Friday, November 14, 2014

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree - Simplified




I discovered that there are a lot of busy ladies out there and a lot that don't feel too confident in their sewing/crafting skills. My sister, Katherine and I decided to come up with a simplified version that would require nothing but straight zigzag stitching - I think that's an oxymoron.  It is so easy and with the two of us working together it only took us about three and a half hours to make four of them.  It was probably a bit faster for us because we kind of tag-teamed it - I would pin and she would sew while I was pinning the next one. Jackie's is oh, so pretty and ours is cute. They both work great and our two missionaries certainly won't care.  Here's what we did:





Materials Needed:
old white sheet or 1.5 yards white fabric for the background
(I used one sheet cut in half width-wise for each tree)
1.25 yards of green fabric for the tree
(this amount will do three trees, you could also turn your fabric the other way 
and have a smaller tree which would use less fabric, see photos below)
.25 yard or a fat quarter of yellow fabric for the star
.25 yard or a fat quarter of brown fabric for the trunk 
.25 yard of 2 coordinating fabrics for the two packages
(or you could just use the same fabric and have both packages match and just get .25 yard)
5 yards trim for the tinsel
1 yard coordinating ribbon for the two package bows
(.50 yards for each package)
coordinating thread
2 sticky back Velcro dots or squares
(for pocket closure - or you could use buttons and make button holes)

BACKGROUND:  I used an old twin sheet cut in half.  Cut off the top wide hem then fold the remaining fabric in half width-wise and cut.  Give your cut sides a hem by pressing under one inch all along the side then fold the cut edge in to meet your pressed edge.  Now you should have two pressed edges which you can fold together and then stitch.  It's much easier to stitch after the hem has been pressed in.  This is called a double half inch hem.  You are essentially folding in, one half inch then folding again.  Gives you a nice pretty hem that will sit nice and flat.  You shouldn't need to hem the top and bottom of the sheet unless the factory hems aren't in good shape.  My sister used white on white fabric for her background.  It was so pretty.  Her missionary is a girl.  My missionary is a boy. He doesn't care, so I used what I had.

TRUNK:  Cut a piece of brown fabric to measure 6"x 10". Lay your hemmed sheet on a flat surface and then place your tree on top.  Make sure the right side is up! Place the star and the trunk in place and adjust so they are centered left to right and top to bottom.  Pin your trunk in place then remove the tree and star.  Using brown thread, sew around the outside edge of the trunk using a zigzag stitch. Your entire zigzag stitch should be on the edge of the fabric and not overlapping onto the white background.  Hint:  It is not necessary to have the same color thread in the bobbin.  I used white on the entire project so that it matched the background when the project is viewed from the back.

TREE:  Here are a couple of diagrams for cutting your tree.  If you use 1.25 yards, you actually have enough fabric to cut out three trees.  (see diagram #1)  OR you could just purchase half a yard of unfolded fabric and use the entire width of the fabric for your tree.  This gives you one slightly smaller tree but you won't have fabric left over.  (see diagram #2)

diagram #1

diagram #2

Lay your background on a flat surface and then place your tree on top centering the tree over the trunk.  Place the star and make any adjustments so they are centered left to right and top to bottom. Remove star and pin the tree in place.  Using green thread, sew around the outside edge using a zigzag stitch.

STAR:  Jackie made a Star of David using two triangles.  I just Googled 'country star' and clicked on images.  I wanted it to be a bit funky.  There are quite a few options but you'll have to weed through a few Brad Paisley's and  Carrie Underwood's to find them. When you find the one you like just cut and paste it onto a document and make it into your desired size.  Lay your project back on a flat surface, place your star and pin in place.  Mine overlapped onto the tree a bit. Using yellow thread, sew around the outside edge using a zigzag stitch.

TRIM:  Jackie used some RicRac that belonged to her grandmother and that's what I thought I would do as well...but...that stuff is hard to find (because it's so popular at the moment...somebody must have Pinned something really, really CUTE on Pinterest) and it's pretty pricey.  I found some trim at the fabric store that I could buy by the yard.  It is gold and kind of, I don't know...tinsely?  It had a great price point at $1.09 a yard.  You will need almost exactly 5 yards.  I tried 'swagging' it like Jackie did but it didn't look great.  I decided to just keep it geometric.  Pin it in place and using coordinating thread, just zigzag right over it.



PACKAGE(S):  IF there was a difficult part of this project, this would be it.  It's not rocket science though...just follow the step by step instructions, and IF I can explain it clearly, you will be just fine. Here goes:

1. Cut two pieces of fabric measuring 7"x 21"

2.  Using a pencil, lightly mark the fold lines on the wrong side of the fabric.


3. Fold and press 1/4" on the short sides of both packages making a small hem. 
(see photo below)


4. Using coordinating thread, stitch your pressed hem in place.  I was too lazy to change my bobbin thread to match so I flipped my fabric over and stitched on the right side of the fabric so the white stitching didn't show.  (see photo below)


5. With the right side of the fabric facing up, fold the left side over on the marked fold line.

6.  Now fold the right side over on the marked fold line.  Pin.
The two side hemmed edges should meet.  (see photo below)


7. Stitch down both sides of both pockets using a 5/8" seam allowance.
(see photo below)


8. Turn right side out.  Using a pair of scissors (closed), gently push the corners out.  Be gentle, you don't want to cut through the fabric, you are just trying to make a nice point on your corner.  Do this on all of the corners.  Press.
(see photo below)



9. Fold the top (smaller fold) closed and press in place.
(see photo below)


10. Cut the yard of ribbon in half, giving you 1/2 yard for the bow on each pocket.  Fold one piece of ribbon in half and press with your fingers just to mark the center.  Place the center mark of the ribbon about one inch from the top of your pocket and pin in place.  Make sure that you only pin through the pocket flap.  Open pocket flap and sew in place as shown in the photos below.



11. Tie ribbon then trim the ends.
(see photo below)


12.  With the flap closed, lift up on the front flap and center one half of the Velcro centered on the pocket.  Repeat on the other pocket.  (see photo below)


13.  Now place the other half of the Velcro on top of the Velcro that you just adhered.  This is MUCH easier than trying to center it on the top flap so they line up correctly.  Close the top flap and press firmly.  I tried to sew through the sticky back Velcro but the glue just gummed up my sewing machine needle.  Just press firmly.  The glue will take 24 hours to cure and then it's on there pretty good.  (see photo below)



14. Lay your background on a flat surface and position the packages on either side of the tree.  Remember to lift UP the top flap so you don't sew your package closed!  Pin in place and sew using a zigzag stitch and coordinating thread.  When you sew across the top of the pocket you will actually be sewing with the flap open.  (see photos below)



That's it!  You did it!


My daughter has a Silhouette Cameo vinyl cutter so I borrowed that and printed the scriptures onto heat transfer vinyl.  If your daughter doesn't have one and you would like to use the scriptures in your project you can just write it on using a fabric marker.  Don't forget to send a few push pins for them to use when hanging their tree.

The scriptures that I used were:

For unto you
is born this day
in the city of David,
a Savior,
which is Christ
the Lord.
Luke 2: 11

and 

...and his name
shall be called
Wonderful,
Counsellor
The Mighty God,
The everlasting Father,
The Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

I cut out a bajillion ornament shapes at my local craft store using my own paper and their die cut machine.  Our family will work on their ornaments this weekend and I will put the ornaments in the pockets along with some mini gold safety pins.  At our family gathering this Thanksgiving everyone will have a chance to decorate their ornament and write notes to our family missionaries.  The ornaments will be mailed randomly during the Christmas season in each family's Christmas card.  For an idea on how to do that, click here.  

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."

Jackie


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 and...you 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 http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=200444160 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 two...one 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:
watermelon
(I sent two of the personal size ones.  
They are about the size of a cantaloupe)
cantaloupe
pineapple
mangoes
apples
peaches
nectarines
red grapes
grapefruit
oranges
kiwi

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

Aloha!


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 @ sweetshoppedesigns.com 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@ sweetshoppedesigns.com
You can purchase the digital design kit by going here: 
http://www.sweetshoppedesigns.com/sweetshoppe/product.php?productid=21925&cat=0&page=2