Our Pleasant Home Book Group

pleasant home book groupI’ve mentioned being in a book club a few times over the past few years, but I figured it’s time to write a post about it. It is one of my favorite things, so I can’t believe it’s taken so me so long to talk about it here.

I know a lot of people are in book clubs. They read a book, they (may) talk about it, they drink wine, they eat snacks and go home. Our version is a little bit different. Our book club was originally started in 2002 as a park district program with the Pleasant Home in Oak Park. The group met in the Pleasant Home library and read books that would have been in the home’s library during the John Farson era (early turn of the century.) The first book was So Big by Edna Ferber. Apparently there were close to fifty people at the first meeting and the group gradually whittled down to a small group of core members who came every month with a handful of people coming and trying it out for a bit and not returning. There are still four original members from that very first meeting.

I joined the group in 2008. I was taking a drawing class at Pleasant Home and my teacher told me about the group. I had never been in a book club before, but the premise really interested me. I was a literature major in college and I missed reading “the classics”. Actually, at the time, I was hardly reading anything because I was so busy working. A book club would force me back into the reading habit and this book club in particular was reading great older titles, something I knew I’d enjoy.

My first book was A Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. I read it diligently, loved it and went to the meeting. As I walked in the door, I noticed that everyone was older than me. I felt a little bit out of place for a quick second and then instantly at home. Anne took down my information to send me a book list, my (small) contribution to the discussion was met with interest, Peggy invited me to lunch with the group…it was welcoming and I remember going home thinking that I had found “my people”–a feeling only matched by meeting fellow letter writers.

Now, six years later, one thing I love most about our group is that we are multi-generational. Our ages span from twenty-ish to seventy-ish. (We’ve had three members pass away, most recently Anne, who was in her eighties.) Everyone brings such a different perspective to the book because of her age and background. Our discussions would be much different, I think, if we were all women in our thirties. The other thing I love is that the group formed organically. We are all friends/friendly now, but for the most part, it is a group of strangers who have the interest of old literature in common. And, while it is all women now, at a few points in the twelve year history of the group, there have been male members.

In February, we had our last meeting at Pleasant Home. They decided to stop hosting our group as a park district program. (The house is open very limited hours and apparently paying a staff member to be there to open the door for us was too much for the Home’s budget.) So, now we meet in our homes–our “pleasant homes”–and it’s quite nice. The hostess usually bakes a little something and serves coffee and tea. While meeting in the Pleasant Home library was always interesting, our own homes are much more comfortable.

One of our biggest challenges is finding solid books that are still in print or are still available in a large enough quantity for each of us to borrow a copy from the library system. A lot of times, a great title will come to our attention, but since it’s not widely available, we can’t read it. Right now, we are reading mostly from the 1930s and before, so obviously, even after twelve years, there is still a huge amount of literature yet to read. And, believe it or not, the group is reading Jane Austen for the first time in December!

I’m hoping to do another post about my favorite titles that we’ve read and of our top “scary reads” from past Octobers. In the meantime, I’d love to hear if you’re in a book club and what kinds of books you read!

P.S. That’s us pictured above (with the exception of Susan R and two new members) after one of our last meetings in the Pleasant Home library.

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Why Be Good?

Why Bo Good, Chicago International Film Festival, Colleen MooreOn Sunday night Peggy and I went to see Why Be Good? a recently rediscovered silent film from the 1920s starring Colleen Moore*. Why Be Good? was considered lost for many years, but it was rediscovered in an old Italian movie archive in 2012. This was its 21st century North American debut and it was shown as part of Chicago International Film Festival, which Colleen Moore helped start fifty years ago.

In the movie, Colleen Moore plays Pert, a poor flapper girl who is a wildly good dancer, stays out late, wears risqué dresses and makeup and has the appearance of a “bad girl.” But she’s really a good girl underneath it all. She meets a rich man who falls in love with her, but is hesitant to marry Pert because he fears she is too wild (a.k.a. not chaste.) The movie follows the two of them to different night clubs, giving us a glimpse into the “flapper” lifestyle and 1920s night life. (I couldn’t stop looking at the glassware during all of the drinking scenes!)

Because the movie was made Pre-Code, there were racy (for the time) shots of Pert in her bra and slip and suggestive (for the time) dialogue. (Of course, it’s nothing like movies today.) The wardrobe was just fabulous. Every shoe, every slip, every dress, every coat, every handbag was breathtaking. At one point Pert pulls out a slip that had her name embroidered on it. They don’t make slips like that anymore. (Do they even make slips?) And the music, especially the jazz in the nightclubs, was fantastic. I think there needs to be a soundtrack release. And I know a lot of people don’t like silent films (or haven’t given them a chance) but with Colleen Moore’s expressive facial expressions and the music, I didn’t even realize I was reading the title cards.

The movie was introduced by CIFF founder Michael Kutza (pictured, underneath Colleen Moore on the big screen). He was in his twenties when he had the idea to start an International Film Festival in Chicago. Since he was so young and not socially connected, he was introduced to Colleen Moore. She was living in Chicago at the time and still had many Hollywood connections. In the early years, she helped get a lot of movie stars involved with the festival and gave it a strong start in the community. He told a hilarious story about wanting to invite Joan Crawford to lunch. She was in Chicago for business during her time on the Board of Directors for Pepsi-Co. Colleen Moore told him no, that Joan’s “wings” (facelift tape around the eyes, something like this.) would never make it through lunch!

I’ve never gone to any of the film festivals in Chicago, but this experience made me want to pay more attention to these local opportunities. I’m not a huge movie person but I do love old gems and I enjoy learning about the history of Hollywood. Peggy is a movie encyclopedia so it’s always fun to go with her and learn a little bit more than I would as a movie novice. For instance, Peggy knew Neil Hamilton, the actor who played Pert’s love interest, also played Commissioner Gordon on Batman (the TV show.)

Now that Why Be Good? has been found and re-released, it will hopefully show up at more movie festivals and indie theaters. I highly recommend keeping an eye out for it, even if you only go to see the stunning Colleen Moore and her stylish flapper wardrobe!

*Chicagoans might know Colleen Moore for her fairy castle at the Museum of Science & Industry.

P.S. A little bit more about the discovery and restoration of Why Be Good?   There are some great still shots of the movie so you can get a little taste of the clothes!

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Happy Birthday, Mom!

mom & naoto at our wedding…and many more!

P.S. The fact that I had to dig out an old wedding photo just shows that I don’t have enough pictures of you!

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31 Postcards in 31 Days…So Far

Katie Licht, mail a mooseI wish I could say that those postcards pictured above were just a few I’ve sent out this month, but truthfully…I’ve only written one (which still needs to be dropped in the mail!) The three postcards above are from Yuki, Katie and Lisa. Yuki and I have been exchanging postcards since this summer. Her card has fantastic postage stamps–you can see it here on Instagram. Katie is using 31 Postcards to practice her monster drawings. I dig this monster-girl’s tiny earrings and her toothy smile. And Lisa is mailing random animals to her friends, family and pen pals this month. As much as I’d love to keep the postcard in tact, I’m afraid I can’t resist cutting out the sweet moose. (I think he might make a nice addition to this paper play set.)

I’m trying to finish decorating for Halloween this week. Do you decorate for Halloween? I know it’s kind of silly, but I really enjoy it. Hopefully you don’t mind if I share some pictures of our apartment as soon as I figure out how to take them without the sun. It’s so gloomy and rainy here this week–perfect fall weather if you ask me. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t have very many days to crunch through the leaves before they got all wet.

Jackie Lakely at Gather

Jackie LakelyMy artist-friend Jackie is showing her latest series of paintings at Gather, an arts and crafts studio/children’s play place in Evanston. On Saturday, Peggy, Naoto and I drove up for Jackie’s opening. Jackie LakelyJackie combines painting and mixed media collage in most of her work. This particular series is The Alphabet Series–twenty-six pieces that incorporate objects and animals representing each letter. With few exceptions, Jackie’s work is bright and vibrant and layered with paints, papers, patterns, textures and colors. Jackie LakelyJackie LakelyWe had such a fun time walking through the alphabet and finding all of the bits and pieces within each painting to represent the letter. For instance, Party Cat above has carrot cake, candles, cups of coffee, cookies, cupcake, cat…Jackie LakelyMany of the pieces had a bit of phone book, the Periodic Table of Elements and postage stamps (!!!) worked into them. Hillside House is a great example of these tiny details. The elements of hydrogen and helium are there, plus a tiny map of the hemispheres, some H phone book pages (including  the number for my favorite place, Hala Kahiki tiki bar!!), and the best part….Jackie Lakely…the vintage cancelled HOMEMAKERS postage stamp!! It was so much fun looking for these tiny details. Jackie LakelyMy pictures really don’t do justice to Jackie’s work. The layers and textures get a little lost on a computer screen. But if you’re in Evanston, go see it in person! Kids or no kids, Gather is a really neat space, and obviously I think Jackie’s work is worth the trip.

From top to bottom: Garden Friends (starring Jackie’s greyhound, Alex), Night Lights, Bluebird & Bear, Party Cat, Hillside House and Red Tent. Jackie has a post on her blog where she shares some details about the paintings and you can see more of the paintings.

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Cocktail Perfected: The Negroni

Negroni cocktailI tried a Negroni for the first time at a restaurant a couple of summers ago. It was okay, but not so great that I wanted to buy the ingredients to make one at home. But somehow a bottle of Campari made it into our bar and I haven’t stopped drinking them since. I’m convinced that the restaurant that served me my original Negroni didn’t use good booze. There is no other reason I wouldn’t have liked this drink. With the right gin and vermouth, the Negroni sings a bitter break-up tune that wins my heart.

The Negroni

1 oz gin (I like North Shore No 6.)

1 oz sweet vermouth (Carpano Antica is my favorite.)

1 oz Campari

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and pour into a cocktail glass.

OR

Pour ingredients into an old fashioned glass with ice and stir.

Garnish with an orange peel.

Enjoy while catching up on your mail for World Post Day.

October Paper Parcel

Saturday Morning Vintage October Paper Parcel I know it’s been awhile since I’ve shared my paper parcels from Saturday Morning Vintage. It’s not because they haven’t been wonderful, they have! I just got a little bit tired of writing about them. (Is it okay to admit that?) But i figured, since Halloween is fast approaching and this months paper parcel is right on theme, I would share some quick pictures of all the amazing vintage bits! Saturday Morning Vintage October Paper Parcel The parcel came wrapped in a kraft paper bag with a sweet vintage bat cupcake topper taped on the front. Saturday Morning Vintage October Paper Parcel Most of the paper parcel was orange and black (obviously!) but there were hints of purple too. Some of the larger pieces included patterned papers and a page from a vintage insect book. There were also tickets, price tags, milk caps, game board money and a Sleepy Hollow stamp (one of my favorites!) Saturday Morning Vintage October Paper Parcel I loved the Halloween Charade cards. Saturday Morning Vintage October Paper Parcel Some of my favorite pieces were the horoscope card complete with bats, owls and cats and the vintage pharmacy labels. Saturday Morning Vintage October Paper Parcel And, last but not least, the array of playing cards completed the paper parcel. The witch and the jack-o-lanterns are my Halloween favorites! Oh and the round scalloped leaf is a vintage paper coaster–cute right?

I’m excited to use some of the pieces for mail art this month. I just started decorating for Halloween yesterday and it’s gotten me in the mood for the season. I’ll share more soon!

To see the other Paper Parcel posts, go here.

From the Attic: Vintage Game Birds Shot Glasses

Anchor Hocking Bird Shot Glasses When my parents visited, they brought me an attic treasure–these vintage Anchor Hocking shot glasses. The glasses were wedding gifts from 1972! Anchor Hocking Bird Shot Glasses They still have their original box, and aside from being a little dusty from the attic, they are in tip top shape. Anchor Hocking Bird Shot Glasses Even their gilded rims are perfect! (Seriously, Dad. Did you even use these?)

Naoto and I aren’t big shot drinkers (well, not since the crazy days of our youth anyway.) And I use this Anchor Hocking measuring glass for my cocktail mixing. (It’s practically the perfect size for measuring the ingredients for one or a batch of cocktails.) But I’m thinking we could use these for after-dinner limoncellos or sips of other liqueurs. I’m excited to have them as part of the bar collection.

Thanks Mom & Dad!

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So Long, John the Mailman

John the Mailman's retirement bannerJohn the Mailman delivered his last piece of mail on Saturday. Karen and I hung a simple banner in his honor. (I made it using these Paper Source labels on these Paper Source circle cards strung on this Air Mail twine.)  gift for john the mailmanWe left a little gift for John in our mailbox, but we also went down to the lobby to say goodbye. (There may have been tears.)

So far our new letter carrier is doing a commendable job.

It’s been kind of a slow mail week around here. I have a few letters to return and some Halloween mail to plan and some postcards to write. It’s supposed to rain later, so it just might be the perfect night to make some mail.

31 Postcards in 31 Days

Presley and my address book You all know that I love a good month-long challenge. So of course when I heard about the 31 Postcards in 31 Days, I had to jump in. (Thanks for tweeting about it, Marissa!) The “challenge” was started by zine-makers but anyone can participate. The most exciting thing to me about 31 Postcards in 31 Days is that you can send the postcards whenever you want. No need to do one per day and feel guilty when you get behind. As long as you’ve sent thirty-one cards by the end of the month, you’ve completed the challenge. Easy enough, right?

I had wild dreams of making all my postcards, but I think I will lower the bar for myself and just try to send thirty-one cards to thirty-one different people. I have a lot of postcards from Japan, from Oak Park, from sets I’ve bought over the years and this will be a good time to spend out.

Are you participating?

(And can you believe it’s October already?! Presley is really excited for this.)

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