Our Favorite Family Reunion Dinner-Dutch Oven Stacked Enchiladas

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Human Piñata Chase

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This fun variation of the traditional piñata may very well become the highlight for the kids at your next family reunion or party.

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One of the highlights of our 2016 reunion was the human piñata chase held for all the children. It’s an interesting and fun  twist on the traditional  piñata game.

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To prepare the human  piñatas hot glue onto the front and back of a t-shirt.  You will need one shirt for every piñata.  Use old or cheap shirts because they will be destroyed in the chase. Use small snack sized candies, fruit snacks and small cookie snacks with a full sized candy bar thrown in for good measure. 

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You can also glue money on the piñata shirts if you  put it in a zip lock bag. Pencils and small toys can also be glued to the shirts.

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To play, divide children into age groups.  Ask for someone to be the piñatas. You may do 1 piñata at a time (1 piñata for each age group) or let all  of your piñatas be chased at the same time but put a time limit for each age group.  Give the human piñatas a head start then send the kids out to collect their treats.  When they  get close enough kids grab hold of the prize and pull it off.  Some can be hard to pull off but that is just part of the fun.

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5 Top Tips for Planning a Successful Family Reunion Cruise

cruise blog

Written by Sally Fain

Planning A Family Reunion Cruise

Choosing to hold your family reunion on board ship has a great many things going for it. For a start, although you may not think so, a cruise can often be cheaper for a large group event over several days than a land-based event. They also require a lot less logistical planning, and provoke fewer arguments over what to do/where to go on each day of the reunion. Not to mention the fact that a cruise is exciting, and a lot of fun! However, it can take a bit of planning during the early stages. Here are a few tips to help you plan a family reunion cruise:

Start Planning Early

This goes for all family reunions, but it’s worth restating at the outset nonetheless! Remember, there is no way that you’re going to please 100% of your family members 100% of the time, but with a little compromise and negotiation, you can come up with something that will please the majority. However, in order to achieve this nice result and have a great event, you need to start talking to people and planning the kind of things you’d like fairly early on. On a financial level, getting your plans together and booking early can mean considerable discounts from cruise lines, so it’s worth getting started about a year or so before you actually set sail! Of course, there are some things you can’t really work out until you’ve booked or are close to booking – quite how you’re going to get everyone to the port, for example – but putting in the majority of the ground work early will pay off in the long term!

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Choose Your Reunion Cruise Well

The majority of cruise companies offer pretty good deals for large groups, some even with things like cover-all insurance etc included as part of the deal. Others will expect you to provide certain things on your own initiative. Both of these formats have advantages and disadvantages – the all-inclusive nature of many cruises means that you have far less of a headache organizing things like meals and entertainment, while the more self-driven option allows you more freedom of choice when covering yourself and your events, and choosing things to do/eat. In general, the nature of a cruise means that reunion event planning is an awful lot easier, logistically speaking, as you’re all on the one boat, and mealtimes, entertainment etc can be co-ordinated by the cruise company themselves. However, different cruises offer different kinds of things, and will provide different incentives for large groups. If families will be part of your plans, choose a cruise that caters to children with activities and entertainment to their liking. It’s well worth doing your research properly in order to get the best deal for you. You’re not going to please everyone, but you can make your cruise get as close as possible to the majority desire with a little research.

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Get A Reunion Cruise Team Together

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You can’t do this alone! Pick a couple of family members whose skills compliment your own (and each other’s) to help you out. It’s essential that at least one of you is good at communicating with the group at large. You’re likely to have a lot of generational differences and a range of interests in your family group, so it’s important to have someone on the organizational side of things who can take on board the varying needs and desires of your group. If you’ve got someone who’s got at website management then that’s fantastic – setting up a website (or even just a social media page) can be a fantastic way of getting your ideas together, keeping everyone up to date, and making people feel involved.

Negotiate

As a reunion cruise involves a lot less logistical planning than most other kinds of reunion, the major work you’ll have to do is that of negotiating. Negotiating with your family, negotiating with cruise providers…it may sound arduous, but it’s worth doing! You can get quite a lot of good deals and incentives if you’re prepared to communicate with the cruise lines. They’ll be happier than you might think to modify their structures and routines for the benefit of your family reunion – it’s just a case of asking them! Negotiating with the cruise companies will also be good practice for negotiating with your family – who are all bound to have different opinions on the kind of thing they want, and the best way in which to conduct the event. Good luck!

Making a Family Parade Float

parade blog

Small Town Parades

My favorite parades are those in small communities.  The parade in our town is only two blocks long and lasts about 20 minutes, but we always arrive early so we can get a front row seat.  We don’t want to miss those great family floats!

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When I was growing up we always had a Hooton family float.  My Mom and her sister would design and make a float for all of my Grandparents’ grandkids to ride on.  I don’t remember a lot of the details about creating the float but I do remember having lots of fun with my cousins. I also liked getting a free ticket to the local movie theater and 25 cents to buy a treat which was the prize for having an award winning float.

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Highlight Your Family

Having a family float in a local parade can be a fun activity for your family reunion.  It’s also a great way for Grandma and Grandpa to show off their posterity.  The Brown family counted all their posterity and celebrated by building the family float pictured below.

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Here’s some tips to having a great family reunion float:

Register Your Float or Parade Entry

#1.  Be sure to register your float with the parade  committee in advance.  Find out the specifics about entering before you begin building your parade float. Some parades have restrictions about throwing candy or passing out flyers so find out the rules and safety requirements.

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#2. Once you know the size requirements and approved vehicles for floats, you will need to find either a truck and trailer or flatbed that you can use as a base for your float.  If you don’t have access to a truck and trailer let your family ride their bikes or walk in the parade.  Children in the family can dress in their team uniforms, dance costumes or school shirts and ride decorated bikes  in the parade.

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Another option is to put everyone in matching family reunion shirts and make a banner with your family name on it. Give everyone a helium balloon and wah la- you have a “walking” family reunion float.  Like they say, sometimes- “less is more”.

#3.  Make sure  you have plenty of help when assembling your float.  You will have to build your float in a few hours so you will need to be organized. Be sure you have all supplies on hand.

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#4. Money is probably going to be an issue for your family reunion float but floats don’t have to cost a lot of money to be fun.  There are inexpensive supplies that you can use to make a fun float. Colored butcher paper, paint, cardboard, straw bales and balloons can create a very nice float. Cut out props from the cardboard boxes. Try making props more three dimensional by using folds or tape and glue. Make them big, the bigger the better, because your float will be viewed from a distance. Paint these props colorfully and be sure to adequately secure them to the vehicle or trailer.  Balloons are a great filler as are colorful crepe paper streamers. Make skirting to cover the sides and wheels by wrapping and securing colored butcher paper with tape and a staple gun.

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#5.  Last of all, be sure you have a safe driver for your float.  Grandpa is a good option if he doesn’t already have an assignment.  After you have put your family reunion float together with crepe paper, balloons and staples, all that’s left is to add your family.

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And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.

Hobo or Tin Foil Dinners With Variations

tin foil dinner blog

One of our favorite family reunion and campfire meals is Hobo dinners or Tinfoil dinners.

We love tin foil dinners so much we sometimes make them in our oven  at home.  Our favorite recipe for tin foil dinners is as follows:

Traditional Tin Foil Dinner Recipe

Place the following items on a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking.

Ingredients:

1 hamburger patty per dinner- 1 pound ground beef will make 4 patties
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrots
1 potato, peeled and sliced thinly or diced 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Onion slices 
2 Tablespoons cream of chicken condensed soup

Place patty in the center of each piece of foil. Put vegetables on top of meat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add cream of chicken soup in two dollops on top of dinner and fold foil up tightly around the entire meal.

Cook on a grill on medium-high heat or in a campfire for 25-30 minutes, or until vegetables and meat are cooked through.  You can also cook dinners in the oven (350 degrees for an hour) by placing meals on a cookie sheet before baking. 

Be careful when opening the foil- it is very hot! 

Tin Foil Dinner Secrets to Success

Identify your foil dinner by writing your name or an identifying mark with permanent marker or by folding the foil in an unusual  way.

You may substitute the soup with a few sprinkles of Worcestershire sauce.

When cooking on a fire (when its easy to burn dinners) make an extra meal.  If a meal gets too crispy you’ll have an extra meal and no one goes hungry.

Add a tablespoon or two of water before sealing dinner up to steam your meal.

Turn packets half way through cooking process, using oven mitts or leather gloves.

Tin Foil Dinner Variations

On a family and friends camping trip one of our friends made their tin foil dinner with chicken and rice.  I thought that was a little odd but it got me thinking about variations to our basic recipe.

Tin Foil Dinner Seasoning Variations

Try one or more of the following in your dinner: garlic salt, season salt, lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, BBQ sauce, Ranch salad dressing (delicious on chicken) chili powder, or steak sauce.

Breakfast Tin Foil Dinner

Prepare one thin sausage patty made from lean country sausage, place on foil; add 3/4 to 1 cup frozen hash browns creating a nest in center of your potatoes; add one egg to the nest; wrap. Sprinkle with grated cheese just before serving.

Glazed Ham Tin Foil Dinner

Place one carrot thinly sliced on foil, salt and pepper to taste; place a slice of ham on top carrots, about 1/2-inch thick; place a ring of pineapple on ham; drizzle with 1 tablespoon honey, wrap.

Ranch Chicken Tin Foil Dinner

Combine 1 packet dry Ranch dressing mixed with 3/4 cup corn flake crumbs and 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Dip one boneless, skinless chicken breast in melted butter, Ranch dressing mix and place on foil.  Add potatoes and carrots.

This will make 4 to 6 chicken breasts.

M & M or Skittle Ice Breaker Game

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Getting to Know You Game

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Take a bag of M&M’s or Skittles candy and tell everyone to grab a handful…or specify a number (I prefer this if you have a large group so it doesn’t take so long- I suggest each family member take 4 or 5 candies) You might also choose to split up in smaller groups such as children under 12, 12 and over, young adults etc. if you have a larger group such as a family reunion.

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Assign a different meaning to each color, blue= family, green=hobbies, yellow=animals, brown= work or school etc. Participants must tell one thing about themselves for how many candies they have in their hands using the colors as their guide. They may also eat them as they share their information.  (“Blue…I have two sisters.”, then eats the candy. “Yellow…I have a dog named Kodi.”, and eats the candy etc.) If you have two or more of the same color you have to tell one thing per candy regardless the color.

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This is a good ice breaker because you can play it as soon as your party is supposed to start and those that come a little late can participate when they arrive.

A slight variation to the game is have participates tell things that make them, happy, sad, angry, excited or afraid.

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Quench Thirsts At Your Next Reunion

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Keeping your family hydrated during your family reunion is important and can be a challenge if you are having your reunion outdoors and if you will be encouraging playing sports and other physical activities. You can create a budget and fund for communal beverages, ask everyone to bring their own drinks or try one of ideas below.

Water Bottles For Family Reunions

Water bottles give you a great opportunity to personalize your water bottles by making labels that support your reunion theme or your family name. Most of our family reunion theme packages include water bottle labels you can easily print and use on your water bottles.

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A package of sticker paper can easily be printed on then cut and apply to the water bottles.  Get a good quality sticker paper, some of the budget paper aren’t as sticky and may pull away from the water bottle. Sticker paper is great if you won’t keep water bottles in ice but if the water bottles will be stored where they will get wet you should select a sticker paper that is water resistant.  You can find water bottle sticker paper in the familyreunionhelper store.

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Water bottle labels compliment your reunion or party theme well and they can help save reunion funds and keep your reunion “green” if everyone writes their name on the bottle and reuses the same bottle during the reunion.

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Insulated cups from the Dollar Store

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A fun idea our family discovered recently are insulated cups from the dollar store.  They cost a dollar (surprise) and come in a variety of colors.  If you need a lot of cups you will probably want to order them from the store’s online site.  They will ship for free to your local store where you can pick them up.  Although cups cost more than a water bottle they do make a great souvenir that your family can continue to use when the reunion is over. 

My daughter has a vinyl machine and she made a fun  logo that we put on all of our cups. They were a hit with the family and with so many cup colors family members were able to easily keep track of their own cups.

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Water Coolers

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An  economical way to keep everyone hydrated is to use water coolers.  You can purchase a 5 gallon water cooler for around $25.00.  Buy several and keep one full of water and ice and one of punch or lemonade.  Drink coolers are also great for making homemade root beer. With coolers you can provide paper cups or can use them to refill water bottles or plastic drink  cups.

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Last but not least, ask everyone to provide their own beverages for the reunion. Asking everyone to provide their own drinks gives some relief to the budget and assures that everyone has their favorite beverage on hand.

Create a Cities and Towns Game

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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.

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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

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)