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Top tips for dinner-table harmony

Wednesday night I went to a friend’s house to help her “bedazzle” some tutus for a dance recital.

This involved sticking teeny tiny crystals on to netting with a hot glue gun. I can’t decide if the wine was a help or a hindrance.

It stopped me being obsessive about spacing things perfectly, but I burnt every single finger in the process. We all know we shouldn’t drink and drive, but perhaps we shouldn’t drink and glue either.

This was after a close encounter with an enormous toad on the steps. I had jumped out of the way at the last minute to avoid squashing him in the dark, but he jumped in the same direction too, landing on top of my feet. If you heard shrieking ringing out over Fairylands, that would have been me.

Finally, I came close to setting my hair on fire in the downstairs loo. There was a scented candle on the back of the toilet which is a liability for the long-haired among us. I use a considerable amount of products in my hair in an effort to tame the mane. This makes me extra flammable but fortunately I didn’t go up in smoke.

So between the burns, the toad and the fire hazard, it should have been a terrible evening. But it wasn’t because the company was great and I was as happy as can be. A good reminder that it doesn’t matter if your surroundings are a little chaotic, it’s the people you’re with that will make or break your mood.

I’m trying to apply this mindset to family dinner too, because sometimes I find it hard to relax when I’m surrounded by washing and homework and piles of dirty dishes. I’ll let you know how that goes, but in the meantime, here are some extra tips for handling dinnertime with a young family:

Harmony at the dinner table: five top tips

1. Keep the cooking simple

If you love experimenting with new and adventurous recipes, go for it! But don’t feel pressured to do something fancy. There’s nothing wrong with baked potatoes, vegetable omelettes or chicken noodle soup for dinner. Just try and get in a side of veggies too! As our “winter” kicks in, try bulk-cooking hearty soups, casserole, stew or curry so that you can freeze the extras as you go. It makes your day more relaxing if you know that dinner is already defrosting in the fridge.

2. Go before you go!

This is mandatory in my house. The kids have to pee and wash their hands before they sit down. I’ve lost count of the number of times my little fidgeters have used the bathroom as an excuse to get up and wander around. There is no arguing with the call of a number two though …

3. No phones or toys

This rule applies to grown-ups and kids. No phones, no toys, no distractions.

4. Build up an appetite

Letting your kids snack like mad after school is a great way to keep them quiet while you prep dinner, but a great way to self-sabotage in the process. If your kids tell you they are not hungry at dinnertime, try to keep a lid on snacks beforehand. If the kids are “STARVING” then dish out options which aren’t especially filling: try veg sticks or frozen peas! A little organic popcorn could work too.

5. Play a game or two

Easy games can be a fun way to liven up dinner chat and get anyone miserable out of their funk! Simple things like “I spy” work well or what we call the “close your eyes” game. Basically, the first player picks someone to close their eyes and then asks them an observation question. Something like, “What colour is Dad’s top?” or, “There’s a painting on the wall behind you, what is it of?”.

We play “guess the animal” too. Someone thinks of an animal and then the rest of us ask questions (yes or no answers only) that help us narrow it down. Does it live in Africa? Is it cute? Can you have it as a pet? Does it fly? Does it have four legs? The winner gets to pick an animal next.

The advice given in this article is not intended to replace medical advice, but to complement it. Always consult your GP if you have any health concerns. Catherine Burns BA Hons, Dip ION is the managing director of Natural Ltd and a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. Please note that she is not a registered dietitian. For details, please go to www.natural.bm or call 236-7511. Join Catherine on Facebook: www.facebook.com/nutrifitandnaturalnutritionbermuda