Thursday 25 August 2022

How to start pen palling

Following on from my last post I thought I'd do a post on how you can get started with pen palling if it is something you are interested in doing and I can guarantee that you will get much joy from it.

Firstly consider a few things:

  • Do you want to just start writing within your own country or are you happy to write internationally
  • How many pen pals do you fee you can realistically take on to start off with - as you find you enjoy pen palling you can always find new people to write to
  • Who do you want write to? - Age, gender, what the person's interest's are etc. It's important to have pen pals that you feel you have things in common with especially to start with I feel, but then I have a pen pal who isn't like me at all and we've been writing to each other for a long time now! 
  • How much to spend on writing supplies, to be honest you don't need that much and it's better to start with the basics which I'll list below and then as you find you get in pen palling you can grow and buy more bits and bobs.

Where to find pen pals?!

There are different ways and places that you can go to find pen pals. 

The first place is social media. I'm a user of Instagram and you can find people's pen pal/creative accounts like mine @naomi_creates__. You can search for hashtags like #PenPalsWanted and my advice is to check out people's accounts and their posts sharing photo's of their pen pal mail.

On Facebook there are pen pal groups you can join to find pen pals.

If you don't want to commit too much too soon and you have a chronic illness/disability you can join the Chronic Warrior Collective and register to join their monthly card swap and  when you join on your profile you can put that you're hoping to find pen pals through the monthly card swap. That's how I've found some of my pen pals.

Basic supplies to get started

➜ Writing sets which contain writing paper or note cards and then some envelopes alternatively you can buy writing paper and envelopes separately. I like the Paperchase spectroscope collection fore their postcards, writing paper and envelopes. Paperchase also do some nice writing sets and note card sets as well as postcards. On Amazon you can also find a range of writing and note card sets.

➜ Pens, I like to have a range of colours so gel pens work well and it can be fun to use glitter or scented pens. I really love Gelly Roll pens but I found these cheap fun pens to get you started here.

These are your main essentials as you can decorate a plain piece of writing paper with doodles using coloured pens as well as hand lettering. Writing sets come pre-designed. 

➜ You may also want to get a few sheets of stickers - Craft Planet do a great range of stickers. I find HobbyCraft good for washi tape as well as Etsy and Amazon. Though to be honest stickers and washi tape aren't core essentials.

Your main essentials is the enjoyment that you put into putting a letter together and the words you write. I get some mail from one pen pal and sometimes he writes on the most basic of supplies undecorated but it's what he writes to me that counts. Or I have another pen pal that writes to me and she just uses plain paper to write on but draws little basic doodles that she colours in. This just shows that all you need are some pens, paper and and envelope.

When you find a new pen pal decide who is going to write first. If you're writing first...

What to say in you first letter if you're writing first

Initially I like to say something like how exciting it is to have a new pen pal and how I look forward to getting to know them.

I then say my usual hello and how are you and I hope you are well.

In my first letter to a new pen pal I usually write just some things about myself (usually I've already said a little so my new pen pal can know me a little to decide if we feel a match to write to each other). But in my first letter I'll go into more detail about myself to introduce myself more fully to my pen pal. Somethings may include:

  • My age and which country I live in
  • My hobbies and interests
  • Fun facts about myself
  • Things I enjoy doing
  • My favourite things
  • What I do in my free time

Also I may add about what I've been up to recently and any upcoming plans and I'll ask my new pen pal things about them and how they are and what they've been up to and what plan they also have coming up.

Finally I'll add that I look forward to hearing from them and that I look forward to getting to know them and being their pen pal.


Here are some YouTube videos that may give you some inspiration:

Friday 12 August 2022

Why letter writing is so important to me

Letter writing is a huge part of my life but it extends far beyond it just being a hobby. For me receiving a letter in the mail is my bit of connection to the outside world. I have severe M.E which means that I am housebound so I'm not able to go out and socialise like most people.

For me 'snail mail' is my socialising. I read about people's lives and hear what they've been up to they're likes and dislikes and everything in between and though my life isn't that exciting I get to share my life too. The audiobooks and podcasts I've been listening to, playlists of my favourite songs and lists of my favourite YouTubers and blogs, my current craft projects and other things I've been up to like doing my nails or blogging or doing something for my YouTube channel. Sometimes I do talk about my health but that's only one portion of me and I like to share all ten portions of me.

Sometimes I'll write a letter on letter writing paper; other times I'll write inside a handmade card other times I'll get creative especially when I've been inspired by a pen pal's mail or a YouTube video I've watched. I love making every letter/card I send out to my friends and pen pals utterly unique.

As well as writing to pen pals I like to write to friends, it's just nice and something different to a text or message on Instagram particularly when that friend is having a tough time or I just want to surprise them with some lovely mail especially if that friend has been really supportive.

Writing letters isn't easy for me with me M.E. I'm forever apologising for me delayed replies but thankfully everyone I write to is so understanding. It also takes me a while to complete replies and I have to write here and there when I'm able to so sometimes I end up rambling as I lose track of how much in total I've written!

Sometime when I'm not doing so well all I can manage are postcards or a single page reply but again everyone is lovely and understanding.

I have had pen pals in the past who haven't been understanding but I now have a lovely group of pen pals who I write to regularly or as often as we can and friends who we'll send mail to each other occasionally. Some of my pen pals and friends who I write to have chronic illnesses/disabilities too including M.E.

It's nice to have pen pals with M.E as the 'get it' in terms of understanding and living with the condition and how it may affect us and we can write about the highs and lows of living with M.E.

Though I'm not bed bound with my M.E I do spend the fast majority of my day on my bed as this is where I find I am most comfortable with my profiling bed and air flow mattress and I have an over bed table where I can put my laptop or colouring things or letter writing things.

Next to my bed I have a giant cork notice board - like the size you'd find in a class room! There I put up all my mail and other bits and bobs like bracelets I've kindly been given through people who've set up their own thing to make and send out bracelets to people dealing with chronic illness. I also have my knitted angels up there too from the Action for M.E's Christmas Angel's project.

Especially on my bad days I love looking up at my notice board; at all the novelty push pins I've collected and seeing all the mail up there reminds me that no matter how isolated and alone my M.E makes me feel that I am loved by so many people. I also feel a lot of gratitude for the time people have taken to write to me, or to make me that card or paint me that quote or to colour me that image and so on.

So as you can tell by now (hopefully) from this post that letter writing means a lot to mean and it's more than a fun crafty hobby. It's almost a social lifeline to the outside world and how I hear about the outside world too. It's a challenging hobby having the energy to reply to pen pals and make cards including birthday cards but it's worth it. It's also something that I can do in parts on days when I have the energy. Like today I finished writing in a card that I started writing in the other day so it's defiantly manageable and for me I have just enough pen pals that I can keep up with being able to write to and now I've been writing to them all for so long that I now consider them all to be friends as well as pen pals. But yes back when I began writing letters I didn't realise how important for my social wellbeing letter writing would become. 

A view point looking up at a large cork notice board with fairy lights bordering it on the notice board is a colourful collage of mail: cards, postcards and bits of paper with writing on covering the whole space of the notice board
The view from my bed looking up at my notice board

Saturday 6 August 2022

A peek at some of my favourite phone apps

So first you can see that I really love my calendar and notes app..

I have all of my apps just on this on screen and then each apps is categorised into each folder - I just don't like having multiple screen of apps.

My Top 10 Apps

(In no particular order)

1. Lists

I would be totally lost without my calendar as in there I digitalised my daily plan which helps me manage my M.E. It also helps me to remember appointments and other things especially things that are out of routine.

2. Home Kit

I like my HomeKit where I can control the lighting in my room via my phone. For me this is more for accessibility as it's easier to tap some buttons or voice control to alter the lighting my room as opposed to getting out of bed which is not realistically an option for me to do. 

3. Expense

This is helps me with my incoming and outgoing expenses to help stay on track with my budgeting. I can create different 'accounts' so unlike on my bank where all my money is just one lump sum on Expense I have different accounts for different types of expenditures. Expense helps me stay on try of what I'm spending to help me try and save.

4. Dyson

This app means that I can control all the many differs feature of my my Dyson Hot+Cool™ fan on my phone as well create Siri short cut commands so for some things I can voice control certain features. 

5. Calendar

I would be totally lost without my calendar. Back when I was in Leeds in hospital and I was given my 'daily plan' (which I use to help manage my M.E) I digitalised this daily plan onto my calendar with alerts for every new event, plus my all time favourite thing... colour coding. What's more now with my life, my calendar and my daily plan is that it is easily adaptable. If I have an appointment I can move aspects of my daily plan around, especially activity and rest periods so that I'm still able to get enough mainly the latter in my day.

I'm a very visual person so I think that where my love of colour coding come in and being able to look at my calendar and see what is going on where and being able to visualise what is going on really helps me know what is going on especially if there is something going on in my week that isn't a typical occurrence.

6. 1SE - One Second Everyday

This is a one year long project.Each day I capture a one second video clip (sometimes a photo) and it collects together over the year to create a film of one second video clips giving a little glimpse into what was done that day. Like right now I am filming a time-lapse video of me typing blog post for today's video clip. Obviously I'm not perfect and I do forget and I do have to back track and fill in missing days. My life also isn't the most exciting one so I try come up with really creative videos.

7. Hip

This is a great app for keeping track of friends birthdays. I have it set to notify me 2 and 1 week before the birthday date to give me plenty of time to make and get a card posted. It also notifies me on the day so I can drop them a message.

8. iMovie

This is the app I use to make all of my video for my YouTube channel so definitely a favourite and essential app to have.

9. Good Reads

I really like the Good Reads app and being able to track the books I've read/listened to. I also have my yearly challenge where I set a target of getting through a set number of books in a year. I can also connect with friends and see what they've been reading and this gives me ideas for books I want to add to add to my 'Want to Read' shelf. When I've finished a book I can also leave a rating and also review. It's defiantly one of my favourite apps.

10. My Water

Monitoring my water intake is really important for my health so the My Water app makes it really easy to ensure that I'm staying nicely hydrated. You input what drink you've had say a 300ml cup of coffee and it will calculate the water balance of that drink which will go towards your daily target. So for me I aim to drink 2.5 litres a day so the My Water app helps me reach that target much more easily.