April 20, 2009

Rethinking the Care Package

via jazmyn

For the last 36 hours, I’ve been recovering from food poisoning (not suffered at my own hand, mind you, but a restaurant that will now receive my eternal scorn!). Not so interested, as you might understand, in chatting about spring soups. But I am mustering the energy for something else: Care Packages.

When I was in college, my sister sent me the best care packages filled with makeup and bath products. My mom would send her incredible chocolate chip pecan cookies, and on the receipt of either, I found myself overjoyed in the dark, subterranean mail room of my school. I sent my little brother my attempt at the best chocolate chip cookies. To a college junior who had probably had too much to drink the night before, they were perfection.

I had always thought of care packages as being relegated to the college years, until my friend Jenny once sent me a pair of magnificent gold sandals in the mail. The care package can really be giving whatever the recipient needs — like three kinds of chocolate to a hormonal friend or a bunch of yellow daisies to another who’s been down in the dumps. I enacted the “local care package” when a friend was working so hard and so tirelessly that he rarely stopped for lunch. He was getting noticeably thinner. So I put together a bag of groceries that could be kept on his desk and grabbed by the handful. Chock full of preservatives? Some of the snacks were (peanut butter Ritz cracker sandwiches are a favorite of his), but I also included cashews, wasabi peas, and dried mango slices.

There is a certain level of self-satisfaction when you give someone just what you know they need but which they aren’t, for whatever reason, providing for themselves. That’s when you, the ever perceptive friend, get to swoop in and save the day with bubble bath, cupcakes, and all the words of encouragement needed.

What are some “care packages” you’ve given, even if it wasn’t via the mail or was as small as a Hershey’s kiss?

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  • Evy Jacob: I haven’t given any care packages. Yet. But I think this is such a great idea! I will definitely be putting some together soon.7 years ago

  • Alicia Kachmar: My parents still send me care packages! I love it. Maybe once a month or so? There are always cookies of some sort and then little gifties, newspaper articles and a hand-written note.

    I’m actually working on one for one of my best friends who does my taxes every year (I only gave her my tax stuff 4/12 this year–terrible!) Ideas???7 years ago

  • Lisa (dinner party): Love this. I wish I sent more packages myself but I abhor standing in line at the post office, especially the dingy little Park Slope station.

    My mom sends me cute, random collections of things from time to time–the last box contained seeds and plant fertilizer, chocolate, and a tiny bottle of truffle oil.7 years ago

  • Sarah: Alicia, Hmmm….how about those Mast Brothers chocolate bars that are too pretty for words?

    Lisa, Yeah, the big obstacle with this one is standing in line at the post office. Though sometimes the self-serve station is not such a bad wait.7 years ago

  • Kathy: I just sent a care package containing a pair of my handknit socks in a pretty lilac to a friend who seemed a little down and yearning for Spring! And shared a still warm rhubarb pie with a neighbor who loves them as much as I do.7 years ago

  • Kristina: When I was in high school, my best friend lived in Scotland. We took great delight in sending each other boxes filled with all kinds of goodies: little mirrors, silk scarves, origami, exotic teas, dried flowers. Mix tapes were a requisite ingredient, as well. I’ll never forget the joy I felt opening those packages.7 years ago

  • The Dishwasher: Love letters and oatmeal-raisin cookies!

    I need to do a birthday present-style care package in the next few days. This was a good reminder!

    Sorry about your food-borne illness. How utterly unfortunate! 🙁7 years ago

  • melissa: my girlfriends and i send a lot of care packages (hmm…it didn’t even dawn on me that this wasn’t the norm. a by-product of having beloved long-distance pals, i guess), usually filled with freshly-baked treats, skincare/perfume samples from places like Kiehls and L’Occitaine, travel-sized bottles of nice shampoo and lotion, fresh coffee beans or tea and English chocolates, books, cute little thrift-shop finds and stickers and political buttons, etc., etc….there’s usually also a mix-cd and some pictures, too. oh! and a handwritten note, always 😉

    it’s so much fun to package them up! we’ve been sending them for so long that you start just keeping a stock-pile of “stuff to send next”.7 years ago

  • Hope: I love the care package idea for friends. I’ve got a few friends who live out of state and I miss them so much. This may be the perfect idea to stay in touch with them. THANKS!!7 years ago

  • Cordelia: I sent my best friend a care package while she was studying abroad in Paris. It had a CD of my favorite French songs and silly toys from the dollar section at Target (cactus shaped shot glasses anyone?). It was just to say, ‘even though you’re in a beautiful city, it’s okay to be a little lonely.’

    Also, my dad overnighted me a birthday-in-a-box every year while at college–cake, streamers, balloons, candles. It was always the best present.

    Here’s my favorite recent post on care packages from inchmark:
    http://inchmark.squarespace.com/inchmark/2009/4/17/spring-in-a-box.html7 years ago

  • Marianne: I love sending cute flip-flops, baked goodies, or someone’s favorite scented lotion or soap.7 years ago

  • These are all such wonderful ideas!! (And that Sarah up there was me…whoops!)

    That inchmark post is the freaking best! So gloriously sunny! Thanks for sharing, Cordelia.7 years ago

  • Suzy: The most memorable care package I’ve ever sent was to a friend who, after her first child died, was pregnant again and hospitalized to prevent her from going into pre-term labour. She was on bed rest and bored just lying in a hospital bed all. Day. Long. Her family lived far away and her husband could only visit for so long each day. And she had something like 14 weeks to go. So I sent her a package of homemade cookies, her favorite chocolate, and a numbered lineup of gifts to open each week until her baby was born. Some were for her, and some were pedestrian baby supplies (rubber bottle tops, anyone?), but I thought she could look forward to unwrapping something every week. As it turned out, her baby came far earlier than hoped, and she ended up opening the bulk of the presents at once, but I think she enjoyed it.7 years ago

  • Suzy, you are an amazing friend. Your friend was so lucky to have all those wonderful little gifts from you to give her something to look forward to each week in the hospital.7 years ago

  • Rachel C: Sarah – so sorry to hear about the food poisoning 🙁

    Funnily enough I have been thinking about care packages lately. They’re not a part of our culture here like they are in the US since most people don’t go away to college – but having lived in the US and Canada, I’ve seen how care packages can so brighten someone’s day (or week).

    Do you have any creative tips for tying/wrapping parcels as beautifully as in the pic you’re using?7 years ago

  • Jules @ Lovely Las Vegas: Hope you feel better very soon!

    I have sent some care packages to amigos, but my favourite, most memorable package was one sent to me courtesy of my sist when I was having a rough semester in grad school. It had several lovely things that where “totally me”, including a latern decorated with Japanese cherry blossoms, some ornate candles, and other relaxing elements.

    Great reminder that care packages can be sent for some many reasons and have the power to bring much joy to the recipient.7 years ago

  • Jill S: I always get care packages from my mom, usually homemade cookies, snacks (I beg her for lasagna but I don’t think Ill ever get it!) and stuff that you could tell her really spent time to think about. She just sent me a care package from this company and it was very clever: http://www.boxobox.com.

    I got the pamper box, and it was filled with burt’s bees stuff, vegan cookies, pita chips, etc…

    From my perspective, stay away from the “costco” snacks if you are going to send a care package to a friend. There is nothing worse than getting a bunch of stuff that you could get in the vending machine down the hall. On the other-hand, getting something in the mail is always nice; regardless of what it is!7 years ago

  • Betsy Peggy: My “care package” is a journal that my two closest friends and I circulate. I came west for school, while they stayed east. So, to go beyond phone calls and email, we got a composition notebook that each girl gets for two weeks at a time before sending to the next in line. Inside, aside from journal entries and pictures, we slip little flat gifts, such as gift cards, perfume cards, pressed flowers, and so on.7 years ago

  • wendyj: I’d not been dating my boyfriend very long when a close mutual friend’s mother became really ill. Our friend spent days at the hospital caring for her mother and didn’t have much time left for herself. One afternoon my boyfriend busted out that he’d been wondering what we could do, and suggested that he make a lasagne and I knock up a banana bread and we drop it over to our friend.
    The ensuing cooking session was not only loads of fun, but really special cos we were doing it for someone – and my crush on him magnified, like, ten million times. Our friend was delighted with the thought and it helped her our through a difficult time.
    Sine then we’ve made the lasagne/banana bread combo for many friends in many situations. Each time it’s appreciated and each time I am reminded about how lucky I am to have stumbled across a care-package giving lad!7 years ago

  • Bernie: I like to do little thing, although now that I don’t have a roommate it’s much more difficult. I used to leave bagels and cream cheese on their desks when I came in late and I knew they had an early class, or would pick one or two flowers and stick them in a soda bottle to cheer them up. When I lived in my first dorm room, freshman year, I invented “Holiday-a-day” to perk us all up; every day I’d change the whiteboard and make it something funny, like “Walk like a Turtle Day” or “Celebrate the Raisin Day.” It was super fun.7 years ago

  • Jecca: My husband is in the military, so I make lots of care packages (4 deployments so far). Everything has to be consumable, durable, and take up no space long-term, since he has almost no space to keep stuff. I put in nonperishable treats, although he doesn’t have a huge sweet tooth, so it’s usually tea, crackers (well wrapped), choc-covered espresso beans. Trader Joe’s is great for care package treats. A homemade card is always a must, too, of course.

    I just sent my best friend a care package last month, and it was so fun to put together. Nail polishes, crystal nail file, mix CD, and an amazing journal with a letterpress cover.

    I love mail!7 years ago

  • syd: Sarah–This is such a sweet topic!! I love sending “care” packages, and I like to do it rather randomly. My favorite one to send to my sister and bff’s is a “Christmas Holiday Survival Kit” of sorts that I like to hand out/send right at/after Thanksgiving……..I usually try to pick a theme, like “snowflakes” and select items revolving that theme -a gently used Christmas-themed novel or romance novel, “snowflake” socks, coffee mug, hot cocoa mix and assorted teas, candles, note pad–items that help make the holidays easier for the recipient. I also like to send little “sussies” through the mail to family and friends that they aren’t expecting, just to brighten their day. Who doesn’t like receiving a package??

    Have a fun day!7 years ago

  • Rachel, Great question! Colorful tissue paper inside always is lovely, as our rubber stamps on the outside. And I am always, always a fan of beautiful wrapping papers. And just make sure the package isn’t filled with a lot of environmentally nasty packing supplies!

    Jules, Thank you — I am feeling much better today and really looking forward to my first cup of coffee in the three days!

    Betsy Peggy, I have a friend who does that too!

    Wendyj, Yeah, that would pretty much make me fall in love with a guy, too. And lasagna and banana bread is like the most comforting one-two punch. Well played!

    Bernie, Very creative! Too bad all roommates aren’t like you!

    Jecca, There are so many rules about what you can send to troops overseas — I can definitely see why it might be more fun to put together a package for your friend. Trader Joe’s is a great suggestion, though, for treats to pack and send to someone.

    Syd, The Christmas survival kit is genius!

    You all have such tremendous ideas! I love the comments on this one!7 years ago

  • Karen: I love care packages! Not sure if this counts, but I love exchanging little things with my boyfriend — just out of the blue. Flowers, a gift card to a bookstore, favorite candy. Sometimes they’re just what you need on a bad day!7 years ago

  • Shay: Two water bags and a pair of polypropylene longjohns sent to the spousal unit in Saudi Arabia during Desert Shield. I ordered them from L.L. Bean and the woman on the phone said of course they would be delivered.

    And they were. I had this mental image of a UPS truck driving from foxhole to foxhole through the desert until they found the right one….7 years ago

  • Joy: I love putting together care packages. One of my best friends lives in French Guiana so I often send her packages. At Christmas I include all the British Christmas treats that she’s missing out on (crackers, mince pies etc etc) and then when she got engaged I sent her lots ofd bridal magazines with lots of pink hearts I’d cut out of pink paper. The best thing is wrapping everything in really pretty paper and slipping in tiny treats and notes. Rita Koenig’s ‘Domestic Bliss’ has an excellent section on care packages. I truly believe that anyone that bothers to queue in the post office and pack something with love is a friend to be cherished.7 years ago

  • Deelish Dish: I love care packages and also think PMS packages are genius. A little basket or shoebox filled with chocolate, soothing tea, a hot water bottle from the pharmacy, perhaps some midol,and a magazine or chick flick. When someone says it’s okay to have a pity party and spoils you with essentials.7 years ago

  • Meg: My mom still sends me care packages, they are always fun. I did send cheap care packages to my best friend while we were away at college 10 hrs apart. Mostly consiting of samples we’d found or funny stickers or magazine pictures. I’ve had to cut back a little, but I do find time to send a fun card with a message about all sorts of things, or a picture I’ve taken sent as a post card. I think thing that are heartfelt make the best surprises!7 years ago

  • HereBeDragons: I usually send out books, sometime fresh baked cookies, mix CDs, jewelry – the standards.
    Here’s one of the best care packages I’ve received: http://jennannej.blogspot.com/2008/05/have-i-mentioned.html7 years ago

  • Stacie: I’ve been wanting to put a care package together for my boyfriend, and i’m so picky with how I want it, I can’t seem to find such a nice box like you have in the photo! I’ve even searched through stores to find the very nice Kraft boxes, and I can’t seem to find any 🙁 I can find some online, but it wants me to buy atleast 50 boxes. I only need one 🙁 Where did you get that gorgeous box? Did you have to buy a bulk of them?4 years ago

  • Hi Stacie, I found that picture online, but my best suggestion is to try a craft store, a baking supply store (maybe a long shot), or some place like The Container Store. Good luck!4 years ago

  • natalia: wow i love all these ideas and i am sure i will be making a great care package soon. my cousin just moved to china from colombia for a job and i want to make her happy with a few gifts from home.

    another good idea i plan to put in is a USB,
    maybe include some music and photos in it but leavng enough room for her to use it3 years ago

  • Arctic Char in Sustainable Lemon Cream Sauce | Taste Life Twice: […] Oh, and by the way, the cream for this was organic, and the lemons were sustainably farmed, if you can call the trees in my parents’ backyard a ‘farm.’ SO glad I’m still the occasional recipient of their care packages! […]3 years ago

  • Danelle: I’m putting one together for my friend whose parents look like they’ll be getting a divorce. I’ve made her a notebook on how to deal and to give her a place to vent before she ready to share elsewhere, chocolate, popcorn, hot chocolate and maybe a cookie. And also a card that I’ve written a note in.2 years ago

  • Sophia Garcia: I just made a care package for my sister since she has been feeling blue. I bought her some nail polish and lip gloss and some fuzzy socks and put them in a cute little makeup bag.. Then I threw in a comedy some popcorn and chocolate. And to top it off I bought her a cosmo magazine and put that in there as well. I will be sending it tonight!2 years ago

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