DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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14 August 2013

The kitchen table

We had lunch with Kerry, Sunny and Jamie yesterday. It's such a gentle pleasure to sit around a table and share food with loved ones. The sun was shining outside on a warm end of winter day and we had clinking ice cubes in our lemon cordial glasses. A sign of things to come when summer really hits.




I cooked roast pork with baked potatoes, pumpkin, baby parsnips, red cabbage and peas, and followed that with fresh fruit salad and ice cream. Food is always more than food. It's a way of bringing the family together, a reconnection that shows us all that everything is going well, or an early warning that it isn't. You can often get the words that say that over the phone but it's usually the face-to-face meetings that show it unreservedly, and they are made better over a meal, or at least a cup of tea. Yesterday, the conversation was easy, we all enjoyed the shared food and while the warm breeze drifted through the kitchen, Jamie was learning that this is how his family is.


The kitchen table is a powerful symbol of family life. Over the years in my family, we've sat at tables just like mine and talked about dying grandmas, visiting aunties and uncles and the thousand other things that made up our lives then.  I remember my grandma's table, shiny and waxed, holding gem scones, pikelets, corned beef sandwiches and tea. I remember my mother's table - yellow laminex surface with chrome edging, laden with cold drinks, beers and strange cocktail mixes, with chips and fruit cake at Christmas time, when the neighbours visited. We sat together at our kitchen table with a meal at the end of every day, and then, at various times during the year, it would become the centre of joyous hospitality or quiet with tea when sadder times came calling. 

I discovered a lot about my family, and life in general, sitting and listening at the kitchen table. Way back then I don't recall feeling frightened or alarmed at any of the adults talking quietly in the kitchen, nor during the happy and more boisterous occasions. It showed me that adults were vulnerable too and how comfort was sought and given during those times. It showed me the beginnings of hospitality. So in addition to being a focal point in our day-to-day lives where we shared our meals, this humble piece of furniture also became a sewing centre, ironing board, homework desk, games table, it held baby baths, folded washing and a hundred other things. And then during those special times, everyone knew the kitchen table was the place to be during a celebration or when we had to say a sad goodbye.

What happens at your kitchen table?


47 comments:

  1. The usual breadmaking, cake-mixing, chopping up meat and vegetables for meals, family meals, entertaining friends, craftwork, making curtains and soft furnishings, jigsaw puzzles, depositary for newspapers, magazines, books, shopping, piles of ironed clothes and linen, and under cover of darkness, it becomes a cat roost!!!

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  2. Oh, Rhonda - this is an incredibly timely post. We have had a LOT of discussion and activity around our table over the last few weeks ~ happy celebrations, sad realizations, eager planning, patient teaching, laborious number crunching, recipe sharing, list making brain dumping, pie eating, game playing, counselling troubled children, ice cream sundae making, comforting grieving friends, sewing lessons, reading while eating (my kid's favourite way to have lunch in the summer), fresh flower arranging, tea sipping, laundry folding, school supply organizing, sign making, garden produce chopping, seed sorting, internet surfing, cake decorating, coffee savouring, card making, gift wrapping, deal making, hand holding and just plain sitting and staring out the window. If my table could talk, oh the stories it would tell :)

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  3. I agree, our kitchen table is used every day for meals, sewing, ironing and lots of sorting out of drawers and cupboards and a hundred and one tasks.
    Even when we had a large house with a dining room most meals were in the kitchen and guests have often asked for a "kitchen" dinner, because it is so comforting.

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  4. Hi Rhonda what a beautiful post! I am lucky enough to have the kitchen table my parents bought when they married 56 years ago. I have many good memories sitting at this table. Take care and I love your blog.
    Robin in Canada

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  5. Hi Rhonda, Sounds like a lovely family lunch. I love the term 'kitchen table', so often now I hear 'dinner table' and to me it just doesn't sound as warm or familiar. Maybe just my upbringing. My parents had a chrome edged table too! We always sat around it for meals, and my kids sat around ours too. I hate sitting on the couch eating, and it seems a lot of people do these days. Mine has seen homework, my own study papers, my sewing machine, my granddaughters homework, folding, and many many meals. Its a really old wooden table too, so if only it could talk. My 'other' table, that my sewing machine now lives on was originally my grandparents kitchen table, I have such fond memories of my grandad sitting with his cup of tea at it! Still 'Anon' at the moment, haven't had time to scratch. Thankyou for your email too, lovely to receive your reply! Kathryn xo
    PS My son got another job :)

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  6. When I think of childhood holidays, it's the kitchen table I think of. We ate the meal at the dining room table, but we spent the day crammed into my grandma's little kitchen, everyone sitting or standing around the table.

    Now, the kitchen table is a focal point of our home. We just built a bigger one (from plywood) and we love it. Really looking forward to cozy fall and winter dinners around it with our kids.

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  7. When all my 8 kids were at home it was a noisy and adventurous table, with kids laughing, quarreling, asking for things or sometimes crying... now with just the last two youngest at home, it´s the place at the end of the day for reuniting the family, having talks about the everyday life, about choices, sorrows, misfortunes, joys, worries etc etc etc. Although many times I´m tired after a long working day, I enjoy dinning with my kids. As you say, everything happens around the kitchen tables of the world!

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  8. Good Morning,Rhonda,
    your words made me feel grateful for my humble kitchen table. It's almost 30 years old, and was made from recycled wood pallets by a friend. It's had to be repaired since then, and the top could do with repainting because it's stained with paint and ink from my children.
    Our table is used for homework and art, paying bills,doing the tax,folding the washing.Also for writing letters and wrapping gifts. And without fail it's used for cups of tea,often with friends, and for all of our meals.
    In the past I've also stood on the table to repaint the ceiling, and attached a handmill to it to make freshly rolled oats other cracked grains.
    I paid for my kitchen table by giving my friend 10 piano lessons - what a lot it's done for me since then :)

    Have a beautiful day, Madeleine.

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  9. what a lovely thoughtful post this morning Rhonda, the kitchen table is a wonderous place indeed, Deb

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  10. I really connected with the comment you made about listening to the adults talk around the table. I suspect kids aren't exposed to that as much these days. I am 41, and as a child I was never excluded from hearing adult conversation, most of the time I had no idea what they were talking about, but I guess on some level, you learn by watching and listening, just how a mature conversation is. My kids tend to run off and play (both inside and outside games) when we have visitors, but maybe at times I should encourage them to stay at the table, eat and drink with us, and connect.

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  11. Hi Ronda
    I remember how the kitchen table at my grandmothers was the hub of the house . All significant moments were spent around it. It was the same at my moms house, except she would always invite more people than she could fit to every celebration so no one was left out. One Christmas celebration I remember there was the kitchen table , the kids table & four other car tables in the kitchen all covered in beautiful Christmas table cloths & candles.

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  12. Lovely post Rhonda and it reminded me too of older relatives now long gone, of coloured glass icecream dishes in all colours of the rainbow with icecream, sprinkles and wafers in them, and on it,teapots and xmas dinners.Just on a poignant note, my gorgeous grandmother "Gran' told me she rememebered her baby sister Alice 'laid out' on the kitchen table. She had died of the flu in about 1915, she was 1 yr old.The kitchen table is for sharing life and death, a place of living and grieving.An amazing place full of powerful ideas. Jelly

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    1. How sad, Jennifer. That 1915 flu was devastating world-wide. RIP Alice.

      Although it didn't happen to my knowledge in my family, my Irish heritage reminds me that the kitchen table was often used to lay out loved ones after their death. Then they would hold them during the wake when people were invited to the home to say goodbye.

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  13. Morning Rhonda. We sit at kitchen table for every meal. My son 15 went to a friends house they carried their dinner into lounge room to balance on their knees. He came home and mum they eat dinner in the lounge, its much easier to eat at table he said and we talk. There you go kitchen table more than food. Di

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  14. I'm a young woman (30yrs) just beginning my "kitchen table" journey. My partner lovingly repaired his family's old timber kitchen table which had been hiding under a dusty dark part of his mums house. This table showed the marks of years of folding, ironing, cooking, eating and sharing. At the time only he could see its potential I'll have to admit.
    The repairs were done lovingly with his grandfather only the week before his grandad suddenly and sadly died. My partner (a secret handyman) finished the table with much love and care, even taking advice from my grandfather along the way.
    Our 'kitchen table' now takes pride of place in the heart of our home. It's a beautiful antique which I hope will build beautiful memories along with our future together.

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    1. Wow, you have a kitchen table full of family history. Thank you for sharing with us how lovingly your husband restored the table. Now you can add your history to it as well and maybe it will be passed along to your children.

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  15. My kitchen table is an old oak one inherited from my husband' aunt and uncle 41 years ago. It has four big leaves and can be extended to hold 10, or twelve if you keep your elbows in close. We love big old family celebrations, so have several fold up tables as well. It's such fun to get people together!

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  16. Our kitchen table was my Nan's. It's 50's style laminex top with iron legs. I inheteted it after she passed away 11 years ago, just before I got married. My husband & I put it in our new kitchen until we could save up for a 'proper table'. We can now afford one but the more I look for new tables the less I like them, no character at all. Nan's table will be with us forever, it is a 'proper table' Karen

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  17. My husband built out table about 32 years ago so it begins with his handcrafted work. Then I home schooled our five children for 23 years at our kitchen table. There is almost no finish left on it but there are so many memories in that worn table that I doubt we will ever refinish it. We have always had a policy of hospitality at our house and countless friends and friends of our children have eaten at that table. We also enjoy having another couple in to play games at our table. When our adult children are home for the holidays they stay up late into the night playing games that are way above my comprehension. When our children were small I made most of their clothes and my sewing machine sat on the table while I sewed. Our youngest daughter sat near me and watched me sew hour after hour. That table is so worn now that I cover it up with a cloth when we have guests and we really do not need a table that can seat 10 in our kitchen anymore but it will stay because of the memories in that scarred wood.

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  18. First time commenter, very long time reader - so love your warm and wise words each day Rhonda, they truly give my day a lift and as a go about my housework I feel you with me in spirit. I would like to tell you about a special table my husband has almost finished - it is a beautiful recycled timber table that is for our beautiful daughter and her husband. My husband is a great handyman, a great blessing these days, our son-in-law is not however, so he is the apprentice on the job, learning all the "tricks of the trade" as it were, and the table and the 6 chairs they have bought to go with it are being paid for by our son-in-laws parents, so a joint family operation. The young couple are expecting their first child this October, and with luck the table will be finished and in place just in time. We are all hoping to be sitting around this table at Christmas time - new baby and all, ready to begin new memories for the table. Jenny Pearson

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    Replies
    1. It's a great thing, and something to be very proud of, to help create furniture for a new couple. You husband and SIL will remember those wood-working sessions forever and probably pass the story along to younger members of the family.

      Thanks for commenting, and welcome. :- )

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  19. Hi Rhonda, thank you for such a beautiful post, and your lovely photos. Your lovely dining area does indeed look very warm and welcoming and comforting. It reminds me too of lovely times with my grandparents and my dad who have all passed now, and with my niece and my nephew and the love, laughter and happiness I am so blessed to share with them. Thank you x

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  20. Forgive me, but I had to giggle a little as I read this post because, well, I am from the South and there is a saying here that "we live and die around the table." So true! Baby born? We eat. Engagement? Yup, food. Wedding? More food. Death? You guessed it! Eat, eat, eat!

    I agree with you about the power of the family table. I think that this is part of what is wrong with so many relationships these days. We don't sit at the table and talk with each other. Instead, we plop down in front of the TV with our plates in our laps and silently watch the boob tube. As I type this, the Mister is eating and watching TV! LOL

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  21. Although we both work outside of the home, we always have breakfast and dinner at our table with our two little boys. It is important centering time for our family.

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  22. Hi Rhonda. I have just inherited my family's kitchen table after my Dad died last year. It has been in the family for over 50 years that I remember. Not the one we had as a small child - that was the old red laminex one with the silver edging. I think this one, a lovely cedar one which has its wear marks on it too, along also with the happy and sad memories came from my grandparents, so it is indeed old and holds lots of memories. If only it could talk!! I enjoy reading your column each day and feel like we are all good friends. It makes me happy to see others who are living like-minded lives. Have a happy day. Sandra from Brisbane north.

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  23. My kitchen table was my grandmother's kitchen table. I was lucky enough to get it when she passed away and grandpa came to live with my mother. I treasure that table. It is small, seats only 4, but oh the memories that I shared at that table with my grandmother. I love that table and when we sit there I remember her and her wonderful meals.

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  24. One of my sons made us a beautiful "farmhouse table" while in High School. It is a table that I had dreamed of for many years. One of his High School friends, who is also a family friend, put his name underneath the table alongside my son's name. It is so appopriate as this friend of my son has spent many happy times with us at our table! I love to really decorate the table for holidays and my kids used to ask me why. I told them so they remember how special they are!

    Angie

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  25. what a beautiful post as always..I love our kitchen table, we bought it in 2002 it is made of recycled pine from the savoy buildings in London..Every mark tells a story, when my youngest was little he jabbed his fork into the area where he used to sit. so when we have grand children I can share that with them and like every one else our table gets used for just about every thing too...All though our eldest two boys have left the nest I now have my sewing/craft room, so no need to use the table, but I have in the past... It seats 8 and love it when sharing meals with family and friends..but since being diagnosed with Lyme last year and being really sick 3 years before that, we haven't had any social gatherings around our table..look forward to being well to do so again..I can see why you have so many followers your posts are so incredibly touching and profound ..

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    1. Hi Sherrie, I hope you recover soon and and get back to your family events around your table.

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  26. I can totally relate to the kitchen table being the hub of family life including immediate and extended family, through good times and bad. Our kitchen table sits in the middle of the kitchen/dining area and breakfasts, lunches, dinners, birthdays, games, projects, baby baths, the list goes on all happens there, our table is very special, my Grandad made our kitchen table, he has now passed on and I remember when he used to sit at it (when it was at his house) of an afternoon/evening and everyone would gather round and just start talking :)

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  27. Food at one end, colouring and craft at the other. We bought an old table so we needn't woorry about felt tip stains and coffee mug rings. I like that were adding to the patina of it. And in the middle the stuff not to loose/found, a candle and fruit x

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  28. My husband & two young children try to sit at the table most nights to eat dinner together, no tv or other distractions. We talk about our day & what will happen tomorrow, just like my family did when I was a child. Our table is between our kitchen & family room & is often where friends sit when they drop in for coffee as we can enjoy each others company & keep an eye on our kids. It is also the table I sat at as a child with parents & sister & now I sit at it with my family. I wonder what secrets it could tell? Haha. I think that sitting at the table together to eat is an important part of family life. Thanks for your wonderful blog. During my busy, crazy life it is always a great place to go to recharge & remember what it's all about.
    Amie, NSW

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  29. I visited my Mum last week and at 84 she will soon be packing up her home and downsizing. We were all wondering what to do with the 12 seat table that has been ours for as long as i can remember. Not too many homes could take such a table though it does have sliding panels that make it smaller. It is located in Leeton, NSW.

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  30. Thanks for the lovely post,today. We were given the family table from my mother-in-law when they moved out of state. It was made by my husband's great uncle who was a gifted woodworker. He made pieces for all the family, including wooden toys for the kids. The table seats twelve with two leaves. He even built in linen storage under the top.He passed away many years ago now but I think of him often when we sit down for dinner. When we can no longer use it, Uncle John's table will go to another family member.What a great way to pass on family history.
    Sue

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  31. Our kitchen table is the center of our home as well. It's where we spend time with visitors, make decisions, do homework, chat, learn, read, draw, measure and cut fabric, eat, drink, and be merry. I can't imagine being without it. It's an 80's or 90's semi-opaque white varnished extending table, bought when we were first married as a dining suite for $100 from one of my inlaws because it was no longer fashionable. I'm very glad that we bought it even though I thought it ugly at first because we haven't found anything that would work nearly as well for us.

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  32. Rhonda,
    I loved this post. So much of life happens around the kitchen table. We have a large table that can extend to accommodate 10 people comfortably (14 if we squish together) and we often have our family and friends over to use it at that size. What means the most to me, though, are the common, everyday moments shared between my husband and son as we sit at that table. We eat supper together every night (it's a rare night that one of us is missing due to a meeting, etc.) and share the happenings of the day, what happened at school, on the farm, at work. Homework is done there, bills paid, budgets planned, puzzles completed, laundry folded, crafts made, artwork attempted, cups of coffee drunk, dreams discussed, all done with much love. They say the kitchen is the heart of the home but I think the kitchen table is the soul. It's where everything happens.
    Kristina

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  33. When I was a child our kitchen table was the centre of the universe. Everything was done on this beautiful surface. But then again we did not have any other table. We shared every meal and our entire lives right there. When I was an adult the kitchen table in our home became just as important and versatile.

    Even our dogs knew that the kitchen table was the heart of our home. We had two enormous Wolf/Huskey dogs. They were ¾ wolf and other than humans and elephants there is no other animal who cherishes the family and home more. To exclude them was to stab them in their hearts.

    But my Mom did not want them in the kitchen because they were so big and because they really needed to be outdoors in the cool or cold. Of course the minute the back door was opened even a crack they charged in – jamming their 180 lb bodies in a bottleneck in the door frame and then bursting free like two champagne corks and diving under the kitchen table where it was impossible to dislodge them. Mom tried but eventually decided that the better part of valour was to pretend that she did not see them. A compromise she could live with.

    Of course every time they shifted positions under the table everything on the table rocked and rolled. And Nanook loved to steal the napkins from off of our laps. By the end of every meal he had quite a collection under the table. And Dingo was in love with my feet – nibbling them and resting his head on them. To this day I know that I did so well in school because every night as I did my homework on the kitchen table I had the love of my family around me and I was willing to stay longer and study harder because of this – and the comfort and complete sense of security the contact of big furry head resting on my feet brought.

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  34. Our dining room table will be 47 years old this month. We bought it when we were first married and poor, an inexpensive oval table with a formica top (made to look like wood) and matching chairs. We never could have imagined all the joys and sorrows which would be talked over around that table!

    As our family and our income grew, well-meaning people would often suggest that maybe we should get a larger table, but that won't be happening. When there are more than 8 or 9 of us, we just add other tables at each end as needed. When my husband and I are here alone or with just a few friends or family members, that table is perfect just as it is.

    Ironically, our last big event around that table was two weeks ago when we had a big farewell meal for our oldest granddaughter. She just graduated from college and is moving from New York to Australia! It was a happy/sad event, but we're excited for her, and thanks to your blog, I have a much better understanding of some of the things she'll be finding in her new life!

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  35. What a wonderful post about your kitchen table and the memories it holds!!! You have reminded me of many warm memories of my mother's table and the importance of this "family central"! I am so happy that my friend Dianne Burns shared your blog with me today. Will be following.....

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  36. Our table is in the livingroom, but we have a table in the kitchen. That table isn't for us though. It's the cat's table. We bought this table at the thrift shop and I think it's a 1950's wooden table. We have three cats and a dog and our dog, miss Charlie, who is 13,5 years old, is very fond of cat food too. That is why the cats have a special place to eat, away from miss Charlie, who tries to get to the table eventhough she is at a high age. I put a clean tablecloth on the table, to make it looks cozier and it borders on the windowsill, which is filled with pelargoniums, so it is quite a nice place to eat, especially when you're a cat ; )

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  37. Lovely post. My parents in law recently downsized from a house to a flat and we swapped our old (struggle to squeeze 10 round) kitchen table for their huge (7 feet long without either of the extension leaves in) table, so we're planning a series of dinner parties for all our friends over the next few months. We used to have people round a lot more before we had children, but now my 14yo dd is looking forward to doing lots of the cooking, it's a win-win situation. If you weren't on the other side of the world I might invite you too :)

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  38. This reminds me of Gramma's dinner table. No matter how many aunts and uncles came to visit, there always seemed to be room for them around the table. And every Sunday after church our family and my aunt's family (the only two of my grandparents kids who remained living in the area) were there for Sunday dinner...and oh the food...all from the garden! The kids always ate at the "kid's table" in the living room...what a rite of passage when we were allowed to eat with the adults! The table was where ALL the talking about family went on...even after the dinner was finished and the men went to watch the sunday ball game and the women were finished with doing the dishes...the women...young and old would sit around the table and catch up on everyone's life. Thanks for reminding me of those memories today!

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  39. "Food is always more than food. It's a way of bringing the family together..."

    I LOVE this. :)

    well done.

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  40. I really enjoyed reading this post Rhonda. My parents dining table was bought when they first married 60 years ago. I have many, many memories when this table was in our homes in South Africa, Victoria and now NSW. Thank you, you have brought back many memories for me today. Ann

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  41. For me, the greatest compliment anyone could give to me, is inviting me into their home and having a cup of coffee at their kitchen table. Yes, the dining room is always lovely, but to me, the world happens at the kitchen table, the intimate decisions are made at the kitchen table.

    Your table is lovely, and inviting and thank you for sharing it with me (and all of us who visit with you)

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  42. Unfortunately we don't have any room in our house for a kitchen table...
    Our kitchen is a tiny poky little room that is too full when there is more than one person in it, there is no room to manouver and not even room for an island bench, let alone a table! The "dining" room is another tiny space which is actually the thoroughfare between poky kitchen and lounge room. We have a tiny table shoved into a corner here but it is rarely used as the space is too dark and claustrophobic to gather in. I remember good times around my grandma's kitchen table whilst growing up, in a large light lovely open space where there were not just meals, but colouring in with pencils, arts and crafts, boardgames, and flower pressing projects. I feel that our family, and probably others, are sadly lacking a vital aspect these days due to this lack of a table, or even space to have one. I wonder how many other families are crammed into tiny townhouses like us, and never have the space to sit down together to eat, chat or just relax. Another sign of the changing times...

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