Saturday, August 20, 2016

What's Up, Doc?

Remember how Valentine's Day snuck up on me?  Easter did the same thing!  Nearing the holiday I stumbled upon these darling carrot cellophane bags at Walmart.  They are SO CUTE!!  I love the green leaves at the top.  You might be able to find them at the craft store when the holiday is approaching...or...I found them online for you (click here for the link).  Just fill them with some Easter treats and tie with a bit of ribbon.  I used curly ribbon and then curled it to add to the leaf effect.  Think my missionary will catch on?  I think not.  Add a bit of coordinating tissue paper and some shredded paper if needed for filler and you're good to go.  Again, I was able to fit two into a small Flat Rate box from the Post Office.  Again, about $5 to send.  Yay!!
Now when someone asks what you sent your missionary for Easter you can say, "Carrots!" 

Love Sacks

Why is it that holidays tend to sneak up on me?  I try to stay on top of things and then all of a sudden I discover that a holiday is coming up in a week or so and I have to step up my pace...or stay up late.  Usually, it's the latter.  Valentine's Day was just one such time so I had to quickly throw what I had together and get it in the mail in the morning.
I stopped by the grocery store and grabbed some Valentine candy and just dumped it all into a big bowl and gave it a good mix.  I happened to have these cute red and white paper sacks from another project.  You can get them at the craft store or online (if you're more prepared than I am, they are less expensive online!) Throw in some candy or other treats (you could go healthy if you want...but it's Valentine's why?) and fold down the top.  I tied it with some red and white bakers twine and added a tag to each bag.  Decorate the tags with a strip of coordinating Washi Tape (came in a Christmas pack) or stickers or stamps (I used a tiny heart) or whatever you have lying around in your stash then write their name and a short message on the back of the tag.  You can purchase the twine, tags and Washi tape from the craft store if you don't have any...I think I purchase all three at different times from Pick Your Plum which lately seems to have a lot of clothing but sometimes has some pretty cool package containers and craft items.
One of the great things about something simple like this is the fact that it didn't cost me a mint to put together or to mail.  I have a lot of missionaries that I send to and need to send one to their companion as well so I need to keep the cost down where I can.  I could fit two Love Sacks into a small Flat Rate box and mail for about $5 a box within the United States.  Just the right amount of sweet without being too much.

Christmas Letters to Ward Missionaries

Our ward came up with a clever idea to send Christmas greetings to the missionaries serving from our ward.  We have a LOT!!  They cut rectangles of Christmas wrapping paper (just leave the width and cut the length only) and used push pins to attach them to the carpeted walls in the cultural hall.  Attach name tags above each paper (see photo) so everyone knows who they're writing to...or you could just write their name at the top of the paper.  Have markers available for ward members to use...pens and pencils will poke holes in the paper.  If your nervous about the markers poking through the paper and writing on the walls, just attach a piece of poster board behind each one.  Encourage the ward to write messages and not just sign their names.  Fold each one up and send it on it's merry way.  The missionaries loved it!
Hint:  If you're using dark wrapping paper, have the members write
on the opposite side so their messages will show up easier.

Important Papers Packet

When you have a child go on a mission, one of the things they request them to do is have some important papers on hand when they arrive at the mission home.  For my other boys I just put these papers into the binder they were to take that had their pedigree chart and family history stories, etc.  For Connor I picked up one of these plastic packets with a snap closure from the office supply store.  It was $1 and worked perfectly.  I used my label maker (absolutely LOVE my label maker!) and put his name on it.  The papers that you send with your missionary are kept at the mission home for the duration of their mission and will be returned to them when they finish their mission.  Because I knew they would be kept safe, I also sent a copy of the cards he keeps in his wallet (front and back), his drivers license (front and back), and the information part of his passport.  Now if his wallet or passport is ever lost or stolen he just needs to get the papers from the mission office to be able to quickly cancel and reorder anything that needs to be replaced.  I also kept a copy at home in Connor's mission binder.
Do NOT send original documents...
 unless requested by the mission home. 
Send only photo copies. 
If the mission home requests an original,
keep a photo copy at home for your own records.
Papers to consider including:
Birth Certificate
Social Security card
Drivers License (front and back)
Driving record
Immunization record
Prescription record
Insurance card
Important contact information (parents, bishop, etc.)
credit/debit/bank cards (front and back)
bank contact information
HIPA release form
(permission for you to receive medical information)
Power of Attorney
(permission for you to handle affairs for your missionary while they are away)

Sending You S'more Love: S'mores in a Jar

Sometimes these packages just make me giggle.  I'm sure my missionaries just roll their eyes...and then chow down of course, because well, they're boys after all.  I sent this with the camping 'photo book' from our family camp out to years ago...and we just returned from this year's camp out...yup, I'm that far behind on posting.  Lame, I know.  Matt loved it though and said they were super yummy.  Don't know what the 'photo book' is?  Click here for that post...  On to s'mores, 'cause who doesn't love a good s'more?!
Materials Needed:
half-pint jars
mini marshmallows
graham crackers
chocolate candy bar or chocolate chips

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
milk chocolate candy bar
(roughly chopped)
or use chocolate chips
Mix melted butter and graham cracker crumbs until well combined.  Add 2 Tbs. of crumb mixture to the bottom of each jar.  Add chocolate pieces to cover crumb mixture.  Add mini marshmallows for the third layer.  Repeat all three layers ending with marshmallows.  Secure lid. (Yield: 5 half-pint jars)
Click here to download the jar topper and recipe card.
Make sure to line your box and wrap each jar in bubble wrap.  I also included some red tissue paper and brown shredded paper - Matt said they got there just fine.  Top it all off with the instruction card. 
Don't forget to write a note on the back of the topper
if you're not including a letter or card...Why?
I didn't used to do this.  I would send letters or I would send packages.  Not usually both at the same time.  I should clarify a bit:  I send letters but to help them get more mail I didn't usually include a letter in with the package.  The letter was always separate.  In Matt's mission (and I think most missions that are stateside) all mail had to go through the mission home.  I don't like it but I understand the reasons why so I'm ok with it.  Letters would receive an address sticker and be forwarded immediately to the missionaries.  Packages would stay in the office until the Zone Leaders came in weekly to pick up supplies or when the senior missionaries or mission president went to the area where they were.  Here's the problem:  When Matt arrived in his first area whoever typed the address into the computer typed it in wrong.  For 30 days...his first 30 days in the field, Matt didn't receive one single stitch of mail.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zilch...and we had NO IDEA until we started getting letters back 'return to sender'.  Why does it take two days to receive a letter but 3+ weeks to get it back when it's not deliverable!  It's a mystery...but Matt thought we just weren't writing.  Just makes me tear up writing about it.  He did receive one package.  His 'greenie' package and on that one package, I had taken the time to write a note on the back of the package topper.  He needed that.  He needed that boost.  He needed to know, right then, that we hadn't forgotten about him.  From the moment I read that in his letter, I decided that I would always write a note in each package because you just never know when that might be the only mail they receive.

Here's the cover for our campout 'photo book'...
May I just mention that I am loving Photoshop?
Yeah.  We're best friends
Pretty simple, I know...humor me.

"You Can't Stop the Waves" - Quote Card

"You can't stop the waves, but you can learn to surf." 
How appropriate is that for missionaries?  It explains their life in a nutshell...
or at least in a single sentence, right?
Print out onto heavy, white card stock.  Laminate, frame or just include with your letter.
Click here to download the Quote Card.

Orange You Glad it's Summer?

This package was SO fun to put together.  Pretty simple and pretty inexpensive and SO CUTE!!  Orange makes me smile.  It's just so...HAPPY!!  After the long, dreary winter this package is sure to bring a smile to the face of your missionary.  How could it not?  It's CUTE!!
Materials Needed:
orange shredded paper
cellophane bag
coordinating ribbon/tulle
(at least three styles suggested)
orange STUFF!
It's really pretty easy to fill these cute little bags.  Put a bit of shredded paper in the bottom of the sack.  It will protect the items that you put inside and make it look a bit nicer.  Look around the store or your home for things that are orange.  You don't have to include a lot to make the bag look pretty full.  For the Sister missionaries I included an orange flower that has a clip on it...they probably won't use it in their hair (not really the current style) but they could clip it on a sweater or blouse or on their shoulder bag, orange fingernail polish (mission rules vary on this depending on the mission president but they can always paint their cute little toes!), there are also orange EOS lip balms and orange tubes of mascara...go wild!!  You could also include and orange tie for the Elders as well as a small spiral orange notebook, an orange pen (the ink wouldn't be orange, just the outside silly).  Of course you would include a few treats:  Reese's candy bars, orange flavored Tootsie Rolls, Orange Slice candy, Orange gummie rounds, orange suckers, orange Tic Tac's...Cheez-it's also come in an orange package.  Make it fun, easy and inexpensive!  Print off the cute bag tag (see below) and tie a fluffy bow on the top and you're good to go.  Don't know how to tie a 'cute fluffy bow'?  It's a cinch!  Just watch...
#1 - Punch a hole in the top of your bag tag where shown.  Collect coordinating ribbon/tulle in various widths.  I suggest at least three different styles.  Cut one piece of ribbon about eight inches long and set aside (this is used to tie your sack closed in step #4). Stack all of the other ribbons/tulle on top of each other matching the ends as shown in the photo.
#2 - Spreading your fingers slightly apart, wrap the stack of ribbons around your fingers (see photo) at least three times.  The more times you wrap them around your fingers the fuller the bow will be.  Don't go too crazy or it might end up looking like a pom pom...unless that's the look you're going for in which case GO NUTS!!
#3 - Cut the ends.  Don't worry about cutting it even with the ends.  You can trim them up when you're finished.  Set the ribbons aside.  Just set something on top of it to hold in in place for a second...
#4 - Remember that eight inch piece of ribbon/tulle that you cut off at the beginning?  Use it to tie your sack closed.  Tie a knot so that it will stay tight for you...unless you have three hands or a helper...
#5 - Lay your stack of ribbon/tulle across the center of your knot...
#6 - ...and tie another knot to hold everything in place.
#7 - Your bow should now look something like this...
#8 - Slip your scissors through the loops of the ribbon/tulle and cut on both sides of the bow.  Don't worry, you really can't mess this up...Using the ends of the longer ribbon that you used to tie everything together in step #4, thread on your bag tag (see below) and tie securely. Trim the ends of the 'tie' ribbon.

#9 - Now just fluff and twist the pieces of ribbon into shape.  Trim any longer ends remembering that we're not making a pom pom (unless YOU are) and we don't want the whole thing to be too even.  Viola!  Aren't you talented!!  Cute, huh?  And easy!  Told 'ya!!

Just copy onto heavy card stock.  I laminated mine so it didn't tear through the card stock when I tied it onto my package but you could just put a piece of clear tape over the hole on both sides before punching it out.
Click here to download the bag tag

I also included this cute, inspirational 5x7 quote as a package topper. 
It looks adorable framed don't you think?
Or unframed is also good...maybe you could include an orange magnet!
Click here to download the package topper.


Friday, August 19, 2016

"Love Your Companion" - Quote Card

This quote is a favorite of mine from President Eyring.  He's not specifically speaking about mission companions though.  He's talking about your eternal companion, but the quote still fits.  Getting along with your companion is super important.  If you don't get along with your companion, the work will suffer...a lot.  This I know from experience.  You can learn to love your companion by serving them.  Sometimes it's the only way.  Praying for them is invaluable as well.
That said...the time that I didn't get along with my companion was the time that I grew the closest to the Lord.  Funny how He can turn all things around and use them to bring you to your knees before Him.
To find a few ways to use Quote Cards click here.
Click here to download the quote card.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Create a Family Newsletter

When my parents left on their first mission to Zimbabwe they were terribly concerned about "missing out" on what was going on with their children and grandchildren.  All 11 of us were married by then with children a plenty (it is Utah, you know!) and some lived in other states and ALL of us were busy, buSY, BUSY!  As the grandkids got older it just got harder to keep up with everyone.  My husband encouraged me to start a family newsletter and so The Bouwhuis Family Newsletter was born and every month for the next four+ years we all got to catch up on each other's lives.  It was a LOT of work but definitely worth it. 
My computer has a program that has templates for calendars, agendas, letter heads, etc. (Microsoft Publisher)  One option is Newsletters.  I simply picked the one that I liked the best and filled in the spaces.  It really was pretty simple.  I chose an online picture that matched the month i.e. a Christmas image in December and then set the color scheme to match the image.  I asked each family for their highlights each month and then occasionally for additional information depending on the article I was writing.  I included photos as often as possible especially if they showed the grandkids in action.  Because the newsletter was going to the whole family and not just Grandma and Grandpa, I included inspirational excerpts from their letters and emails in the newsletter as well.  When my first son left on his mission, I added an article on his mission.  When he would get transferred I would include a bit about his new area with a photo and statistics about his new home. 
Don't leave this for the last minute:  Work on it all month long.  When someone sends something, cut and paste it to your newsletter.  When you see a photo on Facebook or other social media that you would like to include, do it then.  When someone texts you a quote, cut and paste it then.  It only takes a few minutes if you set up your newsletter for the next month while this month's is printing.
Creating this newsletter brought me much joy.  It lasted through my parent's two missions and through my oldest sons mission.  When the joy stopped, I stopped and switched to a newsletter for my immediate family entitled If Your Last Name's a Color.  (click here for that post)
Below is a list of some of the articles that were featured in The Bouwhuis Family Newsletter:
Every family would send me their "highlights" for the month.  I would send out an email each month along with a deadline for when their 'highlights' needed to be sent.  Remember, people are busy.  Give them plenty of time along with a reminder email on the day that you're finalizing prior to printing.  If you still don't hear from everyone, print it anyway. 
It is what it is.  Something from most of the family is better than nothing from everyone.
Calendar for the next month
My calendar would take up the bottom half of the front page and include anything the pertained to the family i.e. baptisms, blessings, reunions, get-togethers, etc.  If there was more information included in another article in the newsletter, put the page number (for example: see pg. 4)
Birthday's & Anniversaries
A separate box contained a list of everyone having a birthday or anniversary during that month.
From the Great Ohio
This was the title for news from Mason when he was serving in Ohio. 
Out of Africa
The title for news from my parents when they were serving in Zimbabwe.
Cousins Corner
At current count there are 60 grandkids and 4 great-grandkids on just my parents side.  Jeff suggested an article highlighting each grandchild throughout the year.  I took the number of grandkids at the time and divided it by 12 issues to figure out how many grandkids I needed to 'highlight' in each issue.  The parent (or the child if they were older) were responsible to get me a current photo along with the child's favorite things - color, food, grade, friend, what they like to do in their free time, hobbies, etc.  I didn't come up with the questions, the parents just interviewed the child.  I would also include a list of the grandchildren to be highlighted in the next newsletter to give the parents a heads up.  This article was only printed for one year.
Our Family in Motion
This was actually a photo collage with captions under each photo.  Photos that showed our family in action - dance photos, sports, baptisms, blessings, birthdays, etc. 
This was an entire page.
Out of the Mouth's of Babes
This was everyone's favorite part of the Newsletter.  This is where we would record all of the fun things that people would say...especially the little ones.  People would email or text these to me as they happened which is really the only way it will work.  Forgetting is just a part of life.  This took up as much space as it took.  Sometimes I would get a lot of quotes and sometimes only a couple.  Make sure to record who said the quote and if you have a large family, who their parents are.  This will help out the family now but also help future posterity as they
read through your record.
Amamnesis means recollection or memory.  I wrote down the name of each adult in the family i.e. Grandma, Grandpa, all their children and their children's spouses.  I cut the papers apart and put all the names into an envelope.  Divide the number of adults by 12 issues and that is the number of separate Anamnesis articles that will go in each issue.  Each adult being featured was to send an article/story of a memory that they had.  The field was wide open.  They could remember anything even if it didn't have anything to do with our immediate family.  Make sure to include a list of those who are writing their memory the next month.
In this section I would share a Family History story of one of our ancestors.  Don't forget to include a photo with the ancestors name underneath along with how everyone is related to that person, for example:  Jessie VanOrden Bouwhuis is Grandpa's mother and the grandchildren's Great Grandmother.
Out of the Best Books
I asked family members to review a few of their favorite books.  Include the title, author, genre and a brief review.  Include everyone, even the grandkids.  This article lasted one year.
Conference Quotes
Anyone who wanted to could send their favorite quote or talk from General Conference.  I only did this article when Conference was the previous month.  Send an email or text on Conference Saturday and Sunday asking people to send their favorite things.

Miscellaneous Quotes
Use inspirational quotes to fill in space between articles.

Postage: .49 cents each
Printer ink:  $25 a cartridge
Having current family history recorded and helping
the missionaries to still feel part of the family: 
Warning:  Postage can get pricy along with printer ink...but not all families are as large as mine so it might not be an issue for you.  It can also cause angst when people don't forward their items in a timely manner.  It will only cause you stress if you let it.
Here's an example of what one of our Newsletters looked like:
(it's the only one that I had saved as a pdf on my laptop...probably not a superb example)


Gingerbread House Kit

Matt was working with a family during his first Christmas season in Seattle and was looking for ideas of things to help build their relationship with the little kids.  I had just stumbled upon some Gingerbread House kits while I was at IKEA (love that store!) and because I'm lazy busy during the holidays I had picked up a bunch for the kids to use.  Check THAT little tradition off my list of things to do!  They never eat the gingerbread anyway.  Actually, I think these are their Pepparkaka ginger cookie not gingerbread...even better.  They are delish!  Anyhow, I think they were $3 for each kit.  How could I NOT?  I thought this would be a great Family Home Evening activity for them to do with this cute little family.  Nothing better than bonding over FOOD, right?
I picked up a bunch of candy and some powdered meringue* to use for the Royal Icing so that it didn't need to be refrigerated because of the raw egg whites.  Mixed up a large batch and put it in a Ziploc bag.  Threw in a couple of frosting tips along with some instructions and a piece of foil covered cardboard and voilĂ !
*Note:  You can purchase meringue powder anywhere cake decorating supplies are sold.  The recipe is on the container.
click here to download the Gingerbread House package topper

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

It's not actually cold outside at the moment but it will be soon! 

I started dreaming up this package right around Christmas time when Walmart had their holiday fleece throws on clearance for $2.50.  I dug through the bin searching for ones that were more of a winter theme and not Christmas.  I managed to find enough for all of my missionaries...sometimes the stars manage to align just right. You could easily find winter themed fleece on clearance at the fabric store and you could make your own fleece throw.  Here's a link for an easy to follow tutorial:  In the tutorial they instruct you to use two layers of coordinating fabric.  I only ever use one.  Two is just TOO hot for my kids. Sometimes I cut and tie the edges...and sometimes I just cut off the salvage edge and leave it be.  You choose.  Easy.

Package contents:
fleece blankets
hot chocolate
Aromatherapy Rice Bag
(click here for instructions and printable)
(found at Gordman's last year but you can make your own, click here
or you can order them online from here)
Snowball Cookies
(click here for the recipe and printable)

I went to the Dollar Store and purchased mugs, and hot chocolate mixes.  One for my missionary and one for their companion.  I tried to get them in coordinating colors with my package...I was using cool blue, white and silver.  I'm a little OCD like that.  I'm sure my missionary just rolls his eyes.

Click here to download the package topper.
Print onto white cardstock.  Cut out.  Place on top of package.
Don't forget to write a note on the back!

"Bloom Where You're Planted" - Quote Card

Occasionally, when I'm sending a letter I will include a quote card.  Most of the time they go along with the theme or topic of my letter.  I know.  I'm strange.  That's the way I fly.  I try to always make them 4x6 inches so that they will fit nicely in a regular envelope.  Just print them onto heavy card stock and cut them out.  Occasionally, I send magnets (for their fridge) or a 4x6 inch frame with them when they leave on their mission.  That way they can use it to decorate their apartment and just change it out when they receive a different quote card. Just pick up a frame at the thrift or Dollar Store.   Laminated cards could be used as bookmarks. 
This would also make a nice birthday could send a new quote card every month.  Guess I better get busy and make some more!!
Click here to download the quote card.
Photo credit:  yeah...I don't know.  I always go to the free photo sites
and most of the time they don't tell you who took the photo.  Sorry.

7-up Lifting Ways to Have a Great Mission

I found 7-up Lifting Ways to Have a Great School Year from Colette on My Computer is My Canvas and tweaked it a bit to make it work for missionaries.  The poem is all over the internet so it's impossible to find out who the author is and give them credit for the original idea.  Sorry. 
You can download the free printable by clicking here.  Simply print onto heavy white cardstock, cut them out, punch a hole in the top for a bit of ribbon (optional) and laminate for durability.
I absolutely LOVE this idea and send it to my missionaries when they first enter the MTC.  For my foreign missionaries that can't receive packages, I just take off the bottle/can of 7-up and send the bookmark by itself.   So easy!

Don't forget to send one for their companion...or companions, if they're in the MTC.

Maybe a Postcard Will Do

Here's the've got to write letters to get letters.  People are great to send a letter to your missionary occasionally but if they never hear back, then the writing slows down and they just don't think about it any more.  It's a rare person who writes letters expecting nothing in return.  Our lives are BUSY!!
I had a goal while serving my mission to reply to each letter that I received.  I did it!  It was hard, but I did it.  I remember many a p-day when I would pump out 14 letters.  My handwriting has never been the same.  I used to get a blister on the callus of my writing finger.  Seriously!
When Mason was on his mission I realized that most missionaries just don't have the time to reply in long letters.  Maybe it's a 'girl thing' but he just couldn't do it.  He would write, but it was taking him forever to get caught up and he was getting stressed and missionaries NEED mail and they DON'T need more stress.  It occurred to me that many of us (mom's and dad's NOT included) don't really need a LONG letter.  They just need something...
"Thanks so much for your letter!
It's wonderful to hear from people at home.
Things are great here!  I love missionary work.
Stay strong and keep the faith...
Elder Brown
Doesn't take much to keep a niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, or ward member happy but all will be thrilled to receive anything in return.  Every missionary, no matter how busy, has time to jot a few lines.  Postcards keep things nice and tidy and short and simple AND the postage is less.   Winner, winner chicken dinner!
For the Elders...
...and for the Sisters.
When Mason was serving in Ohio I was able to go through some of his photos and have them made into postcards (see that post here) but Matt wasn't as...creative?...with his photos and I just couldn't find anything that would translate into a good postcard so I searched the internet for free photos that were applicable and went to work on Photoshop.  I came up with four styles for the Elders and four for the Sisters.  Had them printed (front and back) at Alphagraphics (love that place!) on a heavy cardstock that is glossy on one side (for the photo or picture) and matte on the other (for writing).  Tied them up with ribbon and sent them on their merry little way with some postcard stamps.  I even had his mission address printed at the top for the return address.  All Matt's mail had to go through the mission home anyway and that way I didn't have to worry if he was transferred. 
Printing Tip: If you just copy these files on 8.5x11 paper you will have a .25 inch white border around the entire edge of the paper as the copy machines are not designed to print right to the edge of the paper.  You could have them shrink down the file (for the front and back) so that the entire post card could have them print on larger paper and print two copies on each page.  This is the option that I usually do as I am always sending more than four post cards in my package.  Print the 'back' of the post card onto the back side of the front image and cut out.
Here's the postcards for the Elders:

click here to download the Elder post cards (fronts)
click here to download the Elder post cards (backs)
...and for the Sisters:

click here to download the Sister post cards (fronts)
click here to download the Sister post cards (backs)
And just so 'ya know:  Here's what the back of the post card looks like...

I wrote and included this sappy little poem to use as a package topper...
(with the help of my good friend, Tonya)
For the Elders:
you can download the poem by clicking here
For the Sisters:
you can download the poem by clicking here