Bottle Rockets- an “Out of This World” Reunion Activity

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When I decided on a space theme for our 2020 family reunion, there were two activities I was sure I wanted to do.  The first was moon stilts (I’ll write that bog when  I get some good photos) and the second, was water  bottle rockets.

Our family has a big party every Independence Day and one our traditions is making and launching water bottle rockets.  We invite all of our guests to make a water bottle rocket and bring it to the party but,  for our  reunion, I’ll  bring the supplies, poster  board, duct tape, markers and bottles and let reunion  goers make their rockets on site.

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Basically, to build a bottle rocket, you start by rolling a piece of paper into a cone shape and attach it to the bottom of an empty 1 or 2 liter plastic bottle.  To help your rocket fly, you need to cut out 4 cardboard triangles to make your rocket fins. (There are lots of videos  on YouTube to walk you through  this process.)

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At our Independence Day party, our seasoned rocket builders come up with some pretty creative designs for their rockets .  Most add parachutes  to soften the landing and some even include small,  plastic toys that they send into  space.  No  matter what the design, spectators love to watch the rockets blast off and their landings can be quite exciting.

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For safety reasons, we  only let adults operate the launcher.  We have a homemade launcher and  one  we  purchased from Amazon.  Both work great but, keep in mind when planning your reunion, that you need to have a water source and hose available to fill the rockets with  water.

AquaPod Bottle Launcher

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At our reunion this year, we will give  prizes for best design, most unusual design and most creative design.  We will also give an award to the  rocket that stays in  the air the longest which we will determine by timing with  a stopwatch on our phones.  At our Independence Day parties, that award  has been won by my son in law for the last 4 years.  He’s a very talented engineer and his rocket designs are quite impressive and fun to watch.

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Rocket creative award

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Where, Oh, Where?

Choosing a family reunion location

One of  the most difficult things about finding a family reunion is finding a location.  If your family holds reunions at a hotel or on a cruise ship the process is pretty easy- just do an  online search, but if you’re looking for someplace different, and perhaps cheaper, the task gets a little more daunting. The BIG challenge is finding a place large enough when you have a BIG family.

On one side of our family, we need to accommodate about 35 family members.  We love holding our reunions in Bear Lake, Utah.  It’s pretty easy to find a cabin that will accommodate 35, but as our family grows it will get more difficult.

Reunion locations for large family groups

My daughter has married into a family that plans for reunions of about 200  people. Many of them come from all across the country, many flying to the reunion.  There are locations that cater to these large groups but the cost gets pretty high.  This family has a lot of experience planning for these large reunions and they have a couple of great ideas for keeping costs as low as possible.  Their reunion is held every other year and they schedule their reunion during the middle of the week when rates are cheapest.  My daughter has been surprised at all the people that show up for these reunions considering that most have to take off work to be there.

This is Blacks Fork River Lodge in  Wyoming.  It’s a beautiful location that can accommodate large family groups.

 

Blacks Fork River Lodge

 

Blacks Fork River Lodge is ideal for Family Reunions, Corporate Retreats, or any large group use, situated on 51-plus acres including a ½ mile of the beautiful Blacks Fork River. The lodge is located in Bridger Valley, Wyoming, less than 2 hours drive from Salt Lake City, Utah. The main lodge is a three-story 5,400-plus square foot lodge with 9 bedrooms, 8 baths, large kitchen, living, and dining rooms, oversized back deck, all with beautiful river views. The Lodge rental sleeps 50 with cabin and ranch house included. There is also a 3 bedroom ranch house and a 2 bedroom cabin.

https://blacksforkriverlodge.com/

The May Family Ranch in Idaho is an ideal location for your family reunion, retreat, camping, hunting or fishing trip. They can easily accommodate from 1 to 200 persons. We are in one of the premier recreational and hunting/fishing areas in Idaho. The mountains surrounding us have numerous hiking, biking, &ATV trails.

The Ranch is open year-round and they offer a variety of accommodations. The Lodge sleeps 28 and the Miners’ Cabin sleeps 14. Both are both self-contained units. They have 8-person family cabins, private loft rooms, a bunkhouse that sleeps 26, private rooms with baths, as well as many tent spaces and RV hookups. http://www.mayfamilyranch.com/

Roughing it is fun!

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The Stewart side of our family has grown to over 100 members.  We ALWAYS spend our reunions at a campground. This year we will be camping in Mantua, Utah.  For our large family we reserve two group area and may soon need to increase that to three. For our reunions we need a location for both RVs and tents.

Our Favorite Family Reunion Location- Elwood Utah

We have the greatest little reunion site It’s called Hansen Park in Elwood Utah.  It has a huge covered bowery with a kitchen, a fire pit, restrooms and even a baseball diamond and small basketball court.

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Someone must have told the good people of Elwood what a treasure they have because they have now made it as difficult as possible to reserve the park and our family has just given up trying to get it- but if you can find a friend that lives in Elwood they may just be able to help you out.

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RV Camping

If your family loves RV’ing, there’s a new online resource for finding your perfect campground.  As an avid RV’er, Mark McKinney, used to get quite frustrated with how slow and laggy many of the existing RV & campsite websites were, so he decided to create the website that he wished existed. His website is https://www.findrvparks.com.  The site is great for finding a family reunion campground.  I searched for the Mantua, Utah campground we’ll be staying in this summer and sure enough, there it was. 

If you have an RV, this site is perfect for you.  You can use the filters on the site to search for electric, water, waste and whether or not pets are allowed. You can also search for RV campgrounds that have Wi-Fi and laundry. 

Mark even wants you to contribute to his collection of reviews and photos for your favorite RV Parks by submitting photos and experiences of your favorite campgrounds.

Space Camping

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I’m glad we’ve locked down the reunion site for our Space themed reunion this year- now I just have to turn it into the “moon”  or perhaps “NASA”.  That’s one of many decisions I haven’t made yet.

Jelly Bean Bracelets Ice Breaker

Ice breakers for all kids

Whether planning a family reunion or party, I always like to  provide an activity that gives family members an activity to do while waiting for the organized activities to begin.  For instance, in the Caveman reunion, reunion goers decorated dinosaur sugar cookies.  This is a great way to get family members reconnect with each other and shouldn’t require hands on attention from the reunion planner.

Here are fun idea that fit the bill-

Jelly Bean Bracelets

What could be better then jewelry you can eat?

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Purchase lots of bags of Jelly beans (Try buying these at after Easter sales), sewing needles, Jewelry cord that is stretchy and scissors.

Cut the jewelry cord about 7″ long. Tie knots about 1 inch from the bottom of the cord. Thread the cord through the sewing needle. Tip- be sure the the cord you use will fit through the  eye  of the needle.

Push the needle through the center of each jelly bean to thread them, then push them down to the bottom of the cord. Continue to add jelly beans, about 15- 20 depending on your wrist size, until the bracelet is long enough. When your bracelet is long enough, tie the two ends together securely using several knots.

Tip: If the needle gets sticky give it a quick cleaning with baby wipes to clean off your needle.

Working on this project will kids talking and help them get reacquainted.  I think you’ll be surprised at the fun color combination your family will come up with.  Have I mentioned that this is a fun idea for your Easter celebration?

Campfire Cookies

An Easy to Make Treat for Your Camping Family Reunion

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One side of our family always goes camping for our family reunions and when I saw a photo of these campfire cookies I just knew we needed to add them to our reunion schedule.

Begin by frosting a sugar cookie with green frosting. Crush 2 snack size Oreo cookies on top of the frosting to resemble dirt.

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Add 3 unwrapped Tootsie Roll candies for logs and cut up red, yellow and orange gummy candies to resemble fire.

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Put 3 mini marshmallows on the ends of 3 pretzel sticks. Place sticks on each cookie in a pyramid shape over the campfire, making sure the marshmallows touch at the top.

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For added fun, take a lighter and run it over the marshmallows to give them a roasted look!

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Goose Chase- an App for Reunion Fun

A Scavenger Hunt for Your Family Reunion

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At our back to school faculty meeting  we  played a game using the Goose Chase app.  The entire time we were playing the game I kept thinking how fun this game would be for a family reunion- and I couldn’t wait to share it  with you.

Here’s how it works. GooseChase is basically a scavenger hunt. You go to the Goose Chase website where you build your game. You give your game a name and can also set how long the game will run and whether there’s a password to join.

Each GooseChase game has a list of missions for participants to complete. You can create your mission list using their bank of 100+ tested missions or by designing your own from scratch.

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Missions have a name, description, point value and an optional link or photo to provide extra information. To complete a mission, select it from the list and follow the instructions to receive the allotted points.  Our team had 6 people in it and we piled into a car and drove around to complete  our challenges. With real-time activity feeds and rankings, you’re able to see everything as it happens. At the end of the game we were able to watch a slideshow of all the photos & videos which was a ton of fun.

“GooseChase got people moving around, talking to each other and laughing.  If I have any reservations about GooseChase  it is the cost.  It may be out of the reach for some family reunions and church groups but they do have an educational license for schools etc. and there is a free version if you only have 3 teams.

You can read more about GooseChase at GooseChase.

My New Favorite Reunion Recipe

Biscuit & Gravy Casserole for a Crowd

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Uncle Steven attended a camp out with about 90 youth this past week.  When he was telling me about the camp he said his  favorite thing to eat was the Biscuit and Gravy casserole they had for breakfast.  It sounded delicious and so I  contacted  the camp cook and  she shared her recipe and I tried it out on  my family.  Kids and adults thought it was delicious  and it was very easy to make.

Biscuits and Gravy Casserole Recipe

I made 2 cake pans (9×13) of this so I doubled the recipe.  I used 1 lb sausage and 1 lb ground beef.

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Ingredients

1 lb bulk pork breakfast sausage or ground beef

1 can (16.3 oz) Pillsbury™ Grands!™ Southern Homestyle refrigerated Buttermilk biscuits (8 biscuits)

1 pkg of biscuit gravy mix (should make 1 quart of gravy)

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13×9-inch (3-quart) glass baking dish with cooking spray.

In 12-inch nonstick skillet, cook sausage/ground beef until browned and thoroughly cooked.

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Using another pan, cook gravy according  to package directions.. Combine thickened gravy and meat. Spoon into a 9×13 dish.

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    Separate dough into 8 biscuits. Cut each biscuit into fourths. Top sausage mixture with biscuit pieces.

    Sprinkle with a little cheese if desired.

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    Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until thoroughly heated and biscuits are golden brown.

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    Serve & enjoy but don’t plan on leftovers.  I will use this recipe to feed family at two reunions this year. I think I’ll cook the meat and  make the  gravy in advance so I just need to assemble the casserole a couple of hours before we eat.

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Aunt Lynn’s Camping Match Game

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Aunt Lynn’s Camping Match Game has been a favorite activity at our family reunions for over 20 years. You play this game like you do most match games but instead of only one winner, everyone that finds a match receives a prize.

To play the game lay the cards face down on a flat surface.

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Youngest player goes first.

Players take turns turning over 2 cards at a time.

The cards must be turned over completely so that all players can see them. A player makes a “match” if the two cards turned over are identical. (When printing the cards you will need to make two copies)

When a match is made the player puts the pair of cards beside them and takes the prize associated with that match. (see list below) and the next player takes their turn. We don’t let the person that finds a match continue to make matches until they don’t make a match. That way more people are able to earn prizes.

Examples of prizes for matches include-

Hike-  Rocky Road

Logs-  Tootsie Roll

Mosquitos-  Slap Stick

Mountains-  Mounds

You can give a grand prize to the player with the most matches if you want to.  

You can download the complete printable game here.

Potatoes in a Bag

A Delicious Idea From My Nephew, Brayden, for Your Family Reunion

Sometimes I get in a rut- I forget that some people don’t pack up and head for the mountains when they plan a family reunion or family gathering- instead they head for the BEACH!  And it was to the beach we went for a fun family party with my brother and his family. 

We packed up the surf boards, sunscreen and mashed potatoes- yes, MASHED POTATOES!  “Potatoes in a bag” is a fun and easy tradition Uncle Brett and Aunt Lisa have implemented in their family and would be a yummy idea for your family reunion no matter what location  you choose.

Most of the prep for “Potatoes in a bag”  was done at home.  Everyone measured 1/2 cup potato flakes in a plastic baggie and added their favorite “mix-ins” to give their bag of potatoes their own special flavor.

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At the beach, Uncle Brett heated up the water in his portable heater.  When the water was hot we added 1 cup to our bag of potatoes and squished it up in the bag until it was well mixed and creamy.  The potatoes were delish!  The beach was chilly  and wet, and the hot potatoes were a welcome treat.

Directions: Mix 1/2 cup of potato flakes with 1 cup boiling water.  Stir until blended. Add your favorite mix-ins: salt, dry ranch Salad dressing, dry onion soup mix, Butter Buds, dried parsley flakes, beef jerky pieces, diced cheese stick and a beef stick. For thinner potatoes, add more water; for thicker, add more flakes.

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If you’ve done eggs in a bag at your family reunion I think you’ll have fun with this idea.  Set out all the ingredients and mix-ins and let your family create their own delicious mashed potatoes.  Your bigger eaters may want to use 1 cup of potato flakes with 2 cups of water.

Thanks, Brayden, for a delicious family reunion idea! And if you’re looking for fun beach themed ideas for your family reunion, check out our Beach family reunion for lots of fun in the sun ideas.

Beach Family Reunion

Beach Reunion

 

Aunt MO

NOTE: Whenever you add boiling water to your baggie, always use heavy-duty or freezer zip lock bags. Although there have been no claims of injury or illness, Ziploc® states their baggies are not intended to be used at high temperatures, so use at your own risk.

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Mashed Potato Bar

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What’s a Mashed Potato Bar?

I had never heard of a “Mashed Potato  Bar” until recently   when my daughter came home from a family function with her husband’s family and they had hosted a mashed potato bar. My daughter raved about how delicious and fun the mashed potato bar was.

Of course, I’ve eaten  at lots of baked potato bars and for any years a potato bar was our  go to meal at family gatherings but a mashed potato bar is a fun new twist to that traditional and rather over  done family  reunion  meal.

Here’s how  you  put a Mashed Potato Bar together for your next family reunion or party.

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Of course,  the main ingredient is mashed potatoes.  You can make your own (see recipe below) or  you can use already prepared potatoes such as the ones Costco carries.

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Mashed Potato Bar Toppings Ideas

Serve your  potatoes in large crock pots to keep the potatoes warm and set  out various  toppings.  I’ve listed a few of our favorites but use your imagination to  customize  to your needs:

Sour cream
Chopped green onions
Mushrooms
Olives
Crumbled bacon
Finely shredded cheese
Steamed broccoli
Chopped Ham
Shredded chicken
Whipped butter
Sour cream
Frozen Peas
Ranch salad dressing
Grilled zucchini and summer squash
Caramelized onions and peppers
Freshly grated Parmesan
Tomato salsa
Tomatoes
Jalapenos
Grilled tri-tip sliced thin
Onion crisps
Country Gravy (I like to stay away from gravy, it’s the obvious choice and people aren’t’ as creative if they have gravy as a choice)
Salt and pepper

The Idaho Potato Board has their own list of ingredients for a Mashed Potato Bar which you can find by clicking on the link below.

  https://idahopotato.com/recipes/mashed-potato-bar

Serve on plain plates or bowls or fancy things up a bit by using goblets as your dishes.  You can  always find a miss-matched assortment of goblets and wine glasses at your local DI or Goodwill.

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A good basic mashed potato recipe includes just a few ingredients. Note: Baking and Russet potatoes tend to be heavier and starchier than Yukon Gold potatoes.

Basic Mashed Potatoes Recipe

  • 8 Potatoes
  • 1/2 Cup melted butter
  • 1 can Evaporated Milk ( I melt my butter in a bowl with the milk for creamier potatoes.
  • Salt
  • Fresh Pepper
  1. Peel and dice potatoes and put in pot of boiling salted water. Cover and simmer until potatoes are fork tender (20-30 minutes, depending on quantity of potatoes). Remove from heat and drain.
  2. Mash potatoes with a potato masher or a hand mixer.
  3. Add butter and milk

While doing research for this article I found this cute Mashed Potato Bar sign on Etsy.  The name of the shop that offers it for sale is the TheDoodleCoop.

Potato Bar Sign, Mashed Potatoes Sign, Make Your Own Loaded Potato Printable, Wedding Reception, Sweet Sixteen, Birthday Party, Potato Bar

TheDoodleCoop

Be sure and sign up to receive a copy of familyreunionhelper.com’s FREE reunion cookbook HERE

Tried and True Recipes

 

 

 

 

Whether the Weather

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Predicting the weather for your next family reunion- yes, there is a tool to help!

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A couple of months ago I was directed to a website that promised to provide free long range weather forecasts to help with planning outdoor activities.  I was excited to think there was a website like this, because, if you’ve ever been in charge of an outdoor family reunion or gathering of some sort, you know the most difficult thing  to predict is the WEATHER! 

Since my first visit to their website I have used their information at weathertab.com when  planning several family functions and each  time their predictions turned out to be accurate.  About a year  ago, I  used the weathertab website to get an  idea but how weather would be for our family reunion/vacation (12 months in the future) would be in sunny southern  California.  They predicted that the weather on the dates we would  be in California, it would rain for 3 days and they were right- it rained 3 of the days we were at Disneyland. (Which isn’t  necessarily a bad thing- no crowds and no waiting in line.)

The http://www.weathertab.com/ website doesn’t guarantee that their information is 100 percent accurate but their research and science does give you a bit of an advantage when trying to choose a date for your family reunion and they do say that their forecasts “start where others stop”.

The weathertab.com site can show you the predicted weather for 1 day to 18 months in advance, it is always free and requires no subscription or registration.

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I put the weathertab.com site to the test when planning my husband’s 60th birthday party.  I choose to have his celebration a day earlier because there was only a 13% chance of rain on that day instead of his actual birthday when there was a 39% chance of rain.

I felt lucky when we had a wonderfully sunny,  no rain, party on his special day.  I’m excited to use the site when planning next years family reunion. Check out http://www.weathertab.com/ when planning your reunion too and see if WeatherTAB’s  long range weather forecast can help you find a reunion day with a lower chance of rain too.

The cute graphics in  this blog have been  purchased from Kimberly Stewart, Scrapbook-elements.com