Stuck for gift ideas? How about an advent calendar for birthdays?
During lockdown my doorstep was busier than Princess Parkway at rush hour. Parcels came every day and I didn’t even order all of them myself. Kind friends sent little tokens every so often that really made a difference when the absence of all the things we used to take for granted – going for dinner, laughing together, a quick hug – became achingly apparent.
Sending gifts in the post seems to have become even more important recently. When we can’t do things together, then a little reminder that we care goes a long way.
With friends and loved ones stuck in lockdown, what better way to spread some joy?
But as gifts have got more important, so has the pressure to get them just right; and where’s there is pressure there is indecision.
Even as I type this I’ve got a browser open on a wedding list website, trying to mull over a clothes dryer (practical) or a hot stone massage for two (indulgent). Which to choose? I’ve got lots of presents to send this month and I want them all to make their recipients feel as good as I did when I received my lockdown treats.
But the harder I think about it the worse I seem to get at gifting. I currently have several birthdays and a couple of new baby presents outstanding. Don't even mention a certain wedding anniversary.
The importance of gifts in making us feel special was not lost on Worsley couple Andrew and Charlotte Staal. When their teenage daughter exclaimed, “Why don’t we have advent calendars for birthdays?” Andrew and Charlotte didn’t have an answer. After pondering the idea and deciding that it was a brilliant one, they got to work creating a unique concept that might just be the answer to present panics like mine.
SevenYays officially launched last month after the idea and production were developed during the various national lockdowns over the past year.
The new personalised gifting service allows users to create customised countdown calendars for birthdays and other occasions for friends and family or there are several ready-made boxes with themes including gin, wellbeing, and celebration. Customers simply choose six small gifts and one larger gift - the Seventh Yay - plus a card with a personalised message to complete the SevenYays experience online.
Charlotte Staal said: “Our daughter had to create a business idea for a GCSE project. She asked us, “Why don’t we have advent calendars for birthdays? We couldn’t answer, and the more we thought about it, the more we saw what a brilliant idea it was.”
“We put our heads together as a family and talked it over. It seemed like the perfect fit for the current situation. With friends and loved ones stuck in lockdown, what better way to spread some joy? Then we got to work.”
I decided to give the business a try by gifting, er, myself, a SevenYays box. I chose the Seven Days of Spa box on the basis that you can't pour from an empty cup. Perhaps if I did a little bit of self-care (and self-gifting) my present-buying paralysis would end.
I have to admit it is a neat concept. The presentation is a key factor of course, and the special advent-style box definitely adds to the excitement and is sturdy, well-designed and feels good quality. I admit I did not stick rigidly to the gift-per-day routine, but a little bit of over-excitement is par for the course when it comes to advent calendars, right?
The Seven Days of Spa box contained a bottle of Himalayan bath salts, a handmade soap, herbal tea, socks, a soy candle, an eye treatment and a satin sleeping mask. All very soothing and spoiling. My favourite day was when I found the socks but really it's the cumulative effect of all these little treats together that makes the impact.
Other pre-made sets include Gin and Chill, Party, Sunshine and Friendship, to name but a few. Oils, candles, lip balms, masks and soaps feature in most boxes, plus plenty of gin miniatures.
If that sounds a bit obvious then you can fill your own box for a more personalised take. This is when you can get a bit more quirky with cute items such as a miniature music box, enamel pin badge or cross stitch kit. When you've picked six 'yays', the website taken to a new set of gifts, the seventh 'yay', which is a bit bigger, and meant to mark the special day. You get to pick the colour and style of your box and, of course, add a personal message on the card of your choice.
In the spirit of thing I put together a box for a friend consisting of nail varnish, lip balm, pink gin, spiced rum, a rainbow cross stitch kit, clementine candle and gin rummy playing cards. It came to roughly £50 including the box, a card and postage (each gift is individually priced and ranges from about £4-12). That's admittedly quite a bit for a gift but considering a lot of hassle (shopping, wrapping, posting) had been taken out of my hands, the extra might well be worth it if it means my friend actually gets her gift this year.
A nice aspect of the SevenYays service is that it brings together lots of independent producers under one roof. If I was putting together my own gift box I wouldn't order a soap from one website and a lip balm from another - the postage factor alone would make me more inclined to order a gift from one single producer. Here I get a range of different brands to try out.
SevenYays aims wherever possible to support independent British businesses with ethical and sustainable values. The team has also taken great care in the development process to make all packaging as planet friendly as possible.
For me, the ideal recipients of a SevenYays box are a couple of my friends who have just become mums. A selection of little treats to pick them up after a hard day at the baby coal face is exactly what's needed.
Now if SevenYays could just invent a wedding gift box - with space for a clothes dryer and a hot stone massage - then all my gifting problems would be solved.
Visit SevenYays for more information
Read again: Blossoming tourism: RHS Garden Bridgewater opens
Don't miss out
Get the latest food & drink news and exclusive offers by email.