Sunday, 10 May 2009

Family Night Fun

I love this picture of this family on a picnic. They all look like someone has just said something really funny, and they've only has a few seconds to compose themselves for the picture. I thought it would be a good picture to illustrate our "Family Night." We started Family Night(which may indeed happen during the day, rather than the evening) as a way of building fun, family traditions into the lives of the children: something they can rely on weekly rather than seasonally; a constant weekly presence, and one which will grow and develop with them as they get older.

Each Saturday evening, or afternoon, family members take it in turns to request a favourite meal and then a game or a movie afterwards. The only rules are that we sit around the table and eat, and we don't watch the telly. So in the summer someone may request a walk and a picnic, like the family in the photo, or in the winter someone may request lasagne and a story. But mostly we go for any food we like and board games or films afterwards. It sounds simple, but it's a lot of fun, and planning it into our week makes something very average seem important and exciting.

I've noticed that we all seem to have our favourite choices, which appear month after month. My youngest always goes for crab with pasta, strawberries and ice cream and a game of Mouse Trap. She wanted this for her family night all throughout the winter and the DH trawled the supermarkets finding the unseasonal ingredients just so her family night would be what she expected. My eldest girl is a true carnivore; steak and chips, lasagne and toad-in-the hole, and always, always Eton Mess to follow. I like tapas-y/mezze-y type feasts, with garlic prawns and bread and chicken livers in sherry, or hummus and roasted peppers and pittas and olives. The DH, like the eldest, is a steak man, or sausages or pork chops, it's a real meat feast for the DH, who has cheese and biscuits to follow as he hasn't much of a sweet tooth. The food tends to be simple-ish and repetitive, but I've noticed that the whole "it's your choice" ethos of family night, excites the children and makes the meal special.

For entertainment we used to play a lot of board games, but we're going through a real movie phase at the moment. Even the youngest has given up her beloved Mouse Trap for movies. Ahh, but not any type of movie, our current "pash" is for black and white films, always comedies and preferably slightly spooky. These are our somewhat obscure choices!

The Ghost Train - Arthur Askey and Richard "stinker" Murdoch are stranded in a Cornish train station during World War II, accompanied by a selection of motley passengers. At midnight they hear the sound of the ghost train and spooky hilarity ensues. This is a Family Night classic, and we all quote it, we all have our favourite lines. Superb and really, really, silly.

What a Carve Up! - Kenneth Connor gets a visit from Donald Pleasance's creepy solicitor one evening, informing him of the death of a rich uncle. He and Sid James hotfoot it to said uncle's Yorkshire mansion and during the night the rest of the family is bumped off in a mysterious fashion. A complete rip off of Bob Hope's The Cat and The Canary, but nonetheless brilliant.

Chumps at Oxford - What can I say? Laurel and Hardy are just so funny. The best line: "What? Remove my britches, in the presence of Meredith!" To be repeated by family members ad nauseum.

Ask a Policeman - Will Hay is a policeman in charge of a small Cornish village with no recorded crime, but this is because he is too lazy and daft to be bothered with reporting it! He's in danger of losing his job, and then discovers a massive smuggling ring, hilarity ensues.

Honourable mention goes to Alistair Sim's The Green Man, Cottage to Let, Green for Danger and St Trinians, and Whiskey Galore and The Thin Man films. We'd like to try a few of the Bob Hope films, like My Favourite Brunette/Blonde, and The Cat and the Canary, but the Amazon reviews say that the film quality is an awful, crackly mess. However, I'm on the lookout for a few Road movies, as I know my kids would love 'em.

So this is our Saturday night tradition. I'd love to hear your simple, family traditions, how they came to be and what you value about them. Well, must dash! Happy Sunday one and all (oh and Happy Mothering Sunday to y'all over the pond)!


Anonymous said...

Sounds like brilliant fun!

Anonymous said...

I loved this post, we used to have 'family night' on a Friday night when the kids were's a bit less regular these days, now that they have grown up, so I grab snippets of everyone being together in the one room! Loved your ideas, thanks for listing the films, brill! :)

Niki RuralWritings said...

We did similar when the kids were kids and still at home. Lovely list of movies. I'll check to see if our library has any of them :)
And I choose to come for supper on your night and your youngest...YUM
Have a happy Monday

Angela said...

I love 'The ghost Train' - written by Arnold Ridley of Dad's Army fame.
We had a "Family Fun Tin" when the girls were small. We sat down one Sunday afternoon and wrote out about 50 activity ideas [25 on green paper for fine days, and 25 on lilac paper for wet days] and then when we had time together, someone would pull out the slip and we would do whatever activity was on it.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Sarah
It's a right laugh, m'dear!

Hi Tina
The films are great, if you have a silly side!

Hi Niki
One day I'll post the recipe. My youngest loves fish and shellfish. When we visit my mum and dad in Spain, dad takes her to tapas bars and she loves it!

Hi Angela
Don't ya just love Prvate Godfrey? "May I be excused, Captain Mainwaring?" I love that tin idea, we may try it, this coming mid-term break!

Anonymous said...

You know you've whetted my appetite for some old fashioned film fun...must dig out Dad's Laurel and Hardy.

Left-Handed Housewife said...

What strikes me about the family in the picture is that they're smiling--it's so rare to see an old photograph where people look anything but serious. It gives you the impression that people were pretty grim way back when, but I suspect it has more to do with the rarity of being photographed, so that it was serious business when you were.

I love the idea of family night, and I like how you guys do it. I've been meaning to implement a Friday family night just to give Jack a chance to play board games. He's the only one in the family who loves them (I can barely bring myself to play--one reason I haven't implemented family night yet!). You have inspired me, and I'm eager to check out the films you mentioned. Thanks!

Gumbo Lily said...

We go through "seasons" of family game nights. In winter, we play cards nearly every night. In summer, we take in golf or croquet on our lawn.

I like the idea of choosing a favorite supper.