Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Practice room vs. writing desk

Practice room combo

I haven't written any letters in weeks. I haven't even sent any postcards. I've been in a practice room, often times the one pictured above. (No, I don't play the drum, but I wish I did!) It's been great work, lots of fruitful musical progress, but only music-related (and school-related) writing.

My semester is wrapping up, and I hope to put pen to paper - and new posts to blog! - later in May. I've got some exciting news to share about summer projects...

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Of postcards, music, and blog neglect

Cats and mail, recently sent postcards

Nothing new here: grad school is still taking up most of my time and energy. I love it. I spent 5 hours straight yesterday transcribing Miles Davis and Eric Dolphy solos (and was happy as a clam, despite - or perhaps because of - the extremely challenging nature of the work) for a class assignment. That would have been letter time, but... work first.

I have been sending a lot of postcards, though, both to friends and pen pals, and via Postcrossing. My 10 year anniversary with Postcrossing came and went last month (how is it April already??). I feel like a real old hand now.

I've got some other big things I'm juggling in my personal life right now, both joyful and very difficult, that are taking up a lot of time and emotional energy. I feel awful that I've neglected my beloved blog, but I thank the longtime readers for hanging in there and understanding. April is gonna be all kinds of crazy. Come mid-May, things will open up in my life again... and I hope for a summer of much letter-writing and blogging.

Monday, February 15, 2016

My 10-year Postcrossing Anniversary, and an etsy bargain

DE-4784491

I write about Postcrossing a lot on this blog. (I recently received the lovely colorful cat illustration postcard shown above, DE-4784491, from Germany.) It's one of my favorite mail pastimes, and I've been Postcrossing far longer than I've had this blog. For a look through the years, you can check out all my posts tagged with Postcrossing. There are a ton of them.

I am really excited for an upcoming milestone: next month (March 2016) I will celebrate 10 years with Postcrossing. Wow! I wasn't active all the time -- there were definitely a few dormant years in there, and sometimes I send more than others -- but it is really fun to think about how long it's been in my life, and how many thousands of postcards I've exchanged. (As of this post, I've received 1599*, sent 1605, and have 16 traveling -- but those numbers are constantly changing!) I have lived in, and sent postcards from, 4 different states throughout my 10 years of Postcrossing participation.

To celebrate my 10-year anniversary, I'd like to offer a little unofficial discount in my etsy shop, where I sell, among other things, original designs of mail-themed postcards. If you order postcards in my shop, mention "Postcrossing" in the notes to seller section when you place your order, and I'll throw in an extra postcard . That's 6 postcards instead of 5, and I will do that for every postcard pack ordered (up to 5 postcard packs / extra postcards total). This offer is good from now through March 31, 2016.

Happy mailing, and happy Postcrossing!

*Update: a few hours after I originally wrote this post, I received Postcrossing postcard #1600. Woo-hoo!

Monday, February 8, 2016

2016: a year of great (space) stamps



I am extremely excited for the U.S. Postal Service stamp releases this year. There are some great stamps coming! Space and planets are a major theme, and there are three planetary releases: Views of our Planets, Pluto--Explored!, and The Moon global forever stamp. This article has more info about all three issues. I think the "Views of our Planets" stamps look particularly gorgeous and I can't wait to get my hands on them. Word on the street is that these will be released at the World Stamp Show in NYC somewhere between late May and early June.



Continuing the "space" theme, shown above are the stamps that so many of us are really geeking out about: Star Trek stamps! These stamps commemorate the 50th anniversary of the iconic TV show's premiere, and though I don't know the exact release date, it looks to be somewhere in the second half of the year. I'll have to get my eyes on them in person before I pass judgment, but I admit I have reservations about the design. What's with the grainy look? Oh well. I shouldn't quibble about Star Trek stamps, because it is a very fabulous idea.



I'm also a big fan of all the stamp releases that feature musicians... but I'm over the moon (ha! Space pun!) about the upcoming Sarah Vaughan stamps. Jazz singers are always close to my heart - I sing a lot of jazz myself, and there's so much to learn from any singer's individual style - but "Sassy" is in a class by herself.



Sarah Vaughan is not only one of my favorite jazz singers, but she's the one who made me first fall in love with jazz vocals back when I was in high school (and, at the time, singing only classical music). Her style, technique, and artistry are unparalleled, and I can't wait to buy up a TON of these gorgeous stamps to use on my letters. They'll be released on Mach 29, so we don't have too much longer to wait. Design thoughts: again, I'll wait to hold the inked paper in my hands, but this design idea gets a thumbs up from me. I think the artwork is lovely, and I appreciate the decision to use an illustration (a painting?) instead of a photograph. This really captures the mood of her style and her immersion in the music. I love that her eyes are closed, though I know not everyone will agree on that point.

There are more great stamps than I could even share here, and I highly recommend a look at the 2016 stamp release preview to see them all... but I'll just mention that the Pets and Jack-O-Lanterns also look very promising.

And I haven't forgotten about my promise to do a blog post about my new stamp organization system, which is working quite well so far. I have an unexpected snow day today (blizzard in Boston! the first flakes just started falling here in NH at about 11am) so maybe I'll manage some photos and some work on that. But for now, enjoy the stamp preview!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

2016 sticker organization system

Large sticker books

In my previous post about my newly organized writing desk and study, I mentioned I had a new organization system for stickers and stamps, and that I was considering separate blog posts about said organizational systems. Blog readers were so enthusiastic about that prospect that I must deliver! So here's a look at my new organization system for stickers.

A little background: I have a lot of stickers. You will see that in this post. I use them almost exclusively for mail and mail art, decorating envelopes, letters, postcards, etc. Previously they were fairly loose and unorganized, floating through desk drawers and scattered on my desk in piles and mis-matched envelopes... they were a mess. I could never find anything. I would say, "hey, this person loves owls, I know I have some adorable tiny owl stickers somewhere," and then I would root through desk drawers searching for them. It was a waste of time. I always meant to organize my stickers, but it was a pretty huge project. As I was setting up my writing desk, I had both energy and inspiration, and decided to do it. I should have taken photos of all the piles of my stickers as they were spread out across the entire study floor, but I didn't. Oh well.

So, my current system involves the following components, all of which I will show and explain:
  • Large sticker books
  • Small sticker books / boxes of stickers
  • Loose stickers sorted by theme in pocket dividers in a 3-ring binder
  • Loose stickers sorted by theme in drawers

    Above we have the large sticker books, all together at last. They are all the same size, mostly but not exclusively from Dover. I am particularly fond of the Edward Gorey and Kliban cat sticker books. These live on top of my stationery shelves, normally tucked in next to my mail organizer. (If you want to see the whole setup in contect, see my previous post about my newly organized writing desk and study.)

    Small sticker books and label boxes

    Small sticker books and sticker boxes, which fortunately are all about the same size, are stacked in a pile on top of the stationery shelves, right next to my writing desk. This seems haphazard and isn't completely ideal, but I have in my head a fairly accurate idea of which stickers live there. The small books are almost all Dover, and include essentials like the Glitter old-time cats and kittens stickers (kitty kitsch!) and the Cavallini Par Avion Tin. There are also a couple of random notebooks and journals in there. Ooops. Nothing's perfect, folks!

    Sticker binder: fauna and mythical creatures

    And now, the meat of the matter: loose stickers. These were the biggest nightmare. I do not assert that my system is ideal, and I created it on the fly with materials on hand: a 3-ring binder and a few extra plastic 3-pocket postcard holders. Each pocket has a theme, and here we have fauna (glitter and non-glitter) and fantasy/mythical creatures (hello, unicorns!). You can see through to some of the pages behind it. I will spare you each and every one of the sections, but others include glitter/sparkle stars and rainbows, bats/Halloween, flora, objects, etc. This system clearly still has flaws, a major one being that it's very easy for stickers to fall out the top, so I'm careful when I'm handle it. A minor flaw is that I still have to pull them out of the sections to find something, but it is less of a hassle than rooting through entire drawers as it used to be.

    Sticker drawer: cats

    The drawers still contain loose stickers, but each drawer has its own exclusive theme: the largest themes of the lot. This drawer holds exclusively CAT STICKERS. Ha. 'Nuff said.

    Sticker drawer: mail / writing, snowflakes

    The other drawer has one main theme with a smaller unrelated subset. The main theme is mail / meta / writing (air mail labels, mail-themed stickers, stamp-themed stickers, stickers of pens, etc) and the minor theme is snowflakes, because I tend to use a lot of snowflake stickers, and I like them close at hand.

    So there you have it. My system is highly idiosyncratic and tailored to my own tastes and collections, but so far it is working extremely well for me. I'm curious to see how this system holds up over time; I am sure I will develop some complaints, but it's better than a mess of unorganized stickers!
  • Monday, January 18, 2016

    New study and writing desk setup

    Oberon explores the stationery shelves

    We moved five months ago, and it has taken me this long (remember how grad school ate my life?) to get my writing desk and workspace set up in my new study. Oberon and Stella were gracious enough (or curious enough) to help me with this little photo shoot, and above you can see Oberon sniffing around near that one empty shelf cubby on my paper and stationery shelves. (How long will it stay empty? Hmmm...)

    New study and writing desk

    Here's a closer look at the writing desk itself. Yes, that is a towering stack of boxed postcards on the desk, and on the bulletin board above the desk, some of my favorite received mail and mail art.

    For the first time in many years, I have a room of my own, and I won't go so far as to say I've finished the entire study -- sections of the room are carefully omitted from these photos, because they're still a mess -- but I'm thrilled to have my letter-writing materials all set up and organized.

    In the future, maybe I'll need to do a blog post about how intensely I've organized my stamps and stickers now, in a way they've never been organized before; this deep organization project is something I've long been itching to do. It's really exciting and it took me many hours to achieve, with stamps and stickers spread out all over the floor, but I finally know exactly where to find everything. Not only is it efficient, but after years of having things all jumbled together, it's also very satisfying.

    Stella in my new study

    I'm thrilled to have natural light nearby. My writing desk in DC was shoved into a dark corner, and not an entirely lovely place to write... but it wasn't an entirely lovely apartment, either. Here, I have my own room, and nice big window right next to the desk. And that's Stella on the floor, walking towards me as I take the photo.

    Best of all, this setup makes me really want to write letters! Today is my last day of winter break (back to school tomorrow), so I'd better carpe diem while I still have the time.

    Saturday, January 2, 2016

    Missive Maven on Etsy reopened for 2016!

    As long as there are postmen, life will have zest

    Happy New Year! I hope everyone is as excited about 2016 as I am. I think it's going to be a wonderful year.

    As one of my first major mail actions of the year, I have FINALLY re-opened my Etsy shop! I closed it when we moved in August, and while I had every intention of opening it again in September, my first semester schedule in grad school was just too punishing. I have a lighter course load for the second semester, so I'll have time to tend to any etsy orders that come in... and I finally got my shop inventory a little organized in my study at home. So, for anyone who's been waiting, or curious, pop on over to Missive Maven on Etsy and have a look around.

    Pictured above is one of my favorite designs, Zesty French Postman, which is available as pack of 5 postcards, a set of 3 notecards, or as part of the Combination postcard pack.

    May 2016 be a year of fabulous mail!