Saturday, August 15, 2015

Temple Pictures

The Distribution Center has some really nice photos of our temples that are very economical but one day nearing Christmas I stumbled upon a stunning photo of the Salt Lake Temple in the winter.  I thought it would make a beautiful decoration for Matt's apartment and would help bring the holiday spirit into his tiny home. 

I had some 5"x7" RIBBA frames from IKEA that were only $5.  You could probably find one at a dollar store as well or a thrift store or one that you have at is ALWAYS better!  I just saved the photo to my desktop and then printed it out onto some photo paper.  Added the photo to the frame and tied a piece of tulle and it was good to go.  Easy!  So excited to find other seasonal photos of the temple to send and he can just replace the photo.
I tried to find the link for this photo but was unable to at the time of posting but there were many other stunning photos and so many temples to choose from! 
Find a photo of a temple near where they are serving...
Note:  Be careful about copyright protected photos. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Letters: Sometimes you just need a direction...

Every month on Fast Sunday we have a Ward Walk-About.  We live in Utah so our boundaries are quite small...not that it matters.  It would be a great missionary tool!  In the evening on Fast Sunday someone's house or sometimes two are the designated gathering place for our walk.  Everyone gathers in the yard and in the street...some bring chairs, sometimes there are blankets on the grass, often there is a treat of some kind but for the next couple of hours we just visit...and laugh...and usually we do something for the plethora of missionaries and the one member of the military that we have serving from our ward.
I had noticed that when just a blank piece of paper is put out that people tend to just sign their names.  Nice, but a letter or note is so much better.  This month I was asked to come up with what to send (the missionary moms in our ward take turns).  I decided to give everyone a direction...a starting off point for their letter and it worked great!  I found rolls of brown package paper (not sure what it's called) at Walmart and it was really inexpensive and thinner than butcher paper.  With the plastic wrap still on the paper, I used my handy, dandy chop saw and cut each roll so it was a little smaller than a business size envelope.  I decided that I would rather use two stamps than have to send our letter in a box...that's just too pricey for the 16 missionaries that we currently have out.

I created a document in Word (shown in the photo above) that said: "Advice:  How to have a great mission", then I just used my light box to trace it onto the top of each paper.  You could also tape your template onto a window and use that as nature's light box.  I wrote each missionary's name at the top then I just taped them all to a long table, actually a couple of them but you could also just tape them to a garage door just don't hand out Sharpie's for everyone to use or you might have a much autographed garage door when you're finished.

If people are intimidated by writing to a lot of missionaries, remind them that they don't have to come up with different 'advice' for each one...just write the same advice over and over!
This worked GREAT!!  People just don't know what to write about.  Giving them a direction is sometimes all it takes.  The possibilities are endless!
Note:  If you're worried about the expense of mailing to all the missionaries in your ward or maybe to all of them in your extended family, just give them to the missionary's family to mail.

Create a Family Newsletter - Take 2!

When Matt left on his mission to Seattle I started a little newsletter for just our family.  By this time my oldest two were married and my daughter was expecting her first child.  I didn't want Matt to feel that he was left out of all the 'goings' on in our family especially with his first niece on the way.  By this time I had stopped publishing the 'extended family' newsletter.
As with the previous newsletter (you can find more on that by clicking here), I just used a program that was already set up on my computer that had ready-made fill in the blank templates (I use Microsoft's old but I know it well and it works great for me).  I chose a template that I liked and just filled in the blanks every month and change the photo with something free on the internet (you could also upload a photo that you have taken but I didn't want to put yet another pressure on me lazy).  Change the color scheme each month to coordinate with the photo.

Here are some of the articles that we included:

The Main Event
This was really the focus of our family newsletter and that's how I wanted it to be.  This way Matt was able to hear from even those who weren't super great at writing letters. This was space for everyone to write what was going on in their lives.  I didn't edit it at all...ok, not much, just corrected spelling.  I would type everyone's name in a little gray box (siblings, mom and dad, and spouses - see photo below) and everyone would just type a bit of what had been going on that month.  Everyone comes home every Sunday evening for dinner and our family Gospel Study so it wasn't a big deal for everyone to just take a minute or two on a given Sunday.  If you decide to do it that way, just make sure that everyone hits the 'save' button when they're finished with their bit...otherwise you may have to start over and that's a pain in the patootie!  These were never done in 'birth order' rather whomever was around and wanted to be next...

Special Points of Interest
Guess I could have come up with a more catchy title but it was already in the template and I just didn't change it.  This is where I would list family items that were coming up or needed to be added to their own calendars.  It was the next best thing to having an actual calendar printed in the newsletter like I put in our extended family calendar (click here for that post)
Baby, Oh Baby!
This was fun.  Here is where we would put photos of my daughter along with ultrasound photos and count down the weeks to her pregnancy.  We also sent out a fun gender reveal package when they found out they were having a girl.  (click here for that package)
Seattle Times
This is where I would include updates on our missionary (my missionary is the one on the far left in the left photo giving everyone the 'thumb's up').  Sometimes this section was short, sometimes long...depending on what information I was getting from him at the time.  If he was transferred I would try and figure out where he was living and stalk his apartment on Google Earth and insert a was SO difficult to get an address for him though as he was worried I would send mail there and it was against the rules), or I would put a bit about his new area...whatever did we do prior to the internet and Google search?
Out of the Mouths of Babes
I swear this was everyone's favorite part of the newsletter.  It was here that we would record all of the funny things that people say that you just know you'll never forget but you do.  Remember, babes don't have to be just the young ones...I've got a few VERY funny kids and they aren't so young anymore.
I have a teenage son who just loves to share funny things that he stumbles upon on the internet.  Jeff came up with the idea that he could be in charge of this article so every month Colin would look for just the perfect comic, or photo, or something that tickled his funny bone.  He's a great kid!
Include Quotes
Not really an article but a great space filler when someone's article wasn't quite long enough.  I tried to find quotes that matched the month, for example:  November = gratitude quotes/scriptures.
Brown Spots
Another article that Jeff cam up with...he's a keeper.  This article was always written by Maren, my youngest.  She would come up with a question and then ask or call or text everyone for their responses.  In this case her question was:  "What is your favorite Christmas tradition?"  It was always fun to find out everyone's memories.  Making everyone's responses in alternating tones (in the above case: black and charcoal)  made everyone's answers a little easier to differentiate.
Include Photos
Including photos is not really an article either but it was one of our favorite parts of the newsletter.  Missionaries really feel like they are missing out on what's happening.  If you keep them caught up on things at home it can really help.

Here's my opinion, for what it's worth (which is not much)...if a newsletter works for your family then do it!  If it is just an added stress or is not accomplishing your goals, then don't.  And even if you start a newsletter, it is not set in stone.  If something stops working then stop doing it.  You have my permission.  I found great joy in creating our family newsletters and hope that it helped my missionaries to feel that they were still included in the going's on at home.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


According to the missionary packet which you receive with your mission call, you are to label we did...except for Matt's dark know, the Gold Toe ones that you can buy at Costco and Sam's in bulk so they're cheaper much less expensive.  Yeah, we didn't label those.  It's not like a black laundry Sharpie is going to show up, right?  Well, it appears that a lot of missionaries take the Gold Toe socks on their mission...and when you combine efforts when doing laundry to cut down on expense, it just might mean that slowly...they start to disappear. 
Well that's what happened.  Within a transfer or two, poor Matt was down to less than a week's worth of socks.  Off I go to Sam's to pick up more socks with my brain spinning to figure out a way to mark his dark socks so he can quickly sort said socks from his companions...then it hit me...the Red Sox!  The Red Sox are Matt's favorite baseball team and at the time of the sock dilemma were on their way to the World Series.  Yes, I know that was in 2013 and now it's 2015...I'm a bit behind in posting.
So here's how we quickly marked Matt's socks.  Using the zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine I quickly zigged a half inch zag using red thread in the top of each sock.  Quick.  Easy.  Effective.  I mean, what are the odds that any other Elder in the Seattle Mission is going to have red zig-zag stitching in the tops of all his socks?  Oh...wait...until now.  Dang.  That's ok.  Not THAT many people read my blog.  Stitch away!

Mini Sewing Kit

When Mason and Matt went on their missions they received a rather LONG list of items to bring, one of which was a sewing kit...for obvious reasons.  While at Mr. Mac and Men's Wearhouse (among other places) trying to check off all the items on our list, we had the dickens of a time trying to find an acceptable sewing kit for these two guys.  Most of them were just too big.  Not really too big as in large.  Just too big as in, "Mom, I'm never going to use all that stuff! Who needs a million colors of thread?"  So we decided to make our own.
I picked up a small plastic box from Office Depot or Office Max or whatever they're going as this week, for .50 cents.  It measures 3" (w) x 2.5" (d) x 2" (h).  It's the same size that we used to make his mini first aid kit for his back pack (click here for that post).  It holds all the essentials:

You may already have all of these items in your home:
safety pins (various sizes)
white thread (small spool)
black thread  (small spool)
Therm-o-web hem tape*
you will also need some small jewelry bags
(see photo above - they measure 2"x3" and are reclosable and available at craft stores)
*Therm-o-web hem tape (or any other brand) will be an invaluable help to your missionary if a hem comes out of their suit or skirt.  All they have to do is lay the tape inside the hem fold, and press.  The heat from the iron will fuse the hem in place without them having to take a lot of time to sew in a proper hem and worry about how large their stitches are.

Some helpful tips and tricks:
- Thread your safety pins (various sizes) onto another safety pin.
- Weave your needles into a piece of paper or fabric, then put them into a small jewelry baggie.
- Put a few pins into a jewelry baggie.
- Cut out the instructions for the hem tape and wrap a long piece of the hem tape around the folded instructions and place inside a jewelry baggie (see photo below)
- Send only the colors of thread that your missionary will need i.e. don't send brown thread unless they actually have a brown suit.
- No need to send scissors as they will already have a pair in their snazzy Office Supply Kit that you made for made one didn't you?

There you have it.  Simple.

Money Candles

I have found a missionary's second birthday in the field to be somewhat strange.  Their first birthday is pretty easy.  They know EXACTLY what they want or need or miss, etc.  Their second birthday is not so simple...they say they don't need or want for anything and have even gone as far as to say, "Don't worry about sending anything for my birthday."  What?  Serious?  Where is my boy?!  Of course there's always the issue of carrying it all over your mission for each and every transfer so that might be it as well, even though I tell them to leave things in their apartment when they're transferred for other missionaries to enjoy (things like the Nerf machine guns I sent for his Hump Day) .  Who knows.
As a mom, I've decided to believe that our kids are growing up.  They've realized that they really don't actually need anything and their wants are significantly less than they were before they left.  If they are serving a foreign mission (and some domestic missions) they have come to actually see how little others have and to differentiate between their needs and wants.  I think it's a maturity thing and I'm not going to discourage him from feeling that but I am a mom so I can't just go for 19 years celebrating his birthday and then let one go!  It's just not in my DNA!!
This year when I got the reply to my "What would you like for your birthday" question, I was ready.  I had been watching the stores and online for a 'Grandpa' or 'Mr. Rogers' button-up cardigan in a neutral color.  It can get pretty chilly in Seattle with all the rain and damp so layering works best for warmth.  He had mentioned that he had found one at a thrift store in Seattle but that he'd started a 'trend' with the other missionaries and now they are quite difficult to find.  I found a nice one online and then sent a few of his favorite treats and a 'box of candles'...Money Candles.  What missionary can't find something to do with a little extra cash?  None that I know of!
Some time ago, I purchased these cute little boxes with a cellophane 'window' in the front from Pick Your Plum.  They were the perfect height for my 'candles'.  If you can't find one, just use something that you already have around the house and cover it with some scrapbook paper or decorate with Washi tape.  You could even cut your own 'window' in a box and cover it on the inside with a bit of clear plastic or food wrap and tape it in place.  You might even be able to use an actual empty birthday candle box if it's the right size for the bills.
Place a piece of string or twine in the center of your bill for the wick.
Make sure that it extends about a quarter of an inch out the top of the candle... 
you may want to tape it in place with a small piece of tape.
Roll up the bill and secure with a piece of Washi tape. You could use any kind of decorative tape or even a sticker but I like how the Washi tape isn't very tacky so it will be easy to remove without leaving any sticky residue.  I wrapped the tape all the way around the bill so it looks like a stripe...more than one stripe would be cute too!  When you're all finished, carefully line them up in your box.  I had a little space left over at the back edge so I just crumpled up another bill and pushed it behind the candles so they would stay nice and snuggly in place while in the mail.  Matt is turning 20 so I added number stickers to the front of the box.  If nothing else, he can take his companion out for dinner.  He's going to love it!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Leprechaun POOP!!

After Christmas I stumbled upon a large bag of red and green M&M's on clearance at the grocery store.  I came home and separated out all of the red from the green.  The red one's I included in Matt's Valentine's package and the green I saved for St. Patrick's Day.

(Yeah, I know the purple and green don't really match but I couldn't's SPRING!!)

Using a poem that I found on Crazy Little Projects (click here for the link) I whipped up this little sandwich bag topper and filled the bag with the green M&M's and some Rolo's.  It would work with any kind of candy that are green or gold.  Just the gold Rolo's would be so funny!

(click here to download)

I included our messages that we wrote at our last Bash for our family missionaries (click here for the post), some green cookies (Thanks, Tonya!) and this Irish Blessing for the package topper.  Simple.

(click here to download)

Leprechaun Mail

We had our family Bash recently and I had all the cousins write short notes to our family missionaries.  I tend to get better participation if I keep things quick and simple.  Too complicated or time consuming and their eyes tend to glaze over.  I found these cute St. Patrick's Day lunch box notes from Heather at The Chickabug Blog (click here for the free printable*) that worked perfectly. Some of them even have a question or wording on the top for those who can't think up something to write.

I wanted to put all the notes (there was quite a pile of them) into a small vellum envelope but I didn't have any on hand so I made my own out of waxed paper.  Not the perfect solution but I didn't have to go to the store.  Free is always better...just ask my husband.  After cutting out the envelopes, I closed them with a bit of Washi tape.  Cute.  Free.  Easy.  Winner, winner, chicken dinner!!

click here to download the envelope template

*Used with permission from Heather at The Chickabug Blog.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Aromatherapy Rice Bag

For my birthday this year our Relief Society gave me a Rice Bag.  Not sure what they're know, those bags that are filled with rice, wheat, corn or beans that you can stick in the microwave? This will make a brilliant addition to my Baby it's Cold Outside care package!  I purchased a yard of two coordinating flannels - so they don't mix up theirs with their companions. If you are only doing a package for your missionary you can get away with just 1/4 yard. You can get 6 bags per yard.

Aromatherapy Wheat Bag tutorial:
- 1 -
Fold fabric in half and cut a rectangle measuring 8"x18"  (or whatever size you want it to be)

- 2 -
With right sides together stitch all the way around the outside edge leaving about a 2" opening on one of the short ends for turning and filling your bag.  Clip corners.

Optional ribbon tag:  You can add this if you choose...just cut a scrap piece of ribbon and tuck it into one of the long sides, pin in place and continue with step 2.  The ribbon just gives your missionary something cool to grab onto when they remove their bag from the microwave.

- 3 -
Turn your bag right side out.  Press.

- 4 -
 Using a cone made from an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper, fill your bag with 2 1/2 cups of whatever filling material you choose.  (I used wheat because I have a lot of that in my food storage.  I poured it into a metal bowl and added some lavender essential oil for fragrance.  Don't use too's pretty powerful stuff but it's so soothing.)  Note:  I tried to use a funnel but it seemed to take for-e-ver.  A cone is much faster...

- 5 -
Fold your fabric in half and press giving you a stitch line.  Stitch in half.  (Stitching half-way ensures that your filler stays more evenly distributed and not all down at one end.)

- 6 -
Add an additional 2 1/2 cups of filler and stitch closed using a blind stitch.
If you're not sure how to do that, click here for a tutorial.

There you have it!  All done!
I folded mine in half and taped a tag on with a bit of coordinating Washi tape.  The instructions for warming and cooling the bag are on the back of the tag.
(You could just as easily punch a hole in the top corner and use it as a bag tag.) 
Place it all in a cellophane bag and tie it off with a cute ribbon.
(insert my missionary rolling his eyes here)

Click  on the photo's below to download the tag.
(I saved mine to a flash drive and had the copy shop print it so 
the back was lined up with the front when I cut it out.

bag tag front

bag tag back - instructions
(who knew you could also put them in the freezer?)