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!

Family Reunion Tug Of War

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New and improved is not better than tried and true!

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It seems like I spend a lot of time trying to dream up and create new family reunion games and activities to excite and entertain family members.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen back on the old “tried and  true” activities and in the end they become the new favorites of our family.

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For instance, this year we’ve done tug of war at several reunions and parties and our families have LOVED it!  We did several categories- family vs. family, girl cousins vs. boy cousins, the original “big 6” (my husband’s  brothers and  sisters), great grand girls vs. boys and so on.

The most difficult part of a tug a war is finding a rope.  We borrowed a rope from our neighbors who  are ranchers.  When looking for a  tug of war rope I look for a rope that is 75- 100 long, a thick  sturdy rope (1” in. 1.5 in diameter) and 100 percent cotton.  This rope is available from the family reunion helper store.

The rope pictured above is soft on your hands to manila ropes. These 100% cotton ropes reduce rope burn and splinters.  Professional tug of war competitions like to use manila ropes but for a family reunion I suggest cotton ropes. Ropes like this one can cost between $150.00- $200.00 but I think you’ll find it’s an activity that can be used every year and adapted to every theme.

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Preparing the tug of war rope

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Find the center of your rope and mark with a piece of colorful tape or a bandana. Make a center mark on the ground for your starting point. You can make your marks with logs, ropes or create obstacles such as water or a mud puddle.

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Make two more marks on the ground  (I suggest 13 feet) equal distance from the center line.

The teams start with the rope’s center line directly above the line marked on the ground.  We like to  start with the rope on the ground and have the official/judge tell the participants to “pick up the  rope” before the contest begins.  When the official gives the order to “pull” teams begin pulling in an attempt to pull  the other team across the center line or obstacle.

Tug of War Hints

Never make a loop by wrapping the rope around the hand to get a better grip.

Don’t tie the rope around the last persons waist.

On your family reunion invitation add “gloves” on their list  of things to  bring.

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Did you know that tug of war was part of the Olympic Games from 1900 until 1920.

Plan a Caroling Party for Family and Friends

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Gathering your family and friends together for Christmas caroling or a family sing-a-long is an easy party to plan.  Consider these helpful tips when planning your family caroling party.

Tips for Successful Christmas Caroling

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Choose Your Music

Choose songs that are short, easy to sing, and fun. You should plan on singing 1 or 2 songs per house and end with “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”. 

To build your song list you can type and print your own caroling sheets or make copies of the free family reunion helper caroling book by clicking here- free Christmas caroling book.  The book is designed so that you only have to print off the music that you will use for your caroling such as- Santa songs, snow songs or spiritual songs etc.  Once you have your music you can plan the other elements of your caroling party.

Choose your caroling route

Caroling was a favorite family tradition when I was growing up. We weren’t the most talented group of singers but we were enthusiastic.

My Mom would choose 3 or 4 families that she knew would enjoy a caroling visit and she always made a few goodies to give them.  (Perhaps as payment for listening to us sing off key) We would end our caroling at a local nursing home.  Many of the children were reluctant to sing at the nursing home but as the years have gone by caroling at the nursing home has become one of their most talked about memories of the season.  HINT: If you visit a hospital or a nursing home, ask for permission ahead of time to make sure your visit comes at a good time and that they can accommodate a large group.

Consider Using a Variety of Instruments

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Jingle bells, cymbals and drum sticks are an easy way to make your caroling fun.  Carolers that are too shy or just don’t want to sing can participate by keeping the beat with drum sticks or shaking the bells to the beat.

Dress for the Weather

If caroling outside dress for the weather.  When sending out invitations for your caroling party be sure and let your guests know that you’ll be caroling outdoors so they can bring their hats, gloves and scarves.  A fun party favor for your party could be hand and toe warmers. You can dress things up by asking everyone to wear a fun Santa hat or reindeer antlers.

Light up the night

Ask carolers to bring flashlight to the party or purchase inexpensive lights to help with reading the sheet music.   A flashlight will also help as you navigate sidewalks, stairs and uneven ground.  If you will be caroling with children give them glow in the  dark sticks and necklaces. 

Christmas caroling Water Bottles

Give carolers a water bottle to keep their throats lubricated. You can even customize your bottles with personalized labels.

Plan Refreshments for Your Carolers

At the end of your caroling party meet back at your house or rec hall and provide your carolers with bowls of chili and mugs of hot chocolate and marshmallows or cider.  You can keep your refreshments warm in slow cookers while you’re caroling.

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Turkeys and Robbers Thanksgiving Game

If you’ve played “Cops & Robbers you can play “Turkeys and Robbers”.

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Feeling a little “stuffed” after your Thanksgiving dinner? Here’s a fun game to get your Thanksgiving guests up and moving.  Before you know it they’ll be ready for pumpkin pie.

How To Play:

  1. Divide participants into two groups-the "Turkeys" and the "Robbers." If you have an odd number of people, add extra people to the robbers.  It is better to have more robbers than turkeys.
  2. Make a “nest” for your turkey eggs by making a circle (hula hoop) and placing soft balls or bean bags in the center. Start with three “eggs” but for a longer game you use more eggs.
  3. Mark off an area to be the "barnyard". When a turkey tags a robber they take the robber to the barnyard.  The barnyard could be a tree or an area you mark off.
  4. Mark off a home base for the robbers. Turkeys may not enter the home base.
  5. Robbers can get their friends out of the barnyard by touching them. 
  6. To win the game, the robbers must take the eggs while not getting captured by the turkeys.
  7. The turkeys can tag the robbers to remove them from the game or send them to the barnyard (jail).
  8. The robbers win if they successfully steal the turkey eggs and take them back to their "home base."
  9. The turkeys will win the game if they capture all of the robbers and send them to the barnyard.
  10. You will need to decide if the robbers can throw the turkey eggs from one another to keep them from the turkeys. We like that option especially when playing with an older group.
  11. If a robber is tagged while running back to the safe zone with a turkey egg, the turkeys must return the object directly to their nest. At no other time may the turkeys carry the eggs.

Turkeys and Robbers is basically just Cops and Robbers with a Thanksgiving twist.  There are many variations to the game and I’m sure you have your favorite rules so feel free to tweak as necessary.  For instance,you may want to create a safety zone around the nest for the robbers or decide on a time limit for robbers to be inside any of the safety zones. 

Whatever variations your family decides on, Turkeys and Robbers is a great way to burn off that stuffed feeling after you’ve gobbled up Tom Turkey and all the trimmings.

Punch Board Game

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Punch Board For Your Family Reunion

You’ve seen punch boards on the popular TV game show, The Price is Right, but a punch board can be a fun addition to your family reunion.  A punch board can be an exciting way to award prizes at your family reunion.  You can use a punch board to make assignments or choose what activity you will do next.

A larger board can also be a fair way to divide into teams- for example- write families names on slips of paper (Aunt Geri’s family or Uncle Dan’s family etc.)  Punch two or more holes- those families join  together to make a tug a war, softball or family skit group.  You can use the same strategy to assign seating for meals to mix things up a bit.

Creating Your Punch Board

To create your punch board you will need:

  • sturdy poster board or a piece of cardboard
  • tissue paper
  • Plastic disposable  bowls, lunch sacks or sandwich bags
  • prizes
  • tape & hot glue
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  • The first  punch board we created we used one  sheet  of tissue paper to cover the entire back of the board.  Since then we have found that covering each hole with individual squares seems to work best as  punching one hole may pull the paper from around other holes.  Tape each square securely around individual  holes.

  • Behind the Punch Board

There are several  options for hiding prizes behind your punch board.  My favorite option is plastic bowls. Carefully run a line of hot glue around the rim of your bowl and attach it to the inside of the tissue covered holes, with the prize inside.  Be sure and put your prize or secret message inside the bowl before attaching it to the board. Other options include taping a lunch sack to the back of each hole or plastic sandwich bags.

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Punch boards also make fun advent calendars.  Create yours with 24 holes and 24 prizes.  Punch out one prize each day to help count down days until Christmas or your favorite holiday.

Remote Control Car Racing for Your Family Reunion

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We attended a party sponsored by my husbands company this summer and when we walked into the huge warehouse all the boys faces, young and old, lit up with excitement at what they saw.  A simple remote control race track had been set up in the warehouse and party goers were able to organize their own races against family and friends.  What a great party idea and what a fun idea for a family reunion!  Here’s how it works-

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The Cars

If your reunion committee has the funds, purchase a few cars and at the end of your reunion auction them off  or have a prize drawing.  Another option is to invite family members to bring their own remote control cars to the reunion. If you’re planning in advance, a good time to purchase remote control cars in during the Thanksgiving Black Friday sales.

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The RC Track

First you have to decide if you want a dirt track or an inside track. As far as size goes, you won’t need more than a 20-foot by 20-foot area. You can chart out the obvious oval course or focus on hard turns to make it more challenging. If you are racing on a hard surface, you can easily chart out the borders of the track using chalk or tape. Use 2x4s to make a sturdy track. A garden hose may also be a solution to keep the RC cars on the track. Depending on how many cars and racers you have the track should be within 5 to 7 feet wide.

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A barrier in the center of your track helps keep cars roaring around the track and may help keep younger racers from getting stuck in the center.  It can also be used as a control central for racers.

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RC Jumps and Obstacles

Now it’s time to have some fun adding obstacles and jumps. If your car is a cheaper model, add only slight jumps but medium cost remote control cars can fly right over jumps without being damaged. You can use 2 liter bottles that you spray paint bright orange as obstacles. Put a little sand in each bottle and use them for obstacles to weave in and out  off.  (You can use orange cones but the smaller ones get pushed out of place.) Another fun obstacle for your track is a tunnel made from plastic or metal that a remote control car can fit through.  If you are creating a dirt track the pipe can also double as the base for a jump if dirt is piled around it.  You will have to experiment to get the dirt at the right angle.  Tunnels can also be made out of cardboard boxes.

Race Day!

Have your track set up when reunion goers arrive.  Invite them to practice racing cars around the track then choose a few cars to race for prizes at the end of the day. Gift bags of “Hot Wheel” and “Cars” goodies are fun awards.

Race Day Party

  • You can find race day printable invitations, decoration ideas,printable Pit Passes, water bottle (fuel) labels and award certificates in the familyreunionhelper store at Race Day Party.
  • Whether for a family reunion or birthday party it’s a great party theme with plenty of ZOOM!

Gentlemen, start your engines!

Create a Cities and Towns Game

You can create a fun pencil and paper game using the names of the cities and towns in your state.  It’s pretty simple to do, especially if you get a few people together to brainstorm with you.  Things might get a little silly as you match up clues and cities but in the end you should have 20- 25 clues for your next reunion  or party.

Utah Cities and Towns Game

Here’s the game we made for our state, Utah.  Hopefully our ideas will help you create a game for your state. The first part is the clue the second  part is the city or town name that matches the clue.

1. Get on a horse smiling- Mount Pleasant

2. What it costs- Price

3. What you do for a girl in need- Helper

4. Has figs in in- Newton

5. Always around a dam site- Beaver

6. Place of 360 degrees- Circleville

7. A wealthy meadow- Richfield

8. Big Wind- Hurricane

9. Fragrant Tree- Cedar

10. Spanish headdress- Mexican Hat

11. A wreath of flowers- Garland

12. Hurrah!- Eureka!

13. Happy outlook- Pleasant View

14. Everyone is under 21- Minersville

15. A prickly weed- Thistle

16. Halfway there- Midway

17. Put your money on us- Backus

18. Give your boy money- Payson

19. A dragging gun holster- Logan

20. Nothing beautiful about her- Plain City

21. What you do with the little cars at mines- Orem

22. His dad is a firearm- Gunnison

Brain Games For Your Family Reunion

Planning Activities For Everyone

I always plan lots of physical activities for our family reunions- there’s no sitting around when  I  plan a reunion.  However; not  everyone is able to join in on a game of “Whiffle Ball” or run an obstacle course so I like to plan some “brain games” for them. 

You  can incorporate brain games into every reunion theme- Boot Camp, All Sport and Olympic themes are perfect themes for brain games.   If you are giving awards for your activities be sure to include awards for your “brain  games”.

Listed below is a one of my favorite brain games –

Brain Game

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1. How many outs are in an inning of baseball? (6)

2. We celebrate Independence Day on the 4th of July in the United States. Is there a 4th of July in England. (Yes, there is a 4th of July everywhere.)

3. Some months have 31 days, some have 30, how many have 28? (They all do)

4. You have become lost in the woods at night. It is winter and getting very cold. Spotting an abandoned cabin, you go inside. By the moonlight you see an oil lamp, an oil heater and some kindling wood in a fireplace. But you discover you only have one match. What do you light first? (the match)

5. Your doctor gives you three pills and tells you to take one every half hour. How long do they last? (One hour. Example: 12:00, 12:30, 1:00)

6. In the state of Mississippi, is it legal for a man to marry his widow’s sister? (He can’t; he’s dead)

7. Take two apples from three apples. How many do you get? (Two, you took two)

8. You’re a school bus driver. At the first stop in the morning, you pick up an eight year old and a six year old. At the second stop you pick up a third grader and two fourth graders. At the third stop you pick up the Gibson twins who are 11 and one five year old. At the fourth stop you pick up one 12 year old and three children who are seven. How old is the bus driver? (Your age, you are the school bus driver.)

9. Divide 30 by ½ and add 10. What do you get? (70)

10. How many animals did Moses take onto the ark? (None, Moses wasn’t on the ark, Noah was)

11. You build a house with four southern exposures. A bear walks by your living room window. What color is the bear? (white, it is a Polar Bear. You are at the north pole.)

12. You have two coins that total 55 cents. One of them is not a nickel. What are they? (Half dollar and a nickel)

13. Billy’s mom has three kids. One is Penny and one is Nickel. What is the name of her third kid? (Billy)

The Family That Eats Together Stays Together

 

Or Forcing Your Family to Mingle

One difficult part of a family reunion or party can be getting your family to mingle during meal time.  We usually have each family group sitting together- the Maddox family, the Wynnes and the Stewarts all sitting in their own little group.  It’s not that we don’t like each other or don’t get along-we just gravitate to our  own family group.

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Here’s a fun way to mix things up.  Put a pieces of colored tape or ribbon on each chair or seating space (if you’re dealing with picnic benches)  When everyone has begun eating announce that everyone sitting on a yellow space must switch places with another yellow.  A few minutes later have pinks switch and so on.

DO NOT make it too complicated!  If you have green switch with pink and yellow with red, nothing will happen- everyone will remain in their original seat.  If you’re family is compliant and seems to enjoy the mixing up you could try switching two colors at a time but for the most part it’s best  to focus on one color at a time.  You don’t have to mix people up all in one meal- keep the colors on during your entire reunion and only do a couple of swaps per meal.

Towards the end of the meal you can announce “Rainbow Mixup” and everyone has to switch places.

HINT:  Choose a meal that doesn’t have a lot of plates and silverware etc. to be moved.

Disney Frozen Party

Big problem- how to have a “Frozen” party without any “Frozen” themed decorations? 

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When I started planning a Frozen party  for my (adult) daughter I found that EVERYTHING was sold out- online and locally.

I had to rethink my  plan and find creative ways to add a “Frozen” theme to my party without using pre-designed products. It wasn’t as fancy as a party with Elsa and Anna’s faces printed on plates, napkins and cups, but it actually turned out to be quite fun.  (Surprise- in the last moments of party planning I did score a package of Frozen dinner plates and mixed with purple plates they looked pretty cute.)

As most of my parties are, this was a family party which included infants to Grandma and Grandpa.

Frozen Decorations

Decorating was difficult without any official Frozen products.  Instead of focusing on the characters from the movie I focused on the colors of Frozen.  I used a purple tablecloth, blue napkins and pink forks.  My balloons and crepe paper followed the same color scheme.  I wanted to cut out some snowflakes but ran out of time.

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Frozen Games

We played three games using the Frozen theme.

1. Elsa and Anna

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Play this game  like the traditional “Red Light Green Light”game.  When you hold up a picture of Anna everyone runs but if you hold up a picture of Elsa everyone must FREEZE! I found Elsa and Anna pictures on the internet using an image search.  (You can also find pictures of all the Frozen characters- use them to help with all phases of your party.)

2. Ice Cube

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I froze a marble in an ice cube for every participant.  The goal was to be the first to melt the ice and reveal the marble.  If they dropped it or hit it with something they were out of the game.  I used “Hot Hands” hand warmers for the prize.

2. Freezing

I wrapped Fla-Vor-Ice cycles (unfrozen) in 10 layers of wrapping paper.  The package was then passed around while music from the Frozen soundtrack played.  When I stopped the music the person holding the  package took one layer of wrapping paper off the package.  The game continued until the package was unwrapped and the person left unwrapping the last layer got to keep the Flavorice as their prize.

Frozen Food

We served little bags of carrots that we called “Olaf Noses”.

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I made water bottle labels that said, “Melted Snowman” on them- probably should have said “Melted Olaf” but that may have been too upsetting for the younger crowd.

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Blue Jell-O that has set up and then  cut into cubes also adds to the Frozen theme.

Frozen Party Prizes

For prizes be creative and use gums and mints with an “icy” theme.  Winterfresh gum, sparkly blue fingernail polish, blue rock candy sticks, mints and gums can be fun  prizes.

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Frozen Cake

I did find one “official” item that I could purchase for my party.  It was a Disney Frozen Edible Image Cake Toppers Frosting Sheet.  I thought it might be hard to use but I just gently pealed the frosting sheet off the backing and placed it on my cake.

I bought  it here for about $10.00 (with shipping).

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One more thought- check out Etsy and  search for “Frozen Party” and you’ll find some cute, instant download, Frozen decorations (Water bottle labels, cupcake toppers, bag toppers and invitations) that could really enhance your party.

If you can find official Frozen themed products then consider yourself lucky- if not, use your imagination and create your own Frozen party.  I hope these ideas will get you thinking.