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.

Who Told Me Who He Was?!?!

Last week, I posted a picture on my Facebook and Instagram accounts of me and NBA Hall of Famer, Dominique Wilkins. I ran into him at a restaurant in Uptown Charlotte when I was having lunch with a friend. Soon after posting the photo, I received a phone call.

It was my friend, Mary Ann.

  • Me: Hello?
  • Mary Ann: I saw that picture. Who told you who he was?
  • Me: What?!?!?!
  • Mary Ann: Who told you who that basketball player was?

And here’s where you hear that sound like brakes screeching. What?!?!?

Who told me who he was?!?!

Mary Ann should know better, but I guess she had a momentary lapse. She has been with me when I’ve spotted celebrities. She knows I have a keen eye. She knows I’m a crazy sports fan.

       Did she really think someone had to tell me who he was?!?!

My friend and I had just ordered our lunch when I saw a tall gentleman walk into the restaurant. I took one look at his face and said to my friend, “That’s Dominique Wilkins! He just walked in!”

Years ago, when I first got out of college, I was a flight attendant and lived in Atlanta. It was the late 80s/early 90s. Wilkins was a superstar for the Atlanta Hawks; he was a favored celebrity. Also known as The Human Highlight Reel, he was famous for good reason…highest scorer in NBA, slam dunk champ, All-Pro, and lots more…plus, he had played at the University of Georgia, so everyone in Atlanta loved him. He also owned a popular nightclub near my apartment, and folks were always talking about that. He was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 2006.

One morning, on an early flight out of Milwaukee, the Atlanta Hawks walked onto my flight. That team had lots of great players: Wilkins, Spud Webb, Moses Malone, John Koncak… and I got to spend a couple of hours with them! For the record, they were all very gracious…Moses Malone didn’t even flinch when I stepped on his foot, and when I apologized, he smiled and said, “No problem.”

So, of course I would recognize Dominique! Even almost 30 years later, when he was wearing a beanie to shield him from the cold, and glasses because we’re all 30 years older now, I recognized him immediately. I was going to wait a little while to approach him, but my friend pretty quickly asked him if we could get photos, and he very graciously agreed. I told him I had met him before, and I went through the story from almost 30 years ago. I also told him I remembered his nightclub, and he chuckled and said several times, “Now you’re taking me waaaay back!” He was one of the sweetest celebrities I’ve ever met (and I’ve met more than a few), and he even came by our table on his way out to tell us goodbye and wish us a good afternoon. I was so excited…still am!

Who told me who he was?!?! Oh, Mary AnnBahahahahahaha!

Chicago! Chicago! (Epic Road Trip, Part 3)

For years, my friend, Mary Ann, and I talked about going on a “crazy road trip.” What we really want to do is drive Route 66. My friend, Neill, wants to go too. We haven’t figured out the particulars yet, but if we take all the kids, we’ll have to get a big ol’ Partridge Family bus, which actually could be pretty fun. I think I’ll look into that. I wonder if anyone rents Partridge Family buses? (And before you think I’m wrong there, “buses” IS the plural form of “bus”. “Busses” would be the plural form of “buss,” which means a kiss.)

Three years ago, Mary Ann and I loaded up her three kids and my one kid in a Ford Expedition, and we took a different crazy road trip, saving Route 66 for another time. It was a kid-friendly, casual clothing road trip…totally about seeing Americana. I’ve written before about the fun we had on the first two legs of the trip, and here is Part 3. Every part of the trip was exciting and fun. Every part of it was not perfect, but sometimes, that’s what makes the best memories.

In my post a few weeks ago about Part 2 of our epic road trip, I told you we made it to Chicago safely. We made it there in pouring rain, but we must have brought the sunshine with us, because the rain stopped soon thereafter.

We had only planned to be in Chicago for roughly 36 hours, so we hit the ground running. We checked into the hotel, and as I said in Part 2, our room looked out on the John Hancock Center, making it easy to find our way back from anywhere in the city!

We stayed at the Hilton Suites Magnificent Mile…not a luxury hotel, but perfect for a family stay, as every room in the hotel is a suite. It is conveniently located near good restaurants, Lake Michigan, tourist spots, and luxury shopping (which we were not doing on this trip). To see the website for the Hilton Suites Magnificent Mile, click here. The rates were good, and the staff was incredibly helpful. I wrote one of my most raving TripAdvisor reviews about this hotel, because the employees there are helpful, courteous, and friendly. You can see my review and the manager’s response here. (Scroll down to my review, titled “Wowed by the service!”)

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We let the valet take the car (he came down the street in the rain to get it when I waved to him) and had the bellman bring everything up to our suite, and then set out on our first adventure in the city. After traveling all day, we had four hungry kids on our hands. Since this trip was casual, we needed to go somewhere that would welcome us casually dressed and with four kids in tow.

The concierge recommended Doc B’s Fresh Kitchen on Walton Street, which was just a few blocks from the hotel…an opportunity to stretch our legs after being in the car all day. The food was good, and the atmosphere was perfect for our motley crew. Located in the Magnificent Mile area, this restaurant was most accommodating for us. If you’re in Chicago and looking for a casual dinner place in the Magnificent Mile area, this could be the place for you. See their website hereMary Ann had the Tennessee Hot Chicken and said it was “OK,” but I had the Backyard Burger and thought it was fantastic. Even more special was the service. Our waiter, Taylor, took the time to write down the kids menu for us, since there wasn’t one available. We would definitely return with kids!

We turned in early that night, but the next day, we wanted to cram in as much activity as possible, because it was the only full day we had in Chicago.

We got up and starting securing reservations/tickets for the things we wanted to do. We knew we wanted to see as much as possible in one day, so we opted for an architectural tour by boat, a two hour bus tour of downtown, and a visit to the top of the John Hancock Center.

Everything started great. Our first order of business was the architectural tour by boat. We all loved it. Not only did if offer beautiful views of the city, but it also offered an opportunity for the kids (and adults) to see how the system of locks works from the river to and from Lake Michigan…fascinating for all of us. We highly recommend this tour, which you can book here.

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Going through the lock

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Chicago Skyline

After disembarking, we made our way to the nearest restaurant with a menu we liked. That restaurant was Sweetwater Tavern and Grille on Michigan Avenue…kid friendly. We all tried fried cheese curds for the first time there. Surprisingly, I had never had them, even though I’d spent a lot of time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in the late 80s and early 90s. We unanimously declared them delicious! We also ordered beignets, and these two gulf coast girls who grew up eating beignets gave them two thumbs up! You can check out the Sweetwater website here. To try fried cheese curds in the Charlotte area, you can visit Culver’s just off Carowinds Boulevard in Fort Mill. Check out their website here. If you decide to visit, go on an empty stomach and try their Butterburger and fries too. Then, top it all off with their frozen custard or a shake…all delicious.

After lunch, the bus tour took us on another architectural expedition…all very impressive in downtown Chicago. We purchased tickets and boarded the bus tour very close to the boat dock. Anyone can point you in the right direction. We visited the world-famous bean and Navy Pier before heading up to the John Hancock Center. The observatory there is now called 360 CHICAGO and offers breathtaking views of the city and Lake Michigan. When we were there, the TILT, an added attraction at the top of the center, wasn’t working, but we loved all the photo ops we had. This is a must-do, and if TILT is in working order while you’re there, you have to do it too. Check out the website and purchase tickets here.11221940_10207249962952203_752868439303655523_n

And this is when things got wonky….Mary Ann wanted Garrett’s Chicago-Style Popcorn, which I hear is amazing but I didn’t want to stand in line (over an hour!) for popcorn. You can see their website here. I knew my daughter wanted to visit Sprinkles for some cupcakes (click here) while we were there, so we split up, and Mary Ann took her kids to Garrett’s while we went to Sprinkles. We had planned to meet up for dinner, but my daughter wanted to go to Dylan’s Candy Bar and Cafe, while Mary Ann had a special place in mind for some Chicago-Style pizza.

In the midst of all this, Mary Ann’s daughter broke her flip flop and had to have new ones. Fortunately, when that happened, my daughter and I were in a cab headed for Dylan’s. We missed out on that “fun.” Since the American Girl Store was nearby, Mary Ann went there and paid a terrible sum for some flip flops for her daughter. It has been three years since this trip, but I feel pretty sure Mary Ann is still making her daughter wear those flip flops to get her money’s worth out of them…never mind that half her foot hangs off the back of them now!

So, while Mary Ann and family picked up a Chicago-Style pizza and brought it back to our suite, Milly and I enjoyed Chicago-style hot dogs at Dylan’s. She also ordered a mocktail called the Pink Cloud Lemonade…fun presentation and delicious! You can see their website and menu here. I should probably thank Mary Ann for letting me try the Chicago-style pizza and the popcorn after we got back to the hotel.11063784_10207249651824425_7273607532132704225_n

After a crazy busy day, it was time to pack up and turn in. We had another busy day ahead of us.

The next morning, we got up, checked out, and started our drive to Sandusky, Ohio, where we would be meeting friends from Columbus, Ohio, at Great Wolf Lodge. Of course, Mary Ann and I can’t drive straight through. We absolutely could not drive through South Bend, Indiana, without stopping in at Notre Dame. While there, we visited the stadium for some photos and shopped in the campus bookstore. We also got some photos with “the dome.” If you’re a Notre Dame fan, you won’t like this: we also pretended to take photos with the “girlfriend” of former Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o. See below. She’s standing between us…haha. Also, it was a road trip, so we were wearing comfortable attire…don’t judge.10438925_10207256465434761_5891661285876443717_n

Upon leaving South Bend, we traveled a little north, just so the kids could say they’d been to Michigan, and then we continued on to Sandusky, where my friend, Jennifer, and her daughter were waiting for us at Great Wolf Lodge! For information about Great Wolf Lodge Sandusky, click here. It doesn’t get any more kid-friendly than Great Wolf Lodge, and fortunately for us, they also have a bar!

Great Wolf Lodge was the perfect place for us to relax for the night before our big trip home. The kids all played in the water park, and the moms all relaxed next to the outdoor pool.

The next morning, we were homeward bound…but we took a little detour to a small town in Pennsylvania…for a funny reason. Read about that later in the final post about the road trip…coming up soon.

We highly recommend a trip to Chicago with your family. Our stay was so brief, it was just a teaser, but we will be going back.

Maybe one day we will make that Route 66 trip too. Know anyone with a Partridge Family bus?

Happy Trails!

Kelly

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