Friday, December 30, 2011

Farewells & Homecomings

One of the things that Mason mentioned he would miss the most while serving his mission is the farewells and homecomings of all of his friends.  In an effort to help him feel like he's not missing out, and to help him know the joy of discovering that his friends are "still his brethren in the Lord; yea, and [that] they had waxed strong in the knowledge of the truth; for they were men of a sound understanding and they had searched the scriptures diligently, that they might know the word of God" (Alma 17:2) we record these talks and send them to him. 

My husband has a tiny, hand held digital recorder that he takes to church to record the talk.  You can find them just about everywhere.  We found ours at Walmart for about $50.  We asked the Bishop if it was ok to record in Sacrament Meeting.  His response:  As long as you record only the talks and musical numbers (which we only do if the missionary's family is involved in the number) and do not record any prayers or the sacrament service itself, he said it was totally fine.  After church we upload it to the computer and burn the talk to a CD.  We always make two copies - one for Mason and one to take to the missionary's parents so they have a record of the talk.  It's not the best quality simply because we are usually in the Cultural Hall and you can hear every crayon and Cheerio that happens to be dropped on the floor - amplified...x10.  It does the job though and Mason is always thrilled to receive his copy and "know that his friends are "still his brethren in the Lord."  I love modern technology, don't you?

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Little Something for the Investigators...

In my husband's words, "Nothing detracts from the Spirit more than dogs and kids."  As I cast my mind back on my own mission experiences I realize he is exactly right. 

This idea came from Linda, a fellow missionary mom on the Missionary Mom's of Columbus Ohio Facebook page.  Help your missionary be prepared for distractions by supplying him with a few coloring books and crayons for the little ones while the parents are receiving the lessons.  The coloring books only come out during a lesson and then are retired to the missionaries backpack until the next time they come over.  A travel soap container worked perfectly to hold a 24 count boz of crayons from being lost and broken in the deep, dark recesses of their bag and soiling precious scriptures and teaching materials.  Thanks for the brilliant idea, Linda!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Christmas Idea #8

Remember the Christmas chains that you used to make when you were little?  And then you made them with your kids when they were little?  Every night, after prayer we would run to our chain to remove yet another link as the days slowly marched by.  It seemed like Christmas would never arrive.  Now as an adult, time seems to fly by.  This activity is a variation of the Christmas Chain that I'm sure your missionary will remember from their childhood.

I purchased the paper for the chains from Oriental Trading.  You could always cut your own strips of paper if you'd like but these were incredibly inexpensive and I've used the same pack for the last three years.  They come in two different styles - plain red and green, or candy-striped.  Each set comes with 500 pre-cut, pre-gummed strips for $5-$6 depending on the style you choose.  Moisten gummed ends to form each link.  No stapler needed. Brilliant!

We worked on this activity at our family Christmas party this year.  Everyone took one link and wrote a message on the inside.  Then they connected up their links making one long chain.  Our chain fit easily into a small Flat Rate mailing box.  I included a note telling our missionaries to count how many days until Christmas and remove and read any additional links.  Every night thereafter they can read a short message from home leading up to Christmas.

Christmas Idea #7

My sister Kim shared a fun idea that she did with her cute little kiddos to send to the missionaries in our family.  She was kind enough to show me before dropping it off to the Post Office.  I thought it was a darling idea to do with small children and it will really help to decorate their apartments for Christmas.

This craft is pretty self-explanatory - using green craft paint, paint the child's hand with a sponge brush and apply to white card stock in a circle reapplying the paint after each hand print is made.  Allow wreath to dry thoroughly.  When dry, add berries to your wreath using red paint and the child's fingerprint.  Make sure to have the child sign their name to their wreath.  Charming! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Idea #6

For Mason's Christmas gift last year, we came up with a brilliant and perfect idea suited just for him.  Prior to Mason's mission, he was the owner/operator of Three Seasons Lawn Care.  He and his brother were kept VERY busy with weekly yard maintanence and other yard work for a large number of clients.  Upon arriving in Ohio, Mason soon found that every week they were performing service for members and nonmembers alike.  A lot of service.  For Christmas we had Mason's Carhartt workboots cleaned, waterproofed and relaced then wrapped them up for his Christmas morning.  He loved them!  For Mason, it was the perfect gift.  Just look at those things - they are huge! That boy has one FIRM foundation.

This year Mason has been adament that he didn't want us to send him anything.  He will finish his mission in mid-July and said he didn't need or want anything.  Well...he just has to have something, doesn't he?  We wracked our brain to come up with the perfect gift.  This was hard!  How could we top the boots?  Finally, we gave each of our other children Mason's instructions and told them to come up with something to give Mason that was small, inexpensive and had personal meaning between them and Mason.  The kids rallied to the cause and I think they did an amazing job.  Mason will be thrilled on Christmas morning with his personal and thoughtful gifts from his siblings.  Here's what we chose for this year:

Maren:  1 bag Hershey's Hugs, 1 bag Hershey's Kisses
Colin:  a personalized Christmas ornament and a box of candy canes
Connor:  a toy truck (Mason loves his truck)
Matt:  a G-Loomis T-shirt for pj's (Mason loves to fish)
Rebekah:  two ties, red and green - seasonal yet functional
Kiri & Brad:  scarf for those cold Ohio winters
Mom:  Book of Mormon Institute study guide (Mason's doing an intensive study)
Dad:  a really nice pen (Mason and his dad really like office products)

I got the Christmas tag idea off of pinterest (to view the original idea go to and search my name - Cherylann Brown, go to my Boards and click on "Missionary Packages").  Instead of using the traditional "To:" and "From:" tag, they used a photograph.  So cute!  My niece had just done a Christmas photo shoot for us so I printed off individual photos of the kids in black and white then decorated them up a bit.  The photo is actually wallet size mounted with a single photo mount so Mason can easily remove them and put them in his wallet if he wants to.  I wanted to make the packages look nice but because I was worried that a bow would get all mashed in transit, I just tied a ribbon in in a neat square knot then notched the ends of the ribbon.  Line your Flat Rate box with colorful tissue paper, place the packages neatly inside, top with more tissue and a Christmas card for your missionary to open on Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Idea #5

Man!  The time is just flying by until Christmas!  I thought I had better hurry and get the photos posted of Mason's Christmas stocking in case you want to whip one up for your missionary.  We did this last year and it was fast and relatively inexpensive to put together so we decided to give it another go this year.

You can pick up these inexpensive Christmas stockings virtually anywhere.  I bought mine at Walmart - because I was there picking up some other items.  I'm sure that you could pick one up at your local Dollar Store or maybe you have some spare ones laying around in your Christmas decorations.  This is a very easy project to make and will only take a few minutes of your time.  Promise!

Cut a slit up the center of the white cuff of the stocking leaving about half an inch at the top.  Fold under the corners of both sides to form your missionary's collar.  Sew small buttons to each collar point.  Tie a tie around each stocking. Voila!  I told you it was easy!

It can be rather difficult, ok, really difficult to tie a nice looking tie around a limp and lifeless stocking no matter how cute it is so I asked my son, Matt to do that part.  He thinks my ties look like they were tied by one of my Cub Scouts anyway.  (I'm trying to decide if I should take offense at that comment...I think not.  There is no disputing the fact that his Windsor Knot looks much better than how the Wolf Book tells you to teach the boys...moving on.) Because the tie is a man's tie that they will be able to remove and wear (or trade with other missionaries if my taste in ties is not quite up to par with theirs), the tie will be much too long for the stocking.  Just adjust to the desired length and fold the tie in the back.  The stocking cuff will keep your tie in place during shipping.

It would be really easy to make this for a Sister missionary as well by adding some lace around the cuff and maybe a nice pin, some buttons or just adding one of those cute flower hair clips that are all the rage at the moment.  Just clip it to the cuff of the stocking.  So cute!

I sent my neice and her companion's stocking in the same Large Flat Rate Box and they fit very nicely.  Mason has transferrs the week of Christmas, so I sent his and his companion's in separate boxes, just in case. 

My friend Becky found this missionary stocking at Tai Pan Trading ( for $13 that was just darling.  Thanks for sharing, Becky!  I apologize for the awful photo.  I'd like to blame it on my camera phone but it was probably because I didn't have my glasses and didn't realize it was somewhat blurry.  It's an age thing - you probably wouldn't understand. . .consider yourself lucky. 

Have fun stuffing whatever stocking you choose with fun, personal things for your missionary!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Christmas Idea #4

I came across this idea on Pinterest and thought it was so cute and fun and wanted to share it with you.  We didn't do it for Mason but I'm still thinking that we might have each family make ornaments for Grandma & Grandpa's tree next year.  With 53 grandchildren and 1 great-grandchild - 56 by next Christmas, I'm thinking that I will try to buy Christmas ornaments on clearance after Christmas. 

Using a sponge brush, paint each child's hand with white paint.  Place the ornament in their hand and help them to wrap their fingers around the bulb.  Place in an egg carton until dry.  Using permanent markers give each snowman a personality.  Write the child's name and the year on the bottom of each ornament.  Head on over to for a great tutorial.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Idea #3

I love Christmas.  Who doesn't?  I love the Christmas tree, decorating the house with little tiny lights, lots of candles and poinsettas.  I also love lighting the fireplace and filling the house with all the wonderful sounds and scents of Christmas.  In an effort to help Mason and his companion still have some of the things that represent a homespun Christmas, we sent them Christmas in a box. 

I shopped around for small pre-lit Christmas trees and decorations and found the best deals by far at my local Walmart.  They have a large selection of trees in a variety of sizes.  Some come pre-lit and some do not.  The lights come in white/clear or multi-colored.  I chose a four foot pre-lit tree for a mere $20 - tree stand included.  It comes in a nice, neat tidy box all ready for me to wrap in brown paper and send on it's merry little way to Ohio.  We then picked out ornaments, candy canes, a tree skirt, star and an extension cord because you just never know what they might need.  We found a miniature nativity at Deseret Book for $10.  We boxed up all the decorations in a Flat Rate box...have I mentioned lately how greatful I am for those?  I paid a little more for postage than I normally would have.  The Flat Rate box was $10.95 but I wanted the tree to get there on the same day so I paid quite a bit extra to get it there - $16.  Last year I mailed everything prior to Thanksgiving so I wasn't so anxious to get it there quick.  This year, I'm not exactly sure what happened.  I don't even remember anything prior to Thanksgiving.  Must be an age thing.

Having served a mission, I remember how hard it was to haul a lot of extra things around with you.  Instruct your missionary to NOT take the tree with them on their next transfer.  Just take it all down.  Pack it neatly and store it in a closet in the apartment.  The following year, the new missionaries will be so happy to have decorations that they can use to help bring the Christmas spirit into their homes.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas Idea #2 - SendTies

This is a brand new web-based company with a brilliant idea.  I am so excited to share this with you!  Nothing says more about your missionary than a stylish tie. Let's face it, it's the only way these dashing young men can change their wardrobe.  Right?  With a SendTies membership, the men in your life can receive a new, great-looking tie every month!

You can purchase a membership for 3, 4, 6, 12, 18, or 24 months.  Each membership comes with a new tie sent on the same day every month with FREE shipping within the United States.  The website is currently running a Launch Special for less than $10 a month and recently gave away a FREE 3 month membership to a lucky individual just for "Likeing" them on Facebook.  The only place you can find a tie for less than $10 is the D.I. but they're not new or stylish. Click on the logo above and check them out...I've already placed my order!

Christmas Idea #1 - Postcards

Monday is my favorite day of the week.  It hasn't always been that way.  Before I joined the workforce to help finance Mason's mission, Monday was always cleaning day.  Get the kids off to school then clean the whole house top to bottom.  I was raised with cleaning day being on Saturday the theory being that the house would be spic and span for Sunday worship - didn't always work that way but it was a theory.  I tried that for a number of years and it just wasn't working for me so I changed it.  Mom's can do that.  If I clean on Monday the house can stay relatively clean for the whole week.  I don't mind cleaning. I love the feeling and the smell of a clean house but there are always other things I'd rather be doing.  Now, I work on Monday so the cleaning happens whenever it happens and we've learned to survive.  So why is Monday my favorite day of the week?  Simple.  Monday is P-day in the Ohio Columbus Mission and sometimes I manage to get online at the same time as Mason and we have a few minutes that we can email back and forth.  I love it!

Almost a year ago, during one of these wonderful email opportunities, Mason mentioned the four inch stack of mail that he was trying to get through.  You have to know Mason.  He likes to reply to each and every piece of mail with a personal message back to you.  Well, a missionary's time is finite.  I tried to tell him that but then I remembered the average of fourteen letters a p-day that I used to pump out while on my mission.  Pondering upon this in the weeks to come I had an epiphany.  Postcards! 

At the time my daughter was planning her wedding.  I contacted the company making her invitations and thank you cards and asked if they could make postcards as well.  They were all over the idea.  I found a photo of Mason and his companion and emailed it to them and within a few short days I had them in my hot little hands.  They are on a postcard weight cardstock.  Photo on the front with Mason's name and mission.  The back has his return address in one corner, line down the center, and three lines for the mailing address.  Just like a real postcard.  I had the printer print the Mission Home address so that he would get his mail even when he gets transferred.  Since then I have had another set made through Inkley's in Layton, Utah.  They were so helpful and willing to set up a template and print them for me.  The weight is not as heavy but they seem to come through the mail just fine.

The cost for either place is dependant on how many postcards you have made.  The more you make, the lower the price.  For just a small number of cards I would recommend going through Inkley's or some other comparable print shop.  I ordered the first set through Beautiful Wedding Announcements.  They were amazing to work with and invited me to send as many photos as I liked as there was no additonal charge for changing information on the cards.  I was able to order postcard Thank You's for the wedding and postcards for Mason.  You could contact other missionary mom's and get together on one order to lower the price.

For more information on postcards through Beautiful Wedding Announcements, email

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Cards

One of our favorite things that we did for Mason last year was send Christmas cards.  Not just one card from each family but one card from each member of each family.  It was so much fun! 

For this one you'll need to get started right away - gather up all your random, un-used Christmas cards from years past.  Call your friends, talk to co-workers and post on Facebook asking for left-over cards.  Everyone always has just a few that they didn't use and we all hate to throw them away.  If you need more you can purchase a box of 32 Christmas cards in four styles for $2.97 at Walmart.  Can you say bargain?

This will take a bit of prep work on your part but it will be so worth it.    Preprint address and return address labels for each Christmas card.  We are sending cards to three missionaries in our family - Mason, my niece Brooke and my parents so I only put the return label on each card.  I preprint address labels for each missionary and when a card is written the person places the address label on the envelope according to whom it is for.  I tucked all of the cards behind the flap of each envelope then stacked them in a container.  This way it is easy for someone to quickly go through the cards and choose just the perfect one without getting the envelopes all mixed up.  I put a small cup in the container to hold pens and the address labels are just tucked behind the cards.  When the card is finished the person seals it and puts it in the back or just leaves it on the table.  Gather the cards and stamp them. 

We start mailing cards the day after Thanksgiving and mail a few every day until the week of Christmas.  I have such great family that some even wrote to Mason's companion so he wouldn't feel bad with Mason getting so much mail.  Isn't that thoughtful?  Wish I could be a little bug and see his happy face each day when he goes to the mailbox.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I come from a VERY large family.  I am the oldest of eleven children.  We are all married and we all have children and with the exception of one, we blessed to live within an hour of each other.  At last count, there are 53 neices and nephews.  Two more will be added to our noisy bunch this spring and we've only just begun!  The first cousin was married in May. 

Years and years ago, we started having a Bouwhuis Bash every month.  On a Saturday, we all get together for dinner, conversation and to par-tay!!  Each time we come up with something for the cousins to do for the missionaries in our life.  My son, Mason is the first of the cousins to serve (Ohio Columbus Mission) and my parents are currently serving their second full-time mission (New Mexico Farmington Mission).  It's fun for the cousins to write to them and it helps the missionaries to feel connected to those at home.

Materials needed:

white cardstock
craft paint -
brown, red, orange, yellow and green
markers -
brown, yellow, red and orange
paper towels
(for cleaning tiny hands)
This month my sister, Kim came up with this brilliant and simple activity. Painting everyone's hands we made handprint turkey's on white cardstock. After the paint had dried the kids drew in the wattle, beak and feet using markers then glued a googlie eye in place. Make sure you have everyone write their name on the paper prior to stamping their handprint. A lot of our children are still quite small so this month we didn't add messages but you could easily allow family members to write notes to the missionaries or write the things they are thankful for. Another idea would be to write the things they are thankful to the missionary for or what they love or miss about them. We put this activity in the same box as the Gourmet Caramel Apples. Have fun and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gourmet Caramel Apples

One of the biggest perks of serving a mission stateside - besides no language barrier, more Gospel study time, no culture shock and food that you've at least heard of before, is the U.S. Postal Service. I mean these faithful servants (and I'm talking about the postmen and women, not our missionaries) trudge through rain, snow, sleet and hail not to mention the humidity of an Ohio summer day, just to make sure that my faithful servant gets his letters and packages from home. I love them! And don't you just love the Flat Rate boxes? Makes it all possible.

Have you ever had a gourmet caramel apple? Here in Utah we have the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory which specializes in gourmet apples. They are sinfully delicious. I'm not kidding. You don't even care how many calories are in that little orb of delectability. They are seriously good.

Last year we tried our hand at making our own caramel apples and now it's a tradition...well, at least for the last two years. Place the finished apples in large baking cups then in a clear cellophane sack. One for your missionary and one for his companion - I always try to include the companion some how. No one likes to feel left out when a package comes! Wrap each sack in bubble wrap then box and send them on their merry little way. They only take two to three days to mail and my missionary said they arrived just great. Make sure you time it so it's not sitting in a dark post office somewhere over a weekend. Have fun trying your own combinations to come up with a unique flavor all your own.

Gourmet Caramel Apples - 3 apples*

sharpened wooden dowels
Granny Smith apples
37 Milk Maid caramels*
1 Tbs. water
2 cups milk chocolate chips
2 Tbs. Crisco shortening
toppings of choice

Remove stem and wash apples well with water rubbing with a washcloth to remove any wax.  Dry and insert sharpened sticks into the center of the apples.  Unwrap caramels and place in a glass microwavable bowl with 1 Tbs. water.*  Heat in the microwave for about three minutes.  Watch closely and take out and stir when it STARTS to bubble.  If caramel gets too hot it will dry too hard.  Don't let the caramel get too thin - stir it to the right consistency.  Dip apples into caramel, allowing the extra caramel to drip off - use a spoon to work the extra caramel off the apple.  Place dipped apples on a cookie sheet that is covered with wax paper and has been sprayed with cooking spray.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, overnight is even better.  If the caramel has puddled aroud the base of the apple, run some water over your fingers and push the caramel back up the apple before you dip it into the chocolate.

While waiting for the caramel to set up, prepare the toppings and set aside.  Melt the chocolate chips* in a glass bowl in the microwave at 50% power for 45 seconds at a time, stirring after each time.  Once chips start to get soft, add Crisco and return to the microwave for 15 seconds at 50% power.  Remove and stir well to ensure no lumps remain.  Do not let the chocolate chips get too runny or it won't stay on the apple.  Dip the apples into the chocolate.  Dip apple in toppings or sprinkle on the outside then pat onto the chocolate.  Place apple on a wax paper lined cookie sheet (no spray) and return to the refrigerator for 20 minutes to allow the chocolate time to sep up.  For the decorative layer of chocolate, take the remaining melted chocolate and spoon into a small plastic bag.  Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag.  Squeeze the top of the bag, pushing the chocolate toward the hole.  Make circular designs around the apple.  The decorative layer can be done in the milk chocolate, a darker chocolate, or use white chocolate.  This step can also be accomplished by drizzling the melted chocolate from a spoon. If desired, place apples in a large baking cup and place in a cellophane bag.  Return apples to the fridge and let the apples set up for 30 minutes.  Remove apples from refrigerator 10 minutes prior to serving.  Slice before serving.
(recipe courtesy of Rachel Anderson)

*If you are making a large quantity of caramel apples you can purchase Peter's Caramel in large blocks to use in place of the Milk Maid Caramels and dipping chocolate to use in place of the milk chocolate chips.  Add small amounts of water to the caramel only to help get it to the proper consistency.  I melted my caramel and chocolate in a bowl placed over hot water (similar to a double boiler).  I purchased my caramel, chocolate, dowels, large baking cups, and cellophane bags from Orson Gygi's, a culinary supply store located at 3500 South 300 West in Salt Lake City, Utah

 Here are some ideas for different flavored apples:
    • Apple Pie - caramel, white chocolate then cinnamon sugar (1 c. sugar/1 T. cinnamon)
    • S'more - caramel, milk chocolate, mini marshmallows, graham cracker, white drizzle
    • Twix - caramel, milk chocolate, crushed graham crackers, white drizzle
    • Candy bar - caramel, favorite candy, milk chocolate, white drizzle
    • Nutter Butter - caramel, milk chocolate, crushed Nutter Butter cookies, white drizzle
    • Cookies n' Cream - caramel, milk chocolate, crushed Oreo cookies, white drizzle
    • Hawaiian - caramel, white chocolate, toasted coconut, macadamia nuts, white drizzle
    • Toffee Chip - caramel, milk chocolate, Toffee chips, white drizzle
    • Turtle - caramel, milk chocolate, pecans, drizzle with dark chocolate
    • Pretzel - caramel, milk chocolate, crushed pretzels, drizzle with white chocolate
    • German Chocolate - caramel, milk chocolate, coconut, pecans, drizzle with dark chocolate
    • Triple Chocolate - caramel, milk chocolate, drizzle with dark and white chocolate