 years worth. I'm afraid I have another 20 years worth somewhere in the attic. I love getting a new journal. When I get one I want the old one to be done so I can start scribbling in the next. But I don't find them very interesting to read. I write my thoughts during my Quiet Times with the Lord, so they aren't what I did, but what I learned. That would be okay, but I'm usually fairly cryptic and then I don't have any idea of the context or full meaning. It's just that if I don't write it, I feel like I haven't actually thought it. I should probably get rid of these, but they might or might not go back into the attic. Maybe my kids will feel guilty about throwing them out one day!

Zulu Door Knocker
My in-laws were missionaries to the Zulus in South Africa for 25 years, where my husband and his siblings were born and grew up. When they moved back to this country to teach at Emmaus Bible College, they brought their Zulu head door knocker with them and it graced the front doors of the three homes they had before they moved to a retirement community. Six years ago when the moved they gave it to us. It sat by the front door for a while and in various drawers. The other day it appeared again and I decided it was beautiful and we needed to use it somehow. Our door is not one we can put a knocker on, so this is what we came up with. I love the way it turned out.

All things Asian (well some anyway)
One night we hosted a Korean brother and sister, who grew up with missionary parents in Cambodia, the day before they could move into their college dorm. To attempt to make them feel more at home I put out my Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Burmese knick-knacks, some seen here in my most recent coffee table vignette.

So what's going on in your house this week?

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Listen, Love, Linger: Southern Hospitality with Summer

I have some Facebook friends I've never met in real life. Most of them are friends of friends, but some I've met through various pages that involve my interests. One of these is Jessica Summer Overstreet, the admin of a small page where we try to help each other boost our blog page posts "one like at a time". (Isn't that a great tag line she came up with?)

I asked Summer some questions about her mealtimes growing up, with family, and with friends.

What was the first thing you learned to cook?
Grilled cheese sandwich. When I was between the ages of 10 and 12, my mom was in nursing school and her study group would always cram for exams at our house. It made me feel so important to make and serve "lunch" aka grilled cheese sandwiches and chips to her friends!

What meal related chore will you put off as long as possible?
Anything to do with peeling! I am like a butcher with that task. I ruin tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers. I would much rather shell peas and shuck corn!

In the south manners are important, what mealtime manner did your parents have to constantly remind you about?
To not put my feet in the chair. I was terrible about wanting to sit on my knees at the supper table when I was little. I felt taller and it allowed me to lean in when I got to a really good part of whatever I was talking about. However, try as they may, my parents never broke me of the habit. If I am eating at my supper table you will find me sitting Indian style every time!

Tell me about the people usually around your table.
When it comes to supper time, my family is a little bit different. My parents both own their own businesses and I manage one of them, so we all work very long hours. For that reason, we eat out at various, locally owned restaurants most nights. We have been doing this for years, so we have made close friendships with the owners, management and staff of these restaurants. On any given night, you will find me, my parents, my sister and various restaurants employees at our table. Sometimes they will eat with us if they are in break or just sit and catch up for a minute. We love these precious people so much and consider them to be family! 

We also love to have supper with extended family and we have "adopted" several young men and women who will join us from time to time. 

What is your guilty pleasure food?
Mint chocolate chip coconut milk ice cream! I have a dairy allergy, so I can't enjoy regular ice cream. However, my coconut milk based ice cream is fabulous! I may or may not go through a container a week!

If you could bottle anything and spray it over your table, what would it be?
Summer time weather! Once the weather warms up, we love to sit at the outside patio at our favorite Mexican restaurant. There is something very intimate about those lazy summer days, soft breezes and relaxed and real conversation. We love watching the lightning bugs flicker, drinking an endless amount of sweet tea and watching the moon rise over the river. It is my happy place!

What is the last food picture you took on your phone?
Dark chocolate granola clusters. Because I have allergies to gluten and dairy, I had a hard time finding snack foods that I could eat. I finally decided to start making my own foods and these cookie clusters are my favorite!
Do you have a standard question you like to ask guests or friends when you are enjoying a meal with them?
My favorite question to ask at the supper table is about what has been going on in their lives recently. I want everyone at my table to know that they are free to open up and talk and that there is someone to listen and take interest in them.

What advice would you give to someone who is afraid to try hospitality?
Hospitality is so rewarding! It is a great feeling to see your guest relaxing and enjoying themselves. If a big meal is impossible for you to pull off, then go simple and invite a few ladies over for coffee. Have some of your coworkers over for fun appetizers after work.  If all else fails, do what my family does and ask them to have supper with you at a local restaurant on a week night. It will not be as busy so you can all have easy conversation and not feel rushed to give up your table as soon as you finish your meal. 

What's the most unusual combination of people you've put together for a meal?
My family and I love people. It's that simple, we love people. For that reason, I do not know of any combination of supper guests that we would consider unusual. We are go with the flow kind of people so feel free to pull up a chair and join us!

Finish this sentence: My ideal dinner party would include _______
Oh, I could gush about this one forever! My ideal dinner party would include plenty of outdoor seating, women unwrapping delicious casseroles, men laughing around sizzling grills, Frank Sinatra softly singing in the background, laughing children running in the grass with bare feet, colorful table cloths, pretty flowers for the table, sweet tea with lemon, a dessert table filled with pies, cakes, cobblers and banana pudding and a night of memories with a yard full of people who love the Lord.

How do you bring Christ to your table? 
I think the secret to a successful mealtime is to listen, really listen to each other. As busy people, supper time is our one opportunity each day to stop and focus on each other for one whole hour. I am a very candid and open person, so I willingly open up to whoever I am eating with. More times than not, they will usually open up to me as well. When a conversation starts to get deeper than just the standard "how've you been?" the opportunity comes to bring God into the conversation. This can be through advice, verses, examples of people in the Bible, sermons I've heard, what God has been showing me recently and stories of His faithfulness to me in the past.

Summer is a born again, Southern raised Alabama girl who loves Jesus, her family and her hometown. She works as a floral designer at her family owned florist, teaches first grade Sunday school and writes a blog designed to encourage every woman to find her confidence and value in Christ. So many of today's women are deeply struggling with accepting who God has made them to be and it is Summer's desire to reach out to them in that place. Before she turns 40, Summer would love to accomplish a few goals she has for herself like learning how to juggle, traveling to Israel, writing a children's book and taking a ball room dancing class! You can read her blog here.

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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, August 3, 2017

Beyond Small Talk

Small talk, the bane of introverts and Germans.

How do I know it's the bane of Germans? My son-in-law is German and he doesn't understand the American past time of small talk. What's so interesting about the weather? Like introverts he prefers conversation about ideas, hopes, dreams, plans--things many of us feel are worth talking about. He's very good (sehr gut) at bringing up whatever topic he's currently investigating and explaining it and exploring others thoughts on the subject. Introverts--and Americans in general--have a harder time with that. 

That's where conversation starters are so great!

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. These aren't deep, idea-driven questions. They are more along the lines of getting to know the other person, but they can lead to deeper conversations. This is a non-threatening place to start.

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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How about "pinning" this post to your Pinterest page?

Linking with these great blogs. 


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