Monthly Archives: December 2013

Block Printing at the Library

H block printOn Saturday afternoon, I went to a  block printing class at our library. The class was taught by Liz and Gabe from Hoofprint Workshop in Chicago. They brought their portable press, made from a car jack (!!!) and had small 3×4 inch blocks for each of us to carve. The class was advertised as a holiday card printmaking class, but Liz made it clear we could carve whatever we wanted. I decided, since I cannot draw (and because I have a little bit of PTSD from a previous printmaking class I tried and promptly dropped out of–a story for another time…or a therapist), that I would do a candy cane striped H. I wanted  something with simple lines so I could practice making deep, thick stripes and shallow thin ones and getting comfortable with the tool. I was the first one done cutting my block (most people had more intricate designs) so I inked and printed my block. My first print was okay, but you could barely see the thinnest lines so I worked the rest of the class widening those lines and fussing with the other lines. In the end, the one above was my best impression. It’s more challenging than it looks to get the right amount of ink and the right amount of pressure on the press. Practice, practice, practice!  printing press from car jackThat’s Liz above working the car jack press. I’m obsessed with how genius it is…and Dad, do we have a spare car jack?

I have two linoleum blocks in my craft cupboard and now I have the confidence to tackle them and an idea that involves a little bit more drawing skills than our monogram…wish me luck!

For a better picture of the car jack press and a great article about Hoofprint Workshop, go here. Their workshop is in an old funeral home!!

And, for more Adventures at the Library posts, go here.

Thanks to the Forest Park Public Library for hosting another awesome event and to Liz and Gabe of Hoofprint for sharing their expertise with us!

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Whiskey Chat

Whiskey chat drink mixingOn Saturday night, Naoto and I cashed in our silent auction winnings from the Forest Park Community Garden fundraiser. We hosted a Whiskey Chat and invited friends over to hear Nick speak about the history of whiskey, the different whiskies, the process of making whiskey. While Nick was talking, we enjoyed sampling different whiskeys and eating tasty snacks. Nick's whiskeyWe had everyone bring a bottle of whiskey so we could have a little variety to sample and Nick (a whiskey aficionado) brought his entire collection with him so we could sample a wider variety…isn’t that incredible? (That’s his collection up there on my china cabinet…plus he brought a ton of tiny “airplane bottles” of mainstream whiskeys and weird flavored whiskeys like Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey–ick). Naoto was really excited to see that Nick had a Japanese whisky in his collection. They spent some time comparing his to our bottle…both bottles tasted pretty peaty to me! 
whiskey chat
whiskey chatNick had a powerpoint and handouts so it felt very formal and informative but fun and casual at the same time. It was a small enough group that we were all able to sit around our dining room table. whiskey chat foodIn addition to the obligatory pistachios and cheese array, we made “funeral buns“. I found the recipe on Pinterest and they sounded just decadent enough to go with whiskey…a hearty and buttery bite. We substituted turkey for ham and they were delicious! They will be the next party staple. whiskey chat pimento cheeseOur friend Karen made pimento cheese spread–another future party staple. In our research of things to serve with whiskey, pimento cheese came up…and I’m so glad it did!whiskey chat barIn the kitchen, we had a little “bar” set up with ingredients for Old Fashioneds and Manhattans. I typed up the recipes on little cards so people could help themselves. I think most people ended up drinking the whiskeys straight, but a few of us enjoyed the classic cocktails.

Oh, what a night!

In case you’re interested, here’s a list of the whiskeys we all shared:

Cedar Ridge (my personal favorite bourbon, from Iowa)

Old Overholt (a $15 rye, recommended by Kathy, that has been my Manhattan staple lately)

Breckenridge (a Colorado bourbon)

Eagle Rare (a Kentucky bourbon)

Koval (a Chicago bourbon)

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Japan Does It Better 4: Omiyage

omiyageIn Japan, it is customary to buy gifts for your colleagues, friends and family when you travel. Whether you are going to another city or another country, omiyage is an expected part of travel. Usually, the gift is some sort of specialty from the area you visited (known as meibutsu), either a little souvenir or a snack made in the area. For example, when I used to work for a Japanese company, whenever someone would go to Canada, he or she would come back with little maple syrup candies for the office to share. (Sigh, I miss traveling to Canada…)

Omiyage is a big business in Japan. Everywhere you go, there are beautifully wrapped packages of sweets and snacks. We picked up the snacks shown above purely because they were wrapped so beautifully. (They were delicious, too!) I have to believe that the omiyage expectations keep Japan’s economy going…
Japanese handkerchief
As a foreigner, it is especially fun to pick out omiyage. There are so many fun things to buy in Japan that we don’t have in the states. I bought a lot of washi tapes, stationery and handkerchiefs for friends. (And KitKats…which deserve their own JDIB post for sure.) The best part is, most stores will gift wrap just about anything. I bought a couple of these cutie cat handkerchiefs it Mitsukoshi and the sales clerk brought out an array of colored envelopes and gift stickers for me to choose from. She even pointed out that there is a tiny window in the back of the gift envelope so I could see which handkerchief was packaged inside. That way I could make sure I gave the right gift to the right person. Clever! Mitsukoshi gift wrapI usually enjoy wrapping gifts myself, but I loved that a store would take the time to care for my tiny, inexpensive gift.

Omiyage and gift-wrapping small treasures…another simple reason Japan Does It Better!

(For more JDIB posts, click here.)

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Our Thanksgiving 2013

vintage style thanksgiving tableIt’s not too late to share our Thanksgiving, right?

Naoto and I hosted my parents for Thanksgiving dinner last Thursday afternoon. As usual, we had a grand time with them, cooking, eating, drinking and cleaning up the massive kitchen mess. And as it has been for the past seven years, Naoto did all of the cooking (except the cranberries!) and I did all of the cleaning and decorating. Nourishing Notes apronIn honor of his Thanksgiving duties, I gave Naoto this apron that I bought from Nourishing Notes during Show of Hands. He rocked the apron with his pajamas all day long. (It was a very relaxed holiday.) vintage thanksgiving tableEver since I made the vintage ephemera Thanksgiving invitations, I had visions of incorporating some more ephemera into the table centerpiece. And, since I was using old paper, it only made sense to get vintage colors and vintage dishes into the mix. The wonderful thing was, other than the flowers, I had everything I needed right in my china cabinet and buffet. (It pays to be a dish hoarder sometimes.)vintage thanksgiving tableTaylor Smith Taylor Brocatelle Vintage DishesI was excited to use my vintage Taylor Smith Taylor dishes. My mom and I found a whole set at a thrift store for $10 a few years ago and I bought them with the intent of using them for Thanksgiving. They were perfect for the table this year. (And thanks, Mom, for hand washing them after dinner!) Naoto carving the turkeyNaoto’s turkey was perfect, the stuffing was amazing (in spite of a close call with an almost-forgotten egg) and, along with the cranberries, we enjoyed fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted cauliflower, Hawaiian rolls and a tasty caramel apple cheesecake that my mom made. There is a reason I look forward to this meal every year. (But man, am I ever ready for pizza after the long weekend of leftovers!)thanksgiving dinnerThe chef was glad to have another successful year under his apron belt. chef naotoToday I am (finally) putting away Thanksgiving for another year, and hopefully dipping into the Christmas decorations. We are hosting two small parties the next two weekends, so time to break out the Christmas spirit. It’s one of those years when retailers make you feel like you’re running behind…cheers to enjoying the season!

If you’d like to relive Thanksgiving 2012, go here.

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