I didn’t mean to take a long blog break–September has been a little crazy, at least crazy for me since I’m a little too used to the Slow Life. I’m hoping to take some time today and work on some blog posts to catch you up on everything.
Naoto and I both love Law & Order. Back in our early dating days, we’d spend hours on the couch watching episode after episode during the marathons on TNT and USA (for the Special Victims Unit version.) We both loved Jerry Orbach’s character, Lenny Briscoe, the best. He was salty and sarcastic and had the best opening one-liners. And, because he was on the show for so long, it really felt like he was a weathered New York detective by the time he retired. Once he left, the show wasn’t the same, though we did continue to watch until the bitter end. When he died, it felt like we lost a member of our neighborhood. I’m so glad he lives on in Law & Order and Murder She Wrote. I read about The Dead Celebrity Cookbook on Twitter and promptly ordered it from the library. Have you ever read it? It’s so fun! I ordered it for Katherine Hepburn’s famous brownie recipe (which I still haven’t made!) but when I thumbed through the book and found Jerry Orbach’s steak recipe, I knew we had to start there. I am usually not a cumin and coriander fan, but everything in this recipe works together perfect to create a perfectly seasoned steak with a tangy, slightly sweet, and very flavorful sauce. We ate it with some sautéed zucchini but I’d like to make it again with some old school steakhouse sides next time.
And…it’s because of The Dead Celebrity Cookbook that I finally learned after all this time that Jerry Orbach played Lumiere in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast! (How did I not know this?!)
I’ll report back if the Katherine Hepburn brownies are amazing…there are also recipes from 3/4 of the Golden Girls, so I think another Golden Girls Gala may be in our future!
We had such a great time showing at Forest Park’s Garage Galleries last weekend! It is such a neat local event and we are so happy that we participated. Our Forest Park neighbors came out in full force–we had over 140 visitors* in our garage! Here was our garage set-up. Jerry was our host and he had a huge, clean garage with doors that opened on both sides, which was perfect for sunlight and a light cross-breeze. It was so hot and sticky on Saturday. He also had a beautiful garden that was a great place to retreat to when traffic was slow.
I shared a garage with Claire, a young artist who was showing her work for the first time, and Jason, who was a total pro with his own gallery walls and lighting. So many people recognized me from the Review article, so it was fun that they sort of knew my style already. (Who says print is dead?) And of course so many people recognized Naoto from Trader Joes. It was fun meeting fellow artists and art lovers from our village. Usually for each show I create something new, a framed piece or a card, and this time I sold out of a few new things, so this week, I need to beef up my stock and add some new pieces on Etsy. I have three shows coming up in September, so I need to get a jump start on what’s looking like a busy month!
Thanks to everyone who came out and showed your support! We hope to join in the fun again next year!
*I actually have no idea if this was a good number or not, but it felt busy and people seemed to be having a good time.
On Saturday, I’ll be participating in Forest Park’s Garage Galleries, a neighborhood art walk where artists show their work in local garages. I’ll be in a garage in south Forest Park, 1306 Marengo Avenue, with two other artists. I’ll have my greeting cards and framed pieces ready to sell, but it’s a nice casual way to enjoy art of all kinds. There are forty artists from all over Chicagoland spread across sixteen garages, so you can meander your way through Forest Park and see it all, or pop into a cluster of garages and get a taste of what’s happening. The Forest Park Review did a story about it if you’d like to learn more.
I hope to see my local friends there!
I’m only halfway to my goal of reading ten books for the summer. Of course, I consider September summer still…autumnal equinox isn’t until September 22 after all. I need to buckle down and put my phone down more often and pick up a book from my towering stack of library options. (I’ve also been reading some non-fiction–cookbooks, a book about tomatoes, and a book about cleaning–on and off while I watch TV. I suppose I should consider these in my ten summer books but they’re more for personal and garden improvement. I’ll probably do a separate post about those kinds of books.)
I know I’ve mentioned my book club before, but we only read books written before the 1950s. We’ve made some exceptions, but nothing we’ve read is contemporary by any means. I cannot express how much I love these books, which are sometimes tedious and slow but almost always rewarding. Our discussions are usually really good, even better when we disagree on how good the book is or have different interpretations about a character’s motive or something. Someone in the group always brings up something really profound about the book that no one else thought of. And usually by the end of the meetings, we all like the book more than when we initially finished. When I read things on my own, I find myself popping onto Goodreads to see what other people say about the book, just so I can try to learn more and see things I didn’t see during my reading.
So…a little synopsis of my reading thus far:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868/69): We read this for book group in June and half of us had read it as children and the other half were experiencing it for the first time. I was in the latter group. It didn’t hold the same magic for me that people talk about when you mention Little Women. I found the little vignettes to be tedious and saccharine. I’ve since read some feminist perspectives about the book and Alcott that made me appreciate it more, but…I think I missed my chance to fall in love with Little Women. It probably would have been dreamy in fifth grade.
The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski (1953): Kathy recommended this one to me a long time ago and I finally had to just buy a used copy because no library could get it for me. It reminded me a lot of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which I’ve read too many times to count. Victorian Chaise Longue is terrifying and haunting. A modern woman who has tuberculosis falls asleep on a used chaise lounge and wakes up ninety years earlier (mid-1800s) in the body of another woman who also has tuberculosis. It’s a good feminist read, and sort of sticks around in your head after you’re done.
The Precipice by Elia Wilkinson Peattie (1914): We read this for book group last month and I flagged so many passages. The main character is a Chicago social worker at the turn of the century during the early years of Hull House. All different types of women are portrayed, from feminist progressive women, to women who held traditional roles as wives and mothers to women who were making compromises between the old and the new worlds and career versus family. It felt a little contrived at times…everyone fit into a box, but it was a nice perspective about life for women at that time and it’s always fun to read a Chicago book.
Death Takes Priority by Jean Flowers (2015): I talked about this one last week. If you like light reads and the post office, I recommend this book! (Mom, you would like it!)
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (1913): We just finished this one in book group over the weekend. I just love Willa Cather. (The group read My Antonia before I joined, and we read Song of the Lark a few years ago, which is the opposite order that the books were written as the “Great Plains Trilogy.” We also read Lucy Gayheart, which is one of her later books, and another Chicago book.) Her prose is so lovely, and O Pioneers! was a peaceful read. Nothing happens for the first two-thirds of the book but you don’t mind because she’s painting a beautiful picture and setting up the “action.” (I use that term loosely.) Her story structure is so good…there’s a point in the book where there’s a perfect break, a tiny breath between acts. And her description of winter as a pause between the abundance of fall and the promiscuity of spring was nothing less than life-changing. (Mom, you would love this one, too!)
Next up for me is Consequences by E.M. Delafield. It came as a recommendation as a good post World War I spinster book during a podcast about Lolly Willowes (which probably deserves its own post…it was such a fun read and so different from the other spinster novels of the era! We read it for book club and it was a surprise pick that everyone loved!)
Presley and I would love to hear what’s on your nightstand.
The tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming! So far, we’ve picked Big Boys, Black Krims, a Mortgage Lifer, and tons of Juliets. We’ve been eating plenty of tomato sandwiches, BLTs, and caprese salads and we added this caprese pasta salad into our menu. Our goal for the summer is to try five new tomato recipes, so one down, four to go. Once we get a good harvest of big tomatoes, it will be easier to experiment. Juliets aren’t slicing tomatoes, so right now we’re limited to salads. They are particularly delicious this year, so no complaints! We haven’t had any red Brandywines yet, so…I’m waiting patiently. But I have to say, the Mortgage Lifter and Black Krims are really fantastic…we’ll be planting more of those for sure next year!
Anything ripe in your neck of the woods?
Naoto’s 25th class reunion from Mid Pacific Institute is this year. The actual reunion was held in Hawaii and we didn’t go because we have other vacation plans for 2018. But, it turns out that a few of Naoto’s classmates live in Chicagoland and Wisconsin, so they organized a mini-reunion this month. I offered to make them paper invitations, because, well, I love paper invitations and I had a fun idea. I was going to take a map of the US from one of my vintage encyclopedias and draw a dotted line from Hawaii to Chicago with a little caption like, “Mid-Pac to Mainland” or something. But it turns out, all of my encyclopedias are from before 1959 so no US maps included Hawaii! Then, I was uninspired for awhile, and finally came up with this: a vintage picture of Waikiki Beach with the information typed in a tiny piece of vellum attached with a piece of washi tape in the Mid-Pac school color. Each invitation got put into a Paper Source Spruce envelope and addressed in white.
I’m excited to meet everyone this weekend and hear all the stories about high school Naoto. In the meantime…back to reading O Pioneers!
For all but about two hours, Art Dans la Rue was a blast. And those two hours were baaaaaad. So. Much. Rain. We were attacked by a deluge of water that threatened to ruin pretty much everything I sell. Thankfully, our borrowed tent stayed strong, and Naoto found a tarp in the car that gave an extra layer of protection to the table. (Tents do not protect your things from splash-ups that occur during heavy downpours…something I didn’t really consider when I was planning for the weather.) I got drenched though, so I was wet pretty much the entire night. And my poor white tablecloth was covered with mud splatters. But, on the happiest of notes, Naoto and I work with amazing people who all reached out and offered us towels, garbage bags, brownies, wine…everything to make things better. The rain had good timing (well, ideal timing would have been waiting until Wednesday!) because it came and went before people got off work and things got busy. That was the bright side. There were a ton of people out enjoying the festivities after 5, and they all stayed mostly dry…except for an errant drip from a tent. During the rain, we kept ourselves entertained by chatting with our neighbors, the beignet sellers, and taking pictures with Madeline. Naoto kept buying me wine because I was so stressed out. It all worked out though…once the rain stopped and we all dried off, we had such a good time. So many of our friends and Naoto’s customers stopped to chat with us The highlight (besides selling Galaxie Safari cards to fellow mail-lovers!) was the poodle parade. My video does not capture the charm of people walking their dogs down Marion Street to French music and cooing dog-loving crowds. (Also, sorry I filmed it vertically…I was making an Instagram Story!)
A huge thank you to everyone who came out and supported the event. We can’t wait until next year!
P.S. The last picture was taken by Ally Vertigan. Thank you, Ally!
One of my goals for the summer is to read ten books. I’m halfway there. Most of the books I read are older books that, well, aren’t quick reads. I have resisted the “beach read” since my high school days of devouring three Danielle Steele’s a week. I was a literature major in college and for some reason, I’ve felt like I need to always read something challenging. It’s silly, I know. I’ve realized that sometimes it’s nice to just read for fun, instead of having to analyze every sentence and detail.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, Margaret posted an Instagram of a book she found on vacation, Addressed to Kill. It is a postal themed murder mystery, third in the Postmistress Mystery Series. So I hunted down all three at my library and started with the first, Death Takes Priority. (I can’t read things out of order, though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter here.)
I read it in a couple days, and I even stayed up past 1AM reading it, which seriously never happens with my other books. It’s definitely fluffy, but the story was good and there are a lot of delightful postal details. The main character is the Postmaster of her tiny hometown in New England. In Death Takes Priority, she accidentally gets involved in solving a local murder. There is a tiny bit of romance (nothing like a Danielle Steele book!) and some friendship sprinkled in. Oh! And each chapter number is framed with a postage stamp, which is just a kitchy-sweet little detail of the book. I’m going to read the other two, but after I read some heavier stuff in my stack. We’re reading O Pioneers! for book group next week and I want to get a jump start on that because I’m usually cramming the night before and I’m hosting this month so…I’m sure I’ll be cleaning.
Have you read anything good lately?
P.S. For other mail reads, go here!
Bonjour! I’m popping in to remind my local friends that today is the day of Art Dans la Rue in Downtown Oak Park. It’s my second outdoor show and we’ll have special French greeting cards featuring vintage French postage stamps. And of course I’ll have my usual cards and tiny framed art, and a few new cards, too. There will be wine, beignets, fresh flowers, art, live music, a mime, crepes…not to mention a poodle parade later tonight.
I’ll be back soon with a “beach read” book recommendation for mail lovers!