Shared Meals Matter Blog

Apr 25th

Call Me Crazy

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I’ve been paying closer attention to how I spend my time.  Like many, I put ‘my all’ into a project, work, or whatever it is I’m involved in.  I can inadvertently spend more hours on an activity than I want to.  I do think there’s a time and place for getting lost in the present (such as when sharing a meal with someone, or hiking, or travelling somewhere new and fun)  but I want to be sure that I also preserve time to do the things I care about each and every day —  like reading, getting outside for fresh air, and enjoying a meal with someone.

At work, there are always simultaneous projects happening; there are calls to make, and clients to tend to. Time can very easily run away from me.  Knowing this to be true, before I start my work day, I review my calendar carefully and set the time I plan to leave work that day.  I set reminders in a few different places (on my iPhone, in my Outlook calendar, and on a little post-it note on my phone) to be sure I am out the door on time.

DelusionalI recently shared with a co-worker my habits of pre-designating my end of work day.  Smiling, she said,  “Seriously? You know how busy it gets around here…how can you do this?”  We had a conversation about time management, and the daily demands we have at our jobs.  I admitted to her that my plan doesn’t always go perfectly smoothly (occasionally, an urgent work matter does throw a temporary wrench and cause a delay), but most of the time my plan works.  She thought I was sort of bold to plan to leave at a certain time every night.  She said, “What if you run late from a meeting? “What if your boss needs you?”  I told her I understand the “What ifs?” and I deal with those responsibly as they come up.  For example, I’ll say going into a meeting “I have a hard stop at 5:30” or if my boss needs me, I’ll find out quickly what it’s about and take care of it, or see if it can wait until morning. Often I have found that my co-worker or boss puts an issue out for discussion or resolution but doesn’t necessarily expect I need to take action “now.”  I told my friend I adopt the attitude, “What’s the worst that can happen?” and go about my merry way of time management.  I might have to change my plan if something unavoidable comes up (and I do need to do something “now”), but I’m already ahead of the game if I’ve started the day with a plan to leave on time to do the other activities that provide me a balanced life.

I’m mindful of achieving the results at work, and I enjoy my job; I think those who work with me would say I do my job well and with spirit.  But for me, work is not the only priority I have in my life.  Ultimately, I have the responsibilty to myself, and to my family and friends, to manage my home life, too.

Call me crazy, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to put some strategies in place to help manage all the activities I want to do to be sure I’m taking care of the little things that mean a lot.

You, too, can empower yourself.

Think about what you need, what you want to do and experience, and then consider what strategies you need to put in place to fulfill those plans.

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Apr 23rd

A little of this, a little of that…

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I absolutely love the idea of “repurposing” food.

Over the weekend, I was a grillin’ fool.  I grilled fresh asparagus, thin slices of onion, and thick slices of tomato.   I also grilled some fresh pineapple chunks on skewers.  My friend and I enjoyed the warm grilled veggies over rice, and for dessert, munched on the pineapple spears (fruit is wonderful grilled, and I added a few drips of honey for gooeyness).

Today I’m getting together with a friend after work for a quick hike after work, and then a light picnic. This morning, while I cooked some orzo, I cut up the remaining (weekend leftover) grilled asparagus, and a tiny bit of onion and tomatoes, into very small bites.  Then when the orzo was cooked, I rinsed it with cold water, added the cold vegetables, a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.  The orzo stands up really well as a cold salad and I really like the texture of this particular Italian pasta.

I put my new pasta dish in a container where it will chill for the day and be a refreshing salad for our picnic at dusk.  I also packed a container of plain greek yogurt, a few bites of grilled pineapple I had from Sunday’s dinner, and a small handful of granola.  Adding the yogurt and granola made a new dessert, too.

OrzoI easily created two meals from one. You might be surprised at how easy you can do this too using just a little of something left over from a prior meal. Just add a new ingredient (like I did with the orzo) and it transforms the meal into something fresh.

“Repurposing” ideas helps to make your menu planning easy, and it has the added benefit of stretching your food budget as well.  Plus, it’s just fun!

Give it a try, and share your ideas with me.  I’d love to hear what new and inspiring dishes you created using this ‘repurposed’ idea!





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Apr 16th

Be a Helper

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In light of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon yesterday, I think we can all agree we can’t stop disasters from occurring, but we can take some comfort in being ‘helped’ by others, and by being a ‘helper’ ourselves, rising to the occasion to ease the pain or provide support for others.

Take a look at this statement by the inimitable Mr. Rogers:


Mr. Rogers is right.  There are ‘helpers’ out there.  We should all look for them, and think about how we can become a helper to someone else, too.

Take a moment to think about what you’ll do today.  Maybe it’s spending an extra fifteen minutes helping your sister figure out an algebra problem, or taking out the trash without waiting for your parent to ask you.  Another fine way to be a helper is to make plans to share a meal.  Sharing a meal with someone  gives you the opportunity to listen with interest, support with compassion, and be present for those you love.

Life is indeed short.  Make it count by ‘helping’ others in everyday activities.

Let’s not wait for the next tragedy to remind us of the profound importance of nurturing relationships.

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Apr 12th

Are you having ‘bad weather’ in the kitchen? For your sake, I hope so!

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This morning I was juicing with a neighbor, a sweet Vietnam vet named Jack.  Jack is one of those versatile people who loves good books, gardening, talking about history, and spotting great TV/film.  For example, when Downton Abbey first showed up on the scene (before anyone was talking about it), Jack had printed color flyers to hand out to folks in our neighborhood because he had seen a screening and knew it was quality programming he wanted to share.  In fact, he’s generous about sharing art and all things of beauty.  He sometimes leaves a beautiful new plant on my doorstep for no particular reason.  He’s generous with all the neighbors.  I check his mail and keep an eye on his home for him when he travels out of town.  One thing I particularly appreciate is that Jack has a green thumb and always revives my plants if I over or underwater them. 

I was so pleased to have an opportunity to share something of beauty, my new juicing habit, with my buddy Jack.

So we set out to juice some kale, a big bunch of celery, some apples, pears, and ginger root.  I pulled out my Breville juicer and we started pushing the vegetables down through the chute.  The chute in which you push the vegetables through to grind and make juice creates a wind tunnel.  Depending on the vegetable you are pushing through, sometimes you have to move quickly or the vegetable could get trapped in the wind and fly out. I cut my kale in 2 inch pieces, so that’s what I had on hand.  This morning, when we were putting the kale in the chute, some of the pieces were caught up a bit in the wind and flew out of the top, like being swept up in a tornado!  Jack and I had a lot of fun strategically trying to get the leaves quickly back into the juicer!  We laughed and laughed and thought it obviously looked like a “kale storm”! We finished juicing the other vegetables, and realized we had created a bit of a mess, but we had such a fun time, it didn’t matter!  We poured ourselves a victory glass of this delicious, refreshing juice.  So good!! 

Here’s a picture.  Isn’t it such a rich green color?  I happen to like kale, but if I didn’t, I might still use it because the color is so attractive! 


I consider creating ‘juice’ meals with friends a wonderful ‘shared meal’ as well.  And if you are juicing for breakfast, what an exciting way to start the day. 

The moral of the story here is don’t worry about ‘bad weather’ in the kitchen.  Get in there and create and storm–get messy, have fun, create memories, and laugh!     


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Apr 9th

#5 “Serve Just Enough”

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the instruction I received from my parents in childhood of “cleaning your plate”.  I grew up in a family of very modest means.  Like many other parents in our economic situation, my parents did not want to waste a morsel of food. They didn’t like leftovers (in fact, I can’t remember even once seeing leftovers in the fridge).  I believe my parents felt that leftovers were not fresh a day or two later and they had such pride about the family meal that serving leftovers was unacceptable. Additionally, with 11 mouths to feed, my parents always seemed to worry about having enough to go around. And, they always made twice as much food as needed, and I grew to realize they prepared double food because our culture was one where people were always dropping by at the last minute for dinner, so we needed to have enough for an unexpected guest.

Fast forward to today, I became one of those adults who tended to continue to eat everything on my plate.  It seemed wrong not to do so.  It never feels good to me to leave food behind that will get tossed out, especially when hunger is a real problem in America and all over the world.  But as I’ve matured, I’ve realized it’s not good for weight management to always eat everything served.  It’s also important to have some consciousness about food resources (“waste not, want not”).  Unlike my parents, if I make a little too much food, I try to repurpose it for another recipe.  It’s still fresh to me if you use it within a couple of days.

Looking at this image, #5 caught my attention….consider this:  “Serve Just Enough”.


Over the last few years, I’ve been checking my impulses and being more conscious of preparing, serving and eating an appropriate amount of food.  I make a little extra, a ‘safety’ amount extra.  It takes a little practice to get the hang of this and not go into automatic pilot with large portions. In many ways, we live in a culture that promotes ‘excess’, so making this change to serving ‘enough’ but ‘not too much’ food might feel weird at first.  But stick with it.  You’ll get a payoff of feeling like you are following common sense.  And that feels really good.

Join me in taking a moment to think about our food resources with respect, care, and sensibility.

Please share with me any experience you have on this topic.  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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