Penpalling & Letters

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Tasting waffles...

Are you preparing your summer holidays these days if located on the Northern Hemisphere? Perhaps you can do a little stop at Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background to be able to land in Western Europe. Three official languages are spoken in this land: Dutch, French and German and it shares borders with France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. This country takes its name from the ancient Roman province called "Gallia Belgica", in the northernmost part of Gaul that, before Roman invasion, was inhabited by the Belgae. So, this is the name of the country we are visiting today, "Belgica" in Latin or Belgium in English, as we all know!

Hello Kristel and welcome to Penpalling & Letters! It is great you are visiting us today! Maybe you'd like to tell us a bit about yourself and your penpalling experiences?

Hello! I am Kristel, a 37 years old female living in Belgium as you already know! I started penpalling many years ago, about the age of twelve, I guess. In fact, it had been "suggested" by my language teacher to improve our learning of French. Further on, I started to learn English and German and I tried to get in touch with people who spoke those as native languages, too. As this was in pre-Internet times, it wasn't always so easy. Some teenager magazines had a little ad section and it was most successful to put one ad myself, usually. After trying ads, I got to know Friendship Books through my American penpal; I put my name in it and I sent it back to her again, as none of my other pals used it, hehe! Years later I am still into FBs exchange, and I think it is still fun! Through
Internet I have found different penpals who aren't into swapping, but I don't mind. I like those friends, too! I like to decorate my letters. I think it is nicer reading a cute paper than a blank one. My letters are handwritten and typed and I don't mind typed letters from my penpals. In fact, I prefer typed when people have a difficult-to-read handwriting, if you know what I mean. I collect all sorts of cards (viewcards, greeting cards...) and special stamps worldwide. Once I made an account at Postcrossing, but I only used it a few times. Maybe in the future I will be back to it... Sometimes I participate in Swap-Bot: you can find me there as kristel1974. So, you can say, I am first of all into the penpalling thing and I mostly swap things with people, depending on our interests. However, I don't have e-mail penpals, as I do love the spirit of real letters!

And right now I would like to share two recipes with all of you. It is of my favourite sweet snack, which represents my country, too: Belgian Waffles!

The best way to make a basic Belgium waffle recipe is to use yeast. Yeast will make Belgian waffles fluffy, soft and yummy. You could also use baking powder or cake flour but you will get the best result with yeast. If you use yeast, then eat them when they are done - they are not that good the next day.

Tools you'll need to make waffles:

- Iron waffle maker
- Measuring cup and spoons
- Whisk or hand mixer
- Small sauce pan
- Large mixing bowl and spoon
- Heat safe spatula


- Three 1/4 cups (1 lb. - 500g) all purpose flour
- One sachet (7g) instant dried yeast
- Four medium eggs
- Whole milk (you can also add some sparkling mineral water and make them even fluffier)
- Two sticks (1/2 lb. - 250g) butter
- Vanilla sugar
- Some salt

And now, the directions to do the basic Belgium waffle recipe are:

1. Take a cup of milk and heat it until it is warm. Then mix it in your yeast. You can now leave the yeast standing for a while.

2. In the mean time melt the butter, but stop as soon as it melts. Don't over heat it or even burn it as you will lose the taste.

3. Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and beat the egg whites until you get snow.

4. Now take a big giant huge bowl and throw in all the flour, vanilla sugar (one sachet) and some salt. Make a whole in the middle of the flour and fill it with melted butter, dissolved yeast and egg yolk.

5. Mix while you are adding milk (and some mineral water if you want). You should mix it really well so there are no lumps. The question you might ask yourself here it is how dense should the dough be and how much milk to use? It should be thick as you should think they are like pancakes.

6. Gently mix the beaten egg whites into the dough.

7. Leave the dough resting and rise at room temperature for a while. How long? Until the volume of the dough doubles or even triples! That is why a really big bowl is needed. If you are in a hurry then wait for thirty minutes to one hour, but if you can, make the waffle dough in the evening and leave it overnight.

8. Use the oil to grease the waffle iron (which should be very hot) so your waffles don't stick to it and pour the dough in it. Bake until they turn golden brown.

And the basic Belgium waffle is done! Now it is time to put the topping as they are strawberries, chocolate, sugar, honey, syrups, ice cream... whatever you can imagine which fits the waffle. Also decorate it as wished!

The typical Brussels Waffles recipe:


- One 1/2 oz. of yeast (40 gram)
- One pint of tepid sparkling mineral water (4 dl)
- One lb of flour (500 gram)
- A pinch of salt
- One pint of tepid milk
- Eight eggs
- 1/2 lb of melted butter

The directions to do the Brussels waffles are:

1. Dissolve the yeast in tepid water.

2. Shift the flour into a bowl and make a whole in the middle.

3. Mix the dissolved yeast slowly with the flour, add the salt and the milk.

4. Add the egg yolks.

5. Whisk the egg whites and scoop them carefully with a slice through the tough.

6. Cover the dough and leave it to rise until its volume has doubled (about 15 to 20 minutes).

7. Use the oil to grease the waffle iron (which should be very hot) so your waffles don't stick to it and pour the dough in it.

8. Bake them until they turn golden brown.

They are served with butter and vanillated sugar or powdered sugar. You need a bigger waffle iron for this variant. The light structure is due to the use of sparkling water. As topping you can use any of the elements told above. Also, use your imagination to decorate it!

After so much hard work baking, it is time to enjoy some Belgian Waffles now!

Thanks for participating in Penpalling & Letters, Kristel! Let's try your recipes in our homes to taste the typical Belgian waffles! Whenever you feel like participating again you are welcome to visit us again!

If you are interested in reading more articles featuring characteristics of our homelands don't forget to check: Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background.

I am always looking for people who would like to take part in this section of the Blog: Travelling around the World. If you would like to write about any aspects of your homeland don't hesitate to contact me at: penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com and we will work on it!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Mail Trivia XIII

Did you know that...

the first air-mail letter was carried by balloon from England to France in 1785?

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Sandbook Penpalling Magazine Issue 9

The ninth issue of the penpalling magazine edited and produced by Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site corresponding to the month of July is online. It is on digital format and you can download it as a PDF file at the website: Sandbook Magazine - Issue 9. Have you never heard before about this penpalling magazine? Did you miss any of the previous issues? You still can download them at: Sandbook Magazine Archive.

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 10 corresponding to the month of August will be online on the 11th August 2011 at: Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site. Don't miss it! You will be able to read many interesting articles and news on penpalling and other different topics!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Meeting Clava and her handmade work

Welcome everybody to a new interview belonging to "The person behind the letter-writer". Penpalling & Letters today's guest is Clava! Clava will tell us about her experiences in the world of letters and will introduce us to her handmade creations through this interview!

- Hello Clava! Welcome to Penpalling & Letters! It is a pleasure you are visiting us today! We are looking forward to know more about your experiences in the world of letters and your personal abilities! Would you like to present yourself?

Hello everybody! My name is Claudia but most of my friends call me Clava, which is the Russian short of my name. I am 32 years old and I am living in Germany's capital, Berlin. I am married to a Russian for a year now.
I have been writing letters since I was about nine years old. I started writing to a German girl back then. Surprisingly, we are still in touch, only on Facebook, though, but in touch. I also used to be a member of IYS-International Youth Service and have been penpalling with people from all over the world ever since.
Being into letters means that I always try to write my letters on beautiful paper and like to decorate it with stickers and other cute stuff. Even if I am not into Postcrossing myself, I like to receive postcards from where my pals live, just to get an idea about their hometown or country. I also swap FBs although not heavily. With some of my pals I swap stickers or stationery every once in a while. I like collecting single sheets of unused letter paper as well but only beautiful ones, of course!

- Clava, could you tell us what do you like to create? Which abilities in the world of arts & crafts you have?

Lately I am into quilting and patchwork sewing. I like to do creative things in general, though, like playing piano, writing novels...

- How did everything start?

A friend asked me to be the Godmother of her son. I looked around in the babystores and thought there is almost only dull stuff for boys, and so much nice stuff for girls. I really couldn't find anything I liked, so I decided to make a present on my own and sew a baby blanket for him. So, this was the first blanket I sewed and I realized it is a lot of fun. Since then I have sewed nearly every day!

- Which kind of materials do you use?

I usually use cotton fabrics as they are the best for sewing. Other materials like silk or similar ones would be too expensive and also difficult to work with.

- How and where do you inspire yourself to create these wonderful blankets?

I usually see the fabrics and then get an idea of what to do with it. For pillows or patchwork samplers, I create patterns on my own. Since I have started patchwork sewing, I see patchwork-patterns everywhere... Lately we have been to a museum and I was really fascinated by the beautiful wooden floor they had there... I thought I could use the same pattern for a patchwork blanket, which would give an optical illusion.

- Do you build a pattern in your head before getting started or do you work on the item "improvising", just as inspiration comes?

I need to build the pattern in my head before, as otherwise it wouldn't suit when sewing. It is important to calculate everything in detail before in order to cut everything in the exactly same size. Otherwise, the pattern wouldn't work out well. I usually draw the pattern on paper before and write down the exact calculations. One millimeter too much or too less could already spoil it, so it is important to plan it exactly.

- For how long have you been into handmade stuff?

Oh, I have been making stuff on my own very often. It is not the first time I make presents on my own. I have also made other stuff before, like cards, calendars or bookmarks for example. And when I was younger, I sewed teddy bears and doll clothes for my younger sisters.

- How much time do you invest in every item until you finish it?

It is hard to say. It depends on the size and the pattern. When the blanket is small and the pattern not so complicated, I can do it in a few hours. When the pattern is complicated or the blanket is bigger, it might take longer.

- Do you present your creations in an online website where it is possible to check them, Clava?

Unluckily, I don't really have an own homepage, yet but I am working on that. So far I have just published my photos on Facebook.

- Do you have a favourite item/design yourself?

Well, I guess the first blanket for my Godchild will remain as a special one, eventhough I think I could do it more perfect now.

- Would you create a design upon request and wishes of a customer?

Of course! If someone has special imaginations about patterns, colours and so on, I can do everything as the customer wants. I could also add the name of the baby, for example, if wished! No problem about it!

- Could you explain us what do we have to do in order to purchase one of your blankets?

Well, I am not really a professional with it, yet. But if someone is interested in buying a blanket, I would send it with a registered letter, so it cannot be lost. It should be Euro-countries for now, though, as my bank does not cooperate with countries which use another currency. The prizes depend on the pattern, fabric and size of a blanket but, in average, would be something between 30 and 50 Euros.

Thanks a lot for participating in The person behind the letter-writer, Clava! It was a pleasure to work together with you and present to the readers this fantastic handmade work of yours! You know you are always welcome to Penpalling & Letters whenever you wish to visit us again!

If you would like to read more posts from "The person behind the letter-writer" section check 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!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Sandbook: Penpals and Swappers Site & Giveaway!

Welcome to a new post belonging to "The person behind the letter-writer". Penpalling & Letters today's guest is the Sandbook Team from Sandbook: Penpals and Swappers Site. Our guests will reveal facts, unknown until now, from Sandbook; they will also let us know about a surprise which is taking place at their website at the moment, and of course, directed to all the penpallers all over the world!

- Hello Sandbook Team! Welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Thanks for visiting us and for participating in The person behind the letter-writer! We are really looking forward to know more about the website and about what you are preparing right now!

Hello to everybody! We are very happy to be here sharing with all of you our projects in Sandbook!

- Could you tell us when did Sandbook Penpals and Swappers Site get started?

Sandbook Penpals and Swappers Site is online and running since November, 11th 2008 when we established its name and started building our community. Over the years, we managed to apply a lot of new features and sections to our website in response to our users opinions and suggestions. That is how SandbookNet evolved to the community that it is today. Thank you all for the support! We hope that we can continue to connect people and ideas throughout the world.

- What was the reason to start the website?

My name is Raia and I have been penpalling ever since I started learning English, which was more than fifteen years ago. Penpalling has been a vital part of my life and have helped me through some really hard times in my life as well. It helped me make sense of my crushes, my High School Drama and, of course, it has helped me throughout my life. Moreover, penpalling has allowed me to visit distant parts of the world on the expense of a letter. I have always tried to help my penpals connect with other penpals of mine by passing their addresses on. My hobby naturally became a website where people can post ads and connect with pen pals around the globe.

- I am really curious to know why you named it "Sandbook". Could you explain why did you choose this name?

Oh, it was quite hard to think about a name for a Penpalling and Swapping Website. Initially, I was trying to come up with a name that has the word "penpal" in the name, but they were all taken. I was around a swimming-pool with my friends, when we started pitching ideas about its name. There were some really funny names for websites, but eventually we all came up to the "message in a bottle" idea. We wanted to incorporate that old fashioned but yet romantic touch to the name of our website. Since most of our ideas were sadly taken, we decided to craft our own unique name. We came up with Sandbook as a way to incorporate that unique rush that you get when you discover the content of a letter. Of course, "sand" came from the original "message in the bottle – seaside idea" and of course the "book" is in the name to represent the start of an unique friendship.

- Could you tell us who is behind Sandbook, the people who form the Sandbook Team and the function/work each member of the team holds?

It might come out as a surprise for most, but the people behind SandbookNet aren't too many. The SandbookNet Team consists of two equally important parts: our technical support team and the writers in our penpal magazine. In fact, our technical support team is headed by our designer Aspeia from Gaya Designs, our IT go to guy, Jason, and me, Raia, as chief editor. Unlike any other website for penpals and FB swaps, we give anyone the opportunity to become a vital part of our team. I want to take a moment to thank our constant Sandbook Penpal Magazine writers – Rach Gee from Glass Completely Empty Productions (who has this big penpal movie project), Samantha Stroy with her Pages "Samantha’s Thoughts", Paula Milburn "UNESCO" series and last but not least Bea from Penpalling and Letters. Thank you all for the support, ideas and constant hard work!

- Besides the typical penpal and swapper ads section that many penpal sites present, which other sections can we find when visiting Sandbook?

SandbookNet started as a website purely for online ads for penpals and swappers. Over time, we expanded the ads and divided them into more detailed sections so that all the ads may have some structure. Of course, that allowed a really easier navigation through the ads that are placed on our website. Couple of months later, we started running the "PenPal of the Month" Contest and, steadily, as we gained more popularity we started thinking about other sections that might interest a penpal who is on SandbookNet. That is how we came up with the "Birthday Twin" section. Ever since I started penpalling I have always wanted to penpal with someone born on my date. For over fifteen years of active penpalling I couldn't actually make my dream come true. So this was basically my attempt to find my birthday twin penpal and a lot of people joined the project. We have over one hundred people on our birthday twin list. Eventually, we added the "FB" (Friendship Books) section in the website. It is all about those FB's that we swap in the snail mail. We have included some free templates for FB's, label bags and address labels, and information about how FB's are played.

In order to celebrate SandbookNet's second birthday we came up with, yet, another project: A free digital penpal magazine which first issue was released on November, 11th 2010. It is a monthly magazine that is released in pdf format and that you can download from our website. Its focus is on correspondence, penpalling experience and the lifestyle that a penpal has. Each issue has unique penpalling stories, games and articles that we strongly feel will interest most of the penpals. We are always searching for guest writers or team writers, so contact us if you would like to become one. We are always on the lookout for new and interesting stories.
As the SandbookNet Penpal Magazine developed, we developed the "Traveling Notebook" Project and, of course, sections on our website. The "Pen Pal Interviews Section" followed. We are really excited about all of our projects and we take pride in being able to connect penpals, not only through website ads, but also through all the games that we have going on on our website!

- Could you tell us about some of the projects you are running at the moment?

There are several projects/games on our website at the moment. We have our monthly contest "PenPal of the Month", where you can nominate a friend. We basically want to know what makes that friend your best friend and why you should think that your friend deserves to win the contest. Obviously, the better you argue your case, the greater the chance that you will be selected as the winners. Actually, when the nomination is selected as the winning one, we contact both the nominator and the nominee with the good news as both of them are winning awards that are shipped via snail mail. You can check all the rules and instructions for it at: "PenPal of the Month Contest".
Another project that we have are the "Penpal Interviews". It is a short inquiry about your penpalling experiences and it helps to present the penpal and his/her country. You can leave your contact information with your answers to the interview so you can find new penpals really easily. Moreover, you can give your interview a personal touch by submitting photos of your handwriting, of you and your friends/country. The Penpal Interviews are a way to present people who are searching for penpals and to let them find penpals easily. The interviews are printed in our penpal magazine as well as included in our website: "Penpal Interviews in Sandbook".

I always think about our "Birthday Twins" project with great excitement. It helps connecting penpals from around the world who are born on the same date and, in some cases, even the same year! How cool would it be to have a penpal who would never forget your birthday? You can browse the section on our website and check if there is a birthday twin already waiting for you. To participate you will need to send us your information so we can upload it on our website.
Yet, another project that we have going on right now are the "Travelling Notebooks". They are basically notebooks that are passed in a specific order that is predetermined as the people sign up for the real travelling notebooks. You will receive the notebook in your mail and you will have to decorate some pages on a theme you want – it might be your life, your country or town, your favourite things/hobbies, etc. You will be asked to snap photos of your entry in the notebook so that we will have a back up "notebook" in case the real one gets lost in the mail. If you are not really willing to wait for the real travelling notebook to arrive, you can always sign up for the "Travelling sheets". They are basically A5 sized sheets that you decorate as if they were part of the travelling notebook, but you will send it to us via mail so that we can upload them in a "virtual" travelling notebook. If that sounds interesting, please visit our "Travelling Notebook"section.
The latest project of ours is our Mega Giveaway, where you can win three super cool awards. It ends on July 10th, 2011 so hurry up and check it out! You could be our winner!!!

- Can penpals and swappers participate or collaborate with you in any of the projects actively?

Yes, absolutely! We are always looking forward to new authors, topics and ideas for our penpal magazine and of course for the website. So anyone who enjoys penpalling and has a story that he/she wants to share with our friends is more than welcome to contact us. You can email us at: info[at]sandbook[dot]net or directly email me at: raiasandbook[at]gmail[dot]com.

- Would you like to tell us which special feature are you running at the moment in Sandbook?

We try to bring out contests and games for penpals in our website. Right now, we have this huge Sandbook Megagiveaway that is going on until July 10th, 2011. The awards are three and are a mega stationery set, a notebook and, of course, a set of used stamps for collectors. You can choose to play for one or for all. And just as any giveaway you can participate in it with several entries – via a comment on our website, by twitting or facebooking about the giveaway (just be sure to tag us so we can count the entry). All the rules of the contest are placed on "Sandbook Net Penpals and Swappers Site" where you can check them out and participate.

Good luck everyone in the Sandbook Megagiveaway and hopefully you had a great time getting to know the team behind Sandbook and their activity in detail!

Thanks a lot for participating in The person behind the letter-writer! I always enjoy working together with guests and interact exchanging ideas and thoughts on penpalling. You know you are always welcome to Penpalling & Letters whenever you wish to visit us again!

If you would like to read more posts from "The person behind the letter-writer" section check 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!