Sunday, November 27, 2016

Calendars for people who want more than pretty pictures

I think calendars make excellent gifts because they are both useful and beautiful, and they come in such a variety of themes and formats that you can almost certainly find one that speaks to a person's interests, thus fitting the gift to the person in a very particular way.

For myself, I want a calendar to be much more than pretty or cleverly designed (although I do admire good design for its own sake) — I want it to be highly informative, to feed my curiosity, to cater to my interest in the natural world and in other countries and cultures.

These considerations inform my own calendar making (about which I'll say more at the end), and inspire me to buy myself at least one calendar each year, even though I make and sell my own. Having found these especially interesting and informative calendars, I may end up buying more than one this time!

Here are a few calendars that would make excellent gifts for curious people.

The Minnesota Weatherguide calendar has always been one of my favorites for its phenology and weather facts, as well as wonderful nature photographs from all around my state. It includes information about the changing seasons, the angle of the sunlight, the observable stars and planets, and the Ojibwe names for the moon.

2017 Weatherguide wall calendar

My favorite version is the engagement calendar, and for a few years they stopped publishing that format, likely because it was more expensive to produce, having a photo for every week instead of just every month. Now they've brought the engagement calendar back and I've been very pleased to buy it again. Phenology notes are included for every week, along with a seasonal photograph, and I try to keep my own gardening and phenology notes on the facing pages, though I often neglect it for weeks on end.

I used to record a lot of our activities in these when we were homeschooling our two kids — more accurately "unschooling," in a mostly loose jumble of explorations and activities. When I had to make transcripts for each of them (one to enter college, the other for the military), those calendar notes really came in handy, along with some other records I had saved. (I strongly recommend that homeschooling families save their calendars!)

Some Weatherguide engagement calendars I have used.

The Old Farmer's Almanac, which is marking 225 years in 2017, has a very informative online calendar — you can click on any date and be taken to a page with interesting "on this day in" trivia. Most of it is not what I would call "useful" information, but interesting and kind of fun, nonetheless.

They also have several printed calendars that focus on a subject area, like this gardening one, which has stylish kind-of-retro graphic illustrations, along with gardening tips.



Their Everyday Calendar is a page-a-day with "facts, folklore, proverbs and puzzles."

Sample page from the Everyday Calendar by the Old Farmer's Almanac

Amber Lotus publishing has a lot of beautiful calendars, in both wall and engagement formats, which include US and Canadian legal holidays, observances of the major world religious, and phases of the moon. Each has some additional focus, such as quotes from Thich Nhat Hahn, or quotes about nature from a variety of people. Many of these are a little too corny-profound for my taste, but will appeal to others. Here's one I like, which is free of quotes; it just features delightful bird illustrations by Geninne D Ziatkis.


(If you like Geninne's art, you might also like her Etsy shop.)


Chris Hardman's Eco-logical 2017 Engagement Calendar from Pomegranate claims to offer "a new way to experience time" with information about planets, seasons, animal behavior, and "a host of information about the natural world," with a focus on the northern hemisphere. It also has world holidays and a time-zone map. It looks to be a more wide-ranging complement to the Minnesota-specific Weatherguide Calendar.



I call my own calendar the Useful Calendar because it provides a lot of information in a small amount of space.  It lists holidays from many countries and all the major religions, plus a few other international observances of an earth-friendly or literary nature.

My aim is to facilitate inclusiveness and to accommodate both curious and considerate people. A person in the US might not need to know all the major holidays in Japan, for example, but they might still find it interesting to know them. (In 2015, I wrote about why I started making the Useful Calendar, which you can read here if you'd like to know.)

I consult several different online calendars and other references when I'm researching it each year, not only to find the dates of moveable holidays, but also to continuously update and revise my content. And I provide brief explanatory notes about changes and other tidbits on how I compile and present my calendar. Then I design it in a couple of different formats to accommodate different needs. Both formats are available in two versions, one with weeks starting on Sunday, and the other with a Monday start and the weeks numbered (based on ISO 8601 week date standard).

One version fits on a single 11x17 sheet to display a full year at once, with limited notes at the bottom but no room for additional information about the holidays.

Find this format of the 2017 Useful Calendar by clicking here.

The other format is a set of cards, which have brief descriptions of most of the holidays on the back of each month. I don't have the space to write something about all the holidays, so I try to vary somewhat from year to year which ones I highlight, or what and how much I say about them.

Here's the set of 2017 calendar cards, with Monday start and week numbers, and a wooden card holder, offered as a desk calendar.


Here's the other version of the calendar card set, with Sunday week start.

And here's a look at the backs of the calendar cards, crammed with information.

The calendar cards are also available with a sleeve so they may be carried in a purse or pocket. This is one of a few patterns for the sleeves, which are "laminated" with packing tape to make them more durable. I make each one by hand.

I have often had the intention to make something of an almanac zine as well, to allow for even more text about every holiday and maybe some additional facts, but as a one-person operation working on a time-sensitive project, I have tended to run out of time. I actually have a 2017 almanac zine in progress, but if it isn't done by early January, I'll likely abandon the project for this year. Or complete it for my own use and as a prototype to adapt for 2018.

Thanks for reading. I hope I helped you find a really swell calendar for someone on your gift list!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

How an old book becomes a new journal — with shiny beads, even

This fabulous old book, a children's reader published in 1929 (the year my mother was born!), had not only a fabulous cover, but also lavishly illustrated end papers. In order to preserve the original end papers while making it into a journal, I chose to do this one as a coptic stitch.


First I cut the covers from the spine and text block (the pages inside).


Then I cleaned the covers with a little bit of Murphy's oil soap. I have to be careful to not rub too hard  because anything I use, even plain water, will also remove some of the dye in the original book cloth (I don't know why that is so, but I've experienced it a few times now.) You may notice that near the spine edge on the lower front, there's a little faded area around a stain I was attempting to remove.


After trimming the edges of the cover boards to make them as smooth as possible, I sealed the cut edge with a clear acrylic called Gel Medium. This will keep moisture out so the book covers don't warp, and it gives it more of a finish, rather than leaving a raw edge here.

You also get a glimpse of the end papers above, and a better look at the verso (left) side below. It's a classic illustration that spans two pages, so there was a facing page that was the same as the one on the back cover, which I used to make a bookmark. 

The front image brings to mind the Emerald City, only this is more like a carnelian city (not quite ruby, or I'd have attempted a lame joke about emerald slippers). It's an idealized modern city rising out of the clouds or the prairie mist or something, with a couple of stereotyped Native Americans looking on, maybe thinking "Holy shit!" Hey, this was published in 1929, remember. 



To assemble the journal using a coptic stitch, I poked holes in both covers as well as in each signature, and then, using a heavy waxed linen thread, sewed covers to signatures with a chain stitch, starting by sewing the first (last, really) signature to the back cover and working my way forward (and didn't think to take more photos of the work in progress, sorry).



I added greenish-black glass beads when I got to the last (first) signature and front cover, unthreading the needle for each one. They don't look too shiny in this photo, so you'll just have to take my word for it. (The little figurine is being the Vanna White for the journal's photo shoot here.)




Then I made a library pocket for the back cover, and a bookmark from a portion of the recto side of the endpaper from the front, which matches the back cover, so it shows the part of that illustration that the library pocket covers up. (The library pocket is made from recycled paper that has a lot of flecks in it, btw, in case you noticed.)

I also made my own "library card" with a little information about the journal, and put that in the pocket as well.

This journal is about 5" x 7" and has 240 pages of 70lb recycled paper. That's a bit heavier than what you would get in a factory made journal; you can definitely write and draw on both sides of this paper, in ink even. And it's for sale in my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Endangered Bees of Hawaii

The news today that seven species of wild bees native to Hawaii have been put on the endangered species list is the result of years of research and advocacy by the Xerces Society. Read more about it in this article on NPR.

I first learned about these little-known tiny pollinators of the Hylaeus genus, called masked or faced bees, when researching my 2016 Useful Calendar, which  featured watercolor illustrations and info about 12 wild bees from around the world. 

I then made a small zine with those illustrations and more information about each type of bee, and about wild bees in general (because there's only so much room for that sort of thing on a calendar). The zine, called The Flower Lovers, is available from my Etsy shop or, in Minneapolis, from Moon Palace Books (on Minnehaha Avenue and E. 33rd St., next to Peace Coffee).

I also made a page on this blog, About the Bees, with info and links about the 12 bees.

Here's an excerpt from my bee zine, the part about Hylaea, updated to reflect this new development:

Masked bee / Hylaeus spp.
Description: Also called yellow-masked or yellow-faced bees, Hylaea are distinguished by the bright white or yellow patch on their faces. Just 5 to 7 mm long, their slender black bodies may resemble wasps, but are not as shiny. They have tiny plume-like hairs on their abdomen and thorax.
Where found: About 700 species are known worldwide, most notably on islands; they are abundant in Australia, and the only bee native to Hawaii. Fifty species exist in North America, from the Arctic circle to the tip of Florida. Sixty species are endemic to Hawaii and found nowhere else; of these, some are thought to be extinct, having not been seen in 80 years.
Nest: They are solitary bees that mostly nest in hollow stems and twigs; some nest in the ground if they find an abandoned burrow made by another insect (they do not have strong mandibles for digging their own burrows). They have also been known to nest in nail holes and manmade nesting structures using paper straws.
Habitat: The name Hylaeus means “of the woods,” referring to this genus’s preference for nesting in woody materials, and for their relative abundance in forests, where other bees are not common. They are found in diverse natural habitats where trees and shrubs grow, in coastal regions and mountainsides. In Hawaii, they are absent from developed areas dominated by non-native plants.
Food sources: They visit a variety of wildflowers — many endangered native plants of Hawaii depend on these bees for pollination — and they do not care for most introduced crops or flowers. They take pollen and nectar into their crop and then regurgitate it in cellophane-like sacs to feed their larvae.  
Notes: Hylaea are found on islands much more than other types of bees; this may be due to their predilection for nesting in wood—possibly migrating unintentionally via driftwood. 

The Xerces Society has successfully petitioned to protect seven of the Hylaeus species in Hawaii under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, because they are threatened by development and other threats to their habitat, non-native animals, including ants and feral pigs, and the decline of native wildflowers. These are the first bees to be so listed.





Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Making new journals from old books: headbands

I'm going to give you a few behind-the-scenes looks at some journals I've been making, using vintage book covers. This is not a tutorial, sorry. It's more like a show-and-tell about different aspects of making handbound journals. (But I do link to a tutorial now and then, so click those links to see how it's done.) 

This post is about headbands.



These journals (except Werner Arithmetic, which was purchased by a mathematician), and others, are being added to my Etsy shop, which is also called Sharon's Compendium, over the coming days and weeks.

One of the appeals of making journals from old books, beyond the obvious fact that some vintage book covers really are more appealing than their contents, is that I get to take them apart and examine how they were made.



I'm interested in traditional bookbinding methods, but I'm not a purist, so I end up using a hybrid of old, new, and modified techniques to make my journals.

One intriguing feature of traditional casebound books is the headband. It is attached to the top and bottom of the text block (the paper that fills a book, whether or not it actually has text on it). It's not just a decorative touch, it actually protects the edges of the paper at the top and bottom of the spine. (The one at the bottom is more correctly called a tail band, but only fussy traditionalists call it that anymore.)

In high-end bookbinding, the headbands are actually sewn with silk thread in a meticulous process. Here's a good how-to from Papercut Bindery.

At the other end, you can buy headband material that looks embroidered, and glue it to the ends of the spine.

The middle way, which I have adopted, is to make them from fabric and cord, glued with PVA (a bookbinder's glue that dries slowly and remains strong and flexible).

Here I've removed the headband from an old book and opened it up

The glued fabric headband, made from striped shirt fabric, was common by the early 19th century, writes Laura S. Young in Bookbinding and Conservation by Hand: A working guide. (I borrowed a copy from the Hennepin County Library.



I have prepared a few strips of headbands using leftover scraps of cotton fabric, including some from my husband's old shirts. The cord is actually hemp twine, which seemed like the right thickness to me. I just cut off a piece to fit the width of the spine when I'm ready to attach it.



And I figured that, as long as I'm making and attaching headbands, why not add a ribbon to use as a page marker? The ribbon is glued to the spine first, then the headband over it. There are a couple more steps before the cover is attached, which I'll write about in a later post.

Notice that the headband is not attached to the cover, just to the text block. This maintains the flexibility of the spine so that the book will open easily.

Another time I'll tell you a little about spines, and why the ones I make are flat, not rounded. And then there are the endpapers, which can be plain or decorative. Or I might write about something else I'm working on. You never know. So please check back sometime. Thanks!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Backyard bee watching serves up a little slapstick

Lately I've been fascinated with watching the different types of bees visiting the flowers in my garden. I'll be sitting on the patio with my tea and the newspaper when I hear the distinctive buzz of a bumblebee on the nearby rugosa roses. When I get up to take a closer look, I notice that there are other types of bees on the roses also, and as I watch them for several minutes, I discover that the interaction between the different bees can be rather comical (which I'll describe after I introduce the characters).

The bumblebees in my yard are a little on the small side, except for the queen, who is huge. At one point when this bumblebee was hovering, I got a glimpse of a band of brown on her abdomen, which you can just barely see in this photo, leading me to suppose it might be a brown-belted bumblebee.


The description of the brown-belted species also notes that the queen is quite large, and it's a common species around here, so I'm going to say that's what it is.

Bumblebees have this habit of curling their bodies around the pollen anthers and then vibrating vigorously, which is a really effective way to get the pollen out of tomato and pepper plants because those flowers enclose the pollen in a cagelike structure and the extra vibration shakes the pollen free. The technique is called buzz pollination or sonication, and it's the reason bumblebees (and a few other bee species that do this) are the most effective pollinators of those crops. Honeybees don't do that, and neither do most other wild bees.

Bumblebees also flit about from flower to flower and back again, never spending much time on each visit. This is a very effective pollination technique for row crops because it results in a more thorough mixing of pollen.

Neither of these techniques are necessary for roses, but they don't hurt, either, unless you're a smaller bee working the same roses, and then the bumblebee's clumsy frenetic maneuvers can get rather annoying.

Here's one of the smaller bees at work on the roses. It's most likely a type of digger bee, so called because they nest in the ground. There are many such species, and I don't know which one this is, but it sure looks a lot like the one featured on this page about Minnesota bees.  There are many types of wild bees that nest in the ground, but they are solitary (not hive-forming) and harmless, so there's no reason to fear them. To help these bees it's important to not get too carried away with the mulch, because that denies them access to nesting sites. (Learn more about that in a post I wrote this spring.)



This bee was so still, I watched it for a few moments wondering if it was really alive, and then noticed that it was quietly munching on pollen. It's almost like it's kind of a zen bee, meditating on the roses.

And there's a still smaller bee, one that resembles an ant with wings, and is probably of the genus Ceratina, or small carpenter bees. They are called that because they chew holes in soft woody material, mostly cut plant stems, where they lay their eggs in brood cells. There are a few solitary bees that use plant stubble this way, and it's the reason you should leave some cut stems standing in your garden. Their jaws are not strong enough to be destructive, so no worries there.



The comical part, which I was not able to capture with my iPhone camera, came when the bumblebee visited a flower that already had another bee in it.

The small bee would be quietly minding its own business when the bumblebee stumbled into the flower and bumbled about, actually knocking the smaller bee off to the side away from the pollen.

Elbowing it out of the way like it was the roller derby!

Most of the time, the smaller bee moved out of the way and waited for the bumblebee to leave, which it did before long, and then the small bee would resume its meal.

But on another occasion, when I noticed both digger bees and bumblebees on my wild rose (Rosa blanda, a volunteer I decided to keep), the digger bee appeared to be attempting to fend the bumblebee off. I saw its tiny front legs come out on one side in a waving motion, as if it were trying to push the bumblebee away. The bumblebee appeared oblivious to this effort, buzzing right on the top of the smaller bee before moving along.

I just couldn't help but think it was like a bee version of a Laurel and Hardy routine. Who knew that backyard bee watching could be so entertaining?

Digger bee: "I think I'll wait for those galoots to leave before I attempt a landing."



Monday, May 9, 2016

Creative repurposing: yogurt container to mini wastebasket



When I am making tiny chapbooks, 



... or handbound journals or notebooks, 



... or the mini notebooks that I like to give away with orders from my Etsy shop (in an attempt to remind people to come back and buy again), I always have little snippets from the ends of threads and other small bits of trash.

And so for convenience, I started placing a yogurt container on my table as a mini wastebasket so I could keep my workspace free of debris. I empty it into my main wastebasket, so I only have one to empty on trash day. (As you can see, there's also a small bag with R for recycling for paper scraps.)


Well, one thing about photographing your workspace to share with the public because you read somewhere that that's a good thing to do to promote yourself, is that when you look at it through a camera lens you notice things like a yogurt container sitting on the table, and you think, well, that's not very attractive.

And if you already have spray paint leftover from a previous project, it's a pretty simple matter to bring it all out to the garage and have a little fun with it.

Above-mentioned previous project—repurposed mint tins

I figured why not paint three of them while I'm at it, especially since I have more than one "work station" in my office-studio. The other work station is for preparing orders for mailing, which, wastebasketwise, mostly involves the little strip that I peel off the adhesive part of the flap on my mailing packets. The third container is just because why not? I'll find another use for it.


First I placed them upside down on a box so the color would cleanly cover across the bottom. I sprayed a few coats of the green, which has built-in primer, until all was covered, then sprayed a little of the red-orange and blue to get a splotchy look. I didn't bother to use bubble wrap and other materials, such as I used on the mint tins above to create interesting textures, because I wanted to keep this project quick and simple.




After the paint was dry, I turned the containers over and lightly sprayed around the top to paint the rim, without concerning myself about the insides because they were plain white to begin with, so no need to coat them with paint, but nothing wrong with a smattering of color, right?

I kinda wish I had thought to lay down a nice piece of cardboard to take advantage of the colors and shapes that resulted on the surface around the containers. Maybe I'll think of that next time I have a spray-painting project. (I still have some of this paint left.)

So now I have a pretty mini wastebasket on my work table (and I fixed up a "new" bag for recycling, from an old gift bag). 


(And I suppose I should get back to assembling the new notebooks I designed recently so I can add those to my shop.)



In case you really like those colors and are wondering what they are called, here's a pic of the paint cans. The blue is called "safety blue," the green is "Eden," and the red is "paprika."

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Moving on up: My new attic studio

We recently had our attic insulated and sheet-rocked, without a clear plan for how best to use the space. The second floor of our story-and-a-half 1920s-era bungalow was about 2/3 (kind of) finished and 1/3 attic, and our main goal was to get the whole upstairs properly insulated, which has been accomplished. We certainly could have, at that point, just used the attic part for storage, as attics traditionally are.

The attic/future studio in January: insulated, sheetrocked, and painted a pale peachy beige. The window looks east; the light shining on the wall at left is from the skylight.

But we have a roomy dry basement with plenty of space for storage in addition to other uses, and the attic has an east-facing window overlooking our backyard, so we thought there must be something we could use the room for, taking advantage of the pleasant view. With that vague idea in mind, we had a skylight added on the south slant, to let in more natural light and provide a view of the southern sky at night.

But the door leading into this space is smaller than standard size, and because of the intersecting ceiling angles, there wasn't really a way to make it much larger. (For a thousand dollars or so, we could have had it made slightly larger, but still not standard.)

Above the doorway leading into the attic (before the new insulation and other work), viewed from inside the attic. Not much room to expand!

That isn't a problem for me at 5'4" tall, and hubby suggested that the room could become my office and studio, potentially replacing two separate spaces I was using, neither of which was quite working out for me. 

You may be surprised that it took a little persuading for me to agree to it. I actually thought the space was potentially too nice to be all mine. I got over it, though. 

We replaced the leaky double-hung window on the east with a slightly bigger casement from Marvin windows, with grillwork mimicking the original. 

Tres checks out the view from the new larger attic-studio window.

We splurged on hardwood floors made by Wood from the Hood from reclaimed elm trees that had been removed from our city boulevards. Once the finish was cured on the floors, Craig started moving my things up from the basement single-handedly, since my gimpy knees meant I would have posed more of a hazard than help. He was pretty stiff the next day!

Along the north wall it's an office, with my desk and two rather large printers. A wide low filing cabinet (not yet assembled in the photo below) doubles as a printer stand for the Canon laser printer, while the Epson sits atop a three-shelf bookcase that holds most of my printer paper and card stock. The ledge to the left, where the Canon sits in this photo, will eventually become my photo booth corner. 

Attic office taking shape. Filing cabinet/printer stand waiting to be assembled.

The mix of free-standing small storage units directly under the skylight divides that side of the room into two spaces, with lots of cubbies and shelves for keeping relevant supplies readily at hand. And, of course, a cat shelf on top, directly under the skylight. It wouldn't really be a good spot to keep anything prone to fading anyway.

The corner to the left has my work table, with a couple of lamps on the table top, for drawing, painting, and book and card making, with Phinney overseeing the operations. 

To the right of the skylight is my order fulfillment area, a kind of writing desk adapted from a small table. And shelves for  more paper, including tabloid size, and some mailing supplies. 


The tortie, Molly, is actually a very lightweight cat (we call her a cream puff); the shelf was already bowed in the middle.

A second small table facing this one holds my paper cutter and a few random old books to provide material for various projects. (That's a paper shredder  under the table, with a bag for the scraps, because you're not supposed to put shredded paper loose in the recycling bin.)


One of the cubbies, which is open at the back, will be left empty to accommodate cats who like to have their little secret passageways.

Molly demonstrates the cubby passageway ...

... and back through the other way
Of course, when I really want to get some work done, I usually have to shoo the cats out and shut the door.  

Out you go, Tres.
I still have a lot of organizing to do, figuring out where to put the rest of my stuff and moving (some) things around —small things, not furniture.  The card rack now sits on a different spot (where the red dictionary sits in this photo), and the photo corner will be painted a different color for a better background (a grayish green works well for many things, I have learned). 

But it's such a pleasure to be in this space that I don't mind taking my time organizing and setting up. And I have a nice amount of open floor space for my yoga and Feldenkrais practice, which I really need to get back to!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Letter writing month — April? February? Or how about whenever?

Earlier this year I got all jazzed about a letter writing challenge called a Month of Letters in February, promoted by Mary Robinette Kowal, encouraging people to send some correspondence every mailing day that month. She led a real cheerleading campaign via a Facebook page throughout the month, and has since taken an understandable break, with no new posts since March 1.



And I really got into it for a while, especially since Valentine's Day is a natural occasion for sending cards in the mail, right? I even got out some rubber stamps and washi tape I hadn't used in a long time, bought an assortment of postage stamps from USPS online,  embellished the envelopes, and had fun with it.

I did my mailing in clumps, skipping days and then sending several things at once. I didn't keep track of whether I achieved a one-to-one correspondence with mailing days, and in fact I kind of ran out of steam shortly after Valentine's Day. But I did mail a bunch of cards and ephemera, so I felt pretty good about that.

Then I came across something about April being National Letter Writing month, which the US Postal Service promoted last year, issuing some fun commemorative stamps while their collaborator, Scholastic, promoted a curriculum called It's a Delight to Write to encourage schools and families to teach letter writing.  




Last year's enthusiastic promotion, including a first-day-of-issue stamp kickoff, is followed this year by silence from the USPS, although plenty of others are taking up the cause, as a Google search reveals,  from those who just love to send and receive cards and letters in the mail to companies and makers wanting to sell you stuff for the purpose.

I confess I count myself among the latter. I am a card maker, so naturally I am eager to embrace any occasion for people to buy cards, whether they mail them or not. (The following shameless promotional photo clicks through to the card section of my Etsy shop, btw.)



But that whole mail-every-day-for-a-month thing just doesn't work out so well for me. Who really has the time and inclination for such an intense and sustained burst of postal activity?

So I've come up with my own alternative, which I have so far followed only sporadically, because it requires relearning a practice that our mothers and grandmothers followed as a matter of course. It has to do with birthdays and other occasions that once carried a certain expectation of postal correspondence.

For example, you could mail a birthday card with a personal note and maybe a little enclosure, if you are so inclined, on people's birthdays, instead of offering up the Facebook greeting that everyone knows you were prompted to do anyway. What a quaint notion, right?

You'd have to plan ahead for that, rather than rely on the Facebook prompt, and allow for the sad reality that US first class mail now takes 3 to 5 days. I've started by making a list of the birthdays I know, adding them to my calendar and setting up an alert for 5 days before.  

I've also found that I can view all the upcoming birthdays on Facebook, and add to my calendar the ones I'd like to acknowledge postally. Here's how: From your Facebook home page, click on "Events," then look in the upper right where it says "Birthdays this week," then click on "See all," and there you will find them all laid out before you. Add what you wish to your calendar to help you remember to mail a card. Nifty, huh?

So far I've mailed one birthday card. Hey, it's a start!

Yes, it's another sneaky attempt to get you to look at a card in my shop.

Then there are the once-obligatory thank-you notes. For those aspiring career-hopefuls, it's an excellent follow-up to a job interview, thanking the interviewers for their time and reiterating what you really like about that company you'd like to work for. 

But why not also send one to the friend you had lunch with? A little note sent through the mail, saying how nice it was to have lunch and catch up, and how you're looking forward to the next get-together. It gives you the opportunity to pause and reflect on how much you value the other person's friendship, and actually commit a few words to paper about it. 

My husband's friend Seth sends him a card in the mail on random occasions — a clipping he came across that he thinks Craig would like, or a photo he took a long time ago that he made into a card. He also sends photos of the two of them after they've had lunch together. These little notes are brief and unexpected and always a pleasure. 

Recent cards from Seth

There is something kind of luxurious — although it really takes little time and effort; and the cost is minimal — about committing a few friendly words to paper, putting it in an envelope and adding a stamp, and then taking a walk to the nearest mailbox.

I'm not going to challenge you to commit to mailing something every day for a month, or once a month, or for every birthday of everyone you know. Just try it once, and see if it doesn't give you a certain satisfaction. You may even want to do it again. Sometime. Randomly. Without obligation. A moment of slowing down, for both you and the recipient.