Red Letter Day

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The one thing that continues to astound me about the snail mail community (besides, you know, the sheer fact that it’s actually a thing) is the kindness and generosity of each one of the kindred spirits with whom I exchange letters. Yesterday I came home to an early surprise–the birthday-ish parcel that my long-distance friend in Germany had hinted was on its way had arrived a bit sooner than expected! As soon as I saw that little package, my day brightened tenfold: if my happiness were a shade of red, it would have transformed from a pale, tired red to the cheerful cherry of the box itself.

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Tucked inside this vibrant box was an assortment of equally bright, charming gifts! Tea, cookies, and a book to enjoy with them–what more could one want?

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I’m particularly excited to give this novel a try, as I’d never before heard of it. Banana Yoshimoto is the pen name of a contemporary Tokyo-born author, and Kitchen, her best-known book, sounds very intriguing: my pen pal described it as “cozy,” and a little blurb from the New Yorker on the back of the book calls Yoshimoto’s work “odd and charming art,” which is enough to win me over right there!

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I haven’t yet crossed Germany off of my “Countries to Visit” list, so I have very little idea of what any of its popular treats are like (obviously the most important aspect of any culture!). America doesn’t really do “biscuit”-type cookies like Europe and the U.K. do, so these Othello keks reminded me a little of my time in Scotland. They are indeed “mit viel Kakao” and seriously chocolatey, while still not too overpowering to pair with a cup of tea.

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Thanks to previous little gifts from my German pen pals, I’m already in love with some of the German tea flavors I’ve sampled in the past–and this box of Pukka was no different! I remember seeing Pukka for sale in a few shops in the UK, but I haven’t seen it here at home, so I was delighted to have a whole box of herbal flavors to try.

I brewed up a cup of the second tea (zitrone, ingwer, & manuka-honig, a.k.a. lemon and ginger with Manuka honey!) last night, and found it very subtle and soothing. I suspected, however, that the very fruity and colorful holunderbeere & echinacea might turn out to be my ultimate favorite: unsurprisingly, it has a crisp, sweet taste that is unlike anything I have encountered before. It’ll be quite a challenge to save those up for too long!

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Delicious herbal infusions aside, I really do think that penpalling is one of the most rewarding and enjoyable hobbies out there. Knowing that you have like-minded people out there somewhere in the world who occasionally send you little pick-me-up letters is deeply comforting in a way that’s very different than face-to-face relationships. It goes both ways, though! I take so much joy in trying to put together the perfect tiny packages and envelopes for my faraway friends: these not-so-random acts of delivered kindness are a great way to boost one’s own general positivity levels.

…and speaking of which, I can’t wait to get started on an equally lovely response to this package!

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