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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Aaaaaaand, Disappointment

Presley nappingMy Japanese class was cancelled due to low enrollment. The school called on Monday and left a voicemail on our land line (yes, we still have a land line…we are your grandparents) and I figured they were just calling to remind me about the class or to tell me which room it would be in. Yesterday afternoon I listened to the voice mail and I got the news. (Thankfully I didn’t GO to the class to get the news!) I’m so bummed. I was all excited to learn again, especially something useful for our travels next year. But, it’s not meant to be right now. And that’s okay. I’ll just commiserate with this sweet face until I feel better.

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Back To School

Japanese Cat Chopstick RestsMy Japanese class starts tonight! I am very excited and a little bit nervous. I’m nervous mainly because I don’t know what to expect, so hopefully the nerves will go away after the first class–this is supposed to be fun after all. I promise to report back soon.

The sweet chopstick rests pictured above are a gift from my friend Mollie. She picked them up during her recent trip to Disney World. We don’t have any chopstick rests around here (nor do we have proper chopsticks!) so these were a perfect present! (Plus, she got one for Presley–how sweet is that?!)


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Japan Does It Better 18: Toiletries That Tingle

Japan Does It Better, Japanese toiletries that cool your skinI’m a sucker for things that burn…well, technically for toiletries that cool. And Japan seems to have the market cornered when it comes to cooling your skin, eyes, lips and more with toiletries that include menthol. The menthol is invigorating!

Last summer, my love for all things cooling started with the Biore face wash and the Shiseido lip balm that refreshed my face and lips in the hot, humid Tokyo weather. When we went back in March, I was on the hunt for more of that lip balm and some other cooling products. Naoto found some cooling eye masks (which will be a future JDIB post) and I found the cooling powder sheets (featured in JDIB 15). Both provide the perfect relief on a steamy day. The powder sheets have been the best thing this week because I’ve been able to freshen up after my walk to work in the soupy humidity.

And the most interesting menthol toiletry of all is the cooling eye drops. They are crazy weird–the very second you feel the drops in your eyes, you feel a moment of regret because it burns and it’s scary, then right away that passes and it’s just cooling, invigorating relief. They really perk you up after a nap, or before an early morning coffee run.

Tingling toiletries…Japan Does It Better!!

To see all JDIB posts, go here.

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Flowers, Flooding & Failures

cypress vine flowerI had another post planned for today, but it’s as dark as a cave here and I couldn’t get a proper picture. It rained several inches around here last night. I was rudely shocked out of a good sleep at 2AM by my phone and its stupid loud weather alert. It took 2.5 episodes of Roseanne to fall back asleep, mainly because my heart had to start beating again after the surprise of the alarm.

I went outside this morning to check on the flowers–everything is completely soaked out there–and I found this teeny, tiny flower on my Cypress Vine. Isn’t it the sweetest little thing? There are supposed to be pink, white and red flowers eventually. I cannot wait!

portulaca, kimberly AH balconyThe huge rain made my portulaca explode. I’ve decided that next year (yes, I’m already planning my flowers for next year) I will be planting more portulaca in all the colors of the rainbow.

As far as failure goes…well, have you looked at the calendar lately? Summer is almost over. I’m failing my Summer Manifesto. I still haven’t tried three new cocktails with herbs from our gardens or three new tomato recipes. I haven’t taken more walks or really rediscovered Chicago. And, while we have had a few special guests for Hasegawa Happy Hours, we haven’t had enough of them. I know the US thinks of Labor Day as the end of summer, but as long as we have tomatoes and a garden, it’s still summer to me. Before I start planning fall cocktails and soups and balcony parties, I’m determined to at least mix up a few herbal gin drinks and soak up these long days while I can.

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