Book Review: Semi-Sweet

28 Jul

You want to hear something sweet, no semi? A pen pal stumbling upon a book while perusing through used books with her mother, and not only thinking of you but buying it to surprise you. Allison was neither familiar with Semi-Sweet or its author, Roisin Meaney, but because it was advertised as a novel of love and cupcakes she decided I needed it. For such a whim I am a very satisfied customer.

Semi-Sweet moved along very well. It was narrated in the third person which gave each of the primary characters moments in the sun where you could see what they were about and not just what Hannah, the story’s catalyst, thought about people like her ex and the woman he impregnated while they were still together. I hardly found Leah, Mistress #1, likable but reading about the hormones and the doubt she experienced while expecting was very much relatable. It was reading things like that and about the death of a 4-year-old boy (spoiler alert :-P ) that kept me turning pages, curious to see how the stories would unfold, each of them individualized in these character blurbs yet all seamlessly connected. My spoiler alert, for example, was not only the nephew of the young woman who worked for Hannah at her cupcake shop, but he was hit by someone who worked with her father. Every character in this book serves a purpose. My only grievance was that there weren’t any Wally blurbs until closer to the end. I get that Meaney was being a meaney and intentionally wanted you to think one certain person was going to end up with another certain person, but I don’t think using him a few times more would have had to give anything away; it would have just been an opportunity for him to grow on the reader.

In honor of this novel of love and cupcakes and our 4th anniversary this week, I shall leave you with some sweet pictures (taken by a former pen pal!) from July 30th of 2010.

Sincerely, Kate ~!~

Christmas in July ’14

25 Jul

Much like with the swap I organized last July, I decided that the Christmas in July concept is the perfect excuse to host an exchange among my pen pals. Just like last time I told those interested to PM me a list of 3 general ideas to pass along to their Secret Santa, keeping in mind that no one should spend more than $10.

Sara, who asked for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, stationery, and jewelry bezels, was the first to receive anything… probably because I was responsible for her package, hehe.

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Othella’s wishlist included a used book, stickers, and something homemade. The picture shows other things Othella received that day, but what was from Allison had to have been pretty awesome as they are FB friends now :-P

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Emily requested Hello Kitty stickers/ stationery, Dinosaur stickers/ stationery, and anything Tokidoki. I believe her exact words were “It’s the best Christmas in July evah!!!!”

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Kari’s list consisted of stickers, stationery, and washi tape, and it looks like her package consisted of exactly that.

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Allison’s three things were a used copy of a book her Santa loves, a used copy of a movie they also love, and the-brighter-the-better stationery. This was what was waiting for her upon her return from New Jersey.

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Justine, who asked for local candy, fruity tea, and touristy postcards, has yet to receive her package, but she should get it any day now according to her Secret Santa.

But then there’s me! Even if there was nothing remotely secretive about it I wanted to be involved this time around, giving my Maryland pen pal the list of refrigerator magnets, craft supplies she’d think I like, and a used copy of a favorite book. I was hopeful it would arrive in time for today’s post (along with Gone Girl, the book she is letting me borrow) but that shall be a picture for another time…

But wait, there’s more! When Emily, who you may know as Nerd in the Brain, saw my FB posts she was inspired to host a Secret Santa, too. I gladly signed up. The socks on the left (along with a bookmark I forgot to document) were sent to a woman who asked for funky ones, and I was given the book on the right from another woman.

Actually, I was given a few books as Othella surprised me with The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield and Allison purchased Semi-Sweet by Roisin Meaney for me on a complete whim. Tune in on Monday for my thoughts on the latter ;-)

Yeah, I’d say this Christmas in July has been a merry one. I will definitely continue to host these, hehe. Happy holidays!

Sincerely, Kate ~!~

Miscellaneous Marshmallows

21 Jul

I recently introduced you to Marsh Mailow, the mail mascot I created, and I know I have people who would like to see him again so here you go, Bleaders!

As you can see, Marsh and I have been having fun together. Sure, some things turn out way better (and cuter!) than others, but as long as they’re making their recipients smile we are doing our job. My favorite? The one with the mug. My least favorite? The gray one I made to accompany my gray Vari-Kate-ion– yuck! Have any suggestions for me like Othella’s silly pooping one? By all means tell me!

Have a great week, marshmallows!
Sincerely, Kate ~!~

A Scrapbook on Steroids: A Third Dose

20 Jul

My smashbook seems to have gone on the back burner since most of my creative energy has been going towards my Vari-Kate-ions, but I still like the occasional fix. It’s been two months since I showed you what I put in the smashbook I have for some random pen pal bits and bobs so it’s time for an update.

I wanted to start utilizing a couple smashbook products so I paired them with a greeting card I received, an ATC I made, and some other random things that found their way into my possession. These pages certainly have a lot going on, but I like to think it all features bright ideas in some way, shape, or form.

I wanted to start utilizing a couple smashbook products so I paired them with a greeting card I received, an ATC I made, and some other random things that found their way into my possession. These pages certainly have a lot going on, but I like to think it all features bright ideas in some way, shape, or form.

Again, there’s a bit going on. I wanted to use the ATCs Annie made and the pictures Ruth drew… While I was at it I added some Wonderland-friendly things, too.

Again, there’s a bit going on. I wanted to use the ATCs Annie made and the pictures Ruth drew… While I was at it I added some Wonderland-friendly things, too.

After I sent the “squirrels of summer” out an LEP member sent me a squirrel of my own, and Kari sent me the pola-card. The washi was salvaged from envelopes and the stamps were either bought by me, carved by me, or given to me from Kari, too.

Belinda from Australia took it upon herself to not only send me pictures from Steve the caffeinated squirrel's visit, but to send a letter on his behalf. Leaving them out of this was just NOT an option.

Belinda from Australia took it upon herself to not only send me pictures from Steve the caffeinated squirrel’s visit, but to send a letter on his behalf. Leaving them out of this was just NOT an option.

If you’re curious, here’s what Steve’s letter said…

Dear Kate,
Wooo!! I made it to Australia! The coffee here is FABULOUS! YOO! I was having MASSIVE caffeine withdrawals after a long flight in an envelope! While Bel wasn’t looking I ate my way through a jar of coffee and ate all her chocolate snacks. Went hiking through the garden and met the locals. WOOO! I’m buzzin’ like nobody’s business! Apparently too much coffee can be dangerous– Bel just fished me out of the pond before I became lunch for a croc!! And now I’m off for more adventures! WOO!! COFFEEEEE!!! Ahh crap, I spilt some! *licks page* Gotta go refill my jug.
<3 Steve

If you’d like to see the contributions to my smashbook prior to these, this will lead you to the first dose and this to the second. And if you’re interested in the squirrels, here’s the post written in their honor. Pen palling, it’s not solely for letters!

Sincerely, Kate ~!~

Vari-Kate-ions: July

15 Jul

If you know of this blog you know I’m a woman who loves her mail. Well, not the bills, though the envelopes businesses send along are great canvases for some mail art. In some of my Vari-Kate-ions you’ll see upcycled envelopes, by the way.

But what is a Vari-Kate-ion? It’s Kate’s my snail mail take on Variation 1, a list of 100 themes available on deviantart.com to inspire those who stumble upon it. I tackled these last month and these the month before it. Oh, and the wildcard mentioned here. I only do a handful a month to avoid burn-out, and I go in order to avoid being left with a bunch of craptacular themes towards the end of this endeavor.

So what have I been up to this month?

  • Silence
  • Questioning
  • Blood
  • Rainbow
  • Gray

009For silence I was, in fact, very silent. The only words used were the shipping information for the LEP member I’m surprising with 20 sheets of stationery. No note was enclosed, no return address was given, and no messages were sent to let the recipient know she’d be getting anything. Silence really is golden ;-)

003Othella, another member of the LEP, is also a member of the FB group I have for my pen pals and she’s been such a welcome addition. One of the games she plays regularly is the Questions Only game so for the Questioning theme I sent her a letter full of questions only. There were 39 all together.

006Not going to lie, the thought of using real blood DID cross my mind, but, fortunately for my fingers (and for Allison), I have a small threshold for pain. On my last outing with the husband I was on a mission to find a red pen &/or marker that would mimic blood decently enough. I used another red pen of mine to write my response to my New York pal in lieu of my usual black one. The blood may not look realistic, but I still love how it and the envelope turned out. Zoom in on Marsh Mailow, haha.

018Sara Jean not only moved recently but found out she was pregnant, too– I thought I’d use the rainbow theme as an opportunity to congratulate her. I grabbed a sheet of rainbow paper, markers, gelly roll pens, and stencils and went to town. Oh, and washi tape if you count the envelope. She’s been, understandably, a bit too preoccupied to write so I just shared random facts with her from when I was pregnant with Logan, one for each rainbow-friendly pen I have. One may have suggested that I had more hot fudge while I was pregnant than during the rest of my life.

009A LEPster by the name of Sarah writes letters as the characters from the books she writes. Between receiving some of these letters (from a vampire named Michael) and also reading one of her drafts for another project, I decided I would create something for her. I know she likes bees so I used some flowery scrapbook paper for the background in an attempt to make it all flow together– all of it in gray or something close to it. Maybe if she reads as much as she writes it can be used as a bookmark.

I’m pretty proud of myself to be done with these already. I suppose I could have done more, but for reasons you’ll see in a future blog post I’m glad I didn’t try to. Interested in being included next month? Let me know, whether we write or not. Something else you can tell me? What you’d recommend doing for themes like fortitude, no time, and trouble lurking ;-) Please and thank you!

Sincerely, Kate ~!~

Another Spectacular Pen Pal Blog

14 Jul

Once upon a time Nerd in the Brain decided to create a blog award without any strings– no lists to make, questions to answer, or even people to nominate. She gave me The Spectacular Blog Award of hers before and, with a nudge from the nerd, I decided to pay it forward.

And the award goes to…

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Em’s Den!

img_4444Why? Because Em’s Den is the pen pal- friendly blog I like almost as much as my own. She posts pictures of every single letter and postcard she receives (like this recent letter) and showcases each of the envelopes she decorates like the one to the right. She has been one of my main motivators for starting my sporadic “Hail the Snail” posts, and if you tuned in last Monday you know it was Emma’s snail critter that led me to make Marsh Mailow. Other cool things I enjoy seeing on her blog are the contributions to her two projects– Blank Paper and A Piece of My Life. Yes, Em’s Den is quite the spectacular blog <3

If you know of a blog that’s also pretty spectacular, feel free to pass this award on! The instructions are simple:

  • Everyone is free to snag the graphic and give it to blogs they find spectacular.
  • When giving the award, add a short post to your blog about the blog you’re nominating and send a comment/note/email to the person receiving the award…just so they know.
  • The blog receiving the award does nothing except enjoy it. No lists of facts, no lists of nominations, no lists of questions…just no lists. Of course, the nominated blog is free to grab the picture for bragging purposes.  :D
  • Go forth and spread the love, people!

Have a spectacular week!
Sincerely, Kate ~!~

Tricks of the Trade

10 Jul

Someone new to the pen pal scene suggested I posted a bit of a how-to, so this goes out to everyone who is considering giving this hobby a go. :-)

I wish I could tell you that there’s a protocol for writing letters, but that is simply not the case. Sometimes you’ll hear from someone a couple times a month and sometimes a pal’s letter may not arrive for weeks. Not everyone will decorate their envelopes or even use stationery. Sometimes they’ll type their letters and once in a while you’ll have a pen pal you wish would type since their handwriting’s a pain to read, haha.

Yes, every pen pal is different, but I have some helpful hints for those of you who are new to this hobby. Hopefully a lot of pen pallers would agree with them.

#1. Put an ad on a site like Pen Palling (Snail Mail) or respond to one that’s already there.

Whoever says snail mail is dead clearly hasn’t tried looking on Facebook let alone Google– there are so many people who are just as interested in writing letters as ever. You can find people in Facebook groups or post an ad so someone can find you. Should you write an ad don’t be too vague. In addition to saying how old you are and where you’re from, you could include the hobbies you enjoy, whether or not you have kids, and what you’re looking for in a pen pal (e.g. someone who writes long letters or someone who writes quickly, etc. etc.). Still not sure what you’d say in an ad? Try sites like the International Geek Girl Pen Pals Club or the Snail Mail Project  as they can find a match for you.

#2. Chat online a bit before exchanging email addresses.

Sure, there is the safety aspect to this one, but there’s another advantage to talking a bit first…

It’s exciting whenever you see someone has responded to your ad, but for me that excitement quickly dies when all someone will say is “I want to write you.” Nothing more, nothing less. Guess what? Their letters, IF you even get one, will NOT live up to your expectations. Someone who is chatty online will likely be chatty on paper so definitely use that opportunity to test the waters. If you don’t think you’d ever get along with them in real life, don’t feel obligated to write them. I know I consider a handful of my pen pals some of my closest friends so you should look at pen palling as a chance to make a friend (or several) you would never have met otherwise.

#3. Find your voice.

All right, you found yourself someone who has similar interests yet you don’t know what to write after “I’m so glad you were up for becoming pen pals!” I have 3 general options for you…

First of all, you can ask the other person to go first. If your potential pen pal has more experience writing letters then they should know what they like and don’t like about intro letters so it could provide an example for you. Should they talk about where they live you could follow suit because that’s likely a topic they’re interested in hearing about.

My intro letters tend to cover the basics. I (usually) will talk about my family some, describe my work/school situation, and share a bunch of my favorite things. It’s a bit outdated, but I posted an example at the beginning of last year. I will add questions throughout all my letters since A) it gives the recipient something to respond to and B) because I’m nosy :-P

The other option you have is to just dive in as if you’re already friends and talk about your day. I’ve received intro letters where people vented about work, bragged about the cute thing(s) their offspring did, or talked about the movie they were watching &/or the book they were reading. Helpful hint: while some people have mastered these letters, they can be a slippery slope because others will talk about themselves/ their families for pages and pages yet never ask their pal any questions. It’s important to know when to stop. Just like in a regular friendship there needs to be a balance of give and take.

#4. Avoid exceeding 4 pages right off the bat.

Sure, this is more of a personal preference, but I have my reasons. The first is that there are people who will see an an intro letter that’s 6+ pages long as daunting; they may feel like there’s so much to cover they don’t know where to start. The second reason is that sometimes letters get lost or people will just be buttmunches who don’t respond. Don’t pour your heart and soul onto the page until you know the person will treasure it. Once the two of you have made a definite connection then by all means send each other novels. My first letters are usually on 2 pieces of stationery the size of copy paper, front and back, by the way. If you know me well you know that I believe writing should be like a woman’s skirt– long enough to cover everything but short enough to keep it interesting ;-)

#5. Don’t expect to hear back immediately.

As awesome as it would be to hear back from everyone within a week of sending their letter, that’s NOT the norm. There are people who only find time to write on the weekends or after the kids are asleep if they haven’t passed out themselves. Life happens and sometimes people just have more on their plate so be patient. If you’re concerned after a couple weeks that they might not have even received your letter you can message them about it. I feel like I have enough pen pals to keep me busy so one person taking over a month to respond does not hurt my feelings. On that note, if you’d like quite a bit of mail each month, get a few pen pals. I think it’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket unless you don’t mind the wait.

If you have any questions regarding pen palling I haven’t addressed, please ask me! However, if it’s something among the lines of whether I want to write you then look no further: I am NOT interested in any more pen pals anytime soon, sorry!

I shall leave you with a pretty little song— the second verse is my favorite part, hehe.

Sincerely, Kate ~!~

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