WHAT TO INCLUDE IN A HOMEMADE LETTERBOX GIFT SET FOR FRIENDS OR FAMILY…

I love making gifts for my friends and family and nowadays you get get gift box subscriptions from a number of companies but actually making your own homemade letterbox gift set is a bit more unique and very very special.

With lockdown slowly but surely coming to an end I thought it might be a nice idea to put together a letterbox gift for some of your special friends and family who you have not seen for a while.

So, here are my ideas and how to go about making a letterbox gift. The first thing I did was to go and look on websites like Etsy and Not on the High Street. I wanted to make a note of the size of box I would need. There are lots of websites that sell letterbox size boxes but the minimum I could find was for 25. Amazon is your best bet where I found 10 for £5.60 and the size was perfect at 200x100x20mm. This is a large box but the bigger the better I think. You then need to think about weight and postage price which you can find online at The Post Office.

Making it a bit special means thinking about a lining and tissue paper seems to be the post popular and can easily picked up from The Post Office or local Supermarket. Now it’s time to decide what you want to put in your box.

Making it personal is what will make this a very special gift so start with your own handmade card with some plain card which again you could buy from The Post Office or, you could do like I do. I keep all my Birthday and Christmas cards and cut them up so that I can use them for friends and family cards. To make it personal you can use ladybug clipart. Clipart can make it look so professional and you can even make your own envelope and use them on that. Making your own envelopes is also easy with plain or patterned paper and you can find lots of images and videos on how to make your own envelope on Pinterest.

So, you have your box, your tissue paper to wrap it in and your personalised card to put inside the box. Now its time to think about what you want to put in your box. The best way to start this is to have a blank page for each person you are making these boxes for and start listing the special things you remember about them by using the alphabet. Here is a list of ideas to get you started. Write the list by asking yourself if they like any of the ones I am listing.

A. Art, Animals, Aunt – you could add a piece of art in it or an image of their favourite dog and is this for your Aunt so ask your Mum if she has idea of things she loves.

B. Birthday, Books, Baking, Biscuits, Birds – you could time it for their birthday, add a book if they love reading books, maybe a baking book if they like baking and their favourite biscuits or the latest bird food for their favourite outside animals.

C. Cooking, Card, Chocolates, Country, Coffee, Cat, Candles, Clip-art – you could find something different and very small that could help with cooking, make a few handmade cards for them, put in their favourite chocolates, or their favourite coffee which you can now buy in ‘bags’, a tiny fluffy cat, some candles and some bumblebee clipart so they can have a go at it themselves.

D. Dog, Daddy – you could put in a personalised doggy gift (handmade by yourself of course) anything personalised with Daddy on will melt any Dads heart.

E. Essential Oils – I use these for soooo many things as there has to be one that every one likes.

F. Flowers, Food, Friend, Feminine – you could put a small bunch of dried flowers in the box, little sample food items, if its your special friend then anything with special friend on, and if he/she loves smelly things then you can go to Boots Travel Size products and buy some to pop into the box.

G. Gardening, Golf, Grandma, Grandad – you could buy some seeds for that gardener you know or golf pegs for the golf lover and if its for Grandma or Grandad then you should start with a photo book and let it grow from there.

H. Hobbies, Hair Products – I have mentioned a few hobbies but there are so many your friend or family member may love something unusual but you are sure to be able to buy something for it. Hair Products is useful to all of us and again you can buy travel or sachet size to pop into your box.

I. Initial, make something yourself or look on lovely sites like Etsy and Not On The High Street.

J. Jigsaw, Jewellery – you could buy or have a jigsaw made through a photo shop company, or buy this lovely collectable work of art for their wrists.

K. Knitting, KeepFit, – you could buy them a knitting pattern and some wool and put it into the box and for a KeepFit fanatic then how about a video or some sweat bands or fun item that relates to being fit.

L. Logo or Lego – you could get a Logo designed online for someone just starting up in business or for a bit of fun to put in your box and I included Lego as what man doesn’t like a bit of Lego to play with. The adult stuff I mean. You can buy small ones with sooooo many pieces.

M. Memories, Magazines, Mum – you could put some memories together with a photo book. I absolutely love them and make them on a regular basis. You just cannot beat putting all your memories together. Magazines is an easy one as I am sure most family or friends would love a magazine to read, and there are a few companies online which will let you purchase a single magazine rather than a subscription. Finally Mum, well where do you start. You would probably need a bigger box with Mum but maybe start with a photo book and a few bits and give her a bigger one next time around.

N. Nails, Newspaper – nail polish and accessories is a great one and even the guys need nail clippers. Newspapers are a lovely thought for the elderly as you could find a really old one to pop into the box. It will bring back lots of memories.

O. Organised – this is to think of how organised are they. Could they do with a lovely A-Z or a book on decluttering. There is plenty out now to help people become more organised.

P. Pictures/Photosbook/Poster/Painting – back to the pictures again. Happy pictures bring back happy memories and at the moment we all have time to look through our suitcases of old pictures. Pop a few in the box to bring a memory back to life. Photobooks as I am talked about before are very easy to do online now. Posters can again be done using clip-art. Painting I have really only taken up over the last year when I was given an adult paint by numbers but I absolutely love it.

Q. Quotes – think of little quotes that are appropriate to the box received and pop them into a little box or envelope for them to open when they are feeling a bit low.

R. Reading – if they love reading you can easily pop a couple of books into your box but before you buy them check how thick they are so you will know if they will fit in the box.

S. Scrapbook, Spa, Sewing, Sweets, Sachets, Shed – you could start a scrapbook to put into the box of a family member and ask them to add to it the send it onto another member of the family to add to it. Spa was just to trigger off what you could put in the box for someone to enjoy a spa at home. Sewing has become very popular again but you can buy some really fab vintage sewing patterns online for someone who is a keep sewer. Sweets is very popular in boxes and easy to get or miniature packets. Sachets are also available now in supermarkets and online and could be facial products, hand or body products and very easy and light to put in your box. Shed was for the keen gardener but these man sheds are full of all sorts now.

T. Tea- there are so many types of tea you can buy now and can make a lovely box with just a book and some biscuits or chocolate.

U. Uncles – is this for your Uncle, maybe ask your Aunt for a few hints.

V. View – do they love a view, do they overlook a view. You could make a lovely poster or image from a picture you have taken of the country side or seaside and a very personal item.

W. Writing – do they love writing or like having notebooks around. I do, I have them everywhere and have one friend who always buys me some for Christmas. You can buy some stunning ones online and a lovely addition to the box with maybe a biro thrown in as well.

My A-Z is just my ideas but it could help you to put yours together and get started with your box. When its all finished and packed ready to go you could even finish with a touch of clipart. If you have any ideas, I’d love to hear them. Enjoy making your box, it will definitely put a smile on someone’s face.

HOW TO ENJOY OLD RECIPES FROM SOME OLD RECIPE BOOKS…

I don’t know about you but I have been baking lots more during lockdown, but it has given me the chance to be quite choosy and really study recipes. I had boxes of old recipe books so I decided I would go through them all and try out some of my old recipes. But then you end up with a load of books around you and some recipes that need the weights changing.

So, I bought this lovely new recipe book to put my new found recipes in (see below) which is a great size. You can write down any recipes you love in it. Prompts will also help you do that easier – areas for ingredients, directions, times for preparation and cook, and it is only £6.97 from Amazon so what’s not to like about it.

As I was going through all my books I found my original GCSE Cookery Book, which fascinated me as one of my courses was a salad !!!! I guess it was all about the timing back then as you had to do a starter, main course and a sweet. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a GCSE in cooking but it definitely put me in good stead for the future. One section that made me smile was about the storage of milk – It is important to store milk carefully to avoid the growth of harmful bacteria and to prevent scouring so never leave your milk in the sunlight, keep in cool dark place, always use clean jugs, keep it covered, and boil suspected milk!

If old cookbooks once belonged to family, then the connection is particularly strong, as I remember my grandmother and mother using the same books for special meals and I have a few written out that are falling apart that were my Mums. I have stuck that together and popped it into the recipe book. I think it’s going to take me a while to sort through them all and I am sure I will need another recipe book to put them in.

I guess I have really loved baking more than anything else and I have been doing quite a bit of that for my family recently. My son and his wife only moved down to where we live in January and with Covid-19 we have not even seen the inside of the house yet. So, I decided I would bake a few things for them then at least we can see them outside there house for a few minutes standing at a safe distance of course. I have also been baking for my 18 month old granddaughter who is going through that faze of not liking many things that are put in front of her but she will always eat my muffins and my fishcakes. I know she loves cheese so I just make sure there is a lot in both of them and make her vegetable muffins and the fishcakes have sweet potato and broccoli in so she is getting her vegetables down her.

I also bought Mary Berry’s Fast Cakes : Easy Bakes in Minutes, it’s a fantastic baking book with lots of recipes that only need one bowl to work with. Mary has incorporated her ‘all-in-one’ method of preparation into as many recipes as possible, so her recipes are faster to make than ever. Nearly 100 of the bakes take only 10 minutes to make and Mary has included small bake variations for fruit cakes, which traditionally take a long time in the oven, so you can make one even when you are pushed for time.

There are scones, buns and biscuits that you can whip up for tea, traybakes and fruit loaves perfect for a school or village fete and of course foolproof cakes for every occasion from everyday recipes such as a Honey and Almond Cake to Mary’s First-Rate Chocolate Cake. Not forgetting recipes you can make with your kids from Happy Face Biscuits to Traffic Lights and Jammy Buns. Fast Cakes: Easy Bakes is available from Amazon and other good book shops from £17.39 for the Hardcover or the Kindle Edition which is the one I bought is just £7.99 and worth every penny.

VINTAGE COOKERY BOOKS…

Before 1800, housekeeping books tended to be handwritten collections of recipes and instructions tried and tested by the household cook. By the 1850’s they were developed into books for ‘adult women’, in particular for your brides who were setting up home.

They were intended as work manuals, they were without lavish photography or even set in fine bindings but if you can get hold of one from a book shops they will amaze you. They tell us about the lives of the women in the past from where you can see social change and the disappearance of domestic servants.

Mrs Breton’s Book of Household Management, which was published in 1861 was a huge success and sold 60,000 copes in its first year and two million by 1868. Of course with no television at that time these books were inspirational.

By the time Helen Simpson wrote ‘The Happy Housewife’ in 1934 modern appliances were starting to pop up everywhere, not only helping with the housework but also removing the servants of that time.

In ‘Keeping House’ with Elizabeth Craig (Collins 1936) she said ‘ I have no use for elaborately decorated or furnished homes or for elaborate meals. The simpler the home, the simpler the housekeeping.

Some of these vintage home books can now fetch a lot of money at auction. A book published in 1687 ‘The Accomplished Ladies Rich Closit of Rarities’, by John Shirley sold at Sothebys for £1,625. So, if your great aunt or grandma are still alive and have some old cookery books make sure they don’t end up at the tip.

Even the National Trust ‘Manual of Housekeeping of 2006’ sold 10,000 copies in 2006 and is now being reprinted !!!

THE DAIRY BOX OF HOME COOKERY…

The Dairy Box of Home Cookery by Emily Anderson is a special anniversary edition of this book celebrating 50 years of this classic cookbook, featuring 950 classic recipes including 50 new recipes sure to become firm family favourites.

The Dairy Dairy website has lots of gift ideas around this famous book with recipes and competitions to enter. The legendary Dairy Book of Home Cookery is the perfect reference book for both novice and experienced cooks. It’s cited as one of the most trusted recipe books of all time and is revered by all those who own a copy.

It has extensive cook’s information and over 900 recipes from soups to desserts, baking to confectionery, this is the one cookbook you’ll return to time after time. This new edition contains all the favourites from the original book along with new British classics.

Its photography has been updated to create a stunning, attractive and invaluable book. Over 3 million sold! 18 chapters 900+ recipes & variations Triple-tested recipes Nutritional facts per recipe Ribbon page marker Easy-to-follow instructions Essential cooking techniques Hints & tips for success.