It's All Relative

Family customs are as quirky and wonderful as families themselves. Here's how one Minnesota clan celebrates together.
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The Family
Niki Williams, 36
Tani Williams Kalweit, 34
Keri Williams Henke, 32

The Tradition: Three-generational weekly get-togethers

Try a Tonka Pie!

This Midwestern specialty -- a camping dish made in a long-handled, two-sided grill over an open fire's embers -- can be sweet or savory. For a Williams family favorite, go to

While they were growing up in a Minneapolis suburb, Keri, Tani, and Niki Williams were unusually close. Even as adults the sisters all settled within a 20-minute drive of one another and their parents. But as much as they loved hanging out together, the demands of daily life kept interfering. Then one summer day in 2008, just weeks before Keri was due to give birth for the first time, Tani proposed a solution: a weekly family dinner, with the host rotating among the four households. "Tani thought it would be a great way for the cousins to have good relationships and for us aunts to be close to our nieces and nephews," Keri recalls.

Keri kicked off the custom with Mexican takeout at her house that September, a week after her son, Liam, was born. Nearly three years later the extended family still gathers at one of their homes every Tuesday night for food, drink, and conversation. The menu has expanded, too, encompassing everything from steaks and salads to savory Tonka pies, a camping food they bake in a cast-iron griddle in the fireplace. "Sometimes we add a hot Tater Tot dish," Keri says. "We're so Minnesotan, it's ridiculous."

But the food matters less than the company. "The kids play together and the grown-ups sit around and chat," says Keri. "We catch up on the week and trade parenting tips. It's so important for us to have this support system."

Continued on page 2:  Tonka Pies


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