Bliss in a Brown Bag

Every year about a month before my Mom’s birthday, she calls each of my two sisters and I on the phone to forbid us from buying her a birthday gift.  Needless to say, I did not get my love of parties and all things holiday from my Mom.

I got a lot of other wonderful attributes from her though, and I love her dearly, so I am not about to let any of her birthdays go by without an acknowledgement.  Not  now, not ever.

I asked her if she’d be willing to let us take her out to lunch for her birthday this year and she said, “No, we can celebrate when I turn 62 and get my Social Security”.

Really Ma??

My sisters are equally as bewildered as I am when it comes to Mom’s birthday, so Sara suggested that we bring her lunch since we knew we weren’t getting her out of the house.   We enlisted the help of my Dad to make sure she’d be home and that she didn’t eat, and we created this wonderful surprise birthday brown bag lunch.

To pull this off, good timing is critical because you want to arrive with a fresh lunch and keep the hot food hot and the cold food cold.   We premade the lunch bags, planned the menu, and made everything in a specific order.

Here’s how we did it.

First, I created the brown bags:


It’s simply a  plain brown gift sack with a tag, a plastic spoon, and a paper straw, all tied up with a gingham bow.

Inside each bag, we included a rolled up paper napkin tied with the same bow used on the outside of the bag.


My sister Cari came over in the morning the day of the lunch to help me prep the food and assemble the bags.  We started by making some fruit bars for dessert.  We made simple sleeves out of tissue paper to hold the bars and tied them with a piece of twine:


We made triple decker club sandwiches using toasted bread, ham, turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheddar, and gouda.  For the spread we flavored bowls of mayonnaise with regular and sun dried tomato pesto.  We set everything out on the table for easy and quick assembly.


We had strung some large buttons with twine for use in wrapping the sandwiches:



The sandwiches were wrapped in waxed paper and tied with the button and twine.


We made some homemade broccoli cheese soup and kept it warm on the stove while we prepped the sandwiches.  We ladled the soup into teal Mason Jars and tied them with a bow.


We loaded everything into the brown bags along with some chips and a Coke and put them into a large basket so we could haul them to Mom’s house.  We set them out on the kitchen table.


When everyone opened their bags, this is what they had inside:


My sisters and I spent a rare, quiet afternoon with our parents today, talking and laughing about old times.  My Mom didn’t need to chastise us for not honoring her wish about no gifts, because it was just a little lunch-nothing to fuss about.

It was a truly scrumptious day.


It’s often the simplest things in life that create the most joyful memories.  The love expressed between two slices of bread can be more meaningful than expensive gifts or fancy dinners on the town.  The message that you cared enough to spend time on someone is a true message of love.



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  5. This was a really fun idea and the food was great. I enjoyed spending time laughing and talking. I think Mom’s birthday was great!

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