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

mashed potato bar

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

Superhero Reunion Theme

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Family Reunion Helper proudly announces the completion of their latest family reunion  theme- Superhero!

Now you can bring all the action-packed adventure and excitement of your favorite superheroes to your family reunion!

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A superhero reunion will appeal to family members of all ages. Superheroes have unique skills, wear awesome costumes and save the world on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis.

A superhero family reunion lends itself to action-packed games, superhero training and fun activities.

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This reunion theme package includes a fun printable reunion invitation, secret super power cards, water bottle labels, superhero training cards, “what’s my super power?” activity, Kapow!, Boom! and Zap! signs and fun printables for napkin rings and table decorations.

Our superhero reunion is jam packed with more than 35 pages of ideas for many of your favorite superheroes: Batman, Spider-man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, Iron-man, Flash, Hawk-eye and even Aqua-man.

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With the Superhero reunion theme your family will want to save helpless citizens, fight the forces of darkness and defeat the evil villains. Plan a superhero reunion and let your families’ powers shine. Whether they’re saving the planet or saving your family, a superhero family reunion or party will be a memorable reunion for anyone who has ever yearned to make right what’s wrong in the world.

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You can find the superhero reunion theme at Family Reunion Helper.com and by clicking on the link below.

Super Hero Family Reunion

Our Favorite Family Reunion Dinner-Dutch Oven Stacked Enchiladas

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This is our favorite family reunion recipe- you make it one pot and it feeds 12- 14 depending on serving size.  We like to cook this in our Dutch ovens over a campfire but this recipe can easily be prepared and then baked in your oven.  Basically all you are doing is warming it up and melting the cheese.  We serve it with lettuce,  chopped tomatoes, sour cream salsa and tortilla.  Dutch oven stacked enchiladas is such a flexible recipe that you can substitute or add any ingredients that you desire.  You can easily make it spicy or keep it mild for the kids in  your family. It’s the perfect recipe for your family gathering. This recipe adapts easily to a 14 inch oven and even cake pan or casserole dish. 

DSC_0384Dutch Oven Enchiladas

2 lbs. hamburger
1 cup water
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 10-ounce can enchilada sauce
1 10-ounce can tomato soup
2 cups of salsa (mild or hot)
1 can olives, sliced
2 lb package shredded cheese
Flour tortillas (9-inch size)
Optional: for extra spice add 2- small cans diced chilies and one package taco mix

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Heat 12 inch Dutch Oven over coals.
Brown hamburger, onion and salt
Drain drippings.
Add soup, water, enchilada sauce and salsa.
Simmer 10 minutes.
Put ¾ of hamburger and sauce mixture into separate container.
Arrange 3 tortillas over mixture remaining in oven.
Alternate meat, cheese and tortillas in three layers ending with cheese and olives.

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Bake with 12 coals underneath and 16 on top until heated through about 45 minutes or in your oven at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an  hour.

Hint: Serve these enchiladas to your guests to be sure you get to the  bottom of your stack. You don’t want them to scrape off the top of enchilada stack.
Serves: 12- 14

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Have a Trail Mix Buffet

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A trail mix buffet is a fun option for your western or rustic themed reunion or party.  If your occasion is more formal you can dress up your buffet with glass apothecary jars for a fancier look which lends itself to fancier parties such as wedding receptions or anniversary celebrations. A trail mix buffet is also a fun treat idea for a movie themed or kid themed party.

For our family reunion of 100 guests we used large tin foil pans to put the many treat options in but using  a variety of glass jars, tin buckets, and baskets are great for holding all the delicious goodies  your guests can choose from. .

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Serving guests is a breeze and everyone fills their own containers (paper sacks, sandwich bags, party treat bags,  boxes or paper ice cream cups) with their favorite treats.

You can use healthy ingredients for your buffet featuring raisins, nuts and seeds or a kids favorite buffet using cereals, M & M’s and gummy bears.  Use your imagination when selecting treats for your buffet.

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Here’s a list of possible options for your buffet:
nuts- almonds, peanuts, pecans, cashews etc.
pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds
cereal such as Cheerios, Trix, Chex, Fruit Loops or Captain Crunch etc.
chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, vanilla or peanut butter chips etc.
candy-  M&M’s, candy corn, gummy worms, milk duds, sour patch kids etc.
granola
marshmallows
coconut, banana chips
pretzels, goldfish crackers
raisins, Craisins, chopped dates, yogurt raisins
Popcorn makes a great filler.

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Make signs for ingredients your guests may not recognize. Custom labels, mini chalkboards and cardboard tents designed to  support your theme will do the job. Print off the following food tents for your trail mix buffet. western food tent

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Provide serving scoops such as ice cream scoops, oversized spoons or measuring cups- you’ll need one for each treat in your buffet.  Smallish scoops help control serving size to assure that there is enough if each treat for all your guests.

Nail It Game!

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I love finding a new game to share with my family and friends and the game I’m sharing today is a good one. Simple to put together and simple to play. This version of the “stump game” can be played by everyone and we call it “Nail It”.

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Nail It Game Tools

To play you need a tree stump, as many nails as there are players, and one hammer.   The nails we used are pictured below.

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How to Play the Nail It Game

Everyone puts their nail into the stump just enough for it to stand nice and sturdy (in the order that you are standing in the circle). Each player then “claims” a nail by placing his or her finger on the nail to claim it as theirs. This will be his nail for the duration of the game. It is generally understood that people will claim the nail directly in front of them.

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The first player taps the hammer two times on the stump and then takes a swing at any of the nails but their own.  They either hit the nail or miss the nail- either way the hammer is then passed to the next person in the circle and they repeat.

Winning the Game

The goal is to hit everyone else’s nail until it is flush with the stump and to be the last nail standing.  A player is eliminated from the game (and thereby takes no more turns) once any part of the head of his nail passes below the level of the surface of the stump (including bending over the edge of the stump without actually entering it). Use your fingernail to test if the nail is flush.

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It is common for the winner of the game, should he choose to do so, to drive his own nail fully into the stump in a victory drive.

I have to say I was a surprised when, doing research for this blog, found that the “stump” game is actually a drinking game.  So, as a disclaimer, let me say that we have played this game and never, at any time, have we had to have a can of beer in our hand to have fun playing it.  It’s a great game for family members of most ages and abilities.  Sometimes the most powerful hammer swingers are the worst players. 

Nail It Game Tips: 

*You may all stand or all sit to play
*Keep your face a safe distance from the stump so you don’t get hit in the head.
*Be careful reaching across the stump to hit a nail- you may hit your palm on a nail and it doesn’t feel very good.
*Choose good, sturdy nails- too small and some players can drive them in one swing.

Cat Eye Flashlight Hike

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Cat-eye Hike for Family Reunions or Parties

One of the most requested activities at our  family reunions is a Cat Eye hike.  You do a Cat Eye hike in the dark so it’s a  perfect activity for a “camping” family reunion. We have also done cat eye hikes in apartment complexes and residential areas.  We’ve done cat eye hikes with family reunions, girls camps and for kid parties.  It’s a fun activity but does take some time and thoughtful strategy to set up.

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How to Organize a Cat Eye Hike

This hike is best done when it is very dark. Cut cat’s-eye shapes (squares work fine too) from reflective tape, available in the Family Reunion Helper store. Another product you might want to consider is “Trail Tacks”.  They are basically just thumb tacks with a reflective paint on the top.  They are visible for up to 200 yards and are great  for sticking into wooden fences etc. You will probably want to use a combination of the two products- tape and tacks.  Just be considerate of others when you set up the hike- you don’t want to be shinning flashlights into peoples windows or causing  damage with reflective tape or tacks.

 

It is best to set up your hike the night before guiding groups on the hike. Put cat eyes on markers or apply cat eyes to index cards and then use the cards to mark the trail. We like to set up our hikes the night before the cat eye hike is scheduled.

How to Set Up a Cat Eye Hike

When making the trail, place the eyes in such a manner that you can see only one more set of cat’s eyes from the location of one set. Hikers will shine their flashlights on the first set of eyes and then run to the second set of eyes where they will shine their flashlights around the area until they locate the next set of eyes. They will continue searching for eyes and following their path until they arrive back at camp.

If you have a large group, instead of a mass start, send groups of ten or so at a time. You can group hikers as children, teenagers and senior citizens.  Every participant will need a flashlight- you will want to remind your family members to bring a flashlight on your reunion invitation.

If camping, have S’mores for hikers when they complete the hike.

Cooking With Pie Irons

 

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No, we’re not talking about the loved ones that will be attending your family reunion- we’re talking about Pie Irons! Pie Irons are known by many different names, Pudgie Pies, Pioneer Pies, Fire Pies, Toasties and Jaffles, but each name is referring to ingredient-filled "pockets" of bread toasted over a campfire. Cooking with pie irons is a long time tradition at our family reunions.

The Basics of  Cooking With Pie Irons

Camp cooking doesn’t have to be just hot dogs and roasted marshmallows. Our family reunions wouldn’t be complete without a delicious raspberry pie cooked over the campfire and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon. With a pie iron, you can cook anything from a simple grilled-cheese and ham sandwich to a delicious berry pie for dessert.

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In its most basic function, a pie iron is a way to cook grilled cheese sandwiches and fruit pies over an open fire. This is done by placing the food inside the pie iron and then locking the two sides closed with a metal hook. Metal rods with wood handles extend from the castings so the user can easily maneuver the pie iron over a campfire. A few minute over the heat, usually 4 to 6 minutes, and you will have perfectly toasted sandwich or pie.

Pie Irons are available in both cast iron & aluminum. Our family prefers cast iron. They come in several different shapes; round, square, oblong and double. For our family reunions, we only use square irons. Aunt Lynn doesn’t think she’s had breakfast unless she has had a piece of toast so we’ve even used our pie irons for toast.

To make the most simple of pies, just take two slices of bread (buttered on the outsides), fill with jam, cheese, meat or pie filling- you don’t need much, then place inside the pie iron and lock it closed. Hold it over your campfire for a few minutes on each side and you’ll soon be eating a grilled cheese sandwich or a scrumptious apple pie.

At our family reunions, we like to make fruit pies in the evening while we are sitting around the campfire visiting, singing or playing games. About ten years ago, at a family reunion, cousin Mindy suggested that we sprinkle our freshly baked pies with sugar and cinnamon when we dump it out of the pie iron. Yummy! Some of our favorite flavors of fruit pies are lemon and raspberry.

Pie Iron Fruit Pies

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Instructions

 Step 1

Build a campfire. Pie Iron pies do best over a hot bed of coals. Try to start your campfire an hour early to let it burn down.

 Step 2

Butter one side of each slice of bread. Place one slice, butter side down, in one half of the pie iron.

 Step 3

Put a spoonful of pie filling in the center of the bread slice. Keep the filling away from the edges, as it may leak while the pie is cooking.

 Step 4

Place the second slice of bread, buttered side up, on top of the pie filling.

 Step 5

Place the second half of the pie iron on the bottom half, squeezing the bread and filling together. Latch the two halves of the iron together, to keep it from opening up while the pie is cooking.

 Step 6

Place the pie iron over the campfire, and let it cook for several minutes (4-6 minutes). Turn the pie over, and check for doneness. The pie is done when both sides are golden brown and toasted.

 Step 7

Put the pie on a plate. If you have crispy edges you may want to carefully trim them. Be careful, as the filling is HOT! Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and enjoy!

Five Things I Will Never Do Again at a Family Reunion

5 things i  will never do at a family reunion

1.  I will never make a fish print t shirt. 

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Fish  print t shirts- it seemed like a great idea- and it fit our theme perfectly but in the end it was an epic fail.   To make the shirts you generously paint one side of the  fish with fabric paint. Then you place the T-shirt front side down on the painted fish and pat in place.

When you lift the t shirt  off the fish you have the imprint of the fish, scales and all, on the shirt. 

I’ve seen cute shirts done this way but the only fish we could  find were HUGE catfish- in most cases bigger than the shirt.  Everyone worked hard to make the shirts successful but when only half of the fish fits on your shirt it’s kind of disappointing. This activity goes down as the worst one I’ve ever planned.

Never again will  I plan an activity or craft without trying it out on my immediate family before using it at a family reunion.

2. I will never let a scientist be in charge  of making gravy

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At a huge family dinner I was in charge of I gave the  responsibility for making the gravy to a scientist who had all the correct formulas for making gravy but couldn’t seem to get it to thicken up.  It looked like brown water.  I had 300 people sitting at tables waiting to be served and no gravy for their potatoes.  Panic mode! 

I finally enlisted the help of a school lunch cook who swooped in  and easily thickened the gravy.  It was kind of a touchy situation- I didn’t want to offend the  scientist but I really needed to get that gravy thickened so I had to turn to the REAL expert.

This “never” item  isn’t about gravy it’s more about assigning people responsibilities that they can be successful  at completing.  I learned to make sure I matched the right people with the right assignment!

3. I  will never hold a reunion without having a plan for bad weather.

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Look at this picture- these are not happy times. A rainy family reunion  is not a happy family reunion. 

We’ve been  holding the Stewart family reunion for 30 years and have only had bad weather two times.  So what am  I complaining about- that’s a pretty good record.  It’s great, unless it’s one of the times it rained for three days. 

Rain and other bad weather can really put a damper on your  family reunion.  Our family were really great sports when it came to this family reunion in 2012 but a break from the rain would’ve been nice.  Now when  I  schedule our reunion I also reserve a nearby church’s cultural hall where we can do activities, eat a meal and get out of the weather for awhile if needed.  We also come prepared with large tarps and portable heaters- just in case. 

Of course, if you hold your reunion at a hotel this won’t be as much of an issue- unless, you plan on attending a theme park or other outdoor activities.  Talk to hotel officials in advance about the use of large conference halls for a bad weather day.

4. I  will never reserve a reunion site without shade.

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Several years ago, we had a difficult time finding a location for our family reunion.  Someone beat us to the punch and we  lost out on our normal reunion site.  (That hasn’t happened since.) In desperation we reserved a campsite at a hot springs thinking that swimming would be great fun  for everyone- it was.  However; there was no shade whatsoever and it was HOT!  We put up some tarps to give us some relief but the sun beat down on us relentlessly.  Everyone was exhausted from swimming in the hot springs pools and then baking in the hot sun. 

Since that reunion I have made it a policy to check out our family reunion sites personally.  A couple of things I look for in a suitable site are:  proximity  to the bathrooms
        suitable sites for tents  and trailers
        Enough parking (most campsites restrict the number of cars) 
        cooking facilities & eating arrangements
        open space for games and activities
        and SHADE!

5.  I will never contribute to a boring reunion.

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This is a picture of the really awesome obstacle course we put together for a family reunion.  Where’s Waldo?  You won’t  find Waldo or any other human in this picture because nobody wanted to do anything- BORING!

I was asked to plan activities for a large family.  My family worked hard at hauling bales of hay, ladders and other props for a dynamite obstacle  course.  We  also organized Frisbee golf and volleyball tournaments- BUT… nobody wanted to participate.  Their reunion consisted of eating, visiting (which  is important) and holding  an auction.  The most frustrating part of the reunion for me was when we finally got enough people together to play volleyball and the reunion  organizers shut us down so they could start the auction.  UGH!

When  I attend a family reunion I want to get to  know family members better- I want to  play with  them, laugh with  them and get a little crazy with them, but if that’s not what’s  important at your reunion  don’t ask  someone  to plan activities. 

I learned from this experience that I had better know who my “audience” is and plan activities (or no activities) depending on their  family makeup and interests.