Monthly Archives: July 2013

Saturday on the Balcony

DSC_0124Saturday was the last of a string of perfect summer days–low 80s, no humidity, sunny skies, gentle breeze…

DSC_0127Naoto and I had grand plans for the day, but we ended up lounging around on the balcony enjoying the weather and soaking up the rare gem of a summer day in Chicago. While Naoto caught up on reading the Japanese news (hence the laptop), I watered the plants, caught up on some letter writing and worked on cleaning my thrift store typewriter. It was a nice feeling of lazy productivity. DSC_0115While we were outside, this was happening inside: DSC_0133After lounging all day, it felt good to put on a dress and walk down to Cafe DeLuca for drinks and dinner. They make the best limoncello martini…a perfect drink for summer.IMG_2721Today, when I walked outside and into the thick-as-pea-soup, heavy and hot air, I decided that we made the right choice on how to spend a summer Saturday.

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Summer Manifesto in Progress

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In case you are wondering how my Summer Manifesto progress is coming along…

* embrace the mornings (as in, get up and get something done before noon!) It’s sort of happening…

* tend to the gardens (balcony & community garden plotSo far, so good!! I haven’t killed anything yet! (The latest garden update is here and I will be doing a balcony tour next week!)

* take advantage of our Farmers Market in Forest Park (It’s in an inconvenient location & happens on Friday nights, but I want to support it so it sticks around!) I had to modify this one…the Forest Park Farmers Market was cancelled this year due to lack of participation. I found another market at the Hines VA that I’d like to try next week. 

* travel to Boston Done! Read about it here, here and here

* take my camera out more often and practice Not done. 

* make an anniversary gift DONE! (Read about it here.)

* master three more cocktails (Summer-y ones with in-season ingredients would be awesome!) Two down: the Blue Hawaii and the Vesper, and I have a few more on the horizon!

* host a Hawaii-themed party (We thought we were all partied out, but by mid-summer we’ll be itching for something new to plan!) We might do a mini Hawaiian dinner party with our neighbors.

* paint the bedroom (It’s the last big, nagging thing on my home improvement list!) Not even close to happening. 

* create three pieces of art for our home (I have ideas…it’s the execution I’m lacking…) One idea just turned into a bigger idea, which means more procrastinating. 

* participate fully in 30 Days of Creativity Done! Read about it here

* start working on my zine idea (I’ve had the idea floating around for two years now…it’s time to get started. I have no dreams of selling it, I just want to create it.) July is apparently International Zine Month, so I think this could be my chance! 

And three more from last year…

* find the ice cream truck We’ve found the truck a few times, but haven’t hopped in line. We are, however keeping a nice stash of Bomb Pops (pictured above) and ChocoTacos in our freezer!

* wear sunscreen & sun hats Still working on this one…hats are happening, sunscreen needs to happen!

* document summer & finish my summer minibook I’ve been collecting a ton of stuff & taking loads of pictures…

So far, I’m feeling good about things, but as I know from childhood, once July 4th comes around, summer kicks into high gear and time flashes before our eyes. So, it’s definitely time to check off some of those procrastination items (like painting the bedroom!)

How’s your summer list going?

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Garden Update: It’s the Wild, Wild West!

IMG_2633Naoto and I are the new poster children for Gardening in the Wild. One look at our plot and you can tell we are a) first time gardeners and b) total procrastinators. We’ve known since we planted our watermelon and Japanese cucumbers that we needed to build something for the vines to grow UP (rather than OUT) and we just haven’t done it yet. We hope it’s not too late to build something this weekend.

IMG_2634And, we need to stake our peas (those are in there somewhere between the limas and the Juliet). It’s going to take both of us to figure out where one vegetable ends and the other begins.

IMG_2691To add to the challenge of vining plants everywhere, our Juliet tomato has grown OUT. OF. CONTROL. (That’s its stem pictured up above.) I’m not sure if it’s just a freak-of-nature or if we totally messed up when we were caging it, but the cage is now tilting east and the tomato is reaching all over the garden and spilling into the area beyond our plot. It’s producing loads of tomatoes, so even though it’s taking up more than its “square foot” of real estate, I’m not complaining…I just need it to lay off growing over the limas and into our neighbors’ plots!

IMG_2637In other tomato troubles, yellowing, spotted leaves were starting to spread throughout our plants. After a little bit of research (if you count calling my dad and searching YouTube “research”) we found this video from The Rusted Garden:

Basically, we found that the yellowed leaves are caused by either not enough nitrogen in the soil, over-watering or inconsistent watering (letting things dry out too much and then overcompensating). Most of the gardeners recommend removing all of the diseased leaves and then spraying the leaves with either wettable sulfur or a mix of baking soda and water. On Wednesday night, Naoto and I went through all of our tomato plants and cut off all of the diseased leaves. We didn’t spray anything on the leaves because we were working in full sun (this can burn the leaves). On Saturday, we are going to check things over and spray the leaves at sunset. All of the tomatoes in our community garden are affected by the yellow leaves, so it feels good to know we aren’t alone.

IMG_2689In spite of the leaf issues, all of our plants are bursting with tomatoes! I just can’t wait until one actually changes from green to red! IMG_2687And, our tiny pepper plant finally has some tiny peppers! This poor plant is on the southeast corner of our plot and I’m afraid to admit that it’s getting overshadowed by our overgrown tomatoes. Hang in there, little guy!

So that’s the garden this week. If you have any advice or ideas for taming the crazy, feel free to comment. Just don’t burst my bubble of hope and tell me it’s too late to wrangle up those vining plants!

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Cocktail Perfected: Vesper (-ish) Martini

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The Vesper is another classic cocktail that’s been on my list for some time. Naoto brought home some Lillet on one of his many trips to the liquor store during his surgery recovery (he was drinking vicariously through me) and it’s been sitting on the bar cart just waiting to be opened.

So, when I decided to have our neighbor friends over to watch game six of the Stanley Cup Finals, I decided it was time to try the Vesper.

The original vesper was invented by James Bond in Casino Royale in 1953. It contained gin, Lillet and vodka. But I just couldn’t do it. I couldn’t “water” down my good gin with vodka. So I left it out. I found this suggested variation here and I thought it worked nicely. I tried it with two different gins–North Shore No. 6 and Leopold’s–and for this, we (the neighbor friends & I) enjoyed Leopold’s more.

Vesper(-ish) Martini

2 oz dry gin

3/4 oz Lillet Blanc

Add to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake (or stir) until thoroughly chilled. Pour into a cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon peel. Enjoy while your team wins the Stanley Cup.

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Boston: Part 3

lobster rollOn our last day in Boston we ate seafood! Lauren and Mark took us to Legal Sea Foods right on the water. Naoto had a crab salad and I had my first lobster roll (pictured above). It was huge and delicious, as was the maple smoked salmon bruschetta we all shared. DSC_0070DSC_0072naoto and markAfter lunch, we walked down to the Harpoon Brewery and had a tour. I am not a beer drinker at all, but it was still fun to learn about the process and the history of Harpoon and Naoto enjoyed my portion of the beer tasting (though, they did have cider for me to enjoy!) I only wish we weren’t too full to eat a giant pretzel in the beer hall…those looked so good! (The goggles pictured above on Mark and Naoto were all part of the tour.ruined bruinHarpoon lost a bet with a brewery in Chicago and had to display this tap in their beer hall, Ruined Bruin. As a Chicagoan, it was a fun sight to see (while subtly laughing and not giving away our Chicago origins!)

DSC_0080DSC_0077After lunch and beer we headed back downtown to hunt for Necco treats (pretty much a failed attempt…I got a couple of SkyBars and some Candy Buttons for a small fortune and two different candy shops seemed perplexed about the existence of Necco) and had cocktails in the Prudential Tower (views pictured above). It was a bit hazy, but we were able to see the whole city sprawling beneath us. It was a nice little end to our vacation.

At the airport, while we waited for our (delayed) flight, Naoto and I toasted our first Dunkin Donuts coffees of the weekend. (Why did we wait so long?!) We decided that we definitely want to visit Boston again, but in my mind, it’s one stop on a long New England road trip!

toasting the end

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Boston: Part 2

DSC_0008Day two was by far my favorite in our Boston getaway.

We spent the early afternoon at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. This was on our must-see list from the moment we started planning for Boston. I love JFK and the history of that time in America. We spent a few hours looking through the museum, but we could have spent days inside. I loved seeing the personal effects from Kennedy’s Oval Office desk, letters he wrote, hearing Jackie’s explanations of her White House years, and seeing pictures of the Kennedy clan sailing and summering along the Massachusetts beaches. I know that Presidential libraries give a rosy-colored view of a President’s place in history, but I still love the stories the JFK museum told.

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After the museum, we headed over to Fenway Park for a Red Sox game. (The Green Monster is pictured above.) Fenway is the oldest ballpark in the Major Leagues, and catching a game there has been on my wish list since I was a kid. The Red Sox were playing the Toronto Blue Jays and I think the entire country of Canada came to see the game because the Jays fans were all over the stadium, which made it fun–lots of arguing among fans. (Boston takes their sports verrrrry seriously, which is why Naoto and I didn’t wear any Blackhawks gear on our trip!)

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DSC_0025Naoto was very excited to see a Japanese pitcher come in for the Red Sox. Sadly for the Sox, Tazawa lost the game.

sweet carolineAt Fenway, they do the 7th inning stretch like all of the other ballparks, but in the eighth inning, the whole park sings Sweet Caroline. This was my favorite part (with a close second being the two loud-mouthed “ladies” sitting near us getting admonished by security for their behavior.) DSC_0038

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cocktailsAfter the game, we walked to Basho, a modern sushi restaurant in the neighborhood. We enjoyed a lot of sushi and (as pictured above) a lot of Sapporo and sparkling wine. After dinner, we walked back to Fenway and had a drink at the bar in the outfield and then made the long walk back to Lauren and Mark’s (stopping at a bar along the way). It was a very full day!

 

 

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Boston: Part 1

shoes on freedom trailBoston seems like a lifetime ago. I guess that happens with vacations…you wait so long for them and then they’re gone and you’re left with good memories and the desire for another vacation (one that doesn’t end with the flu, hopefully!)

Naoto and I had a super-early flight on Friday (5:30AM!) so our first day in Boston was LOOOONG! We stayed with Naoto’s college friends, Mark and Lauren. They were gracious hosts and wonderful tour guides! They took us to all of the touristy things we wanted to see and to some amazingly delicious restaurants and bars…We felt lucky to have such adventurous local hosts!

John Hancock Tower Boston

Trinity Church reflection in John Hancock Tower

After a hearty breakfast, we did a ton of walking on our first day. We saw every part of the city on our weekend visit, and I would say most of that happened on Friday. We spent most of the day downtown Boston (pictured above: looking way up at the John Hancock Tower, and the reflection of Trinity Church in the Hancock Tower) and then exploring the sights along the Freedom Trail, a route you can walk along to see many of the historic places in Boston.

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naoto on ducks

We went to the Boston Public Gardens and looked at the gorgeous flowers and the ducks and swans in the pond. (pictured above: George Washington was sporting a Bruins jersey in the Boston Public Garden, in spite of the fact that they lost the Stanley Cup to Chicago, and Naoto having a ride on the ducklings)

paul revere houseNext, we went to the Paul Revere house (pictured above). I love, love, love seeing homes of historic people. These “museums” are usually small and have a handmade quality to the exhibits. I love seeing old kitchens and thinking about how much work it was to make a simple meal each day. I love looking at the simple furnishings and dishes. I love walking up old stairs thinking that Paul Revere walked up those same stairs back in the 1700s. I love reading the little mundane details typed on card stock and listening to the docent’s simple speeches about the house. I wish I had lingered longer.

naoto and paulWe walked along the path to the Old North Church and the Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, checking out little bits of history along the way until we were all walked out and decided to head home and get ready for dinner.

IMG_2561We had dinner at Stella, which is right in Mark and Lauren’s neighborhood. The food was amazing (I had the Braised Short Ribs & I’m dreaming of them now!) and the cocktails were fun. (That’s my Mango Vesper up above.) It was the perfect ending to day one.

I’ll be back tomorrow with Day Two!

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A Return to Normal

IMG_2629This has been the flu that won’t quit. Just when I start thinking I’m all back to normal, I’m not. I tried as much as possible to enjoy the holiday weekend, but also gave myself a break, staying home when I could and resting as much as possible (except for a late night creepy movie marathon on Saturday night!). I’m hoping for a better week ahead. (Disclaimer to quash any feelings of hope: Mom, I am not pregnant.)

I’ll be back this afternoon with my first post about Boston (which feels like a lifetime ago!) It’s a rainy and stormy day here, so I’m looking forward to catching up on all of the life I missed last week!

Under the Weather

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Sorry for the silence around here. On Monday night I came down with the flu…the icky stomach flu. I’m sure I caught it on the plane, in spite of my hand washing vigilance.

Presley was my companion champion and Naoto…well, let’s just say that man deserves a medal. If we ever have kids, they will be lucky to have one parent who can handle illness.

Anyway, I’ll be back tomorrow. Today is for cleaning the house thoroughly, and getting ready for fireworks tonight. It’s Independence Day in the US. Naoto and I are looking forward to gardening this afternoon and hanging out until the big show later.

To all my American friends, Happy 4th of July!

#30DOC Week 4

Thirty Days of Creativity is all wrapped up and I’m happy to say I finished, thanks to a little bit of help from July 1st. Even though I was behind pretty often throughout the month, I am convinced that I would have finished on time if we hadn’t been traveling (And if I hadn’t been so unorganized about getting ready to travel. My original intention was to bring some embroidery supplies to work on during the flight and during down time. I didn’t get my supplies together in time, and as it turns out, there was no down time and flying makes me feel too gross to craft on the plane.) I didn’t achieve my original goals of finishing more art projects for our home and stretching myself artistically. I mainly stuck in my comfort zone (mail art, cocktails…) But, I had fun creating…creating for no reason other than the mere enjoyment of it. Here’s a look at my last projects (including a bonus one!)
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IMG_25906/23 Vesper martinis, 6/24 letter set made with resist embossing & a tie-dye technique, 6/25 galaxy (for a future project), 6/26 artwork celebrating the end of DOMA (a joint project with Naoto who did the calligraphy), 6/27 patriotic mail art (completed on 7/1), 6/28 a perfectly packed bag (my packing skills deserve their own blog post) & a mini summer celebration in an envelope (completed on 7/1), 6/29 another patriotic mail art (completed on 7/1) and 6/30 a stack of Boston postcards!!

That’s everything, and one big thing crossed off of my Summer Manifesto. I’ll be back tomorrow to share more of a manifesto update before I talk about Boston.  It’s such a beautiful day out today and I’m anxious to see how our garden is growing!!

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