Things to see and do

26 01 2010

Sorry for the lack of posts in the last week! I haven’t bailed on you, but the internet is a distracting place  and my laptop’s been sickly and I’ve been ill…all which resulted in not much blogging. Anyway, here’s a few things of interest to file under Other Things I Like.

♥ If you haven’t yet tried out the new search feature on, be sure to give it a go! As I said in the comment section of the project’s official blog, my only problem with it is that people very rarely sign postcards with their usernames so wouldn’t it make more sense to have a search field for the sender’s real name? But other than that, it seems great and it’s a lot of fun to find out who Postcrosses in your local area. There’s very few active users in my homestead so I won’t be organising a meet’n’greet any time soon.

Woophy is a site I’ve loved for a long time. Its international community spirit is reminiscent of Postcrossing’s. Here’s the self-explanation from the website:

Woophy stands for WOrld Of PHotographY, a website founded by a Dutch collective of photo aficionados and internet designers who believe navigation on internet can be more visual, logical and associative.

The goal of Woophy’s founders is to create an accessible, visual, current, democratic and collective work of art comprised of a database picturing our remarkable world.

With the help of (amateur) photographers across the world we strive to ultimately cover every inch of our world map with images that represent the world’s beauty and peculiarity from all different cultural perspectives.

It really is great to spend a while looking at our amazing world.

♥ Another of my obsessions is podcasts. And because I love free things, it was while searching for free podcasts that I found the brilliant LibriVox project. [It was actually through the Open Culture website, an amazing database of free cultural podcasts.] LibriVox provides free audio books from the public domain – i.e. members of the public record themselves reading books that are too old to be copyrighted. Thanks to LibriVox, I’ve listened to all kinds of classic books I never would have managed to read. The quality of reading is a bit variable and of course it’s not the same as a commercial audio book. But if you can look beyond that and imagine someone is reading to you, it becomes a pleasure. It’s my New Years Resolution to record one myself!

My REAL Wall is fun to keep an eye on. A guy in London decided he’d had enough of his Facebook wall and instead asked to be sent postcards to adorn his actual wall at home with. I’m sure it’s pretty and all but my postcards are too precious to be pinned to my bedroom wall!

♥ And finally…I’m really into French cinema at the moment and for Christmas I bought my mum three DVDs of them. [I always buy people presents I would like myself…] One was Etre et Avoir which we finally got around to watching the other night – and it’s absolutely brilliant! It’s the most charming, funny, sweet film you could imagine. It documents a year in the life of a tiny rural primary school in Northern France. Here’s a clip I found on YouTube that sadly isn’t included on the DVD:


How to handmake soap

14 01 2010

I know this seems totally random. But I am allowed a few non-Postcrossing items so why not? A couple of weeks ago I saw a TV show here in the UK called Kirsty’s Homemade Christmas. She’s one of those posh types and handmade everything to festoon her mansion. Along the way she also made soap and I loved it so much I wrote the “recipe” down and I’m determined to make some this year. I know it can be bought for, like, 10p, but the homemade variety is so much more pure and beautiful.

Here’s how!

Be sure to put on goggles and rubber gloves as the first part is quite dangerous. Put 900ml of water in a bucket and add 295g of caustic soda. Whisk. There will be steam and weird science stuff happening but try to brave it out. Take 615g of coconut slab and melt in a pan with 800ml of sunflower oil and 800ml of olive oil. This mixture is added to the bucket mixture and stirred for 40mins until the colour and texture change. Now add essential oils and/or food colouring.* Put the mixture into plastic tubs. Put a blanket over them for 24hrs until they set. Leave for six weeks in a cool, dark place for saponification to occur. Cut into blocks and use.

*For lime and parsley soap add a handful of parsley and 20g of lime essence – whisk. It’s really limitless but some other nice ideas are oats and honey or cinnamon and orange. You can also set things in the top – little roses, pieces of orange – to make it look all pretty.

Et voila!

For more info – and supplies – check out Soap Basics or Just a Soap. Some of the stuff they sell is actually amazing!

…and other things I don’t like…

7 01 2010

Snow! About a million tons of it fell all over Britain in the last couple of days. It’s the coldest it’s been for at least thirty years! And tonight Scotland will reach its coldest ever, -20. Even here in “soft” Southern England, the public transport has all stopped and we are all frozen up. Worst of all, there’s no way I can get any Postcrossing done when we can’t even get to the Post Office. Anyway, taking pics of it always makes me feel better so I thought I’d share some on here. The miserable ones were taken yesterday, the sunny ones were taken just now!

How to write a Postcrossing postcard!

5 01 2010

As a rookie I’m still finding out myself what sort of thing I should write on my postcards so this is by no means definitive. Can I just say that “should” doesn’t  even apply because there’s really no right or wrong! It comes down to personal choice and whatever you want to write.

However, if that piece of non-advice still doesn’t satisfy, I would say one of the best things to do before putting pen to postcard is to carefully read the recipient’s profile which will usually give you some idea of the person involved.  Most profiles have something to respond to or interact with in some way – so if they say they like horse-riding, you could recount a funny story about the time you fell off  a horse. Or if they say they like The Beatles, you could write: “I’m a big Beatles fan too, my favourite song is Let It Be…” and so on. Just finding something you have in common and writing about it creates a friendly little bond – friendliness among all men is how I see the project – and is perfect for a short postcard message.

I also try my best to fulfill the wishes of the recipient if they specially request that you write something. They might wish to know your favourite quote or food or film, or something specific about your country. “Write me something in your own language,” is a common one.

It’s a bit disappointing when a postcard just says “Greetings from _____” That’s a huge no-no for me, because my primary drive for Postcrossing, and why I like it so much, is my love of other cultures so I want to hear little things about them! It’s also just not fun. Half the joy of a postcard is the writing so do write something, however lame or silly you might think it. I guarentee the recipient will enjoy it infinitely more than a one-line bore.

I remember when I first wrote my profile and I included a huge list of things I wanted people to write to me. But I soon realised that the space on a postcard is so very small that there just isn’t room to write masses of things. It has to be quite pithy and to the point so don’t flannel!

Be inventive with what you write. One of the best postcards I received recently described walking around Stolkholm at Christmas. It was wonderful because a) it took me a while to read and b) it really gave me a flavour of the sender’s life and culture.

My overall tip is to write as though you are writing to a friend – not a close one but one you can chat to quite cheerfully. Be polite and write with a bit of affection. They are probably Postcrossing for exactly the same reasons as you – because it’s amazing to have someone in a foreign country writing to you! Postcrossers are curious people, curious about the world, so tell them about your corner of it.

This is an example of what I might write on a postcard to send today [if you think it’s lame, give me some advice, please!]:

Dear _____

I hope you are well! It’s so cold here in Britain at the moment: -5 last night and everything is covered in snow! I live in a little English village with my lovely family. I just read the new Dan Brown book – it was rubbish, but fun! In 2010 I want to continue learning French – it’s a beautiful language. I can’t believe the new decade is here!

I wish you all the best. Jenny

If you still feel clueless about how the back of your postcard might look, here’s one that arrived recently from India:

Here’s some other ideas:

♥  Arty types could do little drawings or doodles!

A haiku or poem [not really my thing, but some people like them]

Your favourite song lyric

Why you chose that postcard

A little description of yourself, where you live or your country

♥ What you did today

♥ A nice recipe [hope you can write small!]

♥ Your favourite things – song, film, book etc.

Something funny or sweet

Your thoughts on the recipient’s country – nothing insulting, obviously

And of course the Postcrossing ID!

Always remember that you could be writing to a child.

By the way, the first postcard I ever sent through Postcrossing was destined for Belarus. With no idea what to write, I found about ten other “firsts” from history and wrote them on the postcard to celebrate my debut, adorned it with an English penny, sealed it in an envelope, and off it went. It has never been seen again. Naive stupidity gone, never again will I so ridiculously think that the temptation of a coin could pass unscathed through an Eastern European mail room. So remember that your creativity and thoughtfulness might not make it!

Don’t you just love new decades?

31 12 2009

Actually, no I don’t! And besides, what could beat the heady Keenan And Kel-filled days of the 90s? Anyway, tomorrow another ten-year block dawns and I’m so glad I can take my new love of Postcrossing into the Teenies [urgh, can’t believe I just said that].Though I’ll have probably moved on mid-June*, for now I just love them postcards!

On Monday I really did [almost] become the Perez Hilton of Postcrossing when the official team posted a Twitter link to my post, “Postcrossing V Penpals for little people!” To think of Paulo or Ana finding, reading and liking one of my posts is really quite weird – not to mention embarrassing – but it made me so happy – and got some crazy traffic! I really like the way they embrace people’s love of Postcrossing – they are great CEOs!

*Just kidding!

…and other things I like

21 12 2009

With masses of Xmas cards still clogging the Royal Mail’s pipes, I’ve received only one Postcrossing in the past week. Dang! So, until I’ve got that scanned, I’m just going to have to fulfill the “and other things I like” promise of my distinctly uncatchy URL. Here’s just a couple of other things I like!

♥ Well, this one is a little bit Postcrossy, FYI. The project’s creator, Paulo, also writes a personal website, the beautifully designed and quirky

♥ His lovely girlf, Ana, also has a blog: Both sites are interesting and cool. They are obviously savants of all things computery!

♥ It’s Chriiiistmas! Thus, I present to you my Xmas present: the very lovely Samsung Genio Qwerty. I know it’s my present because I had to order it myself. The cheek of some people! I’m promised I won’t have to wrap it myself  but who knows. I can’t wait to be rid of the heinous Hello Kitty touchscreen I’m currently landed with. The aptly named Genio does email, Twitter, MP3…and also happens to be a totally unique design quite unlike that thing ending in “berry”.

♥ Without making assumptions, I would suspect that most Postcrossers are as stationary-obsessed as me. If true, then do make time to stop by Paper Nation! It’s UK-based but don’t worry, they ship to pretty much bloody anywhere. Not too keen on the postcards, but the diaries, notebooks and takeaway menu tidies are uber-lovely. Be still my beating heart!

PS. Blame WordPress for not opening a new tab when links are clicked. It’s irritating but there’s nothing I can do!

Postcrossing V Penpals for little people!

14 12 2009

Which do you think is better for children: Postcrossing or penpals? For me, it’s Postcrossing hands down! At twenty-three I can very very vaguely remember what it’s like to be a kid, and I think Postcrossing is perfect for the smaller members of society!

I know for a fact that I would have absolutely loved Postcrossing. It’s quick and easy to write a succinct postcard message; no need to go into detail in a one-off exchange like this – unlike with a penpal! That first letter to a new penpal always required a thousand word essay (minimum) on family, friends, pets, school,  your favourite Smurf, that time you drowned etc. etc. until we all run crying to bed. Not so with Postcrossing! Scrawl a quick missive, get mummy to write the address for you and Bob’s your uncle!

Plus the quick turnover makes it a winner. Days after posting, the lovely postcardy reward arrives from another random exotic location – everyone’s happy, you get a cool postcard collection and that’s the end of it. No worrying about having to write again. There’s none of the tension of a penpal who will probably throw your letter out of the window in a moment of frivolity [we’ve all been there, frankly] and never write to you again. The overriding theme of Postcrossing is one of mutual reciprocation and it rarely gives you that feeling of disappointment that penpalling can; send a postcard, get one back. I know some people will protest that they’ve been writing to Ludmilla for over thirty years and she’s the best friend they could ever have and there’s no way Postcrossing could compete with that – and I applaud them. But most kids are a little bit fickle if you don’t mind me saying so – espcially now that they play Grand Theft Auto for eight hours a day in between updating their iPhone apps. Penpalling takes an awful lot of commitment and most of them – either the recipient or themselves – won’t manage it. So try Postcrossing instead!