Letterboxing is an inexpensive, enjoyable activity for all

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I’m writing in response to the request (July 6 Sun Spots) by a mother in Lisbon for suggestions for inexpensive summer activities for preteens.

 My suggestion is letterboxing – a scavenger hunt-type activity that involves following clues that are provided online and that takes place in outdoor public locations. The prize is a hand-carved stamp, typically hidden inside a small pouch or box. Check out https://www.atlasquest.com/ for more information. There are some boxes in the Lisbon area and many more in the Topsham-Brunswick area, as well as all over the state.

 Supplies needed are a signature stamp, a journal, markers and a backpack or fanny pack. 

If the kids enjoy this activity, they can get into carving and planting their own stamps, which provide an at-home activity. Letterboxing got my daughter and me through the peak of the pandemic as a low-cost activity that got us outdoors. Many of the stamps we went in search of were planted in parks and cemeteries we didn’t even know existed! We alternated with who looked for the box and colored the stamps in different ways then we compared our results. — Martha, Poland

ANSWER: Letterboxing came into being in 1854 in Dartmoor, England, when James Perrot placed a bottle on the bank of Cranmere Pool with his calling card so visitors could find him and leave their cards. This evolved into leaving a tin box where people could place their calling cards. By 1905, a zinc box held a logbook where people could log in. A couple of years later, John H. Strother suggested in the logbook that people use a rubber stamp “like at the post office.” After 122 years, 15 letterboxes could be found around Dartmoor.

By 1976, Tom Gant created a guide map for the letterboxes and the number grew into the thousands by the 1980s. Like anything that gains in popularity, concerns came up. That’s when Godfrey Swinscow stepped in to write a code of conduct that is still used for the hobby.

Letterboxing became known in the U.S. in 1998 when the Smithsonian Magazine published an article about it. Letterboxing North America (LbNA) was started and by 2001, there were over a thousand letterbox locations covering all 50 states. In 2004, Ryan Carpenter, a software engineer, created the present letterbox map known as Atlas Quest.

Go to https://www.atlasquest.com/boxes/directory/us/maine.php to find the clues for letterbox locations in Maine. Thank you, Martha. What fun!

DEAR SUN SPOTS: I’m looking for the chocolate cake recipe that doesn’t have any eggs. I saw it in Sun Spots or somewhere else in the paper a couple years ago. — Dee, no town

ANSWER: The recipe I use is very easy and I have made it hundreds of times. I think it was devised during the Depression when some of the basic ingredients were scarce or rationed. It’s great for a picnic and freezes well if there are leftovers, but there probably won’t be! This cake is especially good with a vanilla buttercream frosting or peanut butter frosting.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine 3 cups flour, 2 cups sugar, 2/3 cup cocoa, and 2 teaspoons baking soda together in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 cup canola or vegetable oil, and 2 cups water. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Pour batter into a greased 9- by 13-inch pan and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Cool and frost. Yield: 16 servings

Readers, if you have other eggless cake or cookie recipes to share, please write in. Having reactions and sensitivities to eggs is a real thing and we want everyone to be able to enjoy the occasional baked good.

This column is for you, our readers. It is for your questions and comments. There are only two rules: You must write to the column and sign your name. We won’t use it if you ask us not to. Please include your phone number. Letters will not be returned or answered by mail, and telephone calls will not be accepted. Your letters will appear as quickly as space allows. Address them to Sun Spots, P.O. Box 4400, Lewiston, ME 04243-4400. Inquiries can also be emailed to [email protected].


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