Pick Your Present!

My New Favorite Way to Give Gifts

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I have 2 sons and a son in law and this year I tried something new for their Fathers Day gifts- I let them pick their own gifts.  Well, not totally, I put together 3 boxes and after the boxes were  filled with surprises and wrapped, then they got to pick their gift.

Each box was different- I had a technology box, builder box and a snack box. Each box contained a gift card and then a couple of things to go along with it.  Value of each box was about $30.00.

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I wrapped all three gifts in plain old newspaper- nothing fancy about it and with no clue to what was inside.

Crafty Holiday Gift Wrap - Craft Critique

We had a little competition to see who got to choose their  present first but you could do it oldest to youngest or by roll of the dice etc.

The $20.00 Bill

Just as the guys were about to pick their  present, my husband put a $20.00 bill on the table and gave them the option to chose the cash instead of a box.  There were no takers- everyone went for the boxes.

This is also a fun way to give out  prizes at family reunions. Just wrap a variety of prizes and let the winner  pick the prize they want from the pile- they get a prize but it’s a little more exciting and  extends the fun a little longer. 

So Now What? Corona Virus and Your Family Reunion

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First of all, let me say that this- I’m  writing this blog in April 2020. The things I write in this blog today could possibly be a lot different than what I will write in July of this year.

At the very beginning, before we all began  staying home so that we can stay safe, I believed  that in a couple of weeks life  would get back to normal and come Memorial Day family reunion season would be moving full steam ahead but now what….?

Family gatherings are difficult right now.  For example, how was your Easter?  All of our children and grandkids live within 20 minutes of us and we invited them out for a Easter  visit with these rules:

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Everyone scheduled a one hour block of time to visit and they had to leave before the next group arrived. We practiced social distancing with Grandpa and Gramie staying to the side. We had Easter cupcakes for all to enjoy.  They jumped on our trampoline and played in our horse pasture and worked on a simple 100 piece puzzle… and we sanitized.  It was good to see them all but they all left with no hugs or kisses from Gramie.

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Our first family reunion is in  July.  At first I thought we would be safe  to go ahead with those  plans but I  received an  email from the  reunion  planner asking for ideas on how to do an  online family reunion. Since that email I’ve learned that the big air show in our area, scheduled for the end of June, has been  canceled and then, two of the huge “Pioneer” day celebrations in our state canceled.  The possibility of a family reunion in July “is getting more and more remote.

Our last family reunion is scheduled for Labor Day weekend.  That’s the one I’m in charge of.  It’s a space reunion and I’ve got tons of fun ideas that I can’t wait to do  with  my family.  Will it be safe to  bring 100 plus people together for a reunion the  end of August? 

I don’t know, you don’t know and nobody can say for sure and that’s the problem.  How can you hold a family reunion that excludes family members because they don’t feel safe?  How do you plan  a family reunion that puts so many people that you love at risk- AND- will they be at risk in August?  It makes my head hurt just thinking about it. 

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So now what? The “what” in “now what” is that I’m moving forward with my space reunion planning.  I have my doubts  about a reunion during the three day Labor Day weekend but if we do, I’ll be prepared.  If we don’t then just think how prepared I’ll be for our 2021 reunion- it will  be the  greatest family reunion ever! 

St Patrick’s Day Party Games

GAME IDEAS FOR YOUR IRISH PARTY

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Whether celebrating St Patrick’s Day or considering your Irish roots at your next family reunion here are a couple of fun Irish game ideas.

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Musical Shamrock Game

Make very large green shamrock shapes about  2 feet square.  They don’t need to be fancy just simple shamrock shapes.  The ideas is similar to “musical chairs” game- you want to have fewer shamrocks than players. Scatter shamrocks over the playing area.  Explain that as the music plays all the players must keep moving but must stay off the shamrocks.   When the music stops players run to a shamrock.  However, each shamrock must have three players on it. Those with only one or two as well as those that have nowhere to stand are eliminated.  Remove a shamrock or two after each round.  (You always want to have fewer shamrocks than players)  Winners of the game  are those who have not been eliminated when only one shamrock remains.  Give out green lollypops, cupcakes or stickers for prizes.

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Irish Scavenger Hunt

Divide into teams, giving each team an identical list of green items.  Tell each team that they must stay together when searching for their green items.

Some ideas to search for:

  • Something that grows green
  • Something you are wearing that is green
  • Green crayon, green colored pencil, green marker
  • Find a plastic item that is green
  • Find something soft that is green
  • Something hard that is green
  • Find something you can build with that is green
  • Green snack
  • 3 leaf clover
  • Fruit that is green
  • Vegetable that is green
  • Pop Can

Irish “Road Bowling” Game

Croquet is supposed to have come from a game called Crookey in Northern Ireland but another fun “real” Irish game is “Road Bowling”.
Road bowling is an unusual version of bowling that is particular to Ireland. It is played with a steal shot, (or use your own idea for a ball of some sort) which is tossed under arm by the player down a twisty road. The player who gets to the finish line with the least amount of throws wins.

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Why should you never iron a 4-leaf clover? You
don’t want to press your luck.

May your blessings outnumber the shamrocks that grow, and may trouble avoid you wherever you go.

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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Plastic Egg Moon Rock Hunt

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My husband and I do an Easter Egg hunt on horses every year for family and friends.  As I was doing some online searches in preparation for the hunt I stumbled across this fun idea for my space reunion- a Moon Rocks Treasure Hunt! 

Kids love treasure hunts and it’s a pretty easy activity for a family reunion.  This  is the  perfect time of year to gather supplies for your space rock treasure hunt. 

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Purchase round plastic Easter eggs and fill with space themed candy such as Milky Way, Mars bars and Starbursts.  (If you can’t find round eggs you can use egg shaped eggs but they look more like tin foil eggs then moon rocks.)

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Wrap eggs with tin foil that you have scrunched up so that it looks like a “moon rock”. 

Then the fun begins- hide eggs around your reunion site.  You can do this hunt inside or outside. 

This is a great time to get the tweens in your family involved in the reunion fun.  Put them in charge of filling eggs, wrapping them and hiding the rocks.  They’ll love being in  charge of something and it’s just one less thing you have to worry about. As “payment” for their help, give your helpers a full size version of your space themed candy bars.

New Years Man- A Family Tradition

You’ve probably never heard of the  New Years Man but it’s a family tradition that has  been part of our family for generations.New Years Man

At midnight on New Year’s Eve, it’s customary in Spain to quickly eat 12 grapes, one at each stroke of the clock. Each grape supposedly signifies good luck for one month of the coming year.  People around the world celebrate the  coming of the new year in many different ways but our families’ New Years tradition is one you’ve probably never heard of.

Every New Years Eve, if we have cleaned our rooms and put away our Christmas gifts, the “New Years Man” will  stop at our house and leave one last holiday gift.   I have no idea how the New Years Man tradition in  my family but it’s a tradition that goes back many generations. 

My Mom  remembers- “On  New Years Eve,  at bedtime we would make a “nest” out of our clothes.  While we were sleeping the New Years man would come and put goodies in our nest—It was always something to eat, candy, fruit etc.  Not toys.  Never a lot but we could tell he had been there “checking ” up on us. We  thought it was fun!” 

The tradition continued when  I was a child.  My parents used the New Years Man as a bribe to motivate us to clean up and put our Christmas things away. 

The New Years Man tradition has evolved to him bringing a small toy, treat or book etc. on New Years Eve for every girl  or boy that has put away their Christmas presents and cleaned their room so that it is spotless.  On New Years Eve we write our names on  a paper plate and if our rooms are clean the New Years Man will leave us a special prize.

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I don’t know what the  New Years Man looks like and I don’t know where he comes from but  I  do know that as a child I was extremely motivated to get my room cleaned and my Christmas gifts put away so that the  New Years man would leave me one more gift for the season.  I’m  sure that having the  house  clean  and orderly for the first day of the new year was well the effort  for my parents.

Are You Ready For Christmas? Take This Quiz to Find Out

A FREE Printable Christmas Game For Your Holiday Party

Take this test to find out if you’re ready for Christmas and find out if your family friends are ready but giving them this test at your holiday party.  Merry Christmas!

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Fun Reindeer Party Ideas

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Magic Reindeer Food

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When you sprinkle magic reindeer food on your lawn on Christmas Eve, it leaves a glittering path–and a sweet treat–for Rudolph and Blitzon and their  friends.

Make a bag of Magic Reindeer food for each family that attends your party or as an inexpensive stocking stuffer for each child.

Package this simple recipe in zipper food storage bags, and add a free printable gift tag containing the Magic Reindeer Food poem to make Magic Reindeer Food easy to make–and to give.

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Magic Reindeer Food Recipe

In a large bowl or container, mix:

1/4- 1/2 cup uncooked oats
1/4 cup red or green sugar crystals
Small sealable bag
Magic Reindeer Food poem (You can find a free printable of the poem at Magic Reindeer Food Poem)

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Package Magic Reindeer food in small food storage bags or holiday gift bags.

NOTE: You can use craft glitter in your magic reindeer food but colored sugar crystals (as used for cake decorating) are safer for other animals or birds that may ingest it.

Reindeer Noses

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Another fun reindeer games party favor is a bag of reindeer noses.

I wanted the perfect gift for you-
But couldn’t decide just what to do.
I almost sent you a dozen roses-
Instead here’s a bag of…
reindeer noses

Reindeer noses are simply seven brown candies such as “Whoppers” and one red candy (to represent Rudolf). I used sour cherry candies for my red nose.  You may find a free printable of the reindeer nose poem below. Just copy and paste into your document.

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Log Reindeer Centerpieces

Log reindeer are the perfect project for your centerpieces. Simply reuse scraps of wood and timber from your woodpile, drill a few holes, and glue it all together. You’ll need a few thicker logs for the body and head; long, thin sticks for the legs, and pronged branches for your reindeer’s antlers. Add bow, bells or tinsel to complete your project.  After the party you can give away part of your herd as prizes or save them to give as neighbor gifts.

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Reindeer Cupcakes

Bake cupcakes according to package directions and frost generously with chocolate frosting.  Top with pretzels for the antlers, a Nilla Wafer for the face, white frosting dots for the eyes, back pearl sprinkles or black icing for the eyeballs, and brown and red candies for the nose.

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Santa Pancakes

HINT:  We made the pancake base of our Santa pancakes before arriving at the party.  Because they are a little time consuming we began decorating them in advance.  We noticed that the whipped cream started getting soft and didn’t look as cute.  Solution- get more help with the decorating so that you can make them on the spot.

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Reindeer Games Minute To Win It

We used the “Minute to Win It” format for our “reindeer games”.  We divided into four teams- team Rudolf, team Blitzen, team Dasher and team Donner and competed in 8 different challenges. We projected a countdown clock on the wall so that everyone could join in the drama as the seconds counted down.  For more information on Minute the Win It games check out the following link.

http://familyreunionhelper.com/blog/2011/10/minute-to-win-it-party-2/

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Log Slice Ice Breaker Craft

Many families gather together during the holiday  season for their traditional Christmas parties.  To get the party started , I like to have a simple craft or activity that can be done as everyone arrives and these log slice ornaments are just the thing. They’re a fun ice breaker that keeps your guests busy and requires little supervision and they’re pretty inexpensive.

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With just a few supplies, you can whip up LOTS of them.  Wood slice ornaments are perfect for hanging on your Christmas tree, attaching to gifts, or giving to friends and family.  If you don’t have access to tree logs you can purchase pre sliced packages at the craft store.  The ones I found cost under $2.00 for a package of 4, but the least expensive option is to cut your  own.

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After cutting your wood slices, don’t  forget to drill a small hole at the top so that you can hang it on your tree or tie to a package. 

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Purchase chalkboard paint at your favorite craft store.  Paint the center of the wood slice. 

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It doesn’t take long for the paint to dry but if you’re really pressed for time, have a hand held hair dryer to speed up the process. After the paint dries, draw a simple picture or write your favorite Christmas word with chalk.  And don’t forget some cute Christmas string for hanging on the tree.

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If you don’t want the mess of painting your ornaments and you have a  die cutting machine, you can cut a variety of shapes and words and family members can apply those onto their wood slices. You could add a layer of decoupage on top so it will last longer.

5 Things Reunion Planners Should Stop Doing-Now!

Stop Sending Invitations Through  Snail  Mail

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For more than a century, the mailbox and the rotary dial phone were how we communicated.  But times have changed, we no longer have eight track tapes, floppy disks,  typewriters and . no one is using shorthand.  Family reunion planners should embrace the advances in technology when sending invitations and keeping  in  touch with family members.

I’m all for sending thank you cards, Christmas and birthday cards and wedding announcements by sail mail but when it comes  to family reunion invitations and flyers using email and texts just makes sense.

First off, consider the cost, at almost 50 cents for a stamp, the cost of mailing every family an invitation adds up quickly, especially if you have a large family.  Also factor in the cost of paper and ink to  print it on  or the cost  of taking your  invitations to a print  shop  to have them professionally printed.  You also need to figure in  the labor involved, sorting, stapling ,folding and putting  your  invitations into envelopes.

A reunion  planner can sit at her computer, compose a quick message, or create a beautiful custom invitation and send it off to the entire reunion family in a matter of seconds. No stamp is required, no trip to the  post office,  and no time is taken to physically fold, staple and lick. Just send it out and your whole family can be reading  it in a matter of minutes.

Our family has enjoyed sharing our family news and information on our family Facebook page and I know some families that have created their own family websites.  Both are convenient, instant and inexpensive ways to keep in touch.

However email isn’t perfect, Grandma and Grandpa and great Aunts and Uncles may still need a  physical invitation that arrives in their mailbox but using the latest technology is a great tool for reunion planners. 

Stop trying to do everything yourself

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This one is huge.  As a reunion planner you have enough to do without  worrying about every detail of your reunion.  Form a committee and give out assignments or if working solo, make a list of activities and give out assignments.  A simple way to make assignments is by family group.

There are 6 children in my husband’s family.  They are all over 60 years old now and have adult children of their own.  For most reunions, each family group receives an assignment to do an activity and plan and cook a meal.  When my family is given an assignment my children help with the planning and implementing of that assignment.

The theme of our last reunion was, “Game On”.  Every family group  was in charge of a JUMBO sized family game.  Our game was one of 6 games we played at the reunion and one of 6 activities the reunion planner didn’t have to worry about.

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Many years ago, we planned a “Cruise” themed reunion.  Each of the family groups choose a port of call and planned activities and a meal that represented the culture of that port.  Because there was six families, we sailed to six countries including Mexico, Alaska, Africa and Paris, France.

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 Stop spending your own money

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No matter how much you love each other, it still costs money to hold a family reunion.
You may charge reunion goers a fee for attending their reunion or you may ask them to donate food or other supplies but if you are a reunion planner I guarantee that you are spending your own money (Probably more than you think) to make your reunion  successful. 

For many families, putting someone (or a committee) over managing the money is a huge help.  This person should be  responsible  for all things money including any fund raising that takes  place.

Our family does a family auction to help with reunion expenses.  The responsibility for the auction including encouraging family members to bring donations  to  be auctioned  off  is up to  our reunion financial  guru.  She keeps track of all winning  bids and  collects the money.  She  also deposits the cash in  our family reunion bank account and  pays all the  bills. It’s one last thing the reunion planner needs to worry about.

Every reunion organizer needs a notebook to  record every purchase they make for the reunion. Glue an envelope in the back of your notebook for keeping receipts and at the completion of your reunion, review your purchases and submit your receipts to the money manager. 

Keep in mind that the purchases you make are made with  precious funds and  take care to spend wisely but if there doesn’t seem to be enough funds for one  of your activities unless you pay for it then it’s  time  to cut it from  the list. 

Stop worrying About Those that don’t attend the Reunion

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When you’re the  one  that  has  worked so  hard to plan  and implement  a reunion  it’s pretty hard to not take it  personally when someone tells you they can’t  attend.

Over the last 40 years of family reunions I have heard  some   pretty ridiculous reasons /excuses that someone can’t attend a family reunion but I’ve also learned that if someone doesn’t want  to come to the  reunion they’re just  not  going to come, no matter what you say  or do to change  their mind.  The reason they give you for not attending may have nothing to do with the  real reason  they’re not coming.

Focus instead on all  the wonderful people that come to the  reunion- cousin  Toby that planned his wedding so that his  anniversary would never  fall on the reunion weekend and Aunt Jean and Uncle Mack who save their work vacation every year so that they can attend.  Those are the people that need your attention and perhaps you’ll see some of the non-attenders next year when they hear how much fun everyone had at the reunion  they missed.

To encourage attendance at the next reunion, send out a nice,  personalized email or text to those that didn’t attend letting them know that they were missed.

have very strong memories of being around my extended family while I was growing up. It was so meaningful to the older generation to sit around talking and spending time together. Seeing someone’s child, the extension of your family play and run with other family members was a joyful and celebrating occasion.

There was a time when people felt such a connection to their family that even though they may have moved to another city or state, they still longed for home.

In past years, when I attended family reunions we end up divided into groups of people that we associate with on a regular basis anyway, and never get to know distant cousins and other relatives who have traveled great distances to be here, so what’s the point?

11. (Enter name) will be there and I refuse to be in the same room, let alone city with that..

I can’t justify spending (enter amount) dollars to travel across the country to spend time with people I will not see or hear from again until the next family reunion.

To have a strong family, we have to be a strong family member. We can’t sit back and say what someone else isn’t doing when we aren’t doing those very things ou

reunions can be an opportunity to solidify or even create important boundaries that have been ignored or neglected in the past. One way to do that in advance is to remind a spouse, sibling, in-law or parent if you’ve told them something you want kept private from other family members.  Another is to set ground rules with your spouse about maintaining a united front in discussions about your marriage, child-raising, financial status, or any sensitive topics that are just between the two of you.

They may come next year when  they hear how much everyone else had.

Don’t Reinvent the wheel

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We live in an age when everyone is sharing their expertise and experiences on the internet. 

AmazingReunion.com is a simple free online service helping people plan their next family reunion. They can help with registration, hotel reservations and collecting fees.

Familyreunionhelper.com is a website that offers reunion theme packages that are packed full of reunion ideas- activities, games, recipes, printables and templates that take a lot of the “planning” out of reunion planning.

Glean from  the experiences of others when organizing your reunion.  Talk with friends and work associates,  find out what their favorite family reunions are. The  experiences of others is a great jumping  off  point for creating the  perfect reunion for your family. 

Planning a family reunion is a huge responsibility for reunion planners but as you work through the reunion process keep in mind the reason you’re having a reunion.  Don’t wait for a funeral to get together, plan a reunion where your family and  play and have fun together. The work you do will assure  that children will get to know their distant cousins and is a way for families to reconnect with their roots and find a sense of belonging.