Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Recent Outgoing

 the above clipping of the girl in the dress has been in my hodgepodge of papers since I don't know when! I'm glad I finally used it. It feels very spring like!

 frog bag from a restaurant we went to near the Chicago airport 
I gave him a pink tie to jazz things up a bit

and a fun green glass envelope for Mandy. I love the Althea Gibson stamp.

Saturday, April 26, 2014


More recent outgoing: 
from a magazine clipping that I've had forever, because I thought the dress was so pretty

an envelope that Dana made for me, sent back to her with a sparkly castle sticker! I think it makes it look like you're inside a little aquarium

frogs with clothes pins on their faces? What could be better for a belated birthday card?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie : Book Review

Thanks to Mary R., another participant in the postal reading challenge, I found another book to read!  After Mary commented on my book review post of To the Letter, I went to her blog and browsed around for awhile. I've never read a book blog and I found it really interesting. She participates in a lot of challenges which I thought was really cool. It makes reading seem almost like a scavenger hunt!  

Anyway, I came across a book that sounded really cool, and you'll see why it caught my eye. The title is : The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie.

I clicked on the link and then I saw the cover...

Yup that's a dead bird with a postage stamp stuck on it's beak! Pie and stamps? I knew I had to get this book.

I got it out from the university library and read it all the same day!
I really enjoyed it. It's a mystery novel and the sleuth is an 11 year old girl named Flavia de Luce. She loves chemistry and poisons and her father is a philatelist!

The action really begins when a dead bird shows up on the doorstep with a stamp stuck on its beak. 

The plot revolves around the story of a very rare stamp, an orange printing of the penny black.  I've searched online and from what I can tell, the story of the stamp is fictional.

My favorite part of the book: Flavia de Luce. She's a really great character, definitely a genius. Some of the reviews I've read say that it's unbelievable that a child of 11 could do these things, but geniuses do exist, and she's also very much a child. For instance she frequently starts singing little bits of song or shouts out things when she's alone, riding her bike or something. That reminds me very much of myself when I was a child.

My least favorite part of the book: This is not to say that this is a bad part, just that... well it's when you realize that she's really learned too much and that she's in grave danger, but she hasn't realized it yet! Oooh, that feeling in your heart when you kind of clench up! It was really quite scary at the end!

So far there are 6 books published in the Flavia de Luce series and I am definitely interested in reading the next one!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hubble Hump Day!

Sometimes Hubble gets "stuck" under the curtains after looking out the window. I think he likes it because he doesn't really try to get away, he just sits there for a while moving his head a little bit. Clay thinks he looks like a Jedi.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Recent outgoing: 
from an old calendar that Clay had

repurposing USPS mail!

from a zebra bag from a zoo!

sparkles and Boba Fett go together like WHOA

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

To The Letter : Book Review

At the beginning of this year I saw this blog post by The Indextrious Reader about a postal reading challenge. Perfect for me since I love books and mail!

I had the perfect book to start with too! For Christmas I had received To the Letter by Simon Garfield. It's a non-fiction book and a very pleasant and interesting read. It did take me a really long time to finish it though.

Some chapters were definitely more interesting than others. I really enjoyed learning about how one addressed people of higher social status than you (and equal, and lower). It has to do with where you write their name and your name on the sheet. It was a little difficult to understand at first and I think there should have been a photograph or model showing it. I already knew some of the history of the Penny Black, the first postage stamp, but To the Letter went into it in much greater detail than what I knew. I also really enjoyed how many ideas I got for more books to read! In almost every chapter he talks about collections of letters that sound really interesting.

My favorite thing about the book: seeing a photo of a letter by Magritte written in french with a little drawing of a hot air balloon and being able to read some of it!! 
"Je rentre d'un séjour d'une semaine à la mer ... (can't make it out) et je trouve ton appel en rentrant- C'est cruel comme coïncidence, mais ni toi ni moi n'en sommes responsables."
"I return from a weeklong trip to the sea... and on returning I find your call - It's a cruel coincidence, but neither you nor I are responsible."
Here's a photo of the letter. 

My least favorite thing about the book:  Between the chapters there's a series of letters from WWII  from a couple: Chris Barker and Bessie Moore. Because of the nature of the war, Chris had to destroy a lot of Bessie's letters because he couldn't take them with him. This results in a very one sided conversation for most of our reading. It's a love story... they fall in love with one another through the mail. I just didn't really like Chris very much at all. He seemed kind of domineering... but it's hard to tell with just one side of the story. 
But who knows? Maybe the letters will be your favorite part! In fact here's a review from the Guardian that calls their letters the "most compelling part of his book". This review strangely uses the verb "pinging" a lot.

All told, I really enjoyed this book!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Recent Incoming

 I think I got these two colorful envelopes on the same day! It was a happy mailbox!

I love this Harry Pottery envelope! 

Lots of great mail from wonderful people!

Saturday, April 12, 2014

NM mail

I sent out a lot of postcards but I only sent out one actual letter from New Mexico.
I used some pieces of a menu from Albuquerque to give it a New Mexico flavor.
Anybody else loving this Jimi Hendrix stamp?
We went to both the aquarium and the botanic gardens. The gardens were really wonderful. They had a lot of desert plants which I'd never seen before... Ones that lived in New Mexico and elsewhere.

Clay and I shared the posole. It's so delicious! I was concerned about the food in New Mexico because I don't like beans or ground beef and I don't like very spicy things either. But then I went and loved everything, even a soup Clay's grandmother made with beans AND ground beef in it!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Terrifying Postcard

 Isn't this just beyond creepy??

And look what it's from:
The back says that it's from The Patchwork Girl of Oz.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Outgoing Mail

Some outgoing mail. I've been doing better about using all the tidbits lying around to decorate my mail.

I really like this one a lot. The illustration is from a children's school book- one of those reading books. I have a couple of them and I love them but haven't used them much.

And here's the back:

there really was a TON of glitter on the card inside

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Snickers Pie

Confession: I don't like peanut butter and chocolate together.

But I made a Snickers Pie.
Glorious, glorious!
A friend of mine had had a death in the family, and I wanted to do something nice for her. And I've been hooked on pies... so I asked her what her favorite pie was and I thought she said a Snickers Pie. Later she told me it was called something else- like peanut butter chocolate pie or something (no caramel). But I thought she said Snickers Pie.  Afterwards I looked online for a pie recipe matching her description, but I couldn't find any that sounded just right.  So... I combined several elements from several different sources.

The end result? An oreo cookie crust with a layer of caramel, a layer of chocolate filling, and finally a layer of peanut butter mousse, topped with drizzled chocolate and chopped peanuts.

But I don't like chocolate and peanut butter together??  Well, I was mostly concerned that I wouldn't like the peanut butter mousse. I'm weird about peanut butter. But when I was making it, it just smelled so good. I knew I would eat this pie.  And I did! I couldn't finish all of my piece- it was just too rich, but it was delicious!

I was so proud of this pie. If you do make it, be forewarned that it's a hard pie to cut. When refrigerated the caramel at the bottom becomes very hard.

What you need:

Crust:  oreo cookie crust from Brown eyed Baker
24 Oreo cookies, crushed into crumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

Caramel : Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook
1 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
pinch salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter, chilled

Chocolate Filling : Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook
2 large egg yolks
1 tbsp + ⅓ c heavy cream
⅓ c whole milk
5 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped fine
2 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces

Peanut Butter Mousse: Eat your vegetable blog
8 ounces creamy peanut butter
8 ounces cream cheese, room temp
1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar (I used 1 cup because I was using natural pb)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup heavy cream, chilled

Garnish : Eat your vegetable blog
1/3 cup chocolate chips, melted
a handful of peanuts, roughly chopped

What to do:

Make the Crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the Oreo cookie crumbs and the melted butter in a medium bowl and toss with a fork until the crumbs are evenly moistened. Transfer the crumbs to a 9-inch pie plate. Press the crumbs evenly into the bottom and up the sides of the pan, forming a crust. Refrigerate the lined pie plate for 20 minutes. Bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is fragrant and set. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Make the caramel :

1. Pour water into medium saucepan; pour sugar into center of pan, taking care not to let sugar crystals touch side of pan. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Uncover and continue to boil until syrup is thick and straw-colored and registers 300 degress, about 5 minutes.


This is what it looks like when you first put the sugar in
and you wonder how this is going to work.

2. Meanwhile, bring cream and salt to simmer in a small saucepan over high heat. (If cream reaches simmer before syrup reaches 350 degrees, remove cream from heat and set aside.)

3. Remove sugar syrup from heat. Carefully pour about one-quarter of hot cream into sugar syrup (mixture will bubble vigorously); let bubbling subside. Add remaining cream; let bubbling subside. Whisk gently until smooth, then whisk in butter. Let cool until warm. Pour about 3/4 cup over your crust and transfer to freezer to firm up; pour the rest of the caramel into a glass jar and let cool. It will keep in the refrigerator for at least 2 weeks.

And this is what the caramel looks like in the oreo cookie crust. I know, it already looks delicious.
Make the chocolate filling :
Whisk egg yolks and 1 tbsp cream together in bowl. Bring milk and remaining ⅓ c cream to simmer in a small saucepan. Off heat, stir in chocolate and butter, cover saucepan, and let stand until chocolate is mostly melted, about 2 minutes. Gently stir mixture until smooth, then stir in egg yolk mixture. Pour chocolate filling evenly over chilled caramel in crust. Bake at 300F until tiny bubbles are visible on the surface and chocolate layer is just set, about 25 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes on rack, then refrigerate for about 3 hours.

Make the Peanut Butter Mousse :
Beat peanut butter and cream cheese until smooth. (If you're using natural peanut butter, the mixture may look a little curdly, but it will smooth out when you fold in the cream.) Beat in powdered sugar to taste along with vanilla. In a separate bowl, whip chilled cream to stiff peaks. Fold into peanut butter mixture in 4 additions. Spread over the chilled pie.

Garnish  :
Drizzle melted chocolate over the top and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Trip to New Mexico

This past week Clay and I went for a trip to New Mexico so that I could meet his grandparents, and a bunch of other family that probably won't be able to make it to our wedding.

I had such a fantastic time. It was kind of the first time I'd been out west. I had gone to Arizona with my family when I was maybe 7 or so, but I don't remember much except that it was brown and ugly to me. 

Almost 20 years later I find myself much more able to appreciate the beauty of the west. Sadly it was extremely dry in New Mexico. They've been having a drought for three or so years. But the colors of the desert and the mountains were beautiful to me this time around. 

We spent time in Albuquerque and in the small town in northeastern New Mexico where Clay's grandparents live. We also took a day trip to Santa Fe, which was gorgeous. I just LOVED the adobe architecture that was everywhere.

Some postcards I sent:

This is how dry it is there. Heard of tumbleweeds? This tree is engulfed by them.

Here's another one.

Clay really wanted to go to the rattlesnake museum because normally when he's out in New Mexico he's there with his sister or mom, who hate snakes. So I agreed to go with him and he was so happy. I won't post any photos of the actual snakes. I was nervous the whole time I was in there. 

But! They had a mail exhibit!!
It was so cool! They had mail from places with names of snakes or other reptiles, with nice postmarks and some with really great illustrations on them.