Celebrating St. Patrick Baby Steps Style

In case you missed it, St. Patrick’s Day is coming. I know this because my Facebook feed is full of preparations. I haven’t even dared to open Pinterest lately for fear of green splatter rolling off the screen and onto my sweater. It seems like people are a little extra excited about St. Patrick’s Day this year, Irish or no. I can’t say I blame them. Those of us in the perpetual snow belt this winter are ready for a little green. But is St. Patrick’s Day really that big a deal? Do I have to make sugar cookies (let’s face it, they’re a huge pain in the patootie)?!

In case you don’t know, St. Patrick’s Day began as a celebration of St. Patrick, who legend holds was largely responsible for bringing Catholicism to Ireland (that’s what was meant by driving the snakes out, and that’s all I’m gonna say about THAT). Over time, as so often is the case in a world full of people who are ready to celebrate something, St. Patrick’s Day has come to be a celebration of all things Irish, of leprechauns (magic and luck), and of green food (beer). So I guess we get to the sugar cookies by way of the green food thing and if you make them in the shape of clovers you get to cover all those bases. Personally, I’m not Irish, but I can get down with some Irish music, and if celebrating St. Patrick’s Day will bring a little joy into the slowly melting landscape, I’m all for it, but I’m not making sugar cookies (yes, I am that mean and that stubborn). My daughter has already asked what we’re doing for St. Patrick’s Day. In her mind, we must have a plan for all of these holidays.

So I’m thinking about a few courses of action, because honestly I could use a little celebration pick me up as well. Our Baby Steps styled St. Patricks Day may include Irish cultural fun, “going green” activities, and LOTS of green food (insert evil nutritious laugh here). For the cultural part I figure we’ll listen to Irish music all day. I have some traditional stuff that I bought years ago and if we get weary of that, there’s always Pandora – pretty sure they’ll be rockin’ the Irish and Celtic playlists that day. We’ll also learn about the history of the day, because I used to teach history and I’m annoying that way.

We’ll wear some green, but I also thought maybe we’d go a little greener. We’ll plant some seeds, maybe including some clover to be fun. We’ll recycle some trash into treasures (they made robots with cans, serious re-users my kids are). Perhaps we’ll pull out the fairy houses we started working on in the fall and see if we can’t incorporate our recycled treasures there.

And then there’s the food… could there be a holiday that’s more of a food whack Mom’s dream than St. Patrick’s Day? Mercy no don’t make cupcakes and color them green with food coloring. Prepare food that is naturally green and maximize that holiday participation advantage. They’ll do anything to celebrate a holiday, right? You don’t need no stinking food coloring (see why here). You’ve got green food. In case you think I’m nuts, I’ll give you a list of links. This is one of those moments when it’s all the marketing, especially if you have little ones. Talk about leprechauns, talk about clover, talk about everything green and then put it in your mouth. Yum.

Real Green Dishes – No Food Coloring Required

  

 

1. St. Patrick’s Smoothie – Easy, delicious, nutritious and a winner with all ages. You don’t need a shamrock shake. We’ve got more than one of these. Search on “green smoothie” if you want some other options. What a great way to say “Top ‘O the Mornin.'”

2. Roasted Cabbage – Green and traditional. Works for us!

3. Kale Salad – Pretty amazingly green, right?

  

4. Broccoli and Snap Pea Varia-Bowl – so many delicious green, springy, lucky veggies.

5. Company Good Pea Soup –  So easy, so yummy, and so very very green.

6. Simple, Not Plain Green Beans – Includes advice on getting little people to eat them. 😉

  

7. Herbed Zucchini Rice – This one’s green AND really fast.

8. Zucchini Noodles – Serve with some pesto and you’ve got a super green delish dish!

9. Broccoli Neatballs – These little suckers are so flexible. Eat them with everything.

  

10. Non-Dairy Creamed Kale – Don’t mind the nutcracker. I swear he’s not looking at you…

11. Food Hangover Kale Smoothie – In case green beer is a part of your St. Pat’s requirements, this might work wonders for the adults. Kids love it. What a great way to end a green celebration!

12. Zucchini Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies – If you do have the baking urge, why not make these truly green cookies. We love them!

There you have it folks – 12 ideas for green food to celebrate whatever part of St. Patrick’s Day rings your bells. Hope you and yours are finding plenty of nourishment and magic as the seasons begin to turn.

The Power of the Family Meal

Well-BeingThe Sis sisters have long been advocates of the family dinner, and no I’m not referring to the meal that adds biscuits and mashed potatoes to your bucket of chicken. We believe there are benefits to the family eating dinner (more or less the same dinner) at the same time, at the same table, preferably not from the same plate – but to each his own (ha!). It turns out that science supports the benefits (or at least the correlation with good things) of eating dinner together. Anne Fishel, a psychology professor at Harvard, very eloquently describes these benefits and correlations and offers some insight into why they just might be a little more than correlation here. Fishel feels so strongly about the power of family dinner that she often tells therapy clients that they’d be better off eating dinner with their families than talking with her for an hour. Wow. So, what’s so great about it anyway?

The benefits that Ms. Fishel highlights in her article are largely those experienced by the children in a family. I’ll sum them up for you and then reflect a little on what I think the implied benefits for parents, spouses, and folks who choose to live by themselves might also be in thinking about dinner as a sacred time.

For kids. Family dinners seem to hold benefits for children of all ages. The youngest children increase their vocabulary faster, which in turn makes them more proficient and earlier readers. School aged children who eat family meals tend to perform better in all academic measures. Teens who eat family dinners get better grades than those who do not. Teens who eat dinner en famille are also less likely to engage in high risk behaviors than their peers, less likely to be depressed, and more likely to have a positive outlook about the future. All children who eat family dinners tend to eat more healthfully and experience fewer chronic health problems (such as asthma and obesity).

Okay, so if you have children, I’ve got you… I mean, right? So all you need to do is just eat together. Simple… Yeah, simple. I confess that for me right now, this one is pretty simple. My kids are 8. The only activities and play dates they are involved in are the ones I set up for them. I have pretty good control over what they are doing when and being sure they will be home in time for dinner, or making dinner work around the occasional thing so we can all still eat together. I am well aware that this trick can get a lot harder as they get older.

SacredDinnerGiven that reality, I think it’s important to note that the article doesn’t say that everyone must have every dinner with the family to experience benefits. Nor does it say everyone in the family should stop doing everything they care about outside the home immediately so all meals can be consumed together. Eating dinner as a family might be a great thing to baby step up on. If it never happens, maybe a commitment to once a week would be a great place to start. If it happens three times a week, maybe there’s a way to add a fourth. Checking our reality, making some adjustments, asking everyone to shift a little creates a space and in this space we can find a sacred moment or two to create and savor some nourishment. (She said it agin: “sacred.” Why does she keep saying that?”)

So here’s where it seems to me that the benefits that those researchers are finding for kids who eat family meals might be a little more broadly understood as benefits for anyone who treats their meal as a sacred time. Researchers talk about the family meal as a time to set aside the hustle bustle of the day, to interact with people whose experiences are both different and shared, to reflect on and share our individual experiences, to become grounded and relaxed, to gain perspective before we enter the next phase of whatever it is we’re doing. Now I’m not a scientist, but I’m willing to bet dollars to donuts that children aren’t the only ones who could use a little of that kind of dinner. Part of the beauty of family dinner, or couple dinner, or individual dinner without a laptop, is our insistence on it, our creation of that space for a sacred hour that allows us to distance ourselves from all that is outside and to check in with all that is inside.

Well-BeingIt is only through our insistence that the sacred space is both created and maintained. It is with our insistence that we honor ourselves and the need for a time that is not shared with the television, with advertisers, or with our employers. It is with our insistence that we say that we as individuals and as groups are important enough to nourish fully, to occupy a sacred space, and reap the benefits therein. As my own children age and our family schedules shift, I hope to continue to insist on this sacred event, even at the expense of the occasional activity, at the expense of the occasional professional opportunity, and at the expense of convenience. I hope to continue to find that the benefits outweigh the sacrifice and to feel the nourishment that we create together.