Halloween is a generally the point in time when I send out the second college care package to my two college-age students. It is usually easy to find fun and creative items for the care package this time of the year, and that is my overall goal for the kids…add some levity to their full and often stressful college days.
In coming up with ideas for these college care packages, I usually have a mental list of “categories” that I’m thinking of, and then I will try to find a range of items that fit into these categories. The two photos in this post show what went in this round of care packages for my son, with reasons on why I chose these particular categories below.
College Care Package for the Boy: The Categories
- Food – food is a standard category of course, but the type of food enjoyed is quite different between my daughter and my son, and will be unique to your student. Think of something they might have a hard time getting at school. My son does not like sweets that much, and he isn’t a big fan of baked goods, so I have to get a little more creative with his food. He was complaining last summer about not being able to find Manhattan Clam Chowder at the grocery store any longer. I didn’t believe him, but he was right! For some reason, the grocery stores don’t carry Manhattan Clam Chowder any longer, so I thought, “I’ll just make him some!” This food item was tricky however, because I needed to send it frozen. I looked into dry ice, but decided in the end to freeze the soup solid and pack it in an insulated bag with ice. We’ll see how it fares. I sent it flat rate priority, so it should be there in two days, and while it may not be frozen solid, I bet it will still be refrigerator-cold. Since I am in the business of preserve-making, I always send a jar of jam or marmalade. He is a marmalade fan, so he got Cranberry Orange & Limoncello Marmalade.
- Seasonal – My son is in Connecticut, close to New York, where hurricane Sandy is brewing. Last year there was a hurricane when we dropped him off in the early fall. Suffice it to say, there will be rainy days at his school, so I sent an umbrella (in his school colors). Simple, but not the kind of thing he generally thinks of needing, until he needs it. I also included some Halloween treats and accessories in his school colors (candy, hair dye & face paint). I figure he can use the face paint and hair dye for athletic events if not for Halloween.
- Mother Love – I always send a “Congratulations” card with a note inside telling them how proud I am of them. There is always something you can find to congratulate them on, whether it be working through a room-mate problem, a test score, showing leadership in a group….anything. In this case it was a high score on his Econ. exam.
- Light Reading Material – My son is on the golf team and is tall and thin. He’s always interested in nutrition and workouts relevant to his sport, so I usually send him related magazines for reading in his down time.
- Sentimental Stuff – This can be tricky, and I’m not sure how this is going to play. I framed a photo I had of his girlfriend and he at prom. He doesn’t currently have any framed photos at school, but he does at home. He’s either going to really appreciate this or be mad at me for making some kind of assumption. I’ll get back to you on this.
- Clothing/Accessories – I’ve sent a swim suit in spring and tennis shoes in fall, neither of which was a hit. This time I’m sticking to a lapel pin of his father’s that I have seen him eyeball before.
- Money – Goes without saying. Always appreciated. I don’t generally send a lot of money because this is a time in their life where they need to learn the value of money and the price of everyday essentials. It’s always welcome however.
Tomorrow I’ll post on the college care package I sent the girl. Have fun with these….As with their childhood, it goes fast. My daughter is already a senior and ready to graduate. How does this happen???
If you are interested in the recipe for the Manhattan Clam Chowder, here it is:
Manhattan Clam Chowder: Recipe for Freezing
- 5 slices bacon
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
- 2 stalks celery, chopped (1 cup)
- 4-5 small carrots, peeled and chopped (about 3/4 cups)
- 6 cloves garlic , minced with 1/2 tsp coarse salt (1 1/2 Tbsp garlic)
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1/4 tsp celery seed
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, chopped (1 tsp)
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 3 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
- 3 (8-oz) bottles clam broth plus 1 1/2 cups clam broth reserved from cans of chopped clams
- 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1 (28-oz) can of crushed tomatoes
- 2-3 dried tomatoes (optional)
- 1 tsp kosher salt, divided
- 1/2 tsp Pickapeppa sauce (a jamaican hot sauce)
- 1/2 tsp Sriracha Chili Sauce
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 (6.5-oz) cans of chopped clams (I like Snows the best, but use your favorite brand)
- 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (for fresh garnish)
- In a large heavy pot or dutch oven add bacon and cook over medium heat until golden and crispy, about five minutes. Remove bacon to drain on paper towels and pour off all fat except 1 Tablespoon.
- Add 2 Tbsp. olive oil to dutch oven and then add onion, celery, carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables are softened. Do not brown the vegetables.
- Add the garlic, bay leaves, celery seed, thyme and red pepper and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes.
- Increase heat to high and add potatoes, clam broth and chicken stock, and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium high for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and hot sauces and continue to cook, covered, for about 10 minutes. If preparing for freezing, potatoes should be slightly soft , but not all the way softened (essentially parboiled). If preparing for immediate serving, cook until potatoes are tender.
- Remove pot from heat and add reserved clams, season with additional salt and pepper if desired, (add parsley now unless you are freezing), and cover. Allow chowder to sit for up to 1 hour to meld flavors. If serving fresh, reheat chowder slowly without boiling. If freezing, cool completely and package in airtight containers and freeze solidly before shipping. Send directions to the college student to reheat slowly but thoroughly in microwave, but do not allow chowder to boil.
In a large heavy pot add bacon and render until golden and crispy. Pour off all fat except 4 tablespoons. Add onions, celery, bell pepper and carrots and cook for 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Do not allow to color. Add garlic, bay leaves, oregano, thyme and crushed red pepper and cook an additional 2 minutes. Increase heat to high and add potatoes, reserved clam broth, and chicken stock and bring to a boil, covered. Cook for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and the broth has thickened somewhat. Add tomatoes and continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add reserved clams and parsley and season with pepper and salt, if necessary. Allow chowder to sit for up to 1 hour to allow flavors to meld, then reheat slowly over low fire if necessary. Do not allow to boil.