Monday, August 23, 2010

Sandra E. Lambs "Write the Right Words" Review

I was approached (as many were) by the publicist of a new book by Sandra E. Lamb to review her new book “Write the Right Words” and was sent a free copy of the book. I was very excited to have been asked to participate as well as excited at the prospect of reading a new book based on sending snail mail, be it letters or greeting cards.

To be quite honest, though (and I was very unsure of how to approach this review), I was not a fan of the book. There are several reasons for this, which I shall go over throughout this review.

To begin, Sandra’s book was not really aimed at “me”. Different types and styles of books are aimed at different age groups, people with different hobbies, styles of life, income, etc. This book was obviously aimed at the sort of person who does not actively put pen to paper and send it through the postal mail service. This is a book aimed at those of you who have a hard time putting pen to paper, and those of you who only write to friends or family during special occasions (be they happy or sad) and who need a gentle push in the right direction when it comes down to what to say in those brief instances.

I have never been a fan of greeting cards as a whole - they are too short and very rarely is much care put into them. Sandra has tried to help her readers change that and describes (rather adeptly) how to take on those various situations which so many people try to avoid because they just don’t know what to say or how to say it. For me personally, I would rather sit down, make some stationery, write out a heartfelt letter, decorate it, design it, etc. and send it off with care.

If I was the sort of person who lived within mainstream society and attended many weddings, funerals, birthday parties, showers, and various other social engagements, then this book would be exactly what I would need. Her writing and ideas are very Hallmark inspired and I feel it would be a perfect book to pick up and just flip to the section of the book for the particular event that was going on that week and briefly skim through and write down your thoughts mixed with hers.  I do not, however, attend such events. My friends and family do not have birthday parties, through showers, etc and etc. I am comfortable enough in my own writing that if such an event occurred, I would not need a book to flip through to tell me what to say or think of that particular situation – but that is me in particular.

While I applaud Sandra for trying to get the average person back to the post office and away from “hotmail”, it is not a book I would recommend for my readers to go out and buy. I have more faith in you than that – we are not average people, you and I. We know how to put pen to paper and we already know our postmistress by name. However, for those of you who want to start small and are looking for that small push in the right direction, this book might be the ticket you’re looking for. Get away from e-mail and spend the time putting that lovely pen of yours to some beautiful paper and get writing! 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Disgusting Things in the Mail

Afternoon, everyone!

I just wanted to let everyone know that I received a rather disturbing message in my in box today. Apparently someone or someones are sending people used feminine products in the mail. Not only is it disgusting, it's dangerous and obviously rather offensive - but also illegal.

If you or someone you know has received something like this in the mail, talk to your local post office or e-mail them via their website. If you let the USPS or Canada Post (etc.) know, it's the first step to stopping it.

No one deserves to get that in the mail. Help stop mail crime by reporting these issues.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Been a busy little crafter

The last month or two I've been really rather out of it mentally - so as I posted about before, I've been doing a lot of reading, and now to mix things up, I've also been doing a lot of crafting.

^ I wanted something Oscar the Grouch related, so I painted a Sucrets tin that was holding various coins from other countries - so now they're being guarded by the Grouch ;)

^The above is a shelf I picked up from a garage sale for $1 and decided to fix up for my 11 year old brother-in-law who loves Stargate to showcase the clocks he collects. The following are the resulting changes:

^The sides feature chevrons from the Stargate itself - he really liked it!

^ I made antique labels for all my herbs in the kitchen - they turned out awesome!

^ Finally, I made a Bob-omb lamp from Super Mario (Nintendo) for my friend Jeff - it took quite a lot of work, but I love how it turned out and so did he :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How-to: Aged paper

I have an absolutely wonderful pen pal who lives in Italy who absolutely ADORES Xena (stop reading if you want to be surprised, missy!), so what I've been doing over the last couple of days is making aged "scroll paper" to write my letter on to her - right out of "I-wish-history-was-really-like-this".

So I thought I would provide a "How-To" on how to do this for those of you who either like crafts or have pen pals who would get a kick out of receiving an "old" letter.

You can do this with any kind of white paper, but obviously the better quality the paper, the better your outcome. I used both a high grade acid-free paper to test a couple on, as well as a low quality generic white printer paper. You get a much deeper colour with the acid free and it feels almost cotton like when you're done, which adds to the mystique of it. Be careful if you're using the cheaper generic paper, as it will rip very easily as you go through the processes.

What you need:

2-3 tea bags (I used Tetley's Orange Pekoe)
Boiled water in a mug
Flat cookie tray
Oven or iron
A thick towel that can get stained/dirty
Kitchen tongs
Wax paper

To begin, take your paper and crumple it up. Un-crumple it and crumple it again - you're going to want to do this at least ten times.

Put the paper aside and, in the kitchen, boil a cup of tea with 2-3 tea bags. Ready your paper, flattened, on the tea towel (folded to be about the size of the paper). Using your kitchen tongs, grab a tea bag and start to brush it against the paper, covering it in deep reddish brown water. You can lift up corners to make the water slide into place it hasn't yet been. When the front is complete, do the same with the back, dabbing the excess water off with the towel as you finish each piece of paper.

Another way to do this is to boil the water, add the water to a mug with 3 tea bags, let it steep about 30 seconds and then pouring the tea water into a flat tray that you can simply set the paper in on one side and then flip to do the other side. You'll get different results both ways, so try experimenting to see what you like best.

After you've done either of the above steps you need to dry your paper. This can be done two ways, depending on your own preference. First, you can take the paper, and, two sheets at a time, place it on a clean cooking tray, atop some wax paper - then cook the pages in the oven at 200 degrees for five minutes. When you pull the pages out of the oven, they will most likely be curled and lumpy - this may be the look you're going for, but if not - what I do is take a kitchen cutting board (we have a lovely big thick wooden one here), place it on top of the paper on the kitchen counter, pile it high with recipe books for weight, then leave it over night to flatten. It will take less time depending on how many papers you have stacked together.

An alternative way is to use an iron on the pages (atop the towel) when you have finished staining them with the tea. Put your iron on a medium to high setting and lightly go over the pages. You'll hear a woosh sound as the water evaporates with the touch of the iron - don't worry - that's a good thing! Doing it this way will also save you the waiting time from the previous step as you won't need to pile books on top of your paper (or at least you won't have to wait as long).

So, when your pages are dry and flattened to your liking, go ahead and put a fresh pen to the page - or, you can print some stationery onto it (like what I offer here at SMA) and go for gold!

Let me know if this process turns out well for you - there are loads of different ways to make aged paper, but this just happens to be what I find works with the items I have on hand. You can try a really dark coffee, for example, if you wanted an even deeper colour - experiment and have fun with it!

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