Thursday, July 9, 2009

Baking GALS - My July Contribution

This month I joined Baking GALS (GALS = Give A Little Support) and baked cookies for two service people overseas. How it works is you log into their website, and during certain times of the month they have "teams" set up that you can join that support a certain serviceman/woman that is stationed overseas. The first group I joined is called "Team Capecrusaders". It's a mother-daughter team that is supporting a very young military policeman named John Odom out of the Nashville, TN area. Here's a photo of John (isn't he a cutie?) The funny part (well, sort of funny), is I have no idea if he is in Iraq or Afghanistan! I got the address to send him the goodies, but it's like written in code!! Something in one of the lines said "Palace", so I guess that eventually gets the box to him!! LOL!! I picked John because in the write up he said he would just like to know that they haven't been forgotten about. That just broke my heart!! Here's this 21 year old young man that has set aside his life to defend our country - how on Earth could anyone forget that!! Needless to say, I had to bake up some extra good cookies for him!! :) Originally I was only going to do one box since this was my first time, but I later stumbled on a post from Team East to West Bakers. This team was supporting Lt. Sarah Barbo who is originally from North Royalton, Ohio. I'm from Ohio, and our adoption agency we used for our two older sons is in North Royalton. I guess with my logic, that practically makes us family!! Sarah is the leader of a medical platoon in Iraq, and asked that we write because many never get any mail. Wow, that just amazed me. I mean, if you had a loved one overseas, wouldn't you write to them? Well, I had to sign up for Sarah's group too!! Remember, I've never done this before!! LOL!! The sign ups were from June 17th - 20th (but I think they let you sign up late if you just found out about the group), and you are expected to bake and ship sometime between July 1st and 17th. Around the 1st you get the mailing address for the service personnel you have signed up for. With the 4th of July holiday, I decided to bake on Monday/Tuesday for my groups. On Monday I went to the post office and picked up my boxes. I got two large flat rate shipping boxes. Because I'm mailing to military, the shipping is slightly reduced to $11.95 per box. I'm allowed to cram it full up to 20 lbs. I also saw on the post office website that I can get these same boxes sent to my home for free. I chose the "Support our Troops" boxes, set of 10. They will arrive in a few days, but will be good for future rounds. I also saw a post that if I called this toll free number the post office will send me the boxes, labels, packing material and tape for free because I'm shipping to military. That's darn nice of them!! :) I haven't called the number yet, so I can't verify. I also went to the grocery and picked up some "extras" that I thought they would like, based on my "little-bit" of research. By no means is this required, but I figured if my cookies crumbled, they'd have something other than a note about my family!! LOL!! So I got some gum, individual servings of Crystal Lite ice tea and lemonade, Mento, Tic-Taks, and some Easy-Mac macaroni and cheese. On Tuesday I began baking. These boxes are not all that big (like 12" x 12" I think and about 6" deep), so I had to get this packed in tight. I made Amish sugar cookies and peanut butter cookies. I wanted to make chocolate chip too, but honestly, I just got tired out. I know, what a wimp!! But I was also watching the Michael Jackson memorial, and I kept crying, and I think that wore me out too!! I decided to use my Food Saver and shrink wrap the cookies. I was able to get a dozen cookies in a bag, separated by some paper towel with thin apple slices tucked in for freshness (I sure hope they don't think I'm sending dried fruit too!! LOL!!). My kids took one look and said it looked like astronaut food! I'll forgo looks for (hopefully) freshness. I packed everything in, with crumpled up newspaper all around, and wrapped it all up in red-white-and-blue tissue paper. How creative is that? ;) Really, though, the hard part was the letter. It's hard to send a letter to someone you don't know. I told them about my kids (I'm always talking about my kids, so that comes naturally), and of course I thanked them for their service and told them I'd keep them in our prayers. I also attached a photo of my kids (just so they didn't think I was making it up!). I did give my e-mail, so we're hoping they might be able to e-mail us sometime after they get their package. I'm sure my kids would think that is really, really cool! It's always good to get a few "cool" points from your kids when you can!! So the final step was shipping. I managed to fill out the customs form, based on the help from the Baking GALS website, and off to the post office. Now most people are afraid of public speaking, the dentist, you know - the normal things in life. Not me. I'm mortified of the people that stand behind the counter at the post office. If I'm going to get yelled at, that's probably the spot. I remember one time getting a "next day" envelope to send a check that HAD to be there next day. In my world "next day" means just that NEXT DAY. Just to be sure, I asked the clerk only to be told there are no guarantees. For what I was paying, why not? Well, they do their best, but if they can't get it next day, they can't. Gee - then why don't you call it "maybe next day - maybe not". She wasn't amused and after a "heated" discussion we all decided it was better if I used Fed Ex!! So, here I go again. I stand in line for what seems like an awfully long time. One woman is working behind the counter (why do they only have just one person working behind the counter and not more? Where's the stimulus money??). She's giving some poor man an ear-full over filling out a "hold" card so he can go on vacation. Seems the poor fellow forgot a pen, and she's not about to loan him hers. I step over and give him my pen (he looks eternally grateful) and the clerk glares at me. Probably the wrong thing to do. By the time I make it to the counter my palms are sweating and I'm getting the customs forms clammy! She goes through the monotone questions "any-flammable-perishable-killeragent-substances"? Like I'd say yes to that! Duh! She looks at the label and groans. "Oh, no, military, I hate shipping these". Yep, you heard her right, that's exactly what she says!! Can you believe it? She studies the customs form like she's memorizing the numbers for the winning lottery. No joke. I feel my knees going weak, but I try to keep a brave face and my mouth shut. She finally starts typing something into the computer very slowly. She's muttering about having to get this just right, or the package won't get there. Uh..isn't that true of all packages? I keep that thought to myself. She finally gets to the part about "description". I had written "homemade cookies and toiletries", but wasn't specific about how many of each. She wanted exact numbers. Ok, 7 Crystal Lite ice tea packages, 5 packs of gum, 3 rolls of Mentos......on and on we go. Really. I can feel the people in line behind me burning a hole in my back with their glares! We're finally done and it's time to pay. She is gives me a three minute lecture on how my credit card has to have my name only on it, signed on the back by only me and not my husband too and something else (I tuned her out, but I swear she wanted my blood type!). I managed to pass and (Thank God!) the credit card was approved and I was out!! As I was walking away I turned back to watch her throw my boxes across the sorting area and into a large cart. I'm sure glad I sent the gum and Crystal Lite too!! Here's the recipe for my Amish Sugar Cookies. They are a crispy cookie, due to the oil, but are very flavorful. My kids and next-door neighbor ate up the extras in one night and proclaimed them "great"!!
Amish Sugar Cookies
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup cooking oil
2 eggs
4 1/2 cups flour
1 t cream of tartar
1 t vanilla
1 t baking soda
Mix granulated sugar, powdered sugar, butter, and cooking oil together.
Add eggs, mix again.
Add flour, cream of tartar, vanilla, and baking soda. Mix together.
Drop small balls of dough on cookie sheet.
Pour a small amount of granulated sugar in a bowl.
Dip bottom of a cup in the small bowl of sugar.
Then slightly flatten dough with the bottom of cup.
Bake in 375 degree oven about 10-12 minutes (I found 9 minutes to be the best for me).
Makes 36 cookies.


  1. Hello! I am the "mom" of the Mother-Daughter BakingGals team "CapesCrusaders". I just want to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your blog and to thank you so much for joining our BakingGals team! John is a truly remarkable young man and I know he will be so appreciative of ALL your efforts! Thank you for sharing your baking experience with us! God Bless!

    Patricia Capes

  2. Bless your heart! I wanted to get involved with this, bit when I went to the Baking Girls website I was a little overwhelmed about what I needed to do. All I could see was posts about payment info through Paypal, etc. Perhaps I wasn't looking in the right place?

  3. Thanks so much for joining our East to West Bakers team! Those Amish Sugar Cookies sound delish. I'm sure Sarah and her unit will love them. (Oh, and I'm not a huge fan of the post office either, haha. ;) )

  4. Oh...this sounds like a wonderful idea!! We are active duty Air Force and I have a brother in law who has been to Iraq for a year and will be going to Afghanistan next year :( I'm going to have to check out the Baking Gals website :) I also can't believe the lady behind the counter! It seems like we only have one post office worker at ours too. It can get a little aggrivating at times :)