Postage Fun!

I love picking out just the right stamp(s) to add the finishing touches to my letters.  Sometimes, I like to pile on lots of old, unused stamps to make up the current 44 cent first-class rate.  But I also enjoy using new stamps–especially some of the great options the U.S. Postal Service has out now.  For those of you who haven’t been to the post office lately, here are a few of my current favorites (pics courtesy of the USPS):

The American Scientist stamps are full of nerdy fun, and their pastel colors go nicely with some of my girly stationery:

The Pioneers of American Industrial Design stamps sport some great images of everyday items from the 20th century (the Brownie camera!) and the stamps’ silver-black-white-and-bold-color designs look great on bright envelopes!

The Go Green stamps are quirky and cute and share great tips for going green every day:

And last but not least, my favorite recent issues from the U. S. Postal Service are the Garden of Love stamps.  Their colors and heart-shaped designs make my envelopes look amazing!

To improve your letter-writing batting average, make sure to have some stamps on hand.  Pick up some of these beauties at your local post office and you’ll be ready to send some snail-mail-love in style.

Buy some postage, save a tiger

The U. S. Postal Service recently announced they will issue a new semipostal stamp.  Semipostals allow stamp users to pay more for the stamp (55 cents rather than 44 cents) and the extra 11 cents funds a good cause.  You may be familiar with the current breast cancer research stamps.  Funds raised from the new stamp will help save vanishing species like elephants, rhinos and tigers.

From the press release:

The Save Vanishing Species stamp, which can be preordered beginning today at usps.com/shop, features an illustration of a tiger cub by artist Nancy Stahl. The artwork on the full sheet of 20 stamps is dark green and includes silhouettes of a rhinoceros, a tiger, a gorilla, Asian and African elephants and a marine turtle. …

Five million sheets of stamps will be printed initially and reprints will be based on customer demand. The stamps will sell for 11 cents greater than a First Class Mail stamp — 55 cents — and $11 for a sheet of 20.

…Three semipostal stamps have been issued by the U.S. Postal Service and today only the Breast Cancer Research stamp is available:

  • Breast Cancer Research, 1998–current. Net proceeds of more than $74.1 million to date have gone to the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense.
  • Heroes of 2001, 2002–2004. Net proceeds of $10.5 million went to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. No longer available.
  • Stop Family Violence, 2003–2006. Net proceeds of $3.1 million went to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. No longer available.

Here’s a shot of the stamp (pic courtesy of the USPS):

The semi-postal stamps don’t go on sale until this September, but you can pre-order the stamps online from the U. S. Postal service here. Cool stamps and helping endangered species, what a winning combination!

Postal finds in Strasbourg

On my last morning in Strasbourg, we went to the farmers’ market, a flea market and a neighborhood-wide yard sale.  I love flea markets and yard sales; you never know what wonderful treasures you’ll find. 

At the flea market, I came across this box which made my heart flutter with the possibilities:

What might be inside?  I bought the box whole and here are just some of the treasures I found:

A pile of stamps…

Including this cool stamp of a stained glass window from Strasbourg’s Notre Dame Cathedral:

There were a lot of Russian stamps:

Including these cool stamp strips:

There were old envelopes and postcards in the box, too! Here’s the pile:

The pile included a postcard that features the Strasbourg Cathedral:

And this one that features an old photograph of local women in traditional Alsatian dress.

At the community-wide yardsale, I met a man who had three boxes of very old post cards and I found these three from Strasbourg at the turn of the 20th century (back when Strasbourg was still part of Germany). The first one is from 1899 and the second from 1910.

The handwriting on this one is especially beautiful.

It was wonderful to find such great mementos of my trip to Strasbourg and hold small bits of history that represented Strasbourg’s storied past. Will flea markets a hundred years from now sell print-outs of emails or text message strings? Not likely.  Emails just don’t hold the same power as the images, handwriting, stamps and postal cancellation of post cards! 

P.S. The photo on one of the post cards featured women with “coifs” (like the term for a hair do, but referring here to the giant cloth bows on their heads).  See this detail:

Here’s a picture of a statue at Strasbourg’s Orangerie Garden of a girl sporting the same “coif:”

Another feature of the Orangerie garden were the storks who build huge nests on top of buildings and trees:

Napoleon had this park created for his wife, Josephine.  The pavillion below was the main event.  Apparently after all of the effort that went into designing and building this park, Josephine never even saw it.

It’s a shame–it’s a nice park.

Woman-power postage, French style

My favorite find at the Strasbourg post office (La Poste) was a book of stamps devoted to women.  I am not sure if these images constitute French feminism or a reactive response to it or something else entirely.  But they’re sexy, strong and oh so French.

My friend Allison (who I just visited in France) helped me translate them for your reading pleasure. I’m quite sure something is lost in the translation for several of them.

 Here’s the first pane:

Top left: Woman of being
Top right: I am the vowel in the word “punk.”
Bottom left: Man is the past of woman.
Bottom right: The masculine takes it away, but where?

Second pane:

TL: Woman of the head, spirit of the body.
TR: Attaining everything but desire.
BL: I didn’t let myself come undone.
BR: Better than nothing isn’t enough.

Third pane:

TL: Let’s be happy in waiting for happiness.
TR: I believe in the eternal feminine.
BL: It’s the time of the bitch.
BR: “To pick the desire of life.”  (Note: Allison said that this quote is based on a well-known–in France at least–16th century poem that talks about “Picking the rose of life.” This stamp makes a play on words with the word for “rose” and the word for “desire” sounding alike.  Ahh, word games in another language!)

P.S. Speaking of plays on words, here’s a random photo from France.  This is a book store in the Marais neighborhood in Paris.  The shop’s name is a play on “Mona Lisa” meaning “Mona was reading” in French.

The Marais was historically a Jewish neighborhood.  Today in the Marias, there is still a strong Jewish community, there’s a growing Muslim Middle Eastern community, and there’s a thriving gay community, too!  What a mix!

The Marais was also home to the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had…Amorino’s served it up pretty:

With this Italian gelato, the Middle Eastern falafel stands, Jewish bakeries and delis, and French sidewalk cafes, the Marais is an international gustatory delight!

Royal wedding postage

In honor of the royal wedding, I thought I’d share some commemorative stamp issues memorializing the event.  Countries around the world have issued stamps.  Here are the ones New Zealand put out, sporting the couple’s official engagement photos:

New Zealand’s island neighbor of Niue released the strangest stamp–with the couple’s photo perforated in the middle–you can literally split up the couple and use them as separate stamps.  And Kate’s stamp isn’t worth as much as Will’s! Cheerio!

Update: a pic of the kiss!

I just love the little girl on the right half-waving and checking out the kiss, while the other is looking a bit bored with the whole thing!

Pic from Yahoo, here.

P.S.  Here’s a picture of a newspaper stand’s advert for pre-wedding press coverage in France:

It seems like a simultaneous celebration and smug pot shot at the whole thing. So French!

La Poste

I visited the post office in Strasbourg, France (called, simply, “La Poste”) to peruse their wares and pick up postage for all of the post cards I needed to send. La Poste is actually a bank and a post office.  Here’s an outside shot:

The yellow post boxes could be found everywhere, and quite easily, given their color:

I ran into letter carriers and their vehicles in both Strasbourg and Paris.  Here are some shots (again, with the vehicles in La Poste Yellow):

While at La Poste, I found some wonderful stamps for my post cards and collection.  See a selection below.

These heart-shaped ones were darling, but also a bit difficult to tear out!

The ones below were good for international mail and featured a beautiful red and blue abstract painting (sorry for the yellow color of the photos! I swear I’m going to learn how to take better pictures!)

Here are some for the Chinese Year of the Rabbit:

I thought the bunny was so sweet in the brush stroke painting:

Here’s a stamp that was a “celebration of the stamp” (fete du timbre) and it *smells* like strawberries!

Here’s the back of the stamp…I wonder if it *tastes* like strawberries:

The other stamps I bought were general, small, non-descript Marianne stamps.  I had two versions–one good for international postage and one which could be used to make up the difference between the cool ones I was buying and the international postage rate.  See here:

Marianne–the woman on the stamp–is a female image representing Republican France and its ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity.  I’m not sure why Marianne has on a weird Smurf hat.  I’m sure it is some sacred symbol I’ve now disparaged.  Allison, Natasha and anyone else I know who is a France expert, please let me know!

Marianne’s image changes on the stamps over the years (such is the way with idealized feminine imagery).  I have this one in my collection where I think she looks like Gloria Steinem.

If you’re interested in seeing the Marianne stamps over the years, check out this link.

My favorite stamp find, however, was a series of 12 stamps focused on women.  They deserve their own post which will soon follow.  As a sneak preview, I think only the French would create stamps with clevage shots on them!

P.S. The post office I visited in Strasbourg sits on the cathedral square.  The utilitarian Poste building faces Strasbourg’s Notre Dame cathedral, which was built between 1176 and 1439 and stood as the tallest in the world for more than two centuries (from 1647 to 1874–it had to wait a couple hundred years for a taller church to fall before it could take the title of tallest!)

Here’s a shot of the magnificent cathedral which took my breath away when I first laid eyes on it:

Postal-themed postage!

I just received a cool package of older, unused stamps.  Since stamps never expire, they can still be used as postage. It’s fun to use a melange of vintage stamps, themed stamps or color-coordinated stamps on a letter or package, so I ordered a bunch from a man in California who sells them at face value! (Thanks to Missive Maven for sharing her postage connection). 

Here are some of my favorite postal and letter-themed ones:

These show the inner workings of the postal service…

These incorporate my favorite John Donne quote

These speak to the power of letters…to lift spirits, share opinions, and preserve memories.  Note, that you can even use stamps to say “write me back!”

 

Can’t wait to use these on letters!

Postage-inspired push pins

I love all things postage-inspired.  These push pins from Poulain stole my heart when I saw them…

It didn’t hurt that two of them–the one with the Eiffel Tower and the one with the fountain pens–spoke to two of my obsessions right now.  Planning a trip to France and learning to use my new fountain pens has made me a very happy camper these days.  It’s so nice to explore new things. It keeps the brain and heart alive.

My birthright

Folks have often wondered where I got the letter writing “bug.”  All I can say is, “It was in my blood.”

To set the stage, I was born at a time when long-distance phone calls were still expensive (long before those call-all-you-want-for-one-fixed-price plans).  So, letters were the best way for kids without jobs to keep in touch.  In the days before the internet, we shared pictures, jokes, clippings, and other ephemera with our friends and family via the mail. This was the era before spam email when people had to photocopy copies (of copies) of chain letters, recipes, political rants, and racy jokes to share them with one another. It was more work than today’s email versions, but we did it anyway!

And I lived in the country, with few neighbors and practically no other kids to play with. In this context, letters from elsewhere took on a bit of a magical quality.  They were contact from “out there in the real world.”

Given all this, I was fertile ground for the seed of letter writing and this seed was planted at an early age by both of my grandmothers.

My dad’s mom always wanted to own a card and stationery shop (an unfulfilled dream she must have bequeathed to me) and was an avid letter writer.  She would write back, a very reinforcing gift to a budding letter writer!

But it was my mom’s mom who really fostered my love of sending and receiving letters and packages.  She worked at the post office, so she would send little notes with regularity.  She was also renowned for her care packages full of random fun.  I vividly recall a St. Patrick’s day themed package that came with a headband sporting glittered, bobbling shamrocks, a box of green Jell-O, lots of candy, and oddly enough, pairs of green underwear.  Anything green made the cut! As a young adult, I began to carry on this tradition, sending similar themed packages to folks for birthdays or just to cheer them up.  I knew the power such packages had! 

My mom’s mom also introduced me to stamp collecting. I haven’t talked about that much on here yet, but will share some of my favorites from my collection on future posts. I remember seeing the first-day-issue cancellations my grandmother collected for my grandfather and thinking how special they seemed–printed with his name, mounted on a card explaining the stamp’s history and meaning, and then carefully placed inside a plastic protective covering and kept in a binder for safe keeping. Stamp collecting involved history, art, organizing, and a flair of adventure. I was in love!

So, you see, I was just an innocent victim.  This outrageous love for pens, letters, packages, stamps, and all things snail mail that I harbor was foisted upon me.  Now that the world has moved on to faster forms of communications, I can’t abandon this birthright of mine.  It’s part of my family history and I plan on preserving this tradition as long as I can. And I’m busy inculcating a younger generation just as my grandmothers did. 

That’s what you’re supposed to do with traditions.