Postcrossing, or Why I Enjoy Postcards So Much

One of the things I was most excited about when I moved into this new little house of mine, was buying my first postbox. As I’ve always lived with my parents, and then moved from student accommodation to student accommodation, the postboxes have just always come with the house.
This time, however, I had to buy my own. Silly thing to be excited about, I know, but it just made me feel a little bit more adult, getting a green postbox, putting the house number on the front and my name on the inside of the lid.

So, when the postbox was installed, I was ready to start receiving some mail. However, I wanted a little bit more than just page upon page of ads, flyers and commercial catalogues, and that’s when I joined Postcrossing.

Postcrossing Main Logo

Postcrossing is a global network, a project that allows anyone to send and receive postcards from all over the world.
On their webpage, Postcrossing writes; “The idea is simple: for each postcard you send, you will receive one back from a random postcrosser from somewhere in the world. Where your postcard will come from is a surprise!”

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(Screenshot from their “How to” page.)

Okay, so those are the basics, but let’s get on to the actual point of this post; why is this project so great?
First of all, don’t we all love to get mail? The wait and the anticipation that “Snailmail” (as it’s apparently called nowadays) brings with it, makes both the writing of your own cards and receiving cards from others a lot of fun. Also, it’s not like a pen pal arrangement, where you send letters back and forth, it’s just one card from you to another person, and then another and another, all to different people. I kind of like that, a snapshot in time and in culture.

As a former Creative Writing student, it’s so much fun to see what people choose to write on their cards; some write small poems, some tell you what they’ve been up to that day. A postcard I got last week just named the writer’s four dogs’, their breed and their age. Some have the date, weather and temperature neatly penned in the corner and some illustrate the mood of the writer, in the moment of writing.
And as a current student of International Communication, it’s also really interesting to get these glimpses into peoples’ lives, in countries that are so far from my own.
I’ve only been part of this for about a month, but I’ve both sent and received postcards from Taiwan, I’ve got one going to China now, have received multiple from the US and a couple from Russia, plus a lot of other European countries.

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You write a little profile so that people can get an idea for something to write on the cards to you, and I’ve asked people to write “Hello” and “goodbye” in their native language, plus their favourite word. A lot of people have done so, and it’s become quite the nice little collection of greetings and lovely words that I most likely never would have learned otherwise. Also, where the language barriers get to us and we struggle with communicating, some people just draw nice little doodles or images.  It’s wonderful to open the postbox and instantly get these small glimpses of people’s lives and thoughts.

The internet and digital communication have of course made the world a lot smaller than it used to be, and talking to someone on the other side of the globe has technically never been easier or quicker. Still, though, it’s nice to connect with people through handwriting, pictures and small drawings.

As digital messages are very abstract and might feel a bit temporary, these postcards go right up on the wall above my bed when I receive them; a handfast reminder that people are people wherever you go, and we’ve all got so much more in common than we might initially believe.

Check it out if you want to! If you’d like to send more postcards and are curious to receive cards, stamps and messages from around the world, this is definitely worth having a look at.
(Also, not sure if I need to say this or not, considering my little corner of the internet over here is very small, but I’ve got no connections or anything with Postcrossing, I just really enjoy their site and the project!)

Have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

Swimming at the deep end of an adverbial phrase and the challenges of learning something new

When was the last time you learned something new? Jumped in at the deep end, went in completely blind, arms open, eyes wide, to learn something you had no earlier knowledge or skills in?

I’m doing a new ba now, and I’m struggling. Not to the point of wanting to stop or give up, just to the point where I have to work harder than I have in years. It feels like I’m back in school, learning definitions by heart and practicing phrases and rules again.

This got me thinking about how I haven’t actually learned something completely new in a very long time. My last BA was definitely challenging, and I certainly got to develop new sides of myself and my “craft”. However, those sides were to some extent already there; they just needed honing, practice, to be cared for, seen and worked on. Now I’m studying grammar and politics and intercultural communication. Every day I’m learning new phrases, new words, new concepts and ideas that I’ve never heard of before. That is exciting! It’s difficult and frustrating but also so so interesting.

As kids we learned something new everyday. Even better, when we were kids, we were great at learning. We hadn’t yet gotten into the arms race that are having better marks than everyone else, we had no concept of always needing to be the best, there was so much less fear of failure. A scraped knee from learning to ride a bike, only hurt until mum put a plaster on it and kissed it better. A glossary test gone wrong only meant going back over the words and nailing it next time. But as we grow older a lot of us lose the ability to look at learning as a process, we want to be the best at everything the first time we ever try. There is this notion of being a natural, we want to be great without needing practice, because practice is difficult and more so, practice makes you look bad, like you don’t know. This is of course not right at all. Practice doesn’t make you look stupid, it makes you look determined. And no one can know anything, unless they’re taught. If we were only ever supposed to do what we learnt as kids, so we never had to practice and “look stupid” as adults, we’d have a very small array of skills and experiences to pick from in our lives, and that, in turn, wouldn’t make us very well-rounded and happy people, would it.

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Yesterday I spent five hours at my dining table, pencil in hand and notebook in front of me, trying to make sense of in-depth sentence structure again. Subjects, adverbial phrases, demonstrative determiners, I know I’ve got it somewhere in my brain. I know a teacher from maybe eight or so years ago managed to lock it somewhere safe in my head, but it takes so much coaxing to get it out, to get those words back down on paper. Some of what I read was also completely new to me, linguistics on university level isn’t something I’ve got a lot of experience with. It took time, a lot of reciting out loud to myself, and a lot of tea.

But the feeling when I got it right! When I could highlight my answers, recite the rule and reason, and tell myself that I properly understood it; that was such a good feeling.

It’s a feeling I haven’t felt in years before this BA, but that I’ve been experiencing a lot these past couple of weeks. The feeling of being able to swim when you jump in the deep end, of keeping your balance when you go in blind, of seeing all the wonderful things the world throws at your open arms if you only widen them a little bit.
(Yes, I know I’m only talking about grammar right now, but the feeling still applies, haha)

I hope you learn something cool today!

-Andrea

Wordless Books; reading the illustrations

It should come as no surprise to any reader of this blog, that I like words. I love reading, I’ve got a writing degree done and dusted, I attend poetry readings and sometimes perform my own work. I really like words, language and stories, and I talk a lot about them.

Another thing I talk a lot about, is the job I really like at the library. I love it because it lets me talk to a lot of people, I get to learn a lot of cool things, and it’s introduced me to books I never would have found on my own.

One type of book I’ve fallen completely in love with, I found when a lady came in and asked for “the book about the cats”. We should be able to find that, i said, there are lots of books written about cats, but no, she said, it’s not written. It’s just about the cats. I didn’t understand what she was looking for, however, the actual librarian who was also there, knew exactly what book the lady wanted.

Where Shall the Cats Live by Torill Kove. Published by Gyldendal in 2018, it is classified as a “wordless book”.

Wordless books have no words (as it says on the tin), and even though (as already mentioned) I love words, I’m so here for them. On Gyldendal’s webpage, the publishers write that wordless books can be read both by those who love to read and those who struggle a bit more, but they’re purpose is to give kids who struggle with reading that feeling of reading an entire book all by themselves. This is because the wordless books aren’t read by reading the words, but by “reading the illustrations, discovering details, patterns, feelings and actions – solely by watching and understanding the visual cues; an ability our youngest readers already have.”

Yes, these books are absolutely wonderful for children. But the reason I fell in love with them is the wide audience they can appeal to. The illustrations in these books are colourful, vivid and vibrant, and not necessarily just for children. The book I’m running away by Mari Kanstad Johnsen, for example, is an example of a wordless book, that utilises a darker style of imagery, while still maintaining the vivid, emotional and thought-provoking nature of these books.

In an interview with BOK365, Johnsen says that “I wanted to explore the possibilities that are hiding in a book without any text. I wanted the pictures to invite different readers to read diffferent stories.”

This brings us back to the lady who wanted the book about the cats, again. She had moved to Norway from Sri Lanka a couple of years ago, and when her grandchildren came to visit, they made a game out of reading the wordless books together. How many different stories can we make out of these illustrations today? How many words can we point out in Norwegian and how many words can we name in Sinhala?
She said that sometimes she even read them on her own, just to practice using Norwegian in her head, without reading words off the page. Difficult, she said, but helpful.

To understand more about these wordless books and what they can offer, I read a study called “Using wordless books to stimulate language: Why, how and which ones?” In said study, language scientist Monica Melby-Lervåg points out that creating the stories on their own, helps build children’s understanding of narrative, which is an important part of understanding language and grammar, and also later, reading comprehension.” She also references another study, “Cognitive stimulation of pupils with Down syndrome: A study of inferential talk during book-sharing” done by Kari Anne Næss, Liv Inger Engevik and Mette Hagtvet, which states that reading wordless books are a great way to help children develop and use their vocabulary and to help them express themselves; they recognise what is happening in the illustrations and learn by putting their own words to what they’re seeing.

How wonderful is it that a little book of maybe 20 pages can be so valuable to such a wide and varied audience? This is a little niche market I had no idea existed up until a couple of months ago, and now I’m getting really into and interested in it. It is going to be interesting to see if these books manage to catch some ground in the Norwegian book market, and if there’ll be done more research on it in the future. And on the bright side, if the authors of books such as these have to branch out internationally to reach an even bigger audience, at least the translation costs won’t be breaking any banks!

What are your thoughts on wordless books? A little bit silly or really, really cool? It would be great to hear what you guys think about this!

Have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

The M2 Musings Writing Challenge

I like to call myself a writer. I navigate my way through the world in stories and make up characters to people crossing the street, but lately I haven’t been writing at all. A fairytale wedding, the voyage to a new flat past a different fjord, the adventure of getting to know a new home. These are all stories that have gone unwritten. That’s okay, though, not everything has to be documented to be valid or worthwhile.

However, I do miss writing, and I do miss the small snapshots of my everyday that writing used to be, back when I used to write down everything that came to mind, keeping every idea for a possible assignment or could-be-short story. These thoughts, plus the fact that I just stumbled over the expression “micro poetry” the other day, has resulted in this new “series” I want to try out here on the blog; the M2 Musings.

The M2 is the bus I get to the uni every day, a 12 minute ride twice a day. 12 minutes isn’t really enough time to get a book out or to get anything done, so I figured this could be some scheduled writing time.

So, here’s the plan:

Everyday (Monday to friday), I’m going to try and write something, anything, about something on or outside the bus on my way to uni, leave it while I’m in lectures, and then edit it on the bus journey back. There are no rules for what it needs to be; micro poetry, stream-of-consciousness, a few lines of a short story. All it is is a kickstart to make myself write. These bus journeys give me about 24 minutes to spend on any of the “texts”, which won’t really leave any room for overthinking, you kind of just have to go.

So, what do you guys think? Is this a project you could be interested in following? Of course I won’t post these musings daily, that would be a bit much, but maybe I’ll pick a few that ended up okay, about once a week?

Like I said, there’s been way too little writing lately, and perhaps this could be a nice incentive to get back into it, again!

Have a wonderful day,

-Andrea

The Bookshelf Tag

Time for another tag! And this time I’ve actually been tagged in it so it’s twice as exciting this time! I know I also quite recently did the Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt tag, but this tag’s different, it’s just the Bookshelf Tag, which means that we’ll chat a bit about organizing bookshelves and stuff like that.
This tag was created by Sajiid from Books are my Social Life and a huge thanks to Ceri from Bookmarks and Postcards for tagging me!

A note before we start; I have already accepted that this tag is going to expose me as the book hoarder I am. It’s not that I get all that attached to the books I read, but I really like the feeling of having books in the room, if that makes sense? Like, I feel like a shelf filled with books you’ve read and loved gives the room a chill and cozy vibe, and so the books do pile up a bit. I’ve also been able to keep my shelves in my room at my parents’ house while I’ve been away studying and moving around, so I haven’t had to have any proper clear outs yet either, meaning there are a lot of old favourites in there. Now let’s get started!

1. How many bookshelves do you have?
I’ve got two proper book cases and then four shelves in two other cases. Not the best solution but it works. In our old house I used to have these really beautiful “floating” bookshelves lining the top of the walls, framing the bed room. Here the ceiling is too low for that, and I’m just happy I’ve got enough space for all of the books.

2. How many books are on your bookshelf?
I’ve never actually counted them before, but doing so really surprised me! Turns out I’ve got exactly 450 books on my shelves right now, a lot more than I thought!

3. How do you organize your books?
Very badly. Let’s have a look:

My bookshelf is a a chaotic mess, and I’ve gone through so many different ways of organizing it throughout the last couple of years. Colour-coordinated, organised by genre, height, alphabetical order, year of publication – you name it, my shelves have probably seen some attempt at it. I also originally tried to have one Norwegian and one English shelf, but quickly discarded the idea. As you can see, I’ve got a little Norwegian shelf on the top there, but that’s only Norwegian children’s books. I’ve got both English and Norwegian editions of a lot of books, and I wanted to keep those together, plus I like having the different languages together, as it kind of represents how languages can mix in your head! Now, most of the books I care the most about (I’m big on nostalgia, gotta be real with you) are organized by authors (not alphabetically, though) there is a poetry-and-fairytales-shelf, a shelf for old “fandom” books (Doctor Who, Torchwood, Supernatural, etc.), all of my uni books are sitting together on the bottom shelf there, and there is a top shelf filled with both well-loved and unread classics.

4. What is the oldest book on your bookshelf?
The answer for this one is already featured in the Bookshelf Scavenger Hunt, but I love this book and am excited to talk about it a bit more:

The Journey to the Christmas Star by Sverre Brandt.

Published in 1925 and given to my grandmother as a Christmas present when she was a child, this is one of my favourite books. Every time Christmas comes around I have to get it out and have a read of the story about the little girl who travels on the northern wind to find the Christmas star that the evil count has cursed. It’s a wonderful book and I cherish this illustrated version of it.

5. What is the newest book on your bookshelf?
Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I talked about this book in this www Wednesday-post, and it’s so good!! You should definitely read it, right here, right now.

6.What is the longest book on your bookshelf?
Bringing back Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, here.
This book is too much book. What I’ve managed to get through is really good, it’s just a lot of book.

7.What is the shortest book on your bookshelf?
New American Best Friend by Olivia Gatwood

On the other side of that spectrum, this book could be a bit more book. Gatwood’s poetry is hard hitting and gritty, witty and smart, and the end of the book just leaves you with this longing for more like it.

8.What is the predominant genre on your bookshelf?
It’s either YA fiction or fantasy. Like, not high fantasy (even though I really enjoy high fantasy as a genre), more realist, modern fiction.

9.Have you done a bookshelf tour?
I have! It’s here if you wanna take a look!

10.Go on a random number generator and talk about the book that corresponds with that number.
I used this number generator, and got the number 199. This corresponds to the book
How to Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee.

This was the first classic I read when I was about 16, and I remember really liking it. I’ve never read it again since, though. Might have to get on that sometime soon.

11. Do you have fan merch or any other decorations on your bookshelf.
I do have a few book-y fandom decorations in and on top of my shelves, but one of my favourites is this Jane Austen pendant-thingy.

I got this at the Jane Austen House museum in Chawton with my sister and I really like it. It’s a quote from Sense and Sensibility that says “Know your own happiness. Want for nothing but patience – or give it a more fascinating name and call it hope.”

12. Show us your bookshelf!
Sure! Here we go again, + the four extra shelves.

13. Tag someone!

I got so excited when Ceri tagged me, and now I’m excited to tag other people! Of course, if you’ve already done this or you simply don’t want to do a post like this, that is perfectly fine and nothing to worry about at all. If you do want to do this though, please leave me a link so I can check out your bookshelf! It’s my favourite thing ever to look at other people’s bookshelves. Also, if you’re reading this and I haven’t tagged you, this very much applies to you too! Just do it and comment a link if you want to!

For now, though, I’m tagging:
Molly from Silver Button Books
James from Real Life Protagonist
Mary from Sophril Reads
and Inga from Journey In Bookland

This post also got pretty long, but it was a lot of fun, and if you managed to reach the end of this, cheers to you.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a lovely day!

-Andrea

Writing cliches: The Ever-growing Tea Collection

A well-known cliche says that writers drink a lot of hot beverages, and if we are to believe the writers’ blogs’ homages to steaming coffee, that’s very true. Countless instagrams of pretty mugs, neat notebooks on coffee tables and writing dens with window sills filled with old coffee-cups, tells us that no writing can ever happen without a cup of something warm next to your laptop.

Originally I thought I’d try and steer away from this cliche; that I wouldn’t mention tea or anything like that in my posts. However, as my veins are basically flowing with equal parts blood and strawberry infusion, this did not work all that well, and my mugs have started popping up in images here and there.

That’s why I figured today I’d just live the cliche I am, one hundred percent, and take you on a tour through my favourite teas; the brews I need to wake up, to write, to curl up on the sofa.

So make yourself a good cup of something you really like, and let’s get started!

Andrea’s Ultimate Tea Tour (with overly enthusiastic and staged summery pictures)

Twinings’ Pure Peppermint:

I don’t drink coffee, but I need a cup of this every morning. Either as a five minute moment at the kitchen table before I face the world, or as a cosy treat in a travel mug on the 06:35 bus to town. Just boiling water, no sugar or anything, preferably in a big, “open” mug so the taste really gets to do the “swirly thing” that tea needs to do.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

Lipton’s Blueberry Muffin and Infusion’s Turkish Apple Tea:

I’m always here for a good fruit tea! The blueberry tea in the picture is one I drank buckets of on camp as a youth leader for the first time, and every time I drink it I still think of that wonderful weekend a good 6 years ago. It’s also just a really really good tea. It smells and tastes more like muffins than blueberries, and it’s got a really round taste.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

This Turkish Apple tea is also a really good fruit tea. I found it in a tiny tea shop in Camden, where the lady running the store spent almost 45 minutes telling me about and letting me taste and smell all of the teas she had in the shop. Such a good time!! It’s the strongest tea I’ve ever had when it comes to pure taste, and it’s made out of dried apple and pineapple and other fruits. It also smells divine.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

Both of these teas do need a little bit of sugar for the taste to really get through, but they’re both the ones I always serve people who say they don’t really like tea. Most people end up surprising themselves and loving them!

Twinings’ Camomile&Honey and Picklecombe’s Lavender Honey:

Okay, so I’m aware that that jar of honey is not tea. But it is Lavender-infused honey and deserves an honorable mention here! It’s also really good in tea, and on its own in warm water. The proper star of this section though, is the Camomile&Honey tea from Twinings. I’m usually not a fan of camomile teas, but the honey is the overpowering taste in this blend, and it’s so warming and soothing. There is no better tea to curl up with after a long day.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

Dorset tea’s Strawberries and Cream and Twining’s Glow:

Strawberry tea! My two favourite teas are both strawberry teas, and I always have to restock them when I’m visiting Harvey in Swanage as that’s the only place I’ve been able to get my hands on them.
The Strawberries and Cream one is a hug in a mug – warm, cozy, comforting and sweet. It also turns bright red, something I greatly appreciate. The countless shirts I’ve stained with it, however, really don’t. It’s the perfect companion to an evening in with your favourite book and fresh bed sheets, and I’ve always got a couple of extra unopened boxes waiting in the pantry.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

The last strawberry tea, and the last tea on this list, is Twining’s Glow. It’s a green tea with strawberries and aloe Vera in it, and it’s one of those teas you feel healthy after drinking (I know that’s not a thing, but the feel is definitely there). Much like the earlier mentioned Peppermint tea, this doesn’t need anything added. It tastes strangely like strawberry lipgloss (only so much better, of course,) and is the perfect cup in the morning, if you want something with a bit more taste to it.

Writing tea/cozy tea/sleepy tea/energy tea
Big mug/small mug/coffee cup mug

Well, that got longer than planned! Thank you so much for listening to my ramblings, I can get really passionate about tea, as you might’ve understood. There are of course a billion more wonderful teas, but these are my everyday essential beverages. (Also, I don’t know if I really need to say this, but just to be safe, this post is 100% not sponsored in any way, I just really like tea!)

Do you need any hot drinks to function?
Are you a coffee or a tea person?

Have a wonderful day,
-Andrea