Saturday, October 25, 2014

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Those of you who follow this blog may remember how petrified I was that Matt might get called to one of the missions where you are prohibited from sending packages.  Seriously.  Well, he was called to the Washington Seattle Mission and I can breath and send him pretty much whatever he/I want to send for not very much at all...compared to some of my friends and my sister who have missionaries serving outside of the United States.  Sometimes, it is just WAY too expensive to send what you want to send AND they may or may not get it...OR it takes two or three months to get there.  Sheesh! Don't know how you momma's do it!

A dear friend of mine had a brilliant idea on how to send a Christmas tree to her son serving a mission in England.  Me?  I just mailed a pre-lit tree and a few ornaments.  Jackie?  Her's is straight from the heart.  Thanks for sharing, Jackie!

"I had this thought:  Since my son might not have a Christmas tree in his flat on his mission, I needed to come up with something that would be festive. Something that would help make his flat feel "decorated" and help bring the Christmas spirit.  PLUS, if they get little gifts and such there MUST be a tree of some sort to put the gifts around or under.  Right?

I knew it needed to be something that wouldn't weigh much and could be folded up super small. I was thinking of painting a tree onto butcher paper - easy and cheap but I didn't want it all wrinkled by the time it got to England.  Then I considered muslin - and instead found an old, white, flat sheet that would be perfect.  I considered using paint for the tree but was worried that it would peel or crack in transit.  I decided to use green fabric.

I found the shape of a tree that I liked in a coloring book and recreated it the best I could onto a piece of green fabric.  The green fabric is the ONLY thing I had to purchase, everything else I had around the house.  After I got it cut out, I laid the tree onto the sheet and using a zigzag stitch, stitched all around the tree.  I used some yellow fabric and made the star and stitched that on as well.  I used the star of David.  I had some ric rac from my grandmother and thought it would make the tree even more meaningful to my missionary because she has passed away. I went back and forth with the rick rack to represent tinsel or string to hang the ornaments on.

When I finished, I thought: "They can hang this and then they will have something to put their presents under.  Presents?!  There were NONE!  I must make some presents!"  So, the gift boxes at the bottom were an after-thought but it added a lot.  I gave the 'gifts' a button down lid and then it became the perfect place to put all the decorated ornaments.  When he received the tree, all the ornaments we sent as a family were in the gift box 'pockets.'  I went to the craft store and used their die-cut machine to punch out 100 ornaments.  I sent them to friends, cousins, and family and they decorated them with scriptures, thoughts, pictures, or notes and sent them to my missionary.  My hope was that all through the month of December he would keep getting new ornaments in the mail with fun Christmas wishes on them from family and friends.  How fun is that?!?

When I was cutting out the ornaments there was a lot of extra paper so using the die-cut machine I cut out TONS of little Christmas lights that he can add to the tree as well.  I also strung some onto string so he can hang them around the flat.

I wanted to make it as religious and Christ centered as possible, so a neighbor helped me by making the vinyl fabric lettering.  The scripture I chose was:  "For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."  Luke 2:11  I placed the quote in the top left corner.

The sheet was so soft it folded really well.  It weighed about 1.2 lbs (with instructions and the paper lights) and fit perfectly into a gallon sized resealable bag which he can save and use to store the tree in until next Christmas.  Easy shipping AND storage!  I sent a small package of tiny, gold safety pins for him to use to hang the ornaments and lights on the tree. The whole project was very inexpensive to make and I mailed it in a padded envelope so it wasn't too expensive to mail either.

I hope that it helped his "home away from home" feel more like Christmas and that it gave he and his companion a tree to decorate and a place to hang their Christmas cards, etc."


The finished product!  In my son's flat in England...
along with the his birthday poster from our ward Primary.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Amazon Prime - I LOVE IT!!!

The 14th of July was Matt's Hump Day.  The half-way mark of his two year grand adventure in Seattle.  I sent Nerf machine guns. (You can read about that here.)  A neighbor had mentioned that she hadn't seen machine guns in quite a while in the stores.  Freaked me out just a bit because I had been planning on sending these for over a year now...yup...had this package planned even before he left.  I'm a little crazy like that.  My daughter suggested that I try looking on Amazon and if I found some I could use her Amazon Prime account and get free shipping.  What?!?  There's such a thing?  Why yes, Victoria!  Not only IS there a Santa Clause but he delivers for free right to the mission home.

The next letter I received from Matt mentioned:  "It gets light here at about 4:30 in the morning and I can't get back to sleep!  Can you send me a sleep mask?  Sorry that I'm so high maintenance..." Funny kid.  No worries.  Logged into Amazon and quickly found two for him to try.  They were about $5 a piece guessed it.  Free shipping right to the mission home.

This weeks letter had a little post script asking me to send Strawberries & Cream Muscle Milk protein powder. You guessed it:  Got back online. Clicked into Amazon and within five minutes it was on it's merry little way to the mission home...shipped for free.  Am I a good mom or what?  I LOVE Amazon Prime!

Want to find out more?  Go to to find out more.  I'm not in any way affiliated with Amazon.  Just think it's an amazing deal and wanted to share.

OH!!  Do you have a missionary serving overseas?  You can have items sent from an Amazon closer to where they are serving.  You can't use Amazon Prime for this so there is no 'free' shipping  (it's only available for the contiguous states) but it will cut the cost.  It just keeps on getting better and better.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Missin' you on the 4th...

Whenever we have a gathering for the extended family I like to pull together something for everyone to work on to send to our missionaries.  We have Matt who is serving in the Washington Seattle Mission, Alex Nicole who is serving in the Bolivia Santa Cruz Mission, and B.J. who will take off for the Washington Vancouver Mission in August.  I try to keep things simple and inexpensive. Here's what I came up with for or 4th of July family Bash:

I already had some butcher paper so I cut a strip for each missionary making each a little narrower than a regular envelope and had my daughter Bekah decorate them.  I taped them to one of the sliding doors and set out a school box full of red and blue markers and colored pencils.  That's it! Pretty easy.  I just walked around a bit taking candid photos for a photo collage and occasionally reminded family members to write to the missionaries before leaving.

What do missionaries like as much as letters?...maybe MORE?  Photos!  With Alex serving in Bolivia I've been wracking my brain to figure out how to cut some of the weight from the care packages I send.  Usually I send actual photos but this time I decided to try my hand at making a photo collage of our 4th of July festivities.  I really like how it turned out and Alex and Matt won't have to worry about carrying photos around their whole mission and can even just stick them in their journals if they like.  Each page prints to an 8.5" x 11" paper.

That's my family!...well, part of them anyway.
Aren't they fun!

Photoshop makes putting together a collage super easy.  I thought it might be a good idea to label each photo...Matt's been gone a whole year and the young ones tend to change quickly.  You could do the same thing in other programs but it's going to create a pretty huge file and will take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to print.  Make a pdf of your collage and print the pdf copy.  Your collage will look the same but it will be a much smaller file. You could also print these using the 'double sided' option on your printer.

To mail I just folded up each strip and put it and the photo collage's in a regular envelope.  I did have to take it to the post office to be weighed but it was a fraction of what it cost's to send a package to Bolivia.  Every little penny counts, right?

Want MORE creative letter writing ideas?
check out here, here, here, and here.

Hump Day!!!

I've been planning Matt's Hump Day package for almost 365 days and I'm just SO excited for him to receive it!  As far as my packages go this one was brilliantly EASY...took all of 5 minutes from start to finish including mailing it off.  It is guaranteed to be one of his favorite packages and will be a great activity at the end of a long day of proselyting helping both he and his companion wind down and relieve some stress by having some fun, fuN, FUN!!

A Nerf machine gun!  Actually for Matt and one for his companion. There are tons to choose from out there my only criteria being I wanted it to hold lots of 'bullets' and it needed to be available on Amazon. That's what made it so incredibly easy!  I was able to search through all of the different kinds of guns out there - and there are a LOT! - I was able to read through reviews for each item, have it sent right to the mission home (that's where all of his mail has to go), AND I didn't have to pay a cent for shipping because we have Amazon Prime. No traipsing all around town in search of the perfect gun.  No long lines at the post office.  Brilliant!!

I've also given him instructions to leave it in his apartment when he is transferred next...spread the fun around and also cut down on the amount of things he's hauling around the mission.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Fruit Box

The story:  When Brother Helland served his mission in Denver he was a collector of books. Thinking that his parents would drive out to pick him up when he was released he never worried about how to eventually get them home.  As dictated by fate aka Murphy's Law, his parents weren't able to make the trip and  Elder Helland was faced with the decision of what to do with his treasured books.  Checking them as luggage was too expensive as was mailing them home.  An answer came when a family traveling to Utah offered to deliver things to the homes of missionaries serving in the Denver area.  Elder Helland decided that if ever given the chance he would 'pay it forward' for other missionaries.

Brother Helland and Maren, Matt's sister

Yesterday I received a phone call from Brother Helland who was in our area for a family reunion letting me know that he had a package from Matt and that he would be willing  to take something back if I would like. Ummmm...YEAH!!!

I wracked my poor little brain for an idea.  I had just mailed a package the day before and I already had two more in the works but they were little and weren't quite ready to send...then I had a brilliant idea. FRUIT!! Our poor missionaries survive on so little and I know that fruit is not among Matt's choices when he is on a limited budget.  The funds just don't go that far.  He receives $150 a month which he needs to stretch for everything.  Laundry alone uses $20 a week and they can only eat with members on Sunday and Monday. Doesn't leave much.  I checked with Brother Helland and because there are no agricultural check points on the way back to Seattle he thought it wouldn't be a problem.  Matt will love it and I KNOW that his new companion, Elder Filimoua from Samoa is going to be in heaven!

Fruits to consider:
(I sent two of the personal size ones.  
They are about the size of a cantaloupe)
red grapes

Here's a few tips to consider when sending fruit:
  • Choose slightly under-ripe fruit.
  • Select fruit that is firm and free of nicks, bruises and bug bites.
  • Don't send berries as they are too fragile and spoil too quickly.
  • Line your box well with packing material.
  • Wrap each piece of fruit in tissue paper and make sure that each piece of fruit is padded well to avoid shifting during transit.
I would NEVER send fruit or other produce from our own garden.  I realize that it certainly tastes better than what you can usually find in the grocery store but I worry about spreading disease or bug infestations across state lines.  The United States has strict laws regulating the import of fruits and vegetables.  I purchased all of the fruit from a grocery store that is a national chain to insure that all requirements were met.

You also might consider sending fruit or vegetables through one of the reputable online dealers. There are a plethora of them out there.  Someone signed our family up for a fruit of the month club when I was little.  I still remember receiving yummy fruit wrapped in tissue every month.  So good!!

Here is the package topper that I included...

Friday, May 23, 2014


Greetings from Hawaii!!  My husbands work sends us on an incentive trip each year and about every other year or so we get to go to Hawaii.  LOVE IT!!!  It's our favorite vacation spot in this whole, big, wide, world and while we would love to eventually take our children there, it probably won't happen...I'm worried that they might ruin our favorite spot with squabbling!  I digress...

We brought back some of our kids favorite treats to share and I wanted to send some to my missionary and his companion who just happens to be from Samoa which I hope means he likes coconut because Matt is cRaZy for the stuff!

With help from an adorable digital scrapbook kit from Sweet Shoppe Designs @ I put together a package topper and some bag toppers.  Print them out onto white card stock.  Fold each bag topper in half and place over your treat filled reclosable sandwich baggie.  Ta da!!  Easy peasy and Matt is going to LOVE it!  I even managed to find some 'healthy' Hawaiian fare...'some' being the appropriate word. (The link to the free printables is at the end of this post.)

Here's what I included:

(chocolate covered caramel & macadamia nuts)

Macadamia Popcorn Crunch
Macadamia nut caramel corn...need I say more?
This and the Caramacs are my kids favorite Hawaiian treats.

I found a great tropical fruit medley at Costco in Hawaii.  Chock full of peanuts, almonds, walnuts, apples, kiwi, mangoes, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, bananas, cherries and raisins.  So yummy!!  I'm sure they have something similar at the Costco on the mainland or in your local grocery store...

Oh man...these are amazing:  macadamia nuts covered in sweet shredded coconut and rich milk chocolate.  Just like the chocolate covered pomegranate seeds that I talked about here, I have to divide these up into 100 calorie bags to pace myself.  I have no self-control.  Seriously.  Matt loves these!  I find them all the time at our local Costco but I hauled these across the big ol' ocean just for my missionary...not really...I knew I wasn't going to have one ounce of spare time to make a Costco run when I got home.

They only sell these in Hawaii and a few places online.  Even the Hershey website doesn't sell them.
They are pretty tasty.  Cutest thing?  The little 'flag' that usually says 'Hershey's' says 'Aloha'...
how cute is that?!?

True Bliss
Coconut chunks covered in rich, dark chocolate.  I'm thinking...
Isn't dark chocolate an antioxidant?

Note:  I didn't include the entire bag when compiling this package.  Just put 'some' into recloseable sandwich bags, staple a bag topper over (see below for links) and you're good to go.

Package topper
Make sure to write a personal note or short letter on the back
just in case this is the only mail they receive this week...or month!

Print onto white card stock and fold in half.  Staple over a treat filled reclosable sandwich bag.
Click here to download the free printables.

All graphics purchased and downloaded from Sweet Shoppe Designs@
You can purchase the digital design kit by going here: 

Office Supply Kit

When I served my mission I took along a 4"x6" recipe box with me filled with office supplies.  I like office supplies. I like knowing where to find a paperclip or a pair of scissors or have a mini stapler on hand when I need it.  My mini office came in very handy for me and my companions.  I put one together for each of my boys and my oldest even took his to college when he came home.  I still have mine and though I don't use it as often (I've got the bigger stuff in my desk) I still like having my mini office around just in case I need it.  Sometimes I take it with me to the Genealogy Library...

I purchased a handy plastic container with a snap on lid just like the one that I used for Matt's First Aid kit and filled it with just the essentials:

scissors (small pair)
small stapler w/ extra staples
post it notes
glue stick
White Out
paper clips
push pins or thumb tacs
small magnets
rubber bands
Super Glue (small tube)