Honor Flight Mail

military cards, honor flight, mailA couple of veterans from my hometown went on Honor Flight recently. Neither went with Honor Flight Chicago, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to see them off or welcome them home at the airport. They each flew on different flights with other Illinois-based Honor Flights. One veteran, my Great Uncle Tom went this year and the other veteran, my old neighbor Bud, went last year. When it comes to thank yous, I employ the “better late than never” rule.

This summer I came across an offer from One Canoe Two (and a sponsor, Veterans United) to get this 3-pack of military cards for free. I ordered a set because I knew two of the cards would be perfect for these guys. And, I had a couple of extra Honor Flight Chicago pins from when I started doing mail call a few years ago. (Maureen gave me several pins and told me to use them to “spread the word and good cheer” about Honor Flight.) At Saturday’s letter social, I wrote notes inside the cards and tucked a card and a pin inside some old notecard boxes. This is a trick I learned from Donovan who is the queen of reusing things in the name of mail.honor flight, military mail, patriotic mailThe clear plastic packaging just happened to be the exact size of my A2 cards and left room for the pinback. I had a good time decorating the boxes with patriotic washi tape. At the letter social, we weighed the package and it was 1.5 ounces. There was some disagreement about whether it’s a letter or a package, so I came home and looked up the specifications on the USPS website. It’s technically too thick to be a letter (the box is 1/2 inch thick, the letter limit is 1/4 inch) so the postage came to $2.32. I happily used my Inverted Jenny stamps and a flag forever stamp. Honor Flight of Greater PeoriaI hope Bud and Uncle Tom like their mail surprises!

P.S. That’s my Uncle Tom above with his daughters and son-in-law during his Welcome Home Celebration.

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LWA Social at the Forest Park Library

letter writers alliance, LWA social, Forest Park Public LibraryOn Saturday, I attended the LWA Letter Social at my public library (as mentioned in this post.) As usual, I regret not taking more pictures. Kathy and Donovan had an amazing spread of stationery and mail art supplies, an array of rubber stamps and four fantastic typewriters. I used the Tippa pictured above and it typed like a dream! It moved like butter (or buttah!) LWA letter social lettersI wrote a letter and two special thank you notes (which I will be sharing soon!) and had a great chat with all of the other women writing letters. (It was all women, a coincidence I just realized.) A few of us came back to our place and enjoyed Negronis and funny conversation. After everyone left, I wrote some more letters and postcards until dinner. I’m officially staying on top of my to-be-returned pile and it feels great!

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Renegade Craft Fair 2014

Renegade Chicago, Peg & Awl, New Academy PressLast year, we were in Japan during the Chicago Renegade Craft Fair and I really missed it as part of my “end of summer” routine. I love going to Renegade, so when it rolled around again this summer I knew to keep the weekend open.

I didn’t buy very much and as usual I had “non-buyers remorse”. I wish I had researched better before we went. I usually comb through all of the sellers’ sites and make a wishlist of things to look for, but I didn’t do as much investigative work this year and I missed out on a couple of things that I wish I’d seen. We got about two-thirds of the way through the fair and the crowds were picking up and we were hungry!! So, we skimmed through part of the fair, which was fine by me because tacos were waiting for us at Naoto’s office. Plus, there’s always the internet…I picked up a lot of business cards and can purchase from the comfort of my pajamas!

Renegade Chicago, Peg & AwlSo, what did I buy? I have been eying this Peg & Awl bag for almost a year now. (Mine is a slightly larger version of this one.) I love its polished rustic feel–it’s neat and tidy and not too bulky, but also has a worn, casual feel. I love the waxed canvas and the antique deadstock red gingham fabric trim. When I read that the straps were made from antique WWII gun slings, well that sealed the deal. So far, I’m loving this bag…it’s the perfect size for my planner and my wallet and a few other necessities and the front pocket is perfect for my phone and a lip balm (the real necessities!)Presley and her Peg & Awl bag nap matI should also note that the bag makes an excellent cat nap mat, according to Presley. (Thanks for leaving your fur behind, cat!) Renegade Chicago, New Academy PressThe Into the Night postcard set from New Academy Press is so good that I came home and ordered two extra sets (because I couldn’t imagine parting with this one.)  Renegade Chicago, New Academy PressThe set comes in a screen printed folder with a screen printed band. I’m thinking I will be able to turn it into a tiny staple-bound notebook when I’m all done with the cards. It’s just too fancy to throw away! Renegade Chicago, New Academy PressThe postcards are gorgeous screen prints that create a scene together and also work really well as a single card.We are going to frame this set for our bedroom wall. (The bedroom is lacking in wall art, style and creative direction.)

I also bought a paper tape (which is less than exciting) and a small gift (which I will share after Christmas). All in all it was a great Renegade. The weather was perfect–cool and sunny–and the company was wonderful. It’s always fun to meet the creative people behind the wares.

If you’d like to read more from Renegade Chicago, Rebecca from Hugs are Fun has a great post on Renegade with detailed shots of some of the booths and Robyn from Robayre has a lot of great stuff to share too.

OH, and if you missed Renegade, Show of Hands is coming up on November 22 and 23. Karen and I went last year and it was as great as Renegade, only smaller. I highly recommend is as a kick-off to your holiday shopping!

(My 2012 Renegade post is here.)

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Plot #6: The Loofah Takeover

plot 6, loofah, end of summerThis is the south end of our plot, where the flowers and the Brandywine tomatoes reside. And yes, that’s a loofah vine growing all the way over there. (The loofahs were planted on the northeast corner of our four-by-eight plot.) I’m not so worried, since our tomatoes are almost done, but man, next year we really do need to plan our plot better! plot 6, loofahBack in the north end of the plot, you can see the loofahs are overflowing outside of our raised bed…I’ve been tucking them back into the border, but some of the loofahs are cozily making themselves at home. They sound a tiny bit more hollow than they did last week, and their color is lightening ever so slightly, so hopefully, we can pick them soon. (I know I keep saying this, but really…I have no idea when the perfect time for picking is!) plot 6It has been really cold here the past few days–sweater weather, sock weather, jacket weather cold. I’m personally loving it, but I’m hoping it means long fall and not early winter. Yikes!

How is your garden growing? Are things slowing down?

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Guess Who’s Coming To Forest Park?

show and mail, letter writing, Letter Writers AllianceOn Saturday (September 13) the Letter Writers Alliance is hosting a letter writing social at the Forest Park Public Library!

I love attending letter socials and LWA events and it’s even better when I can walk to one! The social goes from 1:30-3PM and more details can be found here on the library website.

Since I sent out twenty-five letters earlier this month, I’m not sure I will have anything in my mailbox that needs a response by Saturday, so I plan to write some friends and family just because. Those are the best kinds of letters anyway, right?

To see what to pack for a letter social, go here.

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Handmade “Aerograms”

creative stationery, aerogramI’ve had these stamp information sheets since this LWA RSVP series in 2012. I found them in my vast paper stash while I was geting my desk organized (which is still an ongoing project–so many drawers, so many decisions.) The stamp sheets have pictures and educational bits on one side and are blank on the other, so I figured I could write letters and fold them into makeshift aerograms. The paper is thick and sturdy, perfect for handwriting or typewriters and I knew if I used some washi tape to seal it all up, that the recipients could (hopefully) open their letters easily without cutting into them. creative stationeryI hand wrote a letter to April on the “Postage Stamps of New Zealand” sheet. Then I folded the sheet into thirds, paying attention to how the back would look. I wanted the title part (seen at the top photo) to be the feature.creative stationery, aerogramI folded some red paper tape (from Target) over the two ends. creative stationery, aerogramThen I used thick washi tape (from Japan) to seal the top. creative stationery, aerogramI wrapped the thick washi tape around the front of the envelope and stamped the ends with an “OPEN HERE” stamp (from a set of postal-themed stamps that I bought it Japan). Hopefully, the little directions will prevent the sendees from tearing open the aerogram like an envelope. creative stationery, aerogram I had so much fun making these and spending out some of my paper hoard. I’m thrilled that I found my letter writing mojo again!

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council

#LWAsocialThanks to another Letter Writers Alliance virtual letter social and a long Labor Day weekend of letter writing, I am all caught up on my mail. These four letters were just the start of a deluge of mail that left my apartment over the past couple of weeks. I’m still doing my best to keep the USPS in business.

Speaking of the post office…I’ve never mentioned it here, but I have the best letter carrier. His name is John and he knew my name within a couple of weeks of living here. He goes out of his way to wave HELLO from down the street when he is delivering in the neighborhood. He patiently and enthusiastically handled thousands of pieces of mail for me during my Honor Flight Mail Call days. He is incredibly detailed and efficient, yet takes time to answer a question or chat with you for a moment when you run down to his truck to hand off some letters. If he’s not training the next generation of letter carriers, he should be. He is a model postman.

mail delivery during polar vortex, USPSI feel very lucky, and spoiled by John. This winter, during the polar vortex, John didn’t miss a beat delivering our mail at normal times in sub, sub-zero temperatures. But the polar vortex highlighted all sorts of problems my community was having with mail delivery. I read a lot of articles like this one where people in Forest Park, Oak Park and River Forest had a laundry list of complaints about missing mail, no mail, late mail, wrong mail…all sorts of problems.

So, the USPS created a Postal Consumer Advisory Council made up of local citizens and “mail officials” to help solve the problems of the post office on a local level. Of course, I applied. I love the post office and in general, I have a lot of positive things to say about the USPS. I feel like it’s still a great value to send a letter or a card across the country or across the ocean. I feel like those letters get there pretty quickly, too. But I also know from some pretty dreadful experiences at the post office counters in Forest Park, River Forest and Oak Park (I frequent all three out of desperation to find good service) and some bad experiences with delayed and missing mail when John is on vacation that there are some serious customer service issues.

Last month I got a letter saying I was accepted to the committee! Our first meeting is next week and I couldn’t be more excited. According to the letter, the council will “increase opportunities for postal consumers to interact with postal representatives.” We will be able to voice concerns, share ideas and suggestions and resolve issues. It all feels sort of rose-colored glasses idealistic, but I’m hoping the committee and the post office can come up with some good ideas for improvements. And that those improvements are implemented and positive changes are made.

I promise to report back.

Oh, and if you, too, love your letter carrier, One Canoe Two created this fun printable for you to pass along.

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Summer Fresh Salsa

summer fresh salsa ingredientsI’ve been on the obvious end-of-summer mission to use up our tomato crop. In the last week, I’ve eaten tomato sandwiches, BLTs, roasted tomato caprese salad, panzanella, plain ol’ caprese salad, and I’ve added tomatoes to every other meal I’ve made or eaten. And still…there are tomatoes.

Since we have so many Juliets (which are slightly larger than grape tomatoes and are not well-suited for sandwiches because of their tiny size) I decided to make salsa last weekend. I started with this recipe and made some tweaks to give it the freshest flavor possible.

Summer Fresh Salsa

24-30 Juliet tomatoes (or 6-7 Romas), chopped

2-3 Jalapeño, seeded and diced

1 red, yellow or orange  pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

handful cilantro, chopped

1-2 limes, juiced

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt, to tastesummer fresh salsaChop and stir the vegetables and herbs together. Add olive oil, salt and one lime. Taste and add more lime or salt as needed. (I usually use two limes because I like things citrusy.)

This salsa is very fresh, but if you prefer something more spicy, you can add chili peppers, chili powder some of the jalapeño seeds to heat things up. Try to make it ahead of time and chill it in the fridge to allow the flavors to meld. summer fresh salsaIsn’t it a pretty salsa? I love the colors and the crunch and the garlic and the citrus…and of course the tomatoes. Those perfect garden Juliet gems really make a good salsa. I’m so thankful for our bountiful harvest!

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Japan Does It Better 19: Anti-Itch Patches

makiron, anti-itch patchesI, like most people, hate feeling itchy. In the summers, I usually carry hydrocortisone cream around with me at all times because bug bites can be annoying and distracting. The cream is a fine solution, but it’s a little messy and I always like to wash my hands after using, which isn’t always possible right away. Our friends Billy and Angela happened upon these amazing anti-itch patches when they were traveling in Japan and we picked up a pack last summer. Now, I can’t imagine a better way to treat a bug bite. makiron, anti-itch patchesInside the box are these little medicated decals that peel off and go right over the bug bite. The patches are kind of like Band-Aids, except they are thinner and completely adhesive. The medicine almost immediately stops the itching and the decal protects the bug bite from your constant scratching. Once I put one of these on, I leave it on for a day or two. The patches stand up well to water (they stay on during showers!) and really cure any itches.

The package we bought has the Anpanman character on the patches, but there are also plain (boring) ones if characters aren’t your thing.

For a super portable and effective way to treat bug bites, Japan Does It Better!

For the rest of the JDIB posts, go here.

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Plot #6: Is That A Loofah In My Garden?

plot 6, community gardenIt isn’t that I didn’t believe the articles I read about loofah vines’ ferocious growth, it’s that I underestimated what that really meant. I’m afraid that our loofah vine is creeping into our neighbor’s plot, and could overtake the entire community garden. I think, now that summer is in full swing (finally!), I might have to go to the garden daily to reign those crazy vines in and retrain them back into our plot. plot 6, community gardenBut it’s totally worth it if we can actually bring the five giant loofah home. Yes, five!! I’m hoping they all make it–safely from bugs and nibbling rodents–to the stage when we can harvest them and dry them out as sponges. I’ve been using this resource as guidance. I’ve never been so excited about a gardening experiment. If all goes well, do you think it would be weird if I gave sponges to everyone for Christmas? (I guess I shouldn’t be getting ahead of myself here.) plot 6, community gardenIn addition to the five gallon bucket-full of tomatoes we harvested last week, I picked a few limas. I think there are probably more to be picked, but it’s hard to find them amongst the overgrown tomatoes and the loofah vines. I guess garden planning is not my strong suit. plot 6, community gardenMy tomato harvesting was cut a bit short the other day by this cat-sized grasshopper (small exaggeration). He was protecting a large patch of ripe tomatoes, which I left untouched because I kept picturing him leaping into my face. Thankfully the grasshopper found a new home when we went back to harvest more tomatoes yesterday. (Oh and yesterday I touched a slug…gardening is gross!!) plot 6, community garden

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