Thursday, August 16, 2012

4th of July

Dear Reader:  My wholehearted apologies...I started this post ages ago and thought I had posted it.  Alas, I had not.  I am a slacker!  Slap me silly with a wet, soggy noodle and consider yourself way ahead of the game with tons of ideas for NEXT year's 4th of July festivities.

The kids helped me get a 4th of July package together for our missionaries - my son, his girlfriend and my parents.  Wow!  I can't believe it's July already.  Mason comes home in just a few very short weeks.  We are so excited around here...but also just a little sad.  I will miss having a missionary BUT we still have my parents and his "friend that's a girl but not his girlfriend" so I will still try my best to come up with creative, fun package and letter ideas.

This one is oh, so easy to pull together.  Red, white and blue everything.  Grab some festive patterned or plain paper/card stock and some coordinating tissue paper and you're good to go.

Suggested Contents:
small flags
Cracker Jack
Firecracker Cookies
(see recipe below)
Red Licorice
Cinnamon Bears
Hershey kisses
Salt water Taffy
Peppermint swirls
squirt guns
Patriotic ties that enough to get your creative juices flowing?

Firecracker Cookies:
I found the recipe for these delicious cookies on Pinterest (of course!) from the Cookin' Cowgirl.  They were so easy to whip up and look so festive for the holiday.  The recipe calls for an 18.25 oz. box of cake mix.  I don't know about your local grocer but mine only carries the 15.25 oz. size.  I added an extra 1/4 cup flour and they turned out just perfect.  The recipe also calls for lots and lots of sprinkles that are added to the cookie batter.  Each container was $2.49...yikes!!  And I needed 6 of them because I was making a double batch.  I grabbed two and headed to the bakery to see if they had any that I could buy.  They had a mix of red, white and blue stars.  One cup for .99 ...score!!

Firecracker Cookies:
1 box French Vanilla cake mix
     (18.25 oz. size or 15.25 oz. and 1/4 cup flour)
1 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup red sprinkles
1/2 cup blue sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mix together cake mix and baking powder.  In another bowl, mix together eggs, oil and vanilla.  Combine mixtures and blend.  Stir in the sprinkles and drop by rounded teaspoon or small cookie scoop* onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool completely.  Place inside a clean Pringle's potato chip canister that you have covered in colored/patterned paper.  Reseal.

*I use a #60 scoop (the higher the number the smaller the scoop)

More ideas to spark your creative genius:

Do you prefer Red Vines or Twizzlers?  Either way, these are so CUTE!!


(with free printable)

(with free printable)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Happy Birthday - A Carnivore's Delight!

The Freight House
Last year Jeff and I went to Nauvoo with one of my missionary companions and her husband.  We had an amazing time and everywhere we went, we had spectacular food.  Not just good food, AMAZING food!  We flew into to Kansas City and that night went to Jack Stack Barbecue.  The whole meal I'm thinking, "Mason would love this!"  Mason and I, and most of the rest of the family for that matter, are total carnivores.  On our way out I asked the hostess if they ever did mail order..."YES!"  So she gave me a catalogue and for the next 6 months I anticipated Mason's birthday gift!

We ordered the Freight House - "a bountiful feast that will satisfy every one's craving." (Serves 4-6)
Pork Spare Ribs (one full slab)
Beef Burnt Ends (1 lb.)
Hickory Pit Beans (16 oz.)
Cheesy Corn Bake (16 oz.)
KC Original BBQ Sauce (12 oz.)

For Mason's first birthday in the mission field he was serving on the campus of Ohio State ("Go Buckeyes!") and was living in an apartment with three other missionaries.  I wanted to make sure that there was plenty so I ordered an extra half slab of ribs.  I was assured that the sides would be plenty for four growing men. 
This year, Mason didn't want anything for his birthday but was thrilled when he discovered that we were planning on sending ribs again so invited his whole District to join the festivities.  One of the Elders who was living with him at Ohio State is now serving in the Mission Home and was given permission to join the feast during District Meeting.  He showed up with a box of toothpicks!  How cute is that? 

Although the website is set up so that you can place your order online, I always call them personally to place my order.  You can find the phone number on their website.  I like that a representative helps to walk me through the ordering process and helps me to figure out exactly how much to order.  Jack Stack's has great monthly specials as well.  The first year I was able to get "buy one half slab and get the next half slab FREE" and this year the special was "FREE shipping."  The representatives have always been amazingly helpful in giving me the most food for my dollar.   Total cost out the door for my order was less than $120 both years - which included the extra ribs, sauce and shipping. 

Your order will be shipped in a cooler packed in enough dry ice to last for the two days of shipping.  They won't ship over the weekend because they want your food to arrive as fresh as possible and don't want it to be sitting in a facility over the weekend.  This might make it so that your package won't arrive on your missionary's exact birthday but Mason didn't seem to mind one little bit.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Birthday!

I just mailed Mason's birthday package and thought I'd fill you in on what we came up with.  First off - he comes home in less than four months so when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday he of course said, "Nothing Mom.  I don't need a thing."  Well, how can I do that?!?  So the challenge was to figure out something to send for his birthday that he would love but not have to turn around and haul back home with him.  We came up with the PERFECT idea!

Mason loves to do things for others.  There is just something inside him that lives to serve.  He will sacrifice just about anything (including his grades) to do service for others.  This year, for the boy who seems to think he has everything we are sending enough money for him to take his District out to lunch.  We've noticed in his weekly emails that after weekly District Meeting they all go together and get something to eat prior to heading back to work.  We thought it would be fun for him to treat others to lunch on his birthday.  He is going to be thrilled and hopefully everyone else will be as well.  Here's the step by step instructions of how we made this cute package:

Shopping List:
square Kleenex box
wrapping paper
adhesive tape runner (optional)
clear tape
coordinating tissue paper
topper (like the star in the photo)

1.  Gather needed supplies.
2.  Empty all the Kleenex tissues out of the box. You don't have to pull these out one at a time, you can takeout about an inch each time without destroying the box. Cut away the plastic at the top of the box opening.
3.  Begin wrapping package.  I used a scrapbooking tape runner adhesive so I didn't have tape showing.  Cut down each corner until you reach the bottom of the box.
4.  Trim down three sides and tape to box as shown.
5.  Trim the remaining forth side to fit the bottom of your box.  Apply adhesive runner to the edges of your box, fold down and press firmly.  This should give you a nice looking your package that is.  (hee, hee...)
6.  For the top of your package, cut down each corner until you reach the top of the box.  Just like you did for the bottom.  Trim down any excess paper that you may have.  Fold over one side at a time and prior to applying the adhesive, hold with one hand and cut in order to be able to ease the paper smoothly around the opening (see photo 6-8). 
7.  After cutting, apply tape runner adhesive and smooth paper in place.
8.  After pressing in place I cut away a "V" portion of paper from the center so I didn't have so much paper to work with.  Apply a small amount of regular clear tape to each bit of paper that you're easing into the opening.  Tuck under and press firmly.
9.  Continue around remaining three sides and ta-da!  Well done!  Pat yourself on the back - the next bit is oh, so easy.

If you look closely at the finished project just below the star you can see the money attached.  If you pull on the star the money will unroll and just keep coming and coming and coming.  Fun, huh?!
The trickiest part of the whole project was figuring out how much money to include.  Most Districts have 8-10 missionaries but this is totally up to the Mission President and I'm sure varies widely mission to mission throughout the church.  You might want to casually ask your missionary how many are currently in his District or maybe you're one of the lucky one's that actually have a photo of their current District.  In the end, I guess that they'll spend what you send and that will be enough.  We sent mostly one dollar bills with a $20 and a few $5's and $10's thrown into the mix for surprise.  It's pretty self-explanatory but here's the step-by-step procedure:

Item's needed:
clear adhesive tape
(similar to the star)
birthday message
(on regular paper so it's easy to roll up)

1.  Tape money together end to end using clear tape.  Make sure that they are all facing the same way - It will look nicer but mostly I'm just a little OCD...depending on whom you ask.  Meaning, some think I'm a LOT OCD.  Mostly my kids.
2.  Using tape, attach your topper.
3.  Attach your birthday message to the bottom.  You can download my birthday attachment here and include your own message.
4.  Starting from the bottom, roll up...Insert into the opening of the box and surround with coordinating tissue paper.  So CUTE!!  Much more fun than just sending money in an envelope don't you think?  Here's where we got the idea.

In his birthday box we also included two wrapped boxes of Hostess Cupcakes and a package of candles so his District could each have a piece of his 'birthday cake'.  I put a few matches and a small strip of sand paper in a baggie in case they don't have a way to light the candles.  Also some pistachio's, beef jerky, Sour Patch Watermelon candy just because he loves them...and of course birthday cards from everyone.  Happy Birthday, Elder Brown!!

You can download my birthday package topper here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Easter FUN!!

     I sent Mason and our other family missionaries what I hope will be a spiritual journey into the last days of Christ's life but I still just have to send an Easter basket of some sort.  I don't know if you're like me or not, but I can't do Easter baskets for 19 years and then just STOP.  Can't be done, much to my husband's dismay.

     For their baskets I used white take-out containers filling them each with a plethora of candy and attaching a tag with a ribbon.  There are so many fun Easter ideas on Pinterest that are guaranteed to spark your imagination and get your creative juices flowing. 
Here's what we came up with:

Bunny Bait:
     This is so cute and SO YUMMY!  Your missionary is guaranteed to love this quick and easy Easter snack.

Shopping List:
Rice Chex
Hershey's white chocolate morsels
(other brands don't work so well, trust me)

     In a large bowl combine 1/2 the box of Rice Chex cereal, with a few handfuls of pretzels, some popcorn (I just used my air popper) and some m&m's.  Combine to mix well.  Place white chocolate chips into a microwave bowl and heat on high 30 seconds at a time until melted and smooth stirring every 30 seconds.  Pour chocolate over your Bunny Bait and stir until thoroughly coated.  Pour onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and sprinkle with pastel sprinkles.  Do not mix the sprinkles in - just sprinkle on top.  Let mixture cool completly then break into pieces and place in a baggie or cellophane bag.  My daughter whipped up this cute pastel bag topper for me at the last minute.  Just print it out on a piece of white cardstock and fold over your bag and staple.  Thanks Bek!  I added a label to the back to describe the contents then tied it on with a ribbon.
(To see where I got the idea and recipe, click here.)

Missionary Peeps:
     "Spreading the Gospel to one PEEP at a time."  My daughter and I were so excited when we saw this idea on the internet.  They were so much fun to put together and really quite simple.

Shopping List:
Bunny Peeps
Hershey's white chocolate chips
Hershey's milk chocolate chips
white sprinkle
                                                                                  plastic sandwich baggie

     Melt white chocolate chips by microwaving for 30 seconds at a time until smooth.  Stir every 30 seconds.  Carefully dip the bottom portion of your peep into the white chocolate up to its neck making the white shirt/blouse (I used a spoon to work the chocolate up the sides of the peep to get it exactly where I wanted it.)  Place bunny on a parchment or waxed paper lined cookie sheet.  Chill until chocolate is set.
     Melt milk chocolate chips by using the method described above then dip your peep making the pants/skirt.  Place back onto cookie sheet and chill until set.

     Place some melted milk chocolate into a sandwich baggie and snip off the corner.  For the Elder Peeps: Make the missionaries tie and badge.  I practiced a little on the parchment paper first. It was a little tricky but using a toothpick to manipulate the chocolate and 'fill in' the tie was very helpful.  Place a white sprinkle onto the center of the tag for the lettering.  For the Sister Peeps:  I put a bow on one bunny ear with a round sprinkle in the center for the knot, and three buttons going down the center of the blouse and then the badge, of course.
     After your Missionary Peeps are thoroughly chilled, place them in bags and attach a bag topper.  I used the same one as with the Bunny Bait but trimmed the sides to make it fit the smaller cellophane bags.
     I should explain that we have three missionaries in the field - my son (see the two Elder Peeps), my parents (the Senior Couple Peeps), and my 'son's friend that's a girl but not his girlfriend' who happens to be in a threesome at the moment (the three Sister Peeps).
(To see where we got the idea and instructions, click here)

Goldfish Carrots:
     These are all over the internet as well but are mostly filled with Cheeto's.  I filled ours with Gold Fish Crackers because Mason's companion loves them.  I found the cellophane bags at my local hobby store. They are a seasonal product that is only in stock around Easter.  If you need them at another time of the year try disposable cake decorating bags.  It will be nice to have something that is not full of sugar in his Easter package AND they're adorable, don't you think?

 (To see where I got the idea, click here)

      We threw in a few other odds and ends as well - nuts, squirt guns, bubbles and a Frisbee for P-day.  I'd love to hear what you sent your missionary.  Happy Easter, everyone!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Easter - The Last Days of Christ

I wanted to send our missionaries something that would bring the true meaning of Easter into their lives during Passion Week - or the week leading up to Easter Sunday.  I came up with the idea of an Easter Advent calendar where they would have something to open each day.  There are lots of ideas floating around on Pinterest and on the Internet but Mason comes home soon and I didn't want him to think that he had to haul anything around with him for these last few months.  Totally start to freak out whenever I think about his homecoming = Aahhhhh!!! We're just a wee bit excited around here. Sorry, I'll try to stay focused...

What started out to be a fun 'little' project totally morphed into this 'thing' that has taken me literally weeks to put together.  Thinking that it would be amazing to follow along with Christ's Last Days, I came up with the idea of putting a bookmark with scriptural references inside plastic Easter eggs, each egg would represent a single day in Christ's life.  Opening my scriptures I was brought to remembrance of just how much happened that last week.  The week was full of parables and symbolism and illegal events all culminating in Christ's crucifixion.  It was plain to see that this would not all fit on a bookmark - so it morphed from a bookmark into a bookmark and a handout - which I tried to keep concise and short although you will think that Thursday and Friday are anything BUT short. 

I thought this would be so easy.  Surely someone, somewhere has put together the events of Christ's last days and I could benefit by simply cutting and pasting.  You know the story: Modern technology meets another one of my hair brained ideas.  Alas, where I could find lots of information online, a lot of it contradicted each other and I wanted to insert our latter-day perspective into the mix.  Hence my odyssey of discovery through the four Gospel's, Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage, Life and Teachings of Jesus - New Testament Study Guide Religion 211, and The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah by Alfred Edersheim (who incidentally was the first Jew to join the Church 1825-1889 and was a brilliant scholar).   This is NOT my own work.  A lot of it is typed just as it is found in the books and melded together into a cohesive and understandable mix.  In hindsight, I am grateful for the opportunity that I had to reacquaint myself with Passion Week.  This Easter season promises to be a special one for me.

The Last Days of Christ - There are nine eggs each representing a day leading up to Resurrection Sunday.  Inside each egg is a bookmark that has the scriptural events that happened for that particular day.  Also included is a handout representing each day in the same corresponding color as the bookmark.  Label each egg with a number representing which egg to open first.  I also included a little cover sheet telling our missionaries what to do. PDF printable links are below.  Enjoy!

Last Days of Christ - daily handout

Just in case you have missionaries in a foreign land where it is just too expensive to mail a bunch of eggs, I've created envelope labels.  Just print them out and glue onto the front of a business size envelope (to fit 8.5x11 inch paper).  Fill in the date that you would like your missionary to open each envelope and insert the daily handout/editorial and bookmark/egg insert and seal.  Now you won't have to worry about the added expense of a package and when you fill out those nasty little customs declarations you can just write 'letters'.  Win, win!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Girl Scout Cookies

     Who doesn't love Girl Scout Cookies?  There can't be that many who don't love to see those girls in green sashes.  A sure sign that spring is on it's way.  I can't tell you how many 'No Soliciting - except for Girl Scouts' signs that I see on doors around town.  Last year I committed a major faux pas.  I ordered lots of Girl Scout Cookies for the missionaries and one box each of Thin Mints, Samoa's and Trefoil's.  The family practically went on STRIKE!!  This year I more than doubled our order...actually I quintupled last year's quintupled a word?  Walking in the door you should have seen those cute little faces drop when they saw three boxes of Girl Scout Cookies thinking that they would all be sent out to missionaries.  My 'Super Mom' status has been reinstated and even our dentist is thrilled with our mother load anticipating our next family checkup.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

St. Patrick's Day - "Box O' Green"

     This is similar to what we did for Mason last year and he loved it.  It was really so simple and fun to do.  Just wander the grocery store looking for all things green.  The difficult part will be trying to make sure that you have a nice mix of healthy vs. treats.  There are lots of green treats but no so many healthy ones that travel well.  I also found a green bookmark, magnet and some CTR rings (for the kids on the Navajo Reservation where my parents are serving) at Deseret Book.  We packaged everything up in a tissue lined Flat Rate box filled with some green shredded paper and topped it all off with a lovely 'Old Irish Blessing' verse.  You can print the printable here.

Here's some ideas for your Box O' Green:
 Ghiradelli Mint Chocolate Squares
Orville Redenbacher's Single Serve Popcorn
Goldfish Parmesan Cheese Crackers
Andes Creme de Menthe Thins
Lifesavers Wint-o-green Mints
Dill Pickle Sunflower Seeds
Mike and Ike's
Green Apple Tic Tac
Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies
3 Musketeers Mint
Skittles Sour
Mint Patties
Caramel Apple Pops
Spree Chewy
Mint Patties
Spearmint gum
Watermelon Pop Rocks
Tree Top canned Apple Juice
Sour Cream n' Onion Pringles

St. Patrick's Day - Pretzel Bites

I'm sure you've seen variations on this theme posted on Pinterest lately but I couldn't find one that included just the right amount of chew-ey, salty, chocolate-ey, caramel-ey I made one up.  Most of the recipes that I found used Hershey's kisses or chocolate disks.  I used Rolo's - YUM!

Shopping List:

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet or baking tray with parchment paper or foil and cover with pretzels.  Top each pretzel with a Rolo and place in oven.  Heating time will vary according to your oven but this should only take a few minutes.  You are just softening the chocolate and caramel not melting it...that would make a mess and take away most of the fun!  Immediately after removing tray from the oven, place an m&m in the center of each Rolo and press gently.  You will need to work fairly quickly before the chocolate begins to cool.  Let cool completely.  This can take a few hours so if you're in a hurry you could pop them in the fridge.  I just covered mine and left them the office so I didn't keep snitching them.  When cool, place them in a cellophane bag or other container. 

Mouthwatering morsels of pure deliciousness.  YUM!

I folded down the top edge of my cellophane bag and attached a bag topper. 
Click here for "Happy St. Patrick's Day" bag topper printable.

Friday, February 24, 2012

A Word About Mailing Cookies

I thought I'd include a few tips about mailing cookies to your missionary.  Lucky for me, Mason is serving in the United States and he receives his mail in just two days usually IF I play my cards right.  I've done a bit of research on the post office and how things 'move' around there.  I've also experimented with different kinds of packaging.  Here are my results:

United States Post Office: Don't you just love those men and women who rain or shine, sleet, snow or hail do their darndest to deliver our mail?  What an amazing group of dedicated workers!  We tend to take things for granted here in the good old U. S. of A. and trust me, other countries do not have it as good as we do.  Our mail system is OUTSTANDING and I for one am totally fine with postage rates increasing by a few cents every year. 
     Did you know that the mail never stops once it's in the system?  Your local post office might be closed on the weekend and your mail carrier may have Sunday off, but once your package is in the system I have been assured that it is moving.  Always moving until it reaches it's final post office to await delivery. 
     Depending on how you mail your package (Overnight, Flat Rate, Air or Parcel Post or slow boat to China) your package can arrive very quickly or be delayed by sitting in the local post office waiting for the next day that the office is open.  For example:  If I get my cookies to the post office just prior to the post office closing, my package is going to sit in the office overnight until pickup the next morning.  If I get my cookies there just prior to closing AND towards the end of the week, my package is going to sit in a post office on Mason's end until they can deliver it on Monday.  Be very careful when you mail too close to Federal holidays.  Your package may sit at the other end of it's destination for as many as two to three days if the holiday is on a Monday. your cards right and your cookies will arrive ever so fresh and tasty.

Packaging:  I've tried it all.  Seriously.  I bake, package, mail and then sit patiently (ok, I'm never really very patient but I'm known to occasionally give it a valiant effort) awaiting Mason's email on Monday to see how his package arrived and how they tasted.  I've tried Ziploc bags packed carefully in 'ghost poop' (styrofoam packing peanuts) or popcorn = crumbs and "not too fresh tasting either" (he cautiously mentions while trying not to hurt my feelings); plastic toss-away containers (Gladware, etc) = fresh but broken.; and wrapping each cookie separately in Saran wrap and placing them in a smaller box then inside a larger box for mailing = broken and again, not so fresh. 
     The best way to mail them that I have found thus far:  Pringle's potato chip containers.  Seriously.   Use the regular size cans not the jumbo "see how much I can eat and not get sick" size.     Just rinse them and dry them well.  If the chips were a rather pungent variety, say maybe Mesquite Barbecue or Sour Cream & Onion, you might want to leave the lid off for a day or so to let it air out.  Nothing worse than one of Mom's famous chocolate chip cookies with an onion aftertaste.
     I use a small scoop to scoop out the dough onto the cookie sheets for baking which makes the cookies just the right size for the can.  Bake the cookies and let them cool completely (so they don't sweat inside the can) then stack inside and seal with the lid.  Viola!  You can tie a ribbon around the can so that the lid won't pop off in transit but I usually just mail it in a medium sized flat rate box.  The width of the box is the exact length of the Pringle's can.  No way that puppy is coming off.  Another perk about using the Pringle cans?  I can decorate and label them!  Cute!!
    A final word about freshness.  It is absolutely essential that your cookies are the freshest they can possibly be.  Don't make them the day before and then run to the post office just before closing on the next day.  Try very, very hard to bake and send on the same day and as early as you can in the morning.  Some larger post offices have more than one pickup during the day.  A friend in Utah mailed gloves to her son in New Jersey on her way to work in the morning and he had them the next day.  Now that's incredible!

Decorating Your Cookie Canister

decorative paper
spray adhesive or glue
paper cutter or scissors
embellishments, if desired
     Decorating your cookie cans is a very simple project.  Cut your paper to size and then removing the lid, adhere the paper to the can using spray adhesive or glue.  Follow directions on the can of spray adhesive.  Follow the temperature guidelines completely.  If you spray your paper outside and the temperature is not warm enough, it doesn't matter what you do, it's not going to stick.  Allow to dry completly then label or embellish as desired.  Fill can with cookies and replace lid tightly.

~ for a photo of this project, see the beginning of this post.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snowstorm in a Box

I don't know about your corner of the world but in our corner of Utah it is January and it is BROWN.  This is not a normal color for this time of year for us.  Normally we are coated with lots of fluffy white stuff at this point in time but alas, this year we are not.  Surprisingly Ohio is looking particularly brown this year as well.  We've both been blessed with skiffs of snow but nothing that has stuck around or required shoveling (unless you aren't content to wait until noon just to see if it will melt off by itself).  Maybe it's all our fault . . . Mason refuses to buy proper footwear for the elements ("Already gone an entire winter without boots, why purchase any now?" is his rationalization).  I've prayed that he will stay warm and dry.  Mom's have a lot of faith where their children are concerned. Hence, no snow.

Our lack of snow has inspired the latest fun package that we've been working on and I can't wait to hear from him on Monday to hear how his snowball fight went (don't you just love Monday's?). 

Snowstorm in a Box
Contents include:
(hand cut and signed by his family, cousins and just about everyone who could and would hold a pair of scissors in their hands...and wanted to humor me - I have great family and friends)
(for taping them to the windows or you can check out here or here for more display ideas)
2 mugs
(one for Mason and one for his companion)
Hot Chocolate mix
2 bags Snowflake Crunch
(recipe below)
4 pkgs. Snowman Soup mix
(recipe below)
(of our snowball fight - too fun!  You have to do this)
12 snowballs
(for their own snowball fight)

Click here for the "Where's the Snow" pdf for the top of your package

Who doesn't like to cut out snowflakes?  There's something quite cathartic about all the folding and cutting.  It's always a thrill to finally unfold your creation and discover the hidden beauty that lay within.  I set out paper, scissors and pencils along with some printed instructions for creating snowflakes during an afternoon when family was over.  It was fun to see the cousins gathered at the table cutting and chatting together. 

Snowball Fight:
I actually got this idea from Family Fun magazine while sitting in the doctor's office one day and it all snowballed from there . . . so to speak (see Family Fun Christmas, pom-pom snowball custom card, pg 83).  This part of the package was so much fun to prepare!  As family was arriving, we had them pretend to throw snowballs at the camera - just have them pose with their arms cocked and hands like they're holding a snowball.  There was absolutely NO snow (though it did snow a few days later and I was able to have a few of the kids pose again).  I told everyone that they could pose however they wanted so some posed like they were holding giant snowballs and I just purchased pom-poms of the appropriate size to match their outstretched arms.  Have the photos developed then simply glue the pom-poms on with a tacky craft glue.  I was able to find pom-poms in a variety of sizes for .49 each from the craft store.  While there (remember, I was at the craft store?) I found the perfect solution for keeping my 3-D photos under control during mailing.  This had been driving me a little crazy. . .

For less than $3 I purchased this cute little box in white that was the perfect size for my 4x6 photos.  Add a little patterned paper and a couple of stickers and voila.  Brilliant and cute.  Problem solved.

The photo below are three adorable kids who have moved in down the block since Mason has been gone.  My daughter Maren claims all three of them to be her very best friends in the whole wide world.  We've kind of adopted them to be our surrogate grandchildren.  Mason has never met them so we wanted to identify them in the photo.  When I was on my mission in Hong Kong many moons ago, the members taught me how to sign my name on a photograph.

1. You will need a small amount of water, a soft cloth and a pen (NOT a fine point).
2. Dip your finger into the water and wipe it over the area that you wish to write on.  Wait a few seconds for the photo ink to begin to soften - this doesn't take long.  Write your message.
3. Using a soft, absorbent cloth, gently wipe or dab off the water from the photo.

Snowman Soup:
My kids gave these out to their friends for Christmas this year so we whipped up a few extra to send to our missionaries.  The contents are: 1 hot chocolate mix, 1 candy cane, three Hershey kisses and a handful of marshmallows.  Easy and very inexpensive.  We put everything in a clear cellophane bag - I love these bags and use them for lots of things.  To me, they are a gift giving must have.  I used the 3.5x7.5 bag (6.99 for 100) from Orson Gygi's in Salt Lake City, Utah. Tie it all together with a cute ribbon and attach the "recipe."   Click here for the "recipe" in pdf form.  The recipe reads:

Snowman Soup
1 hot cocoa mix
3 Hershey kisses
1 handful marshmallows
Combine all ingredients together
and stir with a candy cane.

Snowflake Crunch:
My newly married daughter, Kiri found this recipe and it was our family "go to" treat during the holiday season.  It is insanely delicious!  Make sure to follow the recipe exactly and use the brands that are suggested.  Let your Snowflake Crunch cool completely, the put in cellophane bags. Fold down the top twice (to seal in the yummy goodness) and staple a cute bag topper over the fold.  You can download the bag topper here in pdf form.  Don't forget to make at least one batch for you and your family.  Better still!  Make one batch for you and another for your family.  It is that delicious.  Enjoy!

Snowflake Crunch
1/2 of a 14 oz. box (approx. 6 cups) Rice Chex cereal
you can substitute the brand but it needs to be Rice NOT Corn
1 12 oz bag Nestle White Chocolate chips
except NO substitutions - you will be disappointed in the taste and consistency
2/3 cup crushed candy cane or peppermint swirls, divided

Measure cereal into a large mixing bowl.  In a microwave safe bowl, melt the white chocolate chips stirring every 30 seconds until smooth and creamy.  Do not overheat.  Chocolate will burn easily.  Stir 1/3 cup of crushed candy cane into the melted chocolate.  Pour over cereal and stir until evenly coated.  Spread onto parchment lined or greased cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with remaining crushed candy.  Allow to cool completely.  Break apart.  This is where the parchment paper comes in handy.  Grab the sides, gathering contents of the tray together and give it a lite squeeze.  Keep doing this until the pieces are broken into more manageable bite-size pieces.  Grab the sides of your parchment paper again making it into a funnel shape.  Pour it into your container or cellophane bag then wipe off the cookie sheet and put it away.  I love using parchment paper and it helps to keep my favorite cookie sheets nice and shiny.  They tend to get dull when they are put into the dishwasher or over time from all the hot soapy water.
Homemade Snowballs!
A couple of years ago, my sister Katherine and sister-in-law Lynnae came up with an awesome activity for our family Christmas Bash.  We have a giant indoor snowball fight with homemade snowballs.  It is truly a blast!  They made lots and lots (remember I have a giant extended family) and lots of "snowballs" and after everything from the party is cleaned up, Frosty (who is not dressed up but just one of the nieces or nephews) brings in the bags of snowballs and the snowball fight begins.  There is nothing fancy about these snowballs.  They are just circles of white fabric - I used old pillowcases.  Run a basting stitch around the outside, gather in slightly, stuff, pull the thread tight and knot off.  Easy.  My daughter, Rebekah whipped up 12 in short order - 6 for each Elder.  They are going to have a blast having their own indoor snowball fight.  A nice way to work out the frustrations of missionary work with a little FUN!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"Don't forget Bear!"

Have you ever heard of Flat Stanley?  Flat Stanley is a character in a children's book.  When a bulliton board falls on Stanley he quickly discovers that being flat has it's advantages.  It's fun to follow the adventures of Flat Stanley as he travels the world. Some schools have a unit on Flat Stanley where the children draw Stanley and are then encouraged to take photos of their adventures and the places they've visited with Stanley. 

When Mason first left on his mission we all went to Build a Bear Workshop to make a Missionary Bear.  Bear comes with us everywhere Mason would go if he were here, kind of like Flat Stanley.  He's been camping, vacations, baptisms, baby blessings, weddings, birthday's, Hump Day dinners, family photos, ball games, opening day of ski season, and posed with us in our pajamas on Christmas Eve.  We take photos and send them to Mason to show him all the places "he's been."  Now that Grandma and Grandpa are also serving a mission we have Bears that represent them as well.  It's a fun tradition that everyone enjoys and as we run out the door you can often hear someone call out, "Don't forget Bear!"