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Making a night out a night in:

Mum and founder of Little Black Table, Kate Heylen shares her tips for creating a special evening & beautiful restaurant at home....
By Kate Heylen
Date: January 13 2012
Editor Rating:

I’m not a stylist, florist, therapist or chef. You don’t need to be any of these things either to create a beautiful restaurant like setting at home and enjoy great conversation with your partner. It doesn’t have to cost much, your relationship will improve...and you get to put on your high-heels!

Don’t get me wrong, my husband and I love going out for dinner. However since becoming parents it became a logistical effort to get organised enough to dine out on a regular basis not to mention costly once you factored in a babysitter. Not one to give up wearing my high-heels or content eating my dinner in a rush surrounded by unopened mail and Coles catalogues, I started a dining at home ritual once a fortnight or so. Little did I know the positive effect this would have on our relationship... it was all about me and my shoes to begin with. My husband and I would feed the girls dinner then progress with their regular night-time routine. Once the parenting duties were done we could finish off preparing our meal together, chatting and enjoying some adult time in the comfort of our own home with a beautiful table set for two waiting just for us. We put in a little effort and turned what could be an average night at home into something special.

It became a ritual we looked forward to and set aside time for. Time for us. Time to check in with each other and stay aligned and connected. If we were feeling in the mood for something deep we might discuss our family culture and values or review our family “strategic plan” (yes we kind of have one of them – a loose idea of our goals, hopes and concerns). Or if there was a more pressing need or we wanted something light it might be a conversation about where we were going to go for our next holiday or how to convince our four year old that coming into our bed in the middle of the night was not acceptable.

According to data from the Adelaide Bureau of Statistics, communication difficulties are one of the leading causes of relationship breakdown in Australia - second only to financial stress – and it is often because couples simply don’t make time to really communicate.

Psychotherapist and Counsellor, Guy Vicars, says “We need to give time to our relationships. This is what makes relationships thrive. If you nourish it with time, it will give back to you many times over. Just as slow food cooking keeps things tender, soft and tasty, so too when you spend time on your relationship.”

“It is no stretch to realise that time spent sharing food together has significant, lasting, healthy impacts on couple relationships. Why do you think so many couples are familiar with the idea of ‘date night’? Most of us recognise that this is where it’s at: spending uninterrupted time just being with one another. Doing this leaves us feeling valued, more peaceful, better connected and we have meaning in our lives when we spend time this way.”

“However, many couples are so time poor that they simply put their relationship off, hoping that the glue of love and history will hold everything together until they can get back to it…, some time. Trouble is, the relationship gets run down, becomes anaemic, feels listless and paper-thin. This is not the kind of relationship that will realistically withstand life’s inevitable blows – much less one where there are great heights of joy and fulfillment“

So stop putting it off. You don’t need to pay for a babysitter, a restaurant meal or a taxi. You don’t need to cook anything fancy, buy a dozen red roses or drink French Champagne. You just need to make time to create a special, intimate atmosphere at home and you can do it tonight.

Here’s a quick run-down of how to make your night out a night in:

1. Feed the kids’ dinner together

2. Whilst one of you does the bath routine and then gets changed into a fresh outfit, the other can take care of the following:

a.      Clear everything off the dining table

b.     Remove all but 2 chairs from around the table (put the others in another room or at least stacked in the corner)

c.     Put a tablecloth or at the very least a table runner on the table

d.    Get out your best dinnerware, glasses and cutlerly

e.    Add some candles and flowers (this can be a simple bunch of greenery picked from the garden or if really stuck, a bunch of herbs from the fridge

 f.    Put on some music, something that you know will help your partner relax. For me that’s ambient jazz, for my husband it’s Bono

3. Ok, the other partner will be back now and it’s your turn to go kiss the kids good night and get changed yourself

4. Start cooking together but it doesn’t have to be anything fancy. It could be sesame seed crusted blue fin tuna or tuna mornay – served on your best plates with an organic green salad and crusty bread it will taste Michelin star

5. Sit down at the table, but in a different position than you do every night. It will give you a new perspective

6. Talk and listen to each other – the listen part is critical. As Guy says “We have two ears and one mouth and you will do just fine if you use them in that ratio.”


Kate is so passionate about helping parents create a beautiful setting at home, she set up Little Black Table, providing everything people need to set a gorgeous table at home with a choice of 4 different themes all presented in a beautiful black box:

·          Natural

·          Romantic

·          Exotic

·          Glamorous

As well as all the bits you need (tablecloth, vases, candles), people get a handbook containing set-by-step instructions about how to lay everything out, as well as a “Relationship” section written by Psychotherapist and Counsellor, Guy Vicars. To help couples reconnect even more, there are also four levels of relationship cards that sit in your napkin to really get the conversation flowing. For more information or to purchase a Little Black Table box visit email

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