5 Top Tips for Planning a Successful Family Reunion Cruise

cruise blog

Written by Sally Fain

Planning A Family Reunion Cruise

Choosing to hold your family reunion on board ship has a great many things going for it. For a start, although you may not think so, a cruise can often be cheaper for a large group event over several days than a land-based event. They also require a lot less logistical planning, and provoke fewer arguments over what to do/where to go on each day of the reunion. Not to mention the fact that a cruise is exciting, and a lot of fun! However, it can take a bit of planning during the early stages. Here are a few tips to help you plan a family reunion cruise:

Start Planning Early

This goes for all family reunions, but it’s worth restating at the outset nonetheless! Remember, there is no way that you’re going to please 100% of your family members 100% of the time, but with a little compromise and negotiation, you can come up with something that will please the majority. However, in order to achieve this nice result and have a great event, you need to start talking to people and planning the kind of things you’d like fairly early on. On a financial level, getting your plans together and booking early can mean considerable discounts from cruise lines, so it’s worth getting started about a year or so before you actually set sail! Of course, there are some things you can’t really work out until you’ve booked or are close to booking – quite how you’re going to get everyone to the port, for example – but putting in the majority of the ground work early will pay off in the long term!

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Choose Your Reunion Cruise Well

The majority of cruise companies offer pretty good deals for large groups, some even with things like cover-all insurance etc included as part of the deal. Others will expect you to provide certain things on your own initiative. Both of these formats have advantages and disadvantages – the all-inclusive nature of many cruises means that you have far less of a headache organizing things like meals and entertainment, while the more self-driven option allows you more freedom of choice when covering yourself and your events, and choosing things to do/eat. In general, the nature of a cruise means that reunion event planning is an awful lot easier, logistically speaking, as you’re all on the one boat, and mealtimes, entertainment etc can be co-ordinated by the cruise company themselves. However, different cruises offer different kinds of things, and will provide different incentives for large groups. If families will be part of your plans, choose a cruise that caters to children with activities and entertainment to their liking. It’s well worth doing your research properly in order to get the best deal for you. You’re not going to please everyone, but you can make your cruise get as close as possible to the majority desire with a little research.

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Get A Reunion Cruise Team Together

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this is an article sent in by Sally FainYou can’t do this alone! Pick a couple of family members whose skills compliment your own (and each other’s) to help you out. It’s essential that at least one of you is good at communicating with the group at large. You’re likely to have a lot of generational differences and a range of interests in your family group, so it’s important to have someone on the organizational side of things who can take on board the varying needs and desires of your group. If you’ve got someone who’s got at website management then that’s fantastic – setting up a website (or even just a social media page) can be a fantastic way of getting your ideas together, keeping everyone up to date, and making people feel involved.

Negotiate

As a reunion cruise involves a lot less logistical planning than most other kinds of reunion, the major work you’ll have to do is that of negotiating. Negotiating with your family, negotiating with cruise providers…it may sound arduous, but it’s worth doing! You can get quite a lot of good deals and incentives if you’re prepared to communicate with the cruise lines. They’ll be happier than you might think to modify their structures and routines for the benefit of your family reunion – it’s just a case of asking them! Negotiating with the cruise companies will also be good practice for negotiating with your family – who are all bound to have different opinions on the kind of thing they want, and the best way in which to conduct the event. Good luck!

Making a Family Parade Float

parade blog

Small Town Parades

My favorite parades are those in small communities.  The parade in our town is only two blocks long and lasts about 20 minutes, but we always arrive early so we can get a front row seat.  We don’t want to miss those great family floats!

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When I was growing up we always had a Hooton family float.  My Mom and her sister would design and make a float for all of my Grandparents’ grandkids to ride on.  I don’t remember a lot of the details about creating the float but I do remember having lots of fun with my cousins. I also liked getting a free ticket to the local movie theater and 25 cents to buy a treat which was the prize for having an award winning float.

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Highlight Your Family

Having a family float in a local parade can be a fun activity for your family reunion.  It’s also a great way for Grandma and Grandpa to show off their posterity.  The Brown family counted all their posterity and celebrated by building the family float pictured below.

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Here’s some tips to having a great family reunion float:

Register Your Float or Parade Entry

#1.  Be sure to register your float with the parade  committee in advance.  Find out the specifics about entering before you begin building your parade float. Some parades have restrictions about throwing candy or passing out flyers so find out the rules and safety requirements.

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#2. Once you know the size requirements and approved vehicles for floats, you will need to find either a truck and trailer or flatbed that you can use as a base for your float.  If you don’t have access to a truck and trailer let your family ride their bikes or walk in the parade.  Children in the family can dress in their team uniforms, dance costumes or school shirts and ride decorated bikes  in the parade.

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Another option is to put everyone in matching family reunion shirts and make a banner with your family name on it. Give everyone a helium balloon and wah la- you have a “walking” family reunion float.  Like they say, sometimes- “less is more”.

#3.  Make sure  you have plenty of help when assembling your float.  You will have to build your float in a few hours so you will need to be organized. Be sure you have all supplies on hand.

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#4. Money is probably going to be an issue for your family reunion float but floats don’t have to cost a lot of money to be fun.  There are inexpensive supplies that you can use to make a fun float. Colored butcher paper, paint, cardboard, straw bales and balloons can create a very nice float. Cut out props from the cardboard boxes. Try making props more three dimensional by using folds or tape and glue. Make them big, the bigger the better, because your float will be viewed from a distance. Paint these props colorfully and be sure to adequately secure them to the vehicle or trailer.  Balloons are a great filler as are colorful crepe paper streamers. Make skirting to cover the sides and wheels by wrapping and securing colored butcher paper with tape and a staple gun.

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#5.  Last of all, be sure you have a safe driver for your float.  Grandpa is a good option if he doesn’t already have an assignment.  After you have put your family reunion float together with crepe paper, balloons and staples, all that’s left is to add your family.

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And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

Hobo or Tin Foil Dinners With Variations

tin foil dinner blog

One of our favorite family reunion and campfire meals is Hobo dinners or Tinfoil dinners.

We love tin foil dinners so much we sometimes make them in our oven  at home.  Our favorite recipe for tin foil dinners is as follows:

Traditional Tin Foil Dinner Recipe

Place the following items on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Ingredients:

1 hamburger patty per dinner- 1 pound ground beef will make 4 patties
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 potato, peeled and sliced thinly or diced 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Onion slices 
2 Tablespoons cream of chicken condensed soup

Place patty in the center of each piece of foil. Put vegetables on top of meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add cream of chicken soup in two dollops on top of dinner and fold foil up tightly around the entire meal.

Cook on a grill on medium-high heat or in a campfire for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables and meat are cooked through.  You can also cook dinners in the oven (350 degrees for an hour) by placing meals on a cookie sheet before baking. 

Be careful when opening the foil- it is very hot! 

Tin Foil Dinner Secrets to Success

Identify your foil dinner by writing your name or an identifying mark with permanent marker or by folding the foil in an unusual  way.

You may substitute the soup with a few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce.

When cooking on a fire (when its easy to burn dinners) make an extra meal.  If a meal gets too crispy you’ll have an extra meal and no one goes hungry.

Add a tablespoon or two of water before sealing dinner up to steam your meal.

Turn packets half way through cooking process, using oven mitts or leather gloves.

Tin Foil Dinner Variations

On a family and friends camping trip one of our friends made their tin foil dinner with chicken and rice.  I thought that was a little odd but it got me thinking about variations to our basic recipe.

Tin Foil Dinner Seasoning Variations

Try one or more of the following in your dinner: garlic salt, season salt, lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, BBQ sauce, Ranch salad dressing (delicious on chicken) chili powder, or steak sauce.

Breakfast Tin Foil Dinner

Prepare one thin sausage patty made from lean country sausage, place on foil; add 3/4 to 1 cup frozen hash browns creating a nest in center of your potatoes; add one egg to the nest; wrap. Sprinkle with grated cheese just before serving.

Glazed Ham Tin Foil Dinner

Place one carrot thinly sliced on foil, salt and pepper to taste; place a slice of ham on top carrots, about 1/2-inch thick; place a ring of pineapple on ham; drizzle with 1 tablespoon honey, wrap.

Ranch Chicken Tin Foil Dinner

Combine 1 packet dry Ranch dressing mixed with 3/4 cup corn flake crumbs and 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Dip one boneless, skinless chicken breast in melted butter, Ranch dressing mix and place on foil.  Add potatoes and carrots.

This will make 4 to 6 chicken breasts.

M & M or Skittle Ice Breaker Game

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Getting to Know You Game

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Take a bag of M&M’s or Skittles candy and tell everyone to grab a handful…or specify a number (I prefer this if you have a large group so it doesn’t take so long- I suggest each family member take 4 or 5 candies) You might also choose to split up in smaller groups such as children under 12, 12 and over, young adults etc. if you have a larger group such as a family reunion.

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Assign a different meaning to each color, blue= family, green=hobbies, yellow=animals, brown= work or school etc. Participants must tell one thing about themselves for how many candies they have in their hands using the colors as their guide. They may also eat them as they share their information.  (“Blue…I have two sisters.”, then eats the candy. “Yellow…I have a dog named Kodi.”, and eats the candy etc.) If you have two or more of the same color you have to tell one thing per candy regardless the color.

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This is a good ice breaker because you can play it as soon as your party is supposed to start and those that come a little late can participate when they arrive.

A slight variation to the game is have participates tell things that make them, happy, sad, angry, excited or afraid.

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Best Salad Ever!

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My sister-in-law, Pam, brings the most delicious salads to our family reunions and parties but this salad, with pecans and pomegranate seeds, is my very favorite.  If you’re looking for a yummy salad to share at your next family gathering consider taking “The Best Salad Ever”!

BEST SALAD EVER RECIPE

Salad

1 bunch of lettuce greens
Pomegranate seeds or Craisins
1 Granny Smith apple or pear, thinly sliced
1 c. Feta cheese
1 c. chopped sugared pecans
Combine mixed greens in a large salad bowl with pomegranate seeds, feta, pears and  pecan halves.

 Vinaigrette Dressing:

2 T. sugar
1 ⁄3 c. orange juice
1 T. Good Seasons Italian dressing (dry packet)
2 T. red wine vinegar
½ c. olive oil or Canola oil
In a medium bowl, whisk vinegar with sugar, orange juice, dry salad dressing and vinegar. Whisk in olive oil or Canola oil gradually.  Store in refrigerator until ready to serve then pour over greens and enjoy.

Quench Thirsts At Your Next Reunion

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Keeping your family hydrated during your family reunion is important and can be a challenge if you are having your reunion outdoors and if you will be encouraging playing sports and other physical activities. You can create a budget and fund for communal beverages, ask everyone to bring their own drinks or try one of ideas below.

Water Bottles For Family Reunions

Water bottles give you a great opportunity to personalize your water bottles by making labels that support your reunion theme or your family name. Most of our family reunion theme packages include water bottle labels you can easily print and use on your water bottles.

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A package of sticker paper can easily be printed on then cut and apply to the water bottles.  Get a good quality sticker paper, some of the budget paper aren’t as sticky and may pull away from the water bottle. Sticker paper is great if you won’t keep water bottles in ice but if the water bottles will be stored where they will get wet you should select a sticker paper that is water resistant.  You can find water bottle sticker paper in the familyreunionhelper store.

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Water bottle labels compliment your reunion or party theme well and they can help save reunion funds and keep your reunion “green” if everyone writes their name on the bottle and reuses the same bottle during the reunion.

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Insulated cups from the Dollar Store

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A fun idea our family discovered recently are insulated cups from the dollar store.  They cost a dollar (surprise) and come in a variety of colors.  If you need a lot of cups you will probably want to order them from the store’s online site.  They will ship for free to your local store where you can pick them up.  Although cups cost more than a water bottle they do make a great souvenir that your family can continue to use when the reunion is over. 

My daughter has a vinyl machine and she made a fun  logo that we put on all of our cups. They were a hit with the family and with so many cup colors family members were able to easily keep track of their own cups.

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Water Coolers

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An  economical way to keep everyone hydrated is to use water coolers.  You can purchase a 5 gallon water cooler for around $25.00.  Buy several and keep one full of water and ice and one of punch or lemonade.  Drink coolers are also great for making homemade root beer. With coolers you can provide paper cups or can use them to refill water bottles or plastic drink  cups.

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Last but not least, ask everyone to provide their own beverages for the reunion. Asking everyone to provide their own drinks gives some relief to the budget and assures that everyone has their favorite beverage on hand.

Create a Cities and Towns Game

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You can create a fun pencil and paper game using the names of the cities and towns in your state.  It’s pretty simple to do, especially if you get a few people together to brainstorm with you.  Things might get a little silly as you match up clues and cities but in the end you should have 20- 25 clues for your next reunion  or party.

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Utah Cities and Towns Game

Here’s the game we made for our state, Utah.  Hopefully our ideas will help you create a game for your state. The first part is the clue the second  part is the city or town name that matches the clue.

1. Get on a horse smiling- Mount Pleasant

2. What it costs- Price

3. What you do for a girl in need- Helper

4. Has figs in in- Newton

5. Always around a dam site- Beaver

6. Place of 360 degrees- Circleville

7. A wealthy meadow- Richfield

8. Big Wind- Hurricane

9. Fragrant Tree- Cedar

10. Spanish headdress- Mexican Hat

11. A wreath of flowers- Garland

12. Hurrah!- Eureka!

13. Happy outlook- Pleasant View

14. Everyone is under 21- Minersville

15. A prickly weed- Thistle

16. Halfway there- Midway

17. Put your money on us- Backus

18. Give your boy money- Payson

19. A dragging gun holster- Logan

20. Nothing beautiful about her- Plain City

21. What you do with the little cars at mines- Orem

22. His dad is a firearm- Gunnison

The Ultimate Guide to Treasure Hunts and Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts can be a fun addition to any family reunion or party.  We’ve included several fun scavenger ideas in this blog that can easily be personalized to your own situation. Scavenger hunts aren’t just for kids though- teenagers and young adults love scavenger hunts too.

 

Video Scavenger Hunt

Divide everyone into 2 or more teams. Give each team a list of video-taping scenarios such as those in the list below. Be sure each team has a way to take videos and that phones or cameras are completely charged.  Most importantly, set a time limit, so that you don’t have dead time waiting for everyone to return.

Once you’ve gathered your teams, your clues and your video equipment, each team takes off in their cars or on foot and attempts to complete all of the tasks on their list. The first team to  complete all tasks on  the list is the winner.

Provide popcorn or other treats as you watch the videos.  Consider giving prizes for the most creative videos and best actors.

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Puzzle Treasure Hunt

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Take a picture of where the treasure will be hidden.  Cut up the picture of the location into several pieces. (The older the participants the more pieces)

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Hide the pieces in a designated area. Players search for the pieces then try to assemble the puzzle to get the prize or treasure.

Sandbox Treasure Hunt

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Sandbox treasure hunts are tried and true hunts.  Hide pennies, nickels and quarters in sand or saw dust.  Be sure and keep the sawdust and sand contained in a #10 tub, children’s pool or on a sheet of plastic. 

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Who’s Got the Key? Treasure Hunt

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Gather as many spare keys that you can find. You will need a lot of keys so ask family members to bring their keys also. You can purchase large lots of key blanks on eBay for under $10.00. Hardware stores that make keys usually keep a bucket of reject keys that they are often happy to get rid. Buy a lock and key. Put the lock on a treasure chest or box of some sort with a hidden treasure in it. Hide all of the keys including the key that will open the lock. Everyone searches for a key, when they find a key they try it in the lock- if it doesn’t work they search for another key until someone finds the correct key and opens the treasure.

Nature Scavenger Hunt

This is a great idea for the younger children in your family. Gather 12 random things from your yard, reunion  site or party location. Take pictures of the items and print on cardstock.  Glue to the top of an egg carton  and send them out to find the items.  The egg carton provides the perfect place to store the items they find.

A more complicated version of a nature scavenger hunt is pictured below.  The drawing next to each item make the hunt a little easier.  This type of hunt could be used for an  entire day can be a way to entertain kids when they aren’t excited about other activities that might be planned.

Digital Camera Treasure Hunt- idea 1

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This is such a fun idea for a family reunion. You’ll need one digital camera or phone with camera for each team. Give each team a list of things to take pictures of.  If you want to put a family history spin on this hunt, challenge teams to find:

  • Someone who served in a war
  • Oldest relative at the reunion
  • Youngest relative at the reunion
  • Relative that  has won a trophy
  • Someone that had a rotary dial phone
  • Relative who came the farthest distance to the reunion
  • Someone who has lived out  of the country
  • The couple that has been married the longest

You get the idea- it’s fun to really make teams talk to their older relatives to find out the information.  Be sure and take a team picture with each relative.

Digital Camera Treasure Hunt- idea 2

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Cousin Bobbie planned a digital camera hunt as part of our Thanksgiving fun a few years ago.  We had to find as many things on our list as possible, take a picture of them and return back to the meeting area and determine the winner.  We had to find things like a scarecrow, pumpkin, cat, turkey and Christmas lights.

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“I Spy” Scavenger Hunt for Weddings and Receptions

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Provide a list of “I Spy” photo opportunities and a disposable camera on each table.  As guest eat their refreshments they can look for the list and snap a picture.  These photos will give the bride and groom a different perspective of the wedding festivities.  A printable list such as the one below is available on Etsy.

Scavenger Hunt Clues Using Pictures

Take a picture of the location of a hidden clue but only take a portion of the picture. In the example below you can see that just a portion of the word is shown.  You could do part of a clock, drinking fountain, corner of tent, a car wheel with interesting rims etc.  When the hunters figure out what the clue is a picture of they run to that location to get their next picture clue and so on until they find the treasure.  This does take some advance planning but makes for fun hunt for even the very young that may not be good readers.

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Secret Codes Hunt

Writing secret codes is another way to generate clues. Using numbers in place of letters is an easy way to create the code (1=a, 2=b, etc.), but  using a backwards letter code can make things a little extra challenging. Decipher the  clue to find out where to look for their next clue.


Urban Race Scavenger Hunt

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As a Youth Council advisor for our town, I had the fun opportunity to participate in a Great Urban Race at Utah State University.  The teenagers learned a lot about the university by unscrambling clues and completing challenges to complete the race.  The kids loved it and I couldn’t help but think what a fun activity it could be for a family reunion, especially if you held your reunion in a town that your family had ties to. 

Urban Race is the team race that’s part photo hunt and part trivia. Teams must solve clues to find checkpoints throughout the city. To move on they must take photos or perform certain tasks to earn points such as collecting:

  • A restaurant napkin
  • A get a take-out menu from a Chinese restaurant
  • A disposable toilet seat cover
  • A stranger’s autograph
  • A coupon
  • A copy of the front page of the local newspaper
  • A change of address card from the post-office

The fun part of an urban race is that the use of cellphones is  okay. Teams may call family members left back at the reunion site to get help with difficult trivia. Everyone gets a chance to participate in the fun.

Riddle Clues

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The most difficult part of a treasure or scavenger hunt for me is making up the  clues, it’s also time consuming. I found a website that can help with that- it’s called “Riddle Me”. They have over Over 10,000 Riddles on 1,200 objects and can target different age groups and types of gatherings.  Their program also lets you be in control over the time of the activity, because it lets you decide how many clues to print in a scavenger hunt.

Happy Hunting- Aunt MO

Back Home- A Poem About Family

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I read this poem on Facebook and it really touched my heart.  I had such an amazing childhood- a huge backyard for whiffle ball games, a room of my own and parents that supported my love for horses and music.  Gatherings with extended family were a huge part of my child, vacations by myself to my grandparents house in Wyoming, cousin sleepovers and of course family reunions.

I don’t know who wrote this poem but I hope they won’t mind that I share it with you.  I think it could easily be part of a family reunion or heritage scrapbook or a touching tribute for a special person in your life.

Back Home

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If I had the power to turn back the clock,
and go back to that house at the end of the block.
The house that was home when I was a kid,
I know that I’d love it more now than I did.

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If I could be back there at my mothers knee,
and hear once again,the things she told me.
I’d listen now as I never listened before,
for she knew so well what life had in store.

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And all the advice my dad used to give…
his voice I’ll remember as long as I live.
But it didn’t seem really important then,
what I’d give to live it all over again.

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What I’d give for the chance I once had,
to do so much more for my mom and dad.
To give them more joy and little less pain,
a little more sunshine-a lot less rain.

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But years roll on and i cannot go back,
whether I was born in a mansion or a shack.
I can start right now in the hour that’s here,
to do something more for the ones I hold dear.
And since time in its flight is traveling so fast,
I can’t spend it regretting that which is past.
But I’ll try to make tomorrow a happier day,
By doing my Good unto Others…Today.

(Author Unknown)

S’MEEPS- a S’more Lovers Guide to Roasted Peeps

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What  a surprise I received Saturday when I dropped by my Mother-in-laws house.  She had invited a few of her great-grand children over  for an Easter celebration and they were having a grand old time roasting PEEPS marshmallow candies over an open fire. 

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There’s actually something unsettling about that for me- I mean WHO would roast those sweet little marshmallow chicks and bunnies over a FIRE?  And why would Grandma, of all people, encourage such a dastardly thing? The thought of sweet, innocent children putting a skewer through a marshmallow chick or bunny and roasting it over an open flame makes me cringe.

So what’s all this craziness about?  Roasted PEEPS!  According to Grandma- everyone is doing it.  PEEPS are marshmallows with sugar on top! When you roast them, the sugar caramelizes to make a hard crunchy shell. easter 466

As Easter draws to a close and family reunion season quickly approaches and all the pastel candy starts crowding the supermarket and drugstore shelves, consider buying some extra Peeps now for a Peep Roast at your reunion.

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One thought- Peep S’mores?  Does that make them S’meeps? We decided to give “S’meeps” a try and quite honestly, they were delicious.  I used a silicone Peep mold from Wilton to make chocolate the same shape as my bunny Peeps and regular graham crackers. Cook over a fire and assemble as you do for S’mores.

Although I’ve got to admit, all this Peeps silliness makes me wonder- what will they think of next?  Oh, and don’t forget, purchase extra  Peeps to have  on hand for your summer camping trip.