International Women’s Day

Happy International Women’s Day! I’m celebrating by sending these great postcards by Natalie Harney to a few of my pen pals. It’s also Women’s History Month, so I plan to honor women all month long (here on the blog and in my everyday life.) I was also going to try to only read novels by women writers, except we’re reading George Orwell for book club so, I’ll be reading him too.

Three cheers for women!

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade 2019

Last weekend, we walked in the Forest Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade with the Community Garden again. Every year, the garden chooses a vegetable or a flower seed to hand out.Last week, we had a little winter garden happy hour at The Heritage and then we met up to pack Swiss chard seeds to hand out at the parade. We usually pack about 2000 envelopes to hand out, but this year we ran out of seeds and had to substitute with some lettuces at the last minute. It was really a great day for a parade on Saturday. It was about 32 degrees (Fahrenheit) and sunny with a chilly breeze. When I first started walking with the garden, I thought people might scoff at seeds, but people get really excited for the seeds. Last year, some drunk lady almost ripped my arm off because I missed her and it’s not uncommon to hear “SEEEEEEDS!” as you walk along handing packets out. It’s so much fun! Naoto walked with us and he was so cute. He kept telling children to eat their vegetables. Another parade in the books…next up is our seed swap on Saturday. If you’re in the area, please stop by! Go here for details and free tickets.

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Spending the Yen: Days of the Week Tea

I found this Lipton day of the week tea at the Japanese grocery store last fall and I’ve been enjoying it all last week. It’s kind of fun to try a new flavor every day. (Or is it just a long winter and I’m looking for some excitement in my afternoon beverage?)I liked the sakura the best, with the créme brûlée a close second. The flavors are very subtle.

We are totally a coffee household and we’ve finally broken our daily Dunkin Donuts habit and have been making our coffee at home for about a year now. When Naoto is home, he also makes us each a cup of tea in the early afternoon. He always drinks green tea or matcha and I always have black tea. (I only drink black tea.) It’s become a nice little routine in our day. I bought a few other teas to try (including a yuzu one!) so I’ll share those soon.

Do you have a favorite tea? Usually, I drink Barry’s or (flavorless) loose leaf tea from a shop in our neighborhood if I feel like drinking a whole pot.

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Washi Weekend: Wrapple

 

Back to Japan posts–

Since our last visit, Wrapple moved out of Parco and into a bigger, street-level spot near Tokyu Hands. It is such a fun space–clean and bright with lots of washi tape accents.On the first floor, there’s a counter where they offer tea, coffee, and sweets and then as you go back into the store, all of the washi tape, stickers, embellishments, and packaging are displayed along the walls. There are so many rolls of washi tape. In all of the stationery stores we visited, Wrapple has the best selection of washi tapes. They have brands that I didn’t see in other stores and the most extensive selections of solid mt tapes. They also sell their own exclusive designs that are really different and fun!The stairs are decorated with mt’s home washi tapes. I loved so many of the new home designs, but alas, I have some at home that I’ve never put on our walls so I didn’t allow myself to buy more. Upstairs there are couches and tables where you can enjoy your coffee or tea. There were people working on laptops and meeting friends up there. It was really quiet and no one was playing with the washi tape, so I felt a little weird playing at the Make & Take table. But, I decided the washi tapes were too tempting so I made myself a little tag. Since it was Halloween time, you could also make a washi tape mask, or decorate your placemat with the washi tape. Next time, I’m going in with a plan and making some postcards to send!

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All I’ve Been Doing is Reading

The title is true. Other than work, a few custom card orders, writing letters, and watching my way through Schitt’s Creek and The Office, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Our apartment is a mess, Naoto has been doing 95% of the cooking, and I’ve been neglecting my emails, but man, I’m really enjoying books lately.

What Diantha Did by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

We read this for book club in January. I picked it because we all loved “The Yellow Wallpaper” and it’s always fun revisiting authors we’ve enjoyed in the past. Diantha’s marriage to the man she loves keeps getting pushed back because he can not afford to provide for her and his mother and his unmarried sisters. So Diantha takes control and starts her own cleaning business which takes off like crazy until she rules over a cleaning empire. The book really makes you think about the value of women’s work and the roles of women at home during the 20s. Diantha’s fiancé has a very difficult time understanding why she works and can’t come to terms with her role as a provider. The ending felt a little rushed but in general, I liked it a lot.

The Odd Women by George Gissing

Have I mentioned here how much I love a good spinster novel? (I need to write a blog post about the book that started my infatuation with these books!) This one really fit the bill. The title comes from the fact that there were about one million more women than men in England at the end of the 19th century. The “odd women” were the unmarried women. The book explores five women: two “early feminists,” unmarried by choice, two by happenstance (their parents died and they had little family money,) and one woman who marries for financial security, which ends up being a terrible mistake. It shows the limited options for women back at the turn of the century, especially women without family money. I’ve never read Gissing before but now I’m curious about some of his other titles.

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

I can’t believe I haven’t read this before. Lucy Honeychurch falls in love on vacation in Italy but ends up engaged to another man back in England. She has to decide between following her social class and the old rules of Victorian society or following her own heart. I loved the main story, but all of the supporting characters made this book such a fun read. (There were spinsters!) We read Forster’s A Passage to India in book club, and now I want to read Howard’s End and Maurice.

“Afterward” by Edith Wharton

This was recommended a few years ago during our book club Halloween reads and I never finished it. At Christmastime, I picked it up again and finally set out to read it last month. I’m annoyed that I waited because it’s so good, such a well-crafted short story. Pick it up at Halloween, or at Christmas, because apparently reading creepy books at Christmas is a thing?

The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell 

This was our book for February’s book club. We read Maxwell’s They Came Like Swallows a few summers ago and everyone loved it. Maxwell’s writing it so beautiful and there are a lot of autobiographical details in his books. The Folded Leaf is a coming of age story about two boys in Chicago: Spud, strong and confident, and Lymie, weak and thoughtful. The book follows the two friends from grade school to college and gives a wonderful glimpse into life in Chicago and Illinois in the 1920s. In book club, we had a good debate at book club about whether it’s a friendship novel, or a love story.

Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto

I read Yoshimoto’s Kitchen last fall after reading The Convenience Store Woman. I loved Kitchen, and its companion short story, “Moonlight Shadow” so much. Both just were so emotional and magical. I had high hopes for Asleep and it fell short for me. It was actually three separate stories, all having to do with sleep and death and mourning and ghosts…similar themes to Kitchen, but just not executed as well (to me.)

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell 

Ugh…this one was killer. The narrator is looking back on a small town murder that happened fifty years earlier. The murder happened after an affair was discovered between two neighboring families. The story of the murder is slowly woven into the coming-of-age story of the narrator, who ends up moving away and seeing his old friend years later in Chicago. (Oh yes, it’s another Illinois story by Maxwell.) This book is only 135 pages, but again, like The Folded Leaf, Maxwell does such a masterful job getting you to feel his regret and sadness, all those years later.

Hardboiled & Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto

Again, nothing beats Kitchen…”Hardboiled” was interesting, about a women who is celebrating the anniversary of her ex-lover’s death. Again, there is a lot of sadness and a little bit of a mystical aspect happening… And “Hard Luck” is about a woman whose sister is dying and she’s falling in love with someone new. So, a little bit of loss and a little bit of promise…I’m taking a break from Banana Yoshimoto.

Unpunished by Charlotte Perkins Gilman 

This one wasn’t printed until well after Gilman’s death but it’s fantastic! It’s a detective story that had me thinking about The Thin Man movies. Of course, since it’s Gilman, there are a lot of feminist themes throughout the book. The detectives are a husband and wife team and the murder victim has been killed five times, five different ways (but you’re not sorry for him because he was a controlling, abusive jerk.) There are some great twists and some great symbolism but it’s still a light, fun read.

Since I started this post, I finished another book, but I’ll save that for my next book report. I’m starting a book by another Japanese author tonight (I think!) My reading is going to have to start slowing down though so I can get some projects done and get ready for my first craft show of the year next month. It’s been so nice though…I guess I just need to give up some other things so I have more time to read…

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

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In My Mailbox: Traveling Mail Kit

My penpal Nic sent me this fabulous traveling mail kit just in time for our trip to Japan last year. Her mom made it and is hoping to sell them, so Nic asked me to “test” it out and see what needed to be changed or fixed. It’s made from this gorgeous orange gradient Japanese fabric with metallic gold accents. My pictures aren’t doing it justice! Inside, she used an accent fabric of orange, black, and gold. There are pen loops and pockets to keep stationery and stamps and little extras organized. She thought of everything! Nic tucked in some postcards and stamps to get me started……and some stickers and a playing card holding some washi tape. (Isn’t that genius? The washi tape comes right off the coated playing card! It’s such a perfect way to carry a little bit of washi without the bulk of a whole roll!)I carried my little kit with me everywhere on our trip. It is so light and compact, perfect for long days of being a tourist and walking all over Tokyo. I tucked postcards inside, along with Japanese stamps, my travel address book, a pen, and some ephemera that I picked up along the way.

Now that I’m home, I still tuck the mail kit in my bag when I’m out and about in case I have time for a postcard or a quick note. It’s held up beautifully through all my travels, so I’m confident Nic’s mom can start production when she’s ready!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day! I got this hilarious card in the mail this week from my pen pal, Cindy. Two of my favorite things–cats and Golden Girls! I can’t believe how funny Sophia looks and she even has her purse!

Naoto and I both have the day off today, so after my meeting this morning, we’re getting pie from our favorite local pie shop, cooking dinner, and doing laundry. It’s basically a Thursday, with pie.

What are your plans for today?

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen Takeya

The day we went to the taping of the Very Serious Crafts Podcast was cold and snowy, so we decided to stop in the West Loop for some ramen. We went to Ramen Takeya, a sister restaurant of one of the best rated ramen shops in the city, Wasabi. We haven’t been able to get up to Wasabi yet, but Ramen Takeya specializes in chicken broth ramen, which seemed interesting. Plus we have quite a few friends who don’t eat pork, so we figured we’d do some ramen research for them!

We got to the restaurant a little before they opened, so we had a chance to scope out the menu outside in the snow. When we got inside, we were barely greeted and I just had a bad feeling about the whole thing. (Basically, the host–who also was our server–tossed our menus on a table and walked away while we were still at the front of the restaurant.) The shop was decorated with old metal Japanese signs and advertisements, including an old Japan Post sign. I just loved the “old Japan” feeling of the place! We ordered drinks, a beer for Naoto and a lychee cocktail for me. The drinks were good, and so were the buns (pictured above.) But the service continued to be…cold. I got the Osaka Shio ramen, which has both pork and chicken broth. It was good. I enjoyed most of the toppings and the noodles, but I felt like the pork was extra fatty (which I know some people love, I’m just not one of them.) I also got buttered corn as an add-on, which would have been delicious if it didn’t come freezing cold. Naoto ordered the Chicken Paitan Ramen with fried garlic as an add-on topping. He really enjoyed his bowl (and half of mine!)

At the end of our meal, we weren’t offered another cocktail, or water, or dessert, or any sort of friendliness, so we just paid our check and left…which seems like all they wanted anyway. I feel bad writing a negative post, but man, customer service is important…especially when there are so many ramen restaurants in Chicago. And I think our experience was just so shocking for us because the West Loop has so many great places to eat and we’ve always had stellar service in that neighborhood.  On the way home, I checked Yelp and all of the negative reviews mentioned the service and most of those people had our server, so…apparently no one at Ramen Takeya cares enough to give this dude some feedback. So, all-in-all, we’re glad we tried it, but a second visit isn’t in our plans. (Sorry to be a Debbie Downer today!)

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Washi Weekend: TV Tray

A long time ago, I asked my parents to keep an eye out for a single TV tray so I could eat my lonely dinners on the couch. (When Naoto works, that’s where I eat…I know it’s uncivilized, but it’s very cozy!) I’ve also been using my TV tray as a letter writing desk. I don’t have any “before” pictures, but it’s basically just a boring oak TV tray, probably from the 90s. This week I decided to jazz it up with all of my mail and writing themed washi tape. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out! It’s satisfying to see the whole “story” of some of my washi tapes that only get seen on envelopes. And, as always, it’s always good to spend out some of my stash! If I get tired of the mail theme (NEVER!) or the tape gets ruined by a soup spill (likely,) I can always switch it out for something else.

In other news, this pretty much sums up my accomplishments for the week. I’ve been keeping up with writing letters and I’ve been doing a lot of reading…I don’t think I have the winter blues right now, but I’m definitely feeling like I’m in hibernation mode. Thankfully, my work schedule is getting busier and we have a few events on our social calendar this month that should get me out of the house more often!

 

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Tokyo Tower

Toyko Tower, Tokyo, JapanNaoto was all about the touristy things on this trip. It’s good because I can’t come home from Japan having gone to only stationery stores on each trip! I’ve never been to Tokyo Tower and Naoto went when he was a kid, so we added it to our agenda when we returned to Tokyo. We had such beautiful weather during our whole trip…seriously it felt like summer most of the time. We tried to use the warm, clear days to our advantage just in case it rained later in our trip. But it turns out, that wasn’t a problem since it only rained a little bit on our very last day in Japan.Toyko Tower, Tokyo, JapanBuilt in 1958 and painted a striking “International Orange,” Tokyo Tower is the second tallest tower in Japan (and twenty-third worldwide.) At 333 meters tall, it’s only a little over half as tall as Skytree. (But it was the tallest structure in Japan until the Skytree was built in 2012.) Still, about three million people visit Tokyo Tower each year…it’s a classic! Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan, viewThere are two viewing levels for the tower. We totally cheaped out and only paid for the basic level. We figured, we’ve seen the view from Skytree so we didn’t need to pay ¥2800 to go all the way to the top. Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan, mailbox Toyko Tower, Tokyo, JapanThe views were still quite good and we had fun roaming around trying to spot other familiar things in the landscape. It was so hot though–we had to keep stepping away from the sunny windows to cool off a bit! Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan, mailbox Toyko Tower, Tokyo, Japan, mailboxI bought a few postcards to send with the special Tokyo Tower postmark. Naoto and I send ourselves postcards from our travels so he was in charge of sending this one since it was his idea.

I still have a lot more Tokyo to share, but next week, I think I’m going to take a little break to talk about current life, reading, mail, food, Valentine’s Day…in the meantime, have a great weekend!

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