Raclette is a cheese.  It is also a term for a type of dinner.

Eva was our foreign exchange student. Eva came to live with us for the 2007-08 school year. Her home was in Germany.  We had the pleasure of visiting her family in 2009.  They rolled out the red carpet for our family and we enjoyed learning more about Eva’s culture. As with many countries, food is a big part of the culture in Germany. 

One evening Eva’s family treated us to a Raclette dinner.  Raclette dinner uses a cooking appliance set on the table.  You are the chef.  All are given a small pan to fill with marinated meats and finely chopped herbs and vegetables.  While your meal is cooking in front of you, salad and bread are enjoyed.  As your little pan finishes cooking, you top it with sour cream/raclette cheese and chive sauce.  You pour it over roasted smashed potatoes. What’s there not to love?  Then you start the process all over again. I believe it has not caught on in America because it is slow and small.  Slow in that it took all evening, and small because each serving was not a whopping meal.  Think fondue. 

Dan and I found a Raclette table grill at our Aldi’s grocery here in town.  We have had many friends over for dinner using our grill.  Everyone seems to enjoy the novelty of Raclette.  Right before Covid arrived, we had each couple from our 2019 Ballroom dance class over for Raclette dinner.  It took 3 different evenings to fit everyone in, but we got to know the couples in a more personal way.  There is no better way to get to know someone than by sharing a delicious meal together.  This should never be rushed.

I soon realized that this little grill is a great breakfast companion.  I have always loved having girlfriends over for a garden coffee including breakfast.  A Raclette breakfast makes for a wonderful time with friends.  My guests and I sit outside under our covered patio.  We take in the beauty of nature and the warmth of summer.  Coffee from the percolator, eggs with fresh herbs, pancakes with fresh fruit,  little sausages, and sweet girlfriends make for a perfect morning.  I host over a dozen breakfast Raclettes each summer.  A highlight for sure. Planning ahead is key.  I invite and schedule early for all my summer Raclettes. 

Our Raclette table grill has been a unique way of doing life with friends.  One little pan at a time.

A Brain Booster

Would you like a brain boost?  As we age, our brains also go through the aging process.   Dementia and Alzheimers rise.   No one wants to lose their mind.   So what might help prevent declining abilities in our aging brains?

A newspaper article caught my eye.  When it mentioned brain booster, I had to dig a bit deeper. A study was done by Northwestern University.  Their study found that there was a notable link between those with good brain health and positive relationships.  They followed those over the age of 80 whose memories were good or better than people 20-30 years younger.  They had them fill out a survey about their lifestyle.  They also did brain scans and neurological tests. 

The research concluded that there were many benefits of staying socially active. 

As we grow older it is easy to be alone.  You will need to work on keeping socially active.  Spending time with friends will help us as we age.  It brings enjoyment to our day. 

There are so many benefits of staying socially active.  Giving each of us a brain boost for our mental health is a reason to pick up the phone.  A reason to have a coffee date.  A reason to invite someone over.  

Medicine, hospitals, and doctors are expensive.  But the best medicine can be as inexpensive as a cup of coffee with a friend.  A brain booster for sure. 


Be There

We all go through life with milestone events.  There are new births, graduations, showers, weddings, and deaths.  There is a time for celebrating and a time for mourning.   Being there for our friends and family for these milestones of life is important.  We should make these events a priority for those closest to us.  We can’t let business keep us home.  Being there for our friends and family will show how much we care.

The almost three years of Covid made many milestones a non-event.  We couldn’t hold our new grandbabies.  Graduations were a drive-by.   Amazon-Baby and Bridal Showers. We went to virtual weddings.  Funerals were spent alone.  It was a dark time in our history for relationships.  We couldn’t be there for the ones we love.   

Being on the receiving side of the biggest milestones, motivates me to be on the giving side.   One example was during Covid when my mother passed away.  Her funeral was the first one at her church since Covid began.  (14 months later) I had my closest friends attend.  I had meals brought to my house.  I had garden helpers to assist with my new backyard.   I felt loved and cared for in a time of need.  If we don’t build our friendships, we will not receive these blessings.   If we don’t build friendships we will not have the joy of giving our time and energy to others.  

Having a time in my life when I couldn’t be there for the milestones of those closest to me, makes me motivated not to miss an event in the future.  I want to be there.

Bicklehop Aboretum-Clinton, Iowa

April 27, 2021-The day of my mother’s funeral.

Know Their Name

To say someone’s name is sweet music to their ears.  It makes a person feel important.  Dan and I meet new people all the time.  We meet many through dancing and church-related activities.  To be introduced to someone and remember their name can be a challenge.  Especially as we grow older (I like to use that as my excuse).  But actually, I know it is a skill to be learned.  It is a skill to remember someone’s name.   It takes concentration.  It takes repeating their name several times when meeting.  You can’t be thinking of something or someone else, and remember their name.

 I do have a little journal in my dance shoe bag where I write down the names of the people we meet through dance.  When I meet someone new through our home church I also try to write it down.  You may say this is cheating, but a person has to do what they need to do.  It does seem to help.  

Being a quick thinker and recalling someone’s name instantly, especially when out and about, will make that person feel good in their day.  It opens up an opportunity for deeper conversation.

Dan and I introduce friends to others.  This often happens when you are out socializing.  You can’t do this if you don’t know their name.   Saying “What’s your name again?” does not sound very intelligent.  Trust me, I know from experience.  : (

Knowing a person’s name is an important tool for our friendship toolbox.   I am challenged to do better and will continue to work on this skill. 

Make a difference in someone’s day – know their name.

God’s Word– Philippians 2

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Life Happens Here

A table is a key ingredient in cultivating friendships.  So much enjoyment can happen around this piece of furniture.   It may be a cup of coffee.  A Sunday dinner.  A bowl of chicken salad.   How about a card game?  Much laughter and enjoyment can be found here.  Life happens here.

As Dan and I have reconfigured our backyard, I knew a table would need to be an integral part of it.  Our backyard (thanks to Derecho) is very sunny with meadow wildflowers, a vegetable garden, singing birds, and humming bees.  A once firepit, overgrown with weeds, was cleared out for a perfect setting.  I always thought a farm-to-table dinner sounded so quaint. Many times I come up with ideas and Dan is quite the trooper with making them happen.  In the summer of 2022, a table in the meadow became a reality.  

Planning is the key to making things happen.  I knew that I would need to plan and invite.  We invited friends to share our meadow for most of the 2022 summer weekends.  We shared a meal.  A glass of wine. Conversation. Life.  It was magical.  

Make the most of your table time by:  

  • Making your guests feel important.  Cut flowers, a folded napkin, pretty tableware, or night lighting
  • No technology – in my book, technology would never be part of a table setting.  No phones and no televisions.  This will keep your focus on those sitting at your table.  It is all about them, right?
  • Keep your conversion positive – no politics, no gossip, and no negative talk. 
  • Accept offers for help. Almost always, my guests asked if they could bring something for the meal.   Saying yes makes you more likely to say yes again.   
  • Plan ahead.  Do as much preparation as you can before your guests arrive.  This allows you more time for enjoyment and conversation.
  • Keep it simple – If you lack time, keeping things simple will be key. A potluck, appetizer night, games, or just a glass of wine may be a simpler way.  Life and conversation can still happen. 
  • Don’t be in a rush.  Slow down and savor the moment.  Make memories.

Your table can be one of the best ways to build close relationships.  We all have one.  We just need to use it. 

Life happens here.

A Social Drought?

Do you have trouble making friends? Do you find it hard to keep long relationships?  If so, you are not alone.  Many find themselves alone and without any close friends.  Friendships take time.  It can take years, but you can start working on it anytime.  Now is the time.  The best way to start is with a passion or a gift that you have.  What are your interests? 

For myself, I have made friends through church, dancing, gardening, and sewing.  Dan and I have made friends as a couple also. This includes church and dancing. This is where we spend most of our free time.

When we moved to town, I did not know anyone.  I felt very alone and Dan worked many hours at his new job.  I remember how difficult this time was for me.  It was not long before we found our home church.  We got involved.  We became a part of a small group.  This helped us to get to know others in the community. Once you get to know someone, they will most likely connect you with others.  This will not happen overnight and you have to be patient in the process. 

With the moves we have made throughout our marriage, I realized that it typically takes a year before you have closer friendships to connect with.  This is only if you get yourself out there.  You-being part of an organization. You-being part of a small group.  Being patient.  Putting in the effort is the only way it can happen.  Friendships will not arrive at your front door.

So, if you are in a social drought, think of what you enjoy doing.  Get involved and don’t give up on the process.  You will find yourself living in greener pastures of friendships!  

The Beady-Eyed Boyfriend

Who do you hang with?  Who are your closest friends? 

Are they positive in their words and attitude?  Do they lift you up?  Are they a good influence? Or do they gossip?  Do they criticize others?  Are they dishonest? 

It is important to surround ourselves with friendships that show good character.  This is healthy for us.  You might be the positive one in the relationship.  But most likely that negative, bad influence friend will wear off on you. 

It is always good to evaluate who you are spending your time with.  How do you feel after being with someone for an afternoon?  If it brings you down or takes you in the wrong direction, then it is a relationship you don’t want to put the time and effort into.   

While in high school, I met a friend who was not a good influence on me.  I began hanging out with her and her friends.  They were always getting into trouble.  They would look for a fight. I was finding myself not being honest with my parents.  I was doing things that I knew were wrong. I started smoking with them just to fit in.  I began dating a guy that was a part of this group.  I invited my new boyfriend to our family farm. I introduced him to my parents. My dad didn’t like him.  He said to me later that he had beady eyes.  : 0   Being sixteen at the time, I was not sure what my dad meant, but I knew it was not a compliment.  I am thankful my dad sensed good or bad character.  My new beady-eyed boyfriend was not someone my parents wanted me hanging with.  The day I broke up with him, he punched his fist through a wall at Happy Joes Pizza.  I am thinking if I had continued with these friendships, I probably would not be sitting here writing this post.  I might have a black eye.   I might even be wearing an orange jumpsuit.  I would have gone down a road that would have brought me misery.  I would have not met Dan. (No wonder my parents loved him so much) I am very thankful that I did not continue with these friendships. 

Who do you hang with?  Surrounding yourself with people who are good influences. Positive people are important for your well-being. 

God’s Word

Proverbs 13:20  Walk with the wise and become wise,
    for a companion of fools suffers harm. (NIV)

Proverbs 22:24-25 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,(or beady-eyed)
    do not associate with one easily angered,
25 or you may learn their ways
    and get yourself ensnared. (NIV)


A smile is an invitation for a friend.  It can open a conversation.  It is a way that you can say without words that you are friendly.   A person’s face can tell you what is going on inside. 

My personality is mostly serious.  So this is not an easy task for me.  I have to remind myself to put on a smile.  I look at pictures where I am not smiling and I look like a grump.  In my recent unsmiling passport picture, I look like a criminal. This is a little bit alarming for sure.  Is this what people see when a smile is not on my face?  Some people are natural at smiling, and they usually have lots of friends. : )

When I am out and about with a smile on my face, I can tell that more strangers will strike up a conversation.  I am hoping that the conversation will bring joy to their day.  It is not about me, but how can I show kindness to someone that I meet. Smile, and see for yourself how this works.  It really does. 

I think back to Covid and mask-wearing.  I did not feel friendly at all.  I couldn’t wait to run out of a store to get it off.  I couldn’t understand anyone’s conversation either.  No one looked friendly.  I feel there were not many congenial conversations during this time.  I remember hearing some say, “But, you can see the smile with their eyes.”  This didn’t work for me.  No wonder we had a mental health crisis.

Smiling can be an invitation to a friend.  Try it out and see what unfolds.

God’s Word-Proverbs 15:13

 A cheerful heart brings a smile to your face;
    a sad heart makes it hard to get through the day. (The Message)

Closer with Friends

Our marriage will benefit from having friendships.  Having healthy friendships as a couple and as an individual is essential.  This will bring much wellness into our marriage.  It will bring joy.

Dan and I have been blessed with many friends throughout the years.  It did not happen automatically.  It takes effort.  It takes planning.  It takes forgiveness.  It takes being vulnerable.  It is not easy to get friendships started. But it is well worth it.   

Having close healthy friendships will keep us emotionally well.  This goes a long way toward keeping our marriages closer.  With technology, we can find many reasons not to leave our homes.   We are social beings and we were never meant to do life alone.  We need each other.  

Our friends are there when we need encouragement.  They are there in times of need.  They are there when we have personal crises.  But if we have not spent the time building those relationships, we will go through life alone.  Life will be much harder.  

Ask yourself, how long has it been since you have spent time with friends?  If it has been a while, how about planning a dinner night out.   Invite them to your home.  Think of an activity you enjoy and invite friends to go with you. 

Grow with friends-grow in your marriage. 

God’s Word-Ecclesiastes 4:12 

By yourself, you’re unprotected. With a friend, you can face the worst.

Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped.

2018 Winter Hiking-Bill, Carol, Lori, and Dan

The Trio

The Trio.  This is what we were called.  Our youngest daughter gave us this name.  The trio was made up of three couples.  They were John and Alice, Ken and Mary, and Dan and I.  We met both couples through Ballroom dancing.  Once we met John and Alice, they introduced us to many friends in the ballroom dance world.   One couple was Ken and Mary.  I remember when John introduced us to Ken and Mary. They mentioned how they also had two daughters about the same ages as ours.  They were in the early stages as empty nesters as we were.   We had many things in common which made it easier to get to know them better.  

Ballroom dancing is as much social as it is dancing.  You can only dance for so long.  You take a break from dancing and sit at a table or stand with others.   You really are in an atmosphere to socialize.   You talk life with those you meet and you begin to develop deeper relationships.  It’s not just meeting someone in passing, with the phrase, “Hi!  How are you today?”  It’s much more, especially if you reach out and put the effort into getting to know someone.   I feel that technology is a stumbling block to our socialization.   There are many things keeping us from leaving our house.   This is not healthy for us.  

What began as an introduction turned into deeper friendships with the trio.  Not only ballroom dancing.  We went on weekend getaways.  We biked together.  We went out for dinner.   We had dinner at each other’s houses.  We went to a wedding in Colorado.  We went hiking.    We felt very blessed to have this relationship in our early years of doing ballroom together.  

With John’s passing, we are no longer a trio, but the memories we share are ones to treasure.  You have to get out there to build these types of relationships. 

The Trio-Dan, Lori, Mary, Ken, Alice, and John-2012