Saturday, December 31, 2011

Another no-mail Monday coming

Due to New Year's Day falling on a Sunday, the U.S. Postal Service will observe the holiday on January 2, 2012. So mail your stuff today, folks, because we won't have pickup or delivery again until Tuesday.

On the bright side, that means Tuesday will likely be a good mail day!

By the way, Soda likes Halloween mail, too

Trick or Treat, from Soda

Back in October, Soda was exceedingly helpful with Halloween mail.

Halloween cat

She was particularly fond of all the goodies in the Halloween RSVP packages from the Letter Writers Alliance.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Halloween postcards with Halloween tape

Halloween postcard with Halloween tape 1

I spiced up a lot of my Halloween mail with some recently discovered Halloween paper tape - from Martha Stewart Crafts, of all places. I don't know if one is allowed to call this "washi tape" as it's not Japanese, but it is paper tape and tears essentially the same way. Of course the bat tape is my very favorite, and I found this Swap-bot Halloween postcard swap the perfect occasion to use one of my skull envelope stamps. A sparkly bat sticker, also by Martha Stewart (who knew her Halloween stuff was so great? I didn't!), livens things up.

Halloween postcard with Halloween tape 2

More Halloween tape here, though these stickers are decidedly NOT Martha Stewart.

Vintage-reproduction Halloween postcards

Finally, a shot of a bunch of Halloween postcards together before they went out for their swaps. I love these vintage reproductions! They came from three different postcard books: Halloween: Romantic Art and Customs of Yesteryear Postcard Book, Old-Fashioned Halloween Cards: 24 Cards (Dover Postcards), and Halloween Postcard Book by Darling & Company. Very few are actually spooky, most are cute, and some are just downright weird, like the bottom right-hand corner card that shows a kissing couple standing in a Jack-o-lantern.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

U.S. Postage rate increase in January 2012

I blogged recently about the upcoming international first-class postage increase, and I (and other blog readers) have been curious about which other postage rates are going up, and by how much.

So here's the skinny.

As of January 22, 2012, the new rates are as follows:

  • Letters (up to 1 oz.) – 1-cent increase to 45 cents
  • Letters additional ounces – unchanged at 20 cents
  • Postcards – 3-cent increase to 32 cents
  • Letters to Canada or Mexico (up to 1 oz.) – 5-cent increase to 85 cents.
  • Letters to other international destinations – 7-cent increase to $1.05

  • Source: Postal Service Adjusts Mailing Services Prices for 2012

    It is important to note that the U.S. Postal service "Forever" stamps will reflect the current first-class rate. So, if you are using a numbered stamp, or a Zazzle-bought stamp etc and it says 44 cents, you'll need to make sure you add a 1-cent stamp. However, if you're using a Forever stamp, it becomes worth 45 cents so you don't need to add extra postage.

    All postage released at first-class rate in 2012 will be Forever, and all of the later releases in 2011 were Forever stamps. As much as I miss the numbers, and combining old/vintage stamps to provide the proper face value, I have to admit that the Forever designation is handy and a good value.

    Use up your 98-cent international and your 29-cent postcard stamps while you can!

    Monday, December 26, 2011

    Silver Halloween letter

    Silver Halloween letter

    Yes yes, I am terribly behind in blog posts. I'm working my way through October letter photos now. So, here we have one of my more decorative and exciting Halloween letters! I do hope the metallic silver envelope went through with no problems, along with the day-glo green gel pen ink for the address. (That ink isn't totally waterproof, so I covered it with tape.) The envelope features some of my favorite Halloween stickers, and is being modeled by a cute bendy skeleton I got from one of the Letter Writers Alliance RSVP Halloween packages.

    Soda with Silver Halloween letter

    Naturally, Soda had to get in on the photographic action. I took a bunch of her with this letter - she seemed really to like this one especially - but in an effort not to barrage you with a million Soda pictures, I just picked my favorite.

    Silver Halloween letter, back

    And ta-daa! - the back. I love those stickers that make a play on words with favorite alcoholic beverages and spooky imagery... skin and tonic! Eyeball highball! HA!

    More spooky Halloween letters and postcards to come in future posts... because I know a lot of you readers, just like me, love Halloween year 'round.

    Saturday, December 24, 2011

    Happy Hanu-Kat 2011!

    Magic and the menorah 3

    As you may have seen in years past, our shy kitty Magic is very fond of the Hanukkah menorah. She and I both wish all of our Jewish blog readers a Happy Hanukkah (this was from last night's candles, but she's sitting by 'em again tonight!), and a happy holiday season to everyone.

    Magic and the menorah 1

    New 2012 international rate stamp: Lancaster County, PA

    Behold, the new 2012 international rate stamp! This image features Lancaster County, Pennsylvania (Amish country, I believe?) as part of the Scenic American Landscapes series, according to the Stamp of Approval blog. The new rate is $1.05, up from $0.98.

    UPDATE: Rates go up January 22, 2012.

    Friday, December 16, 2011

    Missive Maven is 3 years old today

    Missive Maven label

    Happy Blogoversary to me! I can't believe it's been 3 years. It seems like much longer, and much shorter than that, all at once.

    I want to thank all my wonderful readers for joining me on this epistolary-blogging journey. You are all an inspiration, and a heck of a lot of fun, too.

    I never thought I'd end up blogging this long, or this intensely, or that the whole Missive Maven endeavor would turn out to be such a large and fulfilling portion of my life.

    This is my busy season at work, and I know the posts fall way down during November, December, January and February. So I wish I had some big bombastic way to celebrate this anniversary, but as it is, I'm just happy I've managed a blog post on the day. I hope to do some more catch-up posts at the end of the month, but in the meantime, I'm trying to prioritize my little free time towards putting pen and ink to paper.

    Missive Maven label crop

    And for now... let's both go write a letter!

    Tuesday, December 13, 2011

    World's Smallest Post Service surprise

    My own World's Smallest Post Service, with a special letter from the WSPS Postmaster

    I got the most wonderful surprise gift a couple of months ago: my very own gratis World's Smallest Post Service, brainchild of Lea Redmond of Leafcutter Designs and manufactured by Chronicle Books. I have been aware of the WSPS for quite a while, as the Letter Writers Alliance has often touted Lea Redmond's magic, long before it was released as a collectible set by Chronicle Books.

    Special WSPS letter, sealed in its case

    Along with my own free set of the WSPS to play with, I got this neato letter from Lea Redmond, WSPS Postmaster, herself.

    WSPS letter, sealed in its case

    It came adorably sealed in one of those little cases - I know they have a name... what are they, film cases? - with its own mini envelope seal.

    Letter from the WSPS Postmaster

    Oh my golly, how flattered am I that the WSPS postmaster and creator herself thought I needed one of these?!? So cute!

    it comes with a magnifying loupe

    The letter came packaged with its own magnifying loupe. Fortunately for me, my eye deficiencies run the other way; I'm dreadfully nearsighted, but I can read tiny things unaided. (Or write them, as recipients of some of my microscopic-handwriting postcards can attest.)

    The arsenal of pens for the response

    Of course I responded right away, with a mini-thank-you written on using the WSPS sent to me. Here's the array of writing utensils I used for the job. On the far right you see the pen that came with the set; it is unmarked, but I believe it is a Sakura Micron of some sort. I was surprised that it isn't all that fine... I have finer-tipped pens in my own arsenal already, so I used those instead.

    Tiny response with envelope, via WSPS

    Here you see my tiny response with its tiny airmail envelope and very cute miniature postage stamp sticker.

    Tiny response via WSPS

    Here's a closeup of my letter. You saw in hers that she had quasi-notebook paper with lines and little holes, but the paper included in the WSPS set from Chronicle Books includes blank paper only. I was pleased with how well it took fountain pen ink, though, since my own needlepoint nib/XXXF Pelikan nib (special grind from Richard Binder) wrote finer than the black pen included.

    My WSPS response, secured with nib head skull sticker

    The tiny letters need their own larger encasing, so I used my beloved nib head skull design and stuck it inside of a larger card, to ride inside of another larger card.

    Is the set adorable? Yes. Would people who love tiny cute things love it? Absolutely. Would I ever have bought this on my own? Nope. I'm not a tiny-cute-things lover in most cases, and to me its not terribly practical - I'd rather just write a real letter (again, not being a swooner over the miniature thing). Will I have fun with it now that I have one? Most definitely.

    Thanks, Lea Redmond and Chronicle Books!

    Thursday, December 8, 2011

    This just in: New Postcrossing send limits

    I know a lot of my blog readers are as addicted to Postcrossing as I am, so I had to share this as soon as I saw it.

    Postcrossing has just updated the send limits for new users (or users with fewer than 100 postcards sent). You will now be able to send more postcards with fewer logged sent postcards. They can explain it better than I do, so I'll just quote directly from their post:

    Today we are doing an update on the formula for limits in Postcrossing. From now onwards, the limit for new accounts will start to increase after the first 5 postcards sent (and registered). Afterwards, the number of postcards you can send will increase by 1 for each 10 postcards sent (it was for each 20, so it grows twice as fast!). After the first 35 postcards sent, it increases by 1 on each multiple of 50 postcards sent.

    We know this might sound a little confusing, so we made a little graph to explain the difference between before and after. Here it is:

    As you see, the limits grow faster initially, allowing the account to reach a more comfortable level sooner.

    As for me, it's been a while since I've been able to have all my postcards traveling... I just don't have time to write them, and my current limit is 19. But all users get an extra postcard in their limit now, so in fact they just bumped me up to 20. It's a little holiday gift to everyone.

    Happy Postcrossing!

    Saturday, December 3, 2011

    Etsy letterpress love: Orange tabby press

    I found out about Orange tabby press, a fantastic etsy shop, from one of PostMuse's tweets (@PostMuse). She was praising this Snail mail letterpress stationery set, and of course I fell in love with it and couldn't resist ordering some. It's a little hard to tell from the photo (though the description does say this on the etsy listing), but it's on light green paper. The paper itself is thick and of high quality, and takes fountain pen ink beautifully. I've only tried one ink on it, and in all honesty I can't even remember what ink it was right now... but it did not bleed through or show through at all, and I could write on both sides.

    Also from Orange Tabby Press, I got this lovely set of Letterpress notebook paper, which really does come with the pencil. I haven't tried mine out yet, though I will assuredly do so with a fountain pen and not the pencil.

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    Is it time for a new look?

    I have had the same blog design since I started up The Missive Maven nearly three years ago. At the time, it was a blogger template, but it is now so antiquated that a lot of doo-dads don't work with it, or I have to go into the html code to tweak it so that they do.

    I am thinking it might be time for a new look. I am not a creature who takes kindly to visual change, so this is a big deal for me. I don't even know what the new look may be yet, but I'm just thinking out loud here. (Is that a weird thing to say on a blog? Probably.) I would keep the features but things would look different.

    Any strong opinions either way from readers? Inquiring Missive Mavens want to know.

    Friday, November 25, 2011

    Looking for a pen pal? Here's a Twitter option...

    I just saw that one of my fine tweeps (that's Twitter users I follow, for those unfamiliar with that lingo), @LetterSets of has offered to help with pen pal searches on Twitter. If you tweet that you're looking for a pen pal, they'll retweet it to all their followers for you.

    Seems rather instantaneous, but for all those people who are looking for a pen pal RIGHT NOW, it could be a fun option.

    If you've read this blog for a while, you know that the last thing I am seeking is more pen pals... but I do know a lot of folks who land here are looking for more pen pals and letter writers, so I hope this is useful to someone.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2011

    Critical thinking = survival


    This is a wonderful Postcrossing postcard I sent a while back, if I do say so myself. It is US-1235446 to Pihka in Finland, and is the work of the fabulous Stella Marrs. Whenever I see Stella Marrs postcards in a store, usually an independent bookstore (funny affinity, that), I generally snatch up a bunch of them. This went to a woman who enjoys women on postcards, particularly those depicting feminism and women's rights. She was quite pleased with it, and I was glad to send it along to someone else who would love it as much as I do.

    On a completely unrelated note, it's about to be Thanksgiving here in the USA, a lovely secular American holiday. I have a bit of holiday travel planned myself, and I've been a whirlwind of busy the past month. I have officially entered my daunting "BUSY SEASON," and I'm not even going to admit how many days in the past two weeks went by without me writing a single postcard or letter... there were even a few days when I didn't read my mail. *sigh*

    So don't worry about me, I'm still here but I'm hunkered down, sending mail when I can. I'll try to get at least one blog post a week up just to share the mail joy.

    To all my American readers - Happy Thanksgiving!

    Monday, November 21, 2011

    'Tis nearly the season...

    It's the appropriate time of year to go ahead and direct folks to my oft-viewed "A word on holiday cards, or, why I don't do Christmas" post. (It's in my top 10 most-viewed posts, wow!)

    If you're really interested, there's some fairly in-depth dialogue in the comments section.

    The short bit: don't send me a Christmas card, please.

    The long bit: read why.

    Tuesday, November 15, 2011

    Want a hand-drawn letter?

    Want your own hand-drawn letter by the creator of this fantastic painting? You might have time to get one.

    Bop on over to yourhandwrittenletters tumblr and check out her offer. The artist will draw you a letter from the alphabet and mail it to you like the letter it is, and all you have to do is fill out her handy-dandy form.

    I've admired her artwork before, and this seems like a lovely little project that will brighten people's mail days and encourage more letter-writing along the way. And yes, it's the newest blog linked among my letter blogs now. I'll be following her progress regularly.

    Tuesday, November 8, 2011

    The amazing cat pouch letter

    Cat pouch envelope back

    The fabulous Donovan of the Letter Writers Alliance has outdone herself again with breathtakingly cool mail. She sent one of her latest letters to me in this sweet little cat pouch!

    Cat pouch envelope front

    I can't believe it arrived so unblemished, postally perfect. Even the postmarks are carefully done.

    Cat pouch envelope: sewn zipper

    She knows her mailing rules; to avoid any issues with a dangling zipper, she sewed the zipper pull into the zipper itself! It was very easy to open with one snip of the scissors.

    Cat pouch envelope: contents before removal

    Inside, the letter awaits...

    Cat pouch envelope's little letter tied with string

    ...and even the inner presentation is awesome, with the letter tied up with red and white string.

    Lest I focus too much on the packaging, I must say the contents were up to her usual stellar standards, with it being one of the loveliest letters I've received this season. Some people think this blog is only about mail art and the way mail looks, but I just keep the contents of letters private. Our postal conversation is between us, but let's just say Donovan's letters read just as beautifully as they look.

    I received this quite a while ago, and I had to follow my own rule of not blogging about the letter until I had responded... but I finally put a long letter of my own in the mail to Donovan, so I'm excited to share this pulchritudinous postal tidbit with you all. Surely this kitty pouch is an honorary member of the Feline Postal Brigade!

    Wednesday, November 2, 2011

    A clean desk encourages letter writing

    I cleaned my desk today!

    It seems like everything has been a mess in my life lately. The last two weeks of October were just incredibly rough, with mostly unexpected things... the latter of which was that I've gotten a nasty flu and have been sick for nearly two weeks, sicker than I've been in years. So things piled up, including letters and mail, and I barely had the energy to get anything done. My desk got messier than it's been in ages! I'm not a neat freak, but I firmly believe that a clean and organized desktop makes for a more inviting workspace... and it was such a mess before that I didn't even want to look at it, let alone write letters at it!

    Freshly cleaned desk

    Tonight I sort of started to get my energy back, and I cheered myself up considerably by cleaning my desk. The piles are still daunting, but at least the writing space is cleared and all my tools are organized.

    Soda's desk job: postcard duty

    Naturally, moments after I settled into writing a Postcrossing postcard to Japan, Soda had to jump on up to be a part of the action.

    Soda in the limelight

    She appreciates the clean desk, too - now there's room for her to stretch out there again!

    Sorry for my lack of posts, and my severe lack of mail output... it's been a bad month, but I think I am on the upswing. I did manage a lot of postcards in October - 50! - but only wrote 12 letters. I'm hoping to do a little better in November.

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    Happy H-OWL-oween!

    Vintage Halloween postcard - owl

    This postcard is from one of my vintage Halloween postcard books that I purchased via, but in all honesty, I forget which one. It was either this one or this one.

    Happy Halloween! I hope everyone has a fun and spooky day.

    Friday, October 28, 2011

    Common sense about smoking

    Here we have Postrcrossing US-1282619, one of the fantastic offerings in the "Postcards from Penguin: One Hundred Book Covers in One Box" by Chronicle Books.

    I wonder what common sense this dated book offered? I love the cover image with the rebellious-looking boys smoking, but here is a little Missive Maven secret: I abhor cigarette smoke. I am zero tolerance about it. I have ended friendships because I can't stand to be around people who smoke. My nose wrinkles in disgust when I read a letter from a smoker, because the paper absorbs that awful cigarette smell. I have a friend who sometimes writes me letters from European pubs, in countries where they still allow smoking in those establishments... and I always know when he's done so.

    Nonetheless, I dig this postcard. There's still something kitschy about it.

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    To mystery "B"

    I got a letter today from "B" in California, with thoughts on a recent post I made. It was written on paper with illustrated Hallmark dogs around the edges.

    B, thank you for writing. I am glad my post resonated with you and meant something. That is exactly why I decided to finally write that post.

    I would write you back, but you didn't leave a return address, and I imagine you are just preserving your privacy and wanted to get something off your chest. I am sorry you are feeling so alone, and I hope you find some more resources online or among friends. My heart goes out to you.

    p.s. No one is a cliché. Everyone is a complex individual with her or his own unique story.

    Friday, October 14, 2011

    I ♥ U.S. Postal Workers!

    I ♥ U.S. Postal Workers!

    I was inspired by the Send the Love campaign to draw a little something special on a recent outgoing order from my etsy shop. Nothing fancy, just a little something that I hope showed some appreciation to all the mail handlers on the way.

    Soda also ♥s U.S. Postal Workers

    Soda often helps me package up orders, and this one was no exception. Since she was posing so nicely, I had to grab a shot of her with the little package, too. Hooray for the Feline Postal Brigade!

    Wednesday, October 12, 2011

    I'm a day late for National Coming Out Day!

    A little too straight postcard

    Yesterday (Oct 11) was National Coming Out Day, and I missed doing a post about it on time! Oops! Better late than never, I hope. This fabulous postcard is from Syracuse Cultural Workers, a great organization with excellent progressive postcards. This one reads "Unfortunately, history has set the record a little too straight" and references 10 famous LGBT/queer people in history. They are, from left to right, top row: James Baldwin/writer, Willa Cather/writer, Errol Flynn/actor, Michaelangelo/artist, Edna St. Vincent Millay/poet; bottom row: Cole Porter/composer, Eleanor Roosevelt/social activist, Bessie Smith/singer, Walt Whitman/poet, Virginia Woolf/writer.

    a little too straight postcard, back

    I often feel admiration for someone who is "out" openly and casually in mail-type internet settings, such as on a Postcrossing or Swap-bot profile. In the past I've been tempted to come out on this blog, but have held back because I want the focus of this blog to be on mail, not on me and my personal life. And I admit, I'm well aware that it's one of those things that once I put "out there," I can't take back. But I am mostly "out" in the aspects of my life where people come into personal contact with me - at work, with friends and most family, etc - so in a sense, I'm putting this out there for people who know more of my online persona than the real me, per se. I digress. Every time I see one of those little casual out mentions, I contemplate what I'm doing in this post. A lot over the past year I've been thinking how important visibility is, especially with the USA making so many wonderful, positive civil rights changes like repealing "Don't ask, don't tell" and promoting marriage equality in so many states. A lot of people can be casual in how they come out by referencing a partner, but my referencing my husband (I don't mention him often, for aforementioned privacy reasons) doesn't tell our whole story. I am bisexual and he is transgender. We do not consider ourselves a straight couple. I do not want this blog to become about me, and I don't want to grandstand by getting into any complicated explanations that don't have anything to do with mail or letter writing, but I am thinking it is time to just put it out there. I've come out to some of my pen pals, and not to others, and I am honestly reaching the point where in some cases, I forget to whom I've come out and to whom I haven't! So now anyone who reads this blog knows. I hope every single person who comes out, on National Coming Out day or any other day, makes it a little bit easier for everyone else in the world to come out, too, if they want to, and to lead normal, happy, hate-free lives.

    So now, may my own record not be set a little too straight!

    Tuesday, October 11, 2011

    Another mail blog to share

    I just bumbled on to another mail blog, which has been around for quite a while - more than a year, anyhow. How did I this one? It has such a fabulous name: The Society for the Prevention of Empty Mailboxes. Alas, it seems oriented only towards college students (umm... why?), but if you are a college/university student, or even if you just want to read the posts, it's worth checking out.

    Monday, October 10, 2011

    One more for Halloween postcard?

    Jolly Halloween Black Cat Line-up

    We need ONE more for the Halloween postcard... USA only swap, though more than one would certainly be welcome! Any takers?

    New shop section: vintage postage

    Vintage Happy Holidays greetings stamps

    So y'all probably know I have a lot of stamps. I am rich in vintage postage, both from my Grandpa's old stamp collection as well as my many purchasing ventures. I'm now putting a few for sale in the new vintage postage section of my etsy shop.

    Many of you also know I'm Jewish, so I'm not going to use the many Christmas stamps that have come my way in various stamp lots. I've just posted two different listings for holiday/Christmas stamps that people other than myself will probably be a lot more interested in.

    Vintage Happy Holidays stamp book, sheets

    This Vintage holiday greetings postage book is in excellent unused condition, with 20 29-cent stamps. Perfect for the current postcard rate! They are glue-backed, so you do need to moisten for the adhesive.

    Vintage Christmas stamp lot 1

    Also, a smaller lot of 6 unused individual Christmas stamps.

    I'm on the fence about selling some other stamps. The Christmas ones are the only ones I have that I know I'll never, ever actually use. But I've seen a lot of folks selling vintage unused postage on etsy lately, and it seems to be pretty popular. I'm considering selling some of my other postage that I have a lot of, even some of the letter-writing themed stuff...

    Byron quote letter-writing postcard 2 the stamps pictured on this postcard. What do you think? Would you be interested? Should I sell other vintage stamps? Feedback most appreciated!

    Giveaway: handmade swaps organizer

    Swap-bot organizer giveaway

    I received this today in the Swap-bot 100,000 swap, the swap celebrating Swap-bot's 100,000th swap. (Wow, that was repetitive.) It calls itself "My Swap-bot Swaps Organizer." It is handmade, clearly with love and effort, and it is something that I will never, ever use for anything. (In all honesty, I would have preferred a groovy postcard, but there's the Swap-bot smorgasbord serendipity for you.) But it's hard to throw in the trash, since someone put so much effort into making it, and maybe someone would use it... does anyone else want it? I imagine someone does. So, I'm offering an immediate giveaway for anyone in the USA. Sorry, USA only because I can send this very inexpensively via media mail, but it gets much pricier beyond American borders.

    Swap-bot organizer giveaway inside front cover

    Inside the front cover there are some post-it notes of different sizes.

    Swap-bot organizer giveaway innards

    All pages inside are blank, and there are a few plastic tab dividers.

    Swap-bot organizer giveaway back

    Behold the back.

    Want to take it off my hands? Read the rules below and comment on this post.


    1. HOW: To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on this post. One comment/entry per person, please.

    2. WHO: No anonymous comments will be approved. You need a blogger profile to enter this giveaway (simply because I need to know who you are - I'm not going to count through "anonymous #7"), and if you don't have a blogger profile yet, just make one. It's fast, easy and free, doesn't require a blog, and I think only requires a valid email address. Also, your profile with email address MUST be viewable, or you must provide a valid email address in your comment. If you don't have an email address in your comment or viewable from your Blogger profile, and I don't magically randomly already have it, I won't approve your comment/entry. Lastly, keep your eyes peeled for this magical phrase after you submit your comment/entry: "Comments will be visible after blog owner approval." If you miss that and comment twice, or three times, or more, I'll delete duplicates.

    3. WHERE: USA only. I will be sending this Media Mail.

    4. WHEN: The deadline for comments/entries is Saturday, October 29 at 12pm EST. I will announce the winner Saturday afternoon or evening.