Cocktail: The Garden Party

garden party cocktail, snow and graham notecard, vintage cocktail glass, cocktail hourThis spring has been such a mix of weather. We’ve had everything from melt-your-make-up-off hot and humid to almost fall-like, crisp and cool. Today for Summer Solstice, it’s chilly with a deluge. Last week, we had a couple perfect nights and I was able to sit outside and write letters while the sun was setting. It was a dream evening alone.

Earlier in the day, we harvested our first lavender of the summer, so I decided to celebrate by making up a cocktail. I used some of my dried lavender from last summer to make a lavender simple syrup and mixed it with lemon, Cocchi Americano, and prosecco to make a refreshing, not-too-boozy drink. Cocchi Americano is a little bit bitter, thanks to the quinine, so the cocktail isn’t super sweet. It’s also low in alcohol, so this is the perfect drink for the afternoon (or if you need to keep your head about you while you write thank you notes!)

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried lavender

In a pan on the stove, dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add dried lavender. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Refrigerate until chilled.

The Garden Party 

2 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco (the white version)

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz lavender syrup

prosecco, to taste

Add the Cocchi, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Strain into a coupe and top off with a bit of prosecco (or another sparkling wine.) Top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy on your lanai while writing letters, or at an actual garden party with friends.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

New Letter Ledger

letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersAhhhh! Paper & Type recently released the latest Letter Ledger and it’s soooo good! I bought it even though I still have a lot of pages left in my old letter ledger. I can’t wait to move to the new one! It comes in four colors, champagne, rose, ochre, and grey. Of course I chose the grey. letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of letters letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersThere are so many details…I love the deeply blind embossed and letterpressed cover. It feels special and luxurious. I was thinking I would paste some of my favorite vintage postage stamps on the cover, but right now I’m appreciating the simplicity of it. letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersThere are so many wonderful letter writing quotes. And there is a place to write down the cost of postage. (I always forget postcard and international rates. Now that I’m using more vintage postage instead of Forever stamps, this comes in handy.) The front cover is also folded over to make a little pocket to store letters or stationery for your next missive. letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersThe set-up is slightly different from version 2.0 and 1.0. The sent/received column is together now and there is one section to write down topics. I really like the tiny, unassigned column on the left. I use it to document whether I sent a letter, a card, a postcard, or a package. (If you use the Letter Ledger, I’d love to hear how you utilize that column.) letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of letters letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersAnd the back cover opens up to reveal a place to write down your pen pal’s addresses and birthdays. I don’t currently send birthday cards to all of my pen pals, but it’s something I’m working on. Some months, I’m really on top of holidays and birthdays…other months, I’m so behind. (I haven’t sent my Father’s Day card yet!)letter ledger 2.0, vintage stamps, rifle stationery, coffee, letter writing, Kaweco penI’m still in the middle of my Letter Ledger 2.0, so I can’t use the new version yet. But I’m filling it up fast because lately, I’m SO on top of my mail stack! It’s a very happy feeling to get a reply out within a few days of receiving mail.

Off to finish Little Women for book club tomorrow. Have a good weekend!

P.S. This is not a sponsored post. I just love this little letter writing tool!

Tagged , , ,

Out on the Lanai

blue hawaii on the lanaiIt’s been really perfect spring weather the past few days. We had a bad hot streak, but since the beginning of June, the weather has been mild, even chilly! blue hawaii on the lanai, kimberly and naotoLast Monday, after the gym and the garden, we enjoyed our annual anniversary Blue Hawaiis before dinner. It was just warm enough to feel like summer. first lanai dinner 2018We also had our first dinner on the lanai last week. (Naoto made this from Smitten Kitchen.) Last year I don’t feel like we enjoyed our balcony enough so I’m determined to get out there as much as possible this summer. We have a new furniture arrangement and have cleared off some other unnecessary things, so hopefully it will be more enticing.

I had the brilliant idea to plant our pots in rainbow order this summer. (You know how I love my ROY G BIV-ing!) It ended up being way more work than I bargained for…mostly finding the right kinds of plants to work with our sun situation…our balcony is pretty shady. But every summer I feel like I don’t have enough yellows and oranges out there, so this was a nice way to force myself to branch out. Of course, I love it, but I’m already deciding on color combinations for each pot for next summer!

Anyway, behold the rainbow…pink impatiens, container garden, lanai garden, balcony gardenmixed pot, pink flamingoes, garden gnomesred petuniasred geraniumorange petunias, orange geraniumyellow petunias, yellow marigoldsmixed greenslobeliapurple flowers, impatiens, story night petunias, fairy flowers starry night petunias, night sky petuniasThe “greens” are a bit of a mess right now because my wooden window box is falling apart and because I’m waiting for my climbers to grow. Hopefully it will fill out as summer rolls along. 

Do you have any favorite flower color combinations? I’m really into yellow and hot pink right now.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Gyu-kaku

Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurantsNaoto and I celebrated our 12th anniversary last Saturday! We had plans to go to a new cocktail bar called Prairie School, but it unexpectedly closed for good the week before our anniversary. (It wasn’t even open a year!) I was super bummed. But then I read about Gyu-Kaku, a Japanese BBQ chain that came to Chicago a couple years ago. I knew Naoto would be into it–he remembers going in Japan–and I figured it would be something different and fun. It’s definitely not really a romantic place…it’s pretty bright and loud and open and you’re working together to cook your food, so if you’d rather have a more traditional special occasion with your partner, maybe this isn’t your place. That being said, a group dinner here would be a blast. (And of course it was perfect for us since we’re not really white tablecloth kind of people.) Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, lychee cocktail, Asahi beerWe started with an Asahi beer and a lychee martini while we pursued the menu for the best options for the two of us. You can order a la cart, or you can do different levels of prix fixe options. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, Gyu-kaku saladWe opted for the “samurai” menu that included starters of miso soup, salad (pictured above,) spicy tuna volcanoes, and beef bibimbap. And for grilling, Kalbi beef, miso skirt steak, rib eye, garlic shrimp, chicken, and vegetables. Oh and mochi ice cream for dessert. It was plenty of food for both of us. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThe servers give pretty good instructions about placement and timing for the various meats. No one wants to eat raw chicken.  Naoto did most of the grilling, but I helped with the vegetables. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, grilling meatsThere are three sauces to accent the food, sweet, sour, and spicy. The meats are marinated but the sauces are perfect little accents to balance the richness of the meal. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, mochi ice creamOur dessert was green tea and strawberry mochi ice cream. A few bites of each was a perfect ending to our dinner.

Next time, I think we will probably order a la cart, mainly because there are different sides and meats we’d like to try in place of the prescribed choices with the prix fixe menus. They even have some summer specials that look really fresh and tasty. Gyu-kaku Japanese BBQ, west loop restaurants, cherry blossom cocktail, asahi beer Cheers to the next twelve.

Tagged , , , ,

Plot 6 in 2018

plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6I can’t believe I haven’t posted about the garden yet this spring! We are all planted in our little plot 6 and happily waiting for things to grow. As usual, I swore I would only plant tomatoes and I would not experiment at alllll this summer…and then we planted a bunch of tomatoes and some other things…but no vining plants this year. No sireee. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6I’m very excited to have a full-time partner in crime at the garden this year. Since Naoto isn’t working a million hours a week anymore, he has time to visit the garden with me. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6So far, we planted Juliet, Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, and Black Krim tomatoes, rosemary, lavender, thyme, basil, and parsley, and lima beans and edamame. Our garlic is going strong from last fall’s planting, and in spite of the fact that I pulled it all last fall, the walking onions have returned. I need to at least thin them again. They are growing into my tomatoes. plot 6, forest park community garden, raised bed gardening, square foot garden, community garden, #plot6We still have kaiware (Japanese radish sprouts) that we’d like to plant, but that’s it! We already have a Juliet on one of our plants, so I’m hoping this year we aren’t plagued by white flies and that we have a crazy bumper crop again…Naoto is already planning tomato-centric menus for later this summer!

I can’t wait.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Tiki Birthday Party

tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrellaOver the weekend, James, Naoto, and I threw a tiki-themed birthday party for friends, Karen and Jackie. I LOOOOVE theme parties (as you may know) and I thought it would be really fun to jump into summer with a tiki theme. tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis I did a simple table because we had a spread of fun food. I got the “centerpiece,” leis, napkins, and a couple of garlands from the Dollar Tree. I really don’t shop there often, but I went with my parents once and now it’s my go-to place for parchment paper and tissue. We went a couple of weeks ago and I was delighted to see that they had a bunch of tiki party things. (By the way, this is not a sponsored post.) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leisEven though it was a small gathering, I made us little festive place cards with some peacock card stock and little puffy pineapple stickers from Paper Source. paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leisI had these tropical leaves (an old Paper Source kit) leftover from a couple of summers ago, so I hung them up in the corner. They will likely stay up for the whole summer. paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, blue hawaiis paper source kit, tropical leaves kit, tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, blue hawaiis, crab rangoonWe started the night with Blue Hawaiis and crab rangoon (purchased from a local thai restaurant.) James told me that flamingos are not tiki, but I couldn’t resist the neon pink flamingo stirrers (also from the Dollar Tree!)

tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friendstiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friends, presleyWe stayed in the kitchen and ate and drank Mai Tais while Naoto finished cooking the dinner. He and James were in charge of the menu and I was in charge of decorating, cocktails, and cupcakes. Collaborative party planning is the best!  tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki partyFor dinner, we had pineapple fried rice served in the pineapple, Hawaiian pizza, and an Asian slaw. I’m going to admit that the fried rice in the pineapple was sort of the catalyst for the whole party (thanks, Pinterest!) James and I watched a YouTube video to learn how to hollow out a pineapple and it was not as hard as it sounds, as long as you have a sharp knife and a little patience. (James executed it perfectly because I have neither a sharp knife nor patience.)

Naoto has really been into making his own pizza lately, so we decided he should make a Hawaiian version. And James made the slaw and he doesn’t use recipes. Everything was really tasty (which I can say because I only made the cocktails and the dessert!) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, table setting, leis, gift wrap, paper source gift wrap, flamingo, pineappleWe ended the night with gifts, cupcakes, and a last cocktail, the Admiral Montenegro, which I cannot recommend enough if you like slightly bitter tiki drinks. (The cupcakes were not-so-photogenic but taste-wise, Martha didn’t let me down!) tiki birthday party, aloha birthday, #jktikiparty, tiki party, tiki drinks, man tais, cocktail umbrella, tiki friendsHappy Birthday, Karen & Jackie! XO

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Peek Inside My Desk: Vintage Paper Drawer

vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colorsA few years ago, I organized my vintage paper by color. It was an effort to get all of the bits and pieces out of their various packages that were strewn about my apartment. And it was a failed effort to get me to use up some of my stash. So far, I haven’t really used much.

vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colorsThe drawer came with dividers, so I figured it would be a good place to color code my vintage papers. Organizing things in rainbow order (or, ROY G BIVing, as I like to call it) is incredibly pleasing to me. vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colorsI’m also a tiny box hoarder, so those come in handy to corral the little bits of loose things like tiny decals and labels and tickets. Who needs the Container Store when there are so many leftover little paper boxes?vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colorsPink, orange and purple are the least full sections. But a lot of my “orange” stuff is in a Halloween bin. I try to keep the holiday stuff separate and tuck out-of-season stuff away, but sometimes it ends up in here (if I order it or find it out of season.) vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colorsMost of the stuff I’ve had for a long time…too long. vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colorsI’ve found a lot at thrift stores and flea markets and I’ve gotten a ton from Saturday Morning Vintage and @feedthebirdies on Instagram. vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colors, red white and blue, patriotic I’d say the airmail/red, white, and blue section is my favorite. vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colorsPurple is my least favorite color but I have to admit, I’m pretty enamored with a lot of my vintage purple bits…especially those Gin Fizz labels! vintage paper drawer, martha stewart flat files, vintage ephemera, vintage paper, colorsThe “neutral section” looks a little drab compared to everything else, but some of the old black and white stuff is great and who doesn’t love an old yellowed book page?

So, I’m working on keeping a notebook with pictures and a bit of journaling and I’ve found that it’s helping me use up some of my stuff. It’s a paper addict’s work in progress.

How do you organize your paper stuff?

Tagged , , , , ,

Cocktail Perfected: Boulevardier

Naoto and I had our first balcony Hasegawa Happy Hour last weekend. It was freezing. After a week of warm temperatures, the mercury plummeted on Saturday night, leaving me to shiver through our cocktail.

I love a good negroni, but since it was getting so chilly, I decided a warmer version of the drink would do the trick, so I made Boulevardiers. Basically, the gin is swapped out for whiskey. It’s warmer and a bit sweeter than a negroni. We drank them in two of my new favorite cocktail glasses, thanks to my parents’ thrifting luck and genius.

Boulevardier 

1 1/2 oz bourbon

3/4 oz sweet vermouth

3/4 oz Campari

Pour into a mixing glass and stir with ice until completely chilled. In my experience, that means stir for way longer than you think you should be stirring, 25-30 seconds. Strain into a pretty cocktail glass and garnish with an orange peel, if desired. Enjoy on your balcony on a chilly night, and come inside when you get too cold.

Tagged , , ,

Mango & Black Bean Salsa

mango salsa, mango black bean salsa, mango, black bean, red onion, lime, cilantro, fresh salsaBack when we were dating, Naoto and I had dinner at his coworker’s house. I don’t remember what we ate for dinner. What I do remember is Joyce and her husband, Doug, offered up mango salsa as an appetizer and…it was so good. You know how when you’re at someone’s house–especially someone you don’t know very well–you shouldn’t make a pig of yourself and eat the entire bowl of salsa? I think I broke that rule. I couldn’t stop…it just might be the perfect (non-tomato) salsa. It’s sweet and tangy and the textures of the mango and black beans and onions work together perfectly.

Monday night Naoto made the salsa for the first time in a long time. We have a photocopy of Joyce and Doug’s handwritten recipe in our recipe box…I think it’s the first shared recipe of our relationship. And this is why I love handwritten recipes! Just poking through my recipe box reminds me of Joyce and Doug and the beginning of my relationship with Naoto in a way that no link to an internet recipe ever could.

Anyway, Naoto prepared the salsa to put on fish and I had to restrain myself from eating the whole batch with tortilla chips before he cooked the cod. I think the salsa is really best with chips, but fish is probably healthier…either way, make this salsa!

Mango & Black Bean Salsa

1 1/2 cup black beans (canned, rinsed)

1 mango, finely chopped

1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

3 Tbs lime juice

1 Tbs canola oil

2 tsp brown sugar

Mix together; stir thoroughly; chill for 1 hour.

Serve with chips, or on fish if you’re feeling fancy.

Tagged , , , ,

RBG

Ahhhh..you guys! We went to see RBG, the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg and it was so good! It focused a lot on her impact on equal rights before she became a judge. She argued six cases before the Supreme Court as a lawyer, all involving gender discrimination.

And her husband! Their love story is so beautiful…Marty supported her in her career from the moment they met. She said he was the first guy to acknowledge that she had a brain. He left a successful career in law to move with her to DC when she was nominated to a seat on the Court of Appeals by President Carter. And Marty lobbied for her to be considered for the Supreme Court. Bill Clinton said that within fifteen minutes of meeting Ruth, he knew he would nominate her. I teared up a bit when they showed the clip of Marty standing next to Ruth as she was sworn in.

Some of my favorite parts were the interviews with her talking seriously about the law, the part where she sees Kate McKinnon playing her on SNL, the part where she shows her array of fancy collars, and the clips of her badass workout. RBG movie outfit, crocheted doily Oh, and I wore a vintage crocheted doily in the collar of my shirt to get in costume for the movie…because I love a good theme.

Next up on my movie list is Won’t You Be My Neighbor? the documentary about Mister Rogers. I’m going to make everyone wear cardigans and sneakers.

Tagged , ,