Art Dans La Rue 2019

The reason I haven’t been reading is because I’ve been watching too much television and prepping for last week’s Art Dans La Rue. It was my first show of the summer and it went really well! It didn’t rain–the forecast was sketchy all day, but it ended up being hot and sticky but dryyyyy thankfully!

It was my first show sharing a booth with someone and it was so much fun! Alicia was such a great partner and even though we were selling the same product, our styles are so different that it didn’t feel like we were competing for customers. At one point, someone came into our booth and fawned over Alicia’s fabulous illustrations and funny pop culture cards and as they were leaving, the woman said, “Honey, your dad would love these!” about my cards. I felt very on-brand in that moment. It was also my first show testing out two card racks. I outgrew my first rack a long time ago, but I’ve been waffling between a floor spinner, a tabletop spinner, or just getting another rack. I don’t love that my set-up is less interesting now, but as long as I have a six-foot table, I can fit most of my frames along the side. Alicia was nice enough to let me use her tea crate for my extras. But I really think it helped my sales to have all of my designs visible. (I had been putting overflow cards in a bin.) I sold out of some designs that I didn’t think were popular. Apparently, if people can see your product, they might like it and buy it…who knew?Alicia had to leave early, so we moved our table to the center of the tent to finish out the night. As usual, I regret not taking more pictures. The street was crowded with people enjoying beignets, crepes, wine, baguettes, carrying flowers and browsing the art. It’s such a joyous little fest!

I need to work out my merchandising plans for Garage Galleries later this month. And I need to refill my card and envelope stock so I can make more product…it’s going to be happily busy around here for the next two weeks!

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July Books

I had a very good reading month in July, which is great because I haven’t read anything since! Yikes!

“The Willows” by Algernon Blackwood

This short story was recommended as one of the scariest stories ever, and as you know, I love a scary book. I found “The Willows” to be really intense and a really great read. There is looming doom through the whole book. Definitely one to read in October if you have a chance. I am going to request this collection again this fall to see if I like any of his other “weird” short stories.

Howard’s End by E.M. Forster

This is supposedly Forster’s “masterpiece” but…I didn’t love this. Maybe it was over-hyped? While I appreciate Forster’s writing and I liked the story, it wasn’t a book that I was eager to pick up every day. I appreciate the social commentary–a modern, bohemian woman married to the conservative older man, and refusing to adapt to his old ideas–but this book just didn’t grab me the way that A Room with a View did. I do wonder if I would like it better after a book club discussion. (Fun fact: most of our book club reviews get better after the discussions!)

Stationery Fever by John Komurki

I borrowed this for the eye candy and ended up reading it. It’s full of pictures of vintage and new stationery, divided by topic. At the end of each chapter, there are a few pages highlighting stationery shops around the world. It was a good overview of the history of the most useful stationery supplies, and delves into classic companies that make them. It left me wanting more…not in a bad way…in a I’ve had a taste, now I want more details kind of way. Also, now I want to travel the world seeing the best stationery shops.

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett 

This was for book group. If you don’t know, Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon and The Thin Man Series which were turned into some of my favorite old movies. In our group, the book got mixed reviews. It is about a detective hired to clean up a town that is out of control with corruption. The characters and alliances are very confusing…I actually made a character map to try to figure things out. As someone in book club said, once you give up trying to figure things out, it’s an enjoyable read. Hammett is a really sharp writer and there were so many quotes that I marked as perfect descriptions or things that made me laugh. I really love Film Noir and this book made me feel like I was reading an old movie. Supposedly The Glass Key is one of his best, so I’ve added that to my list for later this year.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury 

I can’t remember ever reading Bradbury before. This one came up in a discussion as a great summer read and I love a seasonal book so… It was really lovely. I just notice the library stickered it as Science Fiction, but it wasn’t sci-fi at all. It was a coming-of-age story (How many of those have I read this year?) about a boy growing up in a small town in Illinois. Basically, he realizes his mortality this summer and learns to appreciate the moments of life, especially the making of dandelion wine with his grandfather. The wine will be enjoyed over the winter and remind them all of specific happenings on these summer days. Supposedly the book is semi-autobiographical. Dandelion Wine was just a beautiful summer reading experience.

Bright Center of Heaven by William Maxwell

Have I mentioned how much I love William Maxwell? This was his first novel, and it definitely wasn’t as developed as Time Will Darken It or Song of the Lark or The Folded Leaf, but Maxwell already had honed his perfect ways in describing relationships and feelings. The story revolves around artistic guests and the lonely owner of a boarding house in the early 1930s. It takes awhile to get to the “conflict” which is the tension between the black lecturer who was invited to stay at the boarding house and the other guests, but even though the conflict is imperfect, the rest of the story is engaging and beautifully written. (But I may be biased…) I have one more Maxwell to read and then I’ll be finished with his novels…it feels bittersweet. I might save it as a Christmas present to myself.

This Saturday is book club and we’re reading an autobiography…looking forward to finishing my first book for August!

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Mid-Summer Update from Plot 6

 

We had a stretch of very hot and humid days a couple of weeks ago, making gardening a dreadful chore. Thankfully it rained a lot during that time, so the garden was on autopilot for a couple days.The good news is the rain washed off some of our white flies. The bad news is some of our early Black Krims split due to the uneven watering they received during the huge rains. So, no tomatoes yet, sadly.Naoto is really excited about the edamame growth. The edamame has gotten really tall and there are beans on them! I’m excited because I finally have a nasturtium flower among all the leaves. (You can see the orange flower peeking out on the left.) My lavender is still not blooming so I transplanted it last week. I think it was being shaded by my wayward zinnias. (I planted the zinnias in the center of the garden but the seeds moved during the big rains this spring.)

Our dill is huge and I need to look up some recipes to use a bunch of it. We’ve harvested so much parsley and basil already. It’s pesto city around here!

And the chamomile is growing like crazy but I missed harvesting the first bloom so hopefully another will come soon. I want to dry it and use it in a cocktail recipe and maybe some tea (though chamomile tea isn’t my favorite. I am a black tea or bust kind of gal!)

I cut some zinnias from the plantings around the garden. They’re “cut and come again” so hopefully people will help themselves as I did and we will have some continuous blooms around the garden, for ourselves and for the bees and butterflies. Zinnias make me so happy! They’re all so different and colorful and carefree (which is the opposite of how I feel today after dealing with my iPhone and photo storage all day…the good news is, my phone is busy uploading pictures so I have no reason not to finish my last book of the month tonight!)

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Upcoming Summer Art Shows

August is almost here and I am breaking out the tent for some outdoor art shows! I’ll be back at Art Dans La Rue on Tuesday, August 6 from 2-9pm. I’ll be sharing a tent with my friend Alicia from Spotted Kettle Studio and we’re calling ourselves The Mail Truck because we want to buy a mail truck and sell cards on the go…but we need a truck first. (Seriously, if you know anyone with a spare mail truck…)

Last year it poured during Art Dans La Rue so hopefully this year the weather is better. In spite of the rain, it was one of my favorite shows last summer. Beignets and French wine and a poodle parade…what’s not to love? And at the end of the month, I’m returning to Garage Galleries here in Forest Park. Another favorite, we’ll be back in a Forest Park garage with other artists showing (and selling) our work. It’s such a great local event for Forest Park and I just love how casual it is. I haven’t heard where I’ll be placed yet, but I’m looking forward to meeting more new-to-me artists and neighbors in Forest Park.

As always, I update my Upcoming Shows page as I schedule them. I have two in September then I’m done until November unless something changes. I’m always looking for new shows to add to my list so if you know of anything (especially in Chicagoland or the Midwest,) I’d love to hear!

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Man on the Moon Party

On Saturday, we had a little Man on the Moon celebration for the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11. It was a small, last minute affair but I still wanted to set the Party mood with decorations and a theme menu.I made a cheeseball that I left naked so it sort of resembled the moon and I put a little astronaut on top. We had other cheese and crackers and Naoto made cashew chicken, jello, and Karen brought deviled eggs so it was a retro menu. Oreo came out with a “marshmallow moon” version that had space scenes on the cookies. Easy dessert!We served Moonwalk Cocktails, which is the actual drink Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin drank when they returned to Earth. They were refreshing and fun, kind of like a mimosa.

Moonwalk Cocktail

1 oz orange liqueur

1 oz grapefruit juice

3 drops rosewater

top with sparkling wine

Add orange liqueur, grapefruit juice, and rosewater to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into glass and top with sparkling wine. Toast to the moon. In the living room I made star garlands out of shimmery papers and vellum and I made a weird looking moon out of a giant piece of cardstock and glitter. (Truthfully, it needs more glitter.) We watched a moon landing documentary while also listening to NPR’s moon landing playlist. (I added some songs because what is a moon themed playlist without Cat Stevens’ Moonshadow and Pink Floyd’s Eclipse?)Before we were married, Naoto and I threw a moon conspiracy theory party where we all watched a conspiracy documentary about how the moon landing was faked. I think that was our first theme party! So, this was a nice re-visiting of the moon theme…without the wild theories… (Just to be clear, we watched the documentary for fun, not because any of us are conspiracy theorists. Though if you’re into that kind of thing, the documentary we watched is available on Prime! I found it when I was looking for other documentaries to watch this time. It’s called What Happened on the Moon? An Investigation into Apollo and it’s more than three hours long.)I am kicking myself for not taking any pictures once everyone came because I had a little moon and stars skirt on and Brooke wore a retro patriotic outfit and Jessica and Karen came in 1960s dresses, but…we were having a good time.

Did you celebrate the moon landing anniversary? I haven’t bought my moon landing postage stamps yet, but I have been using up some of my vintage space themed stamps.

 

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A Dispatch from the Forest Park Community Garden

Sorry for the radio silence this week. For the past couple of weeks we’ve been preparing the Forest Park Community Garden for the Forest Park Historical Society’s Home & Garden Walk. It’s the first year we’ve been featured on the walk and well, we had a lot of work to do! The garden usually looks fine, but we wanted to get some plantings done and clean some stuff up before we had official garden walk visitors. Some people in Forest Park don’t even know we have a community garden, so we wanted to be on the walk to raise awareness, increase our visibility, and hopefully get some new gardeners and people who want to be involved with the garden. The garden is officially ten years old in 2019 so there’s definitely some areas to refresh and improve, but money and man hours are always our challenge. We’ve been slowly rebuilding older plots and trying to repair things as needed. But July is really a great time to feature the garden because things are growing like crazy and most of our 55 plots are looking good! It was fun to show visitors what people are growing and how each gardener organizes his plot. These pictures were taken on Tuesday while I was doing some chores at the garden, but on Sunday it was sunny and hot. A few of us spent the day at the garden to host the tours and, even though we spent most of the day under a tent, I got a little sunburn. It’s been so hot here, and it’s supposed to be near 100 the rest of the week…thankfully it rained a ton today because the plants were starting to get dry and sad. This little future swallowtail is living in my dill right now. He’s a welcome visitor. So far this summer, we have harvested a ton of basil (pictured at the top) and some dill and parsley. (As always, I’m kicking us for not growing more spring vegetables but it was such a weird spring!) Our tomatoes are battling white flies again, but we have a few on the vine, so hopefully we’ll have a harvest soon. Naoto’s edamame is growing like crazy and our chamomile and carrots are doing just fine. It’s always an adventure in Plot 6 and around the garden!

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2019

Hasegawa Tanabata was a low-key affair this year. We didn’t invite any guests and I didn’t decorate (gasp!) but it was such an amazing summer night for enjoying a light meal on the lanai. And of course Naoto is my favorite “guest” anyway! We had a busy day at the community garden so it all kind of fell together at the last minute, thanks to some Tensuke Market sushi and some easy Japanese recipes. I thought Naoto was going to get a sushi tray, but he really held back at the sushi counter, only bringing home two rolls and six pieces of sushi. (For the record, this is barely enough sushi for HIM!) Thankfully we had other things on the menu…Japanese potato salad and ham & egg salad sandwiches. We were going to make somen, but we ended up feeling full with what we had and some Japanese snacks.I made yuzu cocktails and they were so good, I think we need to share the recipe. We bought this yuzu liqueur at Mitsuwa a few weeks ago and we really like it! It’s good on its own and with soda water and it worked really nicely in the yuzu cocktail, too. The rest of the night, we shared some sparkling wine.It was so unseasonably chilly, we both ended up in jackets but no regrets at all…it was perfect…maybe not blog post perfect, but perfect for us. 🙂

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June Books

 

I squeezed in a short story on June 30th, but I’ll talk about that next month. I had to take my book stack picture early because No Surrender was due and I wanted to be a responsible library patron.

I was pretty pleased with my reading in June. Each book was really different, but let’s not get too crazy! They’re all old!

No Surrender by Constance Maud

This one came highly recommended by Persephone Book fans but I thought it read like a made-for-TV movie about the suffrage movement in England. It was good…but not great. I definitely felt like a learned a ton about what those women went through and what sacrifices were made for the right to vote, but I never really connected with the characters and it sort of slogged midway through. Still, I’m glad I read it, especially since I just happened to be reading it during the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment passing here in the US.

Letters of Arthur George Heath

This one was for book club and is really different than the books we usually read, but it was universally loved by the group. It’s a non-fiction book of one soldier’s letters to home. Arthur George Heath’s family published his letters after he was killed early in World War I. The letters were both ordinary and moving. In some, he asks for mundane details about his family’s new home and he requests a new pipe, books, and pajamas. In others, he’s telling his mother that if he dies, she should still enjoy places that he loved at home and not let them cause her pain because he is gone. He’s also very funny, suggesting that his fellow soldiers shouldn’t start War & Peace because “if one makes ambitious plans like that, one certainly gets killed in the middle.” It was a pretty easy read, and of course I loved that it was letters. A book club member shared this article after our discussion and it was really great for filling in some of the historical gaps about war letter writing.

Time Will Darken It by William Maxwell

This is my third Maxwell book of the year and I absolutely loved this book. It’s a story about a couple, Austin and Martha King, who have visitors staying with them for an extended period of time during a summer. They are Austin’s relatives and his foster cousin, Nora, is in love with him and the other relatives take advantage of Austin’s community connections and make some bad business deals. These two things create the slow downfall of Austin’s relationships, both with his wife and with his small community. (Oh did I mention the story, like most of Maxwell’s books, happens in a small Illinois town?) While there is not a ton of action in most of the book, I just love the way Maxwell is able to explain the human experience. I loved every minute of it.

I think I’m going to try to read the other two Maxwell novels that I haven’t read yet. I just finished my first book for July and haven’t decided what’s next, but I think my plan to read back-to-back E.M. Forster may be a mistake…

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Vintage Postage Mail

Happy Monday! It is gorgeous out today and I’m looking forward to some lanai time this afternoon. We’ve been enjoying cooler temperatures and no humidity all weekend and it just feels so good to open the windows and take a break from the air conditioner. Today I’m sharing some of the mail I’ve been sending out lately. I’ve been using a lot of vintage postage on my letters instead of washi tape and other decorations. It’s been fun piecing together random stamps or theme stamps. I’ve been able to take some time to sift through my collection since I reorganized everything after last month’s stamp show. I don’t think my system is perfect by any means, but it has helped me use up more of my stash, so I guess it’s working for me. Maybe I should share here? It’s also helped that I’m pretty caught up on my mail, so writing a few letters and finding stamps for them isn’t overwhelming me like it might when I have a huge stack of letters to return. And Naoto has been taking my letters to the River Forest Post Office for hand cancellation. He’s made friends with Paul and Vicky who are both amazing and friendly and efficient dreamboats. You don’t have to have your vintage postage hand cancelled, but if you don’t, your stamps are at risk of getting a big black sharpie mark swiped across them…it’s very sad. (I was trying to find an example in my mail but I can’t so I’ll send you here if you’d like to see what I mean.)Sharpie mail makes me so sad, but I get it…time is of the essence at the USPS and they have to cancel the stamps so that people won’t re-use them. To me, it’s worth saving up a few letters to get them hand-cancelled. I have broken into a number of complete sheets and it feels so good! I use a tape runner to attach the stamps. I am a bit of a germphobe so I try not to lick things that have been handled by many people. (Some of the vintage postage comes in plastic protector sleeves, but some comes naked.) Also, I’ve had stamps fall off on the way to their destination so a permanent adhesive ensures all postage survives the trip.  These were some of my favorites–thank you notes to book club friends who I know would appreciate the literary stamps! Fun fact: out of all of those stamps, we have read everything except Emily Dickinson (because we don’t read poetry. Oh, and I guess we didn’t technically read Little House on the Prairie but we read Farmer Boy and The Long Winter so it counts in my book!)

So that’s my mail for the past few weeks. I’ve sent some letters with the new Sesame Street stamps too…they are so cute and I’m just really excited to see Guy Smiley get his due.

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Happy Fourth of July!

It’s Independence Day in the US and I’m off work, but Naoto isn’t. So, I’m celebrating by watching as much of Stranger Things Season 3 as possible while he’s gone. (Naoto doesn’t watch any television with me…it’s really his only flaw.) The weather is all up in the air in Chicagoland today, so we’re deciding between fireworks and live music later tonight.

Either way, Happy 4th to my fellow Americans, and happy Thursday to everyone else!

P.S. Here is some patriotic mail I sent out this week. I love a good postage stamp theme lately!

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