Penpalling & Letters

Thursday, 24 February 2011

"Letters From Home" by Kristina McMorris and Contest

A few days ago I was contacted by award-winning author Kristina McMorris. Kristina is promoting her debut novel "Letters From Home" at the moment and therefore has organized a letter contest.

As it is explained in the following link: Letters From Home Contest, you have to submit a love letter by March 31st, 2011 if you are interested in participating. It can be short or long, funny or heartwarming, poetic or satirical, real or made up. Some ideas include: an actual WWII letter, an imaginary note from Juliet to Romeo, from Donald Duck to Daisy, or from Amelia Earhart to a secret love with whom she might have run away. It can be a letter you once received, a copy of one you have sent, or one you should have written long ago. It can be a message to God, an estranged relative, a deployed serviceman, your favorite celebrity, and the list goes on...

What is the prize offered in this contest?

A nostalgic memory box full of gorgeous stationery, a fleur-de-lis wax seal and nostalgic goodies worth $150 (~110€) as can be seen below.

When you submit your letter, enclose your contact info as well (name, postal address, telephone number, e-mail address) and send everything to or via postal mail to:

Love Letter Contest
P.O. Box 100
Troutdale, OR-97060
United States of America

Entering automatically signs you up for Kristina's rare but fabulous e-newsletters. The winner will be announced and contacted around mid-April. Have fun and good luck!

Kristina also wanted to share with us some highlights about "Letters From Home" from her publisher's press kit:

Spotlighted in the March issue of Woman's Day magazine, LETTERS FROM HOME by Kristina McMorris hits major bookstores and online retailers February 22nd! Inspired by the epistolary courtship of the author's grandparents, this award-winning novel is being hailed as "ambitious and compelling...[a] sweeping debut." (Publishers Weekly)

In the midst of World War II, a Midwestern infantryman falls deeply in love through a yearlong letter exchange, unaware that the girl he's writing to isn't the one replying. Woven around this tenuous thread are three female friends whose journeys toward independence take unexpected turns as a result of romance, tragedy, and deception, their repercussions heightened by an era of the unknown. Beautifully rendered and deeply moving, Letters From Home is a story of hope and connection, of sacrifices made in love and war - and the chance encounters that change us forever.

With sales of its global rights on the rise, and book club rights sold to Reader's Digest and Doubleday, the novel has received glowing endorsements from the likes of Kristin Hannah (New York Times bestselling author of Firefly Lane), Pam Jenoff (bestselling author of The Kommandant's Girl), and Lynn "Buck" Compton (famed "Band of Brothers" WWII veteran).

Watch a brief video about the true story behind the book at: Letters From Home - A Video

And for WWII letters, special book club features, 1940s recipes, and more, visit: Kristina McMorris Website

A portion of the author's proceeds from sales will benefit United Through Reading, a nonprofit organization that video records deployed U.S. military personnel reading bedtime stories for their children.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Getting to know Jasmina from Penpal Junkie

Today I have the pleasure to officially inaugurate The person behind the letter-writer, a section in which people who are into letters will be featured together with a personal quality or ability of themselves. There was an interview some months ago in Penpalling & Letters related to this topic, and inspired by this fact and other fellow penpaller's interests, I decided to start running this new section from now on. Hope all of you enjoy it!

Our guest of today is Jasmina who comes from the Netherlands. Let's listen to what Jasmina has to tell us:

Hello! My name is Jasmina and I am the owner of the online shop Penpal Junkie. I am 25 years-old an I live in the Netherlands. I am addicted to everything cute, especially cupcakes! I love to live and I love life! I started writing letters when was 12 years-old. I met a girl at the camping and we started writing. I also wrote a lot of letters to my cousins who live in Suriname. I love to decorate my letters with stickers and deco tape. I especially like "Kawaii" letter-paper, I think that it is so cute! When I was younger I was not writing letters only but I was also keeping a diary and writing poems. I have also swapped some time ago, but don't do it anymore because I don't have the time for it. My favourite item to swap are stickers and some other little things. Swapping is a lot of fun and need to do it soon again; hopefully, when I have more free time. Besides swapping I also like collecting cute stuff, and I am a member of Postcrossing as well. I think that Postcrossing makes possible to see a little bit more of the world.

Welcome to Penpalling & Letters, Jasmina! So nice you are visiting us today and that you are presenting your shop!

- How did you start running Penpal Junkie? For how long has your shop been online?

I decided to create my own shop when I realized that it was not possible to find cute writing paper (letter sets, letter pads...) or postcards in the Netherlands. I opened the visual doors of my shop on May, 1st 2010. A friend of mine gave me the idea of the name "Penpal Junkie" so this is why I named my shop this way.

- Which kind of products do you offer in Penpal Junkie?

In the very beginning I was only selling postcards and letter-paper. Right now you can find all kind of penpal supplies and gifts in Penpal Junkie: letter pads, letter sets, note pads, memo pads, postcards, greeting cards, envelopes, pencils, pens, stickers, deco tape, bags, wallets, bookmarks, beauty products (lip gloss, shower and bath products, hand and foot care items)...

- Do you have a favourite product yourself among those that can be seen in your shop?

I love the cupcake stuff the most, especially the cupcake soap. It smells great and it looks even better!

- Which items are the most popular among your customers?

The sticker-sacks are the most popular and most demanded items.

- If your customers request you a specific product that it is not available in Penpal Junkie at the moment, would you be willing to get it if possible?

If a customer would like to purchase a special item and it is not possible to find it in my shop yet, feel free to e-mail me and I will try my best to search this product for you.

- Can you explain us how the process of purchasing, payment and shipping works in Penpal Junkie?

Shipping costs are calculated upon weight and shown at the end of the order, so you will be able to see the real amount of money spent on products and shipping. Orders are sent by Second Class Mail so shipping costs aren't very high. However, bear in mind that the package might take up to a month to arrive depending on destination and other mail facts. I send the items out as soon as I receive the payment. You can pay through PayPal or bank wire transfer, a process which is secure, easy and fast.

- Can Penpal Junkie be found in Facebook, Twitter...?

You can find Penpal Junkie on Twitter: Penpal Junkie - Twitter and Hyves: Penpal Junkie - Hyves. We also have a blog: Penpal Junkie - The Blog.

- Are there something else that you would like to share about Penpal Junkie?

Penpal Junkie offers cute gifts for special people. If you think you are special or you know someone special you would like to surprise, don't hesitate to contact me so I can advice you!

Thanks for taking part in The person behind the letter-writer, Jasmina! You are welcome to Penpalling & Letters whenever you wish to participate again!

If you would like to read more posts from this section keep an eye on the links you can find at: The person behind the letter-writer.

If you are interested in being featured in "The person behind the letter-writer" because you have a cute shop, you are crafty and would like to present your creations, you have an ability and would like to tell us about it... contact me at: penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com and we will work it out!

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Sandbook Penpalling Magazine Issue 4

A new issue of the penpalling magazine edited and produced by Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site is online. As the previous issues, it is on digital format and you can download it as a PDF file at the website: Sandbook Magazine - Issue 4. Have you never heard before about this penpalling magazine? Did you miss any of the previous issues (Issues 1, 2 and 3)? You still can download them at: Sandbook Magazine Archive.

On the 21st January, 2011 the first booklet of the Sandbook Booklet series was published as well. If you are interested in getting it you can download it at the following link (it is on digital format as a PDF file, just like the magazines): Sandbook Booklet 1.

If you are interested in taking part in future issues of the magazine or the booklet check how to do it in this link: "What to do to participate in Sandbook Magazine".

As in previous occasions, issue number 5 will be online on the 11th March, 2011 at: Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site. The Booklet number 2 will be published on the 21st February, 2011. Don't miss them! You will be able to read many interesting articles, tips, advice... on different topics and some other surprise themes as soon as they are online!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Mail Trivia X

Did you know that...

candles were once used to determine the cost of postage?
In 1693 letters were being held in front of a candle to determine the postage rate. The less the light would shine through, the more costly your postage rate would be. This was known as candling.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Anniversary winner!

Penpalling & Letters first anniversary was last 1st January, 2011 and to celebrate it a contest has been running during the whole month of January. Deadline to take part in was last February, 1st at 00:00 GMT+1 Time Zone. Today I have the pleasure to announce the lucky winner of a goodie bag of cute writing papers! However, let's see the process first:

I wrote down all the names of the participants in little pieces of paper

I put all the little papers inside a bag

I asked an innocent hand to take one of the papers out of the bag and this is how the winner is picked out!

The winner is Nat from Poland. Many congratulations Nat! You will be contacted soon so I am able to send you the package in the next days!

Thanks so much to everybody who took part in the contest! In the end there were a lot of people taking part and even if I don't like "chance" to have the final say, there were many interesting replies and it would not have been easy to pick a winner among them. However, I decided to choose the best three entries on my behalf and send those people a little consolation prize. Again, it was very difficult to choose, and if I could I would have given something to everyone, but at the moment it is not possible without a sponsor. Just in case, if someone is interested in becoming Penpalling & Letters sponsor we always can discuss about it!
So, those entries were the ones written by: Bruna from Brazil, Anne from Philippines and Georgia from Greece. Please, girls, get in touch at penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com and send me your postal address so I am able to send you this little prize.

Once more, thanks to all the participants and don't give up! More surprises will be on Penpalling & Letters in the next months so remember to keep an eye on the Blog!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

"Día de la Candelaria" – "Candlemas Day"

Last month, Erika participated in Penpalling & Letters' Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background Section with an excellent article about the celebration of "Día de Reyes" or "Three Kings Day" in Mexico. Following an important Mexican tradition which is connected to January, 6th or "Three Kings Day", Erika decided to write a new article to explain us what is celebrated on February, 2nd in her country.

Hello from Mexico once more! This time I would like to talk about another tradition in Mexico, which is the "Candlemas" or "Candelaria Day". It is a Catholic tradition very popular along the country and it is also a fusion of ancient traditions with Catholic beliefs, since Mexico was a Spanish colony centuries ago. "Candle Mass" name comes from the tradition of bringing candles to the church to be blessed, and this holiday is celebrated on February, 2nd every year.


This holiday is linked to Christmas holidays (yes, we could say that our holiday season finishes on February, 2nd!) and especially to the "Three Kings Day", because on January, 6th it is when kids receive presents and also families get reunited to have some special bread named "Rosca de Reyes". Inside this bread there are hidden a few small figurines that represent Baby Jesus; the people who find them will be the ones to make some "tamales" and "atole" for everyone on Candlemas Day. "Tamal" is a corn flour dumpling filled up with pork, beef or chicken and sauce if they are salty, whereas the sweet ones usually have pineapple or raisins filling; both options are wrapped up in corn husks. "Atole" is a traditional Mexican hot and sweet drink made of milk and thickened with corn flour.


That is only one part of the tradition since in Mexico most of the families own an image of Baby Jesus, also known as "Niño Dios". This image is a doll made of ceramic most of the time which can be small or big (it may go from 8cm to 50cm length). On Christmas Eve a Godparent is chosen by the family and this person will have the responsibility to dress up the "Niño Dios" with nice and colourful clothes that may represent a Saint or just white baby clothes for Candlemas Day.
The Godparent has the mission of buying the whole new outfit for Baby Jesus. I don't know if it is the same in all areas of Mexico, but I can tell, as for my mum, that once that family has chosen the Godparent he or she will have to dress up Baby Jesus for the next 5 years in a row. This year my mum is going for the 2nd year dressing up the ceramic doll of one of her friends.

About the clothes, well it is up to the Godparent to choose which ones to get, but it is also nice to ask to the family if they have any preference as sometimes they might not be devoted of a specific Saint, for example. The only condition is that clothes must be brand new and not the same as the previous year. I like to go with my mum to see all the variety of clothes that some stores sell but also there are many stands on the street selling them from the first days of January.
In Mexico City, there is a street in the city centre called "Talavera Street" that is also known among people as "La Calle del Niño Dios" (Baby Jesus Street in English) because in this street there are many stores specialized in this kind of outfits. You can find there everything you need, from the dress to the socks for Baby Jesus figure, and they have plenty of options to just pick one whole outfit or getting everything separately.

You may wonder about the prices! Well, I asked in Talavera Street and a ceramic doll of 45cm costs an average price of $230 Mexican pesos (about $18.50 USD or €14 Euros) but well, it is not necessary to buy a brand new figure every year. In fact, the family just gets one for several years (let’s say, 10-20 years). If it gets a crack or the colour fades out through the years, there are many places where people restore them for a cheap price and it will be in a perfect condition again.
About the clothes, there is a very wide variety of them and the price also depends on the doll size. In Talavera Street there are some outlet stores, too, which sell designs from past years (every year they release different designs!) at lower prices. I wanted to compare a little bit, and a whole white baby outfit 2011 design for a Baby Jesus of 35cm costs $200 pesos ($16 USD or €12 Euros). I asked in the outlet store for a similar one in the same size that just had the shoes missing and it costs $85 pesos ($7 USD or €5 Euros), so I think it is a good deal since you can get the shoes in any street stand for $5 pesos (like $0.40 USD or €0.30 Euros). Of course, there are many other designs in the stores, the cheapest one costs $20 pesos ($1.60 USD or €1.20 Euros) and the most expensive one I saw costs $420 pesos ($34 USD or €25 Euros) because it has some beads and sequins sew by hand.

Generally, the street stands sell all the accessories needed (like socks, shoes, crowns) but also whole outfits at lower prices than those found at stores. They are lower quality sometimes, but some people can't spend much money for just one day, so they're a great option. I asked for an olive green outfit size 35, and the lady who sells them told me that the price was $60 pesos ($4.80 USD or €3.65 Euros) but she could include all the accessories for the same price if I take it right away. This is a common practice in street stands, and it is not too hard to get good deals.

Now, back to the celebration, when the Godparent has got the outfit, he or she has to dress up the ceramic doll on the previous day to "Candlemas". So, when February, 2nd comes the Godparent and the family who owns the ceramic figure go together to the church to present Baby Jesus ceramic image already dressed up with new clothes, inside of a basket adorned with flowers (the figure can sit down on a chair, too) and candles, or even just one big candle, to get blessed during the special masses that are held on this day in all Catholic churches in Mexico.
After the mass, they go to Godparent's place to have some "tamales" and "atole" to celebrate Candlemas with family and friends.
And I have to say that being Godparent of a Baby Jesus has a very special meaning to some families. It is like if that person was the Godparent of one of their children since it is a strong link between him/her and the family.

Thanks for participating again in P&L Erika! Looking forward to hear from you in the future to share another interesting article with all the readers!

If you would like to read more stories from all over the world don't forget to check the links you can find at the following section: Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background and at Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site and the Sandbook Magazine.

I am always looking for people interested in taking part in Travelling around the World Section, so if you would like to write a post about a feature of your homeland just contact me at: penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com and we will work it out!