February 2016 Foodie Penpal reveal

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Early on this month, I received an email from Faye.  She informed me that she was my Foodie Penpal this month.  It was her first assignment since joining the gang, so we exchanged a few notes, and off she went.  I started thinking about the first parcel I sent out several years ago when I first joined, and I am almost ashamed of what I sent in comparison to what I received from Faye this month.

My parcel arrived this week, wrapped safely in a green plastic coat with decorative, dotty sticky tape.

Dottily adorned plastic.

Dottily adorned plastic.

I couldn’t wait to get it open!

And like a great ‘pass the parcel’ game, I had another layer to get through.

Bee kitties

Bumblebee kitties

 

This layer revealed a box wrapped in these cool cats that I first thought looked like giant bumble bees. However on closer inspection, I decided they were more like inmates . They were very cute though!

Faye sent me a card to ‘introduce’ the box.

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She writes to explain a few things, but importantly, she tells me that her son helped in the shopping task, and even gave me a little puzzle to get me to figure out which item her son chose.  I have to admit now that I cheated and read the answer before I looked at the rest of the box.  I’m so ashamed . . . (not really).

So the first thing I pulled out of the box was a box of chai tea.  Ironically, I had been introduced to chai tea last weekend, and really, really liked it.

3

So of course I was delighted to get my own stash.  It is a very warming drink, gently spiced, so a really nice change from my usual mug of builder’s tea.

And this went perfectly with the next thing I pulled out.

What's better than butter?

What’s better than butter?

These cookies . . . er . . . biscuits literally melt in your mouth.  Such a great pairing with a nice cup of chai.

Next came the interesting part.  I’ve never seen this, and I can’t wait to try it.

All that glitters . . .

All that glitters . . .

In my mind, you can never go wrong with a bit of glitter, be it on your clothes, in your hair, on your nails.  So why not in your jelly?  Glitter jelly and ice cream has to be a winner.

I then pulled out these two cocktail napkins which made me giggle all afternoon.

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My BFF from was visiting me from Chicago on the day this package arrived, and we especially loved the one about the ‘friends’.

Next to come out of the magic box was a smaller box.

Pumpkin risotto

Pumpkin risotto

Pumpkin in ANYTHING is a great, great thing.  This looks fantastic.

Tucked in behind the pumpkin risotto (do you say ‘riz-oh-to’ or ‘riz-ah-to’???) was this little gem.

Pork Rib BBQ rub

Pork Rib BBQ rub

I like any kind of rub or marinade, so this was a great find.  It says it’s for pork ribs, but I think it could also be used on chicken or beef.  But pork ribs will do just fine for me, thank you very much.

The next thing I pulled out set me up nicely for the next morning.

Bursting oats

Bursting oats

Whoever invented the one-cup of instant oats gets my blessing.  No weighing.  No measuring.  Just add boiling water.

And finally came the item that Faye’s son, Ben, chose for me (or possibly his mother wrenched it from his hands).

Nutella to go!

Nutella to go!

Anything that allows you to eat this while walking out the door, riding on the train, sitting on a bus, etc, must get the thumbs-up from everyone.  So thank you, Ben, for your contribution.  I know you’re going to make someone a very good foodie penpal later on in life!

So a fabulous, fantastic and wonderful first attempt at the Foodie Penpal, Faye.  Well done, you.  I just hope your package was just as special.  Thank you for a GREAT February parcel.

If you are reading this and would like to find out more about the Foodie Penpal set-up, you can find what you want to know here.

October 2015 Foodie Penpal reveal

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This month, I sent my parcel off to Alice in London, and in turn, I got my parcel from Rachel in Liverpool.  It’s probably one of my first all-British swaps in a long time.

Rachel was assigned to me as her very first foodie penpal experience.  I started thinking back to a couple of years ago when it was my first time.  I remember it being very nerve-racking, and in hindsight, knowing what I know now, I’d love to do the first couple of people again.  However Rachel seems to have skirted the ‘nerves’ issue, and she produced a most wonderful box of goodies for her first time out of the gate.

In honour of Halloween, I received a pumpkin orange parcel.

Square pumpkin?

Square pumpkin?

Of course it was just a Sainsbury’s plastic carrier bag (other supermarket bags are available) protecting the box, and I did ask if she wanted me to refund her 5p for the bag, but she declined my offer.  But I thought how appropriate it was to have a Halloween orange box this week.

So after carefully peeling the pumpkin box, I reached layer number two.

Pink polka dots

Pink polka dots

This was looking interestinger and interestinger.  And like the most exciting game of ‘Pass the Parcel’, I peeled off this pink film to find . . .

Blue polka dots

Blue polka dots

I finally got to the prize!  But it was so fun to have layers to get through first.

The box revealed

The box revealed

And this is what greeted me when I took the polka-lid off.  My heart started racing immediately.  See that magical looking red ‘f’ there in the middle of the box?  I KNOW WHAT THAT MEANT!  And if I had a heart condition, it I would have been in trouble as I also spotted some familiar cookies in the box, too.  But more on that later.

Marshmallow fluff

Marshmallow fluff

Of course my hands went straight for the fluff.  For those of you who have never experienced a fluffernutter, you don’t know what you’re missing.   I’ve already decided to make fudge with this.  Marshmallow fluff makes the most delicious fudge. I seriously encourage you to explore this opportunity (after you make a fluffernutter, of course).

And because the human mind always goes to the familiar first, I reached for these next.

Oreos

Oreos

I so rarely buy these here, so I was delighted to have them provided to me without any effort.  Before I open these though, I need to buy more milk.  You just can’t have Oreo cookies without a lot of very cold milk.  It’s the best.

I next reached for this large box of tea.

Chocolate tea

Chocolate tea

So I have this theory in my head that trendy ‘green tea’ that is sooooooo good for you, will taste awful, as most things that are ‘good for you’ do.  But how on earth can a tea named “Fudge Melts” taste bad, I ask you?  I am really looking forward to brewing this up.  I am picturing it enveloping the entire house in a blanket of chocolate scent.  What could be better?

I next spied a familiar logo.  Rachel had included a package of Guinness mini caramels, wrapped in chocolate, and they taste like Guinness.

Guinness caramels

Guinness caramels

Now’s the time that I confess that even after living in this country for almost 30 years, I have never tasted Guinness.  I love the way it looks.  But I really want it to taste like a root beer float.  And I suspect it’s not going to.  So as not to dispel my imagery, I have avoided tasting it.  However, I feel mixing it with chocolate and caramel would be fine.  It would be like tasting it, without having to compare it to a root beer float.  Those will be open tonight after dinner, I think.

Ahhh . .  and finally something I can claim has a ‘healthy’ label . . .

Perkier bar

Perk!er bar

I have had Perk!er bars, but haven’t tried this one.  However, I love quinoa AND goji berries and cranberries.  So it’s a winner all ’round, right?  This looks packed full of goodness.

Next, I found these two packages.

Garlic seasoning

Garlic seasoning

and

Chilli seasoning

Chilli seasoning

I cook with fresh chilli and fresh garlic ALL the time, so I was very excited to see these.  What a great way to always have these things on hand, especially if you’ve just run out of the fresh stuff.

And finally, the last pouch I pulled out was one of my favourite flavours of all time.    I love Nandos chicken, and now I can do it at home without having to put up with having to go up to the counter to order my food.  I even have (pretty much) unlimited soft drinks here, too!

 

Nandos sauce

Nandos sauce

So Rachel – your first parcel was outstanding.  I hope yours was as spectacular as this one was.  You really couldn’t have picked out better things for me, and I thank you for that.  Well done, Rachel.  A gold star for your first time!

If this has piqued your interest in foodie penpals, please, please RUN – do not walk – to this website below to sign up for Foodie Penpals. Go to http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals

September 2015 Foodie Penpal reveal

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September brought me a ‘newbie’ penpal.  My name was given to Jana in Germany, and I pretty much gave her free rein to send what she wanted to.  She jumped straight on it, and within a week, she emailed to say her parcel was on its way, which really put me to shame as I only had to send mine to Birmingham, and I still hadn’t been shopping.

A few days later, this HUGE box appeared on my doorstep.

Huge Box

Huge Box

I put a small, 10 ml bottle of essential oils on the box so you’d get perspective.  This is definitely the largest parcel I’ve received yet! I suspect Jana had to take out a second mortgage just to post it here.

You will also get bonus points for guessing the shadow puppet on the box above.

The start of the reveal!

The start of the reveal!

It was absolutely stuffed full of things – I couldn’t wait to get everything unwrapped.

Contents unwrapped

Contents unwrapped

So this is a snapshot of what I got. What a fabulous array.

Clearly the bottle is what I reached for first.  I love getting bottles.

Dry white wine

Dry white wine

Before going any deeper into the box, this bottle went straight to the fridge where, like good pastry, it rested until consumed not long after.  It was delicious and was the perfect accompaniment to the next item that caught my eye.

Chili and Lime Nuts

Chili and Lime Nut

These peanuts were fantastic. You got the subtle hint of citrus first, and then a hit of heat.   They were extremely more-ish, and we couldn’t stop eating them until they were gone.  Good choice, Jana!

Next I pulled out this container of Muesli.

Honey and Coconut Muesli

Honey and Coconut Muesli

The brilliant thing about this is it’s a single serving, and it leaves room for you to add your favourite yogurt.  I added my favourite greek yogurt, and the bottom of the container came much too soon.   Just a touch of sweetness from the honey and coconut, but not that you actually tasted either.  It was delicious.

Then, something else caught my eye.  Something homemade.

Homemade pear pineapple jam

Homemade pear pineapple jam

I think there is something very special in sending something homemade.  It shows a lot of class and thoughtfulness.  It suggests that someone thought enough about you to actually make something for you.  I tried this first as a marinade for a couple of pork chops.  I just rubbed a bit on both sides, and melted a bit in the juices for a lovely  sauce.  It was delicious.  Jana – this was such an inspired item to send.  I really liked it.

And it didn’t take much persuading to get this bag of chocolates out.

Mini chocolates

Mini chocolates

Such a variety of types of chocolates here filled with things like nougat, marzipan, hazel nuts, etc.  There’s something here for every chocolate lover.  And each one is a nice bite-size, so you can try them all without feeling guilty.

And what do you have with chocolates?

Apple Fig Tea

Apple Fig Tea

Well, TEA, of course!  I drink a lot of tea, but have never tasted apple and fig before.  It is delightfully refreshing, and it makes the kitchen smell absolutely divine.  This really goes with everything.

And this jar came out next.

Vanilla Tomato

Vanilla Tomato

This is really interesting.  It’s a vanilla tomato chutney, and we’ve had it with cheese and biscuits.  It was a surprisingly good combination, and something we’ve never tried before.  This is definitely worth investigating, if you have the chance.

This was followed by a grinder.

Lemon Pepper

Lemon Pepper

This is a brilliant season tool for so many things.  It’s fresh ground pepper, but it has the addition of lemon zest as well.  It really gives things added zing.  I started using this sparingly, but now it’s the first thing I reach for. It seasons everything from eggs to steaks.  I love the freshness of freshly ground anything.  Another good choice.

And finally, spaetzle.  I just discovered a recipe for meatballs in a cream sauce, and I think this will go beautifully on top of these egg noodles.

Spaetzle

Spaetzle

A bit of boiling salt water and the contents of this bag, and I’ve got a great meal.  I can’t wait to try these.

So – as you can see, this was truly a fabulous parcel from Jana in Germany.  I have tasted so many unusual things, got some homemade things, and was able to have a drink at the same time.  Well done, Jana.  You’ve made your first venture into the Foodie penpal club a memorable one.  I hope your parcel was as good as the one you sent me.

 

 

 

 

August (2015) Foodie Penpal Reveal (albeit late!)

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Another post – another excuse for being late.  What haven’t I used yet?  Escaped Puma from Chessington Zoo?  Ball took a bad bounce?  The sun got in my eyes?  I’ll come up with something creative . . . maybe . . .

My August penpal, Margaud, sent me the most beautiful box, all the way from France.  When it first arrived, I thought someone had sent me a hat.

A new hat!

A new hat!

I immediately started to figure out where I could go that would warrant wearing a hat.  Wedding?  The races? Shopping at Sainsburys?  Options starting wizzing through my brain while I was prying the top off.  What colour will be be?  Will it fit?  Who could have sent this to me?  And still – all the time in the back of my head, I was thinking, “Who in the world would send me a hat?  I NEVER wear hats.”

So you can imagine my delight when I managed to break through the tough security measures and find it was my food parcel from Margaud.  I was first relieved that I didn’t have to lie to someone and tell them I really liked the hat they sent me (even though I probably wouldn’t have), but then delighted to realise what it actually was.

Phew! Not a new hat!

Phew! Not a new hat!

And it was full of wonderful, wonderful treats.

Full of treats

Full of treats

Firstly, I always like a gift that contains a bottle of alcohol.

A good brown ale

A good brown ale

You really can’t go wrong with that, and this month, I got a bottle of dark brown Ale, which I can’t wait to use.  I will probably use it in a recipe rather than drink it, but I’m still uncertain about this.  As the weather is starting to cool down a bit, I think a cassoulet might be in order.

At this point, I’d also like to point out that most, if not all, of my items are from the area that Marguad or her husband are from, which makes it all the more special.

The next thing my eyes went for was the package of Speculoos.

A French delicacy! Speculoos!

A French delicacy! Speculoos!

I LOVE THESE.  You will often find them on the side of your morning coffee in the local café in France. They are a gingerbread cookie that go perfectly with coffee.  Or tea.  Or milk.  Or just on their own  Those won’t last long here.

Next I pulled out some pate, also made with beer from the north of France.

Pate made with beer - yum!

Pate made with beer – yum!

I can’t wait to try this.  I will toast some French bread and make a nice lunch out of this.

I next saw a package of Palet Bretons, which I have had before.

Buttery goodness

Buttery goodness

They are wonderfully buttery and delicious.  These also won’t last long here!

You can't go wrong with pretzels

You can’t go wrong with pretzels

Margaud then sent me a bag of pretzels from her husband’s neck of the woods, and we go through pretzels here like wildfire, so they were really welcome.  I was going to use them in a recipe that I make every couple of weeks, but I opened the bag – just for quality testing, of course – and decided they were too good, and they needed to be eaten in their purest form.

The perfect marriage of chicken and garlic

The perfect marriage of chicken and garlic

And lastly, she sent me a cooking bag, seasoned with spices and garlic for seasoning and cooking chicken in. (yes – I realise the error of that sentence structure, but it’s what I wanted to say).  This will make for a quick and easy dinner sometime very soon.

Margaud – you chose so well, and packaged everything up so beautifully.  Thank you so much for my parcel.  I absolutely loved it.  Cétait chouette!

January 2015 Foodie Penpal

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Okay, okay – I know it’s almost mid February, and a bit late to be posting about January, but my January penpal Hayley (and Clive) put together a box that is too special to miss out.

My box, last month, came from Yorkshire. Yorkshire’s a place I’ve visited a couple of times, but never really invested in my surroundings while I was there. So Hayley (and Clive) decided I needed a taste of their home. Hayley did a great job. On the top, and really the first to be consumed almost immediately, were two bags of crisps.

Crisps

Great flavours!

The Chardonnay Wine Vinegar flavour was really good, but I think edging it slightly was the Henderson’s Yorkshire Sauce flavour. These didn’t last long at all.

Next out of the box was some Yorkshire tea. I always associated Yorkshire tea with real ‘builder’s tea’ kind of fayre. But I’ve been proved wrong on that count.

Tea

Yorkshire Rose Tea

This tea is really delicately flavoured. I never would have thought to try this, so I’m so grateful I ‘forced’ into it. You won’t have to ask me twice. I’m rationing this one as I really look forward to my tea break with this tea.

Next, from Sheffield, came honey. Honey doesn’t last long in this household – especially the spreading kind.

Honey

Sheffield Honey

This is smooth and sweet, and perfect on my morning toast. It also really compliments the rose tea I mentioned earlier. With so many benefits for eating honey, you can’t go wrong with this.

After we polished off the crisps so quickly, I was pleased to pull out the next item from the box. Hayley sent a box of Roquefort Cheese Melts.

Cheese Melts

Roquefort Cheese Melts

These are absolutely delicious. A little, powerful, crunchy, bite-size treat, which goes really well with a glass of wine before dinner.

The next thing I pulled out were a bag of Hayley’s local chocolates.

Chocolates

Now this is what I call a plate full of goodness!

Chocolates are always the perfect thing to send anyone at any time. And these were a beautiful blend of all different combinations. You did a great job picking them out, Hayley – well done!

And finally, perhaps the most local of the lot, was a bottle of Henderson’s Relish.

Sauce

Henderson’s Relish

This looks like ordinary Worcester sauce, but it’s SO not. It’s got a real different slant than the popular brand we always pick up off the shelf. I have already added it to many things, and it’s got a much richer flavour. I really like this. But I knew I’d like it, if the aforementioned crisps were anything to go on!

So thank you, Hayley, for all your contributions. You did yourself (and your home) proud. You put together a true representation of your surroundings, and each item was carefully and thoughtfully put together. Well done to my January Foodie Penpal.

October 2014 Foodie Penpal

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My October Foodie Penpal parcel arrived last week, and it was a bumper month. The lovely Dawn put together the most amazing box for me. It was a bit like Mary Poppins’ carpet bag where she kept pulling things out of the bottom like a floor lamp and a pot of tea! This wasn’t far off.

The first thing I noticed was taped to the shoe box it was sent in, was a recipe and picture of Spiced New Potatoes.

Clever box wrapping

Clever box wrapping

It was like gift-wrapping that keeps on giving. Dawn is trying to shirk responsibility and claims she re-used the box (and idea) from her previous sender, but I’m giving the credit to Dawn for recycling it.

After reading through this recipe and deciding to make this dish that night, I opened up the box, and started pulling out item after item after item. It was borderline embarrassing, but I loved it!

First came some garlic and rosemary oatcakes. These are very delicately flavoured and are absolutely delicious with some really sharp cheddar cheese and a bit of red wine.

Garlic & Rosemary Oatcakes

Garlic & Rosemary Oatcakes

The garlic is not over-powering, and it’s a really delicious way to start off an evening.

Next came out some rice cakes, which I do like munching on, but these were covered in dark chocolate.

Chocolate covered rice cakes

Chocolate covered rice cakes

It was a real decadent feeling of mixing chocolate with rice cakes. And fairly guilt-free, which is always nice.

My next item was a lovely picture of Ainsley Harriott on one of his cous cous packages.

Who doesn't love Ainsley?

Who doesn’t love Ainsley?

I love this particular flavour of cous cous, and I almost always have a spare one of these to hand for ’emergencies’, but my cupboard was bare, so I was so happy to get another packet of cous cous, and especially this particular flavour.

Moving on into the box, I found this curry kit for making methi chicken, which I’ve seen on the menu every time I go out for a curry, but never tired. Well now I’ve tried it, and it was NOTHING like I thought was going to be.

Curry in a kit!

Curry in a kit!

So this little kit was mind-opening, and so easy to use.

And of course if you’re going to make an Indian meal, you need to have the proper ‘afters’. For some, that’s a little plate of After Eight mints.

For fresh breath . . .

For fresh breath . . .

But many Indian restaurants offer you a small plate or bowl of these little seeds, which is surprisingly refreshing.

I’m no stranger to teapigs, but I’ve never tried this flavour, which is creme caramel.

Dessert in a teacup

Dessert in a teacup


Well this was just dessert in a teacup, let me tell you. This was delightfully authentic, and I really enjoyed it so much more than I thought I would. It went perfectly with my next item.

I know I’ve sent other people this ‘nakd’ brand of snacks before, but I’ve never tried one myself. So I was delighted to finally get one that I didn’t buy myself! This was really good.

Cashew cookie

Cashew cookie


Cashew’s got to be one of the best nut flavours anyway, and this, married with a cup of creme caramel tea was really gorgeous.

I really feel the next item needs no explanation at all. Green & Black’s. Dark chocolate. End of.

The best dark chocolate

The best dark chocolate


In all seriousness, though (and I never kid about dark chocolate), this is truly life’s best dark chocolate. This is what I would bring to Willy Wonka’s Wonkavision machine in so I could reproduce this in massive bars. I was grateful to get this bite-size bar though.

I am constantly making stews and casseroles, and truly the three herbs I use the most are rosemary (mostly on my potatoes), sage (mostly on pork), and thyme (mostly on . . well . . everything).

No parsley, but definitely the sage, rosemary and thyme!

No parsley, but definitely the sage, rosemary and thyme!


So getting this little stack of my three best herbs was brilliant.

My penultimate treat was this citrus lollipop. Actually, this barely made it down for the photoshoot. About 5 seconds after snapping this picture, this was being unwrapped.

Citrus lollipop!

Citrus lollipop!


It has been years and years since I’ve had a lollipop, so it was such a nice treat. I don’t know where this one came from, but it was gooooooooooooood . . .

And finally, my favourite part of the box was this jar of homemade apple butter. I love when I’m sent something homemade. It’s such a snapshot of the person behind the box.

Home made apple butter

Home made apple butter


This was delicious, and after a couple of email exchanges, Dawn shared the recipe with me. When I’m brave enough, I’ll give it a go.

So I’m sure you’ll agree that this was a magical box, full of lovely gifts of all shapes, sizes and influences. Dawn, you did such a great job with all your selections. Thank you so much.

If you are inspired by this parcel or even think you could do better (unlikely!), please visit http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals/ if you living in Europe, or http://www.theleangreenbean.com/foodie-penpals/ if you are in the USA.

September 2014 Foodie Penpal

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As my September foodie penpal, Zoe, pointed out – it’s hard to believe it’s the end of September already. But the leaves are golden and deep red now, the air is much more crisp, and all of my husband’s cricket gear is put away. That’s always a sure sign that summer is over. Well that, and the fact that we’ve had the heat on for a couple of weeks. Sigh . . .

I got my September package early in the month, which was great. It also spurred me on to get my act together and get Sabine’s on it’s way to Germany, so thanks for that, Zoe! Here’s what Zoe sent –

This bottle of smoked paprika came at a perfect time. I’ve been trying a lot of recipes that call for smoked paprika over the last year, and my supply was running low. I had it on my shopping list, but I’m pleased I can take it off now.

Delicious on everything!

Delicious on everything!


Smoked paprika really gives a really rich flavour to so many dishes. I pretty much add a dash to almost everything I make now from eggs to casseroles.

I love these little kits. But oddly enough, although I see them in the shops, I never get them for myself. This is a Thai green curry kit.

Dinner made easy!

Dinner made easy!


I love going out for Thai food, but have seldom made it, so to have one so neatly delivered to my door is truly a sign. I can’t wait to try it.

Whoever invented a way to cook things in a bag should get a knighthood, or maybe something even higher (is there such a thing?). I think they’re brilliant.

Dinner in a bag!

Dinner in a bag!


Zoe sent me a lemon and dill packet for seasoning salmon cooked in a bag. What could be easier than this? And you don’t have to worry about basting or ensuring your food doesn’t dry out. The bag does all the work without any effort on your part. I’m all for that.

I also got this chips spice. I made oven-baked chips all the time, and I think I am most excited about this. I’ve never seen it, and I usually just try to hash something together with whatever spices I have to hand.

My oven's already heating up.

My oven’s already heating up.


I’m not sure this packet is going to see tomorrow, because I think there are some chips with my name (and this Smokey BBQ spice) on them. I’m thinking lunchtime . . .

And finally, Zoe sent me red lentils. I love lentils – red ones in particular. My in-laws were raised in India, and when I first moved to the UK, I learned quickly how to make tarka dhal. But Zoe sent me a recipe for a spiced lentil soup, which I can’t wait to try.

One of the best things to help get you through winter.

One of the best things to help get you through winter.


This is definitely the start of soup season, and I think I’ll kick it off with Zoe’s soup recipe.

Thank you, Zoe, for putting together such a thoughtful package. I love everything you sent, and I hope you were as fortunate as I was.

If any of you are interested in joining this fantastic group, please visit Carol Anne on http://thisisrocksalt.com/foodie-penpals. It’s way more fun than ironing. . . .