Delightful Dinners while Distancing


You’ve already seen the printed schedule we use to ward off insanity here while choosing to #StayHome. One line item = DINNER. Sure, we didn’t really have to schedule that, but we thought it might signal a change from school + free time to family time, so it’s included.

Every day I sit with Zoe and Ella (well mostly Zoe) to plan out our next day, incorporating her schoolwork, mirroring her topics for Ella’s schedule (math, reading, vocabulary, etc), and adding in our Zoom with Zoe & Ella sessions, and after a few days of that, we started adding a THEME for dinner.

For example, Friday the 20th was “Under the Sea” theme (check out Ella’s illustration at the bottom for emphasis):


We had a super nice menu: Frozen Popcorn Shrimp and some deliciously flavored fish Bart whipped up (I love that man). We also had a vision of making it even MORE special, with all of us dressing up in costume, and Zoe and Ella each performing a song that they were supposed to be performing in May (not sure that will happen…)

Zoe’s song is Part of That World from The Little Mermaid, and Ella’s song is some “Under the Sea” made-up song from her Drama Maniacs class. Best laid plans – the costumes and performances didn’t happen. But the other thing they wanted to do was watch The Little Mermaid 2. That did! I’m taking that dinner as a win.

We’ve had Chicken Run night (where we ate chicken and watched Chicken Run) and “No Meat” night (where we watched Night on Earth on Netflix, which uses these crazy cameras to see what wild animals do at night). All themes proposed by our children.

And last Friday, after a really trying second week, we had an extra special night:


I have to be honest. Just like the previous Friday when we were “in the spirit” of the theme but not actually doing all the fun things we’d planned, I was not sure that Fancy Dinner night was going to happen (at all). We were exhausted, a little irritated, and generally frustrated by the incredible amount of time we’ve spent together. It’s a lot.

We had agreed we’d all dress up “fancy” and pull out my mother’s china (which is almost as old as Bart, though I’m not allowed to share that actual number). I’ve had this china in my home for years, and I’ve always wanted to have a special dinner on it. But it’s gorgeous and has actual, delicately laid platinum trim around the rim. In other words, it would be a lot of work to clean that stored china, set the table, get dressed + makeup (the kids thought THAT was the real treat), make and enjoy a meal, then carefully hand wash and store those lovely dishes again after a crazy long week…

Ironically, we didn’t even have a menu in mind – nor had we discussed what of our “rations” we’d use for this fancy dinner – yet another reason why it would have been so much easier just to make a frozen pizza and put those kids to bed early.

However, we Johnsons are resilient – and committed. To make our fancy dinner even MORE special, we invited my sweet mother, who kindly dressed up for the occasion and “joined us at the table” on video. As you can see, we set a place for her:


While she didn’t get to taste Bart’s yummy fennel + chicken apple sausage pasta dish or our buttered sourdough rolls, she was a gracious guest and a fabulous addition to our Friday family dinner. We laughed a lot, offered her bites of our fanciest of desserts (a “Kid Affogato”  for Zoe and flower shaped marshmallows dipped in chocolate for me and Ella), and she played right along.

Look at that beautiful smile (sorry for the reflection):


Who knows how long we can keep up “themed dinners”, but so far it’s been a lot of fun and happens to work well for my husband, a notorious pleaser who derives value from feeding the family. Another of the many benefits that offset the negatives of this extraordinary time.

Speaking of time, I’m writing this on Saturday evening and setting it to post on Thursday. By then who knows what the world will look like. Since everyone is anticipating a rapid escalation of today’s problems, which are hard enough to think about, I’m hoping in advance that you and those you love are safe and well – and that we all have more themed dinners to have, fancy or not.

Much love.


3 thoughts on “Delightful Dinners while Distancing

  1. I’m so impressed! I literally toasted hashbrown patties (think McDonald’s) from the freezer and smothered them with cheese last night for dinner and felt like I was living my Best Quarantine Life.

    1. HA! Last night Bart and I fed the kids a “private dinner for 2” that had actual nutrition and we had popcorn (he also had yogurt and i had cheez-its…) It has all fallen apart. But MAYBE we’ll get it back?!

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