Shared Meals Matter Blog

Apr 30th

Shared meals starting (very) young

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About a month ago I posted a picture of my niece (in-law), Liz. Every week of her pregnancy, she created a weekly chalkboard drawing highlighting how big the baby is at that week (using food references).  This picture was posted yesterday, 1 day before she gave birth (although the baby was considered a little past 38 weeks, per the doctor).


Here’s a recent picture last week of CJ and Liz (did I mention Liz is a photographer?)

CJandLizAnd just yesterday, Liz gave birth to their son…

Meet…Thayer James Archambeault

ThayerJamesLiz and CJ have a shared meal every day together and can’t wait to have meals with Thayer, too.

Whether the mother is breastfeeding or the mother/father bottlefeed their child, that is really their first shared meal. What could be sweeter?  I recommend starting to treat meal times for the child as a sacred event right from the start, in a relaxing and joyful environment, and incorporating at least one meal a day as the baby/toddler grows to create childhood shared meal experiences, and lifelong habits.

My brother Carl (who is also my twin) is such a proud Grandpa!

Thayer weighed in at 7 lbs, 11 oz. Liz had a very quick delivery; she entered the hospital after her water broke around 3pm and the baby delivered at 5:14pm.

CJ and Liz are from Green Bay, WI, so he’s already styling in his Packers outfit–love the little cheesehead on top of his cap!ThayerGreenBay

Congratulations to Carl and Liz, and every new parent welcoming a new baby into their family.

If you’d like to read more about the importance of sharing meals, and get tips to help you start a shared-meal plan for your family, visit my site here: The Shared-Meal Revolution


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Apr 22nd

Does your dining space need a makeover?

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My friend Angela, a part-time design guru, recently helped me redecorate my entire home.  Because sharing meals is an important activity and priority in my lifestyle, it was especially important to me to redesign the dining space.

Here is the dining table and chairs I had been using. Nothing wrong with this table at all, really. I liked this table because it was round, white and classic. It extended to fit about 6 people comfortably. I liked the chairs because I found them at a flea market and painted them a very pale lavender, and re-covered them with different pattern/materials, so that was fun to do.  I had many wonderful shared meals here with friends and family, but this dining space and decor was feeling kind of ‘tired’ to me. It didn’t reflect the vibrancy and passion I feel about sharing meals, and the space was very awkward to use because it was narrow:


So my good friend Angela and I set out to bring my shared-meal space back to a renewed energy.  We had to come up with a different plan to use the existing carpet, paint, and space (long and narrow) to create a fabulous space. She led the way with some great ideas on how to use the space (I must give her the majority of the credit, because she deserves it!)  We worked with what I wanted the space to be: bright, cheerful, happy, inviting, welcoming, loving, modern, and a little bit of shine….

Here are some pictures of my new space!

dining space

NOTE: what you see pictured here is modestly-priced items (many IKEA) and DIY projects.

We decided to use a long extended black table and to put it against the wall to create more room for people/chairs (the table can be pulled into the center of the space with seats for people on all sides of the table for larger parties).


chairWe matched with white leather chairs (sturdy, comfortable, very reasonably priced! convenient – slide in/out easily). I just love these chairs and you can sit and enjoy dinner conversation for an extended period of time because they are so supportive for the back.  The carpet was not something I would typically have selected, but my friend Angela convinced me that it would add vibrancy and energy to the room, and it surely did!

We put some fabric over canvas, and created some color with the silk flowers in the corner:


Angela created this framed art – it was simple:  mosaic, round mirror glued on a square mirror, painted matting, and framed in white:



We added a little more color (and some nature) with these great terrarium bowls and filled them with lemons:









Next came a little artwork:

This colorful one symbolizes people working together (a must for a successful shared-meal ritual) and the beauty of coming into the ‘light’.  It’s joyful to me (which is what I was looking for in my dining space.)

This other image (right)  is a newly framed picture I have of my mother as a young woman (she’s top row,  on left) and my maternal grandparents from Italy.  I find it’s sweet to include pictures of people you once shared meals with into your dining space.

As I write in my book, The Shared-Meal Revolution, the quality of the environment where you share meals can make a huge difference in the experience, whether you are eating in your own home, someone else’s, outside, or at a restaurant.

You can create your home dining space to look any way you like it (casual, formal, colorful, neutral, exciting, relaxed, etc.) The most important detail is to ask yourself….”Does it reflect the personalities of the people who gather here?” 

I feel SO blessed to have my dining space updated, refreshed and renewed!  My kids love the new space too and we are making some wonderful shared-meal memories in this space.  I think we linger a little longer than usual because it feels so bright and welcoming and we love to share our time together here.

What about your dining space?

Are you happy with the way your dining space currently is?  Does it reflect the love and the people who share meals together here?  If not, what could you do to create a refreshed look for your dining space? Please share your thoughts, ideas, and feel free to ask any questions!

If you’d like to learn more about the importance of sharing meals, and The Shared-Meal Revolution, please click here for more information about my book project: The Shared-Meal Revolution
P.S. In a future blog, I’ll be sharing tips to help create a positive dining environment for your shared meals!

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Apr 16th

Round up the kids for reading, and family meal fun!

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I’m so pleased to be able to introduce a truly wonderful idea for improving literacy and creating joy at the dinner table!

It is my honor to introduce Jodie Rodriguez from Growing Book by Book. She shares with me information about her Family Dinner Book Club in our conversation below. Take a look at what she and her partners are doing to promote shared meals and literacy!

Familydinnerbookclub2Carol: How did you come up with the idea of the Family Dinner Book Club?
Jodie: Last year I did a series called Table Topics which were conversation starters to help get kids talking at the dinner table.  It was so successful that I wanted to build off of that project. I searched for a few partners in the project and Jill from Enchanted Homeschooling Mom volunteered to do the table decoration craft end and Sarah from Daisy at Home agreed to do the menu planning. I’m always looking for ways to incorporate literacy into family activities.  I’m also a strong believer in family dinners.  So, this seemed like a perfect fit.

Carol: How are the books selected?
Jodie: The collaborators of the project (Jill, Sarah and myself) brainstorm titles.  We also take recommendations from those participating in the project.  We took a poll of those participating and they requested that we alternate between a picture book and chapter book each month.  We are always tweaking the project to fit the needs of the participants.

Carol: I endorse any shared-meal plan where people collaborate in the various activities. Does your plan offer ways for everyone to get involved?
Jodie: Most definitely!  Sarah does a great job with the menu.  She offers advice for getting the kids involved in meal preparation.  Jill suggests lots of hands on activities for decorating the dinner table.

familydinnerbookclubbuttonCarol: It sounds like so much fun! How often does the Family Dinner Book Club take place?
Jodie: On the 1st of each month we announce the new book.  We alternate between picture books and chapter books.  On the 15th of every month we share the menu, table decoration ideas and conversation starters.  Participants are encouraged to read throughout the month.  If it is a picture book, it can be read several times.  For chapter books, many read a chapter a night.  All families decide on what night works best for their Family Dinner Book Club sometime during the month.  Most hold their club the last week of the month.  We also have a Family Dinner Book Club Facebook page where we offer support and share throughout the month.

Familydinnerbookclub1Carol: Sounds like your plan allows for a lot of flexibility, and because every family is unique, that’s really helpful.  What I also love about it is that the creativity involved in the themes of the book offers so much inspiration. What kind of feedback have you been hearing so far from the families, especially the kids?
Jodie: It’s been fabulous.  I love to see how families tweak it to fit their needs.  One family turned it into a book club for friends and family.  They all meet on a Saturday to discuss.  When we featured the book, The Day the Crayons Quit, a family wrote and said they spent hours at the table coloring and talking!  They are always so eager to know what book is coming next.  I’ve had to start giving clues to keep everyone satisfied!

Carol: Is this Book Club for kids of any age?
Jodie: Yes, it can be adapted for most ages.  The book selections are geared for 4-8 year-olds.  But, I do offer suggestions each month on how to adapt for younger and older children.

Carol: How can people follow you, find out more and join in the fun?
Jodie: The best way to follow along is either by visiting the Growing Book by Book blog Family Dinner Book Club page or the Family Dinner Book Club Facebook page.

Carol: What book are you working on this month in April?
Jodie:  We just announced details for Xander’s Panda Party filled with imaginative ideas, menus, and table decorations. Check it out here: Xander’s Panda Party April Book Club Selection

Has this conversation inspired you to join in?  If so, please check out Jodie’s website, along with her partners Jill and Sarah. [Links above!]

Congratulations on this fabulous work!

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