forty things


Yesterday an ancient wooden trunk turned up at my house. This was what I found inside.


Now, you may (or may not) remember that I turned forty a wee while ago. At the time I told my family and friends not to get me anything: I am not one for birthdays, plus at that time we were in the middle of renovating and selling our old flat and buying our new house. There was lots to be getting on with. But my mum ignored my request and, over the past few months, prepared me a trunk full of forty things to celebrate my birthday. Inside the trunk, each thing was wrapped and numbered separately.


How exciting! I cleared my desk and spent an exceptionally jolly afternoon unwrapping all the packages. I found many lovely treasures. . .

A beautiful Meryl Watts print.

A blank book, bound in navy embossed leather, from Liberty’s.

. . . and things precious for other reasons

Castleton Library was one of my Grandad’s favourite hangouts, and was also where I first learnt that singular thrill of choosing a book.

Opening the packages reminded me that there are few people who know you better than your mum. Who else is aware that I am equally fond of jelly molds . . .


. . . chickens


. . . and Spongebob Squarepants?


My mum loves hunting things down on eBay, and I’m sure she really enjoyed herself bagging me some lovely vintage threads. . .


. . . buttons


. . . and this amazing antique tape measure, which is still in perfect nick.


All of these beautiful and useful items have already taken up residence in my new work-pod, along with this:


Now, I have looked at these old Patons & Baldwins bakelite yarn beehives many times myself on Ebay over the past couple of years, but have been unable to justify bidding on one. Now I don’t need to!

I love the old needle gauge on the bottom.

Finally, whoever invented Mint-Aero fudge is a genius.


What a completely amazing gift. Thanks so much, Mum.

117 thoughts on “forty things

  1. What a gorgeous idea for a milestone birthday, and all full of such wonderful thoughtful presents! Including mint aero fudge, which sounds like manna from heaven!

  2. I used to work at Cassie library ! in fact all those old Rochdale branch libraries as relief assistant and I loved them all, they each had their own character, and now they are probably all shutting.
    Your Mum did a great job with your birthday present, it must have taken a lot of looking for things, but what fun when she found something she knew was just right for you ! That trunk is rather nice too, is that one of the 40 gifts ?
    Belated many happy returns !

      1. I haven’t fallen far from the tree, I still live in Heywood ! where I was born and brought up. I went to work for Rochdale libraries straight from school and it was such a great job ! Lots of young people working there and we used to make reservations for lunch at the town hall at least once a week or when in funds ( though it was not expensive) and eat in splendour in a large hall there, with spotless white linen and heavy silver! Talk about perks of the job !

  3. Oh my, what treasure – the trunk, the gifts (and they all fitted inside, a feat in itself), and the deafness to your instructions – all give a wonderful insight to your mother’s love.

    Thank you, so much, for sharing.

  4. What a wonderful present, with so much thought going into it. Your mum is so amazing to have found such wonderful personal gifts. I had just been thinking of how to find things that are different, and not necessarily expensive, for my girls. A couple of years ago I gave one of my daughters an old leather writing case of mine – she had asked for nice stationery and I suddenly remembered I had this. (From the seventies, not really really old.) I found a poem inside it, from one of my university friends, and decide to leave that in place. Also found a teeny tiny address book from Moleskine to fit in the case. I have never seen one of my children so moved by a present.

  5. What amazing gifts. I’ve heard of people doing a similar thing before but never choosing as many gifts that actually relate to the recipients journey through life.
    Your mother must have had such a wonderful time collecting them.

  6. Cor! what a fantastic mother you have! A lovely idea. My daughter coming up to 18, better start shopping now :o) thanks for sharing

  7. That´s an absolutely wonderful gift idea! I´m knicking it straight away. One year from now my daughter will turn 30 – so I´ll only have to think of 30 things to put in my granddad´s old trunk. Tell your mum thanks and enjoy your gifts. I´m sure she has chosen them with her whole heart and imagening how happy you would be :) Happy birthday…

  8. What a wonderful gift idea, and wonderful mum you have. It must have been so much fun opening them all, and so much fun to find places for them in your lovely new home.

    Bruce made me giggle the other day with his g(love) affair.

  9. Wow. Those gifts are all so beautiful. Way to go Kate’s mum! It actually reminds me of my mom, who is always finding wee treasures such as these and understands my love of the old and quirky. I learned to dream in libraries and as a result they are always my favourite places. Oh and I adore anything chocolate mint. Are we related? ;)

  10. Kate, your Mum is special, this brought tears to my eyes. I’m tucking this idea of “forty things” away for when my daughter turns forty (in another thirty yrs!). Thank you for sharing, it’s clear you are truly loved and cherished.

  11. Wow! Happy Belated Birthday – 40 is an amazing age! Your Mom sounds absolutely wonderful and this post brought me to tears. What a beautidul gift she gave you, and so much thought went into it. It’s nice knowing that you were present in her thoughts so much as she planned and executed it. (not that your NOT n her thoughts that much). :-)

  12. The best gifts are from the heart. I can imagine the fun you had opening them! Moms know us best, don’t they? I miss my mom so much…give your mum a big hug when you see her next time! Happy birthday!

  13. What an amazing gift! How incredibly sweet of your mother to prepare such a gift for you. The wooden trunk already is something precious, let alone the little treasures it is filled with. Yay for amazing mums!

  14. Oh, this is wonderful — she must have been planning this for a long time and having so much fun. I think she needs a special new sweater. . .

  15. What an amazing idea and an amazing mum. You are very blessed Kate and thank you for sharing. As someone who sadly has no contact with her mum I was thrilled to read about such a loving bond between a mother and a daughter. I shall definitely do this for my own wonderful daughter.

  16. Happy belated birthday ! I completely missed the discreet announcement on that post last June… however, I see now , all the things your family collected for you are to inhabit your new home in just the right moment worth waiting for. It all just seems so delicious and delectable !

  17. What a lovely gift, Kate. Treasure your Mum. As much as I love my Mum, I’m not sure that she would know me well enough to put together something as fantastic as your trunk. Is this her problem or mine? Not sure!
    Happy belated Birthday and may your Mum be around to celebrate may more.

  18. What wonderful gifts from obviously a wonderful Mother to a wonderful Daughter! Happy Birthday Kate and best of everything to you.

  19. Happy belated, Kate! I am turning 40 myself, next week. My mom died 5 years ago last week. So this post was especially poignant for me. Cherish your mom, she certainly cherishes you!

  20. When I saw your post..and the start of the pictures. I knew. I turned 50 Sept 4. My family sent me 50! gifts in a big big box. Chicken material. A tray, apron and sweatshirt from St Bartholowmews Hospital in London where I started as a Theatre Nurse in my young 20’s. In a new and exciting country. And it has since closed. Yarn. Running socks. All things that reminded them of *me*. A box of rocks??? I stood on a side street with my younger sister and we threw rocks at cars. At 7 and 4, it sounded like a perfectly fine thing to do! Oh, such a treasure..

  21. What an absolute gem, your mum! On top of all those treasures, picturing her excitement and glee as she found of them must be such a joy. I’m glad your place is now ready to receive such bounty!

  22. I actually teared up reading this post. What a lovely gift your mother gave you. I’m not one for birthdays or gift-receiving, but if someone did this for me, I’d be a blubbering mess of gratefulness.

  23. What a beautiful idea. I actually got a bit teary reading this post, so I can only imagine how you must have felt opening up all the lovely little gifts. Time to add a Patons Beehive to my list of “someday” knitting related items…

    (happy belated birthday, btw.)

  24. What a mum! Lots of lovely carefully chosen gifts. My favourite is the P&B beehive yarn holder – I have a blue one inherited from mum. I love it. Well done, Kate’s Mum. Your timing is perfect.

  25. What an amazing idea! Your mum is brilliant! I will have to borrow this idea for my daughter…one day :) When she turns 18 perhaps…so I have time to prepare…

    Happy 40th…and many more to you…

  26. What a wonderful gift! She thought out each and every gift; a mother’s love is so comforting.

    ps. Saw your Peerie Flooers knitted up in my favorite local yarn store today. My Sister Knits in Ft. Collins, CO. I was excited!

  27. What a terrific idea, and what fun your mum must have had choosing 40 gifts. Did you open them in order? When my husband was 60 his nephew gave him 6 different teas!
    Belated many happy returns.

  28. What lovely treasures! I’ve recently started to collect together ’40 things’ with my parents for my sister’s 40th and planned to wrap and number each one too – so it was very strange to see one already completed here today! My Grandma always used to make us boxes of ‘bits’ up at Christmas so I think I came up with my ’40 things’ idea as an extension of that. Many happy [belated] returns to you!

  29. Wow. My dad had a workshop tape measure that resembled your Tape Measure treasure. His was a cloth tape, 25 feet long, and wound with a center crank. I wonder where it is …?

    What a joy to get such a gift box!!

  30. Your mother probably had as much fun putting this together as you did discovering each little gift. You’ll remember this birthday forever.

  31. And your Mum’s gift multiplied so many many times when you shared it with us, of all ages. Be sure to thank her for us, and thanks to you as well. Many happy returns.

  32. Happy belated, of course! I think I enjoyed this post as much as your recent Bruce one, and that’s saying a lot. It made me think of my own mother, who loved finding treasures like the ones yours sent you! She did a lot of her seeking on Saturday mornings, biking around to garage and yard sales at a time when that was considered eccentric behavior, not “eco-friendly” or “upcycling.” I’m happy that she taught me that way of being in the world. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  33. This was wonderful. Started me thinking about birthday gifts for my sisters when they hit one of the big milestones. Your blog, is truly wonderful. I found great inspiration with your post about the shoes, I’m recovering from a spinal stroke. There is hope I can deal with the effects. I also loved Glove. I recently lost my beloved yellow lab and it brought back very fond memories. Just wanted you to know there are folks out here really enjoying your blog. Thanks.

  34. Hi Kate, having a quick catchup, sitting on our hotel room balcony in Portugal. I love your kitchen, a pixie hood was the second thing I knitted, age 7, and I want your Mum to adopt me ……. can she please do 61 presents for next Wednesday? Hope you are well, love Anne

  35. Happy birthday, Kate! Good luck to you in your next 40+ years. It was truly a treasure chest that your mum gave you. New home, great family, a career that gives you satisfaction – much to be thankful for!

  36. Oh Kate! Your Mum!!! What can I say except how loved you are.
    On my children’s birthdays I always feel like it is “my” day too. After all I was there. :) I have a feeling she feels the same way too.

  37. so like can we all sign a petition or something to persuade Patons & Baldwins (I know Patons still exists) to recreate those beehives? I know they wouldn’t be as cool as the bakelite but still….
    PS Your Mum loves you and she’s a very cool lady to come up with such a great gift, Happy Birthday

  38. Your mom is a dear one and her idea is quite terrific, including that wooden trunk! I have two dear friends who could use this kind of attention. I will just have to adjust it to their particular ages which could make it quite an expensive undertaking…. but still worthwhile I think!

  39. Kate–How lucky you are to have such a Mum, and how lucky she is to have a daughter like you!
    Wishing you Many Happy Returns of the day.
    Also, thank you so much for your sweet and generous gift of your blanket kit to Jean Miles for her birthday. That was so much fun to read about, and made me happy to think of! You were so thoughtful to do that and I can’t think of a more deserving recipient

  40. Woah, this give me happy shivers reading and looking at this post. How utterly gorgeous. The Watts print is stunning and as for the buttons….sublime. Your Mum has given me a great idea that I will do for my own kids, thank you.

  41. There is nothing like a Mom to gather up a load of fantastic goodies to make you have continued smiles each and every time you come across one of the gems she’s sent. How wonderful that you have your Mom to remember the wonderful special day that is yours alone.

  42. What a treasure – the gift and especially your mum. She has been planning this for quite some time.
    I’m sure she had as much fun gathering this gift together as you did in opening it. Thanks so much for sharing it all with us. What wonderful finds and all so special to you. Absolutely great idea.

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)