Penpals – What I look for in a new one

I have been penpalling for over a decade but during the last couple of years I’ve started to realise and recognize what kind of pals I really want and to whom writing doesn’t feel like a chore but finishing the letter makes you feel a bit empty – just like when you say bye to a friend you don’t meet that often. You start waiting for the reply and feel happy to be able to write to him/her again.

First letter I sent to South Korea

First letter I sent to South Korea

What that means in a nutshell is that I adore letters that are personal, interesting and usually longer than just a couple of pages. The famous “click” is also a big plus. But there are also other things that I prefer having and there’s no way you could explain the “click” to a non penpaller. You just have it or you don’t and it’s usually best to drop those with whom you don’t have the “click” with.

Off to the list (I think) so that I won’t just ramble through the whole night.

1) Some similar interests
But NOT just letter writing, how awful could it be to write with a person who’s totally opposite of you and hates everything you like.. Sure it could work but I’d feel bad not to be able to talk about things I really like. For example I have quite many pals that are Moomin fans and it’s always a nice to talk about those cuddly characters and how the real home town of them is actually Porvoo, not Naantali ;D But like Jenny wrote in the comment section in my last post – No way I start sending Moomin stuff just because there’s a similarity, Moomin stuff is expensive, even in Finland and postage even more expensive.
Similar likes just mean that there is always something to talk about and you know that for example a Moomin/cat/nature/fantasy card every now and then could make your pal’s day 🙂

Postcards are amazing :)

Postcards are amazing 🙂

2) Patience
This could  have been the first one to be written. Right now my pals need a LOT of patience if they want to write with me. I’ve taken almost a month off from letters due to school work and haven’t really written anything but some Christmas cards and postcrossing cards now and then when word document has stayed empty for over 10 minutes and my inspiration is nowhere to be found.
There is life outside of penpalling and when writing with me it’s good to have loads of patience as now and then I write back immediately, sometimes it can take months…………….

3) English skills
I can’t write with people who can barely write English – I wouldn’t understand that and believe me, I’ve tried. I tend to look for people with at least intermediate skills in English so that they can express themselves without that many problems and would understand my ramblings. 🙂

4) TIME
in a way that they have the time to spend on writing as much as comes naturally and not just a one or two sided letter now and then. Even pals who write to each other rather fast can easily write pages and pages. 🙂

Packages/Presents I've gotten for Christmas :)

Packages/Presents I’ve gotten for Christmas from a couple of pals 🙂

5) Proper Introduction
If I’m contacted via Penpalling site, for example Interpals, I hope to receive a proper introduction message instead of just an empty message asking to be pals. I’ve also received emails with just
“Do you want to write with me?”
No introduction at all. No name, age, where the sender is from or any likes/dislikes/hobbies. How can you just say yes and start writing to the sender? You don’t walk to a stranger and just ask them to become your friend in everyday life, it just doesn’t work like that, so why should it work in penpalling world?

And (“unfortunately”) that’s all I require from my pals. I don’t care about the age – I have pals that are 17 years old and pals who are in their 40s. Why would I care about the age if we actually have something to write about? Also nationality doesn’t matter. When I first started writing with foreigners I tried to avoid Finns the best I could but now I absolutely adore having pals from Finland as well – the mail travels in a day or two and I can get the reply within the same week if I’m lucky and my pal has nothing better to do 😉

Some of my pals have kids but I don’t mind as that means I can talk as much about my furry little baby as they talk about their kids. 🙂 The good thing about my baby is that he never starts whining or throw a tantrum ;P And he’s sometimes writing with me 🙂

Just look at that cutie :3

Just look at that cutie :3

Whenever a pal of mine drinks tea it’s just a big advantage 😀 I’ve exchanges teas with pals many times and I usually enclose at least one tea bag with each letter I send to a pal who drinks tea, for example Emma and Estrella 🙂 And it’s always amazing to receive teas that I can’t get from Finland or try new teas I haven’t bought yet.. Or just get more of Lipton’s Green Tea Strawberry Cupcake tea x3

Not my favourite mug but I bough it for myself on my 21st birthday and do drink tea from it when my bigger mugs are dirty :P

Not my favourite mug but I bough it for myself on my 21st birthday and do drink tea from it when my bigger mugs are dirty 😛

What kind of requirements you have/what are you looking for when you’re open for one or two new pals?

-Kristiina

How I Store Everything?

After 12 years of penpalling I have SOME received letters and letter supplies to store. Probably even too much. As some blogs that I love to follow (mostly Finnish ones) have posted how they store their supplies so I chose to jump to the bandwagon and show how I store everything in my room. Please note that I have burnt some letters (and postcards) that I have received, mostly from people who wrote a letter or two (or UGLY postcrossing cards) and then decided not to write back anymore – I know some penpallers (or postcrossers) might see this nearly sacrilegious but I don’t have that much space to store letters in and I’m soon moving out and need to take everything with me so it’d be nice if half of my stuff wouldn’t be letters or postcards.

But to storage~
I store my letters in three different boxes.

Floral box for received letters (and postcards) that I haven’t replied to yet

Bought from Tiger

Bought from Tiger

Peek to the box that reminds me I have to get my assignments done asap so that I have time to write letters!!!

Peek to the box that reminds me I have to get my assignments done asap so that I have time to write letters and postcards!!!

A huge box I took from my last apartment – my ex flatmate used it to carry her laundry to the laundromat and back but left it to us when she moved to Austria. So I chose to use it to store my foreign (replied) letters in it.

Foreign letters 2009-2013

Foreign letters 2009-2013

Just so you'd understand how big it really is :)

Just so you’d understand how big it really is 🙂

White box for Finnish letters

Finnish letters from 2001 to 2013

Finnish letters from 2001 to 2013

Then I have two boxes for two different kind of postcards – postcards to be sent to penpals/via Postcrossing and a small tin box with beautiful postcards and unwritten cards from penpals I want to put to my postcard collections as written. Sometimes when I don’t have fitting postcards in my “to be sent” box I go to my favourite cards box and pick a card from there.

To be sent postcards - I've divided those by themes, for example Moomins, Jetoys, Animals, Finland, Other countries, Christmas cards and illustrations

To be sent postcards – I’ve divided those by themes, for example Moomins, Jetoys, Animals, Finland, Other countries, Christmas cards and illustrations

Unwritten cards from swaps and penpals - I usually send these to my pals asking them to write something to those and send back to me :)

Unwritten cards from swaps and penpals – I usually send these to my pals asking them to write something to those and send back to me 🙂 All sorts of cards and mixed themes

Another tin box (I received these as Christmas presents from my parents some years ago – for postcards that I’ve received. After nearly 700 received postcards via postcrossing those aren’t big enough ;))

All my stickers BARELY fit the tin box - I buy more before I've used up all the stickers I already have :S

All my stickers BARELY fit the tin box – I buy more before I’ve used up all the stickers I already have :S

For letters and postcard to be sent I have a small tissue holder that I liked and bought instead of those lovely “MAIL” holders that cost quite a lot 😦

Hearts for the love of penpalling and Postcrossing :)

Hearts for the love of penpalling and Postcrossing 🙂

For my stamps I have a small folder you get from Post Office if you order stamps online (I think I have at least 3 of those). And the stamp sheets I’ve promised for certain pals I keep separately and most of the time remember which sheet is for who 🙂

Stamps folder and my current stamps - running out once again! :S

Stamps folder and my current stamps – running out once again! :S

Sheets for my Malaysian postcard pal, German penpal and my BFF

Sheets for my Malaysian postcard pal, German penpal and my BFF

And last but not least my huge collection of different letter sets.. I have way too much of those but can I give those away? Most of the time no. Does it stop me from buying more and new ones? Unfortunately not.

Unopened and barely opened letter sets, unused letter pads, some swapped sets (envelope + 2 papers) - envelopes and papers that don't match are stored separately in 2 other boxes I cann't find right now.

Unopened and barely opened letter sets, unused letter pads, some swapped sets (envelope + 2 papers) – envelopes and papers that don’t match are stored separately in 2 other boxes I cann’t find right now.

My favourite letter sets that I haven’t even opened because I don’t want those to run out?

I love fairytale themes, Amy and Tim, Miki, Angry Birds and everything UK themed

I love fairytale themes, Amy and Tim, Miki, Angry Birds and everything UK themed

And my most favourite sets - 5 different Sentimental Circus letter sets :3

And my most favourite sets – 5 different Sentimental Circus letter sets :3

Have you gotten rid of some of the letters or postcards you’ve received (if yes, how)? Do you have some exact places where you store your supplies and/or received letters and postcards? 🙂 Do you have some letter set brands or characters that you really love and store unable to open and start using those? 🙂

~Kristiina

Letter Writing Habits

Been a while! Mostly because school has kept me busy so I haven’t had the time to write letters (only a couple of postcrossing cards and cards to my postcard pals now and then) so there wasn’t any time to take pictures for this post either. Luckily now I have a long weekend (4 days) and I’ve written all the needed assignments and essays so I can sit down, relax, make a cup of tea and start writing back to my pals who have been waiting for my reply for way too long!

Usually I start by cleaning up my desk as no matter what I do and how little I write it ALWAYS ends up looking like this while I’m writing:

I can't keep it clean as I need to have papers and stickers nearby!

I can’t keep it clean as I need to have papers and stickers nearby!

So I started today with cleaning it up and started playing Todd (In The Shadows)’s Pop Song Reviews from blip.tv

Clean desk and Todd's "Top10 songs about mediocre romance"

Clean desk and Todd’s “The Top Ten Songs About Mediocre Romance

and as it’s visible in the picture I made some tea (I usually need to go and refill my mug 2-10 times per letter, depending on how long the reply is). At the moment my favourite tea is Lipton’s Vanilla Caramel tea (which I found thanks to Mary Ihmemaassa blog or her Instagram, can’t remember which) and I drink black tea with milk but leave it out when drinking green or herbal teas.

This, Strawberry cupcake and Blueberry Muffin are the best Lipton teas there are :3

This, Strawberry cupcake and Blueberry Muffin are the best Lipton teas there are :3

After everything needed is done I reread a letter I’m replying to, in this case Maria’s letter from a couple of months ago.. I really hope I manage to get a lot of letter writing done this weekend!! X__x

Love it when she uses the letter papers I gave to her for her birthday/Christmas present :3

Love it when she uses the letter papers I gave to her for her birthday/Christmas present :3

and then starts my favourite part of letter writing:
looking up the address whenever my pal hasn’t written it on the envelope

Bigger notebook from Maria back in 2010, smaller from my British penpal from 2012 - bigger one stays at home, smaller one travels with me wherever I go so that I can send postcards to my pals :3

Bigger notebook from Maria back in 2010, smaller from my British penpal from 2012 – bigger one stays at home, smaller one travels with me wherever I go so that I can send postcards to my pals :3

Afterwards I go through the stamps unless I’ve promised to use a certain set for a pal who collects stamps like I do 🙂 In Maria’s case I get to choose the stamps myself 🙂 And as Christmas is coming soon I’ve even managed to get those new Christmas stamps!

Autumn and Angry Birds stamps as well as 1st class (priority), 2nd class (domestic) and 0,65€ (for Christmas postcards within Finland) stamps and of course a set of 0,2€ stamps so that I can use those Christmas card stamps while sending a letter abroad

Autumn and Angry Birds stamps as well as 1st class – boy (priority), 2nd class – Angel (domestic) and 0,65€ – hug/kiss (for Christmas postcards within Finland) stamps and of course a set of 0,2€ stamps so that I can use those Christmas card stamps while sending a letter abroad

And then I start decorating the envelope if it’s plain and not from one of those kawaii letter sets I have.

This time the envelope is black so I wrote the address on a sticky label I bought from Tiger store and put a 3D wall sticker (also from Tiger)

This time the envelope is black so I wrote the address on a sticky label I bought from Tiger store and put a 3D wall sticker (also from Tiger)

Then I go through what I could send to my pal with the letter. I tend to enclose something small with every letter I send. This time I ended up sending some postcards.

Moomins, Asian related and Jetoy cat cards

Moomins, Asian related and Jetoy cat cards

Most of the time I enclose tea bags, stickers, sweets or small tapes for my pals

Nordqvist teas, some Disney jelly beans and a tape

Nordqvist teas, some Disney jelly beans and a tape for another pal

Then I choose the letter paper I write the letter on, choose stickers and after all that I FINALLY start writing the letter!

Amy and Tim letter set

Amy and Tim letter set

Stickers and glossy scraps(?) to use for decorating the back side of the paper

Stickers and glossy scraps(?) to use for decorating the back side of the paper

and start writing

and start writing

Yes, writing one letter takes a LOT of time from me and I bet you can understand why 🙂 Each part of my letter writing habits is important! 🙂 And I usually need a little bit of inspiration to start writing as well 🙂

Do YOU have some habits without which you just can’t start writing a letter? 🙂

-Kristiina

Where do I buy postcards and letter supplies from?

I was planning to write a post last week but as I’m apparently the only one in my family who has a camera and my mum was going to Paris so I gave her my camera (and she ended up not getting how the camera works – bought it in 2008 and have let it get wet in a pouring rain in 2011- so she didn’t even get that many photos and instead used her phone). I’ve also been a bit lazy and uninspired 😦

Luckily mail brought me my letter set, postcard and sticker orders from Postcardgarden and Perromania and those got me inspired.

Letter sets, papers and a couple of envelope sets

Letter sets, papers and a couple of envelope sets from Postcard garden

Postcards and one set of stickers

Postcards and one set of stickers

Moomins and Belle and Boo card from Perromania

Moomins and Belle and Boo card from Perromania

World Heritage Site cards from Perromania

World Heritage Site cards from Perromania

Cards from Porvoo Autumn Market (Oct 3rd-4th) Moomin cards for only 0,5€ :)

Cards from Porvoo Autumn Market (Oct 3rd-4th) Moomin cards for only 0,5€ 🙂

From where do YOU buy your letter/postcrossing supplies?

At least in Finland letter sets/papers are nearly impossible to find unless you want to use those boring white lined papers or buy expensive 10 papers + 10 envelopes set “meant for little kids”. I do buy those whenever I get the chance to or find those but 3€ for such a small amount of paper is ridiculous – I usually use 3-5 A5 pages per letter.

Postcardgarden

As those are rather expensive and hard to find I’ve started to order letter sets and pads online since 2010 when I found Finnish online store Postcardgarden. Back then it was rather small and everything wasn’t sold out the moment it hit the store like nowadays and unless my memory betrays me I’d argue that back then the prices were lower. The prices in the store are high compared to many other foreign stores but for, at least, Finns the postage is free after you’ve spent over 20€ (which is easily done with just buying 3 different letter sets).  The postcards are the main focus in the store but the sticker and paper selections are good if you manage to click to the site when the new products are put up (I recommend you to follow their Facebook page where the new products are mentioned).

The foreign stores I tend to use the most are Modes4u from Hong Kong and Janetstore from Taiwan.

Modes4U

Modes4u might have a smaller selection of goodies and is more expensive BUT the store offers free postage after you’ve used over 60€ at the store. And they ALWAYS have some Sentimental Circus goodies no matter when you’re looking. (I’m a HUGE SC fan and I LOVE the stickers and letter sets SO much!!).

Janetstore

Janetstore has good selection, I could use hours and hours going through the site, and the prices are quite low, for example one of my favourite letter sets, Amy and Tim (80 papers and 8 envelopes) costs nearly 9€ in Postcardgarden while in Janetstore the price is $2.8. Everything is cheaper than in any other online store. So what’s the catch? The postage prices are usually ridiculously high. If you spend the minimum of $10 in the store, no matter WHAT you buy, be it only stickers and small letter sets you can expect the postage to be at least $10. Last year I and my flatmate chose to order something together from Janetstore as its selection is amazing. We spent 90€ in total, of which 40€ went to postage. 40€. RIDICCULOUS.

The shipping is FAST in all of the stores. I usually wait for a week, max.2 and I have everything in my hands 🙂

Postcards on the other hand..

I tend to buy most of my postcards from a small store in Porvoo called Sadunhenki as the postcards from there are CHEAP. The cheapest cards are just 0,3€ and the most expensive ones are 1€. And the most important thing is that all the Moomin cards are only 0,5€! 😉 CHEAP compared to the normal store prices that tend to be 1,5-4,8€.

Perromania

But online stores that I use are mostly Postcardgarden, though I don’t usually buy that many cards from there, and I finally tried my luck with Perromania, a store that has had its ads in Postcrossing.com and I’ve read of in some Finnish blogs (and yes, they mail abroad as well ;)). I bought way too many Christmas cards from the store and some “rare” Moomin cards as well as UNESCO World Heritage Postcards for a postcard pal of mine who seems to collect those now 🙂 So far all of these stores have worked just fine for me but does anyone know a good online store for letter papers within Europe? I’d rather not pay high postage and pay a lot to the customs as all the orders OVER 23€ outside of Europe are stuck until you pay a lot. Any other recommendations than Postcardgarden

-Kristiina