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.

Free Party Game Resource

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Friday night is pizza and game night at my house.  We have our favorite games and we have our favorite pizza but some nights we’re in the mood to try something new.  I  know where to find new pizza combinations and now I know where to find new game ideas.

If you’re looking for a game to play you should check out this new game site- Party Games 411.  It’s a very simple site to use and a marvelous resource  for party planners.

I plan a lot of  parties and family reunions and I am always looking  for a new game or activity.  I search the web trying to find ideas but this site is the easiest way I’ve found.

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Search for a Game

There are several ways to search for a game at Party Games 411. You can:

1. Enter the number of players and the location (inside or outside) that the game will be played.  For instance, I searched for an indoor or outdoor game for  80 people and it gave me 40 possible games we could  play.

2. You can also search for games alphabetically.

3. You can search for particular game by entering the name of it. 

Each game gives you recommended ages and game requirements and easy to understand rules and instructions.

Games, Games, Games

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You will find ideas for card games, team building games, tag games, mind games,  party games, large group games and so much more.  So next time you ask, “What game should we  play?” check out Party Games 411.

Fox and Geese- a Snow Game

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When I was a young girl I loved playing “Fox and Geese” with my brothers in the snow.  Mostly, I liked making the paths and geese nests because when it came right down to playing the game, I wasn’t a fast runner and was usually the fox for the majority of the game.

My husband likes to play “Fox  and Geese” too so when we had a couple years ago when we had a snow party for my family we were excited to share this game of tag with my nieces and nephews.Picture2008 355 (2)

How To Play Fox and Geese

The game of Fox and Geese is played in the snow where the players clear paths in the snow.  As I have learned, in the “olden days”, the paths were made in the shape of a spoked wheel, but most of the fun for us has been to make our creative paths with special safety zone “nests” scattered throughout the paths.

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Make Fox and Goose Trails

It’s best to play Fox and Geese when  there is fresh snow on  the ground or at least snow that no v one has been walking on.  To make paths or trails, walk through the snow packing it down until it makes a clearing defined trail.  Make several goose nests that are safety zones for the geese to get away from the fox.  These are just a circle of packed down  snow big enough for one person  to stand in a time.  You don’t want too  many goose nests or it will be difficult for the fox to catch a goose.

How to Play Fox and Geese

Choose one person to be the fox. The fox tries to tag the rest of the players, who are the geese. All the players must stay within the boundaries of the paths. Whoever is tagged by the fox then becomes the fox and has to chase the geese. Only one goose can be in a nest at a time.  If you have a big group  playing you  may have more than one fox.

A “No Snow” Alternative

An alternative to playing in the snow is to mark four squares on the playground, each 10 feet across. Every player stands on one of the lines forming the square. A signal is given, and the person who is “it” has 10 seconds to touch as many players as he/she can. Players who are tagged sit down in the marked area. All players must stay on the lines while being chased.

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Fox and Geese Board Game

Another Fox and Geese Variation that I have recently become aware of is a “Fox and Geese” board game.  It’s an old-time game using marbles. Fox chases Geese. Geese try to hem Fox in. If you’re from the country, you understand the strategy. Then game is available here and in the family reunion helper store.

Plastic Wrap Ball Party Game

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What could be more fun than a huge ball of plastic wrap with lots of prizes layered throughout the ball? My sister in law has done this for her kids for years, but it wasn’t until just recently, when we played this game at a family Christmas party that I remembered how much fun it was.

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Here is how it works!

The first person with the ball starts unwrapping it while the person on their right rolls a pair of dice, trying to roll doubles.

Once doubles are rolled, the ball is passed to the next player and the sequence begins again.

The person with the ball doesn’t stop unwrapping it until the person to their right rolls doubles. This makes for some fun suspense in the game!

As the player unwrap the prizes they put them in their own pile- everyone keeps the prizes they unwrap.

How To Make a Plastic Wrap Ball

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To make the ball gather 50- 100 prizes.  Small packages of candy work well, especially M&M’s and Skittles.  You can also use erasers, hair barrettes and ribbons, Hot Wheel cars and other small prizes. At our Christmas party we had two plastic wrap balls, a girl ball and a boy ball and the prizes in it were items our boys and girls typically enjoy.

To start the ball, use a 2- 3 inch rubber ball such as a bouncy ball.  You can also use a good sized bell or rattle that will make noise as kids get closer to the center of the ball.20151219_140852

Place a piece of candy or prize on the ball and wrap it up with the plastic.

Every few layers, use tape to seal up the recently wrapped layer as this will make the game a little more challenging.

Continued this process (adding prizes and wrapping with plastic wrap until it is the size of a soccer ball (minimum) or basketball (maximum).

I’ve heard this game  called the saranwrap-ball game, the tape ball game and money ball (this version uses only money).  But whatever you call it it all comes down to a fun party game that everyone can participate in.

Secrets for Hosting a Successful Family Reunion

3 keys to a successful reunion

3 Keys to a Successful Family Reunion

Planning a family reunion can be a nightmare. But the good news is that you are not alone, we can do this together. I don’t know your specific situation but I can tell you that if you will follow these 3 important keys you will be on your way to having a successful family reunion. So let’s get to work- first key is…

Choose a permanent reunion date

This is the most important aspect of reunion planning- it’s not much of a reunion if no one can attend.

When we began planning the “Stewart” family reunion we were only working around about 20 people and it was fairly easy to find a date that was good for everyone, but now that we are more than 100 family members strong we would never be able to find a date that met everyone’s needs. Lucky for us, about 20 years ago we set Labor Day weekend as the permanent date for our family reunion.

We have found that holding the reunion at the same time every year helps family members plan their busy lives around that weekend. They always know when the Stewart reunion will be and although the location may change the date never does. Unbelievable but true- we usually have all but about 3 family members attend our reunion each year.

Plan a Reunion Date BEFORE You End Your Family Reunion

If you can’t choose a permanent date, plan your next reunion date before you end the reunion you are currently attending. Planning in advance will increase the odds that more people will be able to attend the reunion, which translates into more fun for everyone. If you book early, you can most likely get better rates and/or reserve your preferred hotel or retreat site, flights and other travel arrangements. Most campgrounds and parks can be booked a year in advance.

Last of all, stick to your decision. Changing dates in the middle of planning can create a huge amount of anxiety and additional work.

Key #2- Delegate Responsibilities!

People always wonder why we have such good attendance at our reunions and I tell them, “Because everyone has a job!” There is always someway that everyone can contribute to your reunion no matter what their age or their ability. You can assign a couple of pre-teen girls to do a story time or games for the younger children at your reunion, ask a 5 year old to bring a can of olives or assign someone that loves music to lead a sing- a- long.

It’s impossible to organize a reunion by yourself, I know, because I’ve tried it. Not only that, but it is good to have the input of different family members’ points of views. Family members that have a responsibility feel greater ownership in the reunion.


Make Assignments According to Abilities

Delegate tasks according to those with special talents, skills and connections. Our Uncle Ben owns a restaurant whose specialty is turkey steaks and quite often we have turkey steaks at our reunions or family parties. We have great Dutch oven cooks in our family and of course, we give them the opportunity to practice their skills. Use the resources that you have.

There are certain jobs at our reunions that have become tradition- for instance cousin R.D. and Uncle Richard always make the homemade root beer, Aunt Lynn is always in charge of Bunko and Uncle Steven always makes his Dutch oven potatoes.

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So how do you put all these people and their great ideas together? Let me tell you how we do it. There are six original children in the Stewart family; we call them the “Big 6”. We schedule a planning meeting and ask that there be a representative from each Big 6 family at the meeting. These people become your liaison from each branch of the family.

At the meeting we discuss our plans and make assignments, that way every family has a representative and if they have concerns they can be addressed at that meeting and each families’ fun ideas can be implemented. We ask for volunteers to be in charge of each major aspect of the reunion – food, family history, invitations, photography, games and activities, finances and facilities. The chairman of the committee, that’s me, takes the ideas and suggestions home and makes a master plan or schedule which is emailed to the committee members for their approval.

Reunion Committee

A reunion committee is essential to planning a smooth, successful family reunion. Be sure your chairman (if you’re reading this than the chairman is probably YOU) is creative, energetic and willing to put in the time and effort required to organize a reunion.

Planning a family reunion is a too big a job for one person, so make a checklist, get some help, put your entire family to work and let everyone share in the satisfaction of a job well done!

Choose a Theme For Your Family Reunion!

A theme gives your family get-together an added twist that can build excitement. Choosing a theme for a family reunion is a great way to interest people and make them more likely to attend your reunion. Who wouldn’t want to attend a “Caveman” reunion where they can feed on “Brontosaurus” Burgers?

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Or Conjure up a Wild West atmosphere for your next family reunion or party by using the decorating ideas, wild and wooly western games, activities and recipes available at familyreunionhelper.com You’re sure to have a rootin’ tootin’ good time!

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If your family has ever dreamed of sailing the seven seas in search of excitement and adventure plan a pirate reunion where you feast on barbequed parrots, search for treasure and walk the plank.

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A theme also makes it more fun to plan when it comes to being imaginative with food, games, activities, invitations and just about every other aspect of the reunion.

If you have a wedding anniversary or a significant birthday coming up in your family you could choose to celebrate around those special events. If your grandparents were married in the 50?s, plan a fifties reunion complete with poodle skirts and sodas. If Aunt Addie will be turning 70, celebrate with her by having a seventies party- make tie-dyed shirts and decorate with peace and flower power signs.

When You Were My Age

Just because it is a family reunion doesn?t mean the theme has to be centered on the family itself. Plenty of other party themes are perfect for a reunion. Plan a western, caveman, boot camp or other similar theme.

A few years ago my sister-in-law suggested that we have a caveman reunion and I was pretty nervous about it- caveman? How do we do a caveman reunion? But we all shared ideas at our planning meeting and guess what- our caveman reunion turned out to be one of our best family reunions ever.

Whatever theme you choose, design your decorations, food, activities and games around that theme. Your caveman theme might feature Brontosaurus burgers and a dinosaur egg hunt or a pirate theme might include Barbecued Parrot and a treasure hunt.

Planning a family reunion requires serious effort and thoughtful strategic planning but if will follow these 3 important keys you will be well on your way to a memorable and successful family reunion. And who knows- maybe they?ll want you to be in charge next year too.

Aunt MO

A Tongue in Cheek List of Reasons to Play Pipe Chimes

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December is a  great time to dig up your set of pipe chimes and make some holiday music with your family and friends. 

Making music with pipe chimes is an easy and inexpensive way to have fun with your family. My Mom saw pipe chimes more than thirty years ago and our family has been making music with conduit pipes ever since.

Kids and adults are amazed how easy they are to play, and how wonderful they sound.  It’s so fun to play a song you recognize and have it sound good. For pipes, they are well tuned and have a good sound. 

Pipe Chimes Book

The most frustrating thing about pipe chimes is getting music for them so I decided to put together my own  “Pipe Chimes Music Book”.  Most of the music in book one is Christmas music but I’ve also included songs for every day singing as well and if you have a specific song you want to play you can use the note chart I’ve included to write your own music.

Pipe Chimes Book 2

With the success of book  one, I decided to compile a  second book of chimes music. Included in book 2 are eleven songs arranged specifically for pipe chimes choirs. “Red River Valley” features beautiful harmonies and is for more advanced chimes players. You will find “America the Beautiful” a challenge but will love the finished product after a few practices. For small groups we’ve included “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Au Clair De La Lune”.

As long as you can read numbers, you can play pipe chimes.  They are numbered 0 to 20; they also each have their note name on them, so you can play a song that you know the melody to. 

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Now, here’s my list of-

Top Ten Reasons to Learn to Play the Pipe Chimes

10. A pipe chime doubles as a game piece in an over- sized Clue game.

9. American Idol now lets you use an instrument.

8. Studies show that the resonating tones of pipe chimes stimulates hair follicles which encourages hair growth.

7. Chuck Norris plays pipe chimes.

6. Pipe chime playing is good for your hands. I probably have stronger hands/fingers than most people I know. And have you ever noticed the hands of a pianist? Beautiful, long, tapered fingers. Chances are that if you’ve ever admired someone’s hands, they play the piano… or pipe chimes.

5. Playing pipe chimes helps you burn calories. A 155 pound person burns 281 calories in an hour of pipe chime playing.

4. You can join AFPOPCP – The association for the preservation of pipe chime playing You get positive vibes from playing pipe chimes.

3. People will automatically assume you’re a genius. Really, I’ve heard this lot. People uttering “He/she plays the pipe chimes” in the same tone reserved for “He/she has an IQ of 180.” You just can’t help but admire someone that plays an instrument.

2. Colleges like musical instruments on applications–it’s never too early to boost your kid’s qualifications! 100s of college scholarships for Pipe Chime playing go unclaimed each year.

And the number one reason to play pipe chimes…

1. Self-defense!  No one  messes with someone  carrying a pipe in  their hands!

Gumdrop Turkey Favors

Thanksgiving gumdrop turkeys for your Thanksgiving table.

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I’ve searched all over the internet for gum drop turkeys as cool as the ones my brothers and I made when we were growing up, but it appears those turkeys were one of a kind creations from my Mom.

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My Mom always put her four children in charge of making the 30- 50 gum drop turkey favors for our Thanksgiving family gathering.  The turkeys were so simple to make that we required no supervision and popping a few raisins or candy corns in our mouth as we were creating them took the edge off our Thanksgiving hunger.  In fact, making gum drop turkeys soon became a tradition at my house when I had children of my own.

Over the years I exchanged the raisins we used to use for Craisens and brown toothpicks for brightly colored ones.  Hint- always use Braches candy corns- they are softer and don’t crumble as easily when you stick a toothpick in them.  Large gum drops can be difficult to find, but after extensive searching, I was able to find some on the bottom shelf, hidden behind a garbage can, (no kidding) on the Wal-mart candy isle.

As I was writing this blog, my 32 year old son walked into the kitchen where I was taking pictures and said, “Gum drop turkeys,  I remember making those!”  Just proves that something doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated or elaborate to make a lasting family memory.

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Gobble, Gobble, Gobble!

Aunt MO

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!

– Author unknown

Squirrel’s Thanksgiving Dinner Game

A large group game for all ages- perfect for Thanksgiving fun!

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For two teams you will need 4 bowls and a set of chopsticks for each person playing the game. Collect  2 of several kinds of nuts that a squirrel might eat for Thanksgiving dinner- 2 shelled peanuts, 2 almonds, 2 acorns, and 2 unshelled walnuts.

Place 2 of the bowls at one end of the room and put one of each kind of nut in each bowl. Place the other 2 empty bowls directly across from them at the other end of the room.

Divide those that want to play  into 2 equal teams. Give each person a set of chopsticks and line teams up in a row from the full bowl to the empty bowl.

On the word “go”, the person nearest the full bowl will pick up one of the nuts with their chopsticks, and will  pass it down the line to the next person, also using chopsticks. Once they have passed the first nut they can pick up the second nut and begin passing it- the don’t need to wait for the first nut to get passed to the end.

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Participants can not use their fingers.  If they drop one of the nuts they must run it back to the starting bowl and begin passing it again.

The team that gets all four nuts to the empty bowl first wins!

NOTE:  You can easily involve more players by adding more teams or repeating the game after the first 2 teams face off ending with the “championship” game.

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You can usually purchase chopsticks from Oriental restaurants or from Amazon (100 sets for under $10.00- with prime shipping)

Ghost Cake With Flaming Eyes

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When I was a young mother I attended a workshop that included some fun holiday cooking ideas.  The most memorable idea I came away from the workshop with was this ghost cake with flaming eyes.

The best thing about this ghost cake is that you get maximum effect for minimum effort, so, if you are a busy mom or grandma, you can whip this cake up very quickly but the “wow” factor is huge!

To make the eyes flaming you place a lemon extract-doused sugar cube inside of a clean eggshell for each eye and then you light the cubes on fire. When presenting the cake turn out the lights before bringing in the cake.

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Ghost Cake Recipe

Ingredients:

1 (18.25-ounce) box yellow cake mix, mix according to package directions
1 (7.2-ounce) package fluffy white frosting mix or make your own 7 minute frosting. (No Cook 7 Minute Frosting Recipe)
2 sugar cubes & 1 teaspoon lemon extract
Licorice string, chocolate chips, m & m’s- whatever you want to make a mouth

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan.

Prepare the cake mix as directed on package. (When you break the eggs, crack each in the middle and pour out the egg. Then save the 2 best shell halves. Wash these halves and turn upside down to dry.) After mixing, pour the batter into the pan.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. When cooled, you can remove the cake from  the pan and put on a sturdy piece of cardboard or a tray so that you can trim your cake to look more ghost- like.  I just left my cake in the baking pan and felt like it looked ghost- like enough without the extra work to decorate it.

Frost the cake. Place the 2 egg shell halves round sides down on cake for eyes. Place 1 sugar cube in each shell half. Make a mouth of licorice string.

Just before serving, pour 1/2 teaspoon lemon extract over each sugar cube. Light the eyes and amaze family and friends!

Mingle- a Hilarious Game for Large Groups

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This is perhaps the best large group game we’ve ever played.  It’s a great game for young and old and requires no advance preparation or props. 

To play “Mingle” have the  participants walk around in a predetermined large area.  When you yell “Mingle Mingle” and then a number from 2 to 10. The participants must get into groups of that size.  Anyone that doesn’t fit into a group is out and must stand on the sidelines until the game ends.  For instance if you yell out the number “10” everyone gets into groups of 10.  If you’re playing with 44 people that will leave 4 people without a group and they will be out of the game. 

Continue mingling and calling out numbers until only two remain.  Regroup and play again.

 

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