Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More info on Operation Baking Gals

I am posting this letter that I received from Val over at Just Add Nuts. This is the "Team" that we will be working with on the Operation Baking Gals website. Go to Operation Baking Gals and click Join a Round 4 Team Here then click Join a Round 4 Team (26) and then select the Team Just Add Nuts. You can see the other members of the team. If you want, you can sign up on the site or I will just let them know the number of bakers that we have that will be sending packages. Or, I will let them know the number of packages that we are sending, make sense? Here are a few emails that I have had with Val:

That's great that your friends want to get involved! The way Baking GALS works is that each team sends to a different soldier. That soldier receives 10+ boxes, depending on the number of people participating for his host's team; he or she then distributes the stuff to the other soldiers around him. I have a thank you letter that I just received from Alex's wife saying he had begun getting boxes and was sharing with other soldiers. I'm going to ask her if I can post the letter on my blog so all of you bakers can see it.

As for a team having too many people, Susan tries to keep it to around 20 bakers per team. We had about 10 on our team this round who actually baked, so that would leave 10 slots to fill. I do have a couple of bakers who do the actual baking as pairs or groups but only sign up as one baker and send one box. That tends to work nicely for some because a lot of people want to bake but the shipping costs can get out of hand if you send too many boxes. The first round that Randy and I baked, we filled five boxes (one on our own to a friend of his), so we joined four separate teams, that way different soldiers got our variety, rather than sending all the boxes filled with the same stuff to the same soldier. So if you're all sending the same goodies, that's another option for you...not that I want to lose you from my team!!!!

Keep me updated as far as how many bakers you're getting and how you and they wish to handle it and I'll work with you. If we end up with too many bakers, I have more than one soldier who would love to receive boxes, so maybe I could give you two addresses kind of on the side. After the December round, if your people want to continue to bake, you might consider becoming a team host yourself. It's a little bit of work and organizing, but since you have a blog already (one of the requirements) you'll be half way there already. If you decide to go that route, let me know and I'll put in a word with Susan for you. If you think your people will only want to bake once in a while or if you don't feel like being a host, feel free to stay on my team and we'll just work it out each round.

Round five's mailing will be taking place from December 5-18, just in time for Christmas. I know the soldiers do like other things besides the baked goods, especially letters from home or just things to remind them of home. One of our team's bakers included some strings of Christmas lights in Alex's package this round and his wife mentioned in her letter that he especially enjoyed those. For ideas, check out They list soldiers who ask for the things their unit needs. If you read a few requests, you'll see that most of them ask for the same kinds of things, so you'll have a good idea what to include. The only thing is, don't send anything scented (dryer sheets, air fresheners, etc) or anything liquidy that could break (shampoo, hand cream, toothpaste) along with baked goods because it contaminates the cookies no matter how well you pack it according to reports. And with the any soldier site, they don't let you send home-baked goods to the soldiers there. It's all about keeping our soldiers safe...they aren't supposed to accept baked goods from people they don't know. That's why Baking GALS hosts have to come up with their own soldiers, so they can write ahead and let the soldier know the goodies are coming. That's also why I ask my bakers for their own address before I give them the soldiers....I don't want anything funny going down!

I think the thing besides baked goods and letters that they most like to get are fun things or things to fill their down-time. The services do a half way decent job most of the time of getting them the necessities like socks and soap, it's just the "extras" that they're missing. I like to send Holiday items, joke books, pictures from my four year old niece, toys (they hand them out to the kids there), games, DVDs, magazines, stationary (another favorite, so they can mail letters home), small sporting equipment, nail files, little posters, chap sticks (I'm iffy on that one but I think it would be safe to send with the baked goodies)...whatever you send, someone will appreciate it. Oh, and if you can find a good deal on those little packets of drink flavors to add to water bottles, they LOVE those! I'm trying to figure out how to make them.

As for suggestions for things that ship well, we're probably both in the same boat there. I'm doing guess-work at this point too. I have found a recipe for an oatmeal bar cookie that I've been making. They contain a lot of oil, so I figure they'll stay moist. The first round, we individually wrapped them; this round we cut them and reconstructed them as one sheet and packed each batch on top of the other. I got four batches in the box that way and we packed the sides with boxes of Christmas cards and some individual drink mixes. I'm trying to do some research on the net to find recipes that travel well, so I'll post my findings on my blog. I'll also ask Alex's wife for his input about what came over to Iraq in the best condition. If you come up with any good ideas in the meantime, please share. I'm thinking things that are dense and moist will be good. We sent some pumpkin pound cake to Randy's friend this month, so I'm waiting to hear how that turns out.

And another one:
The cost varies a little depending on what you send, but the postage would be $10.95. That's the cost of sending a flat rate priority mail box (12 by 12 by 5 1/2 inch size) to an APO address. The boxes are free from the post office and you can just stop in anytime to pick one up. Also, grab yourself a customs form while you're in there. The forms are easy to fill out, but we'll include instructions with the soldier's address just in case.

I will have to ask Randy how many cookies we got into each box, since he did the counting (and hopefully the remembering since I didn't!), but I think we got about 75 cookies in each box and also we put in some old DVD's from my dad and a few magazines from Randy.

I hope that helps!

So, I am ready to start planning!!! I thought that I would kit the dollar store for little puzzle books, water bottle flavorings and whatever little things I can get. Let me know if you are interested!!!