Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finnish Organic Onion Soup Review

     This summer I did an international food swap. (Check out the post on July 25th) I sent my food to Wales and I got a wonderful package from Finland. Tonight we ate the organic onion soup so I thought we'd write a family review for you. This is the soup we ate.

     As you can guess, it was simple to make. Boil water, add soup mix, wait- very easy. I was surprised a little bit that the soup mix kind of clumped up and floated (almost like balls of dough) while it was boiling but, other than that, it was pretty normal. Here's the finished soup.
    Nope, I don't know what the floaty things are.  Yes, I do have a chipped edge on my bowl.  The onions are minced which is different than a lot of the onion soups I see here. I don't think I've ever had yellow broth with an onion soup either. I've had a lot of French Onion soup that has a brown beef broth as a base.

Reviewers:
Matt (35)- likes to cook. Favorite method: throw a whole bunch of things together and make them somehow taste good.
     Matt says that the soup was "smooth, maybe a little too salty, but good."  I was going to snap a picture of him but I knew I was already pushing it by asking him to review the soup.

David (4)- Mr. Finicky. Favorite dinner conversation: "How many bites do I need to eat before I'm excused?" Favorite food: Turkey and cheese sandwich, no mayo.

     David says he "liked it" and that it tasted "like soup." He also says other people will like it "because it tastes like soup."

Timmy (6)- Mr. I'll Try Anything I'm Not Deathly Allergic To. Favorite food: Broccoli with cheese on it.

 (Action shot)

     Timmy says "I think it was good, a little. It had too much sliced up onions." He did not finish his bowl but he didn't mind trying it.

Jen (me- I'm 34)  I like to cook too. I've been on a diet recently so I've been sticking to some easy healthy recipes. I thought 59 calories for a bowl of soup was very reasonable! Favorite cooking method: Sticking to the recipe- ALL the time. I'm actually getting better at making my own choices, substituting, etc. Thanks to Matt's inspiration I've also just tried throwing a few combinations together.
     I thought the soup was good. It was a little thicker than I thought. When you spooned some soup up it almost looked like there were layers, like the soup might have gelatin in it or something, but it didn't taste gooey.  The soup was tasty but I think I prefer the broth of the American French Onion soup a little more.  This felt like it was missing something but I couldn't figure it out. It was definitely lower sodium than the soup we have here.  I didn't think it was salty like Matt did.


    This was fun. I should make it a reoccurring thing! Do you have a food we should try?  Feel free to send it along. (Timmy is deathly allergic to cashews, pistachios and pumpkin so it can't contain those!)  Recipes would also be fun.

A postcard and a surprise

Incoming...
     Sort of a slow mail day today but I was excited to find this super cute card from Taiwan in my mailbox. (sent 63 days ago!) They look like little happy jelly rolls with fruit inside. I wonder if the inside is frosting or something like whipped cream. Is the cake flavored too or just colored?  Anyone from Taiwan want to answer? The chocolate one on the bottom left looks the tastiest. (Are those coffee beans in there?) Yum. I would feel guilty eating their little smiley faces. 
   On the back Tina wrote a nice message and had some very pretty stamps. ("Taiwan" looks complicated to write using characters.)  The card looks like it was from Crown Fancy. Check out the pictures of the desserts on their site.
     Here are the stamps she had on the card. We had a beetle just like that on our porch the other day. (Thought it was an Asian Longhorn Beetle at first. If you're not from the area, we have had trouble with those bugs eating the local trees.  I looked it up and realized that it was a different bug.) It was bigger than a lot of the local bugs... and ugly.



Other news:
    I was watching tv on my couch when I thought I saw the UPS truck pull up to the house. I never get packages that can't usually be stuffed into the mailbox so I was super excited. I hadn't ordered anything so what could it be? (Yes, I really do get this excited and have these conversations in my head. I think I need therapy.)  It turned out to be this:



     A few weeks ago I was online and came across a site called Redditgifts. It seemed kind of like a swapper site so I decided to check it out. The first thing I saw was the fact that they were having a Back to School gift exchange for teachers. Here's the really cool part. I thought "Wow, cool. I get to swap with another person who teaches." Well, I was wrong. It was a swap where teachers would receive a gift, not a swap. Surely this is too good to be true right? Anyone who teaches knows that teachers always "pick up a few things" for the classroom (students, curriculum, building repair, etc...) throughout the year. Redditgifts was asking for some people to donate $15 to buy supplies for a teacher. I thought "They are going to have so many teachers sign up and I doubt they will have enough people to donate" I was wrong. There were many, many people who signed up for the swap and all of them sounded very appreciative to be able to help. The teachers who signed up were asked to make Amazon wishlists and submit them.
     I received 2 packages of Expo dry-erase markers. This is super important to me because my room is very low tech (not by choice). The markers are constantly drying out or being used until they're empty. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a note person so Post-it notes are always a win with me. The last gift in the package was a CD of lullabies from around the world. (This is perfect for my 7th grade class which talks about music around the world!) There are songs from Benin, Madagascar, Canada, South Africa, Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Scotland, USA (It's a Jewish lullaby that I don't know), Japan, Argentina, Brazil and Tatarstan/Russia. One of the songs is a song that I'm actually performing with the 7th/8th grade chorus this semester.  IN ADDITION to this (which is crazy), she is also sending me these posters for my room:
     I am really grateful. This is such a nice way to start the school year. Reddit Gifts has totally won me over and I'm sure I'll be swapping there often! I can't wait to "pay it forward" the next time I see an opportunity.
     The man who sent me my package was a man named Kim. (I had assumed Kim was a woman until he wrote me today. Sorry!) I just got a really touching e-mail from him today. It reminded me that as teachers (of any kind- moms, educators, role models, Christians, etc) our words and actions are so important. Kim, I'm super humbled by your kindness and humility. Thank you so much!

Outgoing:

Gasp! I sent NO mail today. I'm going to write a few random letters tonight.  I realized I do have a letter to respond to as well. One of my penpals has been sick so I've been connecting with her a lot over Facebook. I realized that I hadn't replied to her letter yet so I'll do that tonight. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

PenPals For Life newsletter...

Incoming...

Nothing. Sorry Cutco catalog, although your products are fantastic, you just don't float my boat.

Outgoing...

     Here's a letter headed out to Ashley in WI. Sorry it's more of a novel than a letter! 
Who is this envelope going to?




The 366 Project:
Received: 29
Sent: 76

Other news:

   I was contacted by PenPals For Life, a Facebook group for penpallers that I belong to, yesterday and asked if I would write an article about my blog for their upcoming newsletter. How exciting! I wrote the article today and submitted it. If you're a penpaller, head to their page and show them some love. 

   

Monday, August 27, 2012

Update

Hello again, friends! I noticed that I've had a few people check in from Serbia and Puerto Rico. These are new countries to my "audience" so greetings!  I'd love to hear from you.

Incoming...

Here is a Postcrossing tag from The Netherlands. It asks 20 questions about me.  The next envelope is from a new penpal, Ashley, in Wisconsin. (She is one of the people whose blog I mentioned)  I loved her cool envelope and her letter :)  This picture does it no justice at all- check it out on her blog! Look at the cool wax stamp on the back. I want one. My birthday is in October..lol.

RU-1107358

Thanks Olya. I believe the names of these characters are Gena and Chebyrashka.

Outgoing

    You ready? 
Vaarwel!
 Farvel!
 ごきげんよう  Woah! Hope that kanji is okay!!!

 

Good-bye! Ironically, I tried to mail this letter just like this. My mailwoman noticed my mistake and left it in my box. (I guess we're even now!)
 Bonjour!
 And... shoot, I'm not sure which other languages you speak so I'll just say goodbye to your letter too!
  I also mailed a get well soon card and an outgoing 20 questions tag for Postcrossing.
    I'm finishing up 2 letters so I can probably add them tomorrow.  People who do mailart or penpalling, how do you usually write the addresses on your addressed envelopes? I have been affixing them with paper decorations and taping them down with shipping tape, or writing it in a sharpie but I wonder if there is a better way. I would love to have a sticker or something that I can write on.  Suggestions?

The 366 Project:
Received: 29
Sent: 74

Well, I made my send 20% goal by the end of August. Can I make 25%? Not without new mail to respond to! We'll see.

 

Call for new mail...

     Against all odds... and unless my mailbox is totally flooded this afternoon... I have completely caught up with all the letters I need to respond to. If you would like a random letter from me, drop me an e-mail and send your address. If you would like to send me a letter, ask me for my address. This even goes for people that I know and talk to on a regular basis. Come on friends, some of you have probably not sent a letter since your childhood! I'm still hoping to reach the 366 mark on sent and received letters so I still have a long way to go. Not into penpalling? Not sure what to write? Here are some suggestions:

- If I don't know you, introduce yourself.
- What did you do today? The everyday, mundane stuff.
- What foods did you eat today, if you live in a country outside the US? Favorite foods from your country?
- What do you like and dislike about the area you live in?
- Do you blog? If you do, what is your blog like and how did you get started?
- Advice? Lessons you've learned in life in general, etc.
-Tell me a story that most people in your country would know.
- What is going on in your local area this week?
- If I do know you, what's something that I don't know? Tell me something that you did this summer that you enjoyed.
- If you're a child (or a creative adult), draw me a picture and write a letter about what you drew.

     I wish I had a PO Box so I could just put the address here and be surprised. I would love to hear from some "random" people. I love connecting with people who I never thought I'd come into contact from. 
     I will also be sending out some "random mail" to some people whose blogs I have found but haven't spoken to yet.
    Have a great week. I have 1 final week of summer vacation. :( (Though I do look forward to working with my students again.)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back from New Jersey again...

Hello. It's been a while since I've updated here. Matt's grandfather passed away on Monday so we took an unexpected trip to NJ (and back the next day!). I didn't know him well but it was obvious that he was a great man and I'm sorry I didn't know him better.

Incoming:

     This is a lovely penpal letter from Susanne in Denmark. She is one of my newest penpals and I'm grateful to have found her.  The Little People man looks really at home surrounded by all those Disney princesses :)  I also have a letter from South Africa that I need to photograph. I'll do that later tonight since I'm too lazy too do it right now. ;)

      Here's some mail that has gone out recently.

Outgoing:


   I also have other mail to photograph but these letters are going to my 2 soldiers, Alabama and... shoot, I forgot- Australia, I think. The bottom one is one of my favorite envelopes that I've made recently- even though it's lopsided. I have not photographed all of my outgoing mail but this past week I have sent letters to: Uganda, my 2 soldiers, Alabama, Ethiopia (my Compassion International child), Australia, Massachusetts, France, and The Netherlands. I also sent some postcards out.

The 366 Project:
Received: 27
Sent: 69
    I'm still far away from receiving my 10% goal by the end of last week but I will definitely hit my 20% of outgoing letters written by the end of August. I'm hoping to maybe even get 25% out. I'm running out of letters to respond to though so hopefully I'll get many on Monday. 

Other random stuff:

Here is my son Timmy, super excited to be eating with the chopsticks that Akiko sent us. Thanks again!
Here's my youngest son, David. This is on the day of his preschool orientation (which was full of meltdowns). He was much happier once we were outside playing.
This is a concert I played at Revere Beach with North Shore Philharmonic Orchestra. I'm pretty my invisible here but I'm back where you see the lights, playing xylophone. It was a nice night out. I love the picture of the fireworks.

    I've also noticed I have 2 more followers to the blog. Welcome ladies! Glad to see you here.


 

 

 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

     Hello friends! Here's the mail updates:

Incoming:

On Saturday I was delighted to find a letter from my penpal Christina, from Germany. Here it is:
She used some Diddl stationary.   Diddl is a cartoon character created by a German artist, Thomas Golentz, in 1990. He is a white mouse big ears and pink soles on his feet. This is Diddlina (I believe).

Also in her letter was this postcard from Iceland. (Reykjavik):
and 2 really nice friendship books. (Angie these are coming to you!)
Pretty cool!


This looks like a nice mail week so far. On Monday I went to the mailbox and found these:
Woohoo! 2 letters. Except it wasn't.  I got a letter from Chandini, a penpal from South Africa, who always writes beautiful letters. Check out her cute stationary:
(That was my hectic summer last year that she was writing about! Poor David.)

The second envelope contained 5 postcards from a new pal who shares my birthday!  I had received a swap sheet a while back and I had never participated before. I sent out 5 postcards to someone whose name was on the sheet and then I replaced her name with mine. Then I passed the sheet on to some pals. This is the first thing I received back so far. It was a surprise to receive so I loved it even more. Unfortunately, the boys apparently "looked at" 2 cards so I'll have to photograph them later since I can't find them. Argh. Here are 3 of the cards she sent:
Boone's Mill- A mill originally built by Daniel Boone's brother, Squire, in 1804.
St. Louis, Missouri- I would love to see the Gateway Arch in person.
I think this was my favorite out of the 5 she sent.The is the Burden Falls in the Shawnee Natural Forest. Thanks Lisa!

Tuesday's mail:
I heard from my friend Jeffrey, from Maryland, who is always great at responding quickly... much better than me. (Sorry everyone!)  Always nice to hear from you!
Lastly, I received a nice Postcrossing card from Oregon. Thanks Carrie! This is The Enchanted Forest by John Anster Fitzgerald (1832-1906)
US-1750765:
Wow, I had more to update than I thought. It's late so I'm going to head to bed and leave you in suspense of how The 366 Project is coming along and what mail is outgoing. I will try to update tomorrow or Thursday. Maybe I should bring the laptop to my orchestra rehearsal on Friday. Being a percussionist we usually have tons of rests! (I'm lying here. This concert is kind of like a Pops concert- the percussion section is always working hard and usually could use one more player. Revere Beach, 7pm on Saturday. If you want to see me play, come on down! Regarding other orchestra music, it depends on the period it was written in on whether the percussionists are causing trouble resting or playing a lot.) 





 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chopsticks!

Incoming...

    So far this week has been a slow mail week but the mail that has come in has been really nice! I received a beautiful Postcrossing card on Monday.  This postcard is from Lithuania. It shows the Trakai Island Castle.  I love the colors in this card. Narina actually put a nice Trakai stamp on the card too. I love it. Thanks! Here's the card:
LT-223497





    Then, yesterday, I received a package from my friend, Akiko, in Japan. She sent me some beautiful chopsticks for each person in my family as well as a very interesting letter which I can't wait to respond to! (Love the information about naming!  I had a conversation about naming with a friend from Uganda yesterday. It's fascinating to me to hear about how children's names are chosen. )

 Outgoing:

    I'm still playing around with making envelopes. Here's an outgoing envelope that I'm sending to Susan in Alabama. I made a whole bunch of envelopes from a New England calendar.  So, any of my penpals who live outside of the States or in a different part of the country, those envelopes will show what my area looks like- or at least areas I can get to pretty easily.  Here's Susan's envelope. I'm probably going to start photographing the envelopes before I write the addresses since I haven't been able to figure out a "non-tacky" way to cover the address. 
The 366 letter project:
Received: 23
Sent: 59
      If you're dropping by my blog for the first time, I'm attempting to send and receive 366 letters this year- one for each day of this year. Yeah, I'm behind right now. SMALL GOALS: Get 20-25% of sent letters out by the end of August. 2) Get 10% of received letters in by the end of next week. So, if you're a stranger passing through, feel free to send me a letter about yourself! E-mail me and I'll give you the address. I love just hearing people's stories so you can just tell me about your everyday life if you're unsure what to write. 
     It will just be sad if I send out 366 letters and have 50 responses. Honestly though, even though it's a large goal I set for myself, I would rather have sincere letters of substance than to just have 366 papers come through the mail. I love to penpal because it enables me to travel the world without leaving home. (I would love to ACTUALLY travel too but being a teacher is not a hugely profitable adventure!) I love making new friends across the world and sharing knowledge and goodies with my children. So, I guess I have fully accepted the fact that I would much rather invest in people (and be invested in) than to just get lots of stuff in the mail. Sorry, rambling. 

 



Sunday, August 5, 2012

Random thoughts of the day...

No mail again!

     Well, I got no mail again but I did have a funny experience while heading to the post office today. Today I had to run to the post office before it closed so I packed the kids in the car and decided to get the mail before we headed out. Of course, being the nerd I am, I was super excited to see which one of my friends had sent me a beautiful letter. I opened the mailbox and got the weekly sales brochures. Thanks Market Basket and Stop & Shop. Grr. I went back to my car and drove to the post office (which embarrassingly is literally a few buildings away- I was in a rush). I bought a book of bonsai stamps and a page of the international stamps. Then, on my way out, who did I run into?
My old mailman, Billy! You know- the one who got my mail here by 12 everyday, brought me nice packages and stopped to say hello whenever he could.  I would even bust open my packages and share some of my treats. His route got switched and I realized that we had actually become friends over the year. It was nice to see him and let him know that I appreciated him. It turns out that he was filling in for my new mailwoman today. He asked if I wanted my mail from the truck. It turns out that whoever filled in yesterday put the junkmail in the wrong box. Sure! Then I got my mail again and it was all junk and bills. Twice in one day! I had better get some good mail on Monday. (They don't deliver mail in the US on Sundays.)

A day to be thankful...

     It was exactly a year ago that David was attacked by the rabid skunk. Every day I give thanks that he is healthy and that we live in a place that he could get the help that he needed to. I am thankful to my town health department for being supportive, my friends and family for prayers and all of the doctors and hospitals that took care of him. God is good!
     I'm also thankful for another David, a penpal from Australia who closed his letter with a lovely Bible verse. So, as I sign off early this Sunday morning, I wanted to send all of my readers a verse to start your day. I hope you and your family are blessed this week!

     Finally brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.- Philippians 4:8

 

 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Ending the week...

Ending the week...

Incoming

   I got a few goodies in the past couple of days. The first was a package from a Postcrossing tag. This came from Austria:




(I have to get more creative in covering all the addresses..lol. Now you know why I'm not an visual arts teacher!)  What's in it, you ask?
CANDY! The tic tacs are a "melon mix."  They taste good, pretty similar to tic tacs we have here. I think I have had a similar tasting flavor here. The Fizzers are very similar to Smarties here, just a little more tart. (They didn't taste fizzy though)  The MAOAM was kind of like Starbursts. The white ones with the blue stripes were a type of chewy caramel- yummy. My favorites were the red striped ones. They were a white, hard candy with chocolate in the middle. The ones with the fruit on them were hard candies that were fruit flavored. I haven't eaten any of the Tutti Frutti ones yet. The boys liked all of them. (Thanks for not sending anything Timmy was allergic to!)

     Then I got some letters:
     The one on the right is a thank you note from a woman from church. (Totally unnecessary!) The one on the left was a welcome to the Letter Writers Alliance. Here's what was inside:

My membership card, a pin and a welcome letter. The Letter Writers Alliance is a a group dedicated to preserving the art of letter writing. You can't seriously be surprised that I would want to be a part of this group. :)  Wait until I start sending mail out on official LWA stationary. If anyone reading this is a LWA member, leave a comment and introduce yourself.
     I also got a letter from Claudine in France.  She also sent me some Ritter Sport chocolate with some berry "yoghurt" filling. Delicious!!!

Outgoing:

    I have quite a few letters that went out, as well as a Postcrossing tag. I have been exploring all kinds of interesting blogs, including people who make some really pretty mail art. Mama Rae's Adventurous Days is one of those blogs. I looked at her mail and thought "What a difference that cute envelope makes!" So, I was inspired to make a few envelopes of my own.  I made these 4 out of a map, 2 tourist brochures and a new Super Mario Brothers advertisement.  Tonight I made some from a calendar of New England. (I apologize if you get one of these. They are very pretty but somewhat lopsided too!)  
      
The 366 Project:
Received: 22
Sent: 53
    I feel really good about being able to sit and write some nice quality letters and not feel totally rushed. I'm hoping I'll get to 15% (of the whole project) received by the end of the month. Come on people- send those letters! I'm hoping I will get 20%-25% of the sent letters done by the end of August. It's a big goal! I still have a TON to go.

Have a nice weekend everyone! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mail time...

Incoming...
     Well, I got NOTHING in the mail today- no bills, no samples, no junk and certainly no letters or postcards. However, I did get a few things over the past week that I really enjoyed. Here they are:

     I received my first letter from a new penpal, Jodie, who is from Australia. I'm really excited to get to know her. She sent a beautiful letter, a cute cupcake card that had a recipe on the back, 2 pictures and map of her area. It was really neat to go through the thick envelope and I'm looking forward to asking her about a few places on the map she sent.  Here's a picture. Isn't the cupcake card nice?  Looks like you could eat it right off the page :)

        I also got some postcrossing cards this week. 
TW-531352
Unfortunately Kristin resent a card for me from Postcrossing and I had just registered her 1st card. (Sorry Kristin :( )  This is the beautiful bamboo bridge over University Pond at Luku Chitou.
 
FI-1486076
The more I see (and taste!) of Finland, the more interest I have in it. I don't think I've ever actually met someone from Finland before. This is Suomi, Finland. It looks very peaceful. This city must have great things to offer because I have numerous postcards of Suomi and all are very different from each other. I like that.


     Speaking of tasting Finland- I tried the cheddar and broccoli soup. The taste was good. It was a little different from the American soups I've had. It is still creamy but maybe not as buttery tasting as the cheddar broccoli soups here. It was a little thinner and tasted more peppery. Overall, it was pretty good.

Outgoing:

     I forgot to post the mail I sent out a few days ago. I sent a few swaps out and a few letters. My pal Kathy from Australia sent me a swapper sheet (I don't know if it has a formal name) and an x-slip. The swapper sheet had numerous items on it that you could send to other swappers- such as stickers, friendship books, postcards, x-slips, surprises, etc. You then cover the names of the people you sent items to with your own address. So, hopefully I will get lots of interesting surprises from this sheet. It is my first time doing this kind of a swap. My packages went to South Africa and Norway.  I also sent a few letters. The items on top of the envelopes are the first friendship books I've ever made.
      A friendship book contains paper inside and is sent from penpal to penpal. Each new person adds their address and can state if they are looking for new pals, swappers, etc. When all of the paper is used, the completed book is then sent to the person who the book was made for. Again, a new thing for me.
     An x-slip is almost like a chain letter. You send something- in this case I had to send "an envelope of goodies"- to the first person on the list. You then take their name off of the slip, move everyone up a number and add your name and address to the bottom. You then pass it on to 10 people. 
     Today seemed to be a "send mail to Germany" day! Jenny, Christina, Melanie- heads up!
     And who could this be for? You?  Don't get too excited, you're going to laugh when you open it!

The 366 project:
Received: 20
Sent: 48
     I'm finally making some progress. I love sitting down and getting all the way through a letter. I feel like I'm getting back into the swing of things. School starts again in September. It's a lot easier for me to write during the summer. Feel free to flood my mailbox. If you don't want a new penpal but want to write a letter, feel free to just write to tell me about the details of your day, something about your city, blogs you like, what makes you unique, tell me about someone/something that inspires you... whatever you'd like. If you want me to write back, I will write you back.  E-mail me with your address if you'd like a letter from me first.