Family puts on themed dinners during pandemic

GENEVA Ill. (WOOD) — With families all over the country passing the time under stay-home orders in creative ways, this one may take the Italian wedding cake.

Marissa Jenniches lives with her sister, Lindsey McCall, and McCall’s family. The women are originally from Kalamazoo, but currently live in Illinois, and have been anything but bored the last few weeks.

It started with a canceled trip to Florida, and the McCall’s two, disappointed children. Their daughter, Lyla, brought up her white dress she was hoping to wear for dinner on vacation, and it sparked an idea that would take on unexpected life.

“I said, well let’s have an Italian wedding dinner since my mom’s side of the family is from Italy and I had her wedding dress. We all got dressed up like we were going to a wedding, and I made a huge Italian feast,” McCall said.

The kids loved it, and wanted to do it again, and again, and again until they had created a nightly routine.

“We would come down and make our debut to one another after doing makeup and hair and costumes, wondering if it would all come together, and we were always like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s amazing,” Jenniches said.

That first italian-themed meal followed by a night of dancing then the ideas flew faster than the mystery machine as they followed it up with “Scooby Doo.” The family hatched a plan for an Easter theme, and every night they were more inspired than Barbie’s Dreamhouse their ideas were stronger than heroes or villains and slicker than “Grease” lightning. Every theme included a meal to match, cleanup as a family and a dance party to cap it all off.

As elaborate as these dinners looked, Jenniches and the McCalls only used materials they already had in the house; they purchased nothing but the food.

“The hospital gown I was wearing when I was ’11’ (from the Netflix series “Stranger Things”) was made out of an old duvet cover then I drew with marker on it to make it look like a hospital gown,” Jenniches said.

What started as a way to keep the kids and the family entertained and engaged with one another turned into something they never imagined: a daily highlight for people oceans away. This family considered ending the themed dinners a few times but kept them going at the urging of the children and strangers.

“People we haven’t talked to who say they look forward to seeing (our posts) every night. If we’re delayed in putting up a post they say, ‘where are you guys? What was it tonight?’ It’s such a hard time for everyone, and it’s something that is helping us get through, but I think a lot of people that don’t have a lot to look forward to every day, it kind of brightens their day,” Jenniches said

They’ve heard from people as far away as China about their posts.

They hosted a grand finale for the dinners on Sunday with the theme “The Wizard of Oz,” after putting them on for 21 evenings in a row. They plan to throw encore dinners here and there. Now that the weather is nicer, they want to enjoy getting outside more.

Either way, they have clearly shown that when it comes to quarantine, for them “there’s no place like home.”

Online: Lindsey McCall on Facebook