Remembering Loved Ones

Memory Tables for Remembering Loved Ones at Your Next Family Gathering

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A family reunion is a perfect time to remember a special loved one who has passed on.  At more and more reunions, weddings and family gatherings I am seeing beautiful displays dedicated to a special family member that isn’t in attendance.  I especially loved the sentiment in this display my niece put together at our last family reunion to remember my father-in-law.

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Memory tables, or Remembering tables are not large displays such as you would find at a funeral or memorial, they are small and simple table displays to give you pause and a minute to remember your loved one when you see it.

At a reunion you can always decorate the table in the theme of the reunion- the theme for the reunion in the above picture was western so the table was decorated in bandanas and sunflowers.

The most important part of a memorial table is a few photos of the person who has passed but accent those photos with flowers or candles.  Photos can highlight special moments in their life such as childhood, marriage and photos with children and grandchildren.  You may want to set a photo book on  the table for those who want to spend more time looking at memories.

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If you’ve lost someone who is dear to you, it is only natural to be saddened that they are no longer with you when your family gets together for special occasions and there are many ways to remember them.

You may have seen a  white rose on a chair at a wedding ceremony, signifying that a spot has been saved for a loved one that has passed on well, my father-in-law had a special chair he sat in for every family reunion we had.  He passed away in 2012 but we continue to set his chair up (along with his favorite hat) at our reunions.  It almost feels like he’s watching over us as we go about our reunion fun and it helps us remember the wonderful contributions he made to our family.

A balloon release, in honor of a loved one, is a wonderful way to send our love to the heavens but recently I’ve seen “butterfly” releases as a way of remembering someone. There’s an Indian legend that goes something like this-

If anyone desires a wish to come true they must capture a butterfly and whisper that wish to it. Since butterflies make no sound, they can’t tell the wish to anyone but the Great Spirit. By making a wish and releasing the butterfly the wish will be taken to the heavens and be granted.

You can find more information about butterfly release at Butterfly Release Company.

The simplest way to remember a loved one is to have a moment of silence, perhaps as the family gathers together for a meal.

Some of my favorite quotes about remembering those we love are below.

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Grammie Hooton’s Chocolate Pudding Cake Recipe

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An easy way to feed a crowd

My Grandma Hooton was an amazing cook.  She was famous for her homemade cinnamon rolls, chicken noodle soup and cabbage rolls- among other things such as fudge and divinity.  Grammie, as we called her, would work in the  hay fields all day with the hay crew and then, while the rest of us were taking a break because we were so tired, she would be in  the kitchen cooking up a delicious chicken fried steak dinner with all the trimmings.

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Sometimes Grammie would round off the meal with a yummy chocolate cake and it wasn’t until recently that I realized how perfect it was for large family gatherings.  The  cake is made in a large jelly roll pan and it serves 24 but it’s easy and fast to fix so you can  make two pans fairly simply.

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Grammie’s Chocolate Pudding Cake

1 (5-oz) box cook and serve chocolate pudding mix (not instant)
3 cups milk (for the pudding)
1 box DRY chocolate cake mix
2 cups chocolate chips (semisweet or milk)
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Make pudding to package directions then combine it with 1 package DRY chocolate cake mix. (DO NOT add the eggs and oil etc) Spread in a prepared 9 x 13 inch pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips and chopped nuts on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 15  minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.) Cool completely before cutting.

I feel fortunate to have several of my Grandmother’s recipes and some day I’d like to make a “heritage” cookbook but for now I’ll just  share this delicious recipe at my next family reunion.

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)

Find Someone Who… Reunion Bingo

Getting To Know You Ice Breaker Game for Your Family Reunion

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Family Reunion Bingo

A fun, traditional ice breaker game for your family reunion is the “Find Someone Who…” game.  The printable game card is set up similar to a BINGO card but our family prefers to just play the game using the entire card.

Give everyone at your reunion a copy of the game card and a pen or pencil. (Different colored pencils or markers make for a colorful card when the card is filled up.

Getting Signatures

Instruct your family to have reunion goers sign the squares that apply to them.  You can make up rules that best fit your family reunion- you may only sign one time on a card or two times on a card etc.

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Awarding Prizes

You may give prizes to those that complete a row across, down or diagonal such as in family reunion BINGO, but I like to award prizes to those that get every square signed.  ‘’Smarties” candies are great  prizes for those that only get a BINGO but consider giving

Kudos bars – Kudos to you
Bar None - You are the best
Milky Way or Mars bars – You’re Out of This World
M&Ms – Magnificent & Marvelous Award

or an award that goes along with your family reunion theme.

Family Reunion Bingo

Copy, paste and print on card stock this family reunion Bingo card for lots of ice breaker fun at your next family reunion.  You’ll be surprised at what you’ll learn about your family.

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How well do “Ewe” know your ancestors?

A game for getting to know your ancestors!

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I’m always looking for fun ways to help family members learn about and make a connection with their ancestors.  We’ve played “Wheel of Ancestors” and “Ancestor Jeopardy” with large groups of our family members and I think most of our family are pretty familiar with many of our family “stories”.

Recently I decided to create a game for smaller groups.  This game is a fun way to really learn interesting facts about your ancestors and to  test the knowledge of those playing the game.  I call it the “Black Sheep Game”.

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Black Sheep Game Instructions

How well do “Ewe” know your ancestors?

Print, cut and laminate several copies of the “Black Sheep” cards. You can make as many copies as you want. You can also glue a colored paper to the back of the game cards before laminating to make it more difficult to tell which cards have the “black sheep” on them.

Write ancestors or family names on each sheep card using the lines one each card. It is fun to also include family members that are well known such as Grandpa and Grandma, aunts and uncles etc. If available, you may even want to put a small picture of the ancestor on the card.

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To Play:

· Turn the cards upside down in the center of the table.

· Draw a card

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· If there is a white sheep on the card read the name and tell something you know about that ancestor. If you are correct you may keep the sheep card.

Shepherd Card

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· If a “shepherd” card is drawn you can “take a white sheep” card from any of the players but you must read the name on the card and say something you know about them.

Black Sheep Cards

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If a “black sheep” card is drawn you lose all of your cards, they go back into the card pile.

· NOTE: Players may repeat information already used in the game.

· This game can go on forever, just end when your time is up. Count how many sheep cards each player has at the end of the time and give a prize to the player with the most cards.

Family Reunion T Shirt

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One of my music students came to class wearing this fun reunion shirt and I just couldn’t help but share it with you.  Such a fun and simple design. Notice the family name at the top and the date and place at the  bottom of the shirt. 

We’ve done a lot of reunion shirts over the years but when this cute little guy wore an old shirt his dad wore I was thrilled.  Keeping old reunion t-shirts year after year means you always have something to wear to the family reunion!

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Time Capsule Dig

Family Reunion Time Capsule

Five years later and we finally got to dig up our time capsule!  Five years ago at our Stewart family reunion we had every family member fill out a questionnaire.  We asked questions about the present, their predictions for the future and invited everyone to set some goals that they hoped to accomplish by the time we opened the capsule in 2013.

On the 2nd day of our reunion this year, we went to Grandma’s house where the time capsule was buried to begin our search for the capsule we had buried five years ago.  We followed a very funny set of clues that cousin Tyler made up to find the capsule. 

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The first clue took us to the "”three pronged wooded fork” and then led us to a spot under Grandma’s bathroom window…. but there was no capsule there.

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Retracing our steps we realized that we had misinterpreted the clues and on this attempt found the time capsule buried at the corner of the house.  It took a little digging and we broke the lid off of the capsule but we found all our questionnaires safe and sound.

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Family History Church

We read our questionnaires at  the conclusion of our annual family history “church” we hold at each reunion.  Some of us found that we had remained focused during the five years and completed our goals and some found that their goals had been forgotten.  Some of us predicted what the price of gas would be in 2013 pretty accurately and some found they were living in a fantasy land. We had questioners from old boyfriends that had attended our reunion that year and from a dear Grandpa who had passed away.

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Our family time capsule was a big hit and family members voted to make another time capsule next year.  We’re already working on the questions for our new questionnaire.

Treasure Hunts and Scavenger Hunts

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) Buy a lock and key. Put the lock on a treasure chest or box of some sort with 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.

Digital Camera Treasure Hunt

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This is such a fun idea for a family reunion. You’ll need one digital 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.

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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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Look for part 2 or this article next week and in the meantime- happy hunting!

Genealogy Themed Photo Books

I’m so lucky because I had some ancestors that wrote things down and family members, like my Mom and my brother, Scott who made sure old photos were labeled, digitalized and stored safely.  My contribution to their efforts is to share some of my ancestors life stories in digital photo books.

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Tell Your Ancestor’s Story

Besides making a reunion scrapbook each year, I have also made family history or genealogy books. This is fun to do if you have a lot of stories about an ancestor. The book pictured below is about an ancestor and the decision they made to come to America. I didn’t try to tell their whole life story just the events that led up to their coming to America and their arrival here.

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As you might expect, part of the challenge when making this type of photo book is getting enough pictures to go in the book.  I handled that problem by finding generic pictures on the internet and using them in my books. For instance, if Grandma got a 1950’s blue Schwinn bike for her 8th birthday search for that image on the internet and add it to your book. (Note: be sure images are not copywrited) In the picture below you see a page that is telling about a conversation our ancestors had in their kitchen.  Of course I didn’t have a picture of their kitchen but I did find a picture of cooking utensils they might have had in their kitchen and included that in my photo book.

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I repeated the same idea with this page.  Although not personable to my ancestor it is representative of life when the story took place.

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The best pages are those that feature actual photos of ancestors to illustrate real stories from their life’s. 

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The easiest photo books to create are those of loved ones that are still living.  When my Mom celebrated her latest milestone birthday we gave her a book of lessons learned and fun experiences we had growing up with her.  We titled it “Teachings, Tall Tales and Inspirations” and Mom loves it.

Sharing Your Photo Book

You can buy copies of your book to give as gifts to family members, auction them off to raise money for your reunion or just let family members know the book is there and let everyone buy their own copy.

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Emory University concluded in a recent study of children ages 14-16 that “a child’s ability to retell family stories was linked to lower instances of depression, anxiety and less acting out due to frustration and anger”.  There is an African saying that "a people without knowledge of their history is like a tree without roots."Kind of reminds me of my favorite reunion quote, “A tree without roots falls over.”  The moral to this story- share the stories of your ancestors whether it be around the campfire or in a genealogy themed photo book.

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Scrapbooking Your Reunion with Digital Photo Books

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After we’ve played all the reunion games, roasted all the marshmallows, sang all the songs and I’ve taken 700 pictures of the action, I can hardly wait to get back home and see what amazing pictures I’ve taken of my family reunion.  I load my pictures on my computer and begin to make a family reunion DIGITAL scrapbook.

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Making these reunion scrapbooks is fun for me- much less time consuming than the “olden days” when I had to measure, cut and paste everything. And did I mention the MESS- there is NO mess with digital scrapbooking. You just slide your digital photos into predesigned layouts, add digital stickers and some suitable digital paper backgrounds and and then you send it off to the printer. Setup and cleanup are literally as easy as pushing a button. Everything is contained within your computer- NO SETTING UP OR PICKING UP AFTERWARDS. 

I recently read an blog by Bradylou that lists about 10 reasons why digital scrapbooking is a good alternative to traditional scrapbooking- she has some great ideas- read her blog at bradylou.com

I always make a reunion scrapbook for myself and one for Grandma and Grandpa (taking advantage of BOGO sales.)  Everyone enjoys reliving reunion memories when they visit Grandma and look through the books.

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I use two scrapbook companies for my digital scrapbooks- Picaboo and Mixbook.

Picaboo Photo Books

I prefer Picaboo when I have a lot of photos I want to include in my book. Picaboo does not force you to spend hours uploading photos before you can create a project. Rather, with Picaboo installed, you can make a complete, ready-to-order book in a short amount of time. Picaboo has amazing customer service and I love their “chat” service. When I have an idea but don’t know how to implement it I just chat with their helpful costumer service people.  Picaboo has cool and FREE backgrounds you can use- thousands of them- I love the pizza one pictured below.

Picaboo is running a deal this week for up to 40%.

Up to 40% off Classic books and calendars. Ends 7/16. Use code: SUNNYDAYS.

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Mixbook Scrap Books

Mixbook does not require that you download their software. The feature I like most about Mixbook is that it allows you to choose one of their professional designs (or you can start from scratch) and easily and quickly create a photo book. I also like the “stickers” you can add to yourbook.  You can move, crop, rotate, pan and zoom on photos; add stickers and backgrounds; and create custom layouts.

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Right now Mixbook has a deal going-

Deal:Get $15 off $50!
Code:15OFF50
Valid: 07/12/12 4:00 am PST – 07/16/12 11:59pm PST
Restrictions: This offer is only valid with coupon code 15OFF50. This offer cannot be combined with other coupons, vouchers, Groupons, or applied after an order has been placed. Discount applies only to completed projects. No adjustments on previous purchases. Shipping and taxes will apply.
Offer expires 07/16/2012 (11:59 pm PST).

Once your scrapbook is completed you can sell additional copies for family members that preorder them or auction them off at your net reunion auction as a fundraiser.

Check Aunt Mo’s blog next week to find out how to make genealogy or family history photo books.