Our Fourth

July 4th dinner, patriotic, independence dayJuly 4th seems like weeks ago. I remember when I was a kid, it felt like July 4th was the end of summer…like it had this power to make the rest of summertime rush by. As an adult, I still kind of believe this, especially since school supplies are already out at Target. (Really…it’s ridiculous.) But really, there’s so much summer left! plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, raised bed gardeningIt was soooo hot and humid on the 4th. It rained a teeny bit, but not enough to really impact the garden, or the heat. I gave our plot a good soak during the community garden BBQ. Our tomato jungle is coming along nicely…no tomatoes yet…but our edamame is growing like crazy and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet! cherry manhattans, vintage glasses, july 4th, hasegawa happy hourNaoto and I had a mini Hasegawa Happy Hour and made Cherry Manhattans (recipe from Leopold Bros.) Cherry Manhattans have become our lazy summer drink.  Despite what this picture shows, we drank them inside because it was too sweaty to be outside. We had Chicago-style hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans for supper. It was the epitome of America. fireworks over 290, circle bridge, forest park fireworksWe ended up watching fireworks from the Circle Bridge over the Eisenhower (Interstate 290 for you non-Chicagoans.) I love fireworks, but I hate crowds, so it was kind of the perfect spot. It was still so hot, but there was a decent breeze (from the traffic?) and the were no mosquitos, plus it was only a few blocks from home. (What can I say? I’m a lazy reveler!) vintage postage, patriotic postage, galaxie safari, red, white, and blue

Oh! And here are those vintage patriotic stamps in action!

I’d love to hear about your Fourth/last Wednesday!

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Tanabata Time Again

tanabata, cats watching fireworks, japanese postcardsIt’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!

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Thank You for Being a Friend

golden girls gala, friends on the lanai, golden girls party, kaftans, peignoirsA couple weeks ago I threw a party that has been on my theme party list for a looooong time -actually since before the Mrs. Roper party- The Golden Girls Gala! I love The Golden Girls. It’s my favorite comfort TV and I’ve seen most of the episodes at least ten times each. I love the girls’ style, especially their pajamas. (It makes me want to up my pajama game.) I love Dorothy’s sarcasm, Blanche’s confidence, Rose’s innocence, and Sophia’s attitude. This is my favorite Golden Girls moment:

It’s hard to say what my favorite episode is…maybe “Yes, We Have No Havanas” (Season 4, Episode 1) where Blanche and Sophia fight over the same man? Or “A Little Romance” (Season 1, Episode 13) where Rose is dating a little person and the other girls handle meeting him with…awkwardness. What’s your favorite episode?
golden girls paper dolls, golden girls, paper dolls, golden girls gala decorationsI found these great Golden Girls paper dolls and used them to decorate the food table. golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaI ordered these Golden Girls faces from Paper Party Parade on Etsy. I used them to make little cheese picks. golden girls gala, golden girls banner, golden girls, blanche, rose, dorothy, sophiaAnd I used the leftover circles to make a garland with some Golden Girls postcards from my collection. I’ve used the gold glitter rosettes for a thousand parties and I think they’ve met their end. They have served us well…golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaWe mostly hung out in the kitchen where Naoto made pizzas (reminiscent of Sophia and Max’s pizza shop in “Sophia’s Wedding” from Season 4, Episode 7.) We ate other 1980s snacks like cheese balls, Crunch-n-Munch, and Pop Tarts. And we ate guava cheesecake because of course…we had to eat cheesecake.golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaWe eventually made it out to the lanai to enjoy dessert and cocktails. I encouraged everyone to dress “in costume” and it was a fabulous variety of Golden Girls interpretations. I wore a peignoir set. (My mom was shocked that I was going to wear it in front of guests, but it covered as much as a summer dress would, so I figured it was fine.) My peignoir set was borrowed from my mom (she, too, has fabulous pajamas) and it’s not as colorful and luxurious as Blanche’s, but it worked for the party. Karen wore a very Dorothy outfit, long and loose. (She also borrowed from her mom’s closet!) Robyn wore the most fantastic 1980s working girl outfit, bright colors, bold necklace, neon sunglasses, clip-on earrings!! (You can see her at the top picture.) Donovan and Kathy both wore wonderful kaftans that were casually fabulous. And Jackie found a hilarious t-shirt of The Girls and the moon. golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaI made a Golden Girl punch based off a recipe I modified from Serious Eats. I’ll share it soon. It was a hit, though we ran out of some key ingredients and I had to save us with Aviations later in the night! golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaOf course at the end of every party I always think about the thousands of ways I could have decorated better or hosted better, but I think everyone had a good time…and really, that’s all you need with friends.

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Happy 4th of July!

4th of july, patriotic postage, July 4th, Independence Day, fireworks flag stamps, vintage postageHappy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! (To everyone else, happy Wednesday!)

I’m spending today catching up on some mail (and topping it off with the patriotic postage above!) and going to a BBQ at the community garden. Naoto is making an all-American supper tonight (hot dogs, corn on the cob and baked beans) before we go see fireworks. (Or it might rain, so maybe no BBQ or fireworks…time will tell.)

I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about last month’s Golden Girls Gala.

P.S. Naoto was not as excited as I was that this postage ensemble accidentally added up to fifty cents…

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Passport to Adventure

Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listIs it too late to talk about our summer plans? This year for our summer manifesto/bucket list, I made us a little “Passport to Adventure.” I got the idea from this old blog post that has been on my Pinterest board since 2013 or so.) Of course, her passport was for her children, but really, who doesn’t like documenting things with a sticker? Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket list, passport to summer We’ve done a summer bucket list before, but not in the past few years. It really is, for us anyway, the best way to plan the summer and to prioritize all of the possibilities the warm weather brings. (Seriously, in the Midwest, sometimes it feels like I spend 80% of the year stuck inside.) So, I decided making a little book would be a fun way to get back in the game and organize our checklist for the summer. Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listPassport to Adventure Summer Bucket List

Supplies:

Field Notes notebook (or another small notebook with <50 pages)

stickers (I used the tiny daruma stickers pictured above, but any small sticker will do.)

stamp (or you could just draw a square)

vintage DYMO label maker (or you could just write the title or use letter stickers)

date stamp (or you could write the date or not worry about dates at all)

pen Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listI kept it really simple. I wrote a bucket list item on each page and stamped a little rectangle on the bottom for the sticker on completion. Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listIf the task was something I wanted to repeat, I wrote it once and then stamped blank pages with numbered rectangles. Then when we try new recipes, we can write down the name or a brief description of the dish and put the little daruma sticker in the box.Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket list Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listI’ve already finished two books this summer. I am not ashamed to admit that it was very satisfying to choose a sticker for those boxes. It was like summer reading and Book-It all over again!

Here’s our official summer bucket list:

read 10 books/Read 3 books (K/N)

host 5 Hasegawa Happy Hours

dine on the lanai

road trip

Hasegawa Tanabata

see fireworks

Hole in the Wall

Lost Lake

rooftop cocktails

Proviso fundraiser

send 50 pieces of mail (K)

try 5 new tomato recipes

try 5 new herbal cocktail recipes

run the 8 mile course with the Oak Park Runners Club (N, obviously)

run 5K (K…it’s a stretch goal!)

Quincy Street Distillery

We have a couple of blank pages left, so maybe we’ll add a couple things as we go, but this list feels doable. I’d love to hear what’s on your summer list!

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12th Anniversary Gifts

japanese paper gift wrap Every year, Naoto and I exchange gifts based on our anniversary year. (I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before…) We use this list as our guide, just to keep it consistent. Some years, we are spot on, and other years we leave things open to interpretation. I follow the modern gift guide for Naoto and he follows the traditional for me. The modern gifts for the twelfth anniversary are silk or linen. So I bought Naoto a linen shirt and a chef’s hat. I wrapped his gift in some paper from a shop in Kyoto. (It’s their shop paper that they wrapped our purchases in. It’s been in my paper hoard since…2015?) There was a Kyoto link in our gift-giving this year, as you will see. I think this proves that we are both itching to go back to Japan again. chef's hat, naoto's 12th anniversary giftSadly, the chef’s hat was too small…even for me! But the shirt fit nicely and there’s a new, larger hat on its way. vintage brooch, blue stones, fireworks brooch My gift was supposed to be pearls, but Naoto found this vintage “fireworks” brooch and I love it. Pearls are lovely, but really, I have some pearl earrings (from our wedding) and a necklace (from Naoto’s Hawaiian host mom) and I think that’s plenty of the most fragile “gems” on earth, so this was a good substitution. kyoto gin, ki-no-ri distilleryAnd he gave me gin from a distillery in Kyoto! We’re finally opening it tonight so I’ll have a full report soon. Stay tuned.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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