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!