Friday, 27 January 2012

Junior High & Snail Mail: An Exposé

Anyone who knew me in Junior High has a decent arsenal of embarrassing and funny stories to tell. (Heck, the same could be said for anyone who has known me from birth to present). It's a well-known fact that Junior High is the absolute most awkward time in any human being's life, and I was certainly no exception to that rule. It's an age that makes most adults cringe, and for whom no amount of money would be worth going back in time for a visit. If you were among the 2% of teens who weren't awkward back then? Well, lucky you. I bet 1% of you are awkward as adults.

Starting in Elementary School, I wrote poems about horses and ballet. Did I ride horses or do ballet? Of course not. From my suburban bedroom, I would lock myself away for hours retracing bridle, tack kits, and ballerinas from books borrowed from the library. I read The Saddle Club like it was my last day on Earth. By the time I got to 7th grade (Junior High, around here), I thought it was a great idea to wear my favourite horse t-shirt (4 of the beauties pictured, galloping through a stream) with my favourite brown jeans, and at least twice a week. While the brown jeans were definitely in style back then, the horse t-shirt, I'm afraid, never was and likely never will be. 

After several weeks of examining my peers, it was time for horses and ballerinas to move aside. Boys were now on the radar and the subject of my intrigue! But not any boys at school, who may (or may not) have been attainable. No, no, the boys of my heart were the boys of TV. Forbidden from putting too many holes in my heart-covered, wall-papered bedroom walls, I plastered my closet with pictures of the one and only, the handsome, Jonathan Taylor Thomas. (Collective sigh? Anyone?) That sandy, floppy hair. Those doey brown eyes. Yes, friends, he was the one for me. He just didn't know it yet.

We had the same birthday forgodsakes; same day, same month, same year. Wasn't that at least a basis for friendship? Some common ground? A reason to respond to my fan mail? I had carefully crafted a letter to him, written on some safari stationery I had bought at the Hallmark store with my allowance and savings. I lost track of the letter after a while, but could have sworn I'd sent it. Why did he never reply?

It was years later, when home for a summer in university, that I discovered the envelope, buried under layers of old schoolwork, scrapbooks, and other teenage treasures. I could see that I had carefully torn the side of the envelope open and it was this that jogged the memory: ever the editor, even at that age, I nearly went crazy thinking about the possibility of spelling something wrong in the letter to my beloved "JTT". I had opened it just to be sure, vowing to buy more stationery to replace the torn envelope, but in the classic sea of teenage angst and forgetfulness, I never did get around to sending it. The tragedy! JTT will never, ever know that we share the same birthday and were, at the age of 14, destined to grow old together.

It was this teenage crush that led me to covet those teenie-bopper magazines. You know the ones. I'd beg my mom to get me one at the grocery store, and every once in a while she'd humour me and grab a copy. Maybe some of you late 1970s/early 1980s kids remember this, but there was a section in the back of Tiger Beat (or was it Teen Beat?) where you could submit a write-up about yourself and ask for penpals.

This was nerdiness at its finest, folks! I submitted my horrendous 8th-grade photo, in my big, flowery, Sunday dress and my awkward attempt at bangs (an attempt I've only revisited this year - still awkward), claiming to " JTT, Home Improvement and soccer!" Soccer? Really, Aimée? I hadn't played a game of soccer in my life, unless you counted gym class, which was never really my forté. I liked the idea of soccer, however, and I admired my friends who were on the soccer team. I suppose that was my basis for the claim?

Penpals I asked for; penpals I received! Hundreds upon hundreds of envelopes came in over a period of weeks and months. Mom would buy me bankers' boxes just to keep track of them all, and I would make homemade dividers to separate the envelopes by country and mostly, by US State. I'd go home every day at lunch time to check the mail, and I'd get so many that kids in my class would start leaning over my shoulder after lunch to see where my latest bundle of envelopes had come from. 

People came out of the woodwork. I had grown men writing me letters from faraway lands, asking me for Toronto Blue Jays paraphernalia, telling me their t-shirt sizes and which size coffee cup they really wanted (though they'd be ok with the smaller one, in a pinch). I had kids much younger than me writing, kids much older than me writing, some practical jokes, and, by and large, I had a ton of kids my own age, from around the world, just as nerdy as me, who wanted to be friends. 

Kind of sweet, right? (Aside from the creepy, older men!)

If nothing else, it really egged on my interests in maps and geography. But if only I knew then how much more fun adult penpals would be! And how much more delicious and exciting their snail mail! 

Enter Elena, of 3 Green Onions,

Elena and I met through Muffin Monday - I believe we started the very same week - and we were both coming from the perspective of home cooks, fearful of the rules and regulations of baking. Elena's story-telling and sense of humour are irresistible (my goodness her stories make me laugh!), and she has the most ridiculously gorgeous baby - little Ognen - who cameos in many of her photos and posts. 

Elena wrote her own ode to penpals, nerdiness, and snail mail just over a week ago, when she received my care package of Canadian food goodies on her doorstep in Macedonia. I'm writing my ode to nerdiness today because I've now received her wonderful package of Macedonian food goodies on my doorstep in Canada!

You should pop by Elena's post to read her hilarious account of childhood nerdiness, and to find out how we got into this exchange in the first place! She's also proposing an event called IngrediMail, whereby these exchanges happen between foodies and bloggers on a more regular basis. You should seriously consider joining her; this box of treasure is one of a kind!

A very long story (not so) short, here are the precious contents of my goodie box from the lovely Elena:

SO exciting.

Ajvar: Regular and Hot Roasted Red Pepper Spread.
From the land of red peppers!

Wild Fig Preserves.

Quince Preserves with walnuts.

Smoki: Almost like smokey, peanut-buttery cheezies! F. was a big fan.
A famous Croatian chocolate (also popular in Macedonia), called Bajadera,
A creamy hazelnut and nougat filling layered between pieces of chocolate. Don't mind if I do!

A mini bottle of Macedonia's most popular red wine.
This woman knows the way to my heart!

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Elena! You made my day/week/year.

I can't wait to experiment with and taste each of these ingredients! xo


  1. What a beautiful package to receive!

  2. Enjoyed reading about some of your childhood in this post and especially how you and Elena met and came to be friends. How lovely to receive a package filled with sweets and other goodies from such a far off place and from such a special lady!

  3. Hey Aimee, it all looks smashing! I think the whole foodie exchange thing is a marvellous idea! How often do we go online looking for "foreign" food? I'm checking her blog out, even as we speak! Thanks as ever, for your ideas and suggestions! xx

  4. Alright, blushing all over! Aimee, this was so much fun! We would have made awesome nerdy pan pals in our awkward (pre)teen years but you are right, this is way more delicious:) btw, pecan pie in the over right now, first time I'm trying to do this (fingers crossed my homemade crust won't fail too badly)...stay tuned. Oh, and 'JTT, home improvement and soccer':) I'm still giggling!!

  5. Thats one lovely goody bag....and all the way from a dear ol'friend makes it all the more special!