Celebrating Friendsgiving

We have been blessed to live close to family for a number of years. Especially when it comes to holiday time. When my husband and I first got married we would try and make it to both “coasts” of Iowa so that we could see all of our family. After we started having kids that quickly changed!

One year the Thanksgiving celebration was going to be at our house. Unfortunately, the weather was not going to be good and I had everything purchased for the meal. We found out that our neighbors were having the same issues. We decided that it would be a lot of fun to celebrate together! Our neighbors grew up in the south and they brought all of the typical southern Thanksgiving foods, and we have the traditional Midwest foods. Needless to say we had a feast, and we enjoyed an afternoon of telling family traditions and stories.

Our middle son played college hockey in Oklahoma. Since Thanksgiving was in the middle of their hockey season he was not able to come home. For four years he and his teammates and friends would be assigned a food to bring and they would have a huge “Friendsgiving” celebration together. They would send us pictures of amazing food, impressively including homemade pumpkin pie, and all of the kids gathered around a very large table. It always made me feel good knowing that the holiday was spent with friends and with lots of good food. Plus I loved getting the call at AnswerLine to make sure they were cooking the turkey safely! The coach would not have been happy if the whole team had food poisoning!

Whether you are celebrating with family or with friends we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving.


Beth Marrs

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Adult Home Economics Education. I love to cook and entertain and spend time with my family.

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Family Fun Making Apple Cider

The apples are getting ripe in our orchard and most of the varieties are producing nice, pest-free fruit this year. With an abundance of quality fruit, our family gathered over the Labor Day weekend to make ‘apple cider’.  Actually, for us, it was just fresh apple juice as we did not allow it to ferment.

We began by setting up the equipment (crusher and press) and making sure it was clean.  Then we headed to the orchard with buckets to pick apples from a variety of trees.  We like to use a mix of apple varieties as over the years we have found that the best cider comes from a blend of sweet, tart, and aromatic apple varieties. The grand kids were the taste testers to help determine if the apples on the various trees were ripe, firm, and sweet enough.  Green, immature apples give cider a flat flavor when juiced.

Apples for cider do not have to be flawless so apples with blemishes or of small size are okay.  We tried to avoid picking apples with spoilage.  However, if the spoilage was small and could be cut away, those apples made it into the cider press, too.  Spoilage will cause the juice to ferment rapidly and ruin it.

After picking the apples, we washed them in a big tub and then set about coring and cutting them into quarters.  For the most part this was a job for the adults and older kids.  As the apples were cut up, they went into the crusher.  After a sufficient amount of crushed apples had accumulated, the smaller kids help load the crushed apples into the press.  With the weights in place, the grand kids were allowed to take turns turning the ratchet handle and were thrilled to see the juice pour out of the press into a bucket.

Next we took the fresh juice into the house and squeezed it through a jelly bag to remove as many particles as possible.  Since it was our intention to not ferment the juice, we immediately pasteurized it by heating the juice to 160°F to eliminate the possibility of E coli or Salmonella poisoning.  After the juice had cooled for a while, we poured it into clean, recycled juice bottles.  There were lots of ‘yums!” as everyone sampled the warm juice before refrigerating it. Fresh juice or cider will keep in the refrigerator up to five days.  If there is more than can be used in that time, it should be frozen after chilling.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation has additional information on making sweet, hard, or dry cider and turning apple cider into vinegar.

It was a great afternoon of family fun. In addition to making some great tasting ‘apple cider’, we made some great memories with the grand kids, too.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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Summer Baking with Kids

Summer is nearly upon us and many of us will be looking for fun things to do with the children in our lives. One thing I love to do with my grandchildren is bake. I recently attended a cookie decorating class in hopes of picking up a few tips about some new techniques or products to use. The cookies we used were homemade (which are always fun to do with children) but if you find you don’t have enough time to do everything, using refrigerated cookie dough works just fine. There is a wide range of cookie cutters available on the market today for most any interest your children would have. If you can’t find exactly what you are looking for, trace a pattern and make your own!


Once your cookies have baked and cooled, frost with your favorite sugar cookie icing. Buttercream and Royal frostings are always popular. Experiment with making different colors of frosting using gel or powdered coloring. Put the prepared frostings in a baggie, cut one corner of the baggie diagonally and let the children use their creative skills to add frosting to the cookies.

The class I attended introduced me to Sprinkle Pop which is one of many brands of sprinkle type toppings available on the market in many different forms. Some of the varieties include sanding sugar which is translucent and quite fine and delicate; crystal sugar is also translucent but has larger, coarser crystals; nonpareils are round; quins come in many different shapes; edible glitter; and dragees which have a hard outer shell. It is important to be a good label reader when purchasing decorations for your cookies to make sure they are all edible. Some decorations will be labeled for use as decoration only and should not be consumed. They should be removed before serving the cookies. The FDA advises to avoid the use of non-edible food decorative products.


Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Decorating Eggs

There are many commercial products available for decorating eggs but if you haven’t ever considered naturally coloring eggs for Easter you might want to! The American Egg Board has many suggestions for decorating eggs including using natural foods to color your eggs.

For pinkish red eggs consider fresh beets or cranberries or frozen raspberries. Orange or yellow colored eggs can be successfully dyed using yellow onion skins, ground turmeric, orange or lemon peels, carrot tops, celery seed, or ground cumin. Spinach leaves will produce pale green colored eggs. For blue eggs try canned blueberries or red cabbage leaves.

After you have determined which color you want to dye your eggs, place 1, 2, or 3 handfuls of your dye base in a saucepan and add 1 cup of water for each handful of color base. The water level should be at least an inch above the dye materials. Bring to boiling then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes to an hour until you have attained the color you want. Remember, eggs will dye a lighter shade than the color you see in the saucepan.

Strain the dye mixture into a small bowl deep enough to completely cover the eggs and add 2-3 teaspoons of white vinegar for each cup of dye liquid. You are then ready to start dyeing your eggs in the warm liquid. Natural dyes require a longer soak time for the color to take hold. If you want a vibrant color and to be able to eat your decorated eggs you will want to leave the eggs in the dye solution overnight in the refrigerator. Hard cooked eggs are safe to consume for up to 7 days provided they have not been out at room temperature for more than 2 hours.





Marcia Steed

Marcia Steed

I graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in Home Economics Education. I enjoy spending time with my family and friends and traveling.

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Easy Sewing Projects

Last month, I was able to visit my son and his family in Idaho. Since I love to sew, I always try to pack something fun that the grandsons there can learn to sew. My goal is to teach all of my grandchildren to sew. Since I do not have the opportunity to spend much time with most of them, I always have an easy project with me when I do visit.

If the 4-H member at your house wants to try sewing, start them on something simple and small. Zippered bags, or even open top bags are quick and easy to make. This year, we made small zippered bags. They are ideal for hiding a treasured item, packing small items in a suitcase, or holding sewing supplies. This version of a bag (there are many different patterns available) requires a zipper and fusible quilt batting. The quilt batting provides some structure or stiffness to the bag without requiring a more difficult sewing technique. You simply iron the lining piece onto the batting and then sew each strip onto the opposite side. Zipper installation does not require a special zipper foot, you simply sew along the inside edge of the zipper tape. After sewing side seams and a bottom seam, you open up the bottom and sew a diagonal line across the side and bottom seam to give the bag some volume or shape.

It occurred to me that a bag similar to this one would be a great first time sewing project for a 4-H member. Each bag would take only an hour or two to construct and members could make multiple bags for themselves, friends, or family members. Making multiple bags would allow 4-H members skills to increase. You can eliminate some of the frustration that comes when you have to fit a garment and have take out seams that need to be changed. This exhibit could be finished months ahead of the County Fair.


Liz Meimann

Liz Meimann

I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Food Science at Iowa State University. I love to quilt, sew, cook, and bake. I spent many years gardening, canning, and preserving food for my family when my children were at home.

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Rediscovering Sunday Night Suppers

Somehow I missed it!  January is National Sunday Night Supper Month!  Unbeknown to me, the movement began in 2016 as a time to begin Sunday night family meal time.  The second Sunday of January is designated as the Sunday to celebrate it by starting family Sunday night suppers if it is not already part of your family tradition.  Noting that family time on Sunday nights had become a waning tradition, Isabel Laessig, a mother of four, is credited as the founder of the Sunday Supper Movement.  The Sunday Supper Movement’s mission is to “create a better future for families, by partnering with brands and services that help families feel good, eat better and interact with each other.”

family sitting around table

As a kid growing up in a large family, Sunday night supper was always a special time for my family.  We ate together at the table, talked, and after the meal played games or cards; usually we were at home, but at least once a month, we shared this time with either my maternal grandmother or paternal grandparents.  I have no recollection of what we ate as I’m sure it was whatever my mother fixed or warmed up.  The important thing was that we were together after a week of many farm family activities.

With our fast-paced lifestyles and technology changing all aspects of family life and communication, perhaps it is important that we rediscover shared family time with a meal and set aside a month to remind us or get us started.  January may well be a good time for observance, too, as it comes with a “starting a-new” mindset or a time for resolutions to make positive changes.

If having to come up with a family meal at home is overwhelming or an unwanted chore as one wraps up weekend chores and activities and prepares for the week ahead, reduce the pressure by ordering out, have a potluck if extended family is involved, rotate meal responsibilities, make or reheat soup, make a pizza together or bake a frozen one, or simply go with what it is in the refrig.  The Sunday Supper Movement’s website offers a recipe index, cookbooks and reviews, contests and giveaways, and a community section to help anyone get started. The food doesn’t matter as much as the time together as a family and carrying on traditions that we had as kids with our kids and/or grandkids.  Regardless of where or how the meal and time takes place, the best advice is to do it without technology at the table, too.

So gather your family or friends and have a meal together. Savor each other’s company around the supper table. And just maybe, if January (or February since January is nearly past) Sunday night suppers go well, they may become a way of life for your family.

Marlene Geiger

Marlene Geiger

I am a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a BS in Home Economics Education and Extension and from Colorado State University with a MS in Textiles and Clothing. I enjoy spending time with family and friends, gardening, quilting, cooking, sewing, and sharing knowledge and experience with others.

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