Friday, February 26, 2010

Family Ties

This will be a quick post as J has to get on our [one] computer to do some work on a big paper he has due on Tuesday. But, I really did want to share some mail I got today that made me very happy. The incoming is:

^A beautiful postcard of Rhode Island from The Missive Maven to add to my collection for my 50 State Challenge! She told me to let her know if it wasn't "Rhode Island" enough for my challenge...if the Maven is reading, it's perfect! :)

Second incoming was:

^Probably the quirkiest, most out-of-the-ordinary piece of mail I've yet to receive, from my cousin Colleen, who is quite the artist. It is a piece of cardboard that looks like it has been spray-painted with silver paint [it had a very particular scent], then has a hand-sewn piece of fabric stapled to the front. Also, those purple gems are 3-D and stand about 1/4 inch off the card. She said the mail worker calculating her postage actually cut his finger on the staples she used to apply the fabric piece...not sure if she was kidding or not but the staples were taped over...hehe...She has her own etsy shop; I should really get her shop name so I can link it here. She has some amazing quilts on there! I can't wait to come up with something to send her back. This postcard really reminds me that there are [almost] no limits as to what can't be sent through the mail. Colleen, if you're reading, I of course LOVE it!

^Back. This was actually my 2nd card from Montana...

I really should get on some responses to a couple letters I've gotten this week. I have been busy working on some homemade stationery for Megan's stationery swap; partners have just been assigned, actually! It turns out my partner is Patty of Just Letter Rip, who was the first participant in my 50 State Challenge...what a coincidence, right?! I love when stuff like that happens...of all the people who signed up for Megan's swap, my partner is one of the first people I had already 'met' after I got my blog up and running. Anyhow, I've got to start putting together some fun stuff for this swap...I can't wait! :)

Jeez, I LOVE MAIL! LoL, sorry that was just one of those outbursts I had to type, because I seriously am just looking at all this great mail I have received and it makes me feel so good! I've said it once, and I've said it again, but I am such a mail geek, and I'm glad I've found all you kindred spirits out there who share the love.

Until next time.

Aaron :)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Getting the Word Out

^From here

Since I've had such great support from fellow bloggers, helping me get the word out in the beginning stages of my blog, I wanted to take this chance to earn some blogging karma points and plug some other bloggers' current projects. Before I start, I want to say thanks so much to The Missive Maven for giving me a huge shout-out on her blog and getting me so many responses for my 50 State Challenge! I can't wait to see what I get in the mail in the coming weeks. AND, thank you to everyone who is participating as well! Bianca over at Goodnight Little Spoon also gave me a plug on one of her recent posts; thanks a bunch! Both ladies have awesome post-based blogs, and I highly recommend checking them out if you aren't already a huge fan, like me. :)

A fellow blogger named Megan is currently hosting her own stationery swap which I joined a few days back. I am so happy to be a part of this; I joined Swap-bot a while back, but as a 'newbie,' I'm not able to join a lot of swaps consisting of anything more than a postcard. There are definitely a couple 'package' type swaps that I've been able to join (check back closer to St. Patrick's day for a 'Package of Green' swap I'm doing). Anyway, Megan's swap signups end this Friday the 26th @ 12:00 AM Australian time, so join in while you still can!

Lastly, I just discovered a notebook project called The Notebook Journey. This one notebook is traveling all around the world to participants who will decorate one page of the notebook and send it along to its next destination. Such a great idea and I can't wait till it gets around to me! I am #72 out of the 77 signed up [so far] with a max. of 10 days per person, so technically I should get the notebook in approximately 700 days...close to 2 years! How crazy is that? Lauren, the creator, is urging participants to get the word out about the project since she hasn't set a limit to the number of signups. Check it out and join in!

Before I move on to food, I wanted to post some incoming and outgoing mail. Starting with incoming, I received a great card and letter (much anticipated) from The Missive Maven:

Last piece of mail for the day is some outgoing, a response to Belen:

That'll do it for mail...let's move on to some food. Tonight for dinner I made a take on shrimp scampi and it turned out really well. Here is a pretty accurate representation of what I made's not perfect but if you decide to make this it'll get you where you need to be:

[My Take On] Shrimp Scampi
Serves 2 comfortably


1 pound spaghetti, linguine, or fettucine

8-10 (16-20 count) shrimp
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning, optional
Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil

5 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced onion or shallot
1/2 cup chicken stock
3 lemons, zested and juiced, to yield 1/2 cup
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
4 tablespoons unsalted butter


1. Boil a large pot of water and cook pasta according to package directions.

2. Meanwhile, peel and devein the shrimp if necessary. Make sure they are nice and dry, then place them in a zip-top bag with the flour, Old Bay, salt, and pepper. Shake it up to coat the shrimp well, then remove them from the bag and shake free of any excess flour. Set aside.

2. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan until just shimmering. Add the shrimp and saute on both sides until crispy and just cooked through; they will continue to cook while they rest. Remove them from the pan and set aside.

3. Lower the heat and add the garlic and onion. (Add a touch more oil if the pan is too dry). Saute for 30 seconds to a minute, until just softened. Add the chicken stock and reduce by half, then add the lemon zest and lemon juice and reduce it by half. Lastly, swirl in the butter until it has just melted and slightly thickened the sauce. Add the parsley (reserving some for garnish if desired) and season to taste with salt and pepper.

4. Toss pasta with sauce, to taste, and place in your serving dish. Top with the shrimp and more sauce, to taste, then garnish with parsley. Serve and enjoy! :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'd Rather Be Blogging

^Image from here.

Just finished up a nice dinner with J and my mom...I decided to show off all my recent mail (see below) and in turn was [playfully] questioned for the rest of the evening by both of them as to what my mom could have possibly done wrong in my childhood to have made me such a mail freak. Haha, VERY FUNNY. :-/ Made a huge pot of Mexican Chicken Soup and J made the Jalapeno-Cheddar Cornbread to go alongside. Check it out:

^Recipes here & here

Just after I read this post about a fantastic mail day that a fellow blogger had, I went down to my own mailbox and discovered a box full of mail myself! A few days back I got a response to my 50 State Challenge from a fellow blogger named Patty who said she had something to send...and boy did she ever! I was expecting 1 postcard, but instead got 5, each from a state I hadn't received a card from yet! JACKPOT! Also in the mail from her was a giant envelope with a great 'welcome' letter to the Mail Art world, some Mail-Tag requests, and 3 of these little envelopes that no one really knows what they are for. Patty thought maybe they were used in banks back in the day, and my mom, J, and I had no idea what they were for. Anyone know? See the pics:

^She sent 3 and asked that I decorate 1 and send it back as a kind of project she has going. Fun!

Realized the photos of the other 3 postcards didn't come out too clear so I didn't post them. Sorry Patty. I have to say, it was SO cool getting such unexpected mail! I knew I was getting SOMETHING from her, but I had no idea it would be this much stuff and put together so nicely. Thanks a bunch Patty.

P.S. - Thanks to all of the other people who have commented on my 50 State Challenge post, offering to send me stuff. I really appreciate it and it's so exciting to get messages from strangers who are offering to help out! It's truly a nice feeling. If you are a new reader and don't know what I'm talking about, see if you can help me out here!

One more incoming item was a beautiful postcard from Portugal through Postcrossing:

^Hmm...a Portugese Postcrossing postcard. P-p-p

Onto some outgoing mail...I put together a response letter for Bianca and realized my items for her Mail-Tag requests wouldn't all fit in one envelope, so I made up another one and put all my items in there. I hope she likes what I sent. Here are the envelopes my stuff got sent in:


^Front & back of the collaged envelope I sent my letter in. It got a little busier than I wanted but hey, each piece of art is unique in its own way right?

Alright folks, I gotta go get myself prepared for work tomorrow...and believe me, as the post title says, I'd rather be blogging! In all honesty though, I am so grateful for my job and the work I do, I really shouldn't complain; it's just, when there's mail to enjoy and letters to's hard to focus on other stuff!

Until next time. :)

Aaron :)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Grams' Birthday

Today we celebrated my Grandma's 77th birthday! Her actual birthday was the 17th but we were all only able to get together today. Because she recognizes Lent she was unable to eat meat today (Friday), and unfortunately for her, every year she gives up sweets/treats/snacks, so there was no dessert as usual. That being said, J and I put together a wonderful 2-course dinner that everyone thoroughly enjoyed. Both recipes are from one of my favorite cookbooks, Sunday Suppers at Lucques, by Suzanne Goin. The fish recipe we adapted a bit as to what was available ingredient-wise. See pics below:

^Swiss chard tart with goat cheese and currant-pine nut relish

^Wild Alaskan halibut marinated in fresh thyme, parsley, and blood orange zest, served over red and black rice risotto with blood orange reduction

I'm always worried the food I serve won't be enjoyed but everyone seemed to truly enjoy both courses which made me really happy.

Sorry for those of you who are not into Valentine's Day, but I am going to get a bit corny here... I actually wasn't sure if I even wanted to post about this because I'm not usually the guy who does the typical cheesy love stuff and I know some people get bugged by it but... Yesterday was another good food day; since our V-day celebration was put off due to J's family visit, I decided to make us a nice dinner yesterday instead. I heard this great idea a while back to recreate (at home) a meal you and your special someone had on a first date or past Valentine's day at a restaurant out. I decided to make the dishes we each had on our first date at a local restaurant...a Cobb salad and chicken piccata. Without sounding full of myself, I must say the food I made turned out better than what we ate at the restaurant. J was super surprised and loved it so I was very, very happy.

^J's chicken piccata

^My Cobb salad

Shall we move onto some great mail? OK then...Two days ago the following letter from Belen came, and totally brightened up my mailbox! This is one of the coolest envelopes I've gotten; it is made from see-through vellum scrapbook paper. Enclosed was a great, long letter and the smallest most perfect little paper crane! So neat!

Last piece of mail for this post came today as part of my Mix CD Scavenger Hunt on Swap-bot. This package came from Canada and had the track list on the coolest stationery! Of course I forgot to take a picture but oh well. Cute stickers on the package, no?

^I really need to start building up my accessory collection...stamps, stickers, etc. They make such a difference in making a package more special!

Speaking of stationery, I think I want to try making my own stationery. I was thinking I could just cut and paste magazine/newspaper/etc. clippings on plain paper and photocopy or scan them and have great original writing paper? Anyone have suggestions on other ways to do fun stuff like that, or have examples to share?

That'll do it for this post. Thanks for everyone who's reading!

Till next time,

Aaron :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


Today was one of the better mail days I've had. I think it's so funny how when you really want something or you anticipate something happening, it doesn't happen, and when you're totally not expecting something, it happens, or you get it, or whatever the case may be. Today I went to the mailbox expecting a letter from someone in California, only to find that not only was that not there, but a CD for the Mix CD Scavenger Hunt I participated in was, along with a much anticipated letter from the wonderful Bianca of Goodnight Little Spoon. Her blog was, I believe, the first I came across when searching for mail-related resources and it is so well-put-together, fun to read, amazing to look at, I could go on. A while back I sent her a letter and couldn't WAIT until she posted it on her finally arrived after two[ish] long weeks and then there it was! Even more exciting was when she posted pictures of her reply to me...I couldn't wait to get something in the mail from her! And then today, there it was - and the contents inside did not disappoint! Sorry, I may sound a little strangely excited about this but my fellow mail geeks will understand where I'm coming from here. Here is a picture of my lovely first letter from Bianca:

^Front...I love the story behind the mustached Mona Lisa; I guess Bianca had just read a theory that the Mona Lisa is actually a self-portrait of Da Vinci in she went ahead and put a mustache on her...LOVE IT!

^Back. Jeez, I just love all her accessories...labels, stamps...

^Contents...wonderful letter, peppermint tea, and a game of Mail-Tag!

The thing I loved most about this letter is that it really broke the confusion of what to say in a first letter. All the first letters I've written have kind of followed the same guidelines - age, location, hobbies, etc., etc., etc., which her letter did, but also made it fun. And, the game of Mail-Tag is such a fun idea, and a great way to keep the subsequent letters fun and interesting and really gives you something to look forward to! Here are the guidelines for Mail-Tag:

'Mail-tag consists of an exchange of postal correspondence between (2) people. The first person begins the game by requesting one or more desired things. That person then mails those requests to the other participant - who interprets those requests, writes a list of their own requests for the other participant and sends them back. You can take as much or as little time to compose and send back your reply, ask for as few or as many things in your requests and generally interpret requests in whichever way you see fit.'

I really can't wait to respond to Bianca and put together the 3 items she requested for Mail-Tag.

Onto my other great piece of mail from today, my first CD for the Mix CD Scavenger Hunt on Swap-bot. I haven't given the CD a full listen yet, but when I popped it into the CD player I liked what I heard so far. This type of swap is a really great way to expose yourself to new music that you [probably] would never have listened to otherwise.

^Tracklist and postcard enclosed in the Mix CD Swap.

OK, on to my last piece of mail for the day - my V-Day gift from J. It's not mail yet, but it will be eventually. He did some very sneaky over-the-shoulder snooping and discovered a website called Zazzle that I've been looking at recently. It's a great website that does custom printing, custom postage, sells cards and postcards, etc. Combining two of my favorite things, J got me about 20 Alice in Wonderland themed postcards...great right?! Here are a few of my favorites from the group:

^My favorite Disney movie in postcard form. <3

Oh shoot! I almost forgot one more thing - a cute handmade Valentine I got from my co-worker Jacquie. She was on time and gave it to me at work on the 14th, but I'm just now getting around to posting it. I love the way she did this - so simple, no envelope, just a couple different kinds of paper turned into a great card. I actually used the same flowery scrapbook paper that she used on the center of this to make one of my many handmade envelopes a couple weeks ago.

^J says the chinese symbol means 'hope.'

OK, that should do it for today folks. Hope you all are having a great day, be it food, fun, or post-wise! Until next time,

Aaron :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Shabu-shabu, Swapping, and Sunshine

Hi everyone! I finally have some fun stuff to post about, so here we go! Sorry for the corny S-S-S title for this post, but I gotta come up with something clever for all these titles! Alright, if we
break it down by category, here we go:

-Shabu-shabu: Yesterday was Chinese New Year and J was originally supposed to go back home and celebrate, but, long story short, decided against it since the short trip would not be worth the 8-10 hours of driving it required. His family still really wanted to see him and had never been to our apartment so they asked if they could all come visit us instead, and of course we said yes. To be honest, I was dreading the thought of hosting 6 people (8 including us) in our apartment, but we made it work in the end and had a really nice time. The family loves doing Shabu-shabu dinners and it really is a lot of fun. We had all the fixin's - beef, pork, shrimp, cuttlefish, clams, fresh cilantro, watercress, and Chinese broccoli - his family really does go all out when it comes to Shabu. We made our way through a couple bottles of wine, and by the end of the night we were all full to the brim before we went to bed. We said goodbye to everybody today as they made their way back home and we got back to our normal routine.

Swapping: One of the online mailing resources I have discovered is called Swap-bot. All my fellow mail geeks out there will already know about it, but for my friends who don't, it's a mail exchange service for just about anything. You sign up for an account and can then search for swaps by category - food, music, books, etc., etc., etc. You, along with people who are interested in the same swaps, will sign up and eventually be assigned partners to whom you will send your items, whatever they may be. The latest swap I joined was a Mix CD Scavenger Hunt. The creator of the swap came up with 20 categories, and you had to find songs in your music library that fit the category and then put them on a CD. It was something I had seen on Swap-bot before and wanted to do and finally came across one I could join in time. It was a little challenging, but eventually I found a song for every category. Here's what the contents 1 of my 2 envelopes looks like, making its way to Australia: (the other is going to Canada).

^A bit hard to read, sorry...

So you have an idea of all the categories and the songs I chose for each, here they are:

  1. A sarcastic song.
  2. A song from a kids’ movie.
  3. A song that includes some whistling.
  4. A song sung by an actor/singer.
  5. A song that includes either na-na-na-na or la-la-la-la.
  6. A song that says exactly what you wish you could say to someone in your life (now or in your past).
  7. A song that has lyrics that make you go “heh?”
  8. A song sung by someone you had/have a crush on.
  9. A song that you might play if you were nodding off while driving, to wake yourself up.
  10. A song that mentions a season either in the title or the lyrics.
  11. Your favourite Queen song.
  12. A song that you would play on a badass roadtrip to total debauchery.
  13. A song sung by an American Idol contestant.
  14. A song that makes you want to be 16 again.
  15. A song that you think would suit as background music for a grown-up sit-down dinner.
  16. A song that you think would suit as background music for a brunch with lots of children.
  17. A song that you think would suit as background music for a big cocktail party.
  18. A song that talks about a grandparent.
  19. A song that puts you in your parents’ living room growing up.
  20. A song that you’d put on a mix cd for your best mate.

I've been thinking of hosting a handmade envelope swap since that is my current obsession and I have about 35 envelopes ready to be used. After a while you do get sick of staring at your own things, and I'm sure there's people out there who would appreciate and use the stuff I've made, and vice versa. I'm always interested in seeing other peoples' artistic and creative styles and this would be a perfect opportunity to do all of the above. Well, that's that for swapping. Onto the sunshine...

We had absolutely beautiful weather here for the past few days (after a couple weeks of awful on-and-off rain) and we took advantage of it! On Saturday and today J and I got out and played tennis...about an hour and a half on Saturday and and hour today. He has only played a handful of time and basically the only instruction he has had is from me, and I have to say, he has improved immensely since I first started hitting with him. He hits some really great shots and we can actually rally now, where as before it was much harder to carry on a point. It's nice to have a tennis partner who's always around and who you know will always want to play.

Alright, time to head to the kitchen and whip up some din-din. Hope you all are well...until next time!

Aaron :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Happy [Early] Valentine's Day

Hello, hello! This is going to be what I consider my first 'real' post. I have finally taken some good quality photos of some incoming and outgoing mail, edited it properly, and am ready to roll! This will be a mail-only post, with a culinary club post [hopefully] soon to come. We had an amazing dinner the other night and I can't wait to share our menu and photos from the evening. I have an amazing group of friends... Now, on to the mail!

I started making valentines about a week ago and finally got around to finishing them up tonight by writing out the cards, putting stamps on the envelopes, and sealing them up, ready to go in the mailbox. Most of my effort went into the making of the envelopes, so I bought some simple, cute handmade cards at the store - hopefully people will enjoy them! Before I started making all these, I had this epiphany that I should use paper grocery bags to make envelopes! I know, I know, there's no way I'm the first one to think of that, but it was the first time I had thought of it and had never seen it anywhere, so I was pretty proud of myself after that one! Haha... ok let's get to the pictures!

This is the whole bunch together. Pretty cute bunch, don'tcha think?

Close-up of one that I thought came out particularly well, going to my dear friend Sean.

This one goes to my co-worker Maria; it is her birthday on Valentine's, so her envelope was a little extra special! :)

So that's that for Valentines. What do you guys think? Onto some more outgoing mail, non-Valentine...

This is another grocery bag turned envelope, already delivered to my [long-lost] cousin Colleen. I think the last time I saw her was when I was about 8 or 9 or 10...we reconnected on Facebook and discovered each other's love for perfect is that!? BTW, I love how the 'REUSABLE RECYCLABLE' words on the bag came out [pretty] perfectly on the front of the envelope! Very apropos, no?

Reply to Belen, a fellow blogger who has become a regular correspondent. It has been great finding new pen-pals who share the love of mail! The envelope is another I made from a children's Beauty & the Beast book I bought at the thrift store.

Zoom-in of the recipe I sent Belen. She's trying to eat healthier and make a positive life change so I thought I'd help her out with a healthy go-to recipe of mine.

Replies from Belen, both envelopes I love, made from scrapbook paper. I especially love the labels she cut out on the black envelope. I recently sent a reply to her on an envelop I made out of scrapbook paper myself. (no picture...)

Reply from another blogger named Lauren I wrote to a week or so ago. I don't think I ever took a picture of what I sent to her to begin with, but her letter back is great, no? Whoops, didn't take a photo of the back either, which was great. It had a great 3-D sticker on it that I loved...oh well...I'm still getting the hang of all this...

My favorite postcard I've received from Postcrossing so far. It is from South Africa and was FILLED on the back with a great message from the sender. I loved it too because it reminded me of all the postcards I sent and received from my BFF Madison when she was studying abroad in South Africa.

Phew! That was a lot of work. I don't know how some of these bloggers do it with all their numerous amazing photos and multiple blog posts in a day...kudos to you all! Signing off for the night...I hope there is more to come soon.

Aaron :)

Song of the moment: The Sound of Music
Artist: Julie Andrews
Album: The Sound of Music Soundtrack

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Baby Steps

Hey all. This post is an experiment... just trying to get the hang of my photo editing program and uploading pictures and stuff. This was one of the first envelopes I made when I started experimenting a couple of weeks ago. I had read online somewhere that pages from children's books made really great envelopes so I headed to the thrift store and bough a bunch of Disney classics for like, $0.95 each and have made a bunch of envelopes from them! This particular one went to one of my best friends and Disney fanatic, Madison. I included about 5 or 6 note cards worth of a letter in there. Still haven't heard if she got it or not...hoping it didn't get lost somewhere along the way... So far I don't think I've ever sent a piece of mail that got lost or didn't get sent properly...keeping my fingers crossed that my luck holds. OK folks, more posts to come as soon as I get more pics uploaded and edited.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Welcome/Blog 2.0

Hello to all my first blog readers! I am so excited to get this up and running; it has been in the back of my mind for a while now and I've been postponing getting it started because...well...I don't really know why actually. But I'm here now and I'm so excited to start blogging again. My first blog sadly fizzled out, but I think my new topics and fodder for posting will keep blog 2.0 going much longer than its predecessor.

This blog will revolve around exactly what the title says - food, fun, and post. As a whole foods chef, I am constantly cooking, creating, and learning, and want to share all that with anyone who is interested. I belong to a culinary group with some of my best friends and we have the best time together! I want a place to share what we share - great food, conversation, wine...the list goes on.

I have also recently [re]discovered the world of pen-pals and mail art and have been so inspired by other bloggers to start writing and creating again. I really shouldn't say 'again' since the most experience I've had with this sort of thing was my pen-pal cousin back when I was like, 10. It's a whole new world, really, but it's amazing to discover because I always thought I was the only one who jumped for joy when there was an unexpected piece of mail in the box, or got excited to sit down and write a letter. I CANNOT believe I never thought to search out other people with the same interests, but here I am now and I'm so happy! I have a good bunch of great incoming & outgoing mail to share to get this blog up and running, but it may take me some time for me to get the ball rolling with uploading pictures and the like.

All things fun and the rest of my life and miscellanea will probably make their way onto the blog as well...I hope they are interesting enough to include and entertain everyone :)

So, without further ado, here's to happy blogging, happy reading, and good food, fun, & post! Talk to you all soon.


Song of the moment: Glitter in the Air
Artist: P!nk
Album: Funhouse