Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Honor to the Table

"All great change in America begins at the dinner table." (Ronald Reagan)

Opening Disclaimer: We have our share of dinners which consist of bagels and bananas eaten in the car on the way to soccer practice, and spaghetti slurped from bowls while on the sofa in front of the BYU Men's basketball game.

But! My family has "enjoyed" far too many of these chaotic dinners lately. I am on a quest to reclaim family dinner time, to even (dare I say?) ELEVATE it to where I feel it belongs: a touchpoint in the day where we can come together in an unplugged setting, breathe sighs of relief, recharge, and regroup. And maybe even have some good conversation. And some belly laughs. Then hit the world running again for meetings, activities, homework, music practice, etc. with the security of love of family and full tummies.

Here's my mental plan so far:

1. Set the stage: part of setting a simple but pretty table for dinner is mainly a matter of having a few of the right things on hand to choose from as my mood dictates. On these long wintery nights, I reach for 2 or 3 votive candles to cluster in the middle of the table. Flickering candles just emote coziness. On a summer evening, it might instead be a little nosegay of buds from the yard or green clippings from whatever shrubbery catches my eye. The point is to take a moment to add something that says, "this is a special".
I have a couple of sets of basket-weave placemats that I love, and my white dishes that are basic and classic. To this backdrop, just adding pretty glasses or goblets can go a long way. Every now and then I use real cloth napkins just for fun.

2. Turn on some soft, beautiful background music. Anything calming and inspiring. No TV blaring, headphones, texting, ipadding ... the idea is to leave open space to easily reconnect with each other. Wish me luck on this one!

3. The dinner itself: I do like to plan menus for the week, mainly so I'm not dashing off to the grocery store at 5pm for missing ingredients. Also, knowing at 10am what I will prepare for dinner that night is incredibly freeing. Simple homecooking is my favorite style of dinner fare ... finishing touches that take most dishes up a notch are finely-chopped fresh parsley and/or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and/or freshly-ground pepper. Tonight's menu is Broccoli-Cheese Chowder with Crusty French Bread and a simple Winter Fruit Salad. Super easy, but major comfort food.

4. Here's my big challenge: easing into a habit of having good conversation, not just "dining and dashing". I'm going to lead out with "What was the best thing that happened today?" and see what happens. Will report back!

Thanks for popping in! Do you have any tried-and-true ideas for elevating the dinner hour, whatever your current station in life? Do share!


  1. Mom, you're so cool! I don't care if I commented yesterday. I'll probably comment every time you post.
    Chad and I have a tiny home, but from the start, we have always sat at our two-person table in the corner of our kitchen. I always turn on Grandma Ruth's yellow lamp for a brighter glow, and find myself arranging things on the plates so they look pretty. The little touches make a difference!

  2. Just as Claire said, You are so cool! I would add to that list: inspiring!

  3. For us Levi not flinging food onto the wall is a good dinner! But I am truly grateful for a mother-in-law who instilled so strongly family dinner time into my husband that he is home every night (I think he would faint otherwise!). As well as for my mother who brought us together for more than just food. Definitely something not to be regretted. Maybe when the food stops flying we will try the candles and music! I LOVE that you have a blog.

  4. I too want to add my vote for your coolness. SO thrilled about this blog! It makes me long for the days of Couer D'Alene when you would sit and listen to me talk for as long as I wanted, nurture me and make me feel so big and important.
    I LOVE the way you take pleasure in the simple things of life. I want to do this more, too!