Say it With a Stamp~

This is my outgoing mail this morning. Mary had recently asked me where I was getting the old stamps I’m using on my recent letters.

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Readers of our book and blog already know I am a stationery and paper addict. I don’t do “mail art,” per se, though I am fascinated by those who do. But I am a bit odd in that I enjoy using pretty envelopes, interesting address labels, or…stamps.

For instance, I had these address labels made from a photo of me on the beach, an experience I’ll never forget. I mostly save them for the letters I send to my sister, Joan, who was responsible for my opportunity to see the ocean. It was her home we stayed in while we visited Florida. She and her husband David took us to the beach.

address labels

For awhile, I was ordering PhotoStamps kits on ebay, purchasing as many as 10 sets (that make 20 stamps) for $72. You don’t need to be a math wizard to figure out that meant I was getting personalized stamps for less than the cost at the post office. ($7.20 for 20 stamps)

photo stamps

When that seller discontinued selling kits, I found another resource for unusual stamps; a collector who sells his excess on ebay under the name of jeweleryandtreasure, at a discount. It was the book and writer stamps that lured me in. So now I have a drawer full of lovely postage to decorate (and mail) my letters with.

And you can too, if you are so inclined. Just check out his stamp listings by clicking HERE. You’re welcome.

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Going once, going twice, SOLD on stationery!

I’m often asked where I get my stationery. While the majority is discovered at thrift stores and Goodwill, the online auction site of ebay has also been a wonderful source for my paper habit.

Now, if you’ve seen my shelves of stationery, it’s obvious I don’t actually need to purchase any more.

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I have more than enough to last me a lifetime of writing letters.

That said, occasionally I need a little pick-me-up, something to brighten my day. Or, I may have sold some of my stash and feel the need to restock. Because I do often sell stationery that isn’t bringing me joy, or isn’t the texture I like, or I get tired of using. Yes, the wrong texture of the paper, or a bad pen, can ruin my letter-writing fun.

Now, as much as the other Mary claims a penchant for paper, her letters are more often written on notepaper, often of the “free” variety, while I am the one in our duo more likely to purchase pretty paper and stationery sets, as is evidenced by this pile of letters I’d written Mary.

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Note the colorful, decorated envelopes that matched the bright and cheery stationery inside. This was during my early 2000’s Mary Engelbreit stationery era.

Perhaps some would view my investment in paper as an extravagance, but I allow myself this one vice. It isn’t expensive jewelry, purses or shoes, but it’s obvious from my filled baskets that it is, indeed, a vice of mine.

As a public service for fellow paper lovers, I’ve decided to share my tips to discovering good deals on stationery on ebay.

  • If you type “vintage stationery” into the search on ebay, you come up with 2985 results. I love vintage stationery.
  • You can narrow down the results by typing “Hallmark vintage stationery,” or “scented vintage stationery,” or whatever it is you are looking for, like I did when I searched for bird stationery, and came up with this result, two boxes I purchased.bird stationery.jpg
  • Another idea is to spell it incorrectly in your search. Type in “vintage stationary” and you’ll get significantly fewer results (780 vs. 2985), but the majority are different listings. (some sellers know to spell it both ways in their description, because for some reason, this is a word that gets mis-spelled frequently) Someone might attend an estate sale and end up with a bunch of greeting cards and boxes of stationery that they aren’t sure what to do with. Or maybe their mother died and they cleaned out her desk. But for whatever reason, these people just want to get rid of something that seems so foreign to them. Stationery? (or stationary, to those not familiar with it)
  • I sometimes search under “huge lot of stationery.” I’d rather pick up five boxes in one fell swoop (and have) than purchase one box at a time. The same seller who had the bird stationery also had lovely sunflower and flower print vintage stationery listed, and was happy to combine shipping, even though his listing didn’t state that. I e-mailed to ask him before I purchased additional sets.

sunflower stationery

  • Some sellers list stationery under Collectible Paper Ephemera. That’s a clue they take their paper very seriously. That’s where you’ll see vintage stationery priced at $40 a box, or the box all by itself (with no paper inside) for $20. Avoid that category for your stationery search. I’m assuming you aren’t collecting stationery, but using it.
  • If you love a certain brand of paper, like Lang, try searching under “Lang paper” or “Lang printer paper.”  One of my favorite packets of stationery was from the Martha Stewart collection, but with just five notecards, five postcards, and five sheets of paper inside, I’m not about to pay the $13.27 Amazon price.

martha stewart stationeryAnother favorite was Susan Branch boxed set of paper with tea cups on it.  Occasionally, I’ll search ebay for these sets. There’s a Martha Stewart set listed right now, for $24.99, and yes, it is listed as stationary. 

  • My last tip would be to think outside the box (pun intended) when you are searching for stationery. Unfortunately, our Hallmark stores don’t carry as much boxed stationery as they used to. (“No one writes letters anymore,” I was informed when I asked why) Check out your local drugstore, bookstores, specialty shops. Don’t forget your Goodwills or consignment stores. I’ll share some online sources in the coming weeks.

Take the April Challenge; write a letter~

In 2001, the U.S. Postal Service officially designated April as “National Card and Letter Writing Month” to raise awareness of the importance and historical significance of card and letter writing. While Mary JH and I don’t need a month designated to letter writing to write each other (we’ll do that regardless) I do love a challenge, and the idea of sending out at least one letter or card each day in the next 30 days appeals to me, particularly if I up the challenge and make it a card or letter to someone other than Mary!

mary letters

I often get asked where I get all my stationery and cards. While the majority of my stash is unearthed in thrift stores and from eBay, I have a penchant for paper, and there are times when I can’t resist a splurge. Like this butterfly paper I discovered in our local Widner drugstore last year. I mean, really…as much as I like butterflies, how could I have resisted?

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As part of the April challenge, I’ll be sharing some stationery resources in this blog.

Today’s feature is the Lang Company, where today only (April 1) you can get 30% off your order with the code JOKES.  They sell gift items, as well as calendars, notepads, and notecards, like these beautiful Christian notecards.

lang note cardsYou might want to check their clearance section out for some good deals on beautiful gift items, calendars, address books and notecards as well.

 

Book Review: Last Letter from Your Lover

Reviewed by Mary Jedlicka Humston

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I’ll admit from the start that I am a JoJo Moyes fan. I love her fast-paced, emotionally-engaging novels. Her characters and plots hold me long after I’ve read the last sentence. So, it’s no surprise I enjoyed The Last Letter from Your Lover.
If you’ve ever wondered about the importance of a handwritten letter, then this novel will prove how one letter (received or not received) changed lives.
Let me explain. Moyes takes you back in time to the early 1960s to main character Jennifer, the wife of rich Laurence, and to her lover “B.” Jennifer and “B’s” letters become even more intriguing when Jennifer suffers a head injury and can’t remember anything. And, I do mean anything.
The action moves to 2003 when Ellie, a young journalist, discovers one of “B’s” letters stuffed in an old box hidden away in her newspaper’s archived library. Ellie becomes intrigued enough to doggedly pursue the details.
I don’t want to give too much away, other than you’ll be turning pages long after you should’ve gone to bed. While I’m usually not too keen reading about infidelity and cheating spouses, the storyline takes you onto deeper issues of merit.
The author’s superb storytelling will make this one hard to put down. Enjoy.

Letters from Mom~

I spent an entire afternoon with my mom today.

That’s quite a feat, considering my mother passed away in 2010, but it’s possible when you save letters.

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An article in the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, ‘Letters to Jane’ prompted this visit with Mom. The article was about a Dyersville woman who wrote her daughter Jane hundreds of letters while she attended the Iowa School for the Deaf in the 60’s and 70’s. It got me to thinking about the box of letters I store in my trunk. I kept every letter my mother ever wrote me, but until today, I hadn’t taken the time to look through them.  I’ve read, and re-read, the letters she wrote my grandmother in the 60’s. Since her death, I’ve read her notebooks and the Memory book she filled out for me, but for some reason, I’ve never revisited some 200 letters I had stashed away.

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How appropriate that the first one I pulled out of the (unorganized) box was dated 36 years ago yesterday.

In this letter, Mom informs me that there is a little snow falling, but my Dad doesn’t think it will amount to much. She also tells me that the previous week was the warmest January she could remember and she even hung out laundry and Dad raked leaves. The letter continues for two pages. My brother John had just been laid off work and was waiting for unemployment to kick in. My younger sister Jane had to stay home from school for several days with an earache, and my sister Pat’s children were recovering from the flu. But what I hold most precious from this letter are the words of encouragement regarding my college classes. I began attending the University of Northern Iowa in the fall of 1978, got married in the summer of 1979, and had my first child in March 1980. At the time my mother wrote this letter, David and I were both taking classes and working part-time, but we’d arranged it so that one of us was always with Dan.

“When we think back on it, we realize there must have been a lot of determination on your part to finish school, and you must have had a lot of discouragement too. Putting your stubbornness to good use,” my mother had written, a back-handed compliment (was she calling me stubborn?), but precious words of encouragement, nonetheless. As were these words, before my graduation in December 1985.

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She didn’t make it to the graduation celebration, but there were several more letters that revealed her frustration and disappointment at not being there.

My Dad died the following May, and my mother became a widow at the age of 58, just a year older than I am now. I lived in Cedar Falls at the time so wasn’t privy to much of her grieving, but she shared pieces of it in her subsequent letters. She knew that first Father’s Day would be hard for all of us.

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That first holiday season must have been excruciating for her, and yet she was still thinking of her children. This also wasn’t the only time she expressed a desire to write more letters.

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I hadn’t remembered that Mom had attended a bereavement support group. This was in September, four months after his death.

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Just four months after the death of her husband, and my mother was “helping” others in their grief. Note, too, how she laments the letters she owes others.

Many of the letters left me in tears, made me wish for another chance to talk to Mom, to ask her a question, or comment on something she’d written. There was laughter too, with some of Mom’s descriptions. Occasionally, a note from one of my younger sisters was included in an envelope. Once or twice, my dad wrote something.

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But it was these words that really touched my heart today as I face some decisions in my life.

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Thanks, Mom. I needed that.

 

What a “good mail day” looks like to one of the Marys

A couple of my children might tell you they are scarred for life because their mother actually used to sing this song when she spotted the mailman at the end of the driveway.

I nearly sang it today when I arrived home from work and saw these things in my mail:

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The boxes of vintage stationery were purchased on eBay. The textbook is for a course I am taking toward grief counseling certification. And what mail day would be complete without a letter, from the other Mary of course.

While I didn’t immediately sit down and write a letter, I did begin reading the textbook, getting to page 55 before I looked up and realized it had gotten dark outside. Yes, I love learning, and am fascinated by anything related to grief or psychology, and this textbook includes both.

It doesn’t take a lot to make either Mary happy, but a good mail day truly makes me want to sing!

 

Book Review: Twelve Days of Christmas in Iowa

book review by Mary Jedlicka Humston
                                              

The Twelve Days of Christmas in Iowa, written and illustrated by Sue F. Cornelison

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While visiting our two-year-old grandson Levi, I noticed this beautifully illustrated book. Immediately intrigued by the title, I thumbed through it and was rewarded by something both Marys love: letters! Yes, part of this book involves handwritten letters.
But first, as you would expect from the title, The Twelve Days of Christmas in Iowa does indeed follow the familiar holiday tune but substitutes “a goldfinch in an oak tree” for “a partridge in a pear tree.” It can be sung all the way through to “twelve mutton busters” instead of the traditional “twelve lords of leaping.”
You can read this book solely for the fun repetition of Iowa-themed verses to this familiar holiday song. However, an older child will enjoy the handwritten letters that accompany each day of Christmas.
Farm girl Ella writes the first full-page letter inviting her cousin Aiden to visit Iowa for the holidays. After Aiden arrives, the letters are then written by him to his parents detailing unique aspects of Iowa life. Think of hot air balloons in Indianola, a train ride on the Santa Express in Boone, or the Bridges of Madison County. Author Cornelison deftly weaves Iowa history and interesting state details into these letters.
So, on one level, this book is a holiday song. On another level, the song can be sung and the letters read to an older child. And, then to extend the interested age-groups of this book even further, an advanced reader will enjoy reading the letters as well as singing along.
Wouldn’t this be a lovely Christmas present for the Iowa children in your life? If you don’t live in Iowa, Google to see if your state has a Twelve Days of Christmas in….” Without spending too much time, I located several other states represented in this clever style, almost all with different authors.
I hope you and your family enjoy The Twelve Days of Christmas in Iowa. Then, after reading it, you’ll be privy to what “mutton busters” means.
Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!

~Greeting Card Request Alert~

What fun! We have a request from one of our followers. Do you have a greeting card to share with her mother? It only takes a minute or two and will bring a smile to the face of this multi-talented mother.

From Erin:
“My mom, Lois, is finally(!) retiring after years of being a hairdresser, county clerk, a lunch lady, and dietitian in anywhere from hospitals-nursing homes-WIC. She’s very much looking forward to getting back to her hobbies and spending more time with her grandchildren, and not waking up at 5:30 am (unless she wants to, which is never). I want to surprise her with a big basket of retirement well wishes and have already asked friends, family, and all of her previous places of employment…but why stop there? I’ve started asking some of her favorite places to shop and eat and am now turning to the World Wide Web for help getting the world out. I’d love funny and or/thoughtful cards from all over to include in the basket, and I’m happy to write a card in return (so please include a return address if you’d like a card back) telling about when she opens all the letters. Please send cards by January 10, 2017 to:
Lois G.
c/o Erin Thompson
4214 Rownd St.
Cedar Falls, IA 50613

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Do you have a greeting card request for us?

Book Review: From Heart to Hand

From Heart to Hand: The Lost Art of a Written Letter
by Kristin Horvath
reviewed by Mary Jedlicka Humston

“Writing letters is what I love to do. It is a passion I have because I know receiving a personalized written letter brings joy to those who receive them and because it is a lost art I want to preserve and revitalize.”(pg. 69).

Kristin Horvath’s From Heart to Hand: The Lost Art of a Written Letter celebrates the magic of composing and receiving letters. Her passion is strong, evidenced by the fact that she shares actual letters she’s written to friends, family, and even strangers who inspired her.
As she says in her introduction, these letters are honest, sometimes a bit embarrassing, but always heartfelt. Each one is accompanied by a short commentary.

heart-to-hand
…I have written to people who have inspired me or helped me, thanking them for the help or inspiration they provided in my life. If you enjoy love, laughter, and sentimental stories that show complete vulnerability, you will enjoy sinking your teeth into this work, and you might end up writing a letter to someone you have been meaning to catch up with.”- from the Intro

Catch Horvath’s enthusiasm. Pick up pen and paper to write that letter you’ve been meaning to send. Express your gratitude and thanks for the ways others have touched you. Now is the perfect time. Who wouldn’t love receiving such a letter like this as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches?
And, now is also the perfect time to pick up Horvath’s book and be reminded all over again how fun, wonderful, and powerful a letter can be.

You can read more about Kristin here.

Book Review: They Left Us Everything

When author Plum Johnson’s mother passes away, she is given the dubious honor of going through her parent’s belongings to prepare the family home to be put on the market. She moves in temporarily, prepared to buy garbage bags and purge. What was supposed to take six weeks ended up taking sixteen months, and what Johnson learns about herself, her parents, and the complicated relationship she had with her mother makes for a spellbinding read. Yes, once again, I finished an entire book in one sitting.

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They Left Us Everything  is heartbreakingly sad one minute, raucously funny another. Johnson, who’d cared for both her ailing father and mother, delves into a somewhat eccentric childhood, as she searches for answers to her questions about her mother, in particular. She wishes for diaries.

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Instead, what Johnson is looking for she finds in packets of letters stuffed into plastic bags in one of the 23-rooms of her parent’s house. Hundreds of letters; written by her mother and to her mother. A treasure trove of letters she arranges chronologically, then slips each into archival plastic sheets that fill more than 40 binders.

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What will my children find after I’m gone? This book convinced me they’ll find it all; the letters I’ve saved, my journals, and the daybooks I filled while I was raising young children. I won’t have 23 rooms to clear out, but there will be plenty of paper I’m trusting my daughters to go through with a discerning eye.

“Am I my mother’s biographer? Do all daughters become their mother’s biographers, taking her history and passing it on to future generations? Writing letters was one of Mum’s greatest talents, and here is the record of her life. At the end of our lives, we become only memories. If we’re luck, someone is passing those down.” (page 259)