Sunday, May 29, 2011

Letter #184 from Russia

Letter #184 comes from Maria (or Masha) in Russia.Maria lives in Arkhangelsk,a little town in the north of Russia.She is currently studying at the university.She hopes to have a career in forest engineering.She lives with her mom,whom she says "is the best mom in the world!".She also has a brother that is five years older than her.

She also has a cat named Chernish,which means "black".She also says that he is a very fat cat. :)

Maria loves people and says that it is better to have a few true friends than many pals that are not as close.She also gave us some advice and told us that we should try to do many different things to see what is interesting and important to ourselves.I definitely agree with that advice,too often we find ourselves miserable in life because we are doing what we thought would make others happy without thinking how it would affect us,the one who is actually doing it.We should go out and learn as much as we can to see what we truly like,you may find yourself interested in something you never thought you would like.She also told us that we should always believe in ourselves and not to dwell on things that don't go as's all a learning experience.

Thanks Maria for your wonderful letter with cute stamps and drawings,stickers,postcard,and movie cards,and also a cute recipe for carrot cake (one of my fave cakes!) ,which can be seen below:

Letter #183 from Canada

Letter #183 comes from Jane in Canada.She lives in a small town in Northern Ontario,called Kapuskasing,which comes from the Cree Indian language,which means "bend in the river". The town was founded in 1911 and they will be having special celebrations this summer for their 90th anniversary.

The land in her area is flat with lots of trees,mostly black spruce trees,along with several lakes.The winters are long and cold,with January and Febraury being the coldest months,with temperatures around -40°F! I had to look twice to make sure that was right because that is cold!I remember a few winters ago the wind chill in Michigan was -32°F and it was terrible,your eyelashes would freeze and even the tears in your eyes would was absolutely terrible!She has noticed a change though during the past winter,with no wind chills and more clear and sunny days.

She says they are now starting to see signs of spring,green grass,buds about to come out on trees.Their summers are quite pleasant with temperatures in the 70°-80° F range,with the occasional 90° temps,but very rarely.She says that her town is beautiful in the summer months.Many people fill their yards with flowers and keep their lawns green and beautiful.

Jane has seen many ravens this past winter season and didn't realize just how big they were and thinks they are so beautiful!Many different animals can be found in her area,including black bears,foxes and moose

In the early days of her town,lumberjacking was big business.There is currently a large paper mill there which produces pulp for newsprint.Since 1928,The New York Times  has been printed on the paper produced there.The lumber business has decreased dramatically and the work force at the mill is much smaller.

She says that like most small towns everywhere,her city has lost businesses and population.At one time, there were 13,000 people in her city,now they have 7,500.Another one of their major employers in her town also announced that they will be shutting the business down in 2013.It's so sad to see so many businesses close and people lose their jobs.

Jane says that most people in her area speak French as their first language,but most are bilingual.When they realize you don't speak French,then they start speaking English.

She also noted that General Motors Canada has their cold weather development center there to test their vehicles in cold weather conditions.She says they have a race track where they drive on and that they also drive the cars on the highways to see how they work under normal conditions.We had the same thing in Michigan.

During the summer,they have an annual event called the Lumberjack Festival,celebrating the early days of the area.There are demonstrations and competitions involving lumberjack tasks.For example,there are contests for sawing logs with chainsaws and also with hand reminds me of the show called "Frontier House" where they had the same type of competition. :)

Jane and her husband live two hours from the next largest city and ten hours away from Toronto.They have both lived in the area for one year now.Jane grew up in South Dakota.They moved there for her husband's job.

She also says that the money looks different than US money,but is otherwise the same.There are no $1 bills,but a $1 coin called a "loonie" since there is a loon bird on it.There is also a $2 coin called a "toonie".The downside about living in Canada is that there is a 15% tax on everything,even postage stamps.She also said that if she orders something from the US,she has to pay the 15% tax upon delivery.Some packages are even opened and taped back shut by customs.

She says that it isn't really different living there,items in the stores are labled in both English and French,as well as most signs and ads.The people there are very friendly and proud to be Canadians.She also said that they eat their fries with gravy (I recall the letter from Terri in Oklahoma sharing a picture of it),but Jane still loves her fries and ketchup. :) They also put spaghetti sauce and mozzerella cheese over their fries,but she has not tried those yet,either.

Thanks so much Jane for your lovely letter and postcards,which can be seen below:

Letter #182 from Denmark

Letter #182 comes from Marie in Denmark...this is our first letter from Denmark!Marie comes from the second largest city called Aarhus.She lives with her fiancee that builds robots and other things that are being sent into orbit into outer space,which she thinks is very cool! (We agree!) Marie is currently a student,studying communications.She dreams about helping organizations find ways to improve work environments.As she said,she wants all mommy's and daddy's to have fun while at work.I think that is a great idea since nobody wants to feel terrible at work and come home in a bad mood.

On the front of one of the papers she wrote on is a picture of Tivoli,one of the world's oldest amusement parks in the world!It is located in the capital of Denmark,which is Copenhagen.She said that Denmark is usually hard to find on a map because it is so small,so she drew a picture for us.She says there are a lot of small islands around the bigger ones,which are all a part of Denmark.She says there is an island called Bornholm where the citizens speak a language closer to Swedish than Danish.

On the front of the other paper she wrote us on is a picture of "The Little Mermaid" statue,which is a story written by Hans Christian Anderson,who is a famous Danish author.I did not know that he wrote "The Little Mermaid",we only know that it's a Disney movie and didn't even think about who the author was.She said the statue is in the harbor,just like the Statue of Liberty is in the harbor in New York.

Marie also shared some Danish words/sentences with us below:

Thank you - Tak
I love letters - Jeg elsker breve
Where do you live? - Hvor bor du?
What's your name? - Hvad hedder du?
How are you? - Hvordan gar det?

Thanks Marie for your lovely letter,which can be seen below:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Letter #181 from Finland

Letter #181 comes from Hilja in Finland.Hilja lives in a small town in Eastern Finland.She just moved there due to her new job being located there.Her first day of work is May 16th...I hope she had a great first day at work!She will be working as a customer advisor.Hilja loves customer service and being in touch with different people.

Before moving,she lived in a city called Joensuu,where she studied Finnish language and literature at the University of Eastern Finland.She says that since then she's been wondering what she'd like to do in her life,but not sure she will ever find the answer to that.Sometimes it just takes time to find what you really like...just follow your heart and it will lead you the right way.

Hilja has many hobbies.She joined postcrossing in 2006 and has already received thousands of postcards and like us,enjoys opening the mailbox to find something other than bills. :) She compared postcrossing to the movie "Forest Gump",when he says,"life is like a box of chocolates,you never know what you are going to get",that's the way she feels about the postcards,you never know where they are coming from or what they will look like,so that is the exciting part,of course.

She also enjoys reading and classifies herself as a real bookworm and usually reads two or three books at the same time.She reads books in English,Finnish and Swedish.She enjoys all types of literature,from children's books to postmodern novels.She just finished reading a book called "The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate" and highly recommends it.

Hilja also loves watching sports on tv as much as possible.When she wrote the letter,there was a championship game going on for ice hockey.She also loves to go jogging and running and tries to excercise several times a week.One of her favorite things to do is enjoy nature and take hikes in the woods.She says that the nature in her area is very beautiful and that you can get very close to wild animalsShe once found some tracks in the snow and she didn't know which animal made them,so she showed her father the picture and he told her they were bear tracks!

She has also recently been to a city called Koli and thinks it is one of the most beautiful places in Finland.

Hilja also noted that the Winnie the Pooh stationery she wrote on was chosen because she loves the character and because she loves the fall season.

Thanks Hilja for your lovely letter,postcards and brochures,which can be seen below:

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Hello everybody!
Just wanted to update everybody and let you all know that letter posting will be updated in a few days due to my brother in law moving in with us and my back in a lot of pain from a very painful pulled muscle.I have 3 or 4 letters to post when I am better.Sign ups and letters have really slowed down lately,but we are well on our way to 200 letters,which is very exciting!It has been so exciting learning about everybody and their homeland.There are many countries we haven't gotten letters from and would love to learn about.If you are reading this and haven't sent us a letter,please consider writing to us.It doesn't matter if we got a letter from your country/state already,we will accept more than one letter from the same area.We have truly enjoyed every letter we have gotten and it's been fun seeing how creative people can be with their letters.It has given us some great ideas of how to incorporate some craftiness into our penpal letters.As always,we thank everybody that has posted our project on their blog,facebook,etc.We are almost halfway through the year and have many more letters to go before reaching our goal,but we know there are many people out there that enjoy letter writing or would at least do so to help us reach our goal,so if you know someone that may be interested,please send them our way.We would be really appreciative!Maybe you would like to share your vacation with us or maybe tell us what your dream vacation would be,whatever you would like to share,we'd love to read about it!Well,gotta go now so I can try to get some relief.Have a wonderful weekend! :)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Letter #176 from The Netherlands

Letter #176 comes from Roxanne (or as her friends call her Roxxy) in The Netherlands.She was born in Utrecht and is currently a student.She describes herself as both a book worm and a music junkie.She loves books and carries her ipod around everywhere.She also is a writer and singer.She has been taking singing classes since 2009 and still wants to learn more.She also enjoys watching soccer,shopping,hanging out with friends,dancing,watching tv,swimming,travelling,postcrossing,and much more!

Roxanne says she is not a very picky eater,but does not like olives and a few herbs,other than that,she is pretty open to a variety of foods.She loves rice,pasta,risotto rice and chicken the most because you can always change the flavors and make a different kind of meal using just those ingredients.

She also said that spring has been really nice so far this year.It has been much warmer compared to previous years.She loves the warm weather since she can go swimming at the lake and have picnics at the park.The sunshine makes her so happy and gives her energy.

Roxanne is attending university for Communication Management.She says that at one point,she wasn't even sure what she wanted to do,so she took a break for two years until she realized that she could do what she really wanted,after all.She says she would love to be a singer,but not a famous one (hmm,maybe she could be like Milli Vanilli,if anybody remembers them....they turned out to be lip syncing...ok,just joking,but I guess if you really wanted your voice to be heard,but not be seen,it could be an option). :) Anyways,back to the letter,she thinks it would be really nice to work with musicians and since she's very skilled in organizing,she's thinking she may be a perfect fit for being an event manager.She also has a passion for creative writing and would like to be a freelance writer.....maybe she could write about the music events she plans. :) She really would be happy to have a job that consists of her three loves- music,organizing and writing.The only job she doesn't want is one where she has to sit at a desk in an office.

She is currently working at an old ship dock as a trainee,where they repair ships that were used for river transport.She says that they currently function as a museum but that they still have the ability to repair ships that are over 50 years old.She also says that there is a small harbor with many historical ships and that it's reallt beautiful,with a rich history.Her current job involves public relations,communications and advertising.She has really learned a lot through this internship.

She said that the city she was born and lives in (Utrecht),is a big city and that there is always something to see and do and she loves that she can go shopping every day.She doesn't like silence,so she doesn't think she could survive living in a small town.

She also shared a couple of facts about her country that we may not have learned about from previous letters.The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.It is a parliamentary democratic constitutional monarchy.The capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government is The Hague.As of January 2010,the Netherlands had 16,574,989 inhabitants.The Netherlands is often referred to as Holland,although North and South Holland are actually only two of its twelve provinces.The word "dutch" is used to refer to the people,the language,and anything pertaining to the Netherlands.Geographically,the Netherlands is a low-lying country,with about 25% of its area and 21% of its population located below sea level.Most of the country is very flat,with the exception of foothills in the far southeast and several low-hill ranges in the central part.

When she wrote us the letter,it was a special day in the Netherlands,they were celebrating Queens Day (April 30).Their former queen was born on April 30 so it became a national holiday.Every year the royal family visits one of the cities or towns in the country and they show it on tv.They also have flea markets,music everywhere,people can buy drinks and food on the streets and almost everyone is dressed in orange.Since most people really love to party,they have invented Queens Night,which starts on the 29th of April.So,for about 24 hours,there is orange madness going on in the country.She says that the color orange is not on their national flag,but it is part of the last name of their queen,therefore,orange is their national color.So you will usually see people wearing orange during sporting events or national holidays to show that they are Dutch.

She also told us about some other holidays.On May 4 (which happens to be my favorite day b/c it's my birthday) it's a sad day where they remember the casualties of World War II.But then the next day,on May 5th,there's Liberation Day,which is Roxanne's favorite holiday.All around the country,people organize big events and festivals with music and much more.You can sit in the park with friends and listen to the bands play on the stage.She said that the best part is that there's free admission. :)

Along with her lovely letter,Roxanne included some printouts with pictures of herself,her boyfriend,the place she currently works at,her family,boyfriend,their pets and of course,a map showing her country and city.She also enclosed some postcards,some mini flags,and a Dutch wooden shoe keychain.Thanks so much Roxanne for the letter and goodies,which can be seen below:

Letter #175 from Massachusetts

Letter #175 comes from Emilie in Massachusetts.Emilie is currently studying French at college and is working towards her masters degree.She says it's a lot of hard work,but it's fun,too.She gets to teach two classes of elementary French at her college,which must be really exciting and hard work at the same time.

She says that she can't wait for summer vacation so that she will have more free time to explore Boston since she is not originally from there.She told us that the Public Gardens there are really beautiful.We love nature,so we would love to see the gardens there.It was also the setting for a children's book called "Make Way for Ducklings".When she moved to Boston,she was really excited to see the statue of the baby ducklings following their mother.She also told us that Boston has the best ice cream.She has tried some unique flavors,with black raspberry and blueberry cheesecake being her favorites.

Emilie grew up in Maryland,only 15 minutes from the Virginia border.She lived 40 minutes away from the Del Marva peninsula,where the famous Chincoteague ponies are from and she still loves to read the books by Marguerite Henry about the Chincoteague ponies.I believe my daughter used to read those books when she was younger and was going through her "pony" phase.Emilie used to have her own pony named Windsong,so that is why she is so fond of horses,but,unfortunately,she died three years ago.She said that her dad had bought a mule to keep her horse company since horses are herd animals and need companions to be happy.She said that mules are a hybrid of two species,they have a horse mother and a donkey father.She says they are very sweet and extremely intelligent animals.They look like horses,but have bigger ears.She said that they love to have the insides of their ears rubbed,but once you take your finger out,it's all covered with ear wax....hopefully you weren't eating when you read that part. ;)

She really misses home a lot since she lived in the country,where it was so green in the woods.She still dreams about home and misses the log cabin she grew up in.Even though Boston in her new home,she is still a country girl at heart. :)

Thanks Emilie for your very sweet letter,we hope you have continued success on your goal to get your masters degree!You can see her lovely letter below:

Monday, May 16, 2011

Letters #177-180

Letters #177-180 come from a homeschooling family in Idaho.The first letter was from Kathy (the mother of the family).Kathy is married with three children.Her oldest child is in public school,but the other two are homeschooled.She wishes she didn't agree to public school for her oldest because of all the drama that goes  on in public school. ( I definitely know what she's talking about) So she will continue to homeschool the other two children to give them a better education.She requested her youngest two write letters for our project as part of their writing assignment,so I will now be sharing what they wrote.

Megan is in first grade and was told about our project by her father,who has also written to us.She also said that it was fun writing us a letter.

Next,was a letter from Jessica.Jessica is in the second grade.Her favorite subject is math and she loves to sing.She is quite happy because they have two more months of school before they get their summer break. (My girls were quite jealous since we homeschool year round.) ;) She also said that it was fun writing to us.

Last,but not least, was the letter from E.J. (the father of the family).He told us that he found out about our project through a website called the Fountain Pen Network,which another writer so graciously mentioned on there.He wrote to us using a fountain pen on a type of paper that used to be called Air Mail paper,but is now known as onion skin paper,it feels pretty cool.We really loved this paper.

E.J. really loves the old ways of writing.He prefers typewriters,fountain pens and pencils.I couldn't agree more.I have a small collection of typewriters myself,but they need some work done on them,unfortunately,so we haven't been able to use them lately. :( When they worked,my daughters loved using them.It just seems so much more fun typing a story on a typewriter than typing a story on the computer....I can't explain it.E.J. also agrees and found out that many writers have gone back to typing their stories on typewriters.He has actually completed typing a story up within one year on his typewriter and is now trying to find a publisher....maybe someone here can help him out?Maybe we can get the first printed copy...wink,wink. :)

He also told us that there are thousands of fountain pens available with ink in a rainbow of colors to choose from.Some of them wash out very easily with water and some can never be washed out.The second page of the letter was typed on his favorite typewriter,a Royal KMM.....I will have to check ours out because I think we may have the same kind.He says it's from 1949.Unfortunately when ours was shipped to us,it was damaged,so we never got to use ours. :( The typewriter was given to him by its original owner,who is now 90 years old.She was a secretary for a company that sold ant farms that were really popular years ago and was advertised in the back of comic books.Sounds like such a great story to keep with the typewriter!He reminded us all of how this typewriter was made to withstand being typed on 8 hours a day,5 days a week and that every single thing had to be typed out.He also reminded us about how accurate typists had to be because there are no delete or backspace buttons on typewriters. :)

He also told us that he told his friend in Australia about our project,so we hope we hear from his friend soon. :)

Thanks so much to E.J.,Kathy,Jessica, and Megan for all of your lovely letters,which can be seen below:

Friday, May 6, 2011

Letter #174 from England

Letter #174 comes from Gracie in England.She is originally from the city of Nottingham in the Midlands.She is currently taking off a year before going to university,so she is currently volunteering in the city of Chichester,caring for a lady in a wheelchair.She will be going home in a month and is so excited since her temporary home is 5 hours away from her family,so she rarely sees them.

As many may already know,Nottingham is where Robin Hood is from.There seems to be some controversy over where he is from.....many people say he is really from Yorkshire,so Nottingham may have no claims to him,although they do brag about having his statue there. ;)

Most of the wealth of Nottingham came from manufacturing lace and also bicycles later on.Now the lace maker buildings are used as a college since they are so beautiful.Gracie did her "A-levels" there.She said that homeschooling is very uncommon in England and that kids must attend school until age 16,but they are going to be increasing the age to 18 years old.When Gracie goes to university,she plans to study Englis and French.She will be going to university in London and is excited about it!It will be so different from where she is living,doing her volunteering work.Chichester is in the countryside and when she moved there in January,it was very cold and she thought it was so boring because nobody ever left their home,so the town seemed so empty.But once spring time came,everybody came out of their houses.Gracie loves having picnics in the cathedral gardens or on the beach.Chichester Cathedral is the only medieval building in Britain that has a free-standing bell tower and a still operational almshouse-hospital.

During the first part of Garcie's "gap" year off before university,she spent some time in South America,for three months with a host family.It was an exchange/volunteering program and she was among a group of 16 Bristish people who helped to teach English and build part of a nursery school.She says the thing that surprised her the most about being there was the huge gap between the poor and rich.She says that in Lima,Peru,the area was very built up and looked just like every other city where people live,but only one hour away from there,were people living in shanty towns and slums.Many people have no access to running water and their homes are made of wood.The school they were building had no regulations,so they mixed cement by hand and used nails to hold up the ceilings.She said that at first it was a big shock to see the people love like that,but she actually got used to it because even though the people were so poor,they were amazingly very happy people since they all lived together and shared the same problems/concerns.She said the shanty towns popped up in the 1980's and 1990's because the people were fleeing from terrorism.She said that she had a great time with her wonderful host family and recently learned that her host family had another baby,so she feels like she has another "host sibling".She says that this opportunity has made her realize that maybe we'd all be happier if we tried to be more of a community,rather than living in such a materialistic,money driven society.I couldn't agree more,we have definitely left behind the days when you would borrow things from your neighbors and ask them for help building your house,etc.We really love such sheltered lives these days and don't communicate with our neighbors as people did in the old days.It would be so nice to go back to those old days.I know where we lived in Michigan,they were trying to build more community friendly neighborhoods to bring back that feeling and in the center was a park for the kids.It was a really good idea,but I don't think it worked,people are too involved with their jobs and their own personal lives.I really love how people are trying hard to bring communities together with community kitchens and gardens.Hopefully these ideas will spread farther and become more popular.Gracie says she really misses the shanty town dearly and hopes to return.I think maybe we all should try helping volunteer to help those less fortunate so they we can really have the feeling of how truly blessed we are to have what we have,because at least in the states,we can get some help (food stamps,etc) that people in poor countries cannot even imagine getting.

Thanks Gracie for your lovely letter and all the brochures,ticket stubs (we love ticket stubs),pictures (one of Lima,Peru and then the other shows the complete opposite,the shanty town and also one picture of the school they were building) and postcards!They can all be seen below:

Letter #173 from Maryland

Letter #173 comes from Angela in Maryland.Angela lives in a suburb of Washington,DC called Wheaton.Angela works as a librarian (yes,another great librarian!). :) Wheaton is 12 miles from DC and is one of the stops on the Red Line of the Metro (subway) that serves DC.Her city is very walkable and she is close to many places.She says it's really nice when it snows because when the roads aren't passable,she can still walk to most places.

One of her favorite places to visit is Wheaton Regional Park,which includes Brookside Gardens,which is a flower garden/conservatory.She says it's a great place to go to enjoy nature since the city is an urban area.She says they have a yearly event called "Wings of Fairy", where they release the butterflies in the conservatory building so they are free to fly all around.Everybody gets to walk among the butterflies,which must be really nice because butterflies are so beautiful and unique.

Angela also enclosed some printouts about Wheaton,which I will summarize below:
Wheaton is an unincorporated community in Montgomery County that started out as a crossroads in the 1700's.Wheaton was named after the Union General Frank Wheaton,who defended nearby Fort Stevens and Washington,DC in the Civil War against Conferderate General Jubal Early's attack in July 1864.

The first U.S. television license operated out of Charles Francis Jenkins' home in Wheaton,in 1928.Wheaton became the birthplace of the first television transmissions from Jenkins Broadcasting.

After WWII,a massive influx of Federal government workers moved to the metropolitan area.Prior to 1947 only 29,000 people lived in Wheaton,mostly on farms and large estates.The number doubled in 1950,then again in 1960,creating unprecedented growth.

In 1954 building began on Kemp Mill Estatesof the Heitmuller Tract,which opened in 1959 as Wheaton Plaza Shopping Center.At that time it was the 6th largest in the nation,and has since had major redevelopment as Westfield Wheaton.

In 1958 the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission began buying land to create Wheaton Regional Park,now a 536 acre sanctuary.

Along with her lovely letter,Angela included brochures from Westfield Mall,Brookside Gardens, a Metro Pocket Guide, and since she remembered we are collecting books in different languages,she said that her library sells used books that also includes books in several languages,thanks to the diversity of her area.She included the book,"Spot", in Arabic,"The Very Hungry Caterpillar", in Yiddish,and a Garfield book,which neither of us were sure about the language,I think it could be Dutch,but maybe somebody can click on the picture below and tell us if that is correct or not.Thanks!

Thank you so much Angela for your lovely letter,brochures and books (we really love them & didn't have books in those languages,so thanks a bunch!).We also loved the new "Go Green" stamps,our post office didn't have any as they only get a few of the new stamps. :( They can all be seen below:

Letter #172 from Idaho

Letter #172 comes from Jennifer in Idaho.She lives in a suburb of Boise,the capital of the state.She is a freelance photographer and runs a small photography business from home.She loves the flexibility that working from home offers.In her free time,she enjoys reading,writing,cooking,camping,bird watching,beadwork,crocheting,cross stitching and playing hockey on her playstation 3.

Jennifer is also an avid long distance cyclist and can always be found riding as long as the temperature is above 10°.She enjoys running all of her errands by bike and also does longer rides for charity.

She lives in an area that is considered "high latitude" desert climate,with hot and dry summers.Fall and spring are her favorite time of the year with the mild weather.They sometimes get a lot of rain from March to May.Their winters are cold and snowy and she says that there is still a heavy blanket of snow on top of the mountains in the higher elevations.Burr!

Idaho is a rurla state with a population of 1.3 million people.She said that she read that they have double the amount in cattle.Idaho is also a very agricultural state and within a mile of Jennifer's house,she can see potatoes,sugar beet,onion,mint and hay fields.As many people in the U.S. know,Idaho is well-known for their potatoes.

As Jennifer mentioned earlier,she loves photography and she prefers to to take photos of landscapes and nature,but also takes pictures of weddings and kids sports.She also included some photos she took herself.One of her favorite places to take photos is at Boise Depot,which is an old train station that was in use until 1990.It is now a park and historical site.The pictures she included with her letter are of the folowing places: Jump Creek Falls,Eagle Island,Petit Lake,Sawtooth Mountains,Fairfield School House (I think this may be my favorite photo,although it was a hard choice),Boise Depot,Silver City (an old mining town that I would love to see in person,it remind me of Little House on the Prairie),her dogs (I thought they were both blind,but she says that both of them each have one blue eye and most people think that,too when they see them), and her last photo is of a pear tree that is in her backyard.Along with the photos,she enclosed four postcards,two have potato recipes (Potato Cheese Soup and Puff Potato Rounds),one shows downtown Boise and the last shows the Seven Devil Mountains.Last but not least,she included some cute stickers of Idaho.Thanks Jennifer for your lovely letter,beautiful photos,postcards,and stickers.You can see them all below:

PS-Sorry for the bad photo,her photos are really beautiful in person,but taking a picture of a picture isn't easy. :)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Letter #171 from Australia

Letter #171 comes from Kathleen in Australia.She lives in an area known as South East Queensland with her husband and two sons.She has sent us pages upon pages of information about her country along with many brochures and other goodies,so I will try to put in as much as I can.She has only begun penpalling just a few years ago and found our blog while searching for letters and letter writing blogs.She said she loves to write fat letters,which is great because we love to read fat letters. :) Like myself,Kathleen is the oldest of three children and says that people often come to her when they need a shoulder to lean on or just a boost in their life.

Heather and her family also have a couple of pets- a dog,two cats,two chooks,two ducks,sheep,one pig,ten zebra finches,tropical fish and a partridge in a pear tree...ok,so no partridge,but I just had to get that out. :) She has always been around nature/animals and loves it.Her parents also have a sheep and cattle property.

I didn't realize just how large Australia really is until after reading her letter and actually looking at the grpahics she enclosed showing just how big Australia is in comparison to the U.S.Even though her and her parents live in the same state,it's a nine hour drive to get there,so they try to get there a few times a year.

She also says that Australia is a dry continent and they often struggle with drought and this year they had floods,which probably was just as bad as the droughts for the farmers there.Like many of you may already know,since they are in a different hemisphere from the U.S.,they are in a different season right now,it's the beginning of winter.They also drive on the opposite side of the road.Even though they are a vast country,they have a small population due to large tracts of land that are inhabited.

Australia is also home to some unique creatures,such as kangaroos,possum,koala bears,emu,echidna,crocodiles,wombats,and platypus,just to name a few.Kathleen says that she has seen all of those animals and has held most of them.Her parents even have wild koalas on their property,along with kangaroos,emus and other native animals.All we see in our yard are the occasional deer,rabbits,and plenty of birds.She even had a pet kangaroo as a kid,until it was killed by a fox.Can you imagine having a pet kangaroo?

Kathleen and her siblings were homeschooled for a few years because they lived so far from town.When they were older,they went to school,but it was a one hour trip on the bus each way,so that made for a long day.She also says that even though her and her siblings are all different,they have gotten closer as adults since they are sharing similar situations in life.

Kathleen's favorite part of the day is early in the morning when most people are still asleep and the native animals are heading home after a night of activity or for a pre-dawn graze on the dew dropped grass.That's when the day is so new and fresh and full of possibilities.One of her favorite memories is as a kid,laying on her bed at night and hearing the birds sing their lullaby on a moonlit night.Sometimes she would sit on the porch and enjoy listening to nature and looking at the brightness of the night sky that she doesn't have in her area.I must say that I know what she is talking about because early in the morning,we'll open the windows to the sound of many birds singing the most beautiful song so early in the is so peaceful.That is when you hear them the most.We have so many different birds taht visit our property and we have one that has even made a nest under our carport on top of some vines.It is too high up for us to see if the babies have been born yet since you always hear so many birds,we don't know if they hatched or not.

In general,Australia has such a beautiful climate that many people love to eat "alfresco",which means outside.I love eating outside,but we have too many of natures smaller creatures attacking us,such as stink bugs,wasps,bees,mosquitos,etc....all the little creatures we don't like,we have. :) So we no longer enjoy outdoor picnics since we figure the neighbors will start thinking we are really weird when we all start running around and hollering. :) Tourists generally love the weather there since it's much warmer than Europe...many people even go swimming in the winter there.

She says that Queensland is known as the "Sunshine State" and has been recognized by a phrase relating to the weather- "Beautiful one day,perfect the next".I must say that is the best weather to have!

The flag of Australia features the stars of the Southern cross,the Union Jack and Commonwealth or Federation Star ,which has seven points representing the unity of the six states and territories of the Commonwealth of Australia..The Australian National Anthem is one of their most important national symbols.

Here are a few Australian word usage, or "slang" that she told us about:

loo or dunny means toilet
flat out means busy
bloke means a man
fair dinkum means to be honest
shout means to buy someone a drink
arvo is short for afternoon
chook means a chicken,usually a hen
cuppa means a cup of coffee or tea

Along with her fabulous letter,she sent us a variety of info and brochures.She really sent so much to share with us about her fabulous country!She also included stickers,brochures,clippings of her area and animals,stamps,play money,a flag,a recipe for Chocolate Slice and Anzac Biscuits,etc.She also included pictures comparing Australia's size with the U.S. and with all of Europe...I thought that was an excellent way to show their size.She even included a sample of Vegemite,which I know is famous with Australians,but most people dislike the taste...I'll probably have my daughter taste test it for us since I'm not too brave about trying new foods. ;)

Oh,since this post was about Australia,I wanted to recommend a great movie that my girls and I have really enjoyed,it's called "The Rabbit Proof Fence",about the aboriginal's really a sad story & I think you can watch it on youtube.I highly recommend you watch this great movie.My girls and I talked about it for days after watching it.

Thanks so very much Kathleen for all the goodies you have really sent us so much to tell us about your country and we truly appreciate it!Excuse me for any mistakes I may have made in the post,my eyes are about to fall out. :) Check out all the goodies below....we were shocked to get such a huge package for the project!

Letter #170 from Finland

Letter #170 comes from Heather in Finland.Heather is originally from Oregon but moved to Finland almost 12 years ago because of love.Aww, how sweet! ;) She says she loves living there and wouldn't trade it for the world,well,until those dark,cold winter months arrive,but even then,she still loves Finland.She says it's very beautiful and is a green and clean country.The people are very reserved and quiet until you get to know them.She said it was hard at first to get used to it being so quiet but has grown to love the silence.

Heather got her degree in Finland for International Business and told us that school in Finland is totally free for everybody!Yes,you heard that right,my favorite "f word"- free! :) That is so amazing that they truly see the value of providing everyone with a free education.I wonder if school will ever be free in the states...I doubt it. :(

She says Moomins is one of her favorite cartoons...ours,too.If you have never seen Moomins,you must watch it on youtube.I really love watching it with my daughter...wish we would have known about them when my girls were younger.My daughter even has a small collection of Moomins thanks to her wonderful Finnish penpal.We just can't get enough of the Moomins.Heather was so kind as to include a cute Moomins book titled, "The Unexpected Visit" and also a brochure about the Moomin Valley museum,which they are lucky to have there.I believe I recall reading somewhere (maybe in a letter to us) that the creator of the Moomins would draw the cartoons on the walls of her parents summer cottage,but never thought the cartoons would be successful.

When Heather isn't working,she enjoys spending time with her husband and two cats.She also loves to visit with friends when she has the time and she also enjoys arts and crafts,beading,glass jewelry,key chain dangles and just about a little bit of everything.She also loves to bake,which means she has to exercise a lot to work off those sweets. :)

She also wrote a couple of words for us in in Finnish and told us that the Finnish letters sound a lot like the Spanish letters.Here are some words for you:

cat= kissa
dog= koira
green= vihrea
blue= sininen
red= punainen
orange (color)= oransssi
orange (food) = apelsiini  (hmm,wonder what apple must be because that looks like it should be apple) :)
hello = Hei!/Moro!/Moi!
thanks = kiitos
my name is = minun nimeni on (your name here)

Thanks Heather for your lovely letter and for the key chain/cell phone dangles,Moomins book,Finland guide and Moomins Museum guide,which can all be seen below:

Monday, May 2, 2011

Letter #169 from Michigan

Letter #169 comes from Amanda in  "snowy" Michigan.Amanda lives in the upper peninsula of Michigan where winters are longer than in the lower peninsula.I know when we first moved to Michigan,we didn't realize that Michigan had an upper peninsula and I think most people don't realize that,either.She lives in the upper peninsula (also known as the UP) because she goes to school there,but has questioned her sanity for moving that far up north to go to school.She said from October to February,it snowed every single day,nonstop.

Amanda is studying Cellular and Molecular Biology at Northern Michigan University.She wishes she could be just a history major,but she doesn't like to teach or write,so she picked genetics to ensure she would have a job after graduation and because she gets to do her senior internship at the Mayo Clinic.The Mayo Clinic is the second best hospital in the country,behind John's Hopkins,they also have the best lab system and John's Hopkin's even runs some of their tests through the Mayo Clinic.She has to wait three years before doing her internship there,but she is really excited about it!

Amanda has also recently become hooked on postcrossing and loves the thrill of getting a postcard or letter in the mail.She also told us that if we ever go to the UP,we must try a pasty from Jean Kay's in Marquette,Michigan.She also told us that the upper peninsula has the highest concentration of Finnish people outside of Finland...see, even though we lived in Michigan,we didn't know that fact.We also didn't know either that people call the lower peninsula "troll land".Haha!

Along with her lovely letter,she sent us a printout of a little joke about the upper peninsula....maybe we can switch the peninsula's around and call the UP troll land...haha! ;)

Well,Amanda,we wish you all the best and hope that you are not continously stressed out and broke....those two things don't go good together. ;)  We also hope your exams went well!Thanks Amanda for writing!You can see her lovely letter and joke below:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Letters #134-168 from Germany

Letters #134-168 come from three great classes at the Albert-Schweitzer Schule.The children vary in ages from 6-10 years old.All of their fabulous letters are written in German,so we will have to translate them in order to know what they told us. :) They also drew some lovely pictures on their letters,which we really love!We really love getting letters from kids,especially classes.They all wrote about how they were going to celebrate Easter,so that is why you will see most drawings with bunnies on them. :) As we were skimming through the letters after opening them,we noticed a few signed their signatures starting with "Deine",so we thought that it must be a popular name,but after researching it online,we found out it wasn't their names,but it was the ending to their letter, "yours",like "yours truly",so that was pretty funny for us to find out. :)

Some of the kids did not sign their names,so maybe their teacher can tell us who we missed and if we messed up any of their names,we apologize and will correct it asap.Thanks Alexandra for getting your students to participate...tell them we loved all of their letters and drawings.Here are the names we could find on the letters,so we want to give a big thanks to these students below for their letters:

Van Jaqueline
Darold ?
Von Nergis

And here are their beautiful letters:

Letter #133 from California

Letter #133 comes from Stephanie in California.Stephanie lives in the California Bay area,which is 20 miles from San Francisco.The land and residents of the Bay area is very diverse.She says that when she drives through Berkeley,there are tiny concentrated areas of great diversity of which you can find anything you want,from kosher foods to Spanish foods to Japanese foods due to the diversity of the area.Stephanie considers herself very lucky to have easy access to a variety of food.We miss that about Michigan,here in Virginia,where we live,there isn't that much diversity when it comes to grocery stores and we really miss that.

As many already know,California has many geologic faults.One thing I didn't know,is that they get earthquakes every day,but most are only 1.0 on the richter scale,so she doesn't even notice them,but says that when she does notice them it feels like a big truck has drove down her street.I think I would always be worried that it's the big one,but I guess after living there a while,you get used to it and realize it's nothing.She says that these tiny quakes are actually good,which is something I didn't think about,but it's true.It's better to have many small ones,than one big one.She compared it to a stretched rubber band,it's much better to release it slowly instead of letting it go quickly so it doesn't snap back so hard.

Stepahanie loves to do needlecrafts,some knitting and quilting.She says that even though quilting is quite tedious work,the end result is very satisfying.She also likes to garden and is experimenting with some new things this year,such as a plant called a ground cherry,which has fruit that grows nestled in leaves like a Chinese lantern plant.She says it tastes very sweet and tropical and hasn't been able to find the fruit in any stores,so she has decided to try growing it herself so she can enjoy this fabulous fruit.I hope she is able to grow it successfully.Last summer my husband planted some squash seeds and he was so succcesful,I think we could have fed a few families since it was so huge!

Stephanie enjoys volunteering in the animal husbandry department of her local aquarium.She gets to play with a variety of animals,including chinchillas,turtles,tortoises,kingsnakes,and more.Of course there is a down side to this-cleaning the cages,which is not fun at all,but overall,she feels that she gets to do what most would consider "goofing off".She enjoys playing with the animals.

Along with her lovely letter,she has enclosed some great Japanese paper and some tea bags.Thanks so much!You can see her letter and goodies below:

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