Friday, 7 November 2008

On Writing Letters . . .

I got one of my mother's bi-weekly letters yesterday morning in the post. I can depend on receiving a letter from her every second week, come hell or high water! I'm always really excited to get it, just like a child really, and I suppose I am . . . her child, that is! It's very rare nowadays to get a handwritten letter from anyone. I mostly get e-mails, and I am very grateful for them. A handwritten letter though, that's something special indeed. My mother doesn't have a computer and won't have one either. She prefers to do things the old fashioned way . . . so her stubbornness is our blessing, as we, each one of us three children, can rely on receiving a letter from her every two weeks. I am saving them, as does my sister. I have a special box that I put them in and someday when the letters stop . . . as I know they one day will . . . I will still have a letter from my mom every two weeks. I plan on pulling one out every second week just to read and treasure . . .

Todd can't understand how she finds so much to write about, but that is a man for you! I, myself, could write for England! A letter is like a conversation and my mother's are always interesting and witty, even if they are about the little goings on in her day. Perhaps a stranger might not find any worth in reading about those types of things, but I sure do. To be able to put them down on paper in such an interesting and entertaining manner is an art form . . . and one my mother has perfected!

One hardly has occasion to write letters anymore and receiving a personal one in the mail . . . something other than a bill or advertisement . . . is something precious indeed. As a child, I was taught how to write a letter. We learned how in English class at school. There were correct formats to follow for every kind, and there were several kinds. There were thank you letters, invitation letters, chatty letters, love letters (*giggle), letters of introduction, letters of regret, letters of condolence, resignation letters . . . I could go on and on, as there were letters to fit just about every situation one had to face in life . . . and we practiced the art of writing them all. It was good to learn those things, and I have no idea if children today learn this or not. I can't remember my own children learning how to write a letter at school, but I could be wrong. (It's been known to happen on several occasions you know!)

When I was a child, I never received a gift from anyone,without having to write a thank you letter in return afterwards. (A practice I still follow I might add.) In school, awards were given out monthly for the student who had done the best work for that month, and had gotten the most gold stars and stickers on their chart. More often than not, the award was a lovely box of writing papers. I was never disappointed in receiving this . . . for one thing, it was an award . . . and two it was nice writing paper and now I had something that I could write someone a letter on, something other than lined A-4! and three . . . I had occasion to write a thank you letter to my teacher for the award! It was a win/win/win situation! Just yesterday, I was searching online for some nice stationary that I could write some letters on, but alas . . . I could not find any.

I do love pretty writing papers, although I don't often have occasion to write letters these days. I, like most people, generally send e-mails. Letter writing is becoming a lost art form. The last time I sat down to write a letter, my hand ended up all cramped and sore afterwards, so seldom do I use it in this exercise . . . and, I am ashamed to say, my mother rarely gets a written letter from me, except for possibly once or twice a year. I just pick up the telephone and call her instead, preferring to hear her voice. I'm lucky that I live in an era when a telephone call, internationally, is not an awfully big expense. But even if it were, I'd still call anyways. My mother always "tut tut's" about the price . . . but I just tell her, mom . . . someday it won't matter how much money I have as I won't be able to call you anymore . . . so, for now, I call . . . regardless of the expense. It's a gift to me, and quite selfish really.

When I was ten years old and in Grade five at school, my teacher, Mrs. Folk, had my parents in for an interview. She told them that I had deplorable handwriting and she refused to mark any more of my work, as it was too messy and difficult to read. That did it!!! My mother wasn't having a child of hers with messy and difficult to read handwriting!!! She went out and bought several exercise books entitled, "The MacLean Method of Hand Writing." They were little books the size of a music exercise book and full of pages and pages of writing and practice writing exercises. I remember having to sit for hours practicing the art until I had it honed and perfected. My hand would be so sore afterwards. I am quite sure that I whined quite a lot in the process, and a great deal of tears were shed, although I have now blocked that part out of my mind! (Selective memory is a wonderful thing!) Whatever . . . the end result was that I ended up with lovely handwriting, all swirls and curls and quite legible! (Todd wouldn't agree though . . . it looks foreign to him and he has a difficult time reading both mine, and my mother's writing) It was not a wasted exercise though, and I am grateful to have had a teacher who cared enough to complain and for a mother who cared enough to take me to task, and stuck with it until I learned properly. Sometimes stubbornness is a blessing . . .

I really do need to write more letters, and I think I will. I think that this year I will try to write at least one a month so I don't lose the art, and so I keep my fingers and hand in practice . . . not to mention my mind and my heart . . . as letter writing comes from the heart you know . . . and we need to use our hearts more often . . . at least that's what I think!

I had a bit of leftover ham in my freezer that I decided to use up last week. I made this lovely casserole. It's a very old recipe of mine from that Big Blue Binder, that my family always loved when they were growing up. I believe this was the first time I had made it for Todd. He is not overly fond of Pasta . . . or that "Italian" food as he calls it. He prefers meat and two veg . . . (Like he's always gonna get THAT from me!) Every once in awhile I torture him with pasta in one shape or another, (no pun intended) because it is something I love. He always ends up liking it anyways . . . even if he won't admit it. The plate always comes back well and truly cleaned! This recipe is easy to cut in half if you want to serve it to a smaller group and if anything, the leftovers taste even better warmed up the next day!

*Ham and Mac Bake*

Serves 8

This is a wonderful casserole that is not only mighty taste but mighty easy on the budget as well. My kids loved this when they were growing up and it was always something different to do with that ham that was leftover after New Years and Easter. Mind you, it’s so good it’s worth buying some ham just to make it.

½ pound macaroni (1 2/3 cups)

¼ cup butter

¼ cup plain flour

2 TBS Dijon mustard

¼ tsp pepper

2 cups milk

2 TBS light soft brown sugar

2 cups cubed, fully cooked ham

2 medium eating apples, peeled and thinly sliced (2 cups)

1 cup soft bread crumbs (1 ¼ slices of bread)

2 TBS butter, melted

Cook the macaroni in boiling salted water according to the package instructions. Drain well, rinse with cold water and set aside until needed.

Pre-heat the oven to 180*C/350*F. Melt the ¼ cup butter in a saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook for one minute over low heat. Blend in mustard , salt and pepper. Stir in the sugar. In the meantime bring the milk to a simmer, then whisk in slowly to the flour mixture. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in the macaroni, ham and sliced apples. Turn into a greased 2 litre casserole dish.

Toss the bread crumbs with the 2 TBS melted butter. Sprinkle evenly over top of the casserole. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until bubbly and lightly browned on top.


  1. Hello my dear,
    One great thing about hand writing letters is that you don't loose them to cyberspace. I just finished writing you a nice long comment when my laptop froze up and I lost it....gone...poof... would happen when I am so tired I can't think straight anyway....oh well

    We just got home from a lovely shift at the temple but we were afraid that it might not be. At the LA temple hundreds(maybe thousands) of prop 8 protesters have blocked the entrance to the temple. It is so bad that they have closed all the streets leading to the temple.

    How sad it is that a church can not take a moral stand without being retaliated against. It is too late for me to get the news tonight but the radio news on the way home make it sound awful...They blame the church for prop 8 passing...even though we were not the only church supporting prop 8.It is scary stuff. The radio warned people to stay away from the area because it is unsafe. They say the protesters are very angry. I hope no temple workers or patrons got hurt. I did not hear of any.

    I saved most of the letters I got when Erin and David were on their missions. It is fun to get them out and read them. I also found some of my mom's old letters the other day. What a treat to see her hand writing again. I could almost hear her sweet voice talking to me. She has been gone for over 20 years but I still think of her almost daily.You are right about letters being a treasure...I love the convenience of email...but treasure the old letters I have.

    By the way...that reminds me...would you please send me your address in a email. I think you did once but I can't find it.

    Have a good day. for me it is nighty night time. Love, Lura

  2. Did you notice that you were leaving me a comment at the very same time that I was writing you?

    What fun to know that the two of us are sitting at our computers, in our jammies, half way around the world sending love and best wishes to each stuff... now I really am going to bed this time...Love ya

  3. Good Morning Marie ~ 1st of all thank you for your postings in your journal. They are always so warm, loving and positive, it's rarely that way these days in journal land, so many people have things going on in their lives that are overwhelming them and the journal is a way to express all that, especially when one doesn't have anyone else to talk to about it. You make me feel loved and a friend. As you know loosing Heathen (he's been gone a week now this evening) it's tearing me up inside, I look for him everywhere, even though I know his physical body isn't here anymore...I love him more than words could ever say. Kizmet his little "sis" is missing him terribly too, I worry about her. She keeps going around crying and looking for her "bubba".
    Love and Hugz* Teresa

  4. Great post - I was the same (and still am) I always had to send a thank you letter if I recieved a gift.

  5. I could not tell you the last time I wrote a letter. I remember when my Stuart worked away I wrote every night and he wrote to me all the time too even though he was home at the weekends. I still have his letters and often sit down and read them some of them written in very sad circumstances as I was in hospital for many months at the time. Keeping a journal here really helps your skill a great deal I think you learn to write about little or nothing just a little idea. Love Joan

  6. Hello Marie, lovely post and scrumptious recipe. I feel the same way about writing letters. I love to sit down with some pretty writing paper or card, and a proper pen with real ink in it. You can really put your heart into your words, more than you can in e mails. I used to love the sound of the postman putting letters through the door, now most people have post office mailboxes- too bad. Hope you enjoy you lovely new kitchen. best wishes MC Canada

  7. Dear Mariew I love to write lettes too!!! are beatiful!! The e-mail are good but not the same I think. I will try to send you a letter!!!Is nice.
    I love your dish Im so hungry!!! Have a really nice weekedn with Todd!!! huggss!! Gloria

  8. If you love everything I create, I love each word you write (type). You have an incredible gift for sharing your thoughts and I wish I could do the same. I love hearing your stories from the past and your posts always leave me thinking of ways that I can improve myself. :)
    Like maybe being better at passing on an award. ;)

  9. I have a letter my son wrote as a child that I read every once in a while.

  10. Marie, this is a lovely post. I am in a writing group and I love it! I love getting "regular" mail! I like e-mail, too, but there is something special about opening the envelope to read something . . . That casserole looks fab, I am sure that my honey would love it! Much love, Raquel XO

  11. I love stationary and buy it all the time! I have way too much but I can't stop myself!

    I always write thank you cards as well and make sure Griffin does. I do not think many kids do that anymore as we have never received one from any of his friends after a birthday party. :( It makes me sad that their parents don't know any better. Griffin now thinks to write them before I do. :)


  12. That's so sweet your momma writes you letters. I make it a point to send hand written thank you notes to folks...I think it's important.

    You won! Come to my blog! :) I'm so glad you did too...:). Now I can include your sussy in your Christmas gift when I send it!

  13. Well, this is a topic I know all about. I write letters constantly and avoid email like it's something that will taint me. I'm a bit extreme, I have a careful log I keep of every letter I ever send out and I save every precious note, letter, postcard etc I ever receive.
    And I buy stationary by the truckload, entire trees worth........

    The thing is, and for example, my Grandmother was my first ever penpal and she passed away this year. I can't tell you how grateful I am to have all of her words.

    I make it a daily ritual. Like someone taking tea, or taking a nap. I write someone a letter. I can't imagine life without my letter writing.........

    Your Mom sounds divine~~

  14. you have inspired me to write a letter today! it is an art that is disappearing, thanks to the computer. while email helps me keep in touch more than i would have normally, it still is a good idea to write letters on a regular basis too. the only ones i do these days are thank yous. i haven't written a "love letter" in awhile. i think i'll write one to my man today:)

  15. What a lovely post. I'm new to your blog, and I really love your bio! Handwritten letters are almost a lost art - you've inspired me to get out some of my notecards and write something to some of the people I love. And your ham and mac bake looks delicious!

  16. "A letter is a conversation..." Oh, that is so true, Marie! It is refreshing to know the the art of letter writing is still alive and well...I should write more letters, I know. Computer usage has made me lazy with real letter writing--so easy to pop off an email, isn't it? And my handwriting has really gotten illegible--punching letter keys has made me forget how to wield a pen! I used to write lots of letters to distant family and friends...Now email/internet has taken over. My blog has been a nice way for me to keep in touch with friends, and even some of my family read (my mom is a big fan! ;o)...I still love pretty stationery though, and purchase some on occasion, even just some lovely note cards. Oh, this posts inspires, Marie...Thank you for it! Hope you have a lovely weekend ahead...dare I hope we get to chat on Sunday?! :o) Love you heaps, my dear friend ((BIG HUGS))

  17. Marie I always love to hear your stories and this one on letter writing is especially nice. I love getting letters and writing letters, despite the fact that arthritis makes writing difficult for me any more. Letters are something you can hold in your hand - they just touch your heart in a special way. blessings, marlene

  18. I find beautiful stationary on, Marie.....maybe have a look there?

    When I was in 6th grade, I admired my teachers handwriting so much, I practiced every day til mine was similiar to hers.

  19. Its a long time, since I have received or written a letter. Do you think there will ever come a day when it's a pain in the butt to send an e mail too?
    Gaz xxx

  20. You are so right. One of my fondest memories was that of my grnadmother. Watching her write letters was amazing. She had a third grade education but she would attempt letter writing along side of her was Webster's Dictionary. When she wanted to write a word she was not sure of spelling etc., she would look it up in her dictionary a lesson I should hold dearly. Thank you for the brief reminder to us all. We should take the time. You are amazing in and of yourself. Yummy dinner as usual.

  21. Marie, as you well know, your Mom was an exceptional mother! I can just see her giving you the writing materials and kindly explaining what had to be done and how! Yes, I can picture your reacton, your expression, and just barely hear a little bit of disappointment in your voice, but added to that a promise that you would do your best! It's such a shame your Mom doesn't want a computer. She would be amazed to read your recollections of certain events in your lifeline and how interested we are in them too! Please send her lots of love from me!

    We were taken out to dinner tonight. I ordered HAM so I could have some left to make your comforting ham and macaroni dish this week-end! Hubby loves all the ingredients and will be so pleased. I always let him know when I am making one of your recipes!

    If you or anyone else who is reading this remembers me telling you about our 'Return Day' activity in Sussex County you can log on to youtube and enter a search for: Return Day, Delaware.
    Several videos will come up. There is one which shows the burying of the hatchet. Of course our newly elected Vice President, Senator Joe Biden, came as always and you can see him. It poured cats and dogs, but masses of people still came in spite of the added security of 40 members of the Secret Service. People had to wait in line for over 2 hours to go through security and to be scanned. We are one of the smallest states in our great nation and are located on the east coast beside the Atlantic Ocean.

    Like you, I truly love receiving and sitting down to create well-thought out hand-written letters to my dear friends and family who live away. This month I already have sent 2 out in the mail!

    Your kitchen is going to be so marvelous and give you a great deal of joy. By the way, how is the cookbook coming? Didn't you say you had looked into Morris Press here? I have seen their cookbooks and really they are well done.

    I'm up awfully late. So for now, Ta Ta until next time!

  22. Thank you for a wonderful post. Letter writing is indeed a lost art. My family is all gone. No more letters. I now volunteer to write our deployed military overseas. For them a handwritten letter is more precious than gold and I get as much joy mailing the letters as they get in the reading.

    Thanks Marie.

  23. Letters are lovely, aren't they? My handwriting is horrid, even I think so! My father's handwriting LOOKED beautiful, all sloping to the right and curly and wonderful, BUT it was a real curse to read! How I wish I could see it now.

    I can though! In 1956 I was 5 years old and he had been on a short trip to London. He brought me back a little Collins Gem Dictionary in which he had inscribed "for Angela, a present from Daddy 1956". I used that dictionary all my school days and I have it still, complete with some of my first attempts to write "like Daddy".

    love, Angie, xx

  24. I don't write letters nearly as often as I did twenty years ago...mostly it's the time factor. We do teach letter writing in school, in all grades, but the emphasis isn't on writing letters as much as it is on writing narratives. I remember one reading lesson, my students had enjoyed reading some poetry. I found his address online. The kids didn't balk when I asked them to write a thank you letter to the man, telling him something about the poem they enjoyed the most, and why. We sent the letters off. He wrote a thank you back to them. They were surprised and pleased. Teachers are always integrating letter writing into their curricululm somehow. Handwriting is also still being taught in many schools, including ours. This reminds me that I need to write my mother a letter. She has moved to an isolated area, far from her friends... and she isn't working. Maybe I can get her to write me more often!!

  25. One of the most crippling misconceptions about letter writing. The secret to writing effective fundraising letters is to write quickly.Writing a letter to the editor is an effective and virtually cost-free way to craw.


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