28th December

The Santa Box

The Santa Box - from me to Julia

You know when you have an idea, and it grows, and then it becomes reality? (a bit like writing a book as it happens), well, that’s what happened with The Santa Box.  It started with a bit of crazy twitter chatter between myself and my lovely, now dear friend, Julia Martin http://twitter.com/wordsxo about the differences between American and British weather, phrases and sayings, and the words we use for everyday things… then, naturally, it progressed to food.  Before we knew it, The Santa Box idea happened.  So, we decided on an amount that we’d both spend, a book each, another couple of small gifts, and foody items that we didn’t have in our home countries.  What followed was weeks of hilarious “Do you have….. (no reason)” tweets as we tried to work out the best pressies to send.  Oh, and we were allowed Freebies too. I’m not going to say too much about mine to Julia, I’ll leave that to Julia (see link at the bottom of this post.)

Strangely, the day Julia’s Santa Box arrived with me, mine arrived with her! The fact that they arrived at all, we considered a minor miracle.  Finding out how to send the boxes and what we were allowed to include that wasn’t going to get us locked up for six months, was a bit of a learning curve.  Then we had to fill in customs forms and package the goods safely for their journey across the pond.  We both nearly fell through the floor when we heard how much it would cost to send the boxes… however, that didn’t matter; we were doing this whatever the cost.  As you can imagine, relief at their arrival was on a grand scale!

There was a lot of excitement the day the Santa Box arrived.  It sat in our hall for two days until I stowed it away under the bed for a couple of weeks, out of temptations way until THE BIG DAY.

Santa Box pressies

On Christmas eve, my Santa Box from Julia was put under the Christmas tree, with the rest of the pressies.  On the morning of THE BIG DAY, along with all the usual giddiness, there was all the extra giddiness over The Box!  We had decided to save it until last, so that we could all pour over the contents.  What an absolute treat!  Julia had wrapped each present individually and put little notes on some.

As I said earlier, we were already aware of our cultural differences which included language differences and food.  The array of American food in that box was incredible.  Of course, we were limited to certain items – snacks and sweets in the main, which was very

Candy 'Grab Bag'

handy as I’m a bit partial to snacky stuff!  Foody items included  Raspberry Zinger tea, Blue Corn, some very cute snowman shaped Peeps (apparently an American favourite), dried wild blueberries, known as ‘The Caviar of Maine’, white cheddar cheese flavour popcorn – which is absolutely delicious by the way – peppermint pretzel slims – c/o Trader Joe’s, Julia’s local store, which has cropped up many times in conversation, dark chocolate crisps – also c/o Trader Joe’s, and a candy ‘grab bag’ which Julia put together, full of wonderful American sweets and chocolate – fabulous – enough to keep a writer going for a good few weeks!

The Hound and Douglas

Also, in the Santa Box, were pressies for the family, including a Maine Moose (now called Douglas) for my daughter and a Mighty Moose t-shirt for my son.  The hound took a fancy to Douglas and ran off with him a few times – on one of these he’d been secreted in a bag, with his head poking out and the hound, seizing her moment, got her chompers around one of his antlers and disappeared! You’ll be pleased to hear that Douglas was rescued and was unharmed.

We each gifted a book to each other and Julia’s to me, ‘horoscopes for the dead,’ is by

Trader Joe's bag

American poet, Billy Collins, a past US Poet Laureate. I hadn’t heard of either poet or book, so am really excited about the prospect of reading this.  As a poetry lover, the discovery of a new poet is always something to get excited about, and what a wonderful present!  One of the other gifts was a fantastic cloth bag from good old Trader Joe’s, which is such a lovely momento of our food / supermarket chats.

Julia also enclosed a really special gift, a collection of seaglass, shells and rocks that she

Seaside gifts with Twitter bird!

collected from nearby beaches.  There couldn’t really be a more appropriate gift for me, as a person who loves the sea and has spent hours beach combing and building up quite a collection of pebbles, rocks and shells.  What is even more special is that Julia made the bag, which is beautiful, along with a twitter bird hanging from the ribbon – just gorgeous!

Reading Julia's letter

Last, but not least, was a lovely long letter – decorated with Julia’s emoticons – which I have now read three times.  There are details about all the gifts, which gives me an insight into Amercan life, and Julia’s life in Maine.  The letter is very special, perhaps even more so because we rarely write letters nowadays do we? The immediacy of twitter, email and facebook are great, but a handwritten letter is something to treasure and keep forever.

What began as a fun idea and stemmed from our twitter chats, progressing to longer emails, has become so much more than that.  We each have pieces of each other’s lives now, and this twitter friendship is becoming so much more – a long and lasting friendship, across the pond.

You can read Julia’s blog post on our Santa Box experience by following this link http://www.wordsxo.com/

About Abi Burlingham

I write children's books and paint pictures inspired by nature, animals, trees etc, mostly in acrylics. I am a crisp addict.
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11 Responses to 28th December

  1. This is ACE! Seriously, I love this post — beautifully told, my friend! xo Julia (p.s. Do you celebrate Easter? No reason.)

  2. Ha ha! I have a feeling the Easter Bunny may be taking a giant leap across the pond 😀

  3. Emma Pass says:

    Ha ha! I love that your Hound stole the moose. You big meanie for not letting her keep it! 😉

  4. Martin Shone says:

    This is a brilliant idea, Abi – superb and I don’t know who looks more worn out – the hound or Douglas 🙂

  5. Thanks Emma – I am hoping my Secret Santa may provide another moose for the hound at some point 😉

    Thanks Martin – it really has been a fascinating experiment and loadsa fun too. The hound is always worn out when… she’s not racing up and down the garden like a mad thing 🙂

  6. indreamworld says:

    That’s a lovely idea, so nice to share local delicacies and chat with others in a different place! Now if anyone wants to send me a box of American goodies they’re more than welcome to. 🙂 You’ll get a lovely box of good old English staple things in return lol

  7. It was a fantastic thing to do and I’m so glad we did it… and yes, the American goodies are great! The Cheddar Cheese popcorn is to die for, and the Raspberry Zinger tea is lovely. Maybe we can start a trend in time for next Christmas 😀 Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  8. Ann says:

    Hello Abi! I’m a regular reader and fan of Julia and her lovely blog. What a terrific time you two had and I’m SO glad you shared it with us! Happy Christmas and it’s a delight to meet you! Best Regards~ Ann

    • Hi Ann. Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and how lovely to meet you too. Yes, Julia’s blog is wonderful and she’s a truly lovely person – we are both lucky to have her in our lives. Have a wonderful new year Ann.

  9. That’s beautiful Abi! The care and attention to detail, and the generosity shown by both of you warms the cockles.

    I got a parcel of presents from a friend in Sweden this year, and she had wrapped them all individually too. Made Christmas day actually feel like Christmas day, which isn’t what I was expecting at all, until it happened ¦¬)

  10. Thank you Dean – it really does warm the old cockles doesn’t it? That’s great that you got a Secret Santa package too – a Swedish Secret Santa at that! What a lovely surprise. Here’s to many more Secret Santas eh? 😉

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