Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"My Favorite Things" printable

You would think that after being someone's mother for ump-teen years that I would be able to remember what some of their favorite things are, right?  Yeah.  NOT!!  Let's blame it on the fact that I have seven kids, a son-in-law and a daughter-in-law.  Or...we could blame it on the fact that I'm now 50 (which has actually been a pretty fun thing to blame things on).  It's probably not either of those things though.  I think I'm just forgetful.
I have a rolodex on my desk with all my address, etc.  I have a card for each of the missionaries that I write to with their information on the front and their favorites listed on the back.  While that works pretty well, it's not very aesthetically pleasing AND requires that I fill it out myself.  I whipped up this little cutie last night.  Hope you like!


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Brownie Cookies

Matt loves brownies.  He used to make two batches almost every Sunday.  One tray for us and one tray for his Scoutmaster.  His Scoutmaster was trying to get him to finish off the last requirement for Matt's last merit badge so he could get his Eagle and thought that having to make brownies every week would be the deal-breaker and he'd get 'er done.  Yeah, whatever.  Matt loves brownies and enjoys cooking so it wasn't really a punishment BUT we did get treats every Sunday.
Yesterday I was looking around on Pinterest for a new cookie recipe to try for Matt and when I stumbled upon this little gem, I knew it was just perfect.  This Brownie Cookie recipe comes from Pure & Yummy ( and is oh, so yummy.  I love how they stay soft and chewy in the center but the outside edges get slightly crispy just like the 'big' brownies do.  Side note:  You know how when you're taking brownies or lemon bars over to someone's house and you cut off all the edges so you can take just the nice looking center cuts to the neighbor's?  I tell my kids it's because it makes them look nicer on the tray but that's not really it...I want to eat all the edges myself.  The truth comes out.  Good thing my kids don't read my blog, eh?
Brownie Cookies
1/2 cup butter
4 (1 ounce) squares unsweetened chocolate, chopped
3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided in half
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
(yield: 90 cookies*)
Chop the unsweetened chocolate into pieces.  You can leave this on the paper that it comes wrapped in (the inner one not the outer packaging - grin) and just chop away.  Then carefully lift the paper off and slide everything into your pan.

Combine butter, unsweetened chocolate, and 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips in a heavy saucepan.  Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until butter and chocolate melt.  Chocolate burns easily so don't get excited and try doing this over high heat or walk off to answer the phone.  You could probably do this step in the microwave.  Start out with one minute on high, then remove and stir and continue heating in 30 second increments, stirring in between until mixture is entirely melted and smooth. Let cool completely.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.  Set aside.  Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla at medium speed with an electric mixer.  Gradually add dry ingredients to the egg mixture, beating well.  Add chocolate mixture and beat well.  Make sure that your chocolate mixture is completely cool or your batter will be really thin.  IF you got a little excited and added the chocolate before it was totally cool, don't worry.  It will still work, just stick it in the fridge or let it sit on the counter for a bit.  As the chocolate starts to set up again, your batter will thicken. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips.  If your batter still seems a little thin, do NOT add extra flour.  They will be just fine.  I promise.  You could stick your batter in the fridge for a bit if it's driving you crazy but you might need to adjust the cooking time.

*Scoop dough onto baking sheets one inch apart.  (I like to line my cookie sheets with parchment paper.  You can use the same piece of paper for the whole batch of cookies.  Don't change the paper every time.  The cookies come off the paper really easy and when you're finished, you just wad up the paper keeping the crumbs inside and stick it in the garbage.  The biggest perk don't have to wash your cookie sheet!  Yay!  It doesn't take much to get me excited around here, does it?...sad.)  Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes.  Cool slightly on baking sheets; remove to wire racks to cool completely.
*I like to use a small scoop for my cookies.  Baked cookies will measure about 2 inches.
So, now a bit about packaging:
I still love sending cookies in the decorated Pringle's it just me?...or does it make you a little crazy that each mission is different?  With Mason I could call the mission home the day after transfers and see if he had moved and they would give me his new companion's name and his new address and I ALWAYS mailed his mail AND packages straight to his apartment.  Yeah.  Matt's mission is different.  Everything.  EVERYTHING has to go through the mission home.  Mail.  Packages.  Everything.  So I called the mission home and the cute little old sister missionary informed me that she is very good at forwarding every single stitch of mail the following day to the missionaries.  Packages however, get to sit at the mission home until the Zone Leaders come in to pick them up which is about once a month.  ONCE A MONTH?!?!  Grrrrrr......  (Hang in there with me.  My rampage is just about over and there will be a happy ending...)  So because of all that other "stuff" I've changed how I mail some of my packages.  Cookies being one of them. 
When I called the mission home, the cute sister lady mentioned to me that the post office WILL forward the 'small flat rate' boxes (the ones that are about the size of the old VHS tapes) but they WON'T forward anything larger than that.  So I've started to send a lot of smaller packages instead so Matt will get them faster.  An added perk is that they only cost $5.80 to mail.  Yup.  Jeff's smilin' at that one!  Here's how I do it:
Line your box with tissue paper.  Fold it so it will fit nicely which not only looks better but will also give your cookies a little extra padding.  Place some packing material around the outside edges with maybe a little on the bottom.  You won't need much on the bottom because your syran wrap around the cookies will be folded underneath.  You'll see.  Read on...
Take two cookies and place them flat sides together.
Using a square of syran wrap, roll the cookies up then tuck the ends under.  You could tuck one under and wrap the other end over but that wouldn't look as good and I'm into aesthetics...either that or I have OCD.  Probably the later...
Place the cookies in the box.  You should have room for six two-packs or one dozen cookies.  Because each box was so inexpensive to mail, I just mailed Matt's companion his very own box.  What missionary needs more than a dozen cookies at a time?  Place some more packing material over the top and in-between each cookie pack, then put in a letter.  Here's why...

When Matt arrived in the mission field, he was assigned a companion and they were sent to a brand new area.  No investigators.  No records.  Nada.  Their apartment wasn't even ready yet so they spent the first week on the floor of the Zone Leaders' apartment.  We at home, are busy sending lots of letters and packages. (Hey, I served a mission.  I remember vividly just how hard the first bit is.  Letters/packages from home keep your spirit's up and remind you that you are not alone nor forgotten.)  We had sent one large package to Matt and one large package to his companion.  (click here for the Greenie Package and here for the Missionary Trainer Survival Kit)  One month later we found out that neither of these missionary's were receiving any mail.  The mission home had their new address wrong!  All of their mail was being forwarded and then 'returned to sender' because of a wrong address.  I can't even imagine going that long without anything from home.  The only thing that they had received were the two large packages that I had mailed to each of them because they couldn't be forwarded and had to wait for the Zone Leaders to pick up and personally deliver.  Here's where the letter comes in...When Mason was on his mission I never, ever included a letter in his packages.  I always included a cute little package topper and jotted a few lines on the back but that was it.  Never a letter.  That was reserved for another piece of mail.  Gotta' spread out the love, if you know what I mean.  This time. This ONE time, I actually wrote a letter.  Three pages.  I did not know at the time that this would be the only actual letter that Matt would receive for over thirty days, but someone did.  I am so grateful that I included a letter with that package.  Now I always include a letter.  It's not three pages every time, but it's important, so I do it.  I encourage you to as well...
Sorry...I'm very long-winded on this one aren't I? 
Fold the tissue over the cookies and place your topper on top.  I couldn't provide a printable for you this time because I'm sure that "Cookie Monster" is copyrighted and they are probably just 'big' enough to take it personally but it was really easy to do and you could easily make your own.  Just Google 'Cookie Monster' and cut and paste one into your document.  Easy peasy and oh, so cute!  Enjoy and I hope your missionary never, ever has to go a whole month without mail.  On a side note:  Matt did receive emails just not 'snail mail.'

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mission Countdown Blocks

One day soon after Matt left I received this photo on my phone...
...with the caption, "Project of the week."
Isn't it amazing?!  I love it!  This cute project was made by one of Matt's dear friends and when she sent the photo I asked if she would make me one too  AND would she take photos and do a guest post on my blog.  She said, "YES!!"  So here it is...
 Thanks, Miranda!
Items needed
 4 square blocks
(any size will work; we used 3"x 3" blocks)
base block - cut to fit 3 blocks
(a 2x4, cut to 9 inches worked perfectly for the 3" blocks)
patterned paper - up to six different patterns
(double-sided paper works great)
Mod Podge
(I used a matte finish)
vinyl numbers*
(make sure that the 'six' and the 'nine' are interchangeable with whichever font is used)
vinyl 'saying' for the base*
*paper die cuts could also be used and Mod Podged onto the blocks
Paint the base and all 4 blocks a solid color.
Cut the patterned paper into 24 squares just smaller than the blocks.
(2.75" squares for 3" blocks)
*Mod Podge the paper squares to each side of the block.  Use a couple of coats to make sure the paper won't peel off.  Also coat the base with Mod Podge to seal it.
 *Best way to Mod Podge - check out this video by Addicted2Decorating
Apply the vinyl numbers to the blocks and the saying to the base.
Use the chart above to figure out which numbers to put on which block.
If you're making blocks for a Sister missionary, a quote can be used on one side of the 4th block because they aren't out as many days as the Elders.
Thanks Miranda!
And just to help you keep on track...
check out the free 'Days Left' widget that you can download to your smart phone.
That little tidbit of helpful information also came from Miranda.
Matt has some really great friends...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Back to School!

I like to send at least one package a month to our missionary.  Three years ago, when Mason was on his mission I could not for the life of me think of anything for September.  All I could come up with was fall stuff but September isn't really fall yet.  What else happens in the fall?  Back to does a missionary really need a plethora of school supplies?  Not really.  A few days ago I stumbled upon a great idea on Pinterest for an Alphabet Basket from Fairy Tales & Fun.  It just so happens that I have family visiting from New Zealand at the moment hence we are having a HUGE family bash on Sunday after church.  Remember my VERY large family?  This proved to be the perfect opportunity to put together a Back to School care package for Matt.  One problem though...I ran out of letters before I ran out of people that are coming so I did numbers 0-10 as well.  Instead of having each person bring something that began with a certain letter or a certain number of items (for the numbers), I just assigned each family a few letters/numbers.  I encouraged them to find things around the house or the dollar store because I wanted it to be fun and not an expense or burden on the family.  It was so much fun to see what people came up with!

(an alphabetical idea list is included at the end of this post)

1. Download letters and numbers by clicking here.
2. Print out letters and numbers onto white cardstock.
3. Cut out around each letter or number using decorative scissors if desired.
4. Using double sided tape, attach each letter or number to the matching item.
Some of the items were really small so I put them in these cute 'paper' bags that I found at Orson Gygi's in Salt Lake City.  I just attached the letter to the outside and used a bit of tape to close the bag.   ($4.50 / 20)


Missionary's love 'stuff' but they love letters more.  I wanted to collect as many letters from family members as I could.  This is always much easier if I keep the size of the paper small.  For this project I decided to stick with the 'Back to School' theme so I made up printables that look like chalkboards and using a chalk font, printed different quotes onto the chalkboard.  Each chalkboard quote is different.  They are all centered around learning, knowledge, school or education.  Print them out onto regular paper and then just cut the paper in half (two chalkboard quotes per page).  There are 50 different chalkboard 'letters' because I have such a large family for 25 pages total.  The links for printing them out are listed below.  You certainly don't have to print out all 50 though it does make for quite a nice stack of letters!

~ A ~
dried apples, Apple Jack's cereal, aspirin, almonds, address book (click here for an idea for a quick and easy one), antacid, aftershave, Almond Joy candy, Air Head candy, Altoid breath mints, air freshener,  Animal Crackers, apron, Andie's mints
~ B ~
small teddy bear, brush, bubble gum, Big Hunk candy, beef jerky, breath mints, balloons, ball, bubbles, Bobby Pins, barrettes, book (make sure it's mission approved), a Book of Mormon with your testimony inside, Butterfinger candy, body spray, bracelet, bean dip, bookmark, novelty BandAids, brownies
~ C ~
coins, coupons, chocolate milk, cough drops, coconut candy, coconut syrup, coconut flavored m&m's (can you tell we like coconut?), clips, dried cherries, Craisins, cookies (click here for tips on mailing cookies), Chapstick, coloring book and Crayons, Church News, cake mix, cookie mix, chips, crackers, cashew's, Carmex lip balm, card,  Chicken in a Bisket crackers, CD - music, conference, inspirational speaker, Cheetos chips, clock, small calculator, CTR ring(s) (missionaries love to give out the cheep Primary ones to kids - you can pick some up at any Distribution Center for $10 for packages of 10 or order online from, Captain Crunch cereal, cents (for bus change), conditioner, Chips Ahoy cookies, caramel apple (click here for step-by-step instructions on how to make your own), comb, picture of Christ, caramel apple dip, colored pencils, Charleston Chews candy, Chex Mix, Cracker Jacks, clay, cotton balls, calendar
~ D ~
deodorant, Dove soap, Dove chocolate, Dum Dum suckers, dental floss, DVD - something that the church has released that can be shown to their investigators, dollars, Milk Duds candy, Dots candy, donuts
~ E ~
Ensign, envelopes, ear plugs, emery boards, earrings, Edge shaving cream
~ F ~
dried fruit, fruit leather, flash light, fudge, flip flops, frosting, floss, floss sticks, Flaming Hot Cheetos, FunYun's onion chips, Frisbee, football, Frosted Flakes cereal, photo of the First Presidency, Froot Loops cereal, family photo, foot cream, flower (a cute one like a silk Gerber Daisy - send a vase for 'V'), first aid kit, small flag - from their home country or the state/country where they are serving, flash drive, facial wipes (makeup remover wipes)
~ G ~
Nerf gun (send two), Gatorade, hair gel, granola bars, gum, gift card, graham crackers, General Conference on CD, Gratitude journal, gift (just wrap anything and it's instantly a 'gift'), Granola, graham crackers, Good & Plenty candy, gloves, Glade plugin air freshener, glue stick, Gardetto's, Goldfish crackers, fruit Gushers
~ H ~
hair accessories, hair gel, Hershey's Hug's, send a 'hug' (click here for a cute idea), hairspray, hand sanitizer, Hot tamale's candy, Hershey's chocolate bar, hot chocolate mix, HiChew candy, hammer, honey, beanie hat (for winter)
~ I ~
ibuprofen, anti-itch cream, Dr. Shoell's shoe innersoles, Icy Hot muscle cream,
~ J ~
jacks, jump rope, juice, jam, jelly, journal, joke, juice box, Jell-O, jerky, Jelly Beans, Jolly Rancher candy, jewelry
~ K ~
kite (send 2 fun for pday), Kleenex, KoolAid, Hershey's Kisses, Kit Kat candy,
~ L ~
letter, light, lip balm, lotion, night light, flashlight, headlamp, Lucky Charms, lemonade, licorice, lollypop, Lemon Heads, Life Savers, letter opener, loofah, Lysol room spray
~ M ~
money, munchies, movie (something they can share with investigators like The Testaments, etc.), music (make sure it's mission approved), Mike & Ike's, milk chocolate, Church magazine, macaroni & cheese, m&m's, Milk Duds, mouth wash, mints, matchbox car, photo of President Monson (I love this one - free printable [photo by Brian Tibbets]), Melatonin (a natural sleep aid), manicure set, makeup, Mounds candy, Milky Way candy, mittens, Mormon Tabernacle Choir CD, marshmallows, markers, memory card for their camera
~ N ~
noise maker, nuts, Nutella, New Era, note cards, note, Nerd's candy, nylons, Nerf gun (send two), necklace, necktie, nail clippers, nail polish, Neutrogena makeup remover
~ O ~
Oreo's, chocolate covered Orange Sticks, Orange Slices candy, OtterPops freezable popsicles, OHenry candy, consecrated oil vial, Orbit gum, instant Oatmeal, Olay facial cream
~ P ~
pen, pencil, punch mix, pudding, peanut butter, peanuts, paper clips, Purell, Poppers (like the kids throw on the ground for the 4th of July), protein bars, pass along cards, post cards (click here for a fun post card idea), Patriarchal Blessing (shrink a copy down to fit in their scriptures then have it laminated for them), paper, chocolate covered Pomegranate Seeds (oh man!), photo of the prophet (I love this one - free printable [photo by Brian Tibbets]), small photo album, pancake mix, make a prayer rock, pistachios, pinwheel, perfume, pop, Peppermint Patty candy, Pop Tarts, microwave popcorn, Primary music CD, pretzels, paper airplane, Plan of Salvation printable (just Google it, there are a ton out there on the internet), pumpkin seeds, Preach My Gospel - mini edition, PlayDoh clay, Pixie Stix, paperclips, post-it notes
~ Q ~
Quik, roll of quarters, 'quench' (we gave Matt a couple of his favorite soda's), Q-tips, 'Quiet' - earplugs, Quaker instant oatmeal packets
~ R ~
Rolo candy, Ranch dressing mix, root beer, Reese's candy, Reese's Pieces, Red Hot's candy, Red Vine licorice, ruler, chocolate covered Raspberry sticks, Ritz crackers, CTR ring, Rolaid's antacid, recipes (send some of your missionary's family favorite ones), Rice Krispie Treats, Riesen candy, fruit Rollups, raisins, chocolate covered raisins, Rice Krispie cereal
~ S ~
sucker, Smartie's, 'smooch' (put on some lipstick and 'kiss' a note card then write a note), Sugar Baby's candy, sponge, shampoo, soap, face scrub, squirt gun, sparklers, sun flower seeds, stamps, salt water taffy, stationary, stickers, sun glasses, sun screen, suntan lotion, scissors, soup, safety pins, Starburst candy, small screwdriver, stuffed animal, soda, stapler, Sweet Hearts candy, Sour Patch Kids candy, salsa, S'mores candy, Snickers candy, scarf, Swedish Fish, shoe polish, Silly Putty, socks, stuffing mix
~ T ~
Twix candy, Twizzler's licorice, toothbrush, toothpaste, toothpicks, Thank You notes, taffy, Teddy Graham cracker/cookies, timer, 'thought' (look on Pinterest or on the internet and find an inspirational 'thought' printable to print and frame), Tum's antacid, tape, Tide stain erase pen, write down your testimony for your missionary (it will be a treasured memento), simple tools (screwdriver, etc.), toy, Tootsie Roll candy, tie (duh), taco seasoning mix, tortilla chips, Tabernacle Choir CD, picture of the temple, small tool kit with the essentials, toilet paper, tissue (the personal purse kind), Toblerone candy, Twix candy, tweezers
~ U ~
underwear (a new sparkly, white pair of garments!), U-No candy bar, umbrella, Universal tool (you know that tool that looks like a huge pocket knife but is actually a lot of fold out tools?), Under Armor shirt for exercise or p-day, ukulele (make sure it's mission approved), photo uploader,
Up2U Mento's gum
~ V ~
VOTE! (send them the paperwork necessary to sign up for an absentee ballot), vinegar, Vaseline, Vaseline lotion, vacation (send them a family photo from a recent vacation when they were home), vase (send a nice silk 'flower' for the letter 'F'), vitamins, V8 juice
~ W ~
watermelon candy, Windex wipes, wet wipes, watch, water balloons, worry balls, Whopper candy, whoopee cushion, Washi tape (Japanese decorative tape), Willie Wonka candy, Word Search puzzle book, Whatchamacallit candy, water purifier, reusable water bottle, Werther's candy, Wheaties cereal
~ X ~
Xtreme Nerf gun (you should probably include two in your package...that would not be a safe thing to only have one of), Xtreme Sour Patch Kid's candy, eXam gloves, EXtra gum,
~ Y ~
yoyo, yogurt candy, York Peppermint Patty candy, YooHoo candy
~ Z ~
Little Debbie Zebra Cakes, Zero candy, Zoo Animal Crackers, Zero Propel drink mix, Zesty Italian salad dressing

Friday, September 6, 2013

Music - "Guitar Hymns" vol. 1

Guitar solos - by Ryan Tilby
volume 1

I Stand All Amazed
O My Father
Come Thou Fount
Teach Me to Walk
Sweet Hour of Prayer
Primary Medley
Praise to the Man
If You Could Hie to Kolob
There Is a Green Hill Far Away
Mother, I Love You
Abide With Me
I Know My Father Lives
My Heavenly Father Loves me

Review:   Matt has played the guitar for a number of years and actually bought this CD and sent it to his brother, Mason when he was on his mission.  I'm so glad that I was able to find the same one to send to Matt.  Ryan Tilby's Guitar Hymns contains moving renditions of many favorite hymns of our time.  Simply beautiful.

Music - "The Hymns Collection"

Piano Solos by Paul Cardall
(2 disk set) 
Joseph's First Prayer
God, the Eternal Father
Jesus of Nazareth
How Great the Wisdom and the Love
Nearer My God to Thee
Abide With Me Tis Eventide
O My Father
The Release
Come, Follow Me
A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief
Day of Rest
Praise to the Man
He is Risen
Come, Come Ye Saints
I Need Thee Every Hour
God Be With You Till We Meet Again
Medley: Remember Me, I Believe in Christ, Come Thou Fount
Love At Home
More Holiness Give Me
Behold, the Great Redeemer Died
I Know That My Redeemer Lives
God, Our Father, Hear Us Pray
I Feel My Savior's Love
All Creatures of Our God and King
Father in Heaven, We Do Believe
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
Father in Heaven
In Humility, Our Savior
How Gentle God's Commands
Journey Within
Medley:  Joseph's First Prayer, Praise to the Man
Review:  You simply cannot go wrong with this 2 CD set.  Paul Cardall has a way of interpreting each hymn in such a way that you can FEEL his testimony through his playing.  These hymns are refreshingly simple, reverent and truly inspiring.

Music - "Hims II" by Voice Male

A Cappella Hymns

The Spirit of God
Lead, Kindly Light
Abide with Me!
Our Savior's Love
Where Can I Turn for Peace?
How Firm A Foundation
Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
There is a Green Hill Far Away
Come, O Thou King of Kings
Be Still, My Soul
Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee
Lord, I Would Follow Thee
ReviewSimilar to Afterglow (an all male a cappella group from 'back in the day'), Voice Male provides tight harmony to some of our favorite hymns.

Music - "The Essential Missionary Collection"

Hymns That Uplift and Inspire
by Reach Productions
Come, Thou Fount Of Ev'ry Blessing - Rob Gardner
Redeemer - Paul Cardall
Come, Follow Me - Dan Cahoon
Savior, Redeemer Of My Soul - Dallyn Vail Bayles & Jenny Oaks Baker
I Know That My Redeemer Lives - Linda Rowberry
Come, Come Ye Saints - Steven Sharp Nelson
There Is A Green Hill Far Away - Alex Boye
I'll Go Where You Want Me To Go - Rob Gardner
Blessed Be His Name - Jenny Phillips
Redeemer Of Israel - David Tolk
Be Still, My Soul - Alex Boye
In Humility, Our Savior - Hilary Weeks
I Stand All Amazed - Jen Marco Handy
A Poor Wayfaring Man Of Grief - Jon Schmidt
I Believe In Christ - Eclipse
Praise To The Man - Steven Sharp Nelson
Review:  This was one of Mason's favorite CD's to listen to while on his mission.  A nice mix of vocal and instrumental arranged and performed by many of today's most popular and talented LDS artists.  While not 100% hymns it is very close.