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Two whale-themed stamps, with a whale-themed cancellation mark on top

Orla (aka ohegarty) caught our attention when she sent us a postcard for the 150th anniversary of postcards a few years ago featuring a whale-themed cancellation mark that she had designed!

Turns out, she’s the postmaster of a seaside community in Newfoundland that has the best beach in the world for watching humpback whales, so the design and initiative made total sense. We were curious to find out more, so we asked her a few questions:

How did you get started sending postcards? What is your earliest memory of them?

I am a first generation Canadian Irish immigrant. My grandfather sent me/our family postcards and letters in the 1970s-1980s from his various travels to visit his children and grandchildren.

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

I read about your launch and early success but did not join back then. I was reminded of this site when a postcrosser sent a cancel request to my post office (I am now the post master in a small rural seaside community) and designed/ordered a special humpback whale cancel since our town is famous for being able to watch humpback whales feed from our beach.

Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

Every send or receive is a surprise. The rare countries are extra special though, I have to admit.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your post office or the place where you post or keep your postcards!
ohegarty's mailbox, with a postcard featuring mailboxes in its front
Orla’s mailbox
ohegarty's postoffice window, featuring drawings detail of one of the drawings in a window
The decorated windows of the post office where she works.
What’s one way that postcards have changed your life for the better?

Joining the Postcrossing community opened up a different kind of creativity for me. And a different kind of connection to other humans that feels more real than our common electronic virtual square on various social media platforms.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

Reading a new profile and thinking of what I could send to make their mailbox extra special.

Have you inspired other people to join Postcrossing, or met other members yet?

I’ve inspired at least four IRL friends to join and none of them know each other! I’ve only met the 4 people that are now members because of me, but I’ve attended an international virtual meetup — I know that’s not the same but still counts.

Do you have any other interesting hobbies or things that you’re passionate about?

I have the worlds largest collection of feminist postcards and feminist postage stamps. Actually, I’m not really sure about that claim but I’m willing to find out about other collections like mine!

I’m passionate about Feminism. I started the Counting Dead Women Canada list. Femicide is the ignored tragedy on our planet.

PS: You can hear Orla talk about postcards and her life in Newfoundland on episode 89 of the Postcardist podcast!

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BrainTrust Canada is a Canadian foundation that supports people who suffered brain injuries as a result of traumatic and non-traumatic injuries such as stroke, car crashes, falls and diseases. Although often invisible from the outside, brain injuries bring about dramatic changes that many people struggle with for their whole lives, including poor fine motor skills and social isolation… which is where Postcrossing can come in! Writing short texts can help improve some of those abilities, and also increase contact with the world.

Realizing this, Arlene (aka whodalalee) decided to help others in the organization use Postcrossing for this purpose. Last year, she created an account for them on the website, and invited BrainTrust members to participate in monthly meetings to go over the postcards received and to write some together. Arlene even made a board with a map where postcards are shown and everyone that walks by can interact with!


We asked Arlene how the experience was going, and this is what she told us:

“It is a healing time once a month for us…we listen to soft music, chat a little but mostly, it is the companionship that is happening that they love. I print out the profiles we have been given and they all get to chose who they want to write to. Of course the benefit of connecting with the world outside of our injury is so exciting and helps with the re-generation of our neurons in our brains too! When you have a brain injury, you have to learn about your ”new you" and this makes a person very introspective and self indulgent, because we have to work on ourselves only before we can expand into the “normal” world. Postcrossing has been a step into the world beyond injury, and this is a BIG step and exciting step for all of the clients who share in our Postcrossing Partners Group."

Congratulations Arlene — what a brilliant idea! 😊 We love seeing all the different ways in which the Postcrossing community uses postcards to connect (and heal) the world. If you’re inspired by this story and have an idea for a partnership that would make the world a better place, get in touch!

PS: Quick update from Arlene, to show us some of the postcards they’ve received so far:

20190510 12124620190510 121321

She mentions that their little group has been overwhelmed with the warmth of the senders and the inspiring stories everyone has shared with them. Hurray! 😍


The Little Mail Carriers continue their adventures around the world, and this time they’ve received an invitation they could not refuse… to explore Toronto’s First Post Office! They jumped at the opportunity to discover this historical institution, which is both a museum and a post office and is also regularly visited by the local postcrossers. Kat Akerfeldt is a curator at the museum and kindly offered to show the little ones around.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Hi everyone! We’ve just arrived here at Toronto’s First Post Office, but it seems like we came at a very busy time of year! To make us feel right at home, Kat put us to work in the Post Office, sorting mail and making sure that everything went into the correct box.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Toronto’s First Post Office is a museum, and looks just as it did in 1833. That was when the city’s first Postmaster, James Scott Howard, built the town’s first brick Post Office. At that time, everyone in Toronto collected their mail from this Post Office – there was no home delivery then. Most letters would be sorted alphabetically until the recipients called for them. Only a few people had their own P.O. box, with a window with a number painted on the glass. These were for Toronto’s early government, business, and religious leaders, for they received the most mail.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Today, Toronto’s First Post Office still runs a full-service Post Office, and offers P.O. boxes to rent to members of the Town of York Historical Society. It’s the only postal museum in Canada, and the only Post Office in Toronto to offer a pictorial cancellation mark, so they get a lot of visitors who want to send interesting happy mail — including lots of postcrossers as well! The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

The museum gift shop sells a very interesting selection of vintage stamps. While perusing them, we noticed this small collection of stamps that commemorate Canada’s Confederation. In 1867, representatives from provinces in British North America agreed, after many meetings and conferences, to become a united country, the Dominion of Canada. In 2017, Canada is celebrating 150 years since Confederation! The history was fascinating, so we got into the library to investigate further…

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

… but soon emerged again to find out what all the noisy excitement was about. Turns out, a school group had arrived and wanted to learn to write letters as they did in the 1830s in Toronto. We learned that writing with goose quill pens isn’t always easy, and that blobs will happen! The Postmistress reminded the class to keep a light hand, keep the paper flat on the table, and keep the pen moving!

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

When the letters were dried with pounce (a sand, sprinkled onto the ink, which helps to dry it quickly), the students folded their letters and sealed them with red sealing wax. In the 1830s, you had to pay postage on every piece of paper, so you didn’t waste paper or postage on an envelope! The letter becomes its own cover. Finally, the letters were stamped with a historic cancellation. In the 1830s, Postmaster Howard didn’t like the quality of black ink, so his was the only post office in the province of Upper Canada allowed to use red ink.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

The date on the cancellation mark is historic in itself! It says “March 6”, which is Toronto’s birthday! March 6, 1834, was the date that Toronto became the first city in Upper Canada. Before 1834, Toronto was known as the Town of York. And before 1793, as early European settlers came to the area, this place on the shores of Lake Ontario was known as Toronto. Toronto is from the native Mohawk language, and was sometimes spelled Taranteau or Tkaronto. In 1793, Upper Canada’s first Lieutenant Governor, John Graves Simcoe, moved the capitol away from the American border to Toronto, renamed the settlement after the Duke of York, and started a lot of development, including creating a map of his new Town – two blocks up and five blocks across. When Simcoe first came to Toronto/York, there were 241 people living here. By 1834, when it became a city, there were 9252 people living here. It had grown very quickly, but it didn’t stop there… Today, Toronto is nearly 3 million people!

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Later in our visit, we heard some very exciting news: every year, the Town of York Historical Society and Toronto’s First Post Office celebrate becoming a city with a gala celebration! This year marked the city’s 183rd birthday, and the celebration also honoured Canada’s sesquicentennial. A party was held at St. Lawrence Hall, which was built in 1851 as Toronto’s first big concert venue. During its early history, the Hall hosted debates on Canadian Confederation, was a terminus for the Underground Railroad, and the venue for three sold-out performances by Swedish superstar Jenny Lind. In 1967, the Hall was restored, and is now a National Historic Site.

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

On March 6, 2017, the evening included lively music written in 1867 and 1967 (the number 1 song in Canada in 1967 was “The Letter”, which we thought was very appropriate!), rousing speeches on Toronto’s history, and a very popular auction of goods and services from local businesses! Toronto’s First Post Office and St. Lawrence Hall are very close to the St. Lawrence Market, which is full of amazing food artisans, who very kindly supplied all kinds of good things to eat. We especially enjoyed the very Canadian delicacy – and very sticky – butter tarts!

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

What an evening! After all the excitement, we were ready for some relaxation back at the Post Office. We settled in the Reading Room, in front of the fireplace, with our best pens and rubber stamps, to write some letters and postcards to our favourite people. After all, how else would we enjoy a quiet moment?

The Little Mail Carriers in Toronto's First Post Office

Thank you so much Kat and everyone at Toronto’s First Post Office, for taking such good care of the little ones! 😊  Where will they go next?


Hi guys! While Paulo and Ana (the big ones) are busy setting up their new home, we’re here to tell you all about the adventures we had in Canada last fall!

Welcome to Canada!

Calgary is a large city of 1.2 million people, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies. It is a beautiful city in Southern Alberta and we came at the perfect time — the splashes of color can be spectacular this time of the year!

These Inuksuks are huge!

The first thing we noticed was this big pile or rocks on CDNLib's front yard. She explained to us that they were called Inuksuks, and were possibly used as symbols of direction, navigation or to mark a food cache by the Inuit of Canada’s North. In recent years they have become an international symbol of Canada — and were even featured on the logo of the 2010 Winter Olympics, which took place in Vancouver!

A trip to Canada had to include some French-Canadian poutine—hot french fries topped with fresh cheese curd and hot gravy… so yummy! And we also had some amazingly fresh-made truffles from a local chocolatier… the pumpkin one was especially scrumptious and perfect for autumn.

Poutine, chocolate and Tim Hortons!

And naturally, we had to try a “Double Double” (coffee, or in this case steeped tea, with two cream and two sugar) from world famous Tim Hortons!

We were lucky enough to be in Calgary for the first ever Postcrossing meet-up and we attended with CDNLib. While we were there we chatted with other postcrossers, exchanged some postcards, admired cards that others had received, heard some great Postcrossing stories, signed and wrote out some cards…

Signing cards at the meetup

… and then posed for a group photo with everyone! Here is the whole group: die-dusche, Stormarela, CDNLib, herchelle, Angelamermaid, ButtonsandTins, salamadzer and Fracula. The meeting went so well, there are plans to do again in 6 months! Check out the meetups posts in the forum and join us if you are in the area!

Calgary meetup group photo!

Below is Calgary’s Public Library — with 18 locations across the city, it is a wonderful place to get together with friends, find some books and be entertained and informed. We were lucky enough to be there during a very special event.

Let's visit Calgary's public library!

The event is called “A Taste of Cultures” and participants celebrate the different cultures of the world, dressing up and performing in their traditional costumes and serving ethnic food.

Wow! It's like a trip around the world!

It was great! We met these lovely ladies from Pakistan, Mexico and Cameroon.

Shhhh... it's time for the story!

CDNLib works at a school and one of the best parts of her job is reading stories to the children. The children LOVE to come to their school library and hear the stories and we were invited to listen to a few of them. What a great way to spend the day…visiting with children and hearing stories all day long!

As Halloween was fast approaching pumpkins and Jack-o-lanterns were popping up all over the place.

Halloween is here!

CDNLib even made us costumes so that we could participate in the celebrations and have some more fun with the children! :)


But while we were in Canada, the country suffered two tragedies, as two Canadian soldiers were killed on home soil. The first was killed in a hit-and-run incident in Montreal, Quebec and the second was a reservist who was killed while acting as a Ceremonial Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Canada’s capital, Ottawa, Ontario. The entire country mourned these two men and you could see the signs of the emotion and loss everywhere.

Remembering those who fell.

On Remembrance Day, poppies were worn on people’s lapels. Calgary has its own Field of Crosses Memorial Project that serves as a tribute to those who have served and died for our country from Southern Alberta, dating back to WWI. To date there are over 3000 crosses.

Remembrance day

This year they included crosses for the two soldiers killed on Canadian soil in the previous weeks.

Field of crosses

The day before we were going to leave, we were out enjoying the sunshine, with some clouds and a temperature of 17°C (62°F), when, within minutes, a change occurred and we could see the storm coming in from the Rocky Mountains—the wind picked up and the temperature dropped more than ten degrees…

The Canadian landscape is gorgeous! Uh-oh... a storm is coming!

… and the next morning, there was snow! Wow! Temperatures can surely change quickly in Southern Alberta!


Ok — time we get back inside our cozy envelope and fly to our next adventure!

Back into the envelope!

Thanks for the great visit, CDNLib — that was a lot of fun!


Andrea (aka Sprinkledonut) is a world traveler and her beautifully decorated postcards caught the attention of some of you, who suggested we interviewed her for the Spotlight… here she is!

How did you come across Postcrossing? What got you hooked?

Hmm, you mean there was a time in my life before Postcrossing? Haha! I joined four years ago after learning about it on another website that I am passionate about: Someone posted about it in one of the group forums. I am very grateful to them wherever they are today!

I was hooked from the get-go! I loved seeing what types of interesting cards people would send me, what their handwriting looked like and all the little details.

Show us your mailbox, your mailman/mailwoman, your postoffice or the place where you post or keep your postcards!

Here’s our typical Canadian mailbox, covered in postal codes as an anti-graffiti measure. It seems to work! Whenever I drop in my postcards it sounds like they’re landing in a hollow cavern 10,000 miles below the surface of the earth. Where’s everybody else’s mail, I wonder??

Canada postbox
Have you been surprised by any place that you have received a postcard from or sent a postcard to?

I received a random card from Fiji which was very special. I’m a big fan of direct swaps so some of my fun direct swaps have been with people in New Zealand, Estonia, Kenya and Bangladesh.

Sometimes I like to check out this site to see what new stamps are being issued around the world. With the direct swaps to New Zealand and Estonia, I asked the people if they could send me a particular wonderful stamp and they were happy to help! Thanks, guys!

Show and tell us about your favorite received postcard to date, and what makes it special.

Bicycle cards are my absolute favourite to receive. Here’s just part of my bike collection:

Andrea's postcards

Airmail stickers from around the world and some favourite art-themed postcards:

Andrea's postcards

Cards with quotes and positive messages. You can see two here from my friend Yvonne in the Netherlands who always sends me fantastic cards!

Andrea's postcards
Have you inspired anyone else to join Postcrossing or start collections of their own?

When I was buying stamps in Portugal, all of the people in their post offices were really friendly. I told one of the postal workers about it and wrote down the website for him, which he immediate showed to his coworkers. I think he was excited to check it out! Some of my friends have signed up, too, when they saw what beautiful postcards I was receiving.

Maybe you have read this tip before but they say the best way to get mail is to send mail. I make a habit of sending postcards to my friends so now lots of my friends will send me postcards when they travel or just for no occasion but because they saw a card that they know I will like.

What is it your favorite part of the Postcrossing process?

Definitely working on outgoing cards for people!

Andrea's postcards

I try to choose a card that fits what they like to collect but the part I really love is decorating the back of the card. It’s a bit of an elaborate process…first choosing the stamps (always more than one!), then glitter around the border. Next the stickers. Then the rubber stamps! Finally if there is any room left, I can write a tiny message. Haha, if you have received one of my cards you will know what I’m talking about. My goal is always to give someone a happy surprise when they turn the card over to read it. Plus when I’m busy working on the cards, it is like a form of art therapy for me. It’s really fun and I get to be creative.

Andrea's postcards Andrea's postcards
Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

Well, traveling and couchsurfing are a big hobby of mine. I’ve been part of Couchsurfing for over ten years. It’s an online project that connects travelers with hosts in cities around the world. I recently couchsurfed my way around Portugal this past June. has the same kind of open, caring, friendly and generous spirit that Postcrossing has! Making the world seem just a little bit smaller. And of course I tell my hosts all about Postcrossing when they see me writing loads of postcards.

Is there anything that you are passionate about?

I love to participate in Free Hugs events. So far I have given hugs in: Vancouver, Seattle, New York, Barcelona, Lisbon, Montreal and Austin. When we have a hugs event, people often ask why we are doing it. To share some love with the world. To make you feel good for a moment or maybe longer. To take away some stress, fear or loneliness. And hopefully because it feels nice and makes us both smile! Like sending a postcard.

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