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 collette@beautifulweddingannouncements.com)

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  www.gygi.com

 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