Penpalling & Letters

Saturday, 25 June 2011


Have you already prepared your baggage? We have an appointment today to start a new trip through Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background. We are stopping at the Scandinavian Peninsula in northern Europe, in a country bathed by the Baltic Sea. 15% of its territory lies north of the Arctic Circle and more than 50% of its land area is covered with forests. It's the land of Pippi Longstocking, Nils Holgerssons, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, Björn Borg, ABBA or Roxette... Then it is not difficult to guess we are visiting Sweden today!

Hello Sandra and welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Thanks for your visit and sharing knowledge from your country with all the readers! Would you like to tell us a bit about you and the place you live?

Hello everybody! As you know my name is Sandra. I live in the County Värmland, about 250 kilometres west of Sweden capital, Stockholm. In December, 2007 we bought a cute house out in the forest, in a little village called Bjurtjärn. The village is from the 17th century. There are no shopping areas around here, mostly houses and forest. Nature would be the most important thing to see here, I guess. We are about 1201 inhabitants, and the biggest working place is the school. Many of us work in surrounding cities, like Karlskoga, Kristinehamn or Storfors. They are all located about 20 kilometres far from Bjurtjärn.

Would you like to tell us about your experiences in the world of letters, Sandra?

I started penpalling when I was a kid. At first, I started writing to Swedish pals I found in magazines, then I continued to get pals trough IYS-International Youth Service. I am still in touch with my longest-lasting penpal trough e-mail and now she is on Facebook, too. We don't write letters to each other anymore, though. At about the age of 16 I stopped penpalling because other stuff caught my attention. As we moved out here and I had kids, evenings got quite boring, especially since I don't watch tv. I searched for a hobby, remembered penpalling, and through Facebook and Interpals I got quite a few which I have been writing to for some years now!
I also started collecting postcards last year as I would love to do scrapbooking albums with them. I am a postcrosser and I got to know about it trough my pals on Facebook.
I also love anything to do with letter-writing: stationery, stickers, pens... I always write with my Pilot Frixion ball-pen, though. I collect Hello Kitty stuff and anything else my pals like to send me!

Are you looking for penpals at the moment?

I'm always on the look out for penpals whom I can find a real click to. Unfortunately, my muscle problem (fibromyalgia) makes it harder and harder for me to keep on writing. Most of my pals accept it, though, and are very understanding about my late replies! :)
Anyhow the click with pals is important because I want friends whom I eventually might meet for real. I like talking about anything in my letters, family problems, happiness, what makes them scared or sad... I love long letters and I can go on and on... page after page! ;) Sharing our lives is a important thing for me!

And now Sandra is ready to tell us about Midsummer celebrations in Sweden!

As most of you know, Sweden is a country in the north of Europe which has short summers and where the Sun hardly sets during this season. During "Midsummer" many people begin their five-week annual holiday.
The European Midsummer related holidays are of pre-Christian origin. It is particularly important in northern Europe, for example: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. But they can also be found in Ireland, parts of Britain, France and Italy. The Swedes seem to celebrate midsummer more intensely than other countries.
Originally, when the Vikings ravaged in Scandinavia and many other places, midsummer was a fertility rite. The maypole was a phallic symbol, which was supposed to fertilize Mother Nature in hope that the harvest would be good later during the year.
Although midsummer is originally a pagan holiday, in Christianity it is associated with the nativity of John the Baptist.
Formerly, Midsummer in Sweden was celebrated on the 23rd-24th, June, but since 1953 the celebration has been moved to the Friday and Saturday between the 19th and 26th, June, with the main celebrations taking place during Friday.

Midsummer night has always been the night when magic happens, the nature was filled with hidden powers. Especially the dew was considered magical and was used to heal sickness and all kinds of wounds. You could also add some to the dough when baking and the bread would be bigger and much tastier. Perhaps we should try!
Birch trees, which also were said to be powerful, could be used as a bandage and if you put some night leaves in your bath it eased the pain.
This is also the magical night when elves come out to dance and if you look hard, perhaps you could also see a troll between the trees!
When I was younger, and as many other Swedish girls, I believed in magic during this night. It is said that if you are all alone and don't speak a word to anyone, pick seven to nine different flowers and put them under your pillow, you will dream of your future husband.

Around Sweden many people begin their Midsummer Eve picking flowers and making wreaths to place on the maypole. When this is done the maypole is raised in an open spot with folk music and many are dressed in national costumes and costumes specific for different counties. We, the strict Swedes, then dance around the pole singing old songs and just being silly for one day. You can also see many girls wearing wreaths in their hair and as for me and my daughter, we'll be doing the same.
Family and friends get together during Midsummer Eve to eat pickled herring, the first fresh potatoes for the season, sour cream, crisp bread and for drinks we serve snaps (Vodka). Fresh strawberries are also important as a dessert.

Thanks for participating in Penpalling & Letters, Sandra! I enjoyed very much reading about the celebrations of Midsummer in Sweden and your customs and traditions during these days! Whenever you feel like participating again you are welcome here!

If you are interested in reading more articles featuring characteristics of our homelands don't forget to check: Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background.

I am always looking for people who would like to take part in this section of the Blog: Travelling around the World. If you would like to write about any aspects of your homeland don't hesitate to contact me at: penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com and we will work on it!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

"Moonstone Shop - The magic essence of creativity" & Giveaway

Welcome everybody to a new interview belonging to "The person behind the letter-writer". Penpalling & Letters today's guest is Laura! Laura will not only tell us about her handmade abilities or let us enter her magical world of handmade creations, but has prepared a heartful surprise to all the readers of Penpalling and Letters and "Moonstone Shop - The magic essence of creativity".

- Hello Laura! Welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Thanks for visiting us here and for taking part in The person behind the letter-writer! We are looking forward to get to know you, your penpalling experiences and hearing about your handcrafts! Would you like to present yourself?

Hello! My name is Laura and I am a 33 year-old Romanian woman. I am a professor of French Language and Literature in my every day life, a profession that I have had for ten years already. I am also a jewelry maker (which is the reason why I am here), activity that I have started more recently.
I am a magical spirit, I love art, books - I am interested in esotherism, magical arts, legends, mythology, folklore and traditions – I love theatre, good music, I adore mountains and forests (I live in Transilvania) and nature is my sanctuary. I am creative. Besides jewelry making I also love to make art-Decos, ATCs, all kind of collages and mixed media. I am faithful to alternative themes - magic, fantasy, dark and introspective, creative-twisted themes which can be interpreted freely, mythology and folklore, nature and seasonal, literature inspiration, emotions...
I started writing letters when I was fourteen years old, that means twenty years ago. Meanwhile, I substituted my penpalling activity with the mail-art activities (especially swapping art-Decos). I still have a few penfriends and I love them because they are very old friends. Currently, I am not making new penfriends because I could not possibly have the time to deal with so much mail. So, I am focused on swapping privately but also in an organized way, via Yahoo groups. The things that I swap depend on my partners, but they are mostly art-decos, deco-supplies, small gifts and other nice and creative things.

- Laura, could you tell us what do you create and where do you find your inspiration?

My jewelries are mostly touched by magical and nature inspiration. They are that kind of things that fairies and enchanted spirits wear. I also create amulets, runes and other magical suff, every time I have the proper energy for them.

- Which kind of materials do you use?

I love working with clay, as you can see in my most recent creations posted on my site, and I intend to keep on focusing on using clay in the future, too. I also use beautiful beads, pearls, semiprecious stones, gems, cristals, wood, fabric, lace, ribbons and metallic accessories.

- Do you build a pattern in your head before getting started or do you work on the item "improvising", just as inspiration comes?

No, I do not build patterns before starting a jewelry. But I always have inside my head a some kind of an intuition about what I want to do and... I just follow it!

- For how long have you been working into handmade jewelries by now, Laura?

For about two years now, althoug I opened my online shop only six months ago...

- How much time do you dedicate to each item until it is finished?

That depends on how much available time I have for this activity. Earrings are small and easier to make, but necklaces can be very tricky, especially when I make clay-pendants: the process takes time, the air dry clay that I am working with needs a proper time to dry several times (immediately after shaping it, then after painting it, after varnishing it...).

- Do you present your creations in an online website where it is possible to check them?

Yes, like I said, I have an online little personal shop – "Moonstone Shop" (I am very proud of it!) - where I upload some of my jewelries. Not all of them, because I also receive special orders: people that ask me to transform their idea about a jewelry into reality and, in this case, I do not upload the products in my shop considering that they are or will soon be sold anyway. "Moonstone Shop" is a place to sell some of my jewelries, not a portfolio.

- Which creations interest your customers the most?

The magical things are very much loved. I sold my runes and most of the amulets very soon after uploading them into my shop (I am now in the process to create new ones). Also, people seem to like vintage inspired jewelries. I am not into vintage very much, but I created and will keep on creating designs upon request and wishes of a customer, as long as I have proper supplies.

- Could you explain us how purchasing, payment and shipping work in Moonstone Shop?

It is quite easy for everyone, they do not need Paypal or a card. The customers have to send me an e-mail about what they want to buy from my Moonstone Shop and I will send them a confirmation e-mail with the sum of money that they have to send me (the price of the object(s) plus the shipping costs) and also the informations for the bank transfer. If they have a card, they can send the money directly, if not, all they have to do is to go to a bank in their own city/town and send the money from there. The bank transfer is not so complicated and it works for everybody. All these informations are on my site (see the tabs in the homepage) but, of course, I am here for any further explanations. If there is somebody who prefers to pay using dollars instead of euros, I can convert the price anytime. All they have to do is contacting me.

- Can we find "Moonstone Shop" in Facebook, Twitter... as well?

The main shop is located on Blogger, here: "Moonstone Shop". I can also be "liked" on Facebook, here: "Moonstone Shop" in Facebook.

As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Laura has a little surprise for everyone reading this interview and checking her cute shop, "Moonstone Shop": a giveaway, consisting of a complete set of jewelries, "Fairies Falls" (necklace, earrings and bracelet), created with mountain crystals, glass silvery beads, pendant with little stones, silvery chain and metallic accessories. A very delicate set, made for magical summer evenings.
Everybody who participates has a chance to win this set! Just go to Laura's Moonstone Shop's most recent post here: "Moonstone Shop" Giveaway and follow the "rules"! You also can see pics of this beautiful jewelry-set Laura offers in her Shop. The deadline to participate in this summer giveaway is July, 15th at midnight (Romania Time/GMT+3). The winner will be announced on July, 16th 2011.

Good luck everyone and hopefully you enjoyed meeting Laura!

Laura, many thanks for taking part in The person behind the letter-writer! It was a great pleasure to work together with you to present this interesting interview and contest to the readers! You know you are always welcome to Penpalling & Letters whenever you wish to be back!

If you would like to read more posts from "The person behind the letter-writer" section check the links you can find at: The person behind the letter-writer.

If you are interested in being featured in "The person behind the letter-writer" because you have a cute shop, you are crafty and would like to present your creations, you have an ability and would like to tell us about it... contact me at: penpallingandletters[at]gmail[dot]com and we will work it out!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Sandbook Penpalling Magazine Issue 8

The eighth issue of the penpalling magazine edited and produced by Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site corresponding to the month of June is already online. As always, it is on digital format and you can download it as a PDF file at the website: Sandbook Magazine - Issue 8. Have you never heard before about this penpalling magazine? Did you miss any of the previous issues? You still can download them at: Sandbook Magazine Archive.

If you are interested in taking part in future issues of the magazine or the booklet check how to do it in this link: "What to do to participate in Sandbook Magazine".

As in previous occasions, issue number 9 corresponding to the month of July will be online on the 11th July 2011 at: Sandbook.Net Penpal and Swappers Site. There will be a new Booklet coming out in the following days, too. Don't miss any of them! You will be able to read many interesting articles and news on penpalling and other different topics!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Hermes, the herald of gods

In Greek mythology, Hermes is the messenger of the gods and a guide for souls to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. He is an Olympian god and also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of thieves, of orators and wit, of literature and poets, of athletics and sports, of weights and measures, of invention, and of commerce in general. He is represented with winged sandals, covering his head with a winged hat and brandishing the caduceus (a golden stick). His symbols include the tortoise, the rooster, the lamb carried on his shoulders as well as the lyre and the flute.

In Roman mythology, Hermes was identified with the Roman god Mercury, who developed many similar characteristics, such as being the patron of commerce.

Hermes is a messenger from the gods to humans, delivering messages from the Olympus to the mortal world. When wearing his winged sandals he flies freely between the mortal and immortal world. In addition to the lyre and the flute, Hermes was believed to have invented many types of racing and the sports of wrestling and boxing, and therefore, was a patron of athletes.
Hermes serves as the guide for the dead to help them find their way to the Underworld. In many Greek myths, Hermes was depicted as the only god besides Hades, Persephone, Hecate and Thanatos who could enter and leave the Underworld without obstacles. Hermes often helped travelers having a safe and easy journey. Many Greeks would sacrifice to Hermes before any trip.

Hermes is the son of Zeus and Maia, a nymph, one of the seven Pleiades, daughter of Atlas and Pleione. In a cave, hidden from human eyes and particularly the jealous Hera, Zeus' wife, Maia gave birth to Hermes. Hermes was precocious. On his first day of life he crawled away to Thessaly and by nightfall he stole some of Apollo's immortal cattle and also invented the lyre. Hermes drove the cattle back to Greece and hid them, walking them backwards so that their tracks seemed to be going in the wrong direction. When Apollo accused Hermes, Maia refused to believe him as she thought Hermes was with her the whole night. However, Zeus entered the argument and said that Hermes did steal the cattle and it should be returned. While arguing with Apollo, Hermes began to play his lyre. The instrument enchanted Apollo and he agreed to let Hermes keep the cattle in exchange for the lyre.
Later on, Hermes, while taking care of the cattle, invented the flute. Apollo wanted to buy this new musical instrument and offered Hermes his golden stick as payment. Besides, Hermes asked for prediction lectures. Apollo acepted, and ever since, the golden stick, called "caduceus" became one of Hermes symbols. He also learnt how to predict the future by means of pebbles. Zeus, satisfied with the abilities of Hermes, named him his herald and messenger, as well as to serve the gods of the Underworld, Hades and Persephone.

The caduceus is the golden stick carried by Hermes in Greek mythology. The stick was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera. It is a short golden stick entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings. In Roman iconography it was often depicted being carried in the left hand of Mercury (Hermes). The legend says that Hermes saw two serpents entwined in mortal combat. Separating them with his wand, he brought peace between them, and as a result the wand with two serpents came to be seen as a sign of peace.
As a symbolic object it represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name. The caduceus is also a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation.
The two entwined snakes of the caduceus represent number eight as well, and they are the equilibrium symbol between contrary forces. Besides, they represent the ethernal cosmic movement, base of regenaration and infinite.
The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine because of widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the Rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.

Finally, here you can see a picture of a Greek mailbox, belonging to the Greek postal company ΕΛΤΑ. It was sent to me by my friend, Evi, who actually, inspired me to do this post about the Greek god of messengers and communication. She accompanied the picture together with this text to me: "The Greek mail service is ELTA (ΕΛΤΑ), which you see written on the mailbox. The face is supposed to be the face of Hermes one of the t Gods of Olympus according to our ancient mythology, who was a son of Zeus and Maya (one of Atlas's daughters). In that "godly society" Hermes used to have the role of the herald, he was the one who usually delivered the news to and from the mortal world. He was also the protector of travelers, thieves, gamblers and the trade. Moreover, he was the one who lead the way of the dead to the underworld. The most typical symbols of Hermes were the caduceus and the winged sandals, which enabled him to fly. I think Hermes is the most human-like godly figure of Greek mythology..." Thank you, Evi!