Plot #6 for 2016 

plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community gardenIn between jet lag naps and unwrapping all of my stationery from Japan, I started our garden for the summer! I planted almost everything mid-May and then added a couple of things last week. So far, so good, but I really do need to cut back my chive plant before it takes over! plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community garden, Juliet tomatoI clearly didn’t learn my tomato jungle lesson from last year…I planted six tomato plants! I just kept seeing new varieties I wanted to try! I planted both pink and red Brandywines, a Juliet, a Golden Girl, a Cherokee Purple, and a Mr. Stripey. The Juliet already has a couple of tomatoes growing! plot 6, 2016 first planting, community garden, forest park community garden, Brandwine tomato, sweet banana pepper, rosemaryIn between the tomatoes, I planted peas, lima beans, edamame, bush beans, Japanese scallions, lettuce, parsley, thyme, and basil all from seed. And then on impulse, I added a rosemary plant and a sweet banana pepper plant. I wanted to try a couple of cutting flowers from seed, but I haven’t gotten my act together, so those might have to wait until next year. As it is, things are looking pretty full. All of the seeds are coming up and it really is just a matter of time before the tomatoes are taking over.

I love this time of year when everything is all tidy in its place. (At least in the garden it is…my apartment is a whole different story!)

How is your garden growing?

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Itoya & Cafe Stylo

Itoya big red paperclip signOn our first full day in Japan, we went to Itoya, one of my favorite shops in the ritzy Ginza district of Tokyo. (I’ve blogged about Itoya a little bit before, here and here.) Itoya has been building a new store since 2011 or 2012, so for the past few years, we’ve been visiting the temporary location. On this trip, I was most looking forward to seeing their shiny new store. Itoya buildingThe new twelve floor building is very sleek and it sits between Tiffany’s and Bvlgari (just to give you an idea of what kind of neighborhood we are talking about.) The lower floors are all devoted to retail space selling stationery, pens, paper, craft supplies, and high-end travel and home goods. On the seventh floor, there is a “paper bar” filled with hundreds of papers that you can use for personalized stationery, business cards, or wedding invitations. (I didn’t take any pictures inside the store, but you can see part of the wall of paper at the bottom of this page.) What I’ve always loved about Itoya is that you can find very expensive things there, you can also find plenty of special gifts at reasonable prices. And they’ve always had a huge selection, especially of the things I love: origami paper, stamps, stationery, pens…I used to spend hours in the store narrowing down my choices. Itoya spring windows, flower pensThe new Itoya, though, is much more pared down. They still sell amazing things, but they just don’t carry the same wide-ranging selection that they used to. Truthfully, I hardly bought anything during my visit. And we didn’t stay all day like I thought we would. It was kind of a bummer at first, but honestly, I had more money to spend at the other stationery shops all over Tokyo. (There was no shortage of things to buy!) It was just an unexpected change. Cafe Stylo lettuce, ItoyaBut, one really cool thing about New Itoya is that they have a full-service restaurant, Cafe Stylo, on the top floor. (The old cafe had a very limited snack menu.) And in Cafe Stylo, they serve Itoya-grown lettuce grown in a hydroponic farm on the twelfth floor! We visited the farm and got a peek at the lettuces growing at various stages. Cafe Stylo smoked salmon, ItoyaCafe Stylo chef salad, ItoyaNaoto had the Smoked Salmon Sandwich, which he loved. Because I wanted to try the Itoya lettuces, I ordered the “Cobber Salad” (Cobb salad). It was crisp and fresh and delicious! And we both enjoyed Campari cocktails with our lunch.Cafe Stylo floor sign I highly recommend checking out the restaurant if you go! It’s the perfect spot to write postcards and enjoy your new stationery!

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Japan Does It Better 24: Gari Gari Kun

garigarikun kiwi I do love a good Bomb Pop in the summer. Three distinct tasty flavors, the creamy consistency (only the Original Bomb Pop. Accept no imposters!)…a perfect summer treat. But, my love for the Bomb Pop has been eclipsed since I was introduced to Japan’s favorite popscicle, the GariGarikun. Naoto brought a box of original ramune flavor GariGarikun pops home from Mitsuwa last summer and I fell in love. garigarikun insideOn the outside, they look like regular ice pops, but once you bite into one, you see that the “regular” ice pop part is just a shell holding tiny slushie-like ice crystals on the inside. They are so tasty and so fun to eat! garigarikun insideOn our first night in Japan, we got to our hotel after 10PM and I was exhausted. But Naoto went downstairs to Lawson’s conbini (convenience store) and got himself a beer and brought me a Sicilian Lemon GariGarikun. I had no idea there were special and limited flavors of the treat so I was super-excited to try it. Sooooo tart and lemony!! I slept well after that midnight snack and the next day, I started my mission to pop into every conbini to check their supply of GariGarikun to see what other flavors I could try. (Doesn’t traveling with me sound like fun?!) garigarikun lycheeSo I tried lychee…garigarikun aceola …and acerola, which is like a cherry, but somehow more delicious. IMG_0833I tried Shiroi Sour, which is like Calpico, a Japanese soft drink.

And, pictured at the top, I also tried kiwi. I can’t tell you which one was the best because I loved each and every one at the moment I was eating it. They were all really refreshing, not too sweet, and packed with flavor.

Recently the makers of GariGarikun increased the price from ¥60 to ¥70 (~ $0.54 to $0.63). It’s the first price increase for the frozen treat in twenty-five years and also the second reason the GariGarikun is a JDIB. Where in the US can you find a summer treat at a convenience store for sixty-three cents??!! But even better, the company made a commercial apologizing for the unfortunate price increase. Can you imagine? (If you want to read more about this, go here.) You can (hopefully) watch the commercial below to see the sincerity in the apology. Oh Japan…you’re the best.

And GariGarikun, a summer treat where Japan Does It Better!

 

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10 Years

Happy 10th Anniversary to my dear Naoto. Ten years is a huge milestone and every day is a new adventure. I’m feeling especially lucky today. XO 

The Neglected Blog 

 

Oh hi. I’m back. We took a vacation to Japan last month and re-entry into my home time zone has been a challenge. We got home on May 2 and I think I’m almost adjusted, but now my work and social calendars are keeping me from the blog. 

We had planned to go to Japan in the fall, but we found an amazing flight deal (It was less than a flight to San Francisco!) and decided that we had to go for it. I have zero regrets because the weather was beautiful almost every day and really, I could go to Japan every day, so not having to wait until fall was just fine with me.

This time we spent most of our time in Tokyo with a side trip to Hiroshima. Hiroshima was gorgeous and emotional and inspiring. I’m glad we finally went. I’d like to think we paved the way for President Obama’s trip later this month. 

I have so many pictures to share for our latest adventure and gardening season is starting up (even though it’s freezing here this week–literally! I had to cover my plants on Saturday because we had a frost warning!) so I will be back in this space soon with some posts. 

In the meantime, I’ll be reading my book club book and getting ready for a little party Peggy and I are hosting for Karen & Jackie’s birthdays this month! 

Fish Snack Sets & Green Depression Glass

vintage fish snack set, vintage snack sets, blue-green glassLast week I shared my paper finds, and today I’m back with the fun vintage dishes I’ve added to my collection. (My collection that has outgrown its space, by the way.) My favorite new find was a trio of blue-green glass snack sets. I had never seen anything like them before! vintage fish snack set, vintage snack sets, blue-green glassThey are pretty tiny…it’s hard to tell from the pictures, but the glass holds about three ounces and the plate is big enough for maybe a few crackers and some cheese? I thought they’d be perfect for a little beer or cider and nuts or cheese. Plus, who doesn’t love a good fish plate? (I did a little googling and could only find these and these…not as good as the blue-green ones with the original cup if you ask me.) green depression glass dishesAnd you may remember these dishes from Jackie’s Lighthouse Tea. They were Peggy’s and now I have a set of my own, including dessert plates to go with the cups and saucers and the creamer and sugar.

Now I just need to plan a little event so I can use them!

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Kyoto Part 3: Our Anniversary Lunch

IMG_3181Would it be weird to start blogging about my 2015 trip again? Maybe? I’m going to write anyway. I’ve been going through my pictures and reminiscing about all of the fun we had last spring and I realized that I’ve never really closed the book on that trip. I have a few last things to mention about Kyoto and some new editions of Spending the Yen.

We were in Kyoto for our anniversary last year and Hisae (my sister-in-law) took us out to lunch at Yuzu-ya, a restaurant and ryokan near the Yasaka Shrine. At street level, it looks like a black storefront (pictured above) but once you go through the doorway, you see that you walk up a rocky stairway to get up to the restaurant. IMG_3174IMG_3173Once you’re there, you forget that there’s a busy street below. It’s surrounded by lush greenery and trees and feels so removed and peaceful. ambiance, Yuzuya Ryokan, Kyoto, JapanThere is traditional seating near the windows where you can appreciate the trees and fountains outside. We sat at a regular table, but we still had amazing views. IMG_3158The meal was very traditional, using locally-sourced ingredients and lots of yuzu, hence the name Yuzu-ya. (Yuzu is a Japanese citrus, in case you don’t remember me talking about it before.)  Our first course was an appetizer of traditional Kyoto-fare. As you can see, it was presented beautifully on a tray of tiny plates adorned with leaves. Each bite was so different in taste and texture but it all worked together perfectly. IMG_3161Next, we had smelt grilled alongside bamboo leaves on a tiny table-top grill. IMG_3162(It was looking at me.) On the side was a yuzu sauce. I picked off as much meat as I could, but Naoto finished it off for me. (He ate every last bit, including the eye and the bones!)Then we had porridge with rice and fish and egg and chives, again cooked table-side and finished with a squeeze of yuzu. IMG_3167It was incredible. dessert, mochi, Yuzuya Ryokan, Kyoto, JapanThe dessert course was green tea and a brown sugar mochi. A simple but delicious way to end the meal.

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Write On for National Letter Writing Month

Mailbox pin, drawn by Marissa Falco, Thimblewinder on EtsyApril is National Card and Letter Writing Month!

Ok, I know I expressed a little bit of burn-out at the end of February’s Letter Month, but how can I not attempt another letter writing challenge for National Letter Writing Month? Just like last year, I’m attempting to write a letter or card every day in April as part of the Write On Challenge.

A few things:

  • I really want to use the challenge to use up some of my stash. (I say this every time but this time I mean it!) I have stationery sets from my past two trips to Japan that I’ve never opened…that’s just WRONG!
  • I’m not sure that I will document my daily mailings on Instagram this time. I like that posting daily keeps me on track with writing daily (and I love looking at everyone else’s posts!), but I also want this month to be about the letters and the connections and not necessarily about the mail art. Don’t get me wrong, I love making mail art…but sometimes I don’t feel so creative and that makes me feel bad about my mail. Mail should always be fun. (Well, unless it’s a sympathy card or something.) I guess I should say mail should always be about the connection. The other stuff is just a bonus.
  • I’m hoping to share a couple of mail-related books and maybe some more stationery items (both vintage and Japanese) this month.
  • I found this USPS packet for educators from 2015 that has some fun letter writing activities for kids. It kind of makes me wonder why the post office doesn’t make more of a big deal about Letter Writing Month.

Write on, friends!

P.S. The mailbox pin is made from an original drawing by Marissa Falco and can be found in her Etsy shop, Thimblewinder.

 

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Paper Antiquing in Princeton

vintage foreign language teacher stickers, vintage Eureka patriotic seals, vintage librarian record After we checked out the covered bridge and ate lunch in Princeton, we went antiquing. Princeton has several little antique and gift shops, but we stopped into the large Sherwood Antique Mall and decided to save the little shops for our next visit. Sherwood is basically a big building with loads of independently operated booths to poke through. It offered a nice variety of antiques and price points. Actually, I thought it was a little bit pricey for its location–some pricing was on par with Chicago antique shops. (Usually in my experience, the lower rents away from Chicago reflect in lower prices for the goods.) But, for the most part, prices were fair and I found some really fun things.

I’m always on the look out for vintage paper bits and dishes to add to my collection. I picked out these sweet vintage Hallmark teacher stickers with “Good job” written in a variety of languages. I especially love the little Japanese girl (top right corner) and the German boy (carrying milk pails?) I also scored a full book of patriotic-themed Eureka seals which were only a dollar, making them basically the deal of the century. vintage USPS puzzle postcard, Vintage Berghoff chicago postcardI poked through hundreds of boxes of postcards throughout the mall. I actually had to stop myself because my parents were with me and I didn’t want to slow us down. Sadly, I didn’t find any good Princeton, IL postcards to send that day, but I found a USPS hot air balloon puzzle postcard and an old Berghoff postcard. vintage chicago postcardsAnd I picked up some other vintage Chicago postcards. I love the scalloped edges! (Seriously, can you find edges like these on modern postcards?)vintage playing cards, horses and hawaiiI thought the horse cards would be fun for mail art in May (for the Kentucky Derby, which I’ve only seen once on TV.) And Naoto and I have been to Hawaii a few times but I’ve never made an album of our adventures, so I thought maybe some playing cards would help make that project happen. vintage Dennison labels, vintage Dennison gummed foil starsThe money I saved on the Eureka seals was wasted on these Dennison stars. They were packaged in a sealed bag and labeled “almost full” which was less than truthful, especially as far as the blue and red boxes were concerned. You win some, you lose some I guess. And, last but not least, this box of Dennison mailing labels! There are more than 200 in the box (which was also in sealed packaging) and it was definitely a winner!

I also found a couple of fun dish sets, but I’ll share those soon.

Have you found anything fun in a thrift shop or antique store lately?

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Princeton’s Red Covered Bridge

Princeton Covered Bridge, mom and meThe last stop in our little tour of Illinois was Princeton, the home of the Red Covered Bridge. Princeton Covered BridgeThe bridge was built in 1863 and runs across Bureau Creek just north of Princeton. It is still an active bridge, allowing cars to cross one at a time. (It’s no two lane highway!) Princeton Covered Bridge, detail of ceilingI loved this advertisement on the ceiling beams for Brown’s Household Panacea.Princeton Covered Bridge, information plaqueWhen I was young, we visited the bridge. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago about our visit to the bridge, I would have said we drove across the country to see it. The ride, as an eight year-old felt sooooo looooooong! In reality, Princeton is only about an hour away from my hometown. Isn’t it funny how your memory plays tricks on you? Princeton Covered Bridge, June 1986My mom dug out this picture of us on our first visit to the bridge in 1986. (That’s my brother in the snappy Hawaiian shirt and my mom was pregnant with my sister at the time.)

Fun times in Illinois!

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