Cold Comfort Farm

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella GibbonsFor November, my book group read Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. It was a delight!

The book is completely ridiculous at first, and once you get beyond that and realize that not everything is going to be rational, you can just enjoy the book for what it is: jolly entertainment wrapped up in a parody of a traditional Victorian novel.

Flora Poste’s parents both die and leave her with only 100 pounds per year. Since she refuses to work and she cannot afford to live on her own, her only option is to join some cousins on Cold Comfort Farm. While her cousins’ lives are probably fine and satisfactory to them, she sees a different kind of potential in each of them and develops a strategy to change their paths and shake things up on the farm.

I love Flora Poste. She is feisty and outspoken and she refuses to share a room (solidarity, sister!) One of my favorite parts is when she meets her cousin Reuben for the first time. She invites him to tea and he clearly has no idea how to act around women and tea:

Defeated, Reuben came in.

He stood at the table facing Flora and blowing heavily on his tea and staring at her. Flora did not mind. It was quite interesting: like having tea with a rhinoceros.

I was excited to learn that there is a Christmas version, Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm, which looks delightful. And, the movie version of Cold Comfort Farm is currently on my desk waiting to be watched. (Kathy wrote a great review of both the book and the movie here, complete with screen shots of the fabulous wardrobe!)

For December, my book group is reading Emma. I’ve mentioned before that we’ve never read Austen in our group before, so it should be interesting…I’m hoping to get through it so I can enjoy a couple of Christmas reads during the holidays, too!

Have you read anything good lately?

P.S. I’m trying to be better about using Goodreads…you can find me here.

Thrifting Treasures 2

vintage accountant books, gold stars and stickersOn my drive down to my parents’ house a few weeks ago, I stopped in our favorite thrift store. I had fifteen minutes before they closed, so I hit the office section, the greeting cards and the dishes–my three favorites. The greeting cards were a bust. Although they had several boxes of Christmas cards to offer, nothing was vintage enough or sweet enough to buy. (I still have no idea what I’m doing for holiday cards this year.) And the dishes were equally disappointing, unless you like those country patterns of the nineties. (Think hearts and ducks and other country patterns.) vintage accountant work sheet pads and Presley

But the office section never disappoints! Within five minutes I snagged up all the best stuff: some Care Bear stickers, some jumbo gold stars, and most exciting of all, two vintage accountant work sheet pads. The largest is 11×16 and I love all the little grids and warm colors and the yellowed paper. The best part about the ledgers is that yellow tagged items were 50% off that day, so one was 75¢ and the other was 50¢. My bill at the register for all four items was $2.12.

I’ve already written one letter on the smaller ledger paper and I look forward to using up all four in mail upcoming mail projects!

When you go thrift shopping, which department do you head for?

P.S. For more thrifting posts, go here.

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Thanksgiving Invitations 2014

thanksgiving invitation with Paper Source acorn kitThanksgiving crept up on me this year. My mind has been occupied with other things and I didn’t have any real inspiration for an invitation. So, I went with leftovers…fitting, eh?

A few years ago, I made our Thanksgiving place cards with this Acorn kit from Paper Source. I had some leftovers, which I saved and used as a garland or something last year. Anyway, one acorn got a new life as an invitation. I typed out a basic note on vellum and cut it out with a circle punch. Then I tied the vellum on with a little gold and white twinethanksgiving invitation with Paper Source acorn kit and vellum envelopeI used a vellum envelope embellished with some squirrel and leaves washi tape and I used one of my “vintage” Thanksgiving stamps (a purchase from the Stamp King of Chicago.) vintage Thanksgiving stampSeriously, that stamp is a cornucopia of postal goodness. (If you’re interested, here is a little article that shows the USPS Thanksgiving stamp offerings.) thanksgiving invitation with Paper Source acorn kit and vellum envelopeHere it is, all packed up.

And now…back to cleaning and menu planning!

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Grandpa Litton

grandpa, grandma, mom & connieOn Friday, my grandfather passed away. He was eighty-three. When we went to see him earlier this month, we knew the time was limited. The touristy excursions were a chance for my dad and I to give my mom some time alone with him. Since Hamilton is such a small town, it was easy to pop in and out throughout the day.

My mom’s parents were divorced when she was very young. Grandpa remarried and lived in Hamilton for his entire life after the divorce. He and Sharon were married for more than fifty years, so clearly he found the perfect fit on his second go ’round with marriage.

We only saw him once or twice a year when he would visit us and when we would make the annual summer trip to Hamilton. At the end of each visit, he would always tear up when we all said goodbye. He was quiet and kind-hearted and until the end, always seemed so strong and full of life.

grandpa & sharonGrandpa was in a lot of pain while we were there, so it is somewhat comforting to know his suffering is over. Sharon was by his side during the last hours. A peaceful ending to a long life.

The picture at the top is from the 1950s: my grandpa after one of his baseball games holding my mom (left) and Aunt Connie (right) with my grandma in the background.

The second picture is my grandpa & Sharon, most likely from the 1960s.

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 2

vintage postage stampsI’m a little behind in blogging about our second meeting of the USPS Consumer Advisory Council. We met last month to set a plan for our future meetings. We went around the room and each shared our personal list of three areas of improvement we’d like to see the Post Office focus on. We will devote the next meetings to tackling each item on the list. Here is the laundry list. Some items overlapped, but other items were unique to the individual council members. Items marked with an * are my responses.

  • customer service* (by far the most popular response and includes some of the items mentioned below)
  • facility maintenance
  • profitability
  • technology
  • supervisors/leadership
  • accessibility of management
  • signage
  • counter scheduling
  • placement of mailboxes
  • parking
  • partnering with village
  • passports
  • vacation holds
  • future of USPS
  • postal worker reputation
  • better advertising
  • worker health and safety
  • personal cell phone use by carriers during mail deliveries*
  • mis-deliveries*

We decided to tackle customer service in our November meeting (next week), working through counter scheduling, passports, vacation holds, cell phones, mis-deliveries, counter service and accessibility of management. Obviously, since we are working at a local level, it will be hard to tackle the entire list. For instance, regarding the postal technology point: we probably do not have enough pull to change the user-friendliness of the USPS website, but we can promote change with local package tracking. (If your package isn’t scanned by the carrier, the tracking is useless.)

Interestingly, the representatives from the USPS had their own list of top concerns:

  • misdelivery
  • worker attitude
  • product availability (The Oak Park PO is always out of stamps!)
  • worker safety
  • cell phone distraction

One member made a long speech about how our meetings were going to become “complaint sessions” and that we should be focusing on the positive. I personally feel like the committee was not created to sit around and pat the USPS on the back. The committee was created to fix the problems that are evident in the USPS and to help make the USPS better. While I appreciate the desire not to sit around and be a bunch of complainers, I think all of us on the council are very solution oriented and only have the post office’s best interest in mind. I’m looking forward to next month when we can finally get into the nitty gritty of our list.

As always, if you have any questions or feedback to pass along, don’t hesitate to get in touch via the comments or email.

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Japan Does It Better 20: Häagen Dazs Crispy Sandwich

JDIB, Häagen-Dazs Crispy SandwichOh Häagen-Dazs Cookies & Cream Crispy Sandwich…how I miss you! This is another one of those American-like snacks that is exclusive to Japan. (But if anyone wants to start a letter writing campaign with me so we can get them over here…I have my stamps ready!)

The Häagen-Dazs Crispy Sandwich is an ice cream sandwich made with ice cream (in this case cookies & cream which is, in my opinion, the best!) coated in a hard shell and sandwiched between two crispy wafers. The wafers taste kind of like an ice cream cone, but they are thinner. They add a nice crunch and texture, but not a ton of taste which allows you to focus on the yummy ice cream and coating. The Crispy Sandwich takes the ice cream sandwich to a whole new level…so good. So very good.

Crispy Sandwiches can be found at just about any convenience store, which makes them waaaaay too easy to eat every day. (Not that anyone is guilty of eating one every day during her two week trip or anything…) I tried the plain vanilla and the special spring sakura versions, but truthfully, cookies & cream wins. I’ve read about a green tea version and will make it my mission to find one during our next trip.

Tastier ice cream sandwiches…another reason Japan Does It Better!

For more JDIB posts, go here.

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Cherry Mash Candy

Cherry Mash Candy, Chase Candy, St. Joseph, MOI love a good consumable souvenir. Whenever I’m traveling, I like to stop into grocery stores to see if there are any locally-made snacks or sweets to take home. (This is how I discovered the deliciousness of Canada’s potato chips!) Finding treats in the grocery store is a lot more budget-friendly than buying them at the airport or souvenir shops, plus there are sometimes hidden gems that aren’t in those souvenir shops.

While we were in Missouri, we stopped at WalMart to pick up something. (Full disclosure: We went to pick up a bottle of whiskey–whiskey that was made in Missouri, but not delicious enough to make the cut as a souvenir. Actually it was terrible.) At the check-out I spotted this fantastic vintage candy, Chase’s Cherry Mash. Cherry Mash has been made in St. Joseph, Missouri since 1918. (St. Joseph is about an hour away from Hamilton.) I bought one to try and then went back the next night to buy a few more. Cherry Mash Candy, Chase Candy, St. Joseph, MOThe Cherry Mash is made with crushed maraschino cherries, blended into a creamy center and coated with chocolate and chopped peanuts. There are a few videos of the process here.Cherry Mash Candy, Chase Candy, St. Joseph, MOI love maraschino cherries (even the bright red ones that are swimming in red dye) so I think the Cherry Mash is delicious. Because it is so sweet, it’s a shareable portion, but I promise not to judge if you eat the whole thing! I love a good, vintage candy and this one fits the bill perfectly!

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Missouri Star Quilt Company

 

Missouri Star quilts, Hamilton, MOVisiting the Missouri Star Quilt Company made me want to rush home and cut up the fabric I bought for a quilt a few years ago. It also made me want to buy more fabric…which I did. We only visited the main shop and the seasonal fabric shop but Missouri Star has eight stores in Hamilton devoted to quilting. Missouri Star quilts, Hamilton, MOAs usual, I regret not taking more pictures. There were aisles and aisles of fabric to choose from in the main store. I had a hard time not going overboard…I figured since I haven’t actually started making a quilt, I should resist buying every single fabric that caught my eye! (Besides, Missouri Star has an online store, so really, I can shop anytime!)fabric from Missouri Star Quilt COI chose a two patterns to add to my future quilt (the grey and yellow ones) and the forest animals one to make a pillow cover. Christmas fabric from Missouri Star Quilt COAt Sew Seasonal, the holiday fabric store, I found a Scandanavian-style fabric and some coordinating red dots. Missouri Star quilts, Hamilton, MOMissouri Star has opened the doors for more business opportunity in Hamilton. There is a new fancy restaurant in town, Blue Sage, which I didn’t have a chance to try but there is a burger place and a bakery that were both quite tasty. It would be easy to make a day of fabric shopping in Hamilton! Missouri Star quilts, Hamilton, MO

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JC Penney Museum

JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MOOne of our first stops while we were exploring Hamilton was the J.C. Penney Museum. The museum is part of the local library and is filled with items used by J.C. Penney personally as well as in his first stores. There is a wax figure of Penney himself anchoring the exhibit…it was a little alarming at first, but he felt like an old friend by the end. JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MO JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MO JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MO JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MOSome of my favorite items in the museum were the office supplies–so many fantastic rubber stamps and little notebooks and handbooks. JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MOJC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MOAnd there was a tricky looking calculator and a gorgeous Underwood typewriter. Swoon!JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MO I love this picture from the JC Penney Golden Jubilee Convention in 1952. It was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago and it looks like it was a fabulous event! JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MOBrannock devices and other shoe-selling tools make me miss good customer service in the shoe departments of today. JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MOThis is a plate that was made for J.C. Penney’s eightieth birthday. Isn’t James Cash a terrific name?JC Penney Museum, Hamilton, MOAh, catalogs…so good for browsing, so bad for the environment.

I didn’t do any research before we went to the museum, but J.C. Penney’s desk is in the museum and unlike most museums, you are invited to sit in his chair. I’m bummed that I learned this after we left and the museum closed. We did thumb through the catalogs though. There was no one working in the museum, so when it came time to buy postcards (which were only 10¢ each!) I took them into the library side to pay for them. I love how quaint and laid-back it was!roadtrip to Hamilton, MO roadtrip to Hamilton, MOA few blocks down the main road is the J.C. Penney childhood home. It isn’t open for touring and it’s not in its original location (Penney grew up just outside of town in the countryside.) In the 80s it was saved from being torn down and moved into town and renovated. It sits among the businesses downtown Hamilton, a charming reminder of the man himself.

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Road Trip to Hamilton, MO

roadtrip to Hamilton, MOOver the weekend, I took a road trip with my parents. We drove to visit my grandfather in Hamilton, Missouri, a town of 1800 people about an hour away from Kansas City. In between visits to the nursing home, my dad and I adventured about the town, which has a surprising amount to do for its size. roadtrip to Hamilton, MOHamilton is the home of JC Penney, the man who founded the department store by the same name in 1902. There’s a quaint little museum devoted to JC Penney in the local library and Penney’s childhood home sits in the center of town. Until the 1980s, there was a Penney’s store in Hamilton. Quilting is a huge business here, too. The Missouri Star Quilt Company (seen in the top photo) opened in 2008 and now it is widely known around the country as a great place to go for fabric and quilting supplies. I first heard about Missouri Star in this NBC Nightly News broadcast, so I was interested to go and check it out. Hamilton is only a few blocks long and there are seven quilt shops in town. It’s pretty amazing. (I’ll talk about both the museum and the quilt shops this week!) roadtrip to Hamilton, MO roadtrip to Hamilton, MOOf course I made time for mail! I wrote out postcards at a little bakery (Poppy’s) and at the nursing home.roadtrip to Hamilton, MOThe trip was bittersweet but I’m glad we went. It was good to see my grandpa and to experience the town he’s lived in almost his whole life.

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