Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Garden Treats and Family Eats!

Today I went to the dentist for a regular check-up and cleaning. Those of you who know me well know that this is the LAST place on earth I wanted to be on this sunny September morning. You would think that after giving birth to two babies, I'd be over my dental phobia. Apparently, I'm not! The sound and feel of that scraping chills me to the bone. I literally bolted out of the chair when the time was up.

My self-indulgant reward for being such a "brave little girl", and taking the initiative to actually book and attend that appointment, was the purchase of some delicious looking veggie and pork dumplings at a quaint little oriental lunch spot near my dentist's office. I felt I deserved a break from cooking supper least a bit of a break. I'm going to whip up some fried rice and some of our home grown edemame to go with it. I'm SO EXCITED about the edamame harvest that's been going on in our backyard this week! This is always a favorite treat when we go out for Japanese food, so imagine the excitement when I spotted the seeds at the gardening store this spring. Even more exciting, is the fact that they actually grew (unlike other things...). Chi-Chi in particular can't get enough of them. I've included them in lunch boxes this week and they've been a huge hit. I boil them in the pods for 4 minutes and then lightly salt them. We eat them straight from the pods.

I've been thinking a lot about family meals these days. Now that fall is here and our lives seem to follow more of a routine, I'm ramping up my efforts to make mealtimes a bit more of a formal affair. By formal, I don't mean I'm pulling out the silver! Summer meals tend to be quick and casual around here - lots of BBQ'ing, light salads...etc. Less time at the table means more time outside in the summer. I'm a strong believer in sitting down as a family to eat supper - coming together, sharing food, sharing conversation and reconnecting. This can be tricky with my husband's work schedule, which can get pretty hectic. We actually sat down together and discussed ways we can keep this as a priority in our lives. Here's what we came up with.

- He has committed to be home every night for supper at 6pm, unless he simply cannot because of a work engagement. He has enough work on his plate that he could work 24 hours a day. This means that he picks and chooses carefully the events and business meetings he attends in the evenings, accepting those that are necessary.

-On those nights he will be very late for supper, the boys and I will go ahead and eat. I organize a bit of a dessert, so that when Daddy comes home, we can all join him at the table while he eats his reheated supper and we eat dessert. This has worked well and, although it is not perfect, it still brings us together at the table.

-At five o'clock, I often start hearing a bit of whining, "When is supper? I am hungry! When is Daddy coming home?" This can mean a long hour for me! I have come up with a solution that is working. I keep a ready-made tray of veggies and dip in the fridge. Chi-Chi and Muffy are allowed to eat as much from this tray as they wish before supper begins. Honestly, if they "ruin" their supper on carrot sticks and cauliflower, I'm not too concerned.

-I'm very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom, so I ensure that an activity such as swimming lessons is booked at 4pm. As for our hockey schedule, I think it is ridiculous that 5 and 6 year olds are expected to attend three ice times per week. It is excessive, in my opinion, and limits their ability to be involved in other activities. We skip the mid-week session (which just happens to be right at supper time) and opt for the weekend practices. Twice a week is plenty!

-On mornings Hubby is not working out at the gym, we at least sit down together for breakfast, although it is very informal in nature.

I'm making an effort to set a nice table this time of year, along with fresh flowers and a candle. The children REALLY enjoy the atmosphere the candle provides. They are quick to remind me if I forget to light it. It makes it all feel more special to them I think. We say a little verse, "Hands on your lap, just like that. Bon Appetit, now you may eat." This is from their days at preschool and the tradition has stuck. We also go around the table and each person offers one item from their day that they are thankful for.

So, this is what is working for our family, right now. Things change, of course, but I'm happy with our current situation. What are some of your mealtime rituals? What efforts do you make to ensure your family comes together for meals in your busy lives? I love good ideas!

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