Just the other day, someone in the elevator was expressing dismay over the displays of Christmas items already popping up around town. "Seems like every year they start bringing things out earlier--it isn't even Halloween," they groused. Actually, it's not at all too early to be packaging and sending gifts to loved ones in far-off places.
Packages destined for foreign countries, APO or FPO boxes, Hawaii and Alaska need to be mailed through the U.S. Postal Service. Those addressed to places within the "lower 48" states may be sent by either the U.S. Postal Service or United Parcel Service (UPS).
According to the U.S. Postal Service, to ensure on-time arrival, military surface mail to Australia and the Far East needs to be shipped immediately (air mail, Nov. 3); Middle East, Oct. 27 (same by air mail); Central and South America, Europe, Greenland and Iceland, Oct. 31 (air mail, Nov. 3); Caribbean and West Indies, Nov. 17 (same by air mail); Alaska and Hawaii, Nov. 24 (same by air mail).
International surface mail to Africa, Australia, the Middle East and Far East should be mailed immediately (air parcels, Nov. 24); Central and South America and Europe, Nov. 3 (air parcels, Dec. 1); Caribbean and West Indies, Nov. 3 (air parcels, Dec. 10).
UPS recommends shipping all packages by Dec. 15. Both UPS and the U.S. Postal Service have package size restrictions, but these should not be a problem for the size boxes you will be mailing. If there is any doubt, give them a call. Also keep in mind that surface mail is less expensive than sending packages by air.
The best damage insurance during shipping is a careful job of packing. Begin by totally covering the item with plastic wrap, then foil. This is relatively easy in the case of cakes and breads. Bar cookies and fudge can be wrapped without cutting; delicate cookies should be individually wrapped and packed in layers with cushioning between. Some items can be baked in inexpensive aluminum pans, then after cooling, the same pans will give extra support during shipping.
Place the items in a sturdy corrugated carton that has all the flaps intact so it can be securely closed. Since new cartons are not always available, used cartons are acceptable if checked for flaws. Be certain to carefully mark out all old addresses to eliminate any confusion. The carton needs to be large enough to hold the item or items as well as plenty of cushioning material.
The U.S. Postal Service suggests using polystyrene, excelsior or shredded newspaper for cushioning. It should slightly overfill the container before closure. That way even after it settles, the item or items will be prevented from moving around during shipping. When several items are in the same package, they must be protected from each other, too.
Masking Tape Not Acceptable
Sturdy tape should be used to close the carton. Pressure-sensitive, filament-reinforced tape or reinforced paper tape two inches to three inches wide is recommended by the post office and UPS. Masking tape is not acceptable because it has a paper base and breaks easily. For extra strength, start the tape on the side of the carton adjacent to the closure.
Clearly print the address directly on the box or a firmly affixed label. Use a felt tip marker or ball point pen to prevent smudging if it gets wet. Include the full address, including ZIP code.
UPS suggests placing a duplicate label inside the box. If the outside address becomes unreadable, they will open the package to find the second. They also suggest adding a telephone number to the label if the package is to be delivered in out-of-the-way places such as ranches or farms. This permits them to call ahead to say they have a package to deliver.
String or twine should not be used on the outside of packages. This can get caught in machinery used in transporting packages to destinations.
Some of your favorite recipes will ship well. Fruit cakes and moist quick breads will stay fresh longer and travel better than yeast breads. Bar cookies are a better choice than more thin, or tender varieties such as sugar or spritz. Fudge and caramels are good choices of candy for mailing. Select the ones that are appropriate or use those that follow.
FESTIVE PEAR FRUITCAKES
1 (29-ounce) can pears
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups mixed candied fruits
1 1/2 cups pitted dates
1 1/2 cups currants
1 cup chopped walnuts
2 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Drain pears and puree in blender, food processor or food mill. Combine pureed pears in saucepan with shortening and sugar. Bring to boil and boil 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cool.
Combine candied fruits, dates, currants and walnuts in large mixing bowl. Stir together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt. Sprinkle over fruit, mixing to coat each piece.