Garfield Park Conservatory

Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower ShowOn Saturday, I went to the Garfield Park Conservatory for the first time in my nineteen years in Chicagoland. The visit was prompted by Katie’s Instagram last week. She called it her “annual February desperate to see/smell something green” visit. Lucky for Karen, Peggy and I, the Spring Flower Show, “Sun Showers” just opened. It was the perfect antidote to the cold, snowy, dark, dreary days of winter. We went on a rare sunny day. The sunbeams were pouring in and the conservatory was warm and humid. It felt like we went on a little vacation. We took our coats off and walked around breathing in the fresh dirt and the bright flower fragrance. Here’s a little peek at some of the flowers…Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower ShowGarfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower Show Garfield Park Conservatory Spring Flower ShowThe yellow umbrellas were so cheerful! I am going to make many efforts to go back as often as I can. The conservatory is less than five miles from my house–only a few train stops away!! I can’t wait to go back again and see what new flowers emerge as the flower show goes on until May 10th.

Inside another room of the conservatory was a quote by William Cowper’s The Task, which I think captures the feeling of our day the best,

“Who loves a garden, loves a greenhouse too.

Unconscious of a less propitious clime

There blooms exotic beauty, warm and snug,

While the winds whistle and the snows descend.”

I’m definitely thinking spring and gardening!

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Letter Month 2015 Week 4

letter month mail letter month mail letter month mail letter month mail letter month mailletter monthletter monthLetter Month is OVER! Week four started out pretty weak, but I finished strong–replying to every letter I’ve received during the month (and some lingering in my inbox from January!) I relied on my lobby box, but also visited the mailbox by work, the River Forest snorkel box, a new-to-me box by Penny’s Noodles in Oak Park and one in Chicago’s Wicker Park on a ramen date with Donovan. She and I walked for blocks looking for a mailbox…it’s nice to hang out with someone who is willing to hunt for a blue box with me.

My totals for the week:

  • 12 letters/cards
  • 1 postcards
  • 1 international postcard
  • 0 packages
  • 14 Total mailings

It feels good to finish strong and not burnt out…but more on that later this week!

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Vintage Book: The First Book of Letter Writing

The First Book of Letter Writing Out of the blue one day, long, long ago, I received a package from my online friend Holly. Inside was this fantastic children’s book, The First Book of Letter Writing by Helen Jacobson & Florence Mischel. The delightful illustrations were done by Lászlo Roth. The First Book of Letter WritingPublished in 1957, it covers everything the mid-century child needed to know about letter writing: how to write a letter, how to address the envelope, proper penmanship, writing celebrities, thank you notes, condolence notes, stationery, postage and more. The First Book of Letter Writing CoverThe book originally came with a book of stamps to get the letter writing started! The First Book of Letter WritingThe First Book of Letter WritingJust like yesterday’s book, some of the book reads as a time capsule of children’s correspondence in the fifties. I didn’t realize there were rules for children’s stationery: “boys always use a single, unfolded sheet of paper” while “girls may use folded stationery.” But most of the book is still helpful in its teachings of letter structure and helping children to learn that their letters should be a mix of news and questions for the recipient. I think it would still be a great introduction to letter writing. The First Book of Letter WritingReceiving this book–which is a technically a “destroyed” library book–made me both happy and sad. Of course I am thrilled that Holly found it and thought of me and sent it my way. I will treasure it forever. But I’m sad because this book about letter writing isn’t out there in a library for a child to discover. Maybe checking out a book like this would inspire a new generation of letter writers. In my personal book collection, it has a very limited reach…how sad! But thankfully it was rescued from the dumpster, right?!

I just requested a bunch of letter writing books from the library, so hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll have more books to share. It will be nice to keep the spirit of Letter Month going a little longer, right?

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Vintage Book: The Etiquette of Letter Writing

vintage book: The Etiquette of Letter WritingMy friend Peggy gave me this tiny book, (A Desk Book on) The Etiquette of Letter Writing, last summer. It was published by Eaton, Crane & Pike Company in 1927. It is a tiny guide that outlines the basic social rules regarding correspondence. vintage book: The Etiquette of Letter WritingThe book comes from a time when married women signed their correspondence Mrs. Husband’s First & Last Name and when wives mailed handwritten invitations to dinner parties and responses came mailed back with handwritten notes. I grew up during a time when party invitations were mailed, but dinner invitations were offered with a phone call. Nowadays, we are lucky if we get a wedding invitation in the mail. Most invitations are offered through emails and texts. (I’m guilty of this too.) Think of the planning it would take to choose a date, write out your invitations, mail them, wait for responses and prepare for your party. You would have to have the proper-sized stationery (blind embossed with your family crest, of course!) ready to write out and respond to all of your invitations! While I am glad that we have fewer rules dictating our modern day correspondence, I really miss the days of real paper invitations. (I also miss the days of the R.S.V.P. but I can’t even talk about this or I’ll get ranty. This is a funny op-ed about the dying art of R.S.V.P.s.)vintage book: The Etiquette of Letter WritingDo you have simple, monogrammed stationery for everyday use (the initials “being placed in the left corner, of course”)? I’ve tried to limit myself when buying frivolous stationery with hopes that I could save up for some stunning engraved notecards. But there are too many good options out there and I like having a variety of paper and notecards to choose from. Still…think of how classy a gorgeously engraved monogram would be.
vintage book: The Etiquette of Letter WritingI love the suggestions for closing a letter: Cordially, Faithfully, Affectionately, Devotedly. When did we get stuck writing Sincerely over and over again at the end of our correspondence when there are so many other wonderful options?

I enjoy having this little gem on my desk to peruse and daydream about the formal days of visiting cards, handwritten invitation acceptances, summer home stationery, and family crests. Thank you, Peggy, for knowing me so well.

P.S. If you’d like to see a few more pages from the book, Donovan wrote a post for the Letter Writers Alliance blog here.

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A Tiny Matchbox Valentine

matchbox valentine, vintage stamp, chocolateAt work we exchanged Valentines, grade school style with a handmade Valentine box and everything. I made a simplified version of my vintage stamp Valentine and I got a lot of great ones, too. One of my favorites was this tiny matchbox Valentine from Laura. It’s hard to see in the pictures, but it’s a plain matchbox covered with map paper–in my case, a map of Japan!matchbox valentine, vintage stamp, chocolateInside, there was a tiny piece of chocolate and a vintage stamp tied up with pink twine. matchbox valentine, vintage stamp, chocolateOnce I untied the twine, I saw that the stamp was actually two stamps sewn together to make a little card. There was a kind message inside.

I love that Laura used non-traditional Valentine colors and created something really special. I love working with such creative people!

P.S. Laura has a blog! And she wrote up a little tutorial about her Matchbox Valentines in case you want to make your own…for next year or another occasion! :)

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Letter Month 2015 Week 3

letter month letter month letter monthletter monthletter monthDuring week three, I definitely slowed down a bit, but I don’t have that “burnt out” feeling that I’ve experienced in previous years. Something was written and sent every day (except Saturday’s package–I missed the drop off time because I had book club and didn’t get my act together in time!)  The top picture shows Sunday, Monday and Tuesday’s mailings–Monday was a holiday so everything got sent on Tuesday. I found myself relying on postcards again, and I sent a thank you note, a note to a friend and a birthday gift. This week–the last week of Letter Month–I am planning to finish strong. I want to end on a high note and be all caught up in my letter ledger for March. I also want to visit two of my neighborhood blue boxes that I haven’t used yet. It has been incredibly cold, so I found myself relying on our lobby mailbox and using the ones that are near work and the grocery store (the only two reasons I’ve been leaving the house.)

My totals for the week:

  • 2 cards
  • 4 postcards
  • 0 international
  • 1 package
  • 7 total mailings

How are you feeling about Letter Month?

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Hasegawa Happy Hour – Valentine Edition

Sweet Manhattans, Hasegawa Happy HourFor Valentine’s Day, Naoto went to Freddy’s and picked up a dozen meatballs and we stayed in and hosted a Hasegawa Happy Hour. I made “Sweetheart Manhattans” and we ate spaghetti and meatballs, salad, cookies, and gelato…it was quite a night.

I’m a big fan of Leopold Brothers Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur and I’m happy to have a bottle back in my arsenal again. So I made up a cocktail that is not as good as my favorite cocktail at Amelia’s, but comes pretty close. I named it the Sweetheart Manhattan, but it’s really not too sweet…it’s just filled with love.

Sweetheart Manhattans

2 oz rye whiskey

1/2 oz sweet vermouth

1/2 oz cherry liqueur

dash of orange bitters

Stir all ingredients with ice. Strain into cocktail glasses and garnish with a Luxardo cherry. Enjoy with friends on Valentine’s Day, or any other day. vintage candle holders, valentine tulipsCocktails are better than flowers anyway…

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Letter Month 2015 Week 2

letter month, outgoing mail, valentines letter month, outgoing mail, valentines letter month, outgoing mail, valentines letter month, outgoing mail, valentines letter month, outgoing mail, valentines letter month, outgoing mail, valentinesWe are at the halfway point in Letter Month! Last week’s mailings were all about Valentine’s Day. And, as much as I love sending out Valentines, I’m a little relieved that they are mostly sent out (I have a couple to send in this week’s mail) and I can go back to returning letters and sending postcards.

I didn’t do as well last week with visiting new mailboxes, only mailing out of the blue box in our neighborhood once, and the box by work once…the rest of the time, I relied on the box in our lobby. (What can I say, I hate the cold weather!) Today is a mail holiday (Presidents Day) so tomorrow, my goal is to send my Sunday, Monday & Tuesday mailings out of another box in our neighborhood. It will be good to get out of the house, right?

My totals for the week:

  • 19 cards
  • 0 postcards
  • 1 international
  • 0 packages
  • 20 Total mailings

This week, my goal is to put away all of the pink and red stuff and respond to all of the letters I’ve received this month.

Cheers to more letters!

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Vintage Stamp Valentines

vintage stamp valentinesI’ve been making some handmade Valentines for pen pals and friends since January. Yet, somehow, I am not done. I get distracted too easily, and Presley joins me and naps on my supplies, which slows things down too.

vintage stamp, pun valentinesI decided to make some cards that looked a little bit like envelopes (similar to my calling cards for ex Postal Facto last year.) I started with some 4-bar cards and added pink and red vintage (or Japanese) stamps and a variety of washi tapes. I typed the message “You put the stamp on my envelope, Valentine!” on labels or directly on the cards. The labeled ones kind of look more like envelopes, but hopefully the silly message kind of makes sense.

They were a lot of fun to make and I was happy to be able to spend out some of my vintage stamp collection…although now I feel compelled to build up my red and pink stash again!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your mailbox is full of love this weekend!

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Ramen-SanNaoto and I are back in a ramen groove again…which is perfect timing since we are still in the dead of winter around here. Last weekend, we tried Ramen-san in the River North neighborhood of Chicago. I wish I’d taken more pictures of the entire restaurant. It’s rustic-modern with beautiful exposed brick walls, semi-communal tables and bench seating. It was just the right amount of noisy and while we were there (early dinner on Saturday night), they turned down the lights and showed the Bulls game on the brick walls. Ramen-SanWe started with cocktails. Naoto got an Asahi (He loves finding Japanese beers on tap!) and I got a Singapore Sling. Can you believe I’ve never had a Singapore Sling before? It was so good–gin, pineapple, Cherry Heering, Benedictine and lime, all beautifully topped with a slice of pineapple and decadent Luxardo cherries. Ramen-SanWe ordered the shrimp & pork wontons, which were a little spicy and really tasty. It was a nice warm-up for our big bowls of ramen. Ramen-SanI have to say that the ramen presentation at Ramen-san was pretty lackluster. It kind of looked like my ramen was just thrown in the bowl, which was a bit surprising considering this was the priciest ramen we’ve had and the restaurant itself was very polished. In spite of it all, the ramen was very tasty. I got the tonkotsu ramen, which is pretty traditional with its pork broth, chashu pork slices and soft cooked egg. The broth was really tasty and the noodles were cooked perfectly.ramen sanNaoto had the Kimchi & Fried Chicken Ramen. He really liked this spicy and unusual take on traditional ramen. He said it had just the right amount of heat to warm him up and he loved that the fried chicken was still crispy, even in the broth! Ramen-SanBecause we were taking the L, we got drinks for dessert. Naoto got another beer and I tried the Cilantro-Lime Margarita. It was rich and delicious with its special addition of yuzu (my favorite Japanese citrus) and spicy lime salt.

Ramen-san is the latest in our Ramen Adventures. Here are the links to our previous journeys:

Slurping Turtle



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