Thursday, January 31, 2013

Return of the pen maker

On the 23rd I posted about a customer who is a penturner. He came back a couple of days ago and brought with him a rosewood fountain pen. We were a bit slow so I had a couple of minutes to chat with him and his wife and use the pen. Holy ink, Batman, I think I'm in love!

The pen was well balanced in my hand, wrote smoothly, and the Honduran rosewood had a lovely and rich color. I greatly admired it and Mr. Moore said something like, "Maybe I should hold on to this one for you, huh?" and I beamed and agreed. It isn't an expensive pen but a new fountain pen isn't in the budget right now so I hope he does hold onto it for me. I plan to get it as soon as finances allow.

He also told me that one of you readers had been in touch with him about his pens. I didn't know which of you it was then but I do now so thank you, Rusty! Mr. and Mrs. Moore are very nice people and from what I've been able to tell so far, the quality of their work is high.

I plan to go to their studio soon and hopefully they'll have time that day to help me make my own pen. I think having one I made would be awesome but I'll have to refrain from taking it to work as every pen or marker I've taken there has been "appropriated" by someone and never seen by me again.

Do you have a favorite pen? If so, please tell me about it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Incoming for January 30th

After work today I went to the post office. I thought about asking if they have the new Sealed With Love stamp but the line was very long so I just checked my box. There were seven letters waiting for me, five from LetterMo participants. A woman about my age was checking a box near mine and saw all the letters I pulled out and said, "Wow, I can't tell you the last time I got one letter, much less a box full!" I told her about LetterMo and some of the letter writing blogs I read and finally whipped out a page from my notepad and wrote URLs and my email address on it for her. She was overjoyed at the possibility of writing and receiving letters and I practically skipped out to my vehicle!

I'm not sure if I'll start replies tonight but if not tonight, then tomorrow. Yesterday I mailed five letters but still have a few more to write to folks from whom I've recently received. I haven't forgotten! Some of the outgoing will most likely be sent on the first so I can count them for LetterMo. Yeah, I'm taking advantage of that.

But for now, here's today's incoming along with my cup of Colombian from a pour-over. Now that I've had some coffee I feel refreshed and think I'll do a bit of letter writing.

I hope your mail day was lovely!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quiet days, no mail, and a visit by The Flying V

I haven't been to the post office since Friday and hope to get there tomorrow but might not. Unfortunately, I have vertigo and while it can leave me alone for weeks or months, when it decides to make an appearance it usually stops me in my tracks.

For those of you who only know Vertigo as a movie, consider yourself blessed! Some people think the condition means a person is just a bit dizzy but it's so much more than that. For most of us, it's a very strong sensation of spinning. Some people feel like their body is spinning and others feel like their surroundings are spinning. Remember those 'fun houses' in carnivals where the walls and floors moved, there were dizzying patterns all around, and getting through the rotating tunnels was almost impossible? I never liked those as a kid. I didn't find them to be "fun" at all but rather confusing, nauseating, and anxiety-inducing. My vertigo feels physically, mentally, and emotionally like I'm in one of those fun houses. It's so "fun" that right after it first appeared in 2009, I gave it a nickname: The Flying V.

If The Flying V is severe, I can't properly do my job at work, drive, cook, and can barely move around my apartment. I've been known to run into walls and even fall when it's very bad. Luckily for me, it's generally not that bad but even at its best it's miserable. I've tried medications, vestibular therapy, and a few other treatments with little to no success. By the way, mine seems to be at least partially related to hypertension but I've been on blood pressure medication since it first showed up and my hypertension is well controlled so I'm not sure why the vertigo shows up now and then.

Anyway, I've been struggling with it off and on for a few weeks and the last few days I've spent more time than I desired on the couch, trying not to move and staving off panic attacks caused by the feeling of helplessness. I did manage to get a few letters written over the weekend and plan to drop those in the outgoing box tomorrow. If I feel up to it, I'll check my post office box, also.

I hope The Flying V won't interfere with my participation in the Month of Letters challenge, but I have Plan B in the works just in case.

So there you have it - the reason why I've been a bit quiet. I'll get back to scanning things from the tin box and posting about incoming and outgoing mail and hopefully that will be tomorrow. If not, bear with me, please.

I promise I haven't forgotten any of you!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fabulous mail Friday and an advance apology

I just got home from my errands and of course, one of the stops was at the post office. It takes strength to not go there every day but it's a bit out of my way so I aim for two or three times a week and try to go while I'm already out and about. Some weeks I succeed and others I fail. This week I've succeeded. Go me! Anyway, I only had three pieces of outgoing mail and two were to South Korea and Vietnam. I forgot to ask the clerk how long it will take those to arrive but hopefully they won't take too long.

Incoming mail for today is fabulous, y'all! Each piece is so wonderful that I'm going to show them individually. I should probably do that all the time but....

From Alice in Peculiar, MO (what a great town name!) I received a wonderfully informative letter and a big brown envelope with two hand stitched kitchen towels! How cute they are! And the envelopes have some very cool stamps on them, a few of which I'd not seen before.

From Beth in Oregon, I got a very neat looking note card (it just screams "Spring!") with a lovely letter written inside. She did pretty doodles on the envelope and I love it, especially the band on the left side of the envelope and the colors in my name. 

TMC, from Return to Rural, is gearing up for LetterMo and working on garland and such so she sent me a decorated postcard. T, I love this card, especially the color combination with that silver! Oh la la!

Limner, of Oh, Write Me!, sent a blank postcard of a kitteh and she colored said feline's eyes green like Sammy's. Swoon! She also included a very sweet little note. I absolutely love this postcard, in part because of the "Curb Your Dog" sign! And the "db" on the envelope made my heart pound a bit faster. I just love everything about this.

And last but definitely not least, I received a beautiful handmade card from a very dear personal friend of mine. She doesn't have much experience with letter writing but is joining in LetterMo this year. I recently sent her a little card and note and this is what I received in return. Wow, that's pretty wonderful for someone who "doesn't write letters and isn't creative"! Those are her words, not mine. You can't tell by the picture but the word "Love" on the front is cut out. 

Each of you has made today one absolutely marvelous mail day. Thank you so much!

Now for the apology. I've said before I'm not artistic and not creative and I mean that. I've spent hours looking at your blogs and photos and those of so many people who seem to have talent for this stuff. Some of what I see out there just makes me weak in the knees, it's so creative or beautiful or eye catching. I'm getting ideas here and there and have been practicing on plain paper. Today I graduated to real envelopes and postcard sized pieces of paper and some of you will soon be my guinea pigs. So, I apologize in advance for ugly envies and cards, paint that runs, edges that may be torn, and glitter that doesn't survive USPS. Please know my heart is in the right place. :)

Now I'm off to find ways to display some of these marvelous creations I've received!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How odd...I met a pen maker on National Handwriting Day!

Today, in honor of National Handwriting Day, I used my neatest and most elaborate penmanship to mark cups. Most of my customers were surprised to see the ornate script and more than a few asked where I learned to write in such a way. When I told them I learned it in elementary school they seemed a bit puzzled, even the older customers. It never entered my mind that the trend of lessening the importance of cursive writing isn't a new one but one that's been around awhile, at least in certain areas. Quite a few people around my age, 50, didn't learn cursive or if they did, it was a barely touched upon subject. They find printing to be easier and don't see the appeal of cursive. I confess that too often when I write a letter, especially a longer one, I don't take enough care to make my letters as well formed and graceful as I should. I get lazy and I'm going to try to improve that but it seems that I think in cursive and it comes quite naturally to me.

One of my customers today was an older gentleman who ordered a cup of brewed coffee and sat down at a table, pen and writing tablet before him. The morning was slow and as I cleaned the tables around him we got into a discussion about writing and how so many people don't send letters and cards now. It turns out he lives in a town not too far from me and makes pens! The pen he used was a bolt action bullet pen. It was very cool, indeed. We discussed his pen making shop and website and before long his wife showed up and let me try out the three pens she had in her purse. Each of them was nice and wrote well but I preferred the feel of the Art Deco pen as far as hand feel and weight. He even makes fountain pens and uses rosewood on request. Be still my rosewood fountain pen loving heart! I chatted with Mr. and Mrs. Moore for awhile and they invited me to visit their studio and said maybe when I visit they'll help me make my own pen. How cool is that, folks?? You can bet I plan to visit their studio soon. I really can't think of a lovelier way to spend a few hours. Mr. Moore told me that the prices for his pens are now lower than the website shows so if you find one there you like, I encourage you to contact him for current pricing.

Oh, and today I found some great deals in Target's One Spot. I bought several packages of note card sets for $1. Most contain 8 cards and envelopes but some have 10 of each. A couple of them are red and perfect for Valentine's Day and all are just plain every day cute! They also had packages of acid-free papers for $1 so I got a couple of those. With LetterMo right around the corner, it doesn't hurt to have a nice stash of inexpensive note card sets and papers so if you need some more note cards check your local Target.

I've decided to wait until Friday to go again to the post office but my home mail brought me some goodies. I received the copy of "Stolen Sharpie Revolution" I recently bought and my order of stationery, postcards, and a pen from Missive Maven's Etsy shop. The postcards are wonderful and now I wish I'd ordered more!

Have a wonderful evening and I wish you the best of mail tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Incoming and outgoing for January 22

Not a great picture since it was taken with my phone but here's my incoming and stamps for today. Oh, and my work apron. ;-)

On the way to work I went by the post office to check my box. Yeehaw, three letters greeted me!

I was so excited to see a sassy looking envelope from Jan over at Of Bibles, books and letters, one of those way cool (what can I say, I'm easily impressed) transparent envelopes from Limner of Oh, Write Me!, and a letter from a new to me writer, Amber. Amber didn't say how she found me so I'm not sure if it was via this blog, the LetterMo site, or some other place. Regardless, I'm thrilled she contacted me.

I forgot (again!) to get pictures of today's outgoing but that pretty blue envelope with the smash tape went out today, along with the postcards I adopted from PostMuse. Those were the postcards I found buried on the table last night!

While I was at the post office I decided to see what stamps they had. I ended up with two sheets of the new .33 apple stamps (I'm the eternal optimist), a sheet of Emancipation Proclamation, another sheet of Earthscapes (I <3 those so hard), a sheet of Year of the Snake, and another sheet of Lady Bird Johnson. I'm good to go for LetterMo and then some. They didn't have the others I wanted so I'll either wait until they do or order them online.

Since I got to work almost an hour early (don't hate, I have a serious issue with being late and I like to get a drink, relax, and see how things are before I start my shift) I read the letters right there at a table. One of my young co-workers was very interested, particularly in Limner's neat little bundle. She ooohd and aaahd over the letters and finally, hands on hips, said "Where do you find these people?" so I told her. She looked quite surprised. I guess she's easily impressed, too. ;)

And a bit of good news! This afternoon one of my customers told me a place where she thinks I can get postcards. She isn't sure about the variety but said they had a decent stock of them a few days ago. I know where I'm going Friday morning!

I work a short shift tomorrow and am then off for two days so I plan to spend tomorrow afternoon composing replies to today's incoming and a couple of others that need my attention. With all that time off I should have plenty of time to play with card stock, smash tape, and markers.

I hope your Wednesday is lovely and full of mail happiness!

A desperate plea for organization ideas!

Okay, it's not really desperate but it is a plea. I need ideas for how to organize some things.

I think I have a handle on the stationery, envelopes, stickers, stamps, and such but it's the pens, cartridges, pencils, markers and massive amounts of paper that are making me nuts. The paper is the worst. You know, the pages torn from magazines because of the I might use this mentality, the scraps left from making an envelope or label, those little bits I don't seem to be able to throw away because they might come in handy soon.

Right now a good deal of it is sitting in a large box top on my pub table and the rest is in stacks around the living room but it's becoming an unsightly mess and I fear that if anyone sees it, they'll try to get me on Hoarders! I detest clutter and my little haven doesn't have much but if this continues, clutter will become a serious issue. I find myself trying to straighten it but as Flylady says, you can't clean clutter. I might not agree with everything Marla says but she's got that right!

I didn't think all of this was much of a problem until last night when I moved some papers and found a stack of letters and postcards I'd recently received! The letters were opened but I hadn't logged them and they got buried and forgotten. Gasp!

I don't have space for a shelf or cabinet of any sort. My apartment is less than 580 square feet so keep that in mind. I've considered giving away the love seat that gets used once or twice a year but haven't done that yet. If I do, that will free up space. In the meantime, I have to come up with solutions and I can't afford to spend much money on this problem. I'm thinking if I get some boxes from work, load them with stuff as neatly categorized as possible, and label them that might be sufficient for awhile. Meh, it isn't what I want but it would let me see the top of my table again!

How do you organize it all? Enquiring minds want to know!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Card stock + smash sheets + smash tape = LOVE

I just used some card stock in a pretty and bright color to make an envelope then decorated it with a sheet from one of the smash pads and some smash tape.

Can I just say...I think I'm in love! The smash sheet stuck well to the card stock with some simple glue and the smash tape seems to stick well on it's own. Wow, now I see what the fuss is all about!  Okay, so I'm not the most creative envelope arteest but be patient with me...I'm working on it. ;)

Letters, pen pals & smash books

Smash books remind me of the crazy little journals I kept as a youngster and the supplies available for making this modern version of the scrap book/art journal are just too much for me to resist any longer. I've seen some very cool smash books and decided today that it was time to combine my curiosity of them with letter writing and pen pals. I have a small stash of Moleskines I haven't used yet and one of those will be my first smash book.

I think I might start a round robin sort of thing and send the smash book to others who are interested in adding to it then sending it on to the next person or back to me. If I do that, anyone would be welcome, even those who, like me, aren't very creative. Those interested in art/journaling would be welcome to add whatever they choose to it. I think it could be a neat project and a lot of fun.

I'm also going to use one of my larger Moleskines to create a new correspondence smash log. I'm not sure yet exactly how I'll do it but I think it would be wise to organize it by date rather than person. Perhaps a tab for the month then fill the pages with notes about what I received from whom, what I sent out and to whom, photos of the actual letters, my thoughts on them, etc. It would certainly be more interesting than the spiral notebooks I've used all these years! I don't think I'll switch entirely to that concept for keeping track of correspondence because that would be too time consuming for me. But to make one now and then would be fun, I think.

Today I picked up a few things for LetterMo, general correspondence and creating the small smash book. I just happened on them and had a few dollars on me so I bought what I could; stickers, three small booklets of pages, some smash tape, and a smash pen.

Be still, my heart!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A letter from my grandmother to my grandfather

My grandmother wrote this letter to my grandfather on November 28, 1927, a few days before their wedding. It's the letter I tried to read and couldn't on the day of my grandmother's funeral. The one Grandpa started to read to me but couldn't finish.

It's a very loving, sweet letter and every time I read it, my eyes tear up a bit. Just before her death, Grandma was unable to write letters but if she'd have been able to I think one to my grandfather would have read much the same as this. It seems as though they knew the secret to a happy marriage. I wish one of them had passed that secret on to me.

I just love the two cent stamp on the envelope. Those days are long gone but letter writing is still an inexpensive, fun, and wonderful thing. Well, it's inexpensive unless you're obsessed with stationery, pens, pencils, and the other stuff some of us seem to be. ;)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Miscellaneous photos from the tin box

This is my grandfather's mother, Emma, when she was very young. The photo was taken in Sweden but I'm not sure in what year. It was buried in the tin box, under a lot of other photographs and documents, in a tiny envelope that also contained her obituary.

This is a photo of Emma and her husband, Gustav Larson. I know very little about them other than their names, that they immigrated to the United States from Sweden in 1892, that Gustav was a coal miner and died before 1910, and that their five children were all born in Iowa.

I really love these older photos. There's just something very charming about them.

Both of these are pictures of Emma taken after her husband, Gustav, had died. In the photo on the left, she's pictured with her sons Emil, Gustav, Ancel, and Earl. Looking at the photo, my grandfather Earl is on the bottom left. The photo on the right is of Emma in her later years.

I'm not sure where this photo was taken but it looks as though the folks might be on the bank of a river. I noticed they're all on their knees and I wonder if this was after a baptism service of some sort. It might also be a sunday school class or some such thing. My grandfather on the bottom row, second from the left, with a penciled "x".

Another photo of Emma in her later years. 

And this is a photo of my mother's parents, Earl and Letitia. Grandpa called her "Letty", "Patty" and "My Sweet Irish Pat".  Grandma called Grandpa "Daddy" most of the time. They were married a little later than most people of their time and stayed deeply in love. 

Tonight I'm going to scan some of the letters and cards from the tin box and I'll share those with y'all tomorrow. 

I hope your Sunday is lovely!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Incoming for January 18th - letters, cookies, and Moleskines!

I received some very good mail today. At my post office box I had waiting for me a letter from LR, a letter from a young woman in Korea (wow, it's been a long time since I received from someone in Korea!), and two new Moleskines from a woman to whom I sent a new Financial Peace University envelope system. As a Moleskine fan, I figure getting two in an informal "stuff" swap is a great deal! I can't wait to break them in.

At my home mail, I had a good sized box of delicious no bake cookies from a cookie swap I joined awhile back. I still haven't sent my cookies but will get that tended to very soon. I confess to eating a couple of those cookies. They were so very good but a lot of them will go to work with me tomorrow because although I want to eat them all, I don't need eat them all!

My shift for tomorrow has been cut three hours so I'll have the entire afternoon and evening to write replies to the letters I've received the last couple of days. I'll also have the afternoon to work on scanning more things from the tin box. Squeee!

Have a lovely evening!

Item number one from the tin box - a photo of my grandmother

Going through the tin box has been difficult for several reasons, most of which are personal in nature. But another reason is that it contains photos of people and places I don't know and there's no one left to help me identify them. I have this need to know who these people and places are and thinking it might not happen makes me very sad.

However, I do know the people in some of the photos so I'll start with those.

This first photo is of my grandmother, Letitia, and other women. Grandma is about 16 in this photo and is the shortest one on the far left of the line of ladies.  I don't know who the other women are but perhaps they're school friends. The back of the photo says:

"Sept. 19, 1917
The day Thomas left Winterset for Camp Dodge."

Thomas was my grandmother's brother. If I ever met him I don't remember but I do remember his name being mentioned in conversations. 

I love this picture. The dresses, the hair, the way the ladies are standing - it's just full of goodness for me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A tin box full of love

When I was eight days old my mother and father left Iowa with eleven dollars, four daughters, a tank of gas, and the dream of finding a better life in Texas. When asked if I'm a native Texan I tell people, "No, but I got here as fast as I could!"

My parents settled in Dallas and every couple of years, finances permitting, our family took a vacation to Iowa to visit my grandparents, aunt, uncle, and cousins. Almost all the memories I have of my grandmother are of her in bed or otherwise resting. Even if she was up and about, she tired easily and wasn't active. She was what my mother calls "sickly" but even though Grandma couldn't play with me she spent a bit of time with me on those visits and helped give me good memories. A favorite has always been "the tin box".

The box sat in Grandma's room on a small, lace doily covered three legged table by the bed. Next to the box were Grandma's Bible and a small lamp. The box was faded, battered and worn even in the 60s but I loved to sneak into her room to look at the kitchen scenes depicted on its lid and sides. Each one was different and I was fascinated by them, especially the New England kitchen scene.

Now and then Grandma would follow me into the room, open the box, take out an item, and tell me about it. "This is a letter I wrote your grandfather not long before we married" she'd say as she gently pulled sheets of stationery from an ivory colored envelope. She'd unfold the pages and hand them to me, telling me to be careful with them. I'd try to read the words on the paper but struggled with the cursive writing. I barely knew my ABCs. Before long she'd take the letter from me, fold it, and carefully slide it back into the envelope.  Then she'd hand me another item. "This is a card your grandfather gave me on my birthday". "This is my book of birthdays I've had for many years" And so it went until she decided I'd seen enough.

Sometime around my seventh birthday, my grandmother became gravely ill and each trip to Iowa found her in bed. As soon as we got into the house I'd hug and kiss my grandfather and ask if Grandma was awake. If she was, I'd go to her room and sit on the side of her bed. She'd ask me about school, friends, and Texas. I'd ask how she was feeling, if she'd been to church, and if she'd bought any new hats or gloves recently. I knew the answers but asking was the polite thing to do and I didn't know what else to say to her. She'd smile and patiently answer my questions. After a bit she'd tell me to look in the cedar chest at the foot of the bed. I'd hop off the bed and run to the old cedar chest, throwing wide the lid. Inside there would be a surprise of some sort for me; a new book, crayons, a writing tablet, a couple of cookies, or perhaps a handkerchief with "D" embroidered on it. I'd return to her side, clutching the gift, and we'd talk more about little things. Before long we'd fall silent and my eyes would wander to the box. She'd notice, of course, and ask me, "Would you like to open the tin box?" I'd say yes and she'd tell me to hand it to her and I would. She'd motion to me to open it and we'd start the little routine of the past but within a few minutes she would tire and tell me to put back the box and let her sleep.

I was eleven when my grandmother passed away. On the day of the funeral, after I'd put on my new dress and while everyone else was still preparing, I made my way to Grandma's room. I entered and stood at the foot of her bed. The scent of her perfume lingered. The bed was neatly made and seeing it empty brought tears to my eyes. Everything else seemed the same. Her cherry wood dressing table holding the crystal atomizers and sterling silver brush, comb, and mirror set, the pictures on the wall, her Bible, and the lamp on the bedside table. And the box. I crossed the room and picked it up, holding it to me. I needed comfort and desperately wanted to feel as though my grandmother wasn't gone forever. I climbed onto the bed and sat cross legged, the tin box in front of me, for several minutes. I wasn't sure I could proceed without her there. I wasn't sure I even wanted to. What if the box was empty? What if Grandpa had thrown away all the items? Finally I let loose the front latch, opened the hinged lid and peeked in. I saw the letters, the cards, the photos, and her book of birthdays and was relieved.

I removed the first letter from the top of the pile. It was the one Grandma wrote to Grandpa shortly before they married. I started to read it but the words were so romantic, so lovely, so sweet I had to stop. Holding the letter to my chest, I hung my head and sobbed. The grief I felt was almost unbearable and the comfort I thought I'd find hadn't come. I don't know how long I sat there but suddenly I heard a sound and looked up to see my grandfather standing in the doorway. I scrambled to put the letters back in the box but Grandpa came over and put his hand on mine. "It's okay. Read them if you like. And I know you've always loved the tin box." I couldn't speak and just shook my head. Grandpa sat down across from me on the bed, took the letter, pushed his glasses up on his nose, and started to read.

"Des Moines, Iowa. November twenty eighth, nineteen twenty seven. Dearest love, as the shadows of evening softly bring the day to night, memories of your tenderness and devine love seem to speak to me. Just a few hours since I was in your arms, dear, and close to your heart."

His voice got hoarse but he continued.

"It makes me very happy sweetheart to have a pal like you. You always understand me and guide me in the right way. Each day of this week will be full of sunshine and dreams of you."

Grandpa stopped. He put the letter back in its envelope, placed it on top of the pile in the box, and tenderly closed and latched the lid. Setting the box on the table, he turned to me. "It's time to go. You need to brush your hair." I nodded and stood up, smoothing my dress. Grandpa took my hand and led me from the room. As we stepped into the hall, he turned to shut the door and I stopped to wait for him. When he turned back to me, his face was wet with tears. "I've never loved anyone like I loved my Patty and I pray someday you are as loved as she." He took my hand again and led me down the hall to the living room where the others somberly waited.

Five years later my grandfather passed away and we returned to Iowa for another funeral. When we left for Texas, Mom brought the box home with her. Now and then I'd open it and look through the items. As the years passed more items were added. My sister's hospital record and death certificate. A booklet from some high school program I was in. My mother's will. Some years ago Mom gave me the box, empty, but later I was in a not so good place in my life and gave it back to her for safekeeping. As much as I hated to part with that tin box, I hated more the thought of it not being safe.

Today I went to my mother's house as I usually do on Thursdays. We talked about things, a lot of things. Mom is having a very difficult time dealing with my stepfather who has Alzheimer's. She needed to talk so I held her as she cried. I cried with her. Somehow our conversation turned to my grandparents and I asked her about the tin box. We went into her office and she removed it from its place against a wall and handed it to me. I opened it and we looked at some of the photos. It was difficult but we did it together. She said I could have the box if I wanted it back and agreed to let me photograph and/or scan the contents. I might keep the box with me but most likely I'll return it and the contents to my mother in a week or two. The time will come when the tin box will be mine but this isn't the time.

I'll happily go through the loveliness inside the box, though. I'll leisurely read each letter, card, and piece of paper. I'll photograph or scan them and send the files to my sisters so that if something happens to the physical items we'll have the scans and photographs.

And I've decided to share some of this with you, dear readers. I don't know yet how much of it I'll put up here but I imagine y'all enjoy a good vintage letter, envelope, card, or photo as much as I do so I'll share the love.

To start with, here are some photos of the tin box, in all its faded and scratched glory. It really isn't much to look at but this old piece of metal is absolutely beautiful to me. I did a bit of Googling and found out it's a Canco Biscuit Box with the "Kitchens of the World" theme.

From the front

One side

The other side

The top

The bottom. Note the sticker my mother put on it years ago. ;)

And a peek inside. Ohhh, look at all that loveliness! Is it any wonder I love letters?

I know what I'll be doing later tonight and tomorrow before work. Care to make a guess?

Have a lovely night and I hope your Friday is wonderful and full of postal goodness!

Ramblings for January 17th...wait, it's almost February?

It's hard to believe that February will be here in a short time! Where have the days, weeks, months, and years gone? It seems that just yesterday I was crazy busy at work because it was the holiday season. Of 2007!  I've worked for my current employer a bit over five years and some days it doesn't feel as though it's been that long. Other days it seems as though it's been much longer but I suppose that's true with most jobs. It's just hard to believe we're almost into the second month of 2013.

I'm off work today and have a few errands to run. One is to the post office. Squeeee, one of my favorite places to go! I have several outgoing letters but a couple of them seem a tad heavy to me so I want to ensure they have adequate postage. I think I need a postage scale. Do you have one? If so, what kind? The last one I had was a commercial model and that's overkill for my current situation but I'd like to find one that's fairly durable and accurate.

Moving on...while poking around on Pinterest last night these ready to fold letters caught my eye. Aren't they sweet?

I also found this very neat postal tattoo. I have no tattoos but appreciate the postal charm of this one.

I can't find a single postcard in my town. Nay, not one. I ordered a few from Missive Maven's Etsy shop but definitely need more.  I'm going to hit the thrift shops and watch for garage sales that might have miscellaneous stationery, envelopes, postcards, and ephemera. By the way, did you know there's a society for ephemera fans? I didn't know that but have spent some time this morning going over their site. There's a lot of neat stuff there and looking at all the goodies strengthens my already intense desire for paper tid bits. I think I need to limit my time on that site!

Happy Friday, errr, Thursday, and may your mailbox be full of wonder!

And here, have a picture of my cat, Sammy. Isn't he a love?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Incoming for January 16th

Today has been a wonderful mail day. On the way home from work, I stopped to check on a friend who recently had surgery. She asked me to get her mail and while doing so I left a little envelope of love. It's for no one in particular, just whoever happens to find it and is brave enough to open it.
I hope the card and my words make the finder's day a little better. Leaving them certainly made mine better. I really enjoy being involved with More Love Letters. If you haven't read about MLL, you really should. It's a very kind and loving endeavor and Hannah, the originator, is correct when she says the world needs more love letters. 

My home mailbox was empty but my post office box contained several letters, an envelope of postcards from PostMuse of Orphaned Postcard Project and a pretty little piece of art from a Google+ friend in Canada. She was de-cluttering and offered up a few pieces to others. The picture and the card are going on my crazy wall.

This evening, after my dinner and a hot bath, I'll sit on the couch and carefully read each letter I received. 

Thank you to all of you who sent me letters. You've made my day so much better!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tuesday postal miscellaneous

When I got off work today, the roads were a bit too slick for the trip to the post office so I just came home. In my home box, there was one piece of mail; junk from an insurance company. I opened it to see if any of it was useful to me and added the enclosed return envelope to my growing stash of pattern envelopes.

Other than that, it's been a very slow day so I've perused the web looking for stories and pictures of vintage mail what have you. I found this very short blurb and photo from a 1935 newspaper.

I think that's one of the most creative uses I've heard of for a toy train!

The January letter requests for More Love Letters have been posted. They need to be postmarked by January 25th so I need to get started on those. 

And check out this letter a blogger got from Will Smith... five years after the blogger wrote Will asking for an autograph! Better late than never. ;)

LetterMo starts in 16 days and I'm ready! Are you?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Experiments gone wrong...sort of

When I was a freshman in high school I attended a very small school in a very small town in north Texas. The English teacher, Mrs. P., was the wife of the principal and was fairly strict and not liked by most students. I enjoyed the class, though, and even liked her as a person and teacher. She encouraged creativity among her pupils and I knew that was a good thing.

During that school year we read "Silas Marner" aloud in class and that classic became one of my favorites. After we finished the story, Mrs. P. separated us into groups for a special project. Each group was to create a replica of a newspaper that would have been typical of the early 19th century. Each group had an editor, main writer, advertising person, and distributor. Mrs. P. provided basic guidelines, plenty of encouragement, but only a few ideas. She expected us to accomplish this task with a minimum of help.

I could write a separate and very long entry about how stressful, yet fun, that project was. It involved a lot of research in libraries (for this was in that time long ago when computers were unheard of by most and the internet certainly didn't exist), hours spent with the other students in my group, learning to use a calligraphy pen, and quite a bit of frustation on my part. In the end, we produced a lovely newspaper representing the time period of the book and each member of my group was rewarded with an A+. Long after the project was finished, our paper hung on a wall in the school office for all to see.

But this entry really isn't about that newspaper. It's about experiments gone wrong.

When we created the newspaper, we had to research ways to "antique" the newsprint we used. We learned there were many ways to give the paper the desired look and we chose to use tea bags, water, paint brushes, and paper towels. The first few attempts were horrible. We left the paper in the tea not long enough, then too long. We discovered that writing on the paper after it had soaked in tea and dried was almost impossible and that we'd chosen the incorrect ink. With quite a bit of time and a lot of failures we hit on the right combination of tea, water, brushes, soaking time, drying time, ink, and nibs.

Almost 40 years have passed since I helped create that newspaper but this morning I decided to try my hand at making an antique looking postcard. The project didn't take too long but as the picture below shows, the result is less than spectacular.

The color is about right but the warping and smudged ink aren't impressive. I did use pigment ink but that's what I had on hand. Overall, I somewhat like the general appearance of the card. I'm going to put it under some heavy books and see if it flattens a little then mail it out to the person for whom it's intended. I want to know if it will withstand USPS abuse and that's the only way I know of to find out.

So lovely readers, what should I have done differently? Obviously pigment ink wasn't the best choice but what ink would have been better? And is there something I could have done to prevent the warping or is dealing with it after the fact the best way to go?

All in all I wouldn't call this a failure but a learning experience. "Learning experience" sounds so much better than "failure", doesn't it?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Incoming for January 12th - a day of firsts

My post office box had just two items in it today and both gave me smiles and giggles.

I received a letter from my social network hating, phone call eschewing nephew in Dallas and a New Year's Bunny from TMC at Return to Rural!

I noticed that my nephew put the stamp on the opposite side of the envelope than most folks. I don't recall ever getting mail with that sort of stamp placement so that's a first for me. I'll sit down this evening and write a nice reply to him and might even attempt a somewhat creative envelope for the letter.

I also don't recall ever getting a bunny mailed to me. No envelope, just the bunny addressed to me with a note attached to it. How cute and another first! Hmm, I didn't even know one could send a bunny via USPS. ;-) The best part of the bunny is that Mr. Zip is on the postage label! I've had a thing for Mr. Zip, also called Zippy, since I was a kid. He's pretty darned awesome.

I need to think of something creative to send TMC in appreciation for the adorable bunny.

Yep, today is a good mail day!

Friday, January 11, 2013

My first attempt at decorating an envelope!

It's not too bad considering I haven't attempted to decorate an envelope since I was 8 or 9 and that was by drawing a princess, in crayon, on the back of a letter I sent to my grandparents.

I feel like it's unfinished but don't know what else to do with it. I can see already that my obsession with straight lines and even edges needs to go but I'm not sure how to squelch that part of myself.

I'll look at it again later tonight or tomorrow and perhaps I'll have inspiration to add more to it. In the meantime, I'm okay with it.

I think.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Please Mr. Postman, Night Mail, and outgoing for January 10th

This morning I looked through my stack of mail from yesterday and "Please Read the Letter" by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss started going through my head. I like that song because those two seem an unlikely duo but make magic together. From there I started thinking of other songs about things postal and spent a little time Googling and watching videos/reading lyrics.

There are actually more than I realized and some have nothing to do with letters or mail. Go figure. ;)

Here are a few I thought of or found:

Strawberry Letter 23, by The Brothers Johnson

Box Full of Letters, by Wilco

The Letter, by The Box Tops. Have you heard Joe Cocker sing this song? His rendition is quite different than that of the Box Tops and my favorite.

Please Mr. Postman, by The Marvelettes

The Daily Mail, by Radiohead

and one of my favorite newer tunes, The Night Mail, by New Jackson.

Do you have a favorite song about letters or mail?

I finished my morning relaxation time by watching the documentary "Night Mail", produced in 1936 by the GPO Film Unit. This short film is about the mail train from London to Scotland and satisfied my need for a mail fix, a train fix, and a British fix. I was particularly fascinated by how the mail bags were "grabbed" by a netting assembly without the train stopping or slowing. The efficiency of the men loading and unloading the train and sorting letters was also remarkable.

I sent 6 letters out today and have more to send tomorrow. Thank you to all of you have written me! Each letter, notecard, and postcard brings a genuine smile to my face and we can't have enough of those. I hope my replies bring smiles, also. 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Incoming for January 9th

I haven't checked my PO box since Saturday and am glad I went by after work, even though I was exhausted from getting little sleep last night and a long work shift today and just wanted to come home, put on my PJs, and collapse on the couch.

I received a postcard from one of the mail artists I hear from occasionally, a letter from Jan over at Of Bibles, books, and letters..., a postcard from Joe Geronimo, who is participating in LetterMo, a postcard from Pamela, a member of a letter writing Yahoo group I'm in, and a letter from LR McArthur. LR found my address on a reply to a post at Make Every Day a Good Mail Day and in her words, "felt inspired to write". The letter she sent me is great and I'm looking forward to writing my reply.

I also got a letter from someone in New York and am not sure where she got my address but the envelope is adorable. I love the shades of blue and the taxis!

Thanks for the incoming love, y'all. You've made today a great mail day, indeed. 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My first More Love Letters drop!

So I stopped in at a Starbucks tonight and left some love.

The picture isn't very good because it was taken with my phone but I really wanted to record the moment for posterity's sake. ;)

I hope whoever finds the letter smiles a bit! And I hope you smile tomorrow because your mailbox is full of love!

Jumping in with both feet but I need some input

I've decided that I really must try my hand at mail art. Two things have held me back from trying it. One, I couldn't come up with any kind of "theme" that really appealed to me and two, I'm not the most artistic or creative person. The first obstacle I've managed to overcome but the second one has me feeling pretty shaky.

I was the kid who got glue in her hair in Kindergarten. And I was the kid with marker all over her face, hands and arms because grace certainly isn't my middle name! Alas, I was also the kid whose eyelid got glued shut when she turned in her seat to say something to a friend and bumped into said friend's raised rubber cement brush. I haven't forgotten those incidents though the traumatic aspects have faded. Ha!

Paper, pens, pencils, stickers, crayons, wax, markers, tape, and yes, even glue, have been lifelong loves of mine but only in a sit down, write a letter, glue or tape the flap of the envelope if needed, seal it prettily, and mail it sort of way. I've never taken it further though I've felt a strong desire to do so. Finding all the wonderfully creative mail art bloggers out there has deepened that desire and I've been torn between wanting to dabble and wanting to tear my eyes out so I can't see all the pretties! The pretties won.

This morning, as I worked with a faded, smudged, printed census record, eyes squinted, magnifying glass over a very hard to read name - it hit me. Why not use my love of genealogy in my attempt to create some kind of mail art? 

I like that idea, I really like it! I even have a picture in my mind's eye of an envelope I want to create. The problem is I'm not sure just where to start. 

I know how to make collages and used the concept to cover the counters in a business I co-owned a few years ago. The result was lovely and received many compliments. I have a nice collection of pens, markers, and other writing instruments and I have more paper than the local library, I think. What I lack is basic knowledge on how to pull those things together to create something from nothing. 

For example, if I want to make an envelope, can I/should I use an existing envelope or is it best to start from scratch and make one? I've collected some information on how to make envelopes but don't know if an existing one would work. 

Okay, so for you mail art and creative folks out there, how should a newbie like me start? I really need input. Thank you!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Love letters to strangers. No, I'm not kidding!

MoreLoveLetters is a grass roots organization that encourages people to give handwritten letters of love to strangers all over the world. Yes, you read that right. They encourage people to write love letters to others in need, people they've never met but who need a little more love than what the world is dishing out.

On the site, you can subscribe to the newsletter to find out just who needs your love. You can also learn about anonymous love lettering.  The idea behind leaving anonymous love letters in public places gives me the warm fuzzies just as much as Operation Beautiful and Letterboxing do because I'm all for anything that brings smiles and a sense of hope.

Really, if you haven't gotten involved in MLL you should. After all, you love to write and send letters and what's better than sending letters to someone who needs them?

A pretty good mail day Friday

After work yesterday I went to the post office to drop off a nice stack of letters. I forgot to take a picture of the outgoing but have more to write and send today so I'll snap a picture of those. I had three things waiting in my postal box and not one was a bill. Yaaay for no bill days, right?

The top envelope contained a slightly late Secret Santa gift from someone presumably on Google+ but that's just a guess. It's a hot pink keyboard skin for my laptop. One of my nieces got me one early last year and I wore the thing out so it's great to get another. The other two envelopes are from letter writing bloggers kind enough to send to me and one contained two sheets of pretty stickers. Thank you for the letters and stickers - they'll definitely be used and enjoyed!

I'm off work today and have a lot to do. Enjoy your weekend and I hope you have good incoming and outgoing times!

Friday, January 4, 2013

LetterMo, my father the postman, and Kevin Costner

Yesterday, I finished making my list of folks to send to during LetterMo. It looks as though I'll be sending a lot more than 23 pieces of mail and I'm okay with that. Hopefully I'll have a good response rate and the more mail sent and received, the better.

On Pinterest last night I saw a vintage photo of a mail carrier. I thought it looked familiar but couldn't place it so I clicked and lo and behold it led to Delivering the Mail, a short but lovely photographic recap of how mail delivery used to be. I had that bookmarked a few years ago but lost it in a crash. Rediscovering it was a wonderful end to my evening.

Speaking of vintage and postal, my father was a postman. He started working for the postal service in Dallas soon after we moved there in 1962 and took medical retirement sometime around 1982. I grew up seeing him in his blue uniform, carrying the then common leather mail bag. When he came home in the afternoons, the bag was usually empty but if it held a surprise for me, he'd plop the leather bundle on the living room floor, inviting me to look through it. Sometimes I'd find a piece of candy or a small toy and on special occasions a postcard or bookmark. To this day, I can't see a leather mail bag without wondering what's in it!

On top of Daddy's chest of drawers was a collection of paper clips, thumb tacks, pens, pencil stubs, stamps, and rubber thumb covers. Remember those thumb covers? They weren't the very thin kind you find now in office supply stores. They were thick and didn't easily fold or roll. There was always a stack of three or four of them, discolored and worn from use, ready to grab as he headed out the door before the sun rose. He would occasionally let me play with them and I remember well thinking they smelled not like rubber but like paper, ink, and the adventures of some kind of hero.

Yes, its no surprise I'm a mail loving gal. I have "The Postman", one of my favorite films, sitting by my television and this evening Sammy and I will curl up on the couch and watch it. He'll purr with contentment to be toasty warm on the down comforter and I'll purr with contentment to see Costner and crew bringing hope through precious letters. There's no doubt I'll think of my dad several times as I watch the movie and there's also no doubt I'll be thankful letter carriers still deliver hope. 

Just Friday morning ramblings, my friends. I hope your day is full of smiles and your mailbox is full of goodies!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Yes, it's horrible but what can I do?

I read a blog entry today from Jackie Flaherty at Letters & Journals. It touched me in a way few have.

A lot of people have forgotten already about the Sandy Hook tragedy but if you've ever lost a beloved, whether that person was a child, a parent, a sibling, or very dear friend, you know the ones left behind haven't forgotten. As someone who has lost two children, a sister, a parent, and a few friends and co-workers, I know that even as time passes, the grief will stay. It will change and hopefully be less sharp and less destructive but it won't leave. 

From day to day it will be different. Sometimes it will be so intense the bereaved will think they can't function and perhaps they really can't. Other times they may smile and laugh and the realization that they're almost happy again may bring guilt. They'll learn to live with the grief, guilt and other feelings and will incorporate those feelings into the person they are, the person they become. To some, it will look as though they're "moving on" but in reality, they're just surviving, managing each day, each hour, each moment as it comes. 

When my daughter died in 1998, for months going into years I received notes, letters, and cards from people I "knew" via the Internet. Most of those people I'd never met but the mail meant so very much to me. I still have each letter and card and occasionally I remove them from their resting place and read them, savoring the feel of the paper, each postmark, each scribbled or beautifully written line. Every one of those pieces of mail is a tangible reminder that my daughter mattered, that she lived, that she died, and that she isn't forgotten.

Jackie's idea to send a card and short note to each family of the victims at Sandy Hook is a lovely one. I'm going to use her idea, including sending the mail over a period of time so I don't feel hurried and I can spend a bit of time thinking of each victim and their family. 

Thank you, Jackie, for such a heartfelt way to let the families know they and their loved ones aren't forgotten.