The $2.00 Dinner Challenge

Making Dinner Fun!

A funny dinner tradition for your family


When my children were little we called it the $1.00 dinner challenge- you could buy a lot more for $1.00 back then.  Now call it the $2.00 dinner challenge but  we still have as much fun as we did in the days when a dollar could actually buy something.


I’m not even sure where the idea came from,but the dinner challenge became a tradition that we would do  when a cousin came for a sleepover.  This is not a tradition for a huge group of people such as an extended family reunion but it’s a ton of fun for a more manageable group of aunts, uncles and cousins.


Here’s how it works-

Give everyone in your family $2 in cash. (Or whatever amount you feel is appropriate) As a family, go to your local grocery store. Walk around the store and look for food that you can purchase for $2. When you’ve looked around a bit, choose the item you want to serve for dinner, pay for it and wait  for  everyone in  your family to finish shopping.  (You want to keep your purchase a secret from the  others but it is best to shop in teams especially if you have younger children.)

Our grandchildren are 10 years and  younger (mostly younger) so we had each child team  up with an  adult.  They put their money together so each team had $4.00 to spend.


Our grandkids get so excited about what they have  purchased they can hardly stand the car ride back to the house to prepare their food.  We have to juggle time in the kitchen mixing, baking and microwaving but eventually everyone is ready and we all sit down at the table to our $2.00 challenge feast.  Even the pickiest of eaters will find something to eat at this table- because they choose it!

Some helpful  hints and a funny story- Set some  guidelines such as, Can  two people put their money together? Can you purchase a dessert item? How long do you have to prepare  the food when  you arrive home?  etc.

One year my niece choose  Jell-O for her food  item.  It would’ve taken hours for the Jell-O to set up but we prepared it anyway and ate  it for a  late night snack.

Does your family to take the $2.00 Challenge?

Secrets for Hosting a Successful Family Reunion

3 keys to a successful reunion

3 Keys to a Successful Family Reunion

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

Choose a permanent reunion date

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

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

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

Plan a Reunion Date BEFORE You End Your Family Reunion

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

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

Key #2- Delegate Responsibilities!

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

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

Make Assignments According to Abilities

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

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

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

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

Reunion Committee

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

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

Choose a Theme For Your Family Reunion!

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


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


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


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

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

When You Were My Age

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

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

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

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

Aunt MO

Family Reunion Right Left Game

right left game

I love “Right/Left games!  It’s a great way to exchange “white elephant” gifts but… I absolutely hate the “Mrs. WRIGHT RIGHT “ games that you can find on the web (let’s get creative people!) so I wrote my own right/left game that is designed for use at a family reunion.  Hope you like it.


First thing you need to do  is assign each family member to bring a white elephant gift to your family reunion or party. Decide if you want them to bring their gifts wrapped or unwrapped.  Most people will bring funny, used items they no longer want so I always like to  include some more desirable gifts that will get everyone excited about winning.  Large candy bars, money, and 2 liter bottles of soda are always a hit.

Everyone sits in a circle. As you read the story, they pass (the gifts) left when you say left, and pass them right when you say right. When the story ends, everyone opens the gift they are LEFT with. I have capitalized the words RIGHT and LEFT in the story for easy identification.  Be sure and read with lots of expression and pauses- the children in your family will have fun anticipating RIGHT or LEFT.

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Family Reunion Right/Left Story

Let me tell you what happened to Uncle Harv and Aunt Ethel on the way to this reunion. Harv and Ethel decided to get an early start because they didn’t want to be LEFT out of all the fun. Since both of their cars were in the shop, they borrowed their neighbor’s two ton truck. (These are the neighbors to the RIGHT of them, not the LEFT.) Harv sat in the driver’s seat and Ethel sat RIGHT next to him. The kids all climbed in and took the space that was LEFT.

It’s a long way to this reunion from Harv and Ethel’s house and I guess Harv began to get a little sleepy. The truck began to serve to the LEFT and to the RIGHT and then to the LEFT again. Before Harv knew it, the truck had LEFT the road and was going RIGHT into the burrow pit.

“You get RIGHT back on that highway!” Ethel screamed.

“I’m trying!” Harv yelled back as the truck bounced around. “I just hope I can keep this truck upRIGHT!”

Just then a house appeared RIGHT before their eyes and sure enough the truck ran RIGHT into the big, locked gate that stood RIGHT in front of it. Everyone began screaming and soon the people that lived in the house came running from all directions- from the RIGHT and from the LEFT. They were RIGHT neighborly though and invited us RIGHT into what was LEFT of their house to have breakfast with them. Although Harv and Ethel were anxious to get RIGHT back on the road, and Uncle Harv’s RIGHT knee felt a little stiff, they decided the nice thing to do was to eat breakfast with the family.

The family consisted of Ma and Pa Dowinkle and their eight kids. (Everyone in their family was LEFT handed- isn’t that odd?) Harv and Ethel LEFT their coats RIGHT by the front door. As we Harv and Ethel and their kids sat down at the huge kitchen table the Ma Dowinkle asked that they sit on their RIGHT side so that they wouldn’t bump elbows. Ethel sat RIGHT next to Ma Dowinkle and Harv sat RIGHT next to Pa Dowinkle. There was room for everyone RIGHT at the big table, in fact there was even some room LEFT- over.

Breakfast was so good that no one LEFT anything on their plate. After eating, Harv and Ethel gave all ten of the Dowinkles a big hug and LEFT.

“I’m driving the rest of the way to the reunion”, Ethel said, “Is that  alRIGHT with you?” She asked the kids. The kids cheered and Ethel turned RIGHT out of the Dowinkle’s driveway and LEFT their new friends in a RIGHT big cloud of dust. She headed RIGHT for the freeway and before anyone knew it, they arrived at the family reunion RIGHT on time.

So, if you see Uncle Harv and Aunt Ethel at the reunion be sure and ask them if they are feeling alRIGHT and give Uncle Harv a pat RIGHT on the back and Aunt Ethel a kiss RIGHT on the cheek and let them know how glad we are that they could come to the family reunion.

Well, that’s the end of the story- there isn’t any more LEFT- I know I’m RIGHT because it was my job to WRITE the RIGHT/LEFT story- and WRITE it I did. Isn’t that RIGHT?!?!

Aunt MO

5 Gallon Bucket Seats For Your Camping Reunion

Making and decorating their own 5 gallon bucket seat is a great ice breaker activity for your family reunion.

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5 Gallon Bucket Seats for Your Family Reunion

If your family reunion is held at a campground you might find these 5 gallon bucket seats a fun and useful addition to your reunion. They’re easy to make and handy for storing anything you might want to access quickly such as flashlights, sunscreen, bug  spray, gloves etc.

What you’ll need:

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5 gallon bucket (Have everyone bring their own bucket.  If you have family that will be traveling long distances to attend your reunion, purchase their buckets for them.)

Fabric-I like using bandanas

Polyethylene foam or quilt batting for the cushy part of your seat.

Particle board or for a more economic solution use cardboard.



Staple guns

NOTE: Be sure and have plenty of scissors and staple guns so that people are not standing around waiting to use them.

Step 1. Cut the circles out of particle board or plywood scraps

Trace the lid for your pattern then use a jigsaw to cut circles from particle board or any scrap wood you may have.  You will want to have these cut in advance if you are camping.  Of course,if you are using cardboard they can be cut at the campsite.

Step 2:  Add The Padding.

For the first buckets we made we used very thick (2- 3 inch) foam but we found that any padding at all makes the bucket more comfortable- even a couple of layers of quilt batting works well.  Our best buckets were made with  1/2 inch Polyethylene Foam.

Place the wood circles on the foam and trace them. Cut the foam to fit.

NOTE: Be sure the handle of your bucket can move up and down. If your foam is too thick the handle won’t be able to move.

Step 3: Attach the fabric

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Lay the wood piece on top of your fabric and add three inches to the circle. Cut out the fabric and then  using staple guns attach the batting and  fabric to the wood circle. Pull the fabric tight before stapling it on the board.

Step 4: Decorating Your 5 Gallon Bucket

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Here’s the fun part!  If someone in your family has a vinyl cutting machine such as a silhouette, ask them to cut a variety of shapes and designs that can be used to personalize buckets.  Supply alphabet stickers, glitter glue, sticky jewels, buttons, ribbon  and permanent markers so family members can decorate their buckets in their own personal style.

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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


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.

Family Reunion T Shirt


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.

Famous Aunts & Uncles Family Reunion Game

How well do you know the aunts and uncles in your family?  Well,here’s a test to find out how well you know “famous” aunts and uncles that you’ve come to love through TV, books and in the movies.  Pass copies of the test out to older family members when they arrive at your reunion or during down time. Give prizes for the best(WHOPPERS, SMARTIES,100 GRAND) and worst (Milk DUDS) scores.

Famous Aunts & Uncles


1. Andy Griffith’s Aunt

2. Mr. Television

3. “Wizard of Oz” aunt

4. Uncle on “Adams Family”

5. Forgetful Aunt on “Bewitched”

6. Uncle housekeeper on “My Three Sons”

7. Common sense aunt on “Fresh Prince of "Bel-Air”

8. Harry Potter’s strict uncle

9. Trademark for pancake flour and syrup


10. Luke Skywalker’s uncle from “Star Wars”

11. Tom Sawyer’s aunt

12. Cissy, Buffy & Jody’s uncle on “Family Affair”

13. Whitney Houston’s famous singing Aunt

14. Motorcycle riding uncle on “Full house”

15. George Clooney’s favorite singing aunt

16. The richest duck in the world


17. Aunt that Amy stays with in “Little Women” 

18. He wants YOU (for the US Army)

19. Spiderman’s uncle and adoptive father

20. Who lived with her aunts at 133 Collins Road?

Famous Aunts & Uncles Answer Key

Answer Key

1. Andy Griffith’s Aunt- Aunt Bee

2. Mr. Television Uncle- Miltie

3. “Wizard of Oz” aunt- Auntie Em

4. Uncle on “Adams Family”- Uncle Festus

5. Forgetful Aunt on “Bewitched”- Aunt Clara

6. Uncle housekeeper on “My Three Sons”- Uncle Charley

7. Common-sense aunt on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” Aunt Vivian

8. Harry Potter’s strict uncle- Uncle Vernon

9. Trademark for pancake flour and syrup- Aunt Jemima

10. Luke Skywalker’s uncle from “Star Was” Uncle Owen

11. Tom Sawyer’s aunt- Aunt Polly

12. Cissy, Buffy & Jody’s uncle on “Family Affair”- Uncle Bill

13. Whitney Houston’s famous singing Aunt- Dionne Warwick

14. Motorcycle riding uncle on “Full house” – Uncle Jesse

15. George Clooney’s favorite singing aunt- Rosemary Clooney

16. The richest duck in the world- Uncle Scrooge

17. Aunt that Amy stays with in “Little Women”- Aunt March

18. He wants YOU (for the US Army)- Uncle Sam

19. Spiderman’s uncle and adoptive father- Uncle Ben

20. Who lived with her aunts at 133 Collins Road?- Sabrina the Teenage Witch

A “ready for printing” copy of this game as well as other fun “Pencil and Paper” games is included with every family reunion theme package purchased at

Looking for another fun game to test your knowledge?  Try the Older Than Dirt game and find out who is older than dirt at your next reunion.