New Vintage Cocktail Glasses

Pendergast cocktail in vintage glassesLast week, I was the lucky recipient of some vintage cocktail glasses. They were Karen’s grandparents’ and she remembers seeing her grandfather mixing up a pitcher of Manhattans and drinking out of these. They are tiny…bigger than shot glasses, but not as big as typical modern day glasses. I measured and they are just a tiny bit over three ounces…yep, perfect for a Manhattan. old cocktail glassesWe hosted a Hasegawa Happy Hour this week and served up Manhattans. They were perfect, very Mad Men. I am excited to have them in my collection. (Thanks, Karen!!)

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Mail From the North Pole

north pole, alaska postmarkMy first holiday card of the year came from the North Pole!!

My pen pal Ryan must be the most organized holiday card sender ever because not only was his card the first card to arrive in my mailbox, but he sent his to North Pole, Alaska for the special North Pole postmark. As I sit with my holiday cards spread out on the floor, still stuck in the M’s of my address book, I am envious of Ryan’s accomplishment. But extremely happy to be on the receiving end of such a fun mail surprise!

How are your holiday cards coming along?

Update: Here’s an older Letter Writers Alliance blog post with all of the holiday postmark cities. If you are interested in doing this (next year? or as belated wishes this year?) I would contact the PO of interest to make sure it is something they are still doing. And…if you want to get a head start for Valentine’s Day, the LWA has another list for that.

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Cat Stevens at Chicago Theater

Cat Stevens at Chicago Theater, marquisLast Tuesday, Naoto and I went to see Cat Stevens at the Chicago Theater.

You’re probably thinking one of a few things:

A) I thought his name was Yusef now and he gave up on touring in the US over thirty years ago.

B) Who is Cat Stevens?

C) Ohmygoodness! Did he play Peace Train?!

Well, to answer your questions, this is his first US tour since 1976. This explains all you need to know about Cat Stevens. And, yes, he did play Peace Train. I cried.

When I found out he was coming to Chicago (one of six cities on his tour of the US and Canada) I couldn’t wait to buy a ticket. I know it’s not the same as growing up with his music, as most of the audience did but Cat Stevens was a big part of the early days of my relationship with Naoto. We used to listen to his Greatest Hits albums all the time on lazy Sunday mornings. In the days leading up to the concert, I was getting really excited, then it occurred to me that maybe he would only play his new stuff and refuse to play all of the songs that Naoto and I loved. Thankfully, I was able to read about his earlier concerts in Boston and Philadelphia and I was reassured…all of the old, familiar songs with some new ones sprinkled in. Whew!

The concert started a bit late because of the large amounts of security, but when Cat Stevens stepped on the stage, I knew it was going to be worth the wait. He came out to thundering cheers and a standing ovation and quietly started playing. His first song, “The Wind”, brought tears to my eyes. (Actually, I found myself tearing up for a large part of the concert while I sang along quietly with Naoto next to me.) Once the first song was over, people cheered “Where have you been?” and Cat Stevens seemed to take it all in stride. He was definitely a working man during the concert. He didn’t reminisce very much about his early days, only giving brief introductions to his songs, old and new. He reminded us that “The First Cut is the Deepest” was his song before it was covered by Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow. And while women were screaming “I love you, Cat/Yusef!” he mostly ignored them and got back to the song at hand.

During the concert, Cat Stevens alternated between playing the guitar and the piano and his band was incredible. He played all of the old hits that I could remember at the time, except “Hard-Headed Woman” which was requested via screams from the audience a few times. He said he cleaned up “Another Saturday Night” a bit, though we couldn’t remember the lyrics well enough to figure out where. (I think maybe the part about having two women?) Oh and he switched out the lyrics in “Here Comes My Baby” to say “You’re forever texting on the phone” which got a good laugh from the audience. And his new stuff was really solid…I wish we had listened to his latest albums before the concert, but we didn’t and we still enjoyed the unfamiliar songs. But as usual with someone who has a long career, the audience really connected with him most on his old stuff.

I’m including the set list, borrowed from this Greg Kot review in the Chicago Tribune.

Set 1:

1. The Wind
2. Here Comes My Baby
3. The First Cut Is the Deepest
4. Thinking ‘Bout You
5. Sitting
6. Maybe You’re Right
7. Where Do the Children Play?
8. I Love My Dog
9. I Was Raised in Babylon
10. (Remember the Days of the) Old Schoolyard
11. People Get Ready (Impressions cover)
12. If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out

Set 2:
13. Big Boss Man (Jimmy Reed cover)
14. Trouble
15. Oh Very Young
16. Dying to Live (Edgar Winter cover)
17. Moonshadow
18. You Are My Sunshine (Jimmie Davis cover)
19. Foreigner Suite excerpt
20. Wild World
21. The Devil Came From Kansas (Procol Harum cover)
22. Take This Hammer (Leadbelly cover)
23. Another Saturday Night (Sam Cooke cover)
24. Peace Train
25. Father and Son

Encore
26. Editing Floor Blues
27. Miles From Nowhere
28. Morning Has Broken
29. All Kinds of Roses

seats at the Cat Stevens concert, Chicago TheaterAnd about our seats…we were in the very last row of the very top balcony at the Chicago Theater (Row U!!) At first, we laughed and cried that they were the worst seats in the house. We were so far up, we were practically dripping off the ceiling and we didn’t even have theater seats! They were banquet chairs! But then we realized that we could stand up and dance around as we pleased because there wasn’t a row of chairs crammed behind us. And we never had to get up to let anyone pass through because the others in our row could walk behind our chairs. And we had all the leg room in the world. Not to mention we had a direct view of the stage and no one standing up in front of us could obscure it. So, while it would have been nice to be in the front row, we were pretty happy with the situation by the end.

I feel so lucky that we got to see Cat Stevens…I want to make live music a priority in 2015–it makes my heart sing! kimberly and naoto at Cat Stevens concert, Chicago TheaterP.S. Cat Stevens did a Tiny Desk Concert for NPR recently. I love the Tiny Desk and this one is so good!

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Oh Christmas Tree 2014

Christmas Tree 2014I think this year’s tree takes the cake…I love its little shape better than the fuller trees of the past two years (2012 & 2013). I’m not a perfectionist when it comes to hanging ornaments, so I’ve found places where there are little ornament clusters and spaces that are kind of bare, but I guess that just adds to the fun. The saddest part of my tree this year is that my favorite vintage tree topper would not light up, so I had to use a colorful replacement. (It’s hard to see in the pictures, but it has multi-colored lights.)  Christmas Tree 2014I included pretty much every single ornament that I own on the tree this year. Our full trees of the past two years meant that some of the larger and heavier ornaments had to be left off, but this year, the strong Fraser Fir branches could handle them all. I also have not hung some of my most loved ornaments since having Presley. This year, I put most of them on the tree. (They will get their own ornament story post next week.) I just feel like I haven’t enjoyed them in ages and they are just too beautiful not to hang. Christmas Tree 2014Here’s hoping this little devil behaves herself. (Knocking on wood, crossing my fingers, rubbing a horseshoe…)

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Thoughts on Christmas Trees

Thoughts on a Christmas treeWhen I was growing up, we always got a real tree for Christmas. I remember always being cold and annoyed at the tree farm while my parents picked out a tree. I remember being bummed that we couldn’t get our tree right after Thanksgiving. (“It will dry out!”) I was jealous of the families who dragged their fake trees out of the basement and got to decorate for Christmas right away.

When I graduated from college, I bought a cheap fake tree at Kmart. It was fine, but it really did lack pizazz. I had it for years but once Naoto and I got married, I convinced him that we should try a real tree. (If we could turn back time, I bet he would veto that decision.) So, we bought a $9 tree stand (which still serves us very well) and found a tree at Menards. I know it’s less than picturesque to buy a Christmas tree in a home improvement store parking lot, but it works for us. Their trees always go on sale the Sunday after Thanksgiving, the price is right and, at this point in my life, I don’t need to visit a tree farm with an ax to make my Christmas complete.

Now, I can’t imagine going back to a fake tree*…even though it can be a lot of work to do the real tree thing, I love that our tree has a different personality every year. I love that fresh pine smell that fills our living room. I love tossing it off the balcony every January and not having to store it in our closet all year. (Our village collects the trees and recycles them as mulch.)

Growing up, I think we always got a Scotch pine. They are very traditional looking Christmas trees, very full, very green. Scotch pine needles are medium length and their branches are really strong, good for heavy ornaments. My issue with Scotch pines–the needles are verrrrry pokey. I guess my dad never minded getting stabbed with thousands of pine needles when he was manhandling the tree into the stand? Naoto and I always alternate between White Pines and Firs, either Balsam or Fraser.

White Pines are one of the least expensive trees ($14.95 on sale at Menards for a 6-7 foot tree, the same price as Scotch pines) and they are really full and lovely with their long, soft, deep-green needles. They also, in my experience, last a really long time, staying green and fresh past the New Year. The big downside to the White Pine is that sometimes the branches are floppy and they don’t support the weight of ornaments as well. And they are so full and the needles are so long that tiny ornaments tend to get lost in the tree. But, the trees are so pretty and traditional looking that I don’t always mind leaving some of my ornaments off for a year.

Balsam Firs and Fraser Firs are my favorites, but maybe that’s because we have a Fraser Fir this year. (Every year’s tree is my favorite.) They are more expensive ($24.95 on sale at Menards for a 6-7 foot tree) but it’s totally worth it. Both are skinnier trees with short needles. Balsams have more olive green needles and Frasers have blue-green needles. The shorter needles allow tiny ornaments to shine. Both trees’ branches are sturdier, so they can handle heavy ornaments. And the branches are more spread out, leaving room for larger ornaments to dangle. Supposedly both retain their needles well, but in my experience, they do dry out a bit faster than the pines…this could just be my luck with trees though. Both Balsam and Fraser Firs have incredible scents…our tree has been around for more than a week and it still smells divine in here.

I’ll share more pictures of our actual finished tree tomorrow. It’s all decorated and my ornaments really pop on its skinny branches. Now, I just need to keep Presley from nibbling the lower branches…

P.S. This post is not sponsored by Menards–we just like their trees. For further reading on Christmas trees, I found this interesting, educational website. I feel like someday I need to expand our tree search and try a spruce or a cypress!

*Sometimes when I’m struggling to string the lights (or swearing as I remove the tangled lights from the tree in January) I remember an old friend whose family kept their fake tree in the basement, fully assembled and decorated. Every year, they would just carry it up to the living room and plug it in. Instant Christmas! But honestly…I’d miss bringing out each ornament and remembering its history as I hung it on the tree…

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Chris & Heather’s Everything BUT Country Calendar Show

Everything BUT Country Show at FitzgeraldsOn Saturday night we went to see Chris & Heather’s Everything BUT Country Calendar Show at FitzGeralds. Apparently the event is held every year and I’m mad I haven’t gone sooner–it was so much fun! The concert was built around Heather McAdams’s hand drawn calendar of twelve different musical acts, in this case, all kinds of music except country. Different local musicians covered songs for each act in the calendar and then they showed an old 16mm film of the original musicians.  Everything BUT Country Show at FitzgeraldsHosts Chris and Heather (shown above) were funny and smart. Their enthusiasm for the artists and songs was contagious. We went specifically to see our coworker Sharon Rutledge and her husband Scott Ligon play John Sebastian. (They are pictured at the top.) They were amazing! They sang “Didn’t Want to Have to Do It” and it was beautiful and melancholy and -sigh- just lovely. And then they followed the sadness up with “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice” and they cheered us all up. Everything BUT Country Show at FitzgeraldsEverything BUT Country Show at FitzgeraldsChris and Heather's Everything But Country Seeing the old films was part of the fun, too..crackling, old 16mm concert classics. (Pictured top to bottom: Rolling Stones, Peggy Lee and Slim Gaillard.) Everything BUT Country Show at FitzgeraldsOne hilarious moment was when Robbie and Donna Fulks covered The Carpenters Top of the World and “Grover” sang the chorus.

One of my favorite songs from the night was The Modern Sounds singing Slim Gaillard’s “Potato Chips.” I had to include a clip above because the song is just plain fun. (And I swear it caused our post-concert french fry run to Sub-T.) Everything BUT Country Show at FitzgeraldsI’m so glad we went and I’m already hopeful that we can attend next year. Yay for live music and for friends with talent!

P.S. If you find yourself craving a classic cocktail, head to the SideBar where the bartenders know how to make a well-crafted cocktail with all of the right ingredients. I had a Martinez and a 20th Century that knocked my socks off!

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Oh Christmas Tree Trauma

Naoto and the tree part 1This was the scene on Sunday night when Naoto and I went to buy the tree. We decided to branch out (hehe) and try other tree variety this year. We’ve had a White Pine for the past two years (2012 and 2013) and this year I wanted to change things up with a Balsam Fir.

So, it was after 6:30 and dark, but we thought there was enough light in the parking lot to choose a tree. After checking out a few, we chose a lovely Balsam, had it wrapped up and drove it home (using our back-seat method as shown above.) We got it into our apartment and cut it open and…I noticed a patch of brown. Not like a tiny bit of brown needles that were falling off, but a chunk of brown needles that faded into green, like the tree had been damaged by the weather or something. I shrugged it off thinking we could put that part towards the window and no one would ever know. But then I noticed that brown spots were occurring all over the tree. The tree could only be described as mottled at that point.

Now, I am not a perfectionist when it comes to the holidays. We’ve had holey trees, crooked trees, dry trees…pretty much every year we buy an imperfectly lovely tree. But, brown? I couldn’t do it. So I said the words my poor husband was dreading, “We have to take it back.” We loaded the tree back into the car and drove back to Menards, which was closing in the next ten minutes.

We returned the tree, and in spite of the “tree guy” offering to open the lot back up and let us choose our replacement, we decided to wait until daylight to choose another one. (Even with the flashlight on my phone, it was hard to see the brown spots on the tree. We didn’t want to risk having to return another one.) new tree ready for trimmingI went back alone on Tuesday afternoon to choose another tree. Several of the Balsams we opened had the same brown damage as our first tree. So, I moved onto the Fraser Firs, which look similar to the Balsam but have a silvery tone to the underside of the needles. Between the tree guy, another customer and I, we found a good one…straight and tall with no noticeable browning. (It’s pictured on the trunk trimming table above.) tree in the car 2014 me and the tree 2014The tree guy–after much skepticism–loaded it into my backseat and I drove it home (after taking pictures in the parking lot!) naoto and the tree 2014The tree stayed in the backseat of the car in the garage until Naoto got home that night (after midnight!) I could have carried it up by myself, but I could never have put it in the tree stand alone, so I figured leaving it in the car was better for the tree as opposed to leaning it in our entryway all day. (Also there were a bunch of judgey ladies in the laundry room and I didn’t want to have to deal with explaining how I would of course come back down to sweep up my pine needles…sigh, the costs of living in a condo.) the tree 2014Here it is all watered and ready. lighted tree 2014I (unevenly) added lights last night and I’m hanging the ornaments today. And then, our apartment is officially ready for Christmas!

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Stuffing the Stockings

Our stockings, handmade felt, Mahar Dry GoodsWhen I was little, Santa put a clementine and a toothbrush in our stockings every Christmas. I know we got other things but the clementine and the toothbrush are the things I remember. Isn’t it weird that Santa probably stressed about getting me a few nice things for my stocking and all I remember now are the clementine and the toothbrush?

Now, Naoto and I fill each other’s stockings. As we shop, we just drop our items into the stockings with promises not to peek until Christmas morning. The stockings are the first things we open on Christmas, before unwrapping gifts.

I already have a few things in Naoto’s stocking (left side). He’s very hard to shop for since he never wants anything. (It’s a blessing and a curse!) I always try to think of a mix of fun and practical things, with a heavy emphasis on food.

For my stocking (right side), I usually ask for chapstick and other consumables. Some of my favorite stocking stuffers have included Luxardo cherries, rubber stamps and zines. This year I added a few new zines and a postcard set to my wish list.

As for Presley’s stocking (middle)…we usually get her a catnip toy. So far, she’s gotten two branches from Mew Cat Toys Etsy shop. And she has three Yeowww! catnip toys (the banana, the cigar and the dynamite) that we bought at a local shop, Scratch N Sniff. She really digs all of them. It’s hard to put her gift in early though, because she tends to help herself to it before Christmas.

What are your family’s stocking traditions? Any good ideas for Naoto’s stocking? I need all the help I can get!

P.S. Our stockings are from the now closed Mahar Drygoods. Presley’s is from a big box store.

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Our Thanksgiving 2014

thanksgiving table 2014, centerpieceAnother Thanksgiving is in the books and the world (and our apartment) is moving on to Christmas. As usual, Naoto whipped up a delicious meal and my mom made a yummy spiced apple cheesecake for dessert. thanksgiving table 2014, table setting, yellow owl workshop placecard stampI wasn’t feeling especially inspired, so I set a simple table this year. I crafted a “centerpiece” from a turkey on a stack of books and some candles, similar to last year’s table. I used some thrifted paper turkey napkin rings and I made place cards with my Yellow Owl Workshop place card stamp. yellow owl workshop place card activity kit, thanksgiving placards, embossedI embossed the stamp in copper and typed our names. Simple…and with a table of four, it is really important that everyone can find a spot at the table! thanksgiving 2014, my mealIt was a delicious, relaxing day…I feel like Thanksgiving is the end of the calm part of the year, maybe that’s why it’s my favorite.

How was your holiday weekend?

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Happy Thanksgiving 2014

vintage thanksgiving postcardHappy Thanksgiving to all of my friends in the U.S. (and those celebrating outside of the states!) I hope everyone enjoys delicious meals with their families & friends.

(Vintage postcard from 1914, sent from D.E.C. in St. Paul, Minnesota to Mrs. Henry R. in Alabama for 1 cent.)

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