Friday, February 26, 2010

Updating the table

Remember how I said I decided it would be really tedious to post about what I've written every single day of my March Madness challenge, and instead am keeping the totals in a little table on my lefthand sidebar so we can all track my progress? It is actually really satisfying to update said table every time I write a letter or a postcard. Weird. But I'm going to admit that I'm pretty proud of myself, after such a dry spell, for writing 18 pieces of mail since Monday.

Post postcard

Post postcard

This gorgeous postcard photo is the sender's own work. You know I squealed when I pulled this one out of my mailbox! Gorgeous photo, happy subject.

post postcard meta goodness

The back was just as meta-posty! I adore all the little mail-themed rubber stamps, and had to ask where she found them. (Etsy.) Maybe I'll have to acquire some - the mini pillar postbox is my fave! I love how she wrote my name in a little mail slot, too. Catwrangler has sent me some really, really fine mail lately, and I owe her a letter... surely that will happen somewhere in my March Madness challenge. Incidentally, regarding said challenge, I decided it would be really tedious to post about what I've written every single day, and instead am keeping the totals in a little table on my lefthand sidebar so we can all track my progress.

Zowie, it's been too long since I put a photo in my post! Thanks for bearing with all that text, time to get back to the pretty pictures. But, for the moment, time to get to work...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

March Madness: a back-to-writing goal (100 by April 1)

You may have noticed that my blogging, and my letter-writing output, has been way down lately. This is partly because I've been super-busy (I always am, in January and February) and because I've been rather down myself. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, my life gets a lot more manageable in March, and I am really looking forward to digging back into letters again.

I will confess that there are well over 100 items in my needs-response pile, a combination of letters and postcards and even a few little packages. I must remedy this!

I know I'm not going to catch up completely and immediately, but I decided I would set a goal for myself, and share it with you to keep me on task. At first I thought I wanted to write 100 items of mail (postcards count, along with letters!) in March... but I'll be away for a few days in there, and I wondered if that was really do-able. But I had some unexpected free time on Tuesday this week, and I did a fair amount of writing then, so I decided that I'd count this week in the total. 100 letters in about 5 weeks is about 20 letters per week - totally do-able, and probably pretty ho-hum average for my summertime output.

So, the challenge has begun. By April 1 I hope to have sent out 100 pieces of mail. So far this week I've done 14 already (7 postcards, 7 letters), so hey - I'm well underway! I think I can easily achieve my goal, but I want to keep myself on task and see how far I can exceed it.

As usual, my style is not to grab a pile of 10 letters and postcards and say "I'll respond to all of these NOW!", but instead I give each item its due response. Sometimes one response takes 10 minutes and sometimes it takes two hours, but that's the way I roll.

So I hope, if I owe you a letter or postcard and have for months, that you will see a response from me in the coming weeks. I will keep you all updated on the status of my output and the status of my Pile!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New mail blog + 50-state challenge for postcards

I just discovered the new mail blog (sorta - he blogs about delicious food, too), which is the brainchild of one of my newer correspondents. He makes lovely mail art and writes a fine letter, too. My readers might enjoy his blog, too - I just added it to my letter blogs sidebar - but I'm posting this today to give him a little help for his 50-state challenge. He's trying to get a postcard from every state in the USA. He doesn't list his address on his blog so you'll need to leave your email address so he can send you his mailing address, but I'm sure he'd appreciate a postcard from your state if it's one of the 30 or so from which he's still seeking a postcard.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Letternet update

If you recall my original blog entry about Deutsche Post Letternet, I promised to keep you updated about the arrival of my address code.

I initially joined up and requested an address code on Sunday, February 14 - and today I received that address code from Germany via snail mail - or rather, via Luftpost. The letter is dated February 16, and though it doesn't have a postmark date (go figure), that still seems right speedy to have arrived in less than a week.

So I entered by address code and am now a "full member." The searching for pen pals system seems pretty darn random and you don't have a lot of search options (nor can you write your own profile, it seems), but I've requested at least one address so far, just for the heck of testing it out, and we'll see what happens.

UPDATE 23 Feb 2010: Thanks to a very helpful comment from tanuki below, I discovered a little more about the methods. No, you don't get notification when someone approves an address request - they just show up in your pen pals list. So I logged in just now, and found that someone had requested my address! I approved it, but now I just see a very minimal profile and an address for her. Does she write first, since she requested? Or do I? There is really no way to message each other or communicate about that. Maybe I'll send her a postcard.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tied with a ribbon and sealed with wax

Ribbon and wax

This beauty from the marvelous Catwrangler came inside the envelope like this - what a lovely idea! This way the ribbon and the wax stay perfectly intact. I had to photograph this one before I even read it, because I knew opening it would break the seal, and I could never get the ribbon back so pretty again.

cat envelope

I'd never seen this cat design on an envelope before - is the kitty holding a stick or chopsticks in its mouth?

Send a letter, receive a letter

I love this rubber stamp. It seems so obvious: "Send a letter, receive a letter," but it's one of those simple wisdom sort of things that's great to keep repeating, like a mantra.

This was a great letter to read as well as to unwrap.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Yet another penpal project

Although it seems that penpal projects started by individual bloggers come and go like dust in the wind (in my jaded long-term letter-writing mindset - remember, I've been doing this consistently since I knew how to hold a pencil as a little girl, and I'm in my mid-30s now - I tend to think it's because people get really enthusiastic, and then find out how much work it is to keep it up, and then quit - R.I.P Penpal Party, which I never even got a chance to join), I have enough blog readers and pen pals who ask me how to find more pen pals that I feel like I should mention something that sounds interesting - BIG CAVEAT - even when I don't really think I'll try it out myself. (I have enough of you blog readers who are still waiting for a letter back from me, oui?)

So, I just learned about The Indiefixx Pen Pal Project from the intrepid PostMuse (or is it Postmuse? She's still deciding and she's open to feedback, but however you capitalize it, her blog rocks).

Goodness, I am deeply parenthetical tonight, aren't I? Blame it on overwork. (I am doing 7 days a week from Feb. 15 - March 7. Don't ask.)

Anyhoo, this Penpal Project seems enthusiastic. If you're looking for more pen pals, it is a potential resource for you. If you sign up and participate, do let me know how it goes.

Soda's thank-you postcard

Soda in the catnip box - postcard

Remember that wonderful catnip postcard for my cats from the gorgeously-named Fleabane and Danderfluff? Yeah, I thought so... it's pretty unforgettable.

I made my kitties write a thank-you note for such a gift, of course. I thought that this postcard of Soda playing in a catnip-filled box (in her younger years, I grant you) was a perfect vehicle for such a note. Soda has written notes before, she is the most literate of my three cats (perhaps owing to her habit of helping me with so many letters of my own).

horks 2 u

Please ignore her backwards letters and spelling mistakes - she does her best, and all things considered (like the lack of opposable thumbs), I'm pretty darn proud of her. And in the Soda lexicon, "Horks 2 U" is high praise indeed.

And yes, that is indeed my tabby cat Magic on the stamp, staring up at an orange catnip carrot.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

February BPS

BPS February sent

This is my February offering for The Benevolent Postcard Society (BPS). It's from the Rex Ray postcard book by Chronicle Books, and I added the words on the front with letter stickers sent to me by a very kind and generous blog reader. I kind of like the effect.

Incidentally, I expressed my frustration with BPS in a prior post... I have faithfully sent postcards every month, and since the start in September, have received only two - or is it three now? This is a bummer since membership is limited, and there seem to be just a ridiculous number of flakers in that bunch. The founder, Lori, is very good at helping track down whether or not postcards arrived, but it turns out that I DID receive at least one of the ones I thought I didn't, because the sender gave no indication or marking that it was a postcard for the BPS project.

Folks, I get many postcards and letters every week, and especially if someone says "oh, I love your blog," I just assume it's a blog reader postcard. I've asked Lori to please remind people to note they are BPS postcards -- it seems the majority of the participants just get so little mail that any postcard they get from someone they don't know is assumed to be a part of this project, but this is not the case with me! -- but for the past two months that still hasn't happened. We'll see if such a reminder comes out with the March listing, but for now, my hopes are pretty low for receiving any back -- or knowing that I did, until Lori follows up and tells me that my February postcard was supposed to be from a Jane in Nowheresville, KS - and I'll look through my records and say, oh yeah, I had absolutely no idea that was a BPS postcard.

February BPS postcard sent

Anyhoo, here's the back of the postcard, sporting my new mailbox rubber stamp.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Think ahead, write instead

Think ahead write instead

I am just sharing this image with you because I adore it. It is from the British Postal Museum & Archive on Flickr. In fact, all their photos are pretty damn cool. But you know I love this one especially because of the fountain pens.

Folks, it's my busy season, but on top of that, there have been some intense crises for me at work and with some family members. I'm fine, I'm okay, but there's just a lot of heavy stuff going on. Please pardon me if my letters are even slower than usual, or if I don't do blog posts... or I do mundane ones like this one that don't require photo editing. It's just a little nuts for me right now. Everybody gets times like this... and now is mine.

Maybe I need to start journaling again... then I can "think ahead, write instead."

Deutsche Post Letternet

Through the Penpalling and Letters blog which I just discovered recently, I learned of Deutsche Post's Letternet. (Deutsche Post is Germany's postal service.) I've linked the English version of the site, but the original language is, of course, German. It appears to be a pen pal service - free - for anyone in the world. Goodness knows I don't need any more pen pals, but I did sign up out of curiosity. I found it a little unsettling that I had to agree to Terms of Service that are available only in German, so I couldn't really read them, but oh well.

Letternet, which calls itself the "largest pen pal club in the world," has a weird questionnaire that involves asking questions with picture associations: four pictures for "this is what friendship feels like," "this is what stress feels like," etc. It seems geared to younger people, but of course I am supportive of any endeavor to encourage good clean letter-writing. The site is in beta form, and I suspect some things may be clearer in German than in the English translation. For example, my address is listed in my profile as "not confirmed." To confirm it, I need a confirmation code. How do I get this code? I don't know. I couldn't figure that out. I used the contact form to ask, but haven't heard back. From the post about it on the Penpalling and Letters blog, I think I might need to wait for a snail-mail envelope or package from them - fine and dandy, that seems a lovely way to confirm my address, although it would be nice to learn that from the Letternet site itself.

EDIT: Actually, I poked around a little further, and in fact the info is on the site, on the How you can participate page. There it says: "As soon as you have created your profile we check your address so that you can make pen-friends. We shall send you a letter containing your personal registration code, which you need to enter in "My Data/Confirm your Adress". You are then a full member and can search for pen-friends all over the world." OK. All good. I'll wait for the letter in the mail.]

Also, when I entered my mailing address as part of the registration process, the required fields were pretty specific to a German address format (makes sense, after all - it IS a German service), and I had to enter my own address in a weird way - I hope their fields will align with the US mail fields such that mail will reach me successfully. I'll find out, I suppose, and I'll keep you posted, but anyone who is brave that wants to try it out, go for it... the site seems very legit and is clearly part of the Deutsche Post larger website system.

I have a few German pen pals, and my experience with Deutsche Post overall is that the service is fast and reliable, and the stamps are really cool... so I joined up without hearing other reports first.

If anyone else out there who reads this blog has used or is using Letternet, I'd love to hear about your experience with it.

On another note, Happy Valentine's Day! I might do a V-Day posting later, and I might not. Truth be told, it's not a very big deal to me, but I didn't feel like I could make a post on February 14 without mentioning it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Happy Darwin Day!

Darwin Day mail art

Well, it's not Darwin Day quite yet, but I won't have time for a blog post tomorrow so we'll just make this post a little bit early.

You saw the Darwin Day mail I received in my blog post yesterday; here I give you what I sent. It's funny that I saw this graphic in a months-old newspaper, just as I had it in the back of my mind that I'd need to be making something for a Darwin Day envelope. I don't usually incorporate newspaper graphics into my envelope decorations, but this was too perfect for the occasion to pass up... as was the "Happy Birthday / Celebrate" gold deco tape.

Darwin Day mail art

There was plenty of evolutionary goodness for the back as well. I don't always enjoy making mail art with a specific theme, but this one was oodles of fun. You might even say I went ape over it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Darwin Day envelope, received

Happy Darwin Day
Remember back when I posted about the Postal Art For Darwin Day project? The very kind coordinator of said project sent me a letter to thank me for the post, and of course to celebrate Darwin Day, he made his own envelope with a lovely ape theme.

human eye inside Darwin Day envelope

Was it intentional that the inside of the envelope showed a human eye, or just really damn cool? Clearly the envelope evolved.

(Oh, and look - there's my awesome letter opener again!)

Here's more about the Postal Art for Darwin Day project, and you can see more fine examples of Darwin Day mail art on the sender's blog, including his blog post about this here creation. Darwin Day is this Friday, February 12 - maybe I'll show you what I sent him back for the occasion on Darwin Day itself.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Troll Envelope: Making a handmade envelope

Paper Source envelope-making tools

Welcome to my most photo-heavy post ever! (I think. 12 photos. I didn't really count past photo stats on posts, it just feels like the biggest.) This will serve as a report and review of my fun new products from Paper Source:
Envelope Template Kit
6" bone folder
Lick & Stick Envelope Glue

So yesterday I posted about this wonderful mail art that I received. That, too was a photo-heavy post, and at the end I promised to show you today what I sent in response. Of course I had to send something I made myself, it had to be some sort of mail art, so this seemed the perfect opportunity to really dig in with the items from my recent PaperSource order.

Placing the template

Here we see the envelope template centered on the page of a children's book (Favorite Tales of Monsters and Trolls by George Jonsen - this is the troll under the bridge in The 3 Billy Goats Gruff). I will note that I deliberated over this template kit for a long time - some people are really crafty but I'm not one of them, and I need all the help I can get. What really sold me was the fact that you can see through the firm plastic, so you know exactly where you want to center it, and the long holes are places where you can use the bone folder to score for folding. This kit is really, really handy. I will just say right now that I love it.

So in this case I wanted to make sure that the troll's face showed up on the front of the envelope, and that the awesome bird on his hat came out on the back flap. This template is just a wee bit bigger than the page (and it's the smallest one in the kit), but it's okay that it overlaps the page in a couple of places - those irregularities will be totally covered by the folds. My spatial-reasoning challenged brain would not have known this without the aid of the template.

Page, template and bonefolder

Here we see the page, the template and the bonefolder. I traced around the edge of the template with a pencil, and used the pointed end of the bonefolder to score the page. (That means to put little indentations in it that aid in the folding of the envelope.) Sorry about all the shadows from my windowpanes - it was a directly sunny day, and they couldn't be avoided.

Bonefolder's ghost

Now I understand why people have craft mats - the bonefolder actually made marks in my table. Good thing we don't really care! It's already got cat claw marks, ink spots, and all kinds of other marks of our lives. But I shall be a little more careful with the bonefolder in the future, and maybe put something underneath it when I am using it to score.

Folding in the troll

I figure the cutting part is pretty obvious - just cut along the lines traced from the edge of the template - so here we get to the folding part. I didn't photograph it in action, but you can also use the bonefolder to get really sharp creases on the folds. Trust me, it works better than a finger, and even better than the side of my letter opener, which is what I had used previously for such a purpose. So here is the partially folded envelope...

Goats Gruff fold

...and more folds, pre-glue. I did not photograph the glue process, but let me just say that the Lick & Stick glue is probably the best value. It's only a couple of bucks, and that stuff is glorious. You can use it wet as normal glue, of course, but you can also let it dry so that you can lick and seal the envelopes later. This is fantastic if you are making your envelopes ahead of time, before you are sealing them, or of course if you are making them to give away or sell. I have heard tell that you can mix up your own solution for this sort of thing, but again, that's not my temperament. The Lick & Stick is easy to apply, with a spongy applicator, and I've found it's also good for reinforcing the glue on vintage stamps. Hooray for Lick & Stick!

Troll and his hatbird

Here's the front, before the final fold. I just so dig that bird on top of the troll's hat.

back of the folded envelope: trollbird

Here's the back, when the envelope itself has been glued together but the flap hasn't been sealed.

Sunny envelope-making, with coffee

I didn't photograph it before I cut it, but one of the strips from the page I used for the envelope had this really cute scene on it, and it was cut away from the final envelope. I decided to cut it out and glue it on a piece of paper (yay Lick & Stick!), so the "stationery" matches the envelope. You can also see my morning cup of coffee there in the sunshine.

paper scrap from envelope becomes stationery

Here's a closer look at that little scene glued to the paper.

completed troll envelope, back

And finally, the finished product! Here's the back...

completed troll envelope, front

...and here's the front!

All things considered, I am really happy with these PaperSource purchases, and I'm sure they'll see a lot of action. The Envelope Template Kit has a great video that demonstrates their use; though it is a bit annoying to watch, it is useful. It has templates for 4bar, A2, A6, A7, and 5 3/4" square envelopes.

I hope you enjoyed the heavy documentation of my creation, and found the info useful - zowie was this an intense post to write! But good mail is worth it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

I Heart Mail Art: a mini-book

Mail art extravaganza

This is gonna be one heck of a photo-heavy post, folks. I just can't show off this beauty, from "Canadian artista extraordinaire" Jennlui, without showing you every little bit.

Of course, as seen above, the envelope is handmade, and includes but a small note. ("Welcome to the IUOMA" references my fairly recent membership in the International Union of Mail Artists.) We will forgive the multiple-produced (I doubt it's mass-produced, really) nature of the mini-book and the paucity of the personalization of the note, simply because it's so damn groovy.

I Heart Mail Art

Okay, here's the book! I Heart Mail Art! Hooray! It is a specially folded color photocopy with inserts, a really fabulous construction. I guess it's sorta like a zine that way. Let's turn through every page of this lovely item, shall we?

i love mail art because...

I love mail art because... fill in the polka dots.

Little envelope with artistamps

This is especially squee - the little Top Secret envelope included the artistamps shown below.

Top Secret

Here's a closer look at that page...


...and a closer look at the little enclosures in said envelope. The bottom one is a little business card that references her mail art blog, From the letter love files.

Send mail to get mail!

The golden rule of mail: send mail to get mail!

let's swap some cool mail!

Finally, here's the back of the booklet, with her address carefully noted. I ADORE this vintage postman, and if he is available as a rubber stamp, I MUST know where to find him. I am really, really coveting that image.

So that's the mini-book - wow! It was such a joy. I forgot to photograph how it came in its own little envelope, too. It was like a gift.

In my next post, I'll showcase what I sent back!

An ode to my letter opener

my letter opener holds down the fort

I will do an extensive blog post on the mail that is shown with my letter opener, but for now I want to talk about the tool itself.

I cannot deal with my mail without my letter opener. Anyone who thinks they are an extravagance either doesn't get much mail or has never used one. I confess I do enjoy the trappings of all things epistolary, and the letter opener is no exception; I used to have one just for decoration, but now - trust me - this baby gets a lot of action. It's crucial for opening envelopes just so, so that you don't tear them or mangle them, and it saves your fingers from paper cuts and general dryness.

I liked the weight and heft of my old letter opener better - you can see it in the top right photo in my header - but I lost it, so this new one is its replacement. This new one does its job well, though: sharp enough to tear through paper cleanly, with the proper motions, but not sharp enough to wound clumsy me.

If you get a lot of mail and haven't tried a letter opener, I highly recommend one.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Muppet Mail

Muppet Mail

Remember that wonderful shockingly Muppet-licious letter I blogged about recently? In it I mentioned some fabulous postcards he sent me, so I now share with you that bounty.

At the top is a Muppet postalette, a fold-and-mail sort of Hallmark wonder, here celebrating Kermit and Piggy's picnic love.

Below is a really incredible parody, which we must see a little bit closer. My generous blog reader correspondent sent me a few of these, so I've got a mini-collection of 'em.

Hopper Muppets

Those familiar with basic American Art History 101 will recognize this as a very witty parody Edward Hopper's famous painting, "Nighthawks." My generous sender said he found the Muppet parody online, and did not know the artist but had a whole bunch of the postcards printed because he loved them. Hear, hear!

If anyone recognizes the artist, I will happily credit him or her. For now, though, let's admire the fun detail. See The Count up in the upper lefthand corner? Fabulous!

I should note that these are Sesame Street Muppets, not Muppet Show Muppets. There is a difference. My generous sender is more a devotee of the Sesame Street variety, and I am strongly in the Muppet Show camp, but we are different branches of the same tree and I still admire all the Jim Henson creations.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Handmade meta letter envelope

Handmade meta letter envelope

I made this envelope for Carolee, one of the fabulous authors of Good Mail Day, in response to one of her lovely notes. I found this page in an old book about how things work - this page came from the section on how a letter gets mailed. I loved the fountain pen, of course.

book page envelope

I still feel like such a beginner at making my own envelopes, but it's a lot of fun!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Catnip postcard for my cats

From Dr Purrington's Cat Toy Laboratory

A wonderful, astute new blog reader send me this absolutely fabulous postcard for my cats! It is a handmade wonder "From Dr Purrington's Cat Toy Laboratory." This catnip-infused postcard has a catnip-infused piece of red yarn sticking out of it. That's what's underneath the piece of tape with the little paw/yarn drawing on it.

Catnip postcard, for my cats

I don't know which I love more, the fact that his cats sent it to my cats, or that his cats are named Fleabane and Danderfluff. Best cat names EVER!

Magic meets the catnip postcard

Some of my correspondents who read my blog mention that they didn't even know I HAD a tabby cat named Magic, because she appears on this blog the least. She is rather shy, and she also does not insert herself into my letter-writing process as Soda and Memo often do. So it was great that Magic was the first one to approach this postcard. (Her track record as a total catnip addict helps. I'm sure she smelled this one coming.)

Yarnfang joy!

I made a whole photo set of her first encounter with this postcard because the series of shots is just so darn cute, but I had to post the two cutest ones here. Dr. Purrington, your postcard has generated much feline fun in this household!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A pretty package

a pretty package

Here's another recent use of the lace deco tape I got from orientalflea on etsy. This here is the silver glitter installment, which I foresee using even more than the rest. It was the first one that merited an "ooh, must have that" thought when I saw it. Oh yes, and this silver-outlined-in-purple writing on the package came from this Pentel deco outline marker. Fun stuff.

sparkly package

Gotta love how a slight change in angle will totally change the glitter of the bling. You can see that this is a larger version of the lady cat sticker I got from Janetstore that I featured in a blog entry last week; the stickers come in a bunch of different sizes on one sheet.

lady cat glitters

I love this sassy winkin' kitty. I took these closer photographs so you can get a better look at the design of the deco tape, too.


Here's the bottom bling.

The package's lovely recipient blogged about it recently, so you can get some more views of it (and of the contents, which I did not photograph but probably should have) there.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Midnight Rendezvous

PaperNosh card and stickers

One of my faithful blog readers sent me yet another gorgeous PaperNosh notecard. She sent me the first one last March, which I blogged about at the time, and this time she sent an extra card for me to use as well.

Sorcière Femme d'allure Diabolique

How apropo - it's a bat lady! This design is called Sorcière Femme d'allure Diabolique, "Midnight Rendezvous" (is that a direct translation? I think not).

Midnight Rendezvous

The silver accents on the black envelope are the sender's own embellishment work, fitting bats around a cloudy moon.

PaperNosh insignia

Even the backs of these cards are lovely. The extra she sent was a joy to write on, though the price per card listed on the website puts them a bit too rich for my blood. It was a delightful special treat, though, and I feel so spoiled!