snail mail

The Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case

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While I was researching content for my letter-writing and mail-art course, I discovered that Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, was also a bit of a mail fan.

In 1889 he invented "The Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case," a little case with 12 separate pockets in which people could keep stamps of different denominations.

A really simple time-saver I recommend people do is to buy stamps ahead of time, and just keep them at home. First of all, this means you can go to the post office when it is quiet, and avoid all those lines. Also, it means you can be spontaneous, to write and send a letter when you think of it, before the moment passes. Yesterday we had some guests to our place at lunch. So last night after dinner, I quickly wrote thank-you cards to all of them and, because I had my stamps with me at home, the letters are ready to go into the post box this morning with no extra effort from me. 

It seems Mr Carroll had the same idea. He said he invented the stamp case because he was "constantly wanting Stamps of other/ values, for foreign Letters, Parcel Post, &c.,/ and finding it very bothersome to get at the/ kind I wanted in a hurry."

The beautiful little outer-envelope comes with an engraving of Alice holding the Queen's crying baby (not found in the books) but, when you slide the case out, she is now holding the pig. The back of the envelope has an engraving of the Cheshire Cat but when you slide out the case, it begins to disappear. 

"If that doesn’t surprise you, why, I suppose you wouldn’t be surprised if your own Mother-in-law suddenly turned into a Gyroscope!" Carroll says. 

The stamp case was sold with a little booklet called "Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter Writing." Carroll gets very worked up about the date, insisting that people include the full date at the top of their letters, rather than just the day and month, and (heaven forbid!) never simply write "Wednesday." Apparently only ladies do this (!!), and, "That way madness lies."

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Meals in the Mail - an update

* UPDATE 16 JULY 2017: please note that the official date to send recipes for this project has ended. However, you are still welcome to take part. There are no guarantees that your recipe will make it into the book but the sooner you send it, the more likely it will happen. I will be too busy delivering my Your Beautiful Letter course to start the book at least until the end of August, so any letters that arrive before then will still be part of the project. * 


One month ago, I came up with a little idea to collect some recipes via the mail, and make them into a zine or mini-book. I thought maybe I'd get 10 or 20 recipes, and it would be something cute to post as gifts in future letters I'd send. 

What I received was so much more. So far, the stacks of mail you see in these pictures contain 50 recipes, and more arrive every day. Many of them are illustrated recipes, or lovingly decorated in some way, and most of the envelopes likewise have been beautifully and carefully made. There are recipes from all over the world: some new, some traditional, but all of them are connected to stories. Stories of new love, family celebrations, cooking lessons, and adventures in travel. 

I've decided that these recipes deserve so much more than simply to be photocopied and stapled together. I want to showcase the creativity and vibrant beauty of the mail, the recipes, and the stories that go with them. So I will turn them into a 'real' book, in colour, that will celebrate not only the food, but the letters as well. 

I'm sticking to the original plan of sending the book to everyone who participates, so I thought I'd let you know there's still time to join in if you want to be part of this lovely project. The original date to have your mail postmarked was 1 July, but I've decided to extend it for another two weeks, until 15 July, to see if we can collect a few more recipes in the mail. Imagine what a wonderful book it would be if we could get up to 100 recipes and letters!

If you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy this project, please feel free to invite them to take part. The more recipes and letters from as many corners of the world that we receive will help to make it such a beautiful legacy of food, friendship and tradition, don't you think? 

To join in, simply send a favourite recipe of yours to me in the mail, as well as a few lines about what makes it special to you, at: 

Naomi Bulger
"Meals in the Mail"
PO Box 469
Carlton North
Vic 3054
Australia

Don't forget to include your return address so I can send you a copy of the book! 

Yours sincerely, 
Naomi x

Thousand Postcard Project - by the lake

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"Nothing is more memorable than a smell. One scent can be unexpected, momentary and fleeting, yet conjure up a childhood summer beside a lake in the mountains."
- Diane Ackerman (poet)

While we were on holidays in Tasmania last month, I sent off another big batch of vintage postcards for my year-long Thousand Postcard Project

I deliberately avoid choosing the postcards as I work through this project, and never try to match them to the recipient. That's because part of the fun of this project is the surprise for both of us: what will the next postcard depict? So after a long and slightly dreary (although funny) stint of roundabouts, freeways, dams, mines and nondescript mid-century motels, it was quite refreshing to come across this little collection of lakeside scenes. 

And maybe it was because I was on holidays but, as I wrote the postcards, I started thinking back to other lakeside holidays we'd had when I was a child. We used to drive to a country town on the NSW central coast, where we would rent a holiday house right near the mouth of the river.

Once, while we were enjoying a picnic in the park, our dog Moss went missing. He was only a puppy, and we were as distraught as you could possibly imagine two small children being when their puppy disappears. We searched everywhere and eventually found him, still in the park. He had followed his nose to a family with a barbecue on the go, and simply presented himself to them. He sat, he shook hands with the air, he begged, he rolled over. They were so impressed they gave him a sausage, so he did it again. By the time we ran up to Moss and threw our little arms around his neck almost sobbing with relief, he'd consumed two sausages and two steaks. 

Even today, if I walk past someone wearing coconut-scented sunscreen, the scent carries me instantly back to our lazy summers at the holiday house. To long morning walks over hot sand, past the river and down to the golden shore where waves crashed relentlessly and strands of my long hair stung my eyes like tiny whips in the wind, and I didn't care, and stayed all day. 

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6 snail-mail games to play with children (and why)

mail-art-darcy This picture is of the first 'mail-art' I ever made. It was for a little boy who was super into civil war stuff.

(Actually it wasn't mail-art in the strictest sense, because it didn't end up travelling through the postal service. The boy's mother was staying with us, so I wrapped up a parcel for her son, painted his address on and glued some vintage stamps to the right-hand corner so it would look realistic, but then gave the parcel to the mother, who snuck it into the family letterbox when she flew home.) 

But the point of that little piece of subterfuge was this: children love getting letters. It's so rare these days,  that sometimes people contact me to tell me that they are in their 20s and my letter was the first they had ever received. Often, parents write to tell me that the letter I had sent them made their children so excited, and curious, and inspired them to send letters of their own. After all, you and I already know the joy of going to the letter-box and discovering something personal, and friendly, with your name on the front. For children, the novelty factor triples that joy and excitement. 

If for this pleasure alone, teaching your children about the postal system and having someone write to them is a wonderful thing to share with them. But there are numerous other benefits. Teaching children about the post office reinforces all kinds of other important skills: 

* Counting (weighing parcels and buying stamps)  * Reading (the fabulous letters that come)  * Writing (storytelling in their own letters)  * Handwriting (developing their visual, cognitive and fine-motor skills) * Art (enclosing drawings or making mail-art) * Geography (looking at maps to see where their letters will travel) * Learning about other cultures (from international pen-pals)

A few years ago, Mr B and I gave a bunch of envelopes to Emily and her cousin, asking them to address them for us. The girls were about 11 years old at the time, and we had 50 envelopes to address, so we offered them some pocket money for the task. They gleefully did the job and then ran off to the shops to spend the pocket money, only for Mr B and me to discover that the envelopes were no use to us, we had to throw them out and redo them all.

The girls had written the addresses in tiny handwriting in one long line at the top of each envelope, and then stuck the stamp right in the middle. It wasn't their fault; we realised they had never been taught the proper way to address a letter or affix a stamp. Instead, they'd simply done the logical thing when it came to writing anything: they'd started at the top.

I don't know if many schools are teaching children about mail any more, so maybe it's up to us to take that on. This is not just a fun craft activity from a lost era: even in 2017, mail is still very relevant. Just ask Amazon or Ebay! 

And finally, I would say that sometimes, ‘slow-living’ is about teaching your children a different kind of play. Getting back to basics, helping to create an imaginary world without the need for apps, buttons, sound-effects, motors, or the digital experience.

As blogger Jennifer Cooper says on the PBS Parents website

"But for me, there’s an even more important skill kids learn [from snail-mail], patience. Raising kids in the digital age means they don’t have to wait for much anymore. Almost everything is just a click away. And that’s great for some things, but for others it’s a problem. 

Writing letters with pencil and paper slows kids down. It makes what they read and write even more special. It also helps them write more thoughtfully about things that are important to them."

Here are some post-related games you can play with your children:

1. Cut out pieces of cardboard roughly the shape of postcards and invite your children to write (or scribble) messages on them: to other family members, to friends, to pets, even to toys. Once they have ‘posted’ the postcards, take them out and deliver them to family, friends... and toys.

2. Make stamps by using simple, white, sticker-labels sold at news agencies or office supply stores. Cut the ‘stamps’ to size if you need to, and invite your children to draw pictures on them or colour them in. Perhaps you could find some envelopes – or cut out postcards as above – to put the stamps to use.

3. Introduce them to the fun of stamp collecting. Keep any interesting stamps you receive in the mail, and keep an eye out for new series at your post office. Have them take a close look at the pictures, and talk about the people, events or scenes they depict. They might even enjoy their own album to house their collection.

4. Sorting the mail. Collect any junk mail you’ve received, and invite your children to sort the ‘mail.’ Perhaps by colour, by theme, or size? I think my children would especially enjoy this game if I made them postie hats to wear!

5. Set up stations all over your home or garden, to represent houses. You could use shoe-boxes, or even lunch boxes. Your child is the postie, so give them letters to deliver to each house. Perhaps you could number the houses, so your child has to find the matching envelopes in order to deliver the right letter. If they don’t know numbers yet, maybe match simple drawings instead, like flowers or cars.

6. At the real post office, get the children involved. Invite them to guess how much the parcel weighs and choose which stamp to buy. Let them stick on stamps and airmail labels themselves. Ask for your letter back when you’re done at the counter, so the children can post it themselves outside.

I'm sure there are plenty of other fun activities that teach kids about the postal system. I'd love to know them if you have any ideas, suggestions or advice! 

Meals in the Mail (a new idea)

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* UPDATE 16 JULY 2017: please note that the official date to send recipes for this project has ended. However, you are still welcome to take part. There are no guarantees that your recipe will make it into the book but the sooner you send it, the more likely it will happen. I will be too busy delivering my Your Beautiful Letter course to start the book at least until the end of August, so any letters that arrive before then will still be part of the project. * 


I've had an idea. Shall we write a book together? A recipe book? 

Often I tell people that one of the nicest, easiest (and completely free-of-charge) gifts to enclose with a letter is a recipe. All you need to do is write or type it out neatly, fold it up, and there is something personal, thoughtful, and useful for your pen-friend.

Over the years, I have received some wonderful recipes in the mail, from family, friends, and strangers alike. First, I was thinking I might like to turn them all into a little "meals by mail" recipe book to share with you. But then I had a better idea: what if we were to share all of our recipes with each other? 

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So here is what I propose: 

1. If you want to take part, simply send me a letter. You need to send it by post, not email or in the comments. My address is: 

Naomi Bulger  "Meals in the Mail"  PO Box 469  Carlton North Vic 3054 Australia

So that this project doesn't drag on forever, let's say your letter needs to be postmarked by 1 July, 2017, to be included. 

2. In the letter, you will need to enclose two things: a) a recipe that you love (write it, type it, illustrate it if you like! anything as long as you like the recipe and it's legible); and b) some words telling me what makes your recipe special. They could be a sentence or an essay, or anything in between. Maybe the recipe was given to you by someone you love, maybe it is part of a family tradition, maybe you cooked it for a memorable occasion, maybe it's simply something that is always popular with your friends or family... just share with us the special meaning behind the recipe. 

3. It's not at all required that you decorate your envelope or include anything else, but of course you are welcome to do so and, if appropriate, I'll try and feature some of the more decorative envelopes etc in the book for inspiration. 

4. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks this is a good idea (Oh! Lonely me!) BUT if I receive enough recipes, I promise to turn them into a recipe-book or zine (how many recipes do you think I'll need for a book? 20? 30? More?), celebrating the recipes, the letters, and the wonderful way that food links us to people we love and memories we treasure.

Plus, I promise to send a free copy of the book or zine to every contributor. 

Are you in? Let's do this, to celebrate food, nostalgia, hand-written communications and community all in one go. Then we can stir, sizzle, mix and bake each other's recipes, and weave them into our own stories. And I would really appreciate it if you could tell your friends, because maybe they want to share their recipes, too! 

ps. These recipes, from top, are from my great-grandmother (via my mother), Ashwatta (via Ashwatta's Art on Etsy), and Meaghan (via @polaroids_and_snailmail). 

Thousand Postcard Project - still charming

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What can I say? These old postcards continue to charm me.

I've written more than 300 postcards so far this year, with another 700 to go before Christmas, and I am loving this project so much. Every new postcard is like a lucky-dip. Stunning vistas! Turnpikes! Cringe-worthy cultural stereotypes! A boring motel! An even more boring bridge! The marketing geniuses of the 20th century were nothing if not optimistic about what would inspire the passing tourist. (Although the one-log house in this set actually looks pretty cool. I wonder if it is still there. Does anybody know?)

And the joy of reaching out to friends and strangers alike with my words. Thoughtful words, poetic words, foolish words, lighthearted words. Just words, connecting us all over the world. 

I've had to close off the form to request a postcard, because I already have a thousand people waiting for me to write to them. If you missed out, never fear! There will be plenty more mail projects still to come. Watch this space (this blog)... 

Celebrating the makers

template-designs-1 Above: a collection of envelopes using my designs by @sculptedfilms on Instagram 

Can we all please just take a moment to appreciate all the lovely work that people all over the world are putting into these print-and-paint snail-mail templates? 

I have put off writing this blog post because I didn't know quite how to express how happy it makes me, sending my mail designs into the world, and then seeing how people are using them and making them their own, in order to send creative mail to others. It still sounds trite when I put it like that, but it truly warms my heart to see people actually using and enjoying what I make... and knowing that they in turn are bringing joy to others through the post. 

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Above: transparent envelope by Snailmailcool on Facebook

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Above (clockwise from top-left): coloured envelopes by @murderingtime on Instagram, @lyndsey.thiessen on Instagram, @seniahhandmade on Instagram, @allyt_hobart on Instagram 

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Above left, rainbow hare envelopes by @lyndsey.thiessen on Instagram, top right by @elisef03 on Instagram, bottom right by @allyt_hobart on Instagram 

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Above: strawberry, flower and book envelopes by @murderingtime on Instagram 

If you don't know what this is all about, I create envelope templates with mail-art designs on them, that people can print off and turn into decorative envelopes to send through the post. They are free, and I send new designs out every month via my newsletter, Snail Mail Toolkit. You can sign up to receive them (as well as a free copy of my e-book, Making Mail: 10 steps to writing letters that become keepsakes, here

Thousand Postcard Project - recent favourites

CCI27032017_6 This postcard. How weird and spooky and great is it? Fox collage is where it's at, friends. (And what does that fox have in its mouth? Is that... a flower?)

Oh hey, I'm still writing postcards! If you're waiting for yours, I promise it will come eventually. Remember this is supposed to be a year-long project, so depending on how many addresses are ahead of yours on the list, it might take me a little while to get to you. But I won't forget you! 

Here are some of my favourites from the most recent batch of postcards I sent out. 

1. A gentle stroll through a chapter from 'Anne of Green Gables'...

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2. A super-boring building (boring building postcards never get old) (except this one, which is actually more than 50 years old)... 

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3. A picture of a dam that gives me the heebie-jeebies because it looks so fragile, set against nature like that. (For people in the US who might know this dam, it's now called the Hoover Dam)... 

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4. More scenes from the wild, wild west... 

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Sneak peek inside the April Snail Mail Toolkit

newsletter-templates This is a sneak peek at the mail-art templates I'll be sending out in my Snail Mail Toolkit newsletter on Saturday morning. Would you like to make this mail? It's a gift from me to you!

I'm on a mission to bring back old-fashioned hand-written correspondence. Why? Answer these questions in your head: 

  1. When was the last time you received an email? How did it make you feel? 
  2. When was the last time you received a hand-written letter in the mail? How did that make you feel?  

The practice of writing a letter is nostalgia, crafts, slow-living and community all rolled into one. And that's just for the sender. Imagine how it makes the recipient feel! 

I launched my newsletter at the start of this year because I wanted to make it as easy and inspiring as possible for you to send somebody a letter... and to make it special with mail-art. 

Every month there are templates with designs like the three above. All you have to do is print them out, follow the fold-lines to create the envelope, and add in the address. If you want to get more creative and have the time, you can do more, painting the designs as I have done, or colouring them, collaging over them, creating a washi-tape border around them, or any other crafty idea you have. 

I also include ideas for what to write, or who to write to, or what else to include in your mail. And to help you get started, I send a copy of my e-book, "Making Mail: 10 steps to writing letters that become keepsakes," to newsletter subscribers, with some more detailed guidance to making mail. 

If you like the look of the envelopes above, I'd love to see you make them too! I send new designs every month and once you download the templates, you can print them off as many times as you like (I used a slightly heavier recycled paper here, but normal copy-paper works fine). It's like having a never-ending stationery supply at your fingertips! 

This blog post sounds like an ad doesn't it, but I promise it's all free (no strings!), so how I'd really like it to read is as an opportunity. Or an invitation. I just really want to see you feeling encouraged, inspired and empowered to write a letter to someone and to have a bit of creative fun with it. 

You can subscribe to the Snail Mail Toolkit right here. Be sure to subscribe before 9am Saturday Melbourne time (heads up northern hemisphere readers that's your Friday) for these designs. 

Finally (oh hi! thanks for still reading!) if you could help me spread the word about the Snail Mail Toolkit newsletter by sharing this post on your social media, that would be SO WONDERFUL of you. Maybe together we can make snail-mail mainstream again. (I think they call that the #snailmailrevolution)

ps. If you're on Instagram, pop on over to visit me later this morning, because I will be launching a lovely little giveaway to win some beautiful Boots Paper stationery (remember the post I wrote about Boots Paper last year?). You can find me on Instagram here