Favorite College Care Packages

I had lunch recently with a friend from college. She has lived just about 45 minutes from me for years, and we didn’t even realize it till about three years ago. Last month, we finally went to lunch after talking about it for a long time, and now, we’ve decided to make it a monthly thing. She has four children, and her oldest is a freshman in college. She told me she is putting together a Halloween-themed care package to send him, including lots of his favorite little treats, and it reminded me of care packages my own mother used to send me…over thirty years ago, when I was in college. She was really good about sending boxes of fun, silly things, and sometimes, she would just send something as simple as a sweatshirt or a pair of fuzzy socks, but it always made me smile.

These days, it’s easier than ever to send care packages, and I’ll get into the easy ones later, but Mother used to send me things she had bundled herself, and those care packages were hard to beat. Don’t all college students love to get mail and packages? Sometimes, she would send small packages just for me, and sometimes, she would send a bigger bundle for me and a roommate. Here are a few examples of things she did:

  • Halloween Care Package in October. It included silly Halloween socks, the kind you get in the Dollar Spot at Target; my favorite Halloween candies; a few favorite snacks (chips, cereal bars, etc); plastic spiders; rubber snakes; glow-in-the dark plastic teeth; wax teeth; Halloween hair ties; Halloween t-shirt (you can get some pretty inexpensive ones in Walmart and Target); and if she were sending it now, she would have definitely included some gift cards to local eateries.Exam Care Package. At the end of November, she would send a big box as a care package for final exams. She would include lots of favorite snacks: Toastchee Crackers,Microwave Popcorn, Chips, Breakfast Bars, and some favorite candy. She might also include a MadLibs book…great stress-relieve entertainment for silly college students. A couple of People and Us Magazines were good for taking a break from studying. And she might have included some silly childhood toys like YoYos, Jacks, a Gyro-Wheel, an Etch A Sketch, and even a Wooly Willy…see below. Oh…and temporary tattoos…always fun. Squirt guns were a big hit! Childhood toys were always fun, because they were good for a laugh. Friends from all over the hall would take study breaks and come to my room to play with those silly toys.
  • Winter Care Package. In late January, she would send a Winter Care Package that included cheap gloves for me and my roommate, warm socks for both of us, cheap sock hats, a warm sweatshirt for each of us, packages of powdered hot chocolate, cheap ear muffs, and maybe some travel magazines that showed sunny destinations.

You get the picture. As the year progressed, she tried to put together thoughtful bundles. Sometimes they were all very similar, but she would include just one or two special items for a holiday….like those packages of Valentines you get in elementary school…she knew it would be fun for us to tape those on the doors of friends on our hall.

And after I graduated from college and moved to Atlanta, she would still send me care packages. My favorite was one she sent to me and my roommate in December. It was an Advent calendar in a box. The days weren’t on it, but there were two of the same wrapped gifts for every day of Advent, and she had the gifts numbered. I wish I could remember everything she sent. On the first day of Advent, we opened Christmas stockings. We didn’t have a fireplace, so I think we just hung them on the bar. The next day, we likely opened…you guessed it…socks. Big fat candy canes might have been day 3. Light-up antlers might have been day 4. Lights to hang in our apartment could have been day 5. You get the picture. She wrapped anything Christmas-themed she could find and put it into the box. 

Nowadays, though, if you don’t want to take the time to put together a care package, you can simply order online and have them shipped to your student. Simply go to Amazon.com and find regular care packages, but if you want themed packages, simply input what you’re looking for. I entered “Halloween Care Package” on the Amazon search, and I got several options. You can see them here. Another option is a monthly subscription to care packages through College Care Packages…see their options here. I have also found a fun company called Hip Kits that puts together care packages for college students, and they are a little different than the ones on Amazon. See Hip Kits here. 

And for some other unique care package ideas, go to Etsy.com and enter “care packages,” and you’ll get lots of unique results. Click here to see some of the options.

Also, don’t forget restaurant gift cards make great surprises for college students. Sometimes, too, I’ll just Venmo a little money to college students I know, and when I do, I say it’s for WAM (walking around money) and I add the emoji of the person walking plus the emoji showing a bag of money.

 

When I was in college and in my 20s, any time I left my parents’ house, Daddy would give me some “walking around money,” which we also called “WAM.” If you aren’t familiar with the Venmo app, it’s time to get with the program. It’s super easy to send money to friends/family with Venmo. If my daughter picks up the tab for her friend at Starbucks, the friend will send her $5 via Venmo. Get it?

But no matter what little happy surprise you choose to send your child…or someone else’s…they will be grateful. College is fun, but it can be stressful, and it’s always fun to receive a package or some walking around money.

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Game Day Snacks

It’s football season! Finally!

In North Carolina today, the sky is a little more clear, and the wind is a ever so slightly more dry. Maybe it’s a cold front moving in, or maybe I’m imagining it, but since today is National College Colors Day, I know it is officially football season.

I love all kinds of football…high school, college, professional…well, I don’t really like to watch bad, messy football (like that Florida/Miami game last week), but I will even take that over no football at all. I get it from my mother. The woman loved football. Interesting that the start of football season usually falls around her birthday. She is gone now, but I know she would be excited if she were here. In my house, you had to like football. You also had to like to watch baseball and basketball, or you were going to be watching television alone. We watched sports year round. I don’t watch baseball and basketball like I used to. I still like them, but I just don’t watch them much anymore. But football? Bring…it…on!

And with football, there are gatherings of friends and families. Where there are gatherings, there must be food. I’m not talking tailgating…that’s food on a whole different level. I’m talking football gatherings at home…like the one I’ll have this weekend when Alabama plays Duke in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game. I’d normally go to that game, but my teenage daughter has big plans for the weekend, and I didn’t really want to go without her.

So here are a few of my favorites to serve at football parties at home:

  • Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves. This is a recipe from my very favorite source, Hungry Girl. I’m an avid follower of on Instagram, and I subscribe to the emails and check the website regularly. These Cheeseburger Mini Meatloaves are simple to make and require only a few ingredients. You won’t believe you didn’t think of these yourself. I’ve served them several times, and every time, they disappear quickly, so make a few batches. See the recipe at hungry-girl.com, here.

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    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Toasted Pimento Cheese Rounds. Super easy to make. Purchase a sliced French loaf at your local grocery store. Spread your favorite pimento cheese spread over the rounds. Crumble a few pieces of cooked bacon over the top. Pop into the oven at 325 degrees, and remove when cheese is bubbling. You can add a small 1/4 slice of tomato to the top or not. I prefer Palmetto Cheese brand (see it here), and I like the jalapeño pimento cheese for an added kick.

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    Photo from pimentocheese.com

  • Veggie Dip. I love the flavor of dill in a dip, and I’ve found a great recipe for a veggie dip. It contains onions and dill, and it’s fresh and tasty. It’s just a few ingredients and super easy…but super tasty. Get the recipe here. Serve with your favorite raw veggies. I prefer carrots, broccoli, and cucumber slices.
  • Herbed Parmesan Popcorn. Popcorn is always a good snack for game days, but sometimes it’s fun with a twist. I found a recipe for Herbed Parmesan Popcorn that’s easy to make…notice a theme here? I don’t do complicated recipes. I’ve served it twice, and both times, it was well-received. Get the recipe here.herbparmpopcorn_jimfranco1-2
  • Seasoned almonds. My friend, Mary Ann, introduced me to some gourmet, seasoned almonds recently, and I haven’t been able to stop eating them. I think they are great to have in bowls around the room for a ball game. Made by Blue Diamond, I find them in my local Target. My favorite flavors are the Pink Himalayan Salt and the Rosemary. I like the Garlic, Herb and Olive Oil ones, but I have a feeling I will love the Black Truffle flavor too! See the Blue Diamond website here. You can purchase them in grocery stores, or you can order directly from Blue Diamond via the website.

And if you’re not up for preparing your own game day snacks, I recommend picking up from these two places:

  • Chick-Fil-A. I wrote recently about the Chick-Fil-A One app…don’t forget to use it if you pick up a tray of nuggets, chicken strips, cool wraps, mac and cheese, or cookies. And you must order in advance! I do all my ordering through the app, and I get those valuable points too! My person favorite for game day? A nugget tray with Chick-Fil-A sauce, a fruit tray, and some chocolate chip cookies. They’re always a hit. See the Chick-Fil-A website here.
  • Zoe’s Kitchen. I love Zoe’s. I discovered it when we moved our little family to Alabama for a couple of months in 2006, when my daddy was sick. Everything they offer is delicious. Their hummus tray is great for gatherings, and I love their pita trays too…a different kind of sandwich tray with a Mediterranean flavor. And if you just need some side items, I highly recommend their slaw and potato salad. See their website here.

There you have it…my recommendations for game day snacks. Let’s get this football season started! I can hardly wait for lots of games to be on every weekend.

Are you ready for some football???

My Favorite Brunch Recipes

Recently, I wrote about my delay in closing my mother’s estate. She passed away in December 2017, and I am just now getting around to closing it. I’ve been delaying it, because it’s depressing to think about the finality of it, but I’ve decided to look at it as a positive. I am going to host a champagne brunch to celebrate the closing…something my mother would love.

I haven’t set the date yet, but as soon as I do, I will invite some friends over for brunch to celebrate with me. I’ve already been planning the menu with some of my favorite recipes. All the recipes listed can be found online; the links are included.

  • Ham-It-Up Egg Cups. hungry-girl.com. Low in calories and high in protein, these yummy egg cups are simple to make and look cute too! Plus, they promote portion control! Your guests will rave. Get the recipe at hungry-girl.com here.

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    Photo from hungry-girl.com

  • Hashbrown Casserole. Betty Crocker. I would go to any party if I knew hashbrown casserole was being served! This recipe is pretty easy and has a lot of flavor, but since it contains potatoes, sausage, and cheese, there is nothing low-calorie about it. Personally, I would count this as my splurge for the day and enjoy it! Get the recipe here.

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    Photo from bettycrocker.com

  •  Biscuits. Lots of southern ladies have their mother’s biscuit recipes, and they don’t share them. I have my mother’s buttermilk biscuit recipe, but it’s a no-share item. But if you want some good southern biscuits without having to start from scratch, Mary B’s Biscuits, from the Florida Panhandle, are delicious. You can find them in the freezer section of your grocery store.

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    Photo from homadefoods.com

  • Fruit. You must have fruit. It’s spring, and it’s nice to have one cold item, I prefer fresh cut fruit, but I think I will make the traditional Southern Fruit Salad for my brunch. It adds a different look, and even though I never ate it when my mother served it, there must be something good about it, because it used to show up on southern tables everywhere. If you’re not from the south, you might balk at it, but try it just once! Get the recipe from Southern Living here.

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    Photo from southernliving.com

  • Dessert. I love pound cake, and my cousin gave me my grandmother’s sour cream pound cake recipe a couple of years ago. I think it’s perfect for a spring brunch, and I will serve it with a macerated-berry topping from Martha Stewart. While I’m not willing to share my grandmother’s recipe, you can make a classic pound cake from the Martha Stewart website. The recipe is here. And the recipe for the macerated-berry topping is here.mld104160_0709_scan_001_horiz
  • Beverages: Coffee, Water, Prosecco, and Aperol Spritzes. Here’s how to make an Aperol Spritz: over ice, combine equal parts Aperol liqueur and Prosecco. Add a splash of club soda and an orange slice. Drink up!aperol

After we’ve dined and enjoyed our Aperol Spritzes, we’ll have some door prizes, because Mother loved to win prizes! I’m not going to divulge those secrets till afterward. We’ll also have some take-home party favors to talk about afterward.

Mama would be proud!

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In a Pickle

Last month, I was scrolling through Instagram, and Hungry Girl (@hungrygirl) Lisa Lillien had posted a photo of a pickle bouquet. Yes, a pickle bouquet. Apparently, she got the idea from Grillo’s Pickles (@grillospickles)…a Valentine’s Day bouquet made of pickles. I thought it was funny and innovative. There’s no way I would do it, because the pickles would dry out, but I do love pickles. But it could be a fun green gift on St. Patrick’s Day.

Anybody who loves pickles as much as I do knows they are a good low calorie snack. Sure, lots of them are high in sodium, but they sure are tasty! When I snack on pickles, I just make sure I drink a lot of water too. I eat pickles all the time…every day. Feeling a little hungry in the afternoon? I grab a pickle.

But different people like different pickles, so I’m going to share my personal favorites.

Grillo’s. Since they were the originator of the pickle bouquet, I felt it would only be fair to include them in the list. The problem was that I had never tried Grillo’s Pickles before, so I went online to find out where to buy them, and I was able to pick up a jar at my local Harris Teeter grocery store in Charlotte. One thing you need to know is that Grillo’s are made from a 100-yr-old family recipe, and they are made in Boston.  I had a friend (may she rest in peace) who grew up in the Boston area, and she was a fantastic cook…recipes passed down through her Italian family. I knew they would be good even before I tried them, and Grillo’s Pickles Italian Style Dill Spears do not disappoint! They’re crisp and tart…exactly what a pickle should be! And they might be the only pickle company with a Patrick Ewing shoe called “The Pickle.” See their website here.

Wickles. My neighbor in Charlotte introduced me to Wickles years ago. They originated in Dadeville, Alabama, and they are the product of a 90-yr-old recipe. Their original pickles are my favorite. And I should tell you they are named Wickles because they are “wickedly delicious pickles.” They’re sweet. They’re spicy. And they have the perfect amount of crunch. They’re great on sandwiches and in recipes, but my favorite way to eat them? Right out of the jar! Is it bad to eat an entire jar in one sitting? I’m asking for a friend. See their website here.

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Boar’s Head Dill Spears. Yesterday, I went to the grocery store, and while I was standing at the deli case, I noticed a jar of Boar’s Head Dill Spears in the refrigerator case. The packaging was appealing, so I picked it up to look through the jar. Dill and some veggies at the bottom made me curious, so I purchased them. When I got home, I stuck a spaghetti squash in the oven, and I decided to try the Boar’s Head Dill Spears…right out of the jar. I will be going back to the grocery store today to get more! They are sour, but not too sour. They have a nice garlicky, dill flavor, and they are crisp! There’s nothing worse than a limp pickle. I found myself going back for pickle after pickle throughout the afternoon. Two thumbs up for Boar’s Head Dill Spears. See their website here.

Oh Snap! I discovered Oh Snap! Pickling Company last year in my local Target store. I was looking for sandwich meat and the Oh Snap! package caught my eye, so I grabbed two of them. Oh Snap! offers pickled carrots, pickled peppers, pickled beans, and yes…pickled cucumbers. They are sold in individual serving size packages. I tried the Dilly Bites and Hottie Bites…eating them right out of the bag. They’re cold, crisp, and delicious. The Hottie Bites are a little too hot for me, but I’m sure my friend, Mary Ann, who loves nuclear-level spicy food will like them. The Dilly Bites are perfect for me…tangy with a  little kick. I keep them in my refrigerator for quick snacks. See their website here.

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Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill. My mother loved sweet relish in her salads…potato salad, chicken salad…always sweet relish. But as an adult, I wanted dill relish in mine. For years, I used Mt. Olive Dill Relish in all my salads. It’s made in North Carolina, and it tastes good, so I was making good salads and supporting the state economy. But then one day, I was in my local grocery store and ran across Mt. Olive Simply Relish Deli Style Dill. When I got to the register with it, the lady who was checking me out asked if I had ever tried it before. I told her I hadn’t. She said, “You will never use another relish after you use this.” And she was right! While the original dill relish is good, this is perfect for salads. It adds more flavor and crunch. Highly recommend! See their website here.

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So if you’re looking for a gift idea for someone who loves St. Patrick’s Day, a green pickle bouquet could be the ticket! Or maybe The Pickle shoe? I kinda dig the shoe.

Eat more pickles!

***Next time: Get Busy Living***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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