A care package is a box of goodies (food, clothing, gifts, useful items, fun items, etc) that you mail to a loved one who is away from home. USPS Flat Rate Priority Mail boxes are free to use and you can even go to the USPS website and have a pack of ten or more sent to you for free. You don't have to use the specific APO/FPO boxes but I like them because they say "America Supports You" on the sides. You pay a discounted rate when you mail a large flat rate box to an APO or FPO address, regardless of how much it weighs.
I did not try to mail Cameron but she does look cute in the box! This was a very simple photo setup. I draped a large flag for the background, sat Cameron up in a mailing box (the front flap of the box is folded inside and taped in place), and handed her a marker to hold! I actually Photoshopped the writing onto the box which was easier than trying to write it perfectly by hand. The font that I used is Violety Crumble which is a free download from dafont.com. If you are a Photoshop junkie like me, then you'll also want to know that I rasterized the type and slightly rotated some of the individual letters to give it a more handwritten look.
I managed to send Johnnie eight care packages since he deployed in October. That's not bad considering that I have a baby that keeps my days very busy! If I had more time, I probably would've mailed him one every other week. Care packages are so fun to put together and a great way to send your love.
Before Johnnie deployed, I started a "Deployment Inspiration" board on Pinterest. That is where I got the idea of decorating the insides of the boxes. It's very simple to do with the large flat rate priority boxes and the decorated boxes are such an unexpected treat to open! Each box I mailed him had a theme for the decorations and what was inside.
The large flat rate USPS priority boxes are 12x12. Scrapbook paper is 12x12. See where I'm going with this? To decorate the inside of a box, you need five pieces of scrapbook paper: 1 whole sheet for the bottom, 2 sheets cut in half for the flaps, and 2 sheets cut in half for the sides. You can also use wrapping paper, photographs, the Sunday comics, your child's artwork... the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!
I have a paper cutter (which is worth it's weight in gold if you are a crafter) so it takes no time at all to trim the paper to fit. I then use double-sided tape to secure the paper to the box (put the tape close to the edges of the paper for best results). You can find large rolls of double-sided tape, and of varying widths, in your local craft store.
My first boxes were simply decorated with paper. Each box got a little more elaborate with stickers and pictures. You can purchase scrapbooking stickers to use or you can create your own stickers by printing images or words onto sticker paper.
A few care package tips:
- Don't pack soap or other scented items in the same box as food because the scent transfers
- Using a FoodSaver to vacuum seal baked goods will keep them fresh for the long journey
- Anything that could potentially leak, ooze, or melt should be sealed in one or two ziplock bags
- Anything that could be damaged by getting wet should be sealed in a ziplock bag.
- Pack the boxes very full, filling extra space with crumpled paper or bubble wrap. This keeps the contents from shifting and the box costs the same to ship regardless of weight anyway.
- Don't forget that you are allowed to decorate the outside of the box too!
* Halloween Care Package * Johnnie deployed at the very end of October so I sent him a small flat rate box filled with some candy. I was inspired by this post on craftsbyfriends.com I found via Pinterest to create the sayings that I printed out on sticker paper and wrapped around the candy.
* Good Night Care Package * Johnnie needed some sheets for his bed so that was the inspiration for this package. Along with two sets of sheets, I also included soap, face wipes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, dental floss, a notepad, pens, stamps, and envelopes. I've since then learned that deployed military can mail letters for free so the stamps weren't needed but we can always use them when he gets home.
* Coffee Care Package * You can tell by this package that Johnnie wasn't exactly camping in the wilderness for this deployment. He is a Seattle boy who loves his coffee and had access to an electric water kettle so I sent him our little French Press coffee maker, whole coffee beans along with our bean grinder, disposable coffee cups, and some biscotti. The coffee bean heart sticker in the box is simply an image I found in a Google search and printed out on sticker paper.
* Thanksgiving Care Package * I am very proud of this package because I managed to send an entire Thanksgiving feast in a flat rate box! I included turkey and stuffing (turkey jerky, turkey spam, Hormel Turkey & Dressing microwavable bowl), mashed potatoes (instant mashed potatoes cup), vegetables (a small can), cranberries (Craisins), breadsticks (the hard cracker type), dessert (homemade cookies and "apple pie" snack pack pudding), sparkling cider (mini bottle), and a pack of plastic utensils for eating everything.
I did a little turkey handprint art with Cameron to send along in the care package:
* Birthday Care Package * Johnnie's birthday was in December. This was a "fitness themed" care package which I describe in detail below. I also baked him some homemade sugar cookies using my new all-time favorite recipe. I found a Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookie recipe from the blog Bake at 350 via Pinterest and it is AMAZING! It is super quick and easy to make, the dough doesn't need chilled like other recipes, it holds its shape perfectly when baked (roll thick 3/8" or 1/2"), the cookies are soft and delicious, and they freeze (and thaw) flawlessly! I used Bake at 350's royal icing recipe as well (my first time ever working with royal icing!) and I'm pleased with the way they came out. I vacuum packed the cookies in bags using my FoodSaver which helps them stay airtight and fresh until they reach their destination.
* Fitness Care Package * Johnnie is exercising and running as much as he could on this deployment so I sent him things that would be helpful: protein powder, a Blender Bottle, a men's multi-vitamin, Emergen-C mix (1,000mg of Vitamin C per packet!), energy bars, protein bars, GU energy gels (my favorite for long runs), mixed nuts, and two different sized handheld running bottles. Johnnie has an unlimited supply of Gatorade at his base or else I would've included Gatorade powder as well.
* Christmas Care Package * This was our first Christmas apart... we've been lucky for the past five years! I printed a photo from each year onto sticker paper to add to the box decoration. This package was filled with a variety of homemade Christmas cookies (including some homemade decorated sugar cookies), some store-bought Christmas treats, and a Christmas present. This year I got Johnnie a Garmin Forerunner 610 GPS Heart Rate Monitor to help him with his running goals.
* Valentine's Day Care Package * This was an easy theme of love and shades of the color red. It's actually a lot of fun walking through stores to see how many items of a certain color you can find!
* St. Patrick's Day Care Package * This was another color theme... green! St. Patrick's Day was perfect timing for Girl Scout cookies so I added Thin Mints which have a green box and Samoas (not pictured) which I covered with green stickers so it would match :)
The St. Patrick's Day package was the last one that I sent. I'm very happy to know that if I sent another package now, he might not get it before he heads home!
They don't know how long it takes
Waiting for a love like this
Every time we say goodbye
I wish we had one more kiss
I'll wait for you I promise you, I will
~Lucky by Jason Mraz