Instant Christmas

We were faced with the dilemma that plagues Christians everywhere. How could we get our family—and ourselves—into the true spirit of Christmas? Last year the pictures of full-time missionaries on our meetinghouse bulletin board gave us inspiration for our best solution yet.

We began early in October with a lesson about the importance of missionary work. Then we explained our Christmas idea: to send gift packages to each missionary whose picture was on the bulletin board.

The children were enthusiastic, but were unsure of what to include in the packages. The missionaries serving in our area gave us an idea about what to send when we happened to serve instant pudding to them for dessert one night.

“This is wonderful,” they said. “We wish we could afford it.”

That was all the children needed to hear. They decided to fill the Christmas packages with instant pudding mixes, cookie mixes, rolls of candy, and homemade Christmas tree ornaments. We would also send each missionary a Book of Mormon in the language of the country where he or she was serving, complete with our family picture and our testimony in that language. (We could call on ward members and friends who spoke different languages to help us translate our testimony.)

Each family home evening for the next few weeks was devoted to a different step in preparing the packages. We began with a short lesson on a gospel topic, then spent the rest of the time working on the packages.

Although our project was a success, we learned some things that will make it go more smoothly in the future. This year we will start earlier—some of our packages arrived months after Christmas. We will visit a Church bookstore to get our foreign language copies of the Book of Mormon while we’re on our vacation this summer. We’re already saving boxes, and we’ll mail our packages in mid-October.Tan A. Summers, Metairie, Louisiana

Kid Mail

In our “instant age,” it’s tempting to use the telephone exclusively to stay in touch with those who matter to us. The telephone, of course, has its place, but writing letters can be a very satisfying form of communication. Not only are letters inexpensive and portable, they can be enjoyed again and again. And written words are revelations of the person writing them.

To help your children learn to write letters, try some of the following suggestions.

Set a good example. We convey to our children our own priorities through the choices they see us make. If we never take time to write (or read, study the scriptures, laugh, or pray), we will communicate in an unmistakable way that we don’t consider such things important.

Remind your children to write. If you get children into the letter-writing habit when they are young, it will be easier for them to make writing letters an integral part of their activities later in life. My sister Karen has always made writing thank-you notes promptly a high priority, and she strongly encourages her children to express their appreciation for gifts and favors as well.

Take the time to help. Share the fun of writing letters. Sit down and talk with and listen to young children to help them recall the news they might want to share. Talking together is an important prewriting step.

Accept children’s efforts. Encourage children to send a favorite coloring page to Grandma and Grandpa. Take time to write in the margins or on the back of the page as your little one dictates to you. If the letter written by your seven-year-old seems less than perfect to you, encourage him to send it anyway. Like a school photo of a child with missing front teeth, it portrays him as he is right now, and it is more precious because of its imperfections.

Correspond creatively. Help children come up with unusual letter ideas to add to the fun. Try cutting letters and pictures from old magazines for a pasteup letter, or have them write in code. Instead of writing in the conventional left-to-right mode, print letters backward, from top to bottom, or in a spiral. They might even try making the letter into a jigsaw puzzle.

Begin now. The key to success is to get started. Your child’s letter-writing efforts will bring joy to him or her as well as to the recipient. And they will teach your child the importance—and fun—of keeping in touch.Janine M. Gibson, Oregon City, Oregon

Using That Evaporated Milk

An item that disappears from our food supply at a surprising rate is evaporated milk. While we use nonfat dry milk in some cooking, we find that supplementing it with evaporated milk gives us more variety in our menus, makes our food taste better, and helps us use our dry milk more quickly.

We use evaporated milk in several ways. For cooking, we reconstitute it by adding one-half cup (4 fluid ounces) of water to an equal quantity of evaporated milk to replace one cup (8 fluid ounces) of whole milk. For pouring cream, we combine equal portions of reconstituted nonfat dry milk and evaporated milk. And we have found that adding a little evaporated milk to our reconstituted nonfat dry milk makes it taste better for drinking.

Reconstituted evaporated milk has a little more butterfat than regular whole milk. It has a rich, slightly carmelized flavor that enhances the taste of foods such as puddings and pie fillings (especially the cooked variety), cream soups, frozen desserts, casseroles, and beverages like eggnog and hot chocolate. However, if we want to minimize the milk’s characteristic flavor, we simply scald it.

We make a tasty dessert topping (with less than a quarter of the butterfat of whipping cream) by whipping evaporated milk. We thoroughly chill the evaporated milk, then add two tablespoons of lemon juice for each cup (8 fluid ounces) of evaporated milk. We whip it until stiff, then sweeten and flavor it. One cup of evaporated milk makes three cups (24 fluid ounces) of whipped topping.

To make sour cream, we add one tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice to one cup (8 fluid ounces) of undiluted evaporated milk and allow it to stand for five minutes.

Now that we know how to use our evaporated milk, we find that we need to replenish our supply about every six months. But if you don’t use your evaporated milk as quickly as we do, manufacturers recommend that you invert the cans every few weeks to keep the solids from settling.Winnifred Jardine, Salt Lake City, Utah

Reconstructive “Sergery”

Have you recently lost weight or gained a few pounds? Are your pants too baggy or too tight? Perhaps it’s time for reconstructive “sergery”—not on you, but on the pair of pants that no longer fit.

If the pant material is still in excellent shape, you can use it to make a new pair of pants for a child. The steps are fairly simple. Wash and dry the slacks, then undo the seams. This should give you four large pieces of fabric. Press the pieces well so that they will lie flat. Place the pieces of the child’s pant pattern on the fabric, with the right sides of the fabric together. Make sure you place each pattern piece on the straight grain. Pin securely, then proceed to cut out and sew the garment as the pattern directs.Mariam J. Grisham, West Jordan, Utah

[illustrations] Illustrated by Julie Young