Shared Meals Matter Blog

Jul 17th

Technology Addiction Hurting your Children? [Science says it is.] Here’s One (Easy and Effective) Habit to Help!

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Every time I’m on social media I see one post after another about how you can’t be in any type of social space (concerts, parks, birthday parties, restaurants, museums, etc….) without seeing obvious signs of technology addiction. When we’re gathering we’re near-silent with virtually no mental or emotional investment in our surroundings.  This common scene is kind of disheartening, don’t you think?

Why be together if you’re not really present?

techdinnertable

So when I saw this recent NY Times article about Technology Addiction and Children, I knew I had to write this blog to offer a reminder about the growing problem of our devices invading our space, and to help you be aware of how this overuse of technology actually can hurt you, and your children. [Science says it’s true.]

As this article says, too much dependence and overuse of technology can significantly affect emotional behavior (such as causing kids to feel lonely and depressed), contribute to unhealthy weight gain (for example, snacking mindlessly to marathon-play Minecraft), and leave children without the ability to learn how to handle their emotions (feeling, thinking, responding to real life situations).  Studies show that too much tech use can also cause kids to lose the ability to focus and develop critical thinking skills.  Kids need to practice actually having conversation to learn to express their thoughts and ideas (and take the time to reflect upon what their ideas are in the first place).

When we’re with others in person without the distraction of technology we can experience all the nuances of communication like noticing body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. Otherwise, we might as well all look and act the same, and mechanically interact like “Master Chief” from Halo.

MasterChief

This problem is real. And it’s hardly just a problem for kids!  (Ask any parent or adult who is coping with their own tech use.)

But still–many of us deny this is an issue and consider constant tech presence a way of life.  

But is it really the way life has to be?   —-    Nope, actually it’s not.

A very logical and practical antidote to technology addiction is to share 1 meal a day.

Come out of the virtual clouds and be with someone you love!

techboy

When you think about it, sharing one meal a day is a pretty simple way to address this problem.

If you have just one shared meal a day you are helping to offset many negative effects that technology addiction can cause.  You are preserving your bond with someone you love, preserving your ability to focus, solve problems, and regulate your emotions. [These are not small things! Wouldn’t you agree?]

Making space for just one shared meal a day won’t keep people from powering up in every social situation, but it will provide us all a baseline of social skills that this society can’t afford to lose.

Here’s a few final tips to help you get started:

  • Set a time to talk about tech boundaries in your household (what are some reasonable boundaries you can create right away…today?)
  • Develop a shared-meal plan that allows you to share at least 1 meal a day (breakfast, lunch, dinner…it doesn’t matter which!)
  • Keep your devices away from the dining space (so you can converse and enjoy each other’s company).
  • Take a moment to consider if you really need to check that email the next time you are at a concert, birthday party, or any social event.  (Ask yourself, “Can it wait? Chances are, it can.)

techfree.jpg

If you’d like to read more about creating a shared-meal plan for your family, feel free to visit my website at www.shared-meals.  I’d love to chat with you and hear about your experiences in helping to preserve connection with people you love.

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May 9th

Mother’s Day: We’re getting wiser about how to be good mothers

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When growing up, I saw my mother, Elizabeth, working tirelessly—24/7 (and I say this with no exaggeration)—to show her dedication to her kids and family. I truly, greatly, deeply appreciate all she did.

But I also learned that being a good mother is not about sacrifice.

It’s about modeling loving behaviors.

I feel my mother was so busy orchestrating the moments for us, insisting on doing all the work on her own, she missed out on fully experiencing some of those moments.

That makes me sad for her. Unfortunately for my mother and the family that loved her, she developed Alzheimer’s disease shortly after retiring, so she didn’t get to take the trips she always planned to take back to Italy, or have time to just ‘be’.

One of the things my mother participated in most fully, and with all her heart, was our shared meals.  These times together nourished our bodies, but also fed our hearts with loving connection.

My mother’s legacy was helping us build a strong family over the dinner table.  It was the most important activity in our home, and was/is with my family too.  It’s the go-to haven where we fill up our bellies and souls and stop the world long enough to truly appreciate that we are fully alive, and we have each other’s support to make the often bumpy road of life a little smoother.

What’s helping mothers to be wiser is that we are realizing that we do not have to do it all.

There are helping hands all around us. We just need to ask.

Getting everyone involved in the process of sharing a meal — from picking out the dishes you’ll make, shopping for the ingredients, cooking the actual meal, preparing the dining space in which you’ll eat–is helping mothers be able to enjoy the experience much more.

And, it’s modeling loving behavior by teaching your kids about working together, and staying connected every day.

familyprepmeal

Mothers are realizing that keeping it simple, and keeping it real, is the way to go.

Ask for help from your family members.
Don’t even try to make a meal for the family every day on your own. Everyone helping just a little makes a daily shared meal  possible.

Simplify meal planning.
A lovely plate of spaghetti, or a hearty soup and salad, is all that is needed for a complete and satisfying meal.

Keep tech boundaries.
There’s a time and place for everything, but let’s turn off the devices so you can appreciate the moment of being together in person.

Make 1 daily shared meal a priority (over any other activity)
The power and benefits of sharing meals is so important to healthy development in both the short and long run that reducing even one activity in your schedule to accommodate a shared meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner – doesn’t matter which meal) is the best thing you can do for your family.

Wise mothers today know they can’t do it all, and they’re not going to try.  They ask for help.  They participate fully in the experiences they are creating with their families. And they teach their children the legacy of love through creating and sharing meals.

Don’t wait for Mother’s Day one time a year to be spoiled!

Spoil yourself, and your family, all  year long with a daily shared-meal ritual.

Happy Mother’s Day!

eatingtogetherfamily

*****

If you’d like to learn more about the many benefits you and your family receive when sharing a daily meal, and resources to building a shared-meal plan in your home, please visit my website.

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Apr 4th

Would YOU secretly hack your own family’s tech devices?

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I love how technology can help us to grow together in new ways.  This device (created in Australia by a company called Domila) is called a “Pepper Hacker.”   It’s a sneaky but effective way to help families realize that there is a time and place for technology, and a shared meal is not the place for your family’s tech devices.

How can you connect with people at your shared meal if you’re distracted and immersed in a virtual experience?

Take a look at the video (below) and please share your point of view!

  • Do you think it’s rude for people to use technology at the dinner table?
  • Would you use a Pepper Hacker device to try to control your family’s tech devices?
  • What are your tech practices when sharing a meal? 

My opinion is this is a good way to call attention to the issue and help start a dialogue about keeping your shared meals a “tech free zone”.   It’ll at least give everyone a taste of a tech-free shared-meal experience (something they may not have had in years!) Hopefully, this new experience will be more rewarding and the “Pepper Hacker” will become obsolete!

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Jan 26th

Marja and Eric – giving their all to make people happy

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My son, John, told me a few months ago about how a childhood friend, Marja, had moved to Wisconsin to open a restaurant with her husband. Both my son and I were really impressed how his friend and her husband followed their instincts about creating a happy life for themselves from California all the way to Wisconsin. They now have a life that is hard work, but also full of joy, inspiration, and shared meals.

Here is Marja’s and Eric’s story (plus a delicious pie recipe!):

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When my husband and I arrived at what is now The Cabin Restaurant in scenic Door County, Wisconsin, we had a moment.

We had just signed our lives over for our dream– to own a restaurant in the beautiful area of the country where we had honeymooned just a short year before. We looked at each other, smiling as my husband put the key in the lock. He turned it.

It didn’t open.

It was the key for the back door.
We walked around.

The first few years were hard. Really hard. I remember being afraid to go check the mail because I knew there were so many bills we couldn’t pay. But every year it got better, and during winter (our off-season) I learned how to cook. First I learned chili, then split pea soup. I learned how to cook a ribeye on the grill, and how to broil fish. Then I tackled what is now my trademark– scratch made, decadent desserts. I definitely had pride for myself that I needed to get through the tough times.

Whenever I get down on myself, or start to feel sorry for myself for never getting a Saturday night off or a paycheck or whatever– I remind myself that I’m in the business of giving my all to make people happy. I’m not an E.R. doctor, I’m a baker. Seeing people enjoy a meal with their spouses, neighbors, or friends is such a joy. Often I can hear them raving about their favorite meals at other restaurants while they happily  eat their meal here. I feel lucky to spread joy in such a way.

So, I’m sharing with you a very unique recipe that I think you and your friends and family will greatly enjoy. A sweet and citrus-y pie, my Shaker Lemon Pie will brighten a summer evening or even a cold winter night. Please enjoy.

ShakerLemonPie

Marja’s Shaker Lemon Pie Recipe (and signature killer crust)

Day before: Wash 3 lemons and zest them. Peel a total of 6 lemons, and chop, making sure to remove seeds. Leaving them at room temperature for a few hours (or running hot water over them) helps.

Place in a small bowl and add 2 cups sugar. Cover and let sit in refrigerator overnight.

Killer crust:

In medium to large bowl, whisk together 2 1/2 c flour, 1/4 c sugar, and 1/2 t salt.

Using your hands, mix in 1/2 cup shortening until fully incorporated. Add 1/2 cup unsalted butter, using fingertips to break butter apart leaving some bits rather large, pea sized or larger.

Measure 100ml cold water in a measuring cup. Add 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar.

Pouring at the edges of flour mixture, add water in 3 stages. Mix dough in between each addition. It should come together. Add additional water in very small amounts if dough is dry.

Divide mix until two balls. Wrap each ball in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Place in fridge to rest for at least 20 minutes while you prepare filling.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Filling: Place lemon-sugar mixture in food processor and pulse until it’s broken up.

In medium bowl, beat 3 eggs. Melt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter and slowly whisk into eggs. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add lemon mix and 4 tablespoons flour (all purpose is fine. I have good luck with tapioca flour as well) and set aside while you roll out your crust.

When crusts are ready, fill pie and crimp edges. Brush crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Cut slits to vent.

I place foil strips around pie edges– my Shaker Lemon Pie seems to brown very quickly. You can skip this and cover edges (carefully!) later if your pie becomes too brown too early.

Bake at 425 for 15 minutes and turn down oven to 350 to cook for an additional 30 minutes, removing foil strips (if using) halfway through.

Serve pie with sweetened freshly whipped cream.

Cheers and happy eating!

******

NOTE: If you ever find yourself in Door County, Wisconsin, please pay Marja and Eric a visit and enjoy their delicious food and pies! Click on this link to visit The Cabin!

 

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Jan 21st

The State of the Union…(around our dining tables!)

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Hearing President Obama’s State of the Union address made me think about taking care of our values and priorities in our homes.

It also made me wonder about how we are doing with the ‘State of the Union’ around our dining tables.

The final part of the President’s speech focused on values – what we want American culture to represent.   We’ll have to leave the work of getting America’s priorities in order to Mr. Obama and the 535 members of Congress, but we can work on our own ‘State of the Union” – how we are joining with others to fulfill our personal values, priorities…and enjoy unity with each other.

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What’s the current ‘State of the Union’ at your dining table?

A. I’m so focused on getting things done, I don’t have the luxury to think about having a meal with other people. Many times I feel disconnected from my own life.

or

B. There’s always something else to do, but I don’t let that get in my way. I plan a time once a day (any meal, it doesn’t matter) to be sure I’m connecting with people I care about.

If your answer is A., don’t worry.

You’re like many of us who have struggled to find time to share meals with others. But, when you don’t share meals together, you are missing out on one of the most joyful and life-balancing activities you could do! And research shows that shared-meals offer benefits in many areas including social, psychological, physical, academic, cultural-ethnic, spiritual, and creative. So don’t miss out! (Read more about these benefits in my book!)

The very good news is that once you start identifying what your values and priorities are in terms of meal sharing, you can improve your dining table ‘State of the Union’.  It’s all about aligning your values with your actions.

Here are a few steps to get you started:

1)  Determine how many times you are gathering for a shared meal. [See my website for a free 2-week Frequency Survey you can print and use.]

2) Gather your family members (or spouse, or friends) and outline the kind of shared-meal plan you would like to create with those in your shared-meal circle [See pages 103-107 in my book “The Shared-Meal Revolution” to help guide you in your discussion, and for a choice of 2 shared-meal planning templates.]

3) Support your new shared-meal plan by using available resources (such as the free ones on my website) to reinforce your daily ritual.

I’d love to hear about how your dining table ‘State of the Union’ is developing  Feel free to write to me at carol@shared-meals.com and tell me how it’s going! I’m happy to answer any questions or give you advice as well.  It’s my mission to help families and people everywhere connect one time a day over a shared meal. 

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Nov 25th

“What If….?” Give yourself permission to have a “holiday” meal every day

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We really don’t have to limit ourselves to 3 or 4 truly wonderful meals a year.

 

Shortly after Halloween, people start getting energy about the holiday season approaching.

One of the activities that people spend a lot of time and energy on is gathering together for holiday meals.

It’s this time of year when people are most cooperative…

“What can I bring?”

“How can I help?”

“Would you like me to cook something?”

“What time works for everyone’s schedule?”

 

It’s pretty amazing, right?

familystays

Although holiday meals require people to plan and do some ‘work’ for the meal, in general, the spirit of these meals are cooperative, and open.

There’s a feeling of anticipation.

The mood is lighthearted.

There’s a feeling of welcoming and inclusion.

People gathered are civil and respectful.

There’s gratitude flowing for taking the time to be together to share the meal, and experience.

What if… these thoughtful, cooperative habits were continued throughout 365 days of the year?

What if… we had at least 1 meal a day with someone we care about in which we bring that same great spirit of cooperation, joy and connection?

What if…we gave ourselves permission to have a “holiday” meal each and every day?

Don’t you feel you deserve it?  I know I do.

And I know you deserve it too.

 

Life should not be just about work and obligations.  We need to feel connection with others, and experience one time a day when we are caring for ourselves too.

We can provide that all around caring by sharing a meal, once a day.

loveis

Many people reading this post will think it’s insane to consider doing this, but the truth is, it is not.

It’s totally achievable to start (or renew) a shared-meal ritual in your home that will provide you with a daily dose of Thanksgiving.

It only requires your desire to stay connected with others in meaningful, consistent ways, and with the plan of pitching in to help each other.

It’s really that simple.

When you create a plan that’s right for you, it won’t feel like 360+ days of work.  You’ll feel alive and joyful.

***

If you’d like to learn more about joining The Shared-Meal Revolution, see my book here, and check out my website resources for helpful info.  You can also write to me at carol@shared-meals.com any time. I’d love to hear from you!

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Nov 11th

“Give Beets a Chance”

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Beets!

I just love them.

How about you?

 

My kids have commented they “taste like dirt” to which I always reply,  “OK…I accept that…they are earthy…”   Beets aren’t for everyone, but you won’t know until you try them!

beets

The glorious, rich colors (especially the traditional red) make me downright giddy, and more importantly they are super healthy...

Here are a few great reasons to feature beets on your shared-meal menu.  They are…

  • Nutrient rich (calcium, magneisum, fiber, folate to name just a few)
  • Cleanse your body of toxins
  • Help prevent chronic diseases
  • Encourage positive mental health, and regulate nerve cell activity

 

Try these fabulous, versatile beet recipes from Family Focus Blog – there’s everything from beet burgers to beet fudgesicles (that’s right!)

 

Introducing a variety of vegetables to your shared-meal table helps children develop their palate through getting to try a wide variety of tastes and textures. Sometimes people don’t care for a vegetable one time, but at a later time it becomes their new favorite.   

Beets are delicious served in cube shapes in salad or as a side dish. The color makes them attractive to work with, too.

beets2

In the immortal spirit of John Lennon, please join me in saying…

“Give Beets a Chance”

*****

If you’d like to learn more about making healthy eating a part of your shared-meal practice, visit my website for more information, or write to me at carol@shared-meals.com.

 

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Nov 5th

Go ahead and say it. Life is hard sometimes.

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Recently I participated in a book event. While having conversations with people in attendance about the importance of sharing a meal one time a day, many people commented about how complex life has become.

As I told the nice people I met this day, I wholeheartedly agree that life has become more complex, in a million different ways.

Life being so complex is the very reason I wrote my book.

My mission is to help people address the complexities of their schedules and lifestyles so they can give themselves the gift of a daily shared meal.

My book The Shared-Meal Revolution doesn’t pretend that the challenges we all face in getting meals together don’t exist, but rather provides a new way to address the challenges, and look at the shared-meal experience and various related activities as an investment in ourselves, our families, and communities.

It’s about people working together.  Cooperatively, and with a plan.

Not trying to navigate the ever-increasing complexity by sheer will power.

And not by assuming that women are the default producers of meals.

I read an article in TIME magazine recently about science-based ways to be happier. One  idea that caught my eye was this:

“Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to well being.”

Let’s collectively acknowledge that getting a meal on the table every day, breakfast, lunch, dinner, for your family, your kids, your friends, your neighbors…whatever your circumstances may be, does have its challenges.

But creating a shared-meal ritual, one time a day, is possible.

eatingtogetherfamily

Practicing a daily shared-meal ritual brings you many benefits that you enjoy year over year including psychological stability in our complex, often fragmented world, and a comforting feeling of connection.  Taking the time to share a meal every day makes life feel more simple.

All you need do is turn on the TV any day to how our world is full of partisanship and divide.

Sharing a meal daily is one workable way we can come together for the common good.

Join me.

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If you’d like to learn more about addressing obstacles in your life that keep you from sharing meals with others, see The Shared-Meal Revolution (book) or visit my website. You can also reach me at carol@shared-meals.com with any questions or comments.

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Oct 22nd

Shonda Rhimes describes finding her “happy”…do you know how to find yours?

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Anti-depressants are on the rise. In this article by Harvard Health, the National Center for Health Statistics show that there was a 400% increase in anti-depressant use by adults (defined as ages 12 and older) between the years 1988-1994 and 2005-2008.   So sad to see “ages 12″ included in this statistic.  I fully recognize that there are people (including in my own family) who have a medical need for anti-depressants,  but I do wonder if with the support of our doctors we could try harder at natural remedies first.  It couldn’t hurt, right?

For many of us, we can ask ourselves some questions such as…

What is our lifestyle? (Is there balance or chaos?)

How do we spend our time? (Do we spend the most time on our priorities?)

How do we care of ourselves? (What daily habits do we practice to care for our bodies and hearts?)

How do we find our “happy”

Sometimes friends call me “PractiCarol” and that comes from the fact that I am quite practical about most life matters.  Growing up, my father told me frequently that there’s really no secret formula to living healthy.  Just live a very ordinary life in order to live extraordinarily well.

My father said if you want to feel happy, do these things every day…

happywoman

  • Get enough sleep
  • Spend some time outside, breath in the fresh air
  • Find something to do around the house or neighborhood that exerts you physically
  • Challenge yourself mentally by doing things like reading a book, or completing a challenging crossword puzzle
  • Don’t chase after one fad diet after another; choose whole foods and eat in moderation
  • Spend time in conversation with people you love, every day.

wholefoods

On the topic of finding your “happy”, I was reminded about an interview of Shonda Rhimes, fabulously talented writer/producer/creator of some amazing television shows including “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder.”  Shonda is someone presumably with as much money as a person could want, and a high level of professional achievement and career success.  But she didn’t say money and success made her happy.

Look at what Shonda said about finding her “happy”:

“I saw my happy. Or, actually, I was made to see it. I was having dinner with a group of close friends, a lot of us around a table, talking late into the night. There were candles on the table and we had so much wine and perfect cheese. Stories were told that began with ‘remember that time when. . .’ and we laughed until we cried. And there was a moment for me when the food was eaten and the chairs were pushed back and I was leaning to blow out a candle, a moment when I just . . . paused. I looked around the table at the faces of my loved ones, and I was hit with a realization. This is what happy looks like.”

eatingwithothers

Like Shonda, I agree that “This is what happy looks like.” That’s why I find my happy every day by following the advice of my very wise father, and especially through spending time in conversation, sharing meals with people I care about.

I make sharing meals a part of my life for my health, and happiness.

How do you find your happy?

If you’d like to learn more how to connect with people you love by creating a shared-meal plan, pick up my book, “The Shared-Meal Revolution” and visit my website.  Any questions?  Just write me at carol@shared-meals.com. I’d love to hear from you!

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Oct 15th

5 easy ways to create workplace “power lunches”

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Sharing meals is not just about traditional families.  We create families in many environments. And since many people live alone, a great way to get their one daily shared meal is through the relationships they nurture at the office.

I’ve got a few ideas that will help you use the opportunity of a shared lunch (or breakfast) to help keep you refreshed during the day, and feeling connected with other human beings. Aren’t you done with that routine of eating a sandwich with one hand while you answer emails in your office cave? Who wants to spend 8+ hours in the office feeling isolated and glued to their computer and phones?

desk

Here are some tips to help you refresh and “power up” your happiness during the workday.

1. Invite someone new to share a meal with you.
You don’t have to go to lunch with the same people every day.  It’s refreshing to get a break from the faces of people in your immediate department. Why not invite someone you met at a meeting last week, or someone who works in a part of the company that has intrigued you, or even a former colleague who works nearby?

2. Stick to your plans
It’s easy to let a work issue bump your lunch plans, and that’s going to happen, but reserve the cancellations happen only when they are truly urgent.

3. Take turns choosing where you’ll go for lunch
Taking turns helps keep the ritual fun and fresh. When someone else picks, you’re more likely to discover a new place you never knew has the best pad thai in town. Sometimes when it’s my turn,  I’ll opt for getting outdoors on a patio or at a nearby park. Since you want to maximize the time you have outdoors,  plan ahead and bring a salad or sandwiches.  Keep a blanket  in the trunk of your car so no one’s work clothes get grass stains. You might get comments like, “We don’t have enough time for a picnic” but if you plan ahead, you’ll be soaking in sunshine in less time than you might have been  fighting in traffic to get to a restaurant.

Businesspeople Having Lunch in Park

4. Put your smartphones away
It’s so tempting to want to monitor work emails, but if something is that urgent that you can’t keep off your phone for an hour,  then reschedule lunch for a different day, or have a shared breakfast before your work day and priorities heat up.

coworkerslunch

5. Resist the shop talk
How many times have you been to lunch where someone is relentlessly gossiping, complaining, and talking shop? I’m all for helping people bounce off ideas and work through challenges, but just be careful that it doesn’t turn into a complaint-fest. The point of a shared meal is to keep connection, nurture relationships, and welcome some joy into your day.

Follow these tips and soon you’ll be enjoying a brand new kind of “power lunch”.

* * * *

If you’d like to learn more about how shared meals can help you reclaim life balance and preserve connection with others, visit my website or pick up my book The Shared-Meal Revolution by clicking here.

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