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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Beautiful Everyday Living: the dinner hour

No, this is not a post about how beautiful I think our house is (although it does have some shining features). This post is about how we bring beauty into something so simple as weekday family dinners.

All of our lives are so jam-packed with activity -- meetings, sports and dance practice, school, church activities, work (and the long commute home). These extras can pull a family apart, just at the time of day when we're needing to come together.

What we all really need is a pause, a time to enjoy our families, a good meal, and the homes that we've taken the time to make special and unique.

Beautiful everyday living is our family's way of savoring the moment, and in this case, the weekday family dinner.

For the last month, we've been having our family dinners in the formal dining room. It's such a perfect place for dinner. There are no visual distractions, such as pots and pans, a pile of mail, or schoolbooks. Those distractions only serve to remind us that we need to hurry up so we can get back to the work of life.

Well, why is it so important that those dishes get done ASAP? Why do I really need to go through the day's mail this very minute? Most of the time, I can afford a few extra minutes to listen to my family, and hear how their day went. The dishes and mail can wait. My family is growing up and will only be here, in our home, for a little while longer. I say, make the family the priority, not the distractions.

The dining room is not only a peaceful respite for us all to gather 'round, but the table itself is a nice, generous size. We have this to thank my son for. He and his friends gather here every Sunday evening, for game night. And they like the space of an extra leaf in the table.

This is fantastic for our family dinners. A little extra space always feels like a luxury. For quick breakfasts and lunches, the smaller kitchen table is just about right (although, I caught one of my daughters in the dining room with her breakfast oatmeal earlier this week. She said it's just so much nicer in the dining room -- Agreed!) At the dining room table, we all have much more elbow room. No accidentally kicking my daughter every time I cross my legs under the table.

I don't worry about spills and mishaps in the dining room. There's a sealed wood floor, with no rug, underneath the table. I use cloth placemats for every day, which are very washable, and require no ironing. And the table and chairs themselves, I don't worry over, as this set is 47 years old (or young, however you look at it). My parents bought this set in 1966, and it has seen many years of wear already. It is still holding together quite well.

To enhance the beauty of dining everyday, I use cloth napkins. They're so much nicer to the touch. When I'm shopping for cloth napkins for everyday use, I look either for a print or a dark solid, as both will conceal stains well. When my son and friends get pizza, I make sure to set out my ancient (bought 30 years ago) burgundy-colored cloth napkins. These napkins were a great investment. They have yet to reveal a single stain.

Lighting can either be harsh and make you want to hurry up, or it can be gentle, and make you want to linger. This time of year is perfect for the use of candles on the table. They're very flattering, gentle on the eyes, and again, add that feeling of luxury. There is just enough light outside at the dinner hour, that 2 candles are all the light we need. I buy my candles at the dollar store, so even this expense is minimal.

For nothing more than the water to fill a vase, I can have fresh blossoms on the table everyday, from now until early October. This week we have the cherry blossom branches from my pruning last weekend. I had to take some branches off, anyway, that were blocking a walkway. So I  thought, "I might as well bring them indoors to unfold their beauty".

As a mom, I find there is one more advantage to our using the dining room on a daily basis. My kids have the opportunity to exercise their manners and social graces, under my watchful, but kind eye, preparing them for occasions outside the home.


  1. Fresh flowers & cloth napkins, {sigh}, sounds wonderful!
    I love your beautiful new header photo, also!

    1. Hi Sharon,
      Sometimes I think we just need to take care of ourselves. And a nice family dinner is how I do it for me (and hopefully, the rest of the family).

      Those are our daffodils near the front door. I see them everyday when I drive up and they cheer me greatly! Just thought I'd share.

  2. I love that you use your formal dining room, and I love the table, simple yet welcoming. I too use cloth napkins and would never consider a paper one ever again! I have always thought there should be a room in a home that is each person's sanctuary, where we can leave the normal stresses behind and ground ourselves...sounds like your dining room is that space.

    1. Hi Lois,
      I love cloth napkins, too. There are so many options in patterns and colors now. I think the paper ones became popular because cloth used to mean white linen, which would need constant laundry and ironing! We use paper napkins for travel and that's about it.

      So, what's the part of your home that is your sanctuary? It is so nice to have a place to shut out the rest of the world.

  3. Ooh, love the daffodil header. Mine are up but haven't yet bloomed. We have a few piles of snow that are stubbornly clinging to our front yard. :) Someday spring will come ...

    So nice to hear of a family who actually uses their dining room regularly. We don't have one, but we do try to make the meal time a highlight of the day, a time to wind down and reconnect with each other. And eat good food, of course! Your room is lovely.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Your spring will likely be a glorious burst, with everything in bloom all at once!

      We've really been enjoying our dining room this year. Next is to actually use the living room. We tend to all congregate in the family room.

      That's wonderful that you make your dinner hour a priority. It's just nice to have the time to sit and talk and find out how everybody's day went. And sometimes, the best memories are made just gathered around the table!

  4. We only have a dining room. The kitchen is not big enough to have a place to sit. So, that means that we have to work harder to keep the dining room table cleaned off. A good thing, I think, because it's so easy for piles to accumulate. I'm sure that your family appreciates your efforts to make meals together special. We try to have a meal together on the weekends when everyone is usually home. Being away from distractions really does make a difference.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      You're right. It's work to keep the table clear! We have a family joke in our house. The kitchen table is not a table, it's a desk for 5 people! We accumulate so much stuff. For a while we had a fruit bowl on the table. But it soon became the mail bowl! I keep meaning to organize something, empty a cabinet or something, to hold everyone's table stuff (and this includes me!)
      Kudos to you and your family for keeping the table cleaned off!

  5. I use cloth napkins too. My 13 yo had a guest for dinner and she kept wiping her mouth on her sleeve. We later found out that she had thought the cloth napkins were for decoration.
    Our dining room is tiny so we don't use it but we have a huge Amish (made to order)table that is set every night in a large dining area connected to my kitchen. My dh works many evenings and is seldom home for dinner so it is my daily lesson in self discipline to sit and eat with the children. Except Sunday night, then we have popcorn and apples with peanut butter on blankets in front of the tv. I look forward to it every week even if we are watching Sponge Bob.

    1. Hi Arden,
      Oh, that must have been a curious thing, your 13 yo's friend using her sleeve for a napkin. I try to remind my son to tell his friends that they *can* use the cloth napkins that I set in a pile for them. Each week it does look like more and more of the napkins are seeing use. Maybe they're starting to feel it's okay to use them.

      I think you're doing a great job, making the family dinner, a family dinner, even when your husband can't be there. It's not easy being the only grown-up at the table! I like the idea of popcorn and apples/peanut butter. A nice, simple and memorable routine.

  6. I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog, and have nominated you for the the Liebster Award. Thanks for sharing such an informative and interesting blog with us!

    1. Hi Tracy,
      Oh wow! Thank you -- I am honored!

  7. Lili,

    Such an inspiring post-(your dining room is lovely)treating yourself and your family to enjoy the home which you have decorated and cared for is just so wise. I know your children will remember these times as will you as the years roll on-and then they in turn will do this for their families. You are creating a cherished tradition! Did I see a window in your dining room with some beautiful scenery?!
    Love your new header!!


    1. Hi Jemma,
      Thank you. I've been really enjoying sitting in there for dinner. It makes for such a relaxing dinner hour. Now to get myself to use the living room more.

      The window looks out to our front yard. The dining room is on the front of the house. And that's a camillia bush that I hope will spring forth into bloom soon. It's a bit late this year. But late is better than never, especially with flowers!

  8. Such a nice idea and a really good family tradition to set up. Our kids are still quite young so we don't eat with them every day, but eating together has so many positives. x

    1. Hi Gillian,
      I can see the merits to giving young children their own dinner, too. Your kids are still very young, and I'm sure that when John comes home from work, a nice dinner for just the two of you, is very much appreciated.

  9. All those fresh flowers sound lovely :)

    I only have one table since my place is so small, but you've inspired me to clear it off and make it a nicer place for dinnertime, even if it's just me. Since I don't have bench space in the kitchen I use the table for food prep and stuff just tends to accumulate.

    1. Hi Economies,
      When I was single, I would occasionally set my table nicely, just for me. A good deal of the time, my table was much like yours, used as spare counter space, as I lived in a small studio. It's worth the effort to do nice things for yourself, at least every once in a while. You are worth the effort!


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