At our house, Sundays will be about setting an intention or focus for the week to come. Last year we focused on more of the practical matters of family meals. We still want to think about meal planning and healthy ingredients, but our most important mission is to celebrate the time we have together. For our family, for the coming week and beyond, our focus will be bringing joy and celebration to our everyday family meals.
Our Kings Day celebration centerpiece. Photo By Elise Roth Edwards.
We're rolling back into a normal routine with all of us spending long days at work and school. Our time together each morning and evening rushes by and is often diminished by stress, frustration, complaints and exhaustion. We've just had two weeks of beautifully slow mornings and evenings, and I'm hopeful that we can carry our vacation ways back to real life.
Our Kings Day celebration felt crowns. Photo By Elise Roth Edwards.
Celebrating Kings Day last Sunday was a foundation for our intention. Our pseudo-party was low key, not too fancy, and didn't require hours of sweating in the kitchen. The celebratory atmosphere was stoked by four kids running around the house with flashlights, a few felt crowns and one delicious, crumby cake.
Our alternative Kings Day cake. Photo By Elise Roth Edwards.
We started our own tradition by using a coffee cake recipe from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. Sam and I also chose some non-traditional "trinkets" to bake into the cake. They included:
■ A nickel: you will have 5 years of good luck!
■ A mini-pretzel: you will have a flexible year
■ Chocolate chips: you will have a sweet year, OR you'll eat a lot of candy in the coming year
■ A dried cranberry: you will eat a lot of fruit in the coming year
■ A goldfish cracker: you will eat a lot of fish in the coming year
I'm glad that Sam's friend Max found the nickel—his expression was pure joy, and he beamed as we all hooted and hollered and celebrated his good luck. We then went on to hoot and holler every time someone found a chocolate chip, and there were a lot of chocolate chips mixed in, to guarantee a sweet year for everyone present. The goldfish cracker still hasn't been found, so we have a few more anticipatory dessert sessions to look forward to.
But the question remains: How can we come back to joy and celebration, when we're tired and burnt out?
To try to answer that question, we had a party brainstorm. Here are our top nine party moves that we'll try to bring to our meals. The caveat is that we'll only use the ideas if they lower our stress levels. If any idea results in even a hint of extra household stress, the idea will be abandoned mid-use and may or may not be entertained again.
1. Great parties have great music—girl, put your records on!
2. Mood lighting: flashlights, candlelight, Christmas lights, or all of these
3. Appetizers that could pan out to be the entire meal
4. Fancy drinks in fancy glasses
5. The “nice” dishes
6. Minimal dishes: napkins make great plates, and who needs forks if you've got toothpicks and skewers?
7. Electronic devices stowed away
8. Be a party person, or better yet, be the witty, charming, funny person that you are when you're at your best. Smile and look other people in the eye, because you want to connect. Ask your fellow party-goers questions, because you genuinely want to know the answers. Relax and enjoy the moment, because that's what you do at parties, right?
9. End the party with dancing, always.
What party tips would you suggest, to bring more celebration to everyday meals?
Elise Roth Edwards writes, paints, makes stuff and asks a lot of questions in Denver, with the help of her two kids, her husband and a growing crowd of friends and neighbors. You can read more about their experiments and adventures at her ever-evolving parenting blog, The Family Lab for Inquiry and Play.