They say it’s better to give then receive but…

I can tell you from experience receiving can be pretty delightful too, especially when that receiving refers to letters delivered to your mailbox, letters  addressed “just to you”.  Why there’s practically a radiance to them!

Big ones, small ones, in all colors of the rainbow, with artful postage stamps decorating their envelopes.  Ah, commemorative postage stamps.  They are like miniature paintings,  lovely works of art.  Notice the postage stamps in the picture above.  Do you recognize all of them?  Some come from Scotland, The Netherlands and Germany.  I’m happy to have  plenty of pen friends in the United States, but I also enjoy corresponding with people from all around the world.  These people come to visit me  by way of their letters.

I love company, don’t you?  There’s nothing quite like it, but when letter friends come a-calling  you don’t have to clean the house, dress up, or prepare any refreshments unless you’d like to enjoy those refreshments yourself. Of course you probably won’t be getting any of this company, these letters, unless  you’re writing letters.  And why wouldn’t you want to be writing letters?  It’s such lovely fun to sit quietly reflecting,  visiting with a friend via pen and paper. The Art of Letter Writing provides joy in both the giving and the receiving.

Every morning I have a few letters and postcards ready for my postman. He picks them up and off they go – north, south, east and west. Messages can travel by way of the internet, but there’s something very special about a handmade letter.  I write one every morning with my first cup of coffee and then I write another later in the day as a reward for a constructive morning.


And when my friendly post man comes around I’m rewarded for my efforts for he brings me more letters, replies to those letters I’ve written.   What fun!


Today was a slow mail day – only three letters and one post card, but every day can’t be a terrific mail day.  Luckily I have a backlog of letters to answer from good mail days in the past.  I’d love to share a few of the highlights from those letters with you on the off chance that you may not have any of your own letters to enjoy, but if you don’t all you have to do is join The Letter-Exchange, a most wonderful letter writer’s organization.  I’ve been a member of this group for years.  If you join you’ll have scores of your own wonderful pen friends in no time.  But till then let me tell you a little about some of my pen friends and about the goodies they share with me in their letters.

There’s Joanna who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Joanna is always sending me lovely artful postcards, many with a Scottish subject.  I share her delightful day trips to places like Dundee.   Joanna says Dundee has to be one of the coldest places in Scotland which she says is really something for I guess Scotland is a colder country then I ever imagined.  Joanna tells me Dundee is set on a hillside on an estuary of the river Tay which flows out to the North Sea. It encounters a particular east coast climactic phenomenon – a sea fog that is blown inland.  It’s fun to imagine I’m there with her.  Joanna tells me Dundee is not a wealthy place and has few restaurants, but surprisingly it does have a Mexican restaurant.  She enjoyed a dinner there for $12 and to give you an idea of how this price seemed low to her she said her friend enjoyed a Mexican dinner in London at about the same time, but that dinner cost $80.

Some day I just may travel to Scotland and meet Joanna in person because my husband is an avid golfer and Scotland is one place he’d really like to play some golf. Thanks to Joanna I now know  we must take along our woolen underwear if we make the trip.  She’s full of information about where to stay and what to do in her country.  She’s my personal Scottish travel agent. I bet she has a great recipe for  tea time shortbread.

Then there’s Cindy…   Cindy lives in Milford, Connecticut.  I love New England having lived in Boston. Massachusetts myself.  Cindy shares pictures of her Connecticut neighborhood and the flowers she grows in her garden.  She’s one of my ” girl friends”.  We talk about motherhood, gardening, cooking  and daily life things.  Cindy is an artist and it’s fun to share ideas for our artful projects.  Girls need lots of girl friends.  And since my town of Hudson is in a part of Ohio known as The Land of the Western Reserve (It was Connecticut’s western land holdings back in the late 17th and early 18th century) well, I feel a kinship with Connecticut people like Cindy.


But I also enjoy West coast people, people like Almita.  Almita lives in Menifee, California.  She and her husband are avid bird lovers.  They love nothing more than traveling around in their RV and bird watching. Thanks to Almita I’m learning a lot about birds.  Did you recognize the birds  in the pictures from her last letter?  Both birds are Black-crowned Herons, but the lower picture features a mature Heron whereas the upper shot reveals a juvenile Heron. Thanks to Almita if I should run across any Black-crowned Herons in the future I’ll  now be able to name them.   Letter friends are full of knowledge and enthusiasm for all sorts of things and in sharing they not only double their joy, but they also educate and inspire us.

If you have a passion for literature, particularly the literature of Mark Twain then you would love Greg as your pen friend. This is because Greg lives in Hannibal, Missouri, the same town where Samuel Langhorne Clemens (who became Mark Twain the author) lived from the ripe old age of 4.  Greg is a Mark Twain enthusiast.  All of his letters bear the Mark Twain commemorative stamp and he even sent me many of these postage stamps so I could use them on my letters to him.  Though he writes about all sorts of other interesting subjects too (especially astronomy) you can count on him for information about Mark Twain.  All you have to do is ask him.

I did,  and before I could say Tom Sawyer there was a large white envelope in my mailbox.   It was filled with post cards and  brochures about Mark Twain and his town.  He also sent me a very nice booklet entitled, A River, a Town and a Boy. After I finish digesting all this information Mark Twain will surely become another of my “dead friends”, one of the interesting people from the past who entertains and inspires me. And to think Mark Twain and I might never have had the opportunity to connect if it weren’t for Greg.

We may only have one life to lead, but if that life includes a lot of interesting pen friends then that one life becomes so much more. Pen friends turn the whole world into a friendly neighborhood.   I can’t imagine life without them.  Another time I’ll share more  of my pen friends with you and if you join The Letter Exchange you just might develop a friendship  with some of these people yourself.


But before I leave you and because Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner I must share a recipe that my good friend Mary sent to me.  Mary lives in Forestville, California.  She’s an old college friend and a retired Colonel in The United States Air Force.  Though Mary lived in various parts of the United States as well as Germany and England, places far from me, we kept in touch through letters and these days we’re still writing letters to each other.

Often we share recipes in our letters because Mary and I both enjoy cooking.  Well, today one of my three letters was from Mary and a little yellow post- it-note in that letter said, “My friends made this and it was excellent, very moist.  I plan to make it soon.”  And I, Carol Ann,  plan to make it soon too… it being a Turkey while you sleep.  My turkey is defrosting in the fridge as I write.  Maybe now, thanks to the wonderful Art of Letter Writing, you’ll be making this recipe in the next few days too.  If you do you can thank my pen friend Mary for sharing.

Turkey While You Sleep

Ingredients:  1 uncooked turkey, 1 tsp. salt, 2 stalks of celery with leaves, 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, 2 cups boiling water.

Process:  Sprinkle salt inside turkey cavity and insert celery stalks.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place turkey on rack in roasting pan and rub with melted butter.  Pour boiling water around turkey, cover pan tightly, and cook for 2 hours for 14 pounds or less, 2 and 1/2 half hours for more than 14 pounds.  After cooking time, turn off heat, but DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR.  Leave turkey in closed over overnight (8 hours).  Turkey will be ready to slice and refrigerate the next morning, with plenty of drippings for gravy.

So ’til we meet again I leave you saying

 “Happy Letter Writing” and “Happy Thanksgiving” too.

Letters add zest to life!


William James, the 19th century American philosopher, once said, “As long as there are postmen life will have zest.”  Does your life have enough zest?  Zest is good.  Zest is great!  It’s not the good looks of those postmen or their winning personalities (although having friendly, good looking postmen never hurt anything), but no,  it’s the presents they deposit in our mail boxes that add zest to life…

For me?

presents that arrive in packages like this 8 by 12 inch package pictured above.  My postman deposited this goodie in my mail box the other day.  It came from my pen friend Tracy who lives in Guildford, England.  The package could have contained a large juicy letter, a very large letter by the huge size of the package, and a large juicy letter would’ve  been just fine with me, but no!  This package contained something different.  I bet you’re wondering just what.   I enjoyed wondering myself, and I tell you, this sort of  wondering  truly adds zest to life.  After all, who doesn’t enjoy a present?

A blue tit

I opened the package to find this birdie looking back at me, a life size blue tit.  Of course it wasn’t a live birdie.  How could that be?  But it was a very special birdie because when I opened the card it began to sing its unique  and cheerful song for me.  Seeing this beautiful birdie and hearing its music was really quite a delightful surprise, especially for one who  love birdies – and I do.  Do you?

Tracy’s note to me

In Tracy’s note she explained how she couldn’t resist sending me this birdie card because the blue tit is one of her favorite feathered friends.  These birds nested in her bird box and 6 fledglings hatched out.  I know that sharing doubled her joy and her sharing brought joy to me as well.

Writing letters will present things to us we never expected to see and letters will teach us things we never expected to learn.  From Tracy’s card I learned that the blue tits colorful mix of blue. yellow, white and green makes it one of the most attractive resident garden birds around. I learned almost any garden with a peanut feeder will attract blue tits, and as Tracy said, they breed in nest boxes.  In winter they form flocks with other tit species and a garden bird table with four or five sitting together at one time is not unusual, in fact, you may even see 20 tits feeding at one time.  All I know is I  better get myself a peanut feeder so I can soon see these birdies in my own garden .

All the material goodies used in letters make it a physical delight –  birdies singing, even Tracy’s cute note paper with its very English “Secret Garden”  look – sweet and romantic.  And of course letter writing is social.  I get to know more and more about Tracy in every letter.  Letter writing means learning.  It is very intellectual for letters  teach us things we might never bother to learn any other way.  And there’s a spiritual aspect to letters too.

My thank you letter to Tracy
I had to create a letter for  Tracy right away thanking her for that birdie card.  I created one of my polka dot letter packages for Tracy.  I placed my written letter inside a sheet of folded polka dot card stock and tied it with ribbon in a matching color.  Now I’ll  have to keep my eyes open for some delightful little gift to send to Tracy, a gift that will brighten her day just as her gift brightened mine.

It’s not about the price of the gift.  It’s about our thoughtfulness.   Just a little bit of joy sent with or even without a letter really can make someone’s day.  It sure made my day to receive that birdie card. Thinking of others and  trying to cheer them is always a very nice thing we can do.  Thinking and caring about others as we write letters and send goodies to each other is a spiritual gesture.


So I hope you notice whether we’re at the giving or receiving end of letters there’s  a juicy zest that spritzes forth from them making life just a little bit better for everyone concerned.  Postmen (and Postladies too) play a big part in all this happiness.  So I hope you see how William James was spot on when he said,.

“As long as there are postmen life will truly have zest!  “