family homestead recipes

Weekend Reset: A Living Room Campout

The weekdays are so full. I’m always rushing around and shuffling the kids between school, sports and piano lessons—not to mention my own obligations. We don’t get the quality time with each other that I’d like, so the weekends end up being pretty sacred. It’s my time to give them my undivided attention and not get distracted with work or school stuff. I usually look for any excuse to get outside and push my nature-loving agenda on my kids. However, when the weather doesn’t cooperate (like this unseasonable Austin cold and rain that’s currently killing my outdoor buzz) I have to find another way to keep everyone entertained. With a 7, 5- and 2-year-old, it takes some creativity to come up with one activity that everyone can enjoy. So, I decided to bring a little of the outdoors indoors with a living room campout.

We all put on our PJs, pitched the kids’ teepees, rolled out the sleeping bags, made a special treat, and watched a movie (The Greatest Showman is a crowd favorite). The result was basically a jazzed up family sleepover plus movie night and the kids couldn’t get enough—and I loved the chance to snuggle with all three of them.

It’s the perfect way for us to reconnect after a crazy week. We’re all in our house where everyone feels safe, but doing something kinda out of the box and different makes the kids feel special. The typical house “rules” are out the window and they get to have a cool little fort party that’s just for them.

Picking a movie can sometimes lead to fighting, so we’ve come up with a reward system. The kids (all of them) have chores and each are unique to them. If they complete their chores they receive a cotton ball and if they do things that are good behavior they get rewarded with a cotton ball. When they want to watch a movie, they have to trade in four cotton balls. So whoever has earned enough gets to pick something for everyone to watch.

On this night, we picked up ice cream from local Austin shop Lick—which my kids love for their wild flavors. Shep’s favorite is their beet and goat cheese ice cream and Tom’s favorite is the honey and vanilla. (Odette just loves all ice cream.) We decided to go all out and used it to make our own ice cream sandwiches. We had an assortment of cookies, including some of our favorite homemade gluten-free oatmeal cranberry cookies—check out the recipe below. (Pro tip: Make sure to have plenty of towels on hand to wipe sticky hands!)

What about you? What does your family do to reconnect after a crazy week?


Gluten-free Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies

½ cup plus 6 tbsp of butter (softened)

¾ cups packed brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 ½  cups gluten-free multi-purpose flour blend

1 tsp gluten-free baking soda

½ tsp salt

3 cups oats, uncooked

1 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Using an electric mixer (or hand mixer), beat butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy. Add the vanilla and the eggs and mix well. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix until just combined. Fold in the oats and dried cranberries. With a cookie scoop or regular spoon, drop tablespoonfuls of dough on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool 1 minute, then transfer to a plate to cool completely and enjoy!


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  • Julie Rempel

    This looks like such a fun idea!! And those oatmeal cookies look delicious! Definitely going to have to try that one!! Thanks for sharing!

  • Ruth

    My family and I actually decided to do a movie night every Saturday a few months ago and I’m surprised that we have been very good with keeping up and following through on it.

    Some nights we trade in the movies for card games but it’s fun to catch up with my sisters and younger family members at least once a week.


    Hi Gen!
    Since you are talking about cotton balls lol, my 3 yr old nephew came up with a super fun indoor activity. SNOWBALL FIGHT!! with cotton balls! His sister, him and I have so much fun throwing cotton balls, they laugh and laugh and it is easy to clean up. It’s better to play on a hard surface as playing on the carpet, you get a bunch of white fuzz to clean up. However, either way it’s a lot of fun and I thought such a wonderful idea from our little guy. Have a great weekend!! Thank you again for sharing.

  • Rebecca

    As a kid when it was too rainy or too cold outside, my mom would let us make a tent with sheets and chairs. I loved that as a kid. With my own, I let them do the same only now it’s when it’s too hot to go outside. (Our summer temps hit 100+ all summer long.) Now they’re 18, 14 and 12 year old twins, they don’t do it anymore and I miss that.

  • Alyson

    With the holidays breathing down our necks, what homemade treats can your family not live without? My family loves my homemade hot cocoa mix and marshmallows (yes! The marshmallows are homemade!)

  • Suganti

    We watch LOTR and The Hobbit during the Christmas break. It’s my fav and somehow it became our family fav. And then we buy a big puzzle and as a family we do it through our winter break. This year I’m thinking of Home Alone movie and set up nice and comfy in our basement and hangout watching it.

  • Marty Cruse

    Hi Gen, your indoor campout looks like a ton of fun! My son and his girlfriend do fun things like that with their 4 kids, and my daughter and her husband do the same thing with their 2 kids. I’ve done similar things with my kids when they were little, and continue doing fun things with my grandkids. It’s sharing family time together doing these types of extraordinary things with family that helps create wonderful memories and stronger relationships with those you love. Thanks for sharing this little bit of heaven.

  • Ali

    That’s adorable! You got me at that ice cream place! My husband works in Europe every other month so I have a lot of bonding time with my son and daughter.
    There’s a seven year spread between them so it’s challenging to find activities for them both but this!
    When I’m solo parenting, I make Saturday night our “Sweet & Spooky Saturday Night Sleepover!” Oh yeah!
    We don’t have tents but I have two great fort-makers, lots of cushions, corners, sheets, rubber bands and bungees to keep it together and cozy blankets, an emergency lantern, and a crowd-pleasing four dollar copper wire string of fairy lights for inside the fort. Home Sweet Ambiance!

    We usually start out with Ella Enchanted or the original The Parent Trap. Once little Aiofe is asleep, Archer and I turn on some Goose Bumps or old episodes of Are You Afraid of The Dark?

    After hearing about this BEET and GOAT CHEESE ICE CREAM I’m losing my mind! I wish Connecticut was cool (Austin weird) enough to have an ice cream place like that! Next time I’ll try making cookies-yours look amazing! If I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just bust out whatever snacks, ha! If its a super celebratory Saturday maybe I’ll pack a picnic basket-if I actually have the energy. Laying around with the kiddos is my personal favorite part. 😁

  • Karen

    Thanks for the cookie recipe! As a celiac, I’m always looking for family-friendly treats. I’ve made them twice now—only modification is that I added white chocolate chips. Yummy!

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