Shared Meals Matter Blog

Mar 18th

Giving young children new meal ideas to keep your ritual fresh

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A friend of mine named Kris who lives in San Francisco recently shared a Facebook post about a “high tea” experience with her friend Wendy, and Wendy’s five year old daughter.  Her story was filled with such joy, that I wanted to share it.  Ironically, the tea shared meal they had was at a place in San Francisco called “LoveJoy’s Tea Room“.  My first thought was how wonderful for her friend’s daughter and how I would have loved to be five years old and enjoy the magic of a tea room experience. (I was well into my 40’s before I ever thought of a tea room.) Of course, it’s still magical and lovely to experience it at any age.

Kris’ story prompted me to ask myself the question: Am I being adventurous enough in my meal choices?  It’s easy to get in the habit of serving and eating a regular repertoire of meals (especially if the meals are family favorites and delicious).  And of course, that’s just fine.  But sometimes when we step out of our space, we discover a new adventure that is fresh and magical. For some people, this variety helps encourage a commitment to having a daily shared meal too.

KristeaMy experience with sharing meals with my beautiful friend Kris (pictured here on the right) is that she’s game for any meal adventure. Here’s the sweet story she shared with me. And the picture (left) is of her friend Wendy and her daughter Emily.  I’ll leave the details to Kris’ fine storytelling here….

WendyandEmily“We were thrilled for having selected the place we did because the charm factor was off the charts! There was a line up waiting to be seated when we arrived at 11am (fortunately, we had a reservation). The inside was like something out of a story book. Each table was set up with an eclectic compilation of every imaginable china pattern. Out table had a sign on it that said “Reserved for the Queens”. My friend’s daughter thought that it was the greatest thing ever. (I knew Emily was going to be wearing a pink dress, so I made a point to dress in something kind of frilly & pink… my ‘urban tea party’ get up).

They give you menus with a bunch of different ways to order your tea services (different food & tea parings) – all the traditional favorites…scones w/clotted cream & jam, crumpets w/lemon curd, every conceivable type of finger sandwich… and they had other options on the menu to order a la carte. They all  looked yummy. My friend Wendy and I ordered this amazing salad with greens, fresh fruit (pears, strawberries, black berries, and some orange slices) and toasted walnuts and stilton w/some balsamic dressing. And we knew we HAD to have the scones & crumpets. Wendy ordered a pot of herbal ‘wild cherry’ tea (deepish… tasted like fresh, tart cherries), I had their black vanilla bean & lavender tea, and her daughter Emily ordered the hot chocolate (served from a tea pot with that side of whip cream you see in the picture). The people serving were very pleasant – the people being served in this tiny, magical space were also pleasant – and Emily thought is was the greatest thing ever. We enjoyed a leisurely time of it – almost 2 hours – and then they bring a platter of beautiful petit fours to select to top it all off. Emily ended up with a wee stomach ache! (she doesn’t eat a lot of refined sugar, much as she loves it, so this was major overload!) The whole experience was singular and now I’m wanting to find a reason to go back… thinking of whom else I could share this fun experience with!

{P.S. I responded immediately to Kris and said, “Me! Me! I’m booking my flight now!”}

Much appreciation to my friend Kris, Wendy and Emily for this wonderful story of their experience.

Do you have a shared-meal adventure you’d like to share?  I’d love to hear about it!


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Mar 11th

Guest Blog! from Sharon Harding at Rediscovered Families

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Building Relationship Over a Cup of Tea

Gosh, we lead busy lives don’t we? So many of us are trying to maneuver through busy overcrowded schedules and it is easy to feel overwhelmed. There is so much to do and so little time. Then we are increasingly bombarded with information. Technology is amazing, but often it seems to pull us in a thousand directions at once. It’s becomes hard to focus and connect meaningfully with others.

My partner and I do not have children at home anymore. Our children are young adults making their way in the world, but we still find life is hectic. Our work schedules don’t easily mesh and if we are not careful it is all too easy to rush through our days and lose touch with each other.

Do you ever feel as if you want to get off this crazy merry go round called life and just s-l-o-w things down?

teaOne of the ways my partner and I slow down our days is to enjoy a daily tea ritual together. Almost every day we sit at the kitchen table and have a cup of tea together. During this time our devices are off and we enjoy some uninterrupted conversation.

Our teatime usually happens when we connect after work. The kettle goes on, the teapot is warmed, the tea is selected, and brewed. Then we sit with the teapot, pour out the tea and talk. I love this daily time together.

  • It gives us the chance to catch up with each other, to talk about our day with its joys and challenges.
  • It allows us to share items of interest we have read, or heard about, that day. We also talk over news items that concern us.
  • We also have the opportunity to daydream together and figure out how to make some of those dreams a reality.
  • We laugh at the antics of our cat Bilbo who often figures that this is the perfect time to get some attention from his people.

    We try to take this time together every-single-day. Even on the weekends. It is a calm oasis of peace and connection to look forward to each day. It is also something that has really helped our relationship.


1. It Helps Grow Relationship
We all know that good communication and time together is key to any healthy relationship. It takes time and attention to keep our relationships vibrant. But it can be hard to find that time. All too often the days slip by and you suddenly realize that it has been weeks, or even months, since you connected meaningfully. Enjoying a daily ritual of connection and conversation simplifies things and makes it easy to spend time together.

2. It Helps Keep Us Grounded
The craziness of my days sometimes leaves me feeling fragmented and pulled in a dozen directions. Our daily tea ritual helps to ground me and reminds me of what is really important. It is so helpful to stop for a while every day.

3. It Demonstrates Love
I really appreciate the fact that my partner puts aside this time every day to be with me. It is so easy to say, “I love you,” but if our actions don’t match our words we send mixed messages. The fact that my partner shows up every day for tea demonstrates that he values me and wants to be a part of my life. That is a wonderful testimony to his love. What a gift!

4. It Is Good For Us
I have found that our conversations over tea deepen our relationship and create intimacy. Human beings are wired for intimacy and connection, but this seems to be harder and harder to find in today’s fast paced world. Taking time everyday to connect meaningfully is really good for our emotional and mental well-being.

Today, many families deal with overcrowded schedules, long work hours, and the ever-increasing distraction of technology. It is all too easy to end up feeling harried and disconnected from loved ones. Developing a daily ritual is a simple way to help us make time for those we love. In our house this connection occurs over a shared cup of tea (and evening meals). You can develop your own rituals. It doesn’t have to be a tea, connection can happen over a glass of water, or milk and cookies. But if you make a point of sitting down and talking together everyday you will build a strong relationship. And that is a precious gift of love.

I so appreciate the work Carol Archambeault is doing at the The Shared-Meal Revolution to help families connect over meals. I believe she has an important message in our increasingly disconnected society.

I’d love to hear from you. What daily rituals help you connect with your family?

Sharon Harding is a trained educator and mother to 3 adult children. She blogs at Rediscovered Families
<> where she writes about building relationship and creating deep connections with your children. Photo credits: Creative Commons at Flickr / photographer Simon Law

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Mar 4th

Why not add a theme to your meal? Guest blogger Jen Burns from shares her story

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As I mention in my book, creating themed meals can help bring a lot of fun to a shared meal. As you will read below from guest blogger Jen Burns, it can create a beautiful memory.

Jen Burns from shared her story about an “Asian Themed Night” that her family shared recently.  I thought this story was so special, I had to share it with you.

Here’s Jen’s story:


This past month, my family had the privilege of celebrating two birthdays: our oldest turned 17 and our middle daughter turned 12. Their birthdays are just a few days apart, and they wanted to invite a few family members and friends over for a meal together. With the Chinese New Year being on Jan. 31, it was perfect for a theme that would be a little out of the ordinary for us.

Trying to keep it simple, yet, still make it a special night, we did the following few things to add some oriental flavor to our supper time. We did an “Asian Themed Night” (not necessarily for a particular country).

Using 6 simple categories, we were able to easily turn our supper into a special memory.

1. Music: We played some instrumental Chinese music while preparing the food, and then once the party was underway, my kids put on some of their favorite k-pop (Korean pop music). It was fun having the more calming music to start the evening, and then end with “Fantastic Baby!”

2. Food: We do not make much oriental food at our house because one of our children has a soy allergy. So for this special night we prepared his food separately, and made sure he didn’t eat around any of the soy sauce and oriental seasonings that were being used. With that taken care of, we were able to make a buffet of wontons, spring rolls, sushi, fried rice, and sweet and sour chicken. We also picked up some chow mein and some rice noodles at the Asian store we just happened to find on the afternoon of our party. Lucky find! Cooking the food took almost 2 hours, and was a natural way to spend time together. My favorite time of the night was watching my six kids and their aunts sitting around the table wrapping wontons, teasing back and forth and laughing.


3. Decorations: simple and frugal was in my mind as I thought through what to use for decor. We made a centerpiece with chopsticks from the Asian market, a happy birthday balloon, craft style “take out boxes” I found at a yard sale a few weeks ago, and fortune cookies that I picked up from our local Dollar Tree. My daughter also looked up how to write “Happy Birthday” in Chinese, writing it on a red dry erase board for the dining room wall. These simple additions stayed up for a few days after the party, as we continued to use the chopsticks with our following meals. (By the way, we are disasters with chopsticks. I think it would a great weight loss technique for our family. 🙂

4. Activity: One thing that was very simple and fun was to open our fortune cookies and talk about them. It turned out quite entertaining. Also, my husband, Mike, and our younger kids made dessert sushi with a Fruit roll up, rice crispy treat filling, and gummy worms. Rolled and cut into sushi type pieces, it was quite sweet, sticky, and yummy!


5. Prizes: with our family together to celebrate birthdays, the “prizes” were our children’s gifts. It was so fun to watch them open their cards and gifts from their friends and family. Celebrating another year with these two blessings was a great way to end the night.

6. Photos: We grabbed a few photos from the night. Here is our sushi and our centerpiece.

Hopefully this encourages you that themed nights can be simple and frugal. Just being a little more intentional with your meal can make it a fun and lasting memory for your family.


If you are interested in more intentional parenting encouragement, Jen blogs weekly at I read her blogs and they are quite good. She would love to continue to connect with you there. Jen is also an author of three children’s ebooks, her latest one being More Than Things: A Children’s Book about Gifts. She also has a new book for parents called Helping Your Kids Be Creative and Change Their World.

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