When I went to Maine, the official purpose was business, a stamping seminar. But the reason I chose that particular seminar was because I had never been to Maine. And my favorite airline did not fly there, so I had to fly into New Hampshire, where I had also never been.  Add Vermont to that list, and it was just too tempting to not go.

I never dreamed in all my life I would be in that part of New England during peak leaf-peeping weekend, but I was. But I am not the type to wander around aimlessly, so for the Vermont portion of the trip, I decided to look for a couple of letterboxes that might lead me somewhat off the beaten path. (Many letterboxes tend to do that.)

So early Sunday morning, I checked out of my hotel in Portland, and headed to Vermont in search of two letterboxes. This took me to Wilmington, Vermont, by way of Brattleboro, and these are a few of the pictures.

The hillsides were a riot of color, but this picture might explain why there have not been and will not be any SkyWatch pictures from Vermont. That whole day was "November Grey," a color I coined when living in Missouri when the whole month of November looked like this.

The hillsides were vibrant with colors, but this photo shows why there has not been and will not be a SkyWatch picture from Vermont (or New Hampshire, for that matter.) I call this "November Grey," a color I coined when living in Missouri and the whole month of November looked like this.

I was still having camera problems.  For those of you kind people who expressed concern last week, the problems seem to be resolved now, but I am not exactly sure how. I never change my lens, so I did not know how it could be foggy inside, but I decided to open it up and give it a look. It did not seem to be, but that process fixed the problem I was having of it not wanting to take pictures unless fully manual, so I apologize that many of these are from the car. I did not have time to stop for everything. My time was limited anyway, and the weather was bad and getting worse. I did not want to get stuck alone in a place completely foreign to me and not know what I could do to get back. So please excuse the odd angles, etc. Be grateful I was not looking through the lens most of the time while I was driving!

Upon entering both Maine and Vermont from New Hampshire, I crossed these large bridges. I liked them, and it made me realize how much water there was. Water does not divide states around here!

Upon entering both Maine and Vermont from New Hampshire, I crossed large bridges. I thought they were pretty, but it made me realize just how much water is there. In the area where I live, states are not divided by water!

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This is where I stopped to look for my first letterbox. The snow was just starting to get somewhat heavy. While I was there, the ground started to be covered. My sensible nature told me to head back, but when on an adventure of sorts, I might not always be sensible, so I went to the second letterbox.

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This was the location of the second letterbox. I cannot even imagine the view from this place when there is visibility.

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Back at lower altitudes, the snow changed back to rain. This was so typical of the houses I saw. I love the leaves in the yard and the pumpkins. Everything just looks so warm and cozy. (Because it was definitely not warm and cozy outside!)

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This was the only covered bridge I saw. But I was happy for at least one.

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Letterboxing does not use a GPS, but I had one, and after I found myself deep in the middle of nowhere, I just entered my hotel address in New Hampshire so I could find my way out. It did not take me out the regular direction, but through some remote back roads. I was so happy because I saw scenes like this.

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Many of the blogs I visit get exquisite pictures of frost on autumn leaves and flowers. That would never happen in my part of New Mexico (too dry for much frost to form, even when that cold), so I couldn't resist the snow on the autumn leaves.

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Again back in a lower altitude. I was so happy I was on back roads to see this view that is so stereotypical of New England in the fall. But what a wonderful stereotype!

Next week is Vermont, too. There was one thing I saw that I thought merited its own post.

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

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When I went on this last trip, I purposefully did two things to make sure I did not sleep in and hang out in my hotel room all day.  (Stay-at-home moms of young children are tired and the opportunity to do nothing is a strong call.) The most important thing was to not take a book to read. I really have no self-control whatsoever if I have a book. The second thing was to get some clues for letterboxes.

As I mentioned in my last post, my camera was not behaving as it should for a large part of this trip–including ALL of the Maine portion. Thus these pictures lack a bit to be desired. The problem was that it would not always take a picture when I aimed it unless I put it on fully manual which meant I could get nothing quickly, and there was a big foggy spot on the left side (or top for vertical pictures.)

Most of these pictures were from an early-morning letterboxing exursion. I found two boxes (out of two–that was exciting), and saw some places I would not have seen without this wonderful hobby.  (If you want a much better look at Portland, go here. She lives in the area and posts fabulous pictures all the time.)

This is looking over Back Cove a little after sunrise. I loved the skyline in the distance, but when I uploaded the photo, I was also enchanged with the tree in the foreground.

This is looking over Back Cove a little after sunrise. I loved the skyline in the distance, but when I uploaded the photo, I was also enchanted with the tree in the foreground.

This is about where I was standing when I took the cove picture. This place was enchanting, too. Of course the sundial is nice, but I really liked the branch shadows on the stone bench.

This is about where I was standing when I took the cove picture. This place was enchanting, too. Of course the sundial is nice, but I really liked the branch shadows on the stone bench.

I did not follow my clues properly and walked quite a distance up a street that wasn't necessary, but the view was worth it. There is nothing about this place, except the blue sky, that is like where I live.

I did not follow my clues properly and walked quite a distance up a street that wasn't necessary, but the view was worth it. There is nothing about this place, except the blue sky, that is like where I live.

I love quaint street scenes like this. (Sorry for the really fuzzy top.)

I love quaint street scenes like this. (Sorry for the really fuzzy top.)

Another enchanted house. These hydrangeas (I think--they are bigger than I've ever seen) were all over.

Another enchanted house. These hydrangeas (I think--they are bigger than I've ever seen) were all over.

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

Two days ago it was my “Blogiversary.” There was another post scheduled for that day, and I do not get terribly wrapped up in these things, so I did not say anything. But I want to say something now because I will do a giveaway, and I LOVE to do giveaways!

But first, you must endure some of my chatter mostly about our trip. It will be a hodgepodge as this blog has seemed to be over the past year. (Or you can skip to the giveaway stuff at the end!)

Chic~Turtle

Chic found a turtle just as we were headed to church. Since turtles are not common in our world, I HAD to let her play with it a few minutes. (We were late to church.)

We were almost 2 weeks in Missouri. (It WAS two weeks if we count the travel days.) When I make these trips, the purpose for them is for my business, but that only takes a day. The rest of the time I visit family and friends, shop (I hate shopping and rarely do it here, but there are necessities so I do it in Missouri where I have more time, and the stores I like are closer) and maybe spend a day or two in Branson. (My dad loves to take us to Branson.) But this trip was a little different.

Remember Grandma D and on her birthday she was in the hospital after a botched surgery? Well, that has not gone well. She almost died three separate times since that surgery. (Needless to say, they are not paying any of the medical bills.) I realized right away that it was going to be a burden for us to be there so long, so I decided to do the cooking and some cleaning. Prince Charming scanned some of my recipes, e-mailed them to me and that’s what I did most of the time. I did not cook EVERY day, but quite a bit, and made enough that they should have had plenty for at least a week after we left. We did not go shopping the entire time. That was fine, but there were a few things I needed.

Scissortail Flycatcher on wire--click photo to enlarge

Scissortail Flycatcher on wire--click photo to enlarge

The girls and I drove to Missouri not long after school was out, then Prince Charming flew in after two weeks. He was there one full day, but we had lunch with a former professor of his that day and planted two letterboxes. One is in honor of the Scissortail Flycatcher that we always used to see on a road on which we lived. I took my bike on this trip in hopes for some exercise (moderately successful) and found the bird in two other areas I had never seen before. My camera lens is not made to get good bird shots, but these are not bad. I like the still one, and the other one is a bit blurry, but you can at least see the tail action. It is so interesting to watch them fly.

Scissortail Flycatcher in flight -- click photo to enlarge.

Scissortail Flycatcher in flight -- click photo to enlarge.

It also must be noted that I have wonderful friends in Missouri. During the two weeks I was there, my children were whisked away from me four times (in addition to the two times I needed babysitting), and three of those times included overnight stays. (It gives a parent pause to think about the advantages of moving back to the land of heat and humidity–and no job for my husband!)

My brother and his wife also live there. His wife is who went to Silver Dollar City with us. We could not have survived the day without her! But since my girls are never in Missouri on their birthdays, they decided to have a birthday party for them. The girls were so excited, and it turned out to be a surprise for yours truly as well, since MY birthday is never when we visit! Wasn’t that thoughtful?

BirthdayCake~Candles

During all the cooking I sliced my finger with a very. sharp. vegetable peeler. I am no wimp, but this was a bad cut. WARNING! GORY PHOTO AHEAD. I’LL LEAVE SOME SPACE SO YOU CAN SKIP IT IF YOU WANT. It was about 3/4″ long, 3/16″ wide and 1/8″ deep. It bled like crazy. I finally managed a bandage and antibiotic cream, and the picture is of it after two days of this. There was barely any healing at this point.

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The reason I am even telling you this is because Grandma D had a liquid bandage which I put applied on the 3rd day. I did not take pictures of the healing progression (I really am not a very good blogger, but I will say that I have other things going on all of the time), but in ONE day the cut had reduced in size by more than half. Three days later, it was all but healed. Now I can just barely see where it was, and I do not even think it is going to leave an ugly scar. (Bump. I really don’t care about scars, but I have a bump on a finger from a childhood cut.) This blog is NOT about product endorsements, but if you have never tried this stuff, it is SO worth it! I made Prince Charming buy some. I think it will also be great in our dry, dry winters when our fingers have big, ugly cracks in them. Oh, it hurts like the dickens to put it on if the wound is as bad as mine was, but if you do a little Lamaze breathing, you can survive, and it will be well in no time. (I know this is not a new item, and I had heard of it but never tried it because I had no idea how well it worked.)

LiquidBandage

Time for the giveaway information!

First, I do not like to do this to get more traffic or comments, so you are required to E-MAIL ME if you want to be entered! Just e-mail louisestamps at aol dot com and let me know you want to enter. (Please put “giveaway” in the subject line.)  There will be two winners. Prince Charming will draw names, and the first one has first choice of what s/he wants.  The other person will get what is left. (But I do not make slouchy things, so I think that is OK, and it is free, OK?)

Here is an idea of the prizes:

1) Handmade cards. There will be these four, but I will probably throw in a couple of others for which I did not immediately have samples.

4Cards

2) A Banner. But not this one or one even like it, but you get the idea. I have not made it yet, and I decided to wait because the winner can pick the colors (within reason). It will be a “SUMMER” banner (NOT “MERRY”). It is a home decor item–large enough to fit over a double window or in a hallway. Each pennant is about 6″ wide and 9″ long. (I did not measure, but am doing this from a memory. I am too lazy at the moment to get out something to measure.)

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You have a week, through Wednesday, July 1, to e-mail me. If these things do not interest you, but you think they might interest someone you know, consider entering to give as a gift.

I am also thinking of adding a third prize, but you can tell me if you would be interested. I am not a great photographer. I take some very good pictures, but I do not edit them (other than occasional cropping when I am not too lazy) and I have still not figured out all the manual settings on my camera. I hesitate to do this one because I am so small in a big photography world. But I know a few have really liked some of my pictures. So I could also make a set of cards from my pictures. If you want to enter and that interests you, let me know. It could be a “Louise’s choice” thing, or the winner could choose from pictures I have posted.

OK, I think that’s it for today. But I forgot to tell you THANK YOU for hanging with me for a year. I went back and read a few of my first posts, and many of my readers are the same. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate that you come and read the drivel things I write and look at my photos. If it were not for you, I know I would have quit blogging entirely the couple of times I have had to take extended breaks due to my crazy schedule. YOU keep me coming back! Thank you.

letterboxing bag

letterboxing bag

Seems like lately I am starting my posts with something other than the title suggests, but I’ll get to that.

After my last post someone asked if I would show the supplies we take with us when hunting for letterboxes.  So that is what you see above.  We put it all in the orange bag so it is easy to carry (and also fits an extra camera lens).  The two ink pads leaning against the bag are the ones Prince Charming and I  use for our personal stamps.  (You can click on the photo to enlarge it.) My personal stamp is standing up, with the frog on it (Potted Frog).  Prince Charming’s has the rubber side up.  The plastic bag on the upper right is wet paper towels to clean the stamps when we are finished at a box.  Below that is a pile of log books.  Mine is open to show a page (true letterboxers are probably gasping at that.  So many on one page!  I’m just like that; I can’t help it!)  We just use sketch pads for our logbooks right now (and Chic and Chicklet’s are decorated so there will NEVER be a question as to who owns which!)  Lots of people use very nice hardcover journals, but I have not wanted to splurge in that area, although stamping in them might be a tiny bit easier.  And you can see the stamps are not “girly.”  Men can get into this as much as women!  To the left of the logbooks is the compass.  Not all boxes have clues with compass headings, but some do, and sometimes it is necessary to have one.  To the left of the compass are the markers we use for the letterbox stamps.  I like having several colors because one never knows what kind of stamp will be in the box.  Often they are nature-related which are typically browns, greens and greys, but they can be anything, so I like to have plenty of ink colors.  We color on the stamps with the markers so we can have more than one color on the stamp if we wish.  I love using the markers for letterboxing. If I had that many colors of ink pads it would be more expensive, heavier and take up more space.  No, you can’t use just any markers, but there are markers made for rubber stamps.

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Tonight I am having a Stamp-A-Stack at my house.  Monthly I have some sort of stamping class at my house, and for September, it is a Stamp-A-Stack.  For ME that means that guests (customers) will come and stamp 15 cards.  There are five designs, and they will make three of each design.  This is probably my most popular type of class because often when people make a card (or whatever we stamp), they like to keep it for a particular reason (have the idea for future reference, too pretty to give away, etc.).  But with a Stamp-A-Stack, they go home with THREE cards of the SAME design, so they can keep one and give two away!  (Or for the more practical ones, they can give three away.)

When people arrive they will receive a bag with all of their cardstock supplies.   These will be cut for each project.  Guests love coming to my house for these classes because I do all the prep work for them. 

Then guests will split up and go to different areas staged for each card.  There are supposed to be 11 guests tonight, and there are five cards to make, so there will be two or three people at each station at a time.  (Most of the photos in this post will enlarge when clicked.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s an up-close look at what they will be making.  Do you love them?  I copied (in great or small degrees) all of them but one.  I wonder if you can guess which one is original?  Probably not, unless you know me fairly well.  I am sure some of the customers will guess.

Are you wondering where the fifth card is?  It was a straight-copy, so you can just look here to see it up close. (While you’re there, you might want to look at some of her other stuff.  She’s an amazing stamper.)  And while I am talking about that, one of the cards I mostly copied from here.  She has some awesome stuff, too.

So that is what I will be doing when this post goes up.  And in case you think I am too on-the-ball that this stuff is already set up, well….  I have to leave in ten minutes to pick up Chic from school.  Then we have to run some errands.  Then she has gymnastics.  I will get home 30 minutes before this class starts, so everything has to be ready before I leave.  And I wanted to post today, but obviously the class had to come first, so I had to get it done and set up.  If I did not have all the other stuff to do, I promise that I would not be set up until 6:20ish.

I hope YOU are doing something fun tonight, too!

Before I get to the letterboxing, I have to tell you about a recipe I tried this weekend that I got from Heidi at Foxgloves, Fabric and Folly.  I made it for the picnic lunch at our church campout, and it was an enormous hit.  When I told Heidi I was going to use the recipe, I mentioned that I have a reputation to uphold–EVERYONE raves about my cooking, and I wanted to make sure it was that kind of recipe.  She assured me it was, and she was right!  Go here and get the recipe and make it!  It is called Apple Cake Doris, and it’s heavenly!  (She has a beautiful picture there, so I didn’t bother.)

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click to enlarge

Now about letterboxing.  After mentioning it in my last post, I had quite a few comments about it, so I decided to do this long overdue post.  (It is overdue because when I was thinking about starting a blog, Prince Charming suggested my first post be about letterboxing because it encompasses so many of my interests and loves.  I was really going to do that, but the blog started on a whim, and I just wrote whatever my whim was that day.)

First, I will explain letterboxing a little.  It began a very long time ago in Dartmoor, England.  I learned about it when my cousin sent me an article that had originally been published in Smithsonian Magazine.  It totally clicked with me, but my life just did not go in the direction it needed in order for me to get started.  Five years later I learned Prince Charming and I were going to be doing a little international travel, so we decided we better get serious about letterboxing so we could do it on our trips.  At the last minute, one of those trips dematerialized, but we did it on the other.  We also letterbox around where we live and on any other type of trip we take.

Chic in park we found

So back to what it is…  Letterboxes are weatherproof containers which hold a rubber stamp (preferably hand-carved) and a log book.  They may include ink or possibly another item, but the stamp and logbook are the only essentials.  The stamp may be carved to reflect the location of the box (scenery of the area, local animal, whatever) or just be anything.  The box is hidden, and clues are posted on the Internet for finding it.  (Major websites for this are here and here.) The clues can be incredibly cryptic or quite straight-forward.  The person who makes the box is called the “planter.”  My family has never planted any boxes, but we have all kinds of places in our minds that we would like to do it.  We just have been too lazy a little to get the carving materials a little hesitant about carving the stamps.

Letterboxing is somewhat similar to geocaching, but my family does not geocache.  Although I like the idea of the GPS locations, I like the way letterboxing finds are recorded (with hand-carved stamps). 

My family finds the planted letterboxes.  Whenever we have a weekend we can devote to it or are ready to travel, Prince Charming finds all (or a lot) of the relevant letterboxes in the area.  He prints the clues, and we go in search of the boxes.  We take with us our own logbooks, ink, cleaning supplies, a compass and our own personal stamps.  Personal stamps can be whatever one wants.  The best ones are hand-carved.  Mine is something I drew, but I had the stamp made because I knew I did not have the skills to carve anything like I would want. When we find a box, we stamp the box’s stamp in our personal logbooks and record date and other relevant information, and we stamp our personal stamps in the box’s logbook.  This way the box has a record of our being there, and we have our own record of the places we have been.  We then clean all the stamps, carefully re-hide the box, and move on to the next one.

So why do we love this so much?  First, it is just the whole concept.  I love rubber stamps; they are my business.  I love being outside.  The combination is perfect.  And who does not love having clues to find a treasure?

Cave at Tent Rocks

Cave at Tent Rocks

We also love it because our entire family does it together and enjoys every aspect of it.  We found our first letterbox when Chic was 5 and Chicklet was 2-1/2.  They think it is fun and ask when we are going if it has been a while since our last letterboxing excursion. 

Our log books are “pretty.”  They are not pretty because things are neatly recorded (they are not), but because they are filled with art.  Many letterboxers are amazing artists.  (Many are not, so it is not something about which to be intimidated.)  The different stamps in different colors are just pretty.  And each one has a hike (very short to long) and memory attached.  Logbooks are compact souvenirs that are priceless to me.

Subdivision trail near CO Springs

Subdivision trail near CO Springs

The thing I think we love most about letterboxing is the places we have been and the things we have seen that we would not have without letterboxing.  We have found parks and hiking trails near our neighborhood that we would have never found without hunting for a letterbox.  (And the hunt is the key.  I would say we find 2 out of 3 that we search for.  But the missing 1 is still a hike and still something new.)

Above and below are a just a few of things things that made it onto film that we would never have experienced without this hobby. (Most pictures will enlarge if clicked.)  The first picture is a nature preserve in Colorado.  There we saw many birds and had a fun hike.  (And got lots of mosquito bites!)  The second picture is a park that is inside a cul de sac in a neighborhood near out development.  The girls LOVED this place.  The third is a Tent Rocks National Monument.  We actually go there once or twice a year to hike, but we had never been on the trail for this cave until we were hunting for a letterbox.  The next picture is from a series of incredible hiking/biking trails that run through a development near Colorado Springs.  It was the most elaborate subdivision/development trail system I have ever seen.  What a treat for those who live near it!  And apparently the rodent population is well-fed there as well!

The next picture is a hilltop in Estes Park, CO.  In the spring it is covered with elk mothers and babies.  It was a short, fun trail, and we loved these ruins.

hilltop in Estes Park

hilltop in Estes Park

The hotel that  inspired the book (later a movie), The Shining, by Stephen King is also in Estes Park. We got this picture of it while searching for a letterbox.

The Shining Hotel

The Shining Hotel

Next has to be one of my favorite letterboxing finds.  We were led through an old cemetary with clues on the gravestones.  This group of stones was for the children in a family who died within weeks of each other.  How utterly horrible, but I know it used to happen all the time.  I loved these stones.  They made me feel like the parents realized how special their children were.

The Torkelsons

The Torkelsons

When Prince Charming and I went to Bermuda last spring, we spent two days letterboxing.  One of the locations was at an old fort (Bermuda is covered with them).  The beautiful ocean views are a dime a dozen in Bermuda (and worth more than every dime!), but the forts added interest to the trip and the scenery.

Bermuda sea through gunport

Also in Bermuda there were lots of feral chickens, but we would have never seen them had we not gotten off the beaten path to go letterboxing.  Besides this very proud rooster, we saw many hens with chicks.

When I travel to a specific area of the United States (as a National Park) or a foreign country, I have two main souvenirs:  A book about the region with lots of excellent photography and a book about regional flowers.  When searching for said regional books, we saw pictures of a Bermuda Longtail (Phaethon lepturus catesbyi).  We never saw one in real life, however, until we went on a hunt for a letterbox. If you do not enlarge any other photo, please enlarge this one.  I believe it is worth it!

Bermuda Longtail

Bermuda Longtail

My last picture is from our letterboxing trip on Labor Day.  There is a nature park/animal refuge about an hour from our home.  We never heard of it until we found it housed letterboxes.  We had a terrific time there, and I loved being so close to the animals.  All their animals are in captivity due to injury or some other reason that makes them unable to survive in the wild.  I cannot remember which hawk this was, but it was enormous, and I especially loved its eyes.  They look intelligent.  Many small birds do not have intelligent eyes, but the large birds of prey definitely do.  I have never before been able to be that close to such a bird.

hawk at Wildlife West Nature Park

hawk at Wildlife West Nature Park

And finally, I love letterboxing because it is something Prince Charming and I can do even when we are old.  We may not be able to climb some of the paths we do now, but there will be plenty of things to find, plenty of places to go and plenty of adventures to be had.  Letterboxes are all over the United States and in many other countries.  If it is not in your country, get it started!  It catches on quickly.  And if I visit your country and you have a box there, you can bet I will be looking for it!