Memories Beyond the Dinner Table

I believe that food has a fascinating way of connecting us.  Sitting at the dinner table with friends, family, and maybe even some people we don’t even really know very well, we are able to share experiences, foods, memories, and laughter, intermingling our personalities, stories, beliefs and preferences all into beautifully woven art.

But food is not the only way memories are made.  In fact, most of my most cherished memories as a child, the traditions I adore, and the reflections I relive, are the ones outside the dinner table… the ones where a parent, friend, mentor, or relative invested in me, connected with me and made a memory with me.  Those are the ones that make my heart warm and cozy all over.

Thanksgiving marks the season of busy.  It is the first day of a 5+ week span of crazy busy schedules, parties, shopping, activities, recitals and everything else we squeeze in.  Sometimes I think we convince ourselves that the BIG meal we spent hours preparing for or the party that took days organizing, is what we will remember.  Why?!  Likely, because of all of the effort, time, and energy we invested.

But maybe we are looking at it all wrong?

Your Thanksgiving meal may be absolutely scrumptious!  You may know all the tricks to keep your bird moist and have the best gravy recipe in town, but what types of traditions do you want to make and what lasting memories do you want to create with the ones you love, your most favorite people?

Comically, Nutrition Professionals are known for giving this health tip during the holidays, “Focus on the people, not the food.”  While their reasons may be more related to keeping the waistline trim, and prevent us from getting tangled a blanket of guilt, there is a bit of wisdom in these few words.

People- life wouldn’t be much fun without people.  We wouldn’t have memories to cherish without people.  We wouldn’t recall that funny story of when ‘Aunt Martha burned the turkey’ or ‘Uncle Ernie’s crazy lights display that lit up the entire street’ without people…people we love and cherish…people that are imperfect but add value and interest to our lives.

As a Nutrition Professional, I would love to share some ideas about how we can “focus on the people.”

If you are trying to create an amazing holiday season for your family sprinkled with fun memories…

If you are looking for some traditions to start that help you and your family remember toenJOY the season this year and for years to come…

Here are a few ideas…

Plan a Family Outdoor Activity

Growing up, every year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, all the dads would meet up at a local middle school football field and bring all their kids with them for a morning of lively touch football.  As one of the kids, it was a highlight of my holiday season.  It was such a fun time to play outside, get sweaty, and enjoy an activity with dad.  Usually, the kids would play by themselves while the dads got their game on and then towards the end, the kids would get to join in.

Now as an adult, I have helped create a tradition within our family by scheduling a family kickball game during the holidays when we are in town. Even when I was pregnant with my little girl, I got out there because I was not going to miss out on beating my teenage nephews!  If kickball isn’t your thing, there are so many fun outdoor games.  Find one that will get the most participation.  Another few ideas we have enjoyed are frisbee, soccer, and Bocce Ball– this is the perfect outdoor game regardless of athletic ability. We use it in the grass, on the beach and everywhere in-between.

Outdoor activities provide a way to connect while doing something entertaining.  It is amazing how many serious and light-hearted conversations come about during these fun outings.  Try it out!  Get planning!


Grab a Board Game

When the weather prevents outdoor activities, this is the perfect time to grab your favorite board game and challenge your guests to a game of wits!

I have seriously fond memories of playing board games with family members, a couple of times laughing until my face hurt and tears were streaming down my face.  Maybe you smile when you recall the never-ending Monopoly game you played with your cousins that year that the snow was up to the base of the windows OR all the times your ‘innocent’ Grandma beat your tail in Uno.  Board games have made a comeback in the last several years and there are some amazing strategy games that can keep your mind twirling for hours.  Some games are super fun for groups like charades, Guesstures, Buzz Word and Pictionary.  Our family’s latest love is Ticket to Ride, which has us strategizing and testing our geography skills so that your competitors can’t read your eyes.  Totally fun!

Maybe all you need is a deck of cards or two and a few willing participants. Propose a challenge and gather ‘round for a few hours of family entertainment!


Cook in the Kitchen Together

Thanksgiving Dinner was always most delicious when we all had a hand in preparing it…when were scrambling around in the kitchen for hours cooking together.  We would slide around each other in our not-so-large kitchen, grabbing for this, stirring that, tasting this and chopping that.  Mom would plan a dinner instead of a lunch so that it removed the stress of getting everything hot and on the table by noon or 1 o’clock.  My family would often put on some fun, upbeat music and sing along, reminisce, and act goofy. We were real and playful.  This was hands down, better than eating the meal.

Cooking with family members can be so much fun!  Maybe not everyone is interested in getting in the kitchen to help out, but invite those who are interested. Create a list of items that other people can take care of the day before so that when someone offers to help, you can scoot them right into your merry cooking moments.  And, don’t forget to take pictures!!


Give Words of Affirmation

After seeing a Hallmark movie several years ago, I was inspired by this idea that I absolutely adore.  In the movie, the family had a holiday tradition of anonymously writing down words of affirmation, compliments or admirations for each person in the family and putting them into a jar marked with that person’s name. Then each person would reach into their jar, pulling out a slip of paper and reading the affirmation aloud, try to figure out who had written the kind words.  While there was not any real question in who wrote those words, it was an act that demonstrated the person’s value and importance to the family members surrounding.

While I haven’t exactly instituted this tradition in our family, yet, I have begun this practice in other ways during the year, speaking verbal and written words to family members and friends.  There is simply nothing more meaningful than knowing how much you are loved and adored by the people that matter most in your life. Those few times when I can recall a compliment or encouragement, not about what I looked like or what I did, but about who I was, will stick with me always.

During a season of the year where we often see family and friends that we may not see often, this is the perfect time to share a word of encouragement or memory about how much they mean to you.

Grab a cup of cinnamon spice tea and your favorite people for a time of sweet connection.  Bring a tissue box and expect some laughter, tears and unforgettable memories!

During this busy holiday season, enjoy the mouth-watering dishes and treats that are scarce the rest of the year, but don’t neglect to be intentional about planning some special moments with the people you love.  Plan activities for laughter and delight.  Plan for moments of encouragement and investment.  Plan events to look people in the eye and plan events to kick their hind end at your favorite game.  Plan for moments to sing and be silly. Plan moments to enjoy remembering.

Start right now, TODAY.  Don’t get caught up in timing the turkey and sweet potato souffle’- invite someone to dance in the kitchen with you and then go play football after the big meal.  You won’t regret it!

TRUTH: Therefore encourage one another and build each other up.

1Thess 5:11a (NIV)

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