Monday, January 30, 2017

Tuesday Tea Time: Letter Writing

Greetings Ladies,

A reader was asking for names of good correspondence instruction books. Letter writing is something sorely needed today, and in a moment I will tell you how important it was in the past to write letters when your loved ones were far, far away. 

 In spite of the rapid way of keeping in touch today, it is disappointing that people do less communicating. Ladies of my acquaintance complain of phones that never ring, inboxes with no personal email, mailboxes near the house with no letters, no text messages, no skype or other video conversations, no one answering personal invitations to tea, no one dropping by for a visit and no one stopping to chat in the shops or even the post office.

 To make it easier for people who find it hard to correspond, I sometimes ask them to simply text me a smiley face or object from the emoticons on their cell phones, to keep in touch,  but  even that, it seems, is too time consuming. 

One reason we need to restore letters is so folks will know what to do when they receive them. A friend of mine sent letters to friends and found months and months later they had not even opened them to read. When we received letters and packages we had to avoid the temptation of tearing them open too fast and destroying part of the contents, in our excitement. 

There seems to be less real communication, and so those of us who remember how our parents wrote letters and valued them, really have a big job ahead of us. We need to restore letter writing in the same way in which tea time, dressing up, and home education was revived. 

The above book, published by Victoria magazine contains a few things you might find useful if you are interested in writing letters. It shows examples of old letters from past centuries. The book covers friendship letters, invitations, thank you notes, sympathy letters, compliments or complaints, and more.

Now as to the extreme importance of letters in the past:-  I truly would have benefitted from some stern lectures about keeping in touch via letters, but in the past, letter writing was a relaxing pleasure, and it was considered a free-will offering, so our teachers and parents did not make the subject too strict. 

Our parents took care of serious correspondence to their parents, and we enclosed notes to them in the same envelope. It would have helped if they had read aloud to us what they had written, and also read aloud the letters they received. This may have educated us as to how  letter-writing was done. 

We did observe people spending more time writing letters. It was the ONLY way to keep in touch in places that had no phones. If you did not live in a town, there was no word-of-mouth information from neighbors. Folks depended very much on the mail for news from home and from children who had moved away. Letters were very serious business because they were used as records of life. Often a letter would alert someone of a need, resulting in a care package being sent.

Letter writing had a special time-slot in someone's life. It was equal billing to laundry, meal time or grocery shopping. It held a high place of importance and young people dreamed of a desk of their own with a proper pen and bottle of ink. You might have guessed I was born before Bic, Papermate or Pentel.

My mother in law spent every Monday (after loading her washing machine) writing to her sisters and her brother, and her husband's sister and brothers. She sat at the kitchen table with a box of stationery that had two little drawers: one for stamps and one for envelopes, and wrote letters while listening for the washer to finish its cycle. 

My parents wrote a lot of letters to their parents who lived whole countries away from them. These letters not only kept the bonds between them strong, but lifted one another out of ordinary toil into another kind of life.

Men and women courted with letters. Their handwriting was their identifying mark. In fact, clear writing was once considered a sign of good character, showing careful attention to detail, and thoughtfulness.

Had I known of the future decline of letters, I would have saved a lot more of the ones sent to me as a young person, tied  them in bundles and kept them on display. Had I known the enormity, the value, the impact and the greatness of  the custom of letter writing, I would have emphasized more to my own children that their grandparents were super important and their letters were a way of mingling their lives, sharing their history, and being part of them. 

I would have said, "Children, do you see this letter that just arrived? It is from a great person in your life. It is better than a letter from a President, because it is a grandparent God put in your life. Writing to your grandparents is a sacred and serious task and it will earn interest in more ways than I can explain. It will give you a sense of who you are, where you came from, and help you know why they value you. Your existence is hugely important to them."

Children, even when fully grown-up, once greeted their Mothers in letters with the words, "Darling Mother."  If you are still raising your children, try with all your might to teach them and encourage them to write letters expressing love. Let them pour out their love, and let them be expressive. Avoid banal letters that appear to be written merely out of duty.

It is a comfort to older people to receive intelligent, entertaining, lively letters from the young, full of information and ideas.  The aged benefit from the ideas of the youth, and the youth benefit from the stability and knowledge of the olders, and this can be partly achieved with letters. As an older person now, I can tell you, life would be no fun if everyone was my own age. That is one reason why the ages must mingle.

I am afraid most of us did not teach letter-writing seriously, because the relatives and friends may have all been living in the same community and there did not seem to be much opportunity to practice it. Later, when the children removed from home, they were not conscientious about writing letters and did not understand how deeply important letters were.

If this is your situation, create cardboard mail boxes or large pockets for letters, attaching them to the doors of bedrooms. Children can post letters to each other and to their parents all day long, and have an enormously great time. It teaches a wonderful form of communication. 

In the past, our parents set us up with pen-pals (cousins, children of their friends) so we could experience the world of letters. "Write as though you were speaking aloud" we were told. We usually began a letter by saying we were very glad to receive their letter. After that, we asked of their welfare. Then, it was very important to comment on every thing the other person wrote. That is why it was called "answering" a letter.

Naturally I am lecturing myself as well, for I have a stack of unanswered cards and letters which daily I pledge to work on.

In other news, I spent the day cleaning the kitchen, and of course a clean kitchen Makes it tempting to create something. Since I had been wanting to try the wafer papers from Fancy Flours, I made a half recipe of cookies: just enough to fill a regular size cookie sheet:

As you see, I 
am a messy cook, (I would rather be sewing) and many of my dishes look more like mud-slides but they are always full of flavor. I do not make picture-perfect meals and my food is very old fashioned and plain. Lately I have decided to learn to cook, so I am taking an online French cooking course and enjoying it. I will write more about that, later. 

Cookies are not my expertise, (I would rather be sewing) and I do not make very neat and tidy looking ones but these taste good. I made them because I was curious about the edible wafer papers which are supposed to be replicas of old postcards.
What a mess...but at least I did it and the house smelled good for awhile.
I want to find some of these prints in real paper, to use for card-making, because cards last a lot longer. Its a shame for such pretty art to be used up so fast.

Here are some cookies from Pinterest that are much better-looking, which I am using for inspiration and ideas in making greeting cards:
This one is from Fancy Flours. This what the cookies are SUPPOSED to look like. Maybe since they are model cookies they have been airbrushed.πŸ˜‰

If you go to  you can watch three very good videos about cookies like these, from their current January issue of Victoria magazine. 

Below is one of the cards made by my daughter, inspired by this cookie art. You can see more of these cards on her blog, The Pleasant Times, on my blogroll.

Here is the information from a comment:

Download pdf.


Lydia said...

Christine has left a new comment on your post "Tuesday Tea Time: Letter Writing":

Dear Lydia,
I love writing letters, and it has been part of my life for most of my life. When I was little, my mother taught me about writing letters. My first form of letter writing was "thank you" notes to relatives who had given me a gift for Christmas or my birthday. I am grateful to my mother for such a valuable lesson, for it helped I still manners, but also communication.
As an older teenager, I had several pen-pals, and then having moved overseas long before all the modern communication, letter writing was essential for keeping in touch with family. In Italy, we did not have a telephone, so one had to go to the telephone exchange to have an operator place a call home to the U.S. As you can appreciate, this was expensive, so done very seldom.
You will recall that I live in Scotland now, so home is still far away, but seldom do I receive letters. I really do miss them, and coincidentally, decided at New Year that I intend to find a pen-pal or two once again.


Lydia said...

Christine, we used to have to make an appointment for an overseas call at the post office or phone company and go sit at a desk and wait to be connected. It was an uneasy feeling compared to now.

Linda said...

Your cookies are beautiful.

living from glory to glory said...

Dear Lydia, I also think letter writing is important for many reasons! I almost find myself giddy when I receive a letter from a friend and a loved one. I wait till I can sit and have a cup of tea and enjoy it fully! And as I remember we taught our kids to write thank you notes when they were sent a gift of a card with money or a small token!
And I think your cookies are really real and yummy looking!!
Perfection is so overrated (smiles)

When I can be inspired by what you or others are doing is so great!!

And I have always loved the idea of having a penpal and having a connection with someone!

And I will be looking for those paper stencils for trying what you have done!
And eat them all up...
Hugs, Roxy

Livia Rachelle said...

I sometimes send out cards to my grandparents or thank-you notes. My parents used to make us write thank-you notes. I should pick that back up. I also enjoy creating invitations; we are in the midst of preparing for my sister's wedding, and I enjoyed using fancy handwriting to address the envelopes.

I love getting packages in the mail even though its something I ordered. All of the blog exchanges often look fun; Stephanie @ The Enchanting Rose does a tea cup exchange every year during which a lot of women from all over enter and send and receive a tea cup and goodies.

Some cookies look lovely, but don't taste so great because they use royal icing. I'd rather have fluffy buttercream that tastes good with less pristine flawlessness.

Lydia said...

How did you figure out I did not use Royal Icing πŸ˜„

God's Grace Overflows said...

I love letter writing! And receiving them as well is such a delight! Sadly, I think it's almost extinct because everyone can send emails and texts now. My younger boys have penpals, so when they send cards I make sure they write a few lines of sunshine each time. I think its important!
You are too funny about your baking abilities. The thing about your cookies are they are homemade, handmade and baked with love, right? If yes, then who needs a fancy Pinterest cookie? ;)
I love baking and dislike sewing! Ha!

Have a lovely week, Lydia!

Blessings, Amy

susie @ persimmon moon cottage said...

Your cookies were very pretty. I have never seen cookies decorated like this before.

The cameo decorated cookies amazed me. I love cameo jewelry. It would be hard for me to eat the cookies that you have shown us here on this post. All of them are just too pretty to destroy-- little works of art.

Lydia said...

That is why my daughter and I are making cards based on these cookie decorations. You can keep the cards.

anonymous said...

I remember my mother writing letters a lot when I was young. Strange she didn't teach me that was important. Or maybe she did and I was too young or uninterested to do much. My mother had beautiful penmanship. Sadly I never see the young people today writing anything. In fact I am not able to find writing paper, tablets or stationary anymore.

Your cookies are just beautiful Lydia and I bet they taste yummy too. So inviting!
Royal icing (which has no butter or shortening) goes on very smoothly and dries rock hard. It is often referred to as icing cement and is used to make gingerbread houses, decorator cookies and decorated sugar cubes.
Your icing looks to be the fluffy delicious buttercream that is so wonderful on cookie and cake alike. For taste I prefer it to royal icing.

Thank you for the great post, Janet

Anonymous said...

These cookies would make great Valentine gifts. They are an edible card! However coming from your kitchen. I'm sure the fragrance and taste would be too hard to leave them alone.

Lynn said...

This post is on a very important topic....letter writing.

And...How fun to watch how one of these fancy cookies are made!

Feminine Belle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
June Fuentes @ A Wise Woman Builds Her Home said...

Love the rose cookies! You did a great job! :)

Susan M said...

Beautiful cookies! I checked out the site "Fancy Flours" and was amazed at what
one could do with the edible papers. So many wonderful designs and ideas.

I also enjoyed the subject of letter writing. Following, is a link to another
book on the subject (copyright 1876).
(downloadable pdf)

Lydia said...

Susan I will try to add that info to the post.

Homemaker's Heart said...

Hi Lydia~ Thank you for sharing pictures of your amazing cookies, and that cooking isn't really your favorite activity. I am so grateful for your honesty. The cookies really do look wonderful. Those picture perfect ones are nice, but I always prefer something homemade. They seem to taste better!

I am gluten, dairy (butter is ok) and sugar I am on the hunt this year for putting together Tea Time treats that I can eat. I am aiming to have a tea party in July, Christmas in July sort of thing with gifts etc. But I need to practice my treats. I would love to find those edible paper pictures to try to use.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Wishing you peace,

Nancy said...

Thank you for for all the valuable information I find here, Mrs. Sherman! You are continually an inspiration to me.

Songsparrowgarden said...

I remember letter writing.. . sad it has gone the way of the dinosaur, so-to-speak. I always write notes in cards and such. . . but very few replies come back. I tucked something in a card for someone at Christmas thinking she'd enjoy it. . after 6 weeks when I didn't hear from her I asked if she received it. Imagine my surprise when she said she NEVER opens holiday cards - - she finds that too stressful. (What???) Once her sister sent her a Valentine card - - she didn't open until October! . . . I don't understand that but okay - - I won't be sending her greeting cards anymore I don't think. She'll open birthday cards - - I don't know what the difference would be.

Songsparrowgarden said...

. . . and I wanted to say. . your cookies are like little works of art -- so pretty. I'm a vegan for many years now, 35 or 40 year. . and for the last 12 years I won't even eat cooked food of any kind (even at holidays). (Hint - - it ages us prematurely, causes internal pain, and often dis-ease). Extremely ill in my youth I had to re-learn how to eat to keep myself alive to this age. . . . so I would not be temped to eat them. . but they are lovely. And when your family enjoys them. . . make sure they also have a large fresh salad that day. . and every day to keep them healthy and well. Green is the color of great good health. (Though I will heat water for tea - - that is the only thing I would consider cooked - - hot water for a lovely cup of tea.) Just adding those thoughts for any women reading who may be having health issues. Ladies your diet really does matter. All that cooked comfort food . . makes us heavy, makes us ill, causes pain in our joints, salt / headaches and bodyaches. If you're going to have it, add lots of fresh green foods with only a little of the cooked. You'll prefer the results you get. Healthy fresh food really is our best medicine.

Unknown said...

Lydia,I loved the cookies!!

Anonymous said...

Lydia wrote---In spite of the rapid way of keeping in touch today, it is disappointing that people do less communicating. Ladies of my acquaintance complain of phones that never ring, inboxes with no personal email, mailboxes near the house with no letters, no text messages, no skype or other video conversations, no one answering personal invitations to tea, no one dropping by for a visit and no one stopping to chat in the shops or even the post office.

My reply is this:
I have 2 friends who them and I write to each other on a regular basis. How excited we are to see our letters in the mailbox. I would like to state that my friends and I range in age from late 50s to late 60s.

When I read what you had written Lydia I was so amazed as I thought it was only me that was happening to. To read of others who are also treated in this manner saddens me and I once read that loneliness is one of the biggest killers of the elderly.
Technology has really dumbed people down. I see it all the time where you visit young ones and both the parents are on their phones, the children are on their tablets and the youngest are glued to the TV and no one is talking to anyone else.