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Deployment DIY: New Year's Care Package

A fun New Year's Care Package how-to: New Year's hats, decor, sparkly drink, and even a Hoppin' John feast. All of the fun, none of the champagne. (We'll toast an extra one in your honor!)

Step One: Gather Round Ye Party Pretties

NYE party hats from Party City (left) and Studio DIY via their Facebook page (right) NYE party hats from Party City (left) and Studio DIY via their Facebook page (right)

What's more awesome than a servicemember deployed and fighting the good fight for patriotism? A servicemember deployed and fighting the good fight for patriotism ... in a silly, sparkly hat.

My husband jokes that because of me, the military is going to have to ban glitter from care-packages ... but I say, hey! Sparkle!

I opted for a little sparkle and gold foil in my New Year's hat and noise maker. And I really wanted to send a tiara.

You can be Christmas lazy (i.e., doing other things) like I did, and buy yours at Party City or the similar, or you can be awesome sauce and make them yourself. Studio DIY has a fantastic NYE Party Hat DIY... and theirs are pink. I, for one, think that would be fabulous for a New Year's Eve box! (You could go camo green with your glitter, too...)

Don't forget a noisemaker or two, either.

 

Step Two: Find Something Bubbly to Sip

perfect champagne alternatives for a military new years care package GUS makes a great champagne alternative and you can probably get it at your grocery store. I think their sparkling ginger is fantastic and really mocktail-perfect. Image via their Facebook page.

Champagne is out. Beer is out. Bourbon, obviously. But you know what's in? GUS soda (GUS: Grown Up Soda). A can of La Croix water. Or maybe a Fizzy Lizzy. Some troops get sparkling cider on New Year's Eve to at least feign revelry, but if you're anything like me, sparkling cider went out the window of cool in about fourth grade.

Lucky for everyone overseas this season, there are lots of other tastier, sparkly, non-alcoholic beverages you can throw in your care package. The Kitchn has a really fabulous roundup of non-alcoholic sparkling champagne alternatives. I highly endorse GUS, just because I've shipped it without it breaking before (it seems to have a really sturdy bottle)... and also because it's delicious.

For fun, put in a plastic champagne flute. I mean... if we're going to celebrate, let's celebrate!

Step Three: New Year's Lucky Meal

YES. YOU CAN SEND A REALLY GOOD MEAL IN A BOX.

As Southerners, we adhere strictly to the idea that what we eat on New Year's Day will be the cause for our great luck in the coming year. Usually that means my year will be filled with tacos, since I always find they're particularly great at sopping up New Year's Eve's mistakes. Also they're delicious! Sadly they don't ship very well. But! Hoppin' John - the traditional New Year's Day food - does.

In fact, you can probably find a can of it in your local grocery store. But if you have to DIY it for a fabulous lucky meal, no problem. Hoppin' John is a good, stewy mix of black-eyed peas, tomatoes, onions, and jalapeños, and you can basically make it in a rice cooker. (Curious why we think you should have a rice cooker overseas? Galley Gourmet to the rescue! We know you want to feed your deployed spouse. And we know your deployed spouse really, really wants to eat. We're here to help.)

For Deployment-Style Hoppin' John, include in your care package:

1 can black-eyed peas

1 can crushed tomatoes

1 can onions

1 can jalapeños (usually in the "international section")

1 bay leaf

1 box chicken broth (stock is great if you can get it, too)

a pinch of dried garlic, red pepper, and dried thyme each

salt and pepper

white rice

Okay, so, you can't exactly ship ham hock. But you can ship chicken broth, and we're going to rely on it to do the job ham hock does in real life: give a meaty base to the stew. It's also for this reason you're adding mushrooms - whenever you want to add a hearty taste to a rice cooker meal, mushrooms and beans are your best friend.

In the rice cooker, add all the canned foods in equal measure for an adequate-sized meal. (Some rice cookers are huge and can hold everything, others are small. Some guys want to feed friends, some want to enjoy their non-MRE in peace. So... add these things in equal measure according to desired output.) Cover the ingredients with chicken brother, and add a pinch of garlic, pepper, thyme, and s+p to taste. Add the bay leaf, and let the rice cooker cook for about 20 minutes. Add more chicken broth to reach desired consistency - for a soupier stew, add more, for a heartier stew, just cover the ingredients and watch the cooking process to make sure nothing burns.

Serve over rice, substituting the regular 2:1 water:rice ratio with as much chicken broth in the place of water as is leftover from the meal. (It's not going to keep, so you might as well use it to enrich the rice!)

Before eating, remove the bay leaf - and then say your luck for a great, fortunate new year!

[N.B.: The same general rules for Hoppin' John apply in a real kitchen, but you'd also want to add bell peppers and ham hock and use fresh ingredients. Canned onions are only so useful.)

Step Four: Add Some Decorations!

Kojo Design's brilliant confetti-filled balloons Kojo Design's brilliant confetti-filled balloons

I really, really love surprise balloons. I think they're so much fun, plus they're easy to send in care packages since balloons take up virtually no space. Kojo Designs has a really great DIY, but the instructions are pretty simple: find a clear or light-colored balloon (so that when you blow it up, it's almost see-through), fill it with confetti (I found some great New Year's confetti at Party City) and then mail it with instructions to blow it up. The balloons look so festive filled with confetti!

Step Five: Happy New Year!

This is where you get to pop the champagne... Hopefully to ring in the year in which your servicemember will return! Hooray!

Do you have any tips for a New Year's care package? What have you sent for the holiday before?

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