Comfort · Family life · refreshment at home · Tablescapes

Mealtime Is What YOU Make It

Every Monday I share a recipe or two with you because I love to cook good food for my family and those I serve in my home. I enjoy it because of what a good meal does for a family. It makes memories and traditions. It binds us together. As our stomachs are nourished, so are our hearts. But there’s a whole other dimension to food that plays into each of those blessings. It’s the whole presentation.

At Christmas, Thanksgiving or Easter our dinner tables look like they’re competing for front cover of Southern Living Magazine. The tablecloth is spread out with careful, smoothing strokes. Everyone gets a matching napkin and the centerpiece is well thought out and gorgeous. But what did your lunch look like this past Saturday? Maybe it was just the leftover pizza from your family time the night before, but how was it served? Or even think about Sunday dinner…

  • Did everyone have a real plate?
  • Were there napkins for messy fingers?
  • Where did you sit?
  • If you sat at the table, did you have any kind of covering on it, like a placemat or tablecloth?
  • Was the blessing said?
  • Did you use glasses?
    In regards to the evening meal…
  • Did you add anything special to the dinner table like candles or flowers?
  • Did you all eat at the same time?
  • How was the conversation during the meal?

Good, nourishing, healthy, delicious food is important, but just as important is the way we share it together. I’m not talking about the Pinterest Perfect Presentation of holiday meals – I’m just speaking about making it obvious to the ones we’re serving that we put thought into it. It’s doesn’t have to be fancy or fussy. We don’t have to pull out the china for Sloppy Joes, but I’d encourage you to consider…

  • Plates – Give everyone a real plate – not paper, not a paper towel, but a plate. It doesn’t take that much more effort to wash the plate and they’re more economical, as well as easier to cut on. Pull out those pretty dishes! Use them, rather than saving them for special events. Make today special by putting them on the table for your family!
  • Silverware – For supper, put out a knife, fork and spoon. At lunch you can just make sure the adequate silverware is out.
  • Napkins – I love to use cloth napkins at every meal. One reason is because they’re so much sturdier! They’re also pretty AND economical. I have a collection I’ve gathered over the years, but you can make them easily if you have a machine, or find good deals at places like TJ Maxx.
  • Table cloth or place mats – Eating on a bare table feels cold, in my opinion. You can add a cute place mat or a cloth tablecloth to add a layer of decor and warmth to the table.
  • Centerpiece – For something pretty in the center of the table, you could add fresh flowers from the grocery store in a simple white pitcher or make a seasonal display on a tiered stand.
I have a base platter and outdoor greens from my yard on it, then a small cake stand and a lit candle for a simple centerpiece for a recent Sunday dinner.
  • Glasses – Call me snobbish, but I prefer to use glasses on the table, rather than water bottles. There is one exception, and that’s our favorite carbonated beverage that tastes best in glass bottles! So, everyone has their own preferences, but if I want the table to be a little more special, I like everyone to have a pretty glass.
  • Serving bowls – Putting the food into bowls, rather than setting pots and pans on the dinner table is another way to keep things a little more special.
  • Atmosphere – Playing some soft music in the background is a way to set the tone. Keep conversation pleasant and encouraging. Maybe a “Please leave your phone on the counter” rule would help. ūüėČ Call everyone to the meal by giving them a heads-up about ten minutes beforehand so they can finish what they’re doing, get washed and to the table.
  • Blessing – We have so much to thank the Lord for! My grandsons pray for the meal by telling God thank you for what they see on their plates. It’s so sweet. Every meal should start with our gratitude for God’s provisions.

Mealtime is a time to gather, to nourish hungry hearts as well as hungry bellies. In this unsettling, strange time, how blessed is the family who can look forward to a simple, yet special time together at your table. The atmosphere is truly up to us, ladies. It will be what we make it. Let’s take the high road and the extra work to create a place where people are thankful to gather for yet another meal.

What area challenges you the most?

Refresh others at your table,

Family life · Meal planning

Meal Management

I have a love for anything to do with the kitchen.  I love to cook and bake.  I love to try new recipes.  I love to set a pretty table. I love to work around a time schedule. I love to feed hungry people. I love to fill my table with people and good food where God is thanked and lives are encouraged just because they shared a meal at our table.

However, I know not everyone feels the same and for varied reasons:

It’s a struggle to cook a meal that everyone will eat.  

It’s hard to find the time to prepare.

It’s overwhelming to clean up the mess afterwards.

It’s intimidating to invite people over.

I Cor. 10:31 reminds us that our eating and whatever we do should glorify God.  That would include meal preparation.

What that doesn’t mean:

Everything has to be made from scratch.

Everything has to look it was prepared by a Food Network chef.

That you can’t take help from quick foods.

That you can’t ever go out to eat.

That you have to fix a different meal for everyone in the family.

What it does mean:

  1. God should be honored in your heart attitude about meal prep.  Remember Martha begrudging her work?
  2. It’s more about the people we’re serving than trying to impress them. We;re filling a need.
  3. Because we’re the managers, we must plan ahead so we’ll be able to prepare in advance.

Remember our mantra РWe must plan our work and work our plan!  This applies maybe even greater when dealing with meals and with food preparation!

  1. Prioritize eating together at the table. If you’re not doing this much at all,  why not plan on having supper as a family at least three nights a week?  Or bump up what you’re doing to five nights a week.   

    Elevate the ordinary to something sacred. This simply means to make it highly valued and important. Here are a few simple ways to do that:

    Quiet hearts by turning on soft music. 
    Make the table inviting. 
    Add placemats or a tablecloth, napkins and all three pieces of silverware.
    Put something pretty in the middle of the table.  A pitcher with flowers.  A candle. Add conversation starter cards to the centerpiece. 
    Make it fun
    . Laugh at the table.  Teach manners.  Talk. Listen.  Slow down.  Sit back. Read a chapter book together at the end of the meal. Sing a hymn. Pray.

Memories are made around the table. Some of my favorite memories of my girls‚Äô childhood revolve around events and conversations around a meal we shared together. We all remember the evening there was “blue milk” on the table (let’s just say there might have been a little too much laughter!).

This one habit can strengthen your home in so many ways.

But how do we get it done? Next Wednesday we’ll talk about the management part and how to simplify the process. But for now, will you just ask the Lord to help you make family mealtime (one meal a day) a priority? Apply one or more of the ways I shared to elevate the ordinary to something sacred.

Refresh mealtime at your house this week!
If you’ve missed any of this series, you can find the other posts here.

children · Christian love · Family life · home · Motherhood · Parenting · Wife's Role · Women's roles

In-Laws and Outlaws Part II

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Jokes about mothers-in-law…there are many. ¬†I remember hearing one about a Greyhound bus going over the side of a cliff, but there was no worry, because the only passenger was the man’s MIL. ¬†Ouch. ¬†Where do those punches come from? ¬†Maybe from people who have gotten fed up with that female in-law who crossed the relational boundaries. ¬†But it’s so easy to do, isn’t it? ¬†We may reason that

  • we only want to help!
  • we’ve been where our children are and we think we need to ¬†give them some good advice.
  • we see our kids getting ready to make the mistake of a lifetime.
  • they need help raising those grandchildren of ours.

The reasons for mother-in-laws interfering are many, but for the most part, they may be very unwelcomed ¬†from our birth children and our in-laws. ¬†It can do far more damage than it does help when it’s unsolicited.

What is a mother-in-law to do if she desires to have a good relationship with a son or daughter-in-law? ¬†Here are a few things I’ve learned (and am still learning!).

  1. Only give advice when it’s asked for. ¬†If you see your kids doing something you think is wrong, pray about it instead of speaking to them. ¬†Trust a sovereign God to direct them just as He directs you when you’re heading down a wrong path.
    That would include little “hints” you might want to drop about your DIL’s housekeeping, lack of meal prep, or careless parenting skills. ¬†Or your SIL’s need to turn off the television, get a job, lead his family or attend church. ¬†Take it to God instead.
    I’ve had to ask both of my girls to forgive me for stepping over that boundary once they got married! ¬†We’re so used to being “mom” that we scold, advise and reprimand our grown kids as quickly as we used to throw our arm across them when we came to a sudden stop in the car. ¬†Let’s fold our hands in prayer instead and ask the Lord to give them wisdom to make right choices.
  2. Don’t demand your children’s presence for ANYTHING. would mean Christmas, Thanksgiving, your birthday, Mother’s Day – you get the idea. ¬†They have lives of their own. ¬†They have a family to care for. ¬†They have burdens to carry. ¬†They have jobs and ministries. ¬†Let them live their lives. ¬†Again, if you feel neglected, take it to the Lord in prayer. ¬†Even if you don’t demand their presence, but you pout because they weren’t there…it’s just as bad.
    Also, be sure you’re building that marriage relationship with your spouse. ¬†Have so much fun together that your kids will know that if they’re not able to come home, you both are fine just being together!
  3. Never drop in to your children’s home without calling ahead. ¬†“Yoo-hoo!”¬†at the front door as you walk in could make an embarrassing situation for you and your children. ¬†It can also turn you into the lady that might be given a ticket to ride that Greyhound bus!
  4. Consider your child’s spouse. ¬†Think to your own MIL and how you liked or disliked when she left you out or included you, as the case may be. ¬†Love them. ¬†Talk to them. ¬†Send a text. ¬†Call them occasionally just to say hi. ¬†Pray for them. ¬†Treat them with respect and give them those kind of words.
  5. Allow your children and their spouse to be adults. ¬†Treat them as such, remembering that you raised them to be independent. Don’t see your son as your little boy. ¬†He’s a man. ¬†Let your daughter be a grown woman. Let go of those early days and let them establish a home as adults.

Remember the story of Ruth and Naomi? ¬†Ruth was said to have been kind to her mother-in-law. ¬†We may cry out – “My daughter-in-law needs to take a lesson from her! ¬†My son-in-law needs to learn to be kind to me!”¬† But what made Ruth and Orpah want to go back to Bethlehem with Naomi? ¬†She had been gracious to them!¬† Someone has said,

Maybe if we were more like Naomi,

there would be more Ruth’s.

If you’re guilty of something in this post, be humble and ask the Lord to help you. ¬†You might even need to ask your children and in-laws to forgive you for the way you’ve treated them. ¬†A humble spirit of repentance could be the very thing that will turn those difficult relationships around.

Let’s be more like Naomi today.

Denise Signature 150 px

Cooking · Family life · main dish · Main entree · Meal planning · Traveling

Meal Planning for Family Vacation

Meal planning.jpg

For a fantastic ending to a great summer, we enjoyed our first Family Vacation!  We were blessed to have our daughters, sons-in-law, and grandsons all join us for a two and half day get-away!  Let me just start by sharing a few of the highlights:

  • Coming up with our hashtag for the time away! ¬†We wanted pics to remember this event by, so we needed a hashtag for Instagram! ¬†We settled on #hamfamvacay2017. ¬†Some of the other running options were – #picvacay2017 #hammingitup2017
  • Having time to just be together. When you have babies in the group, it’s just easier not to be running all over, and we were happy with that! ¬†We gladly opted to just stay near the condo and only go out one time. ¬†We truly just wanted to be able to visit and be together.
  • Having time in the Word as a family.¬†My husband gathered everyone together on the patio and we opened God’s Word to read a chapter and share our “Ah ha” verses. ¬†How thankful I am that we could all contribute and share from the riches of the Bible. ¬†I do not take for granted having a family filled with believers!
  • Meal time! ¬†What’s better than home-cooked food, enjoyed at “home” with those you love?

It can be a little tricky feeding lots of people, but we came up with a plan that made it doable. Today I’m linking up with my daughter, Whitney to share how we managed six meals for six people, adding in the complications of two who were dieting, one who had a birthday, and one (kind of) picky eater!

Because we were staying at a Wyndham resort, we had cooking capabilities and decided we would eat all our meals “at home” rather than eating out. ¬†Aside from being a money saver, it’s also so much easier to visit in the quiet of the resort, than at a restaurant. ¬†But how do you bring enough food and give what everyone likes when there are six adults eating six meals? ¬† Here’s what we did:

  1. I offered to make supper for both nights, knowing that they would be the more costly meals.
  2. I suggested that the girls either:
    ~each take a day and make both breakfast and lunch on their day,
    ~one take lunches for both days and the other the breakfasts for both days.  They chose the latter.

Another component in cooking for a crowd is dietary restrictions, or even likes/dislikes. ¬†One of the couples was on a diet that restricted grains, dairy, sugar, and several other things. ¬†One in our group isn’t too adventurous with foods. ¬†We decided that we would do our best to provide a main meat that everyone could have, and then let them fill the gaps with what they could/would eat. ¬†It can be nearly impossible to please everyone – right? ¬†This way, the options was theirs to eat what the cook provided, or add their own items to the meal.

We were glad to be able to cook, but no one wanted to be spending lots of time preparing the food.  For my supper meals, I opted to do a grilled meat one night and an oven-prepared meal the next night.  Here were my supper menus:

Night One:

Grilled Steaks
(Adding only grill seasoning and no marinade, due to the dieters)
Baked potatoes (done in the oven)
Corn on the cob
French Bread
Cupcakes

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Excuse the poor picture, but the picture taking was low on the list at the moment! =)

For that first supper, everyone ate the steaks and potatoes, but the dieters didn’t have corn, bread or cupcakes. ¬†We were celebrating a birthday that night, so I got creative with what I had and made a slice of a diet friendly birthday “cake” which also fell on the day of ¬†the eclipse!

hamfamvacay17 2
My Eclipse “Cake!”

Night Two:

Oven-Baked Chicken Fajitas¬†–
(Everyone could add or leave off what they didn’t like)
Spanish Rice – (The dieters fixed Sweet Potato fries)
Refried Beans
Fresh Fruit

hamfamvacay175

After everyone else left, my husband and I had the blessing of finishing out the week at the resort, so we needed breakfast and lunch meals for those days as well.  To keep things easy, I tried to get double use out of items I brought.  For example:

  • Bacon – Used for breakfast or BLT’s for lunch
  • Bread – Toasted ¬†for Steak night, Toast and jelly for breakfast
  • Leftover fajitas for lunch
  • Fresh tomatoes and fruit – salad, dessert and snacks!

Mealtimes were a huge success!  There was no flurry of wondering where we would go or what we were going to eat.  It was laid out simply and everyone had plenty of good food!

You can go here and check out Whitney’s post to see what she and her sister fixed for the other meals!

What does your  family do to make mealtime happen on vacation?

With love from my country kitchen,