Monthly Archives: February 2014

Calling Card Extras with Ferrara Pan

calling cards with treats, Ferrara PanToday I am on my way to San Francisco to attend Ex Postal Facto!

I mentioned before that I will be seeing many of my pen pals while I’m in SanFrancisco this weekend. I’ve met a few in person before at various letter writing and social events, but most of them, I’ve never met. I’m excited to see them and hang out with them…they already feel like old friends.

For my pen pals, I decided to make bonus calling cards by including boxes of candy. Ferrara Pan makes their famous Lemonheads, Red Hots, Jaw Breakers, Boston Baked Beans and more right here in Forest Park and they have a fantastic little shop where you can buy fresh candy for practically pennies. I decided to buy Lemonheads (the classics) and Red Hots (my favorites, and perfect for Valentine’s Day) and make up some hometown treats for my friends.

I taped the boxes together with some Oh Hello Friend postal-themed masking tape. Then I topped the boxes with a business card and tied everything up with some Airmail Divine Twine to add some more postal pizazz to the package.

They are super simple and not too bulky and once I hand them all out, I’ll have a little pocket of space in my suitcase to fill up with treats from San Francisco!

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Whirlwind of Preparations

workspace wednesday franklin planner and business cardsTomorrow morning, I’m leaving for San Francisco! That means today will be a whirlwind of preparations. I’m happy to report that I finished three loads of laundry before nine this morning, and I think I have enough clothes to cover the next four days. (What is it about packing for trips that makes you realize how dull your wardrobe is?)

Most importantly, my calling cards are made, the treats for my friends are packaged (more on that tomorrow) and my address book is updated for postcard writing…the important stuff, you know…

Today I am packing my bag, packing up my mail supplies (while referring to this post) and I’m working on updating my calendar with information I’ll need while I’m gone.

Oh, and I’m cleaning up the apartment a bit…just in case Naoto and Presley throw a party while I’m gone.

If you will be at Ex Postal Facto, let me know so I can look for you during the events!

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Japan Does It Better 8: Kit Kats

matcha and sakura kit catsYes, Kit Kats are totally an American treat…but man, are they ever better in Japan! On my first trip to Japan, I was browsing some tourist shops in Kyoto and I came across Matcha (green tea) KitKats. I was very intrigued, so I brought some home to try and to give to friends. When I tasted one for the first time, I realized that it was going to by verrrry difficult to part with those tasty green treats! They were so good–sweet, and crispy with just the right amount of green tea punch–and I didn’t know when I’d be back to Japan, so I didn’t want to give them to anyone! I ended up being super strict about giving them away.

Is she Matcha KitKat worthy?

Nope.

Guess I’ll eat it myself.

Sakura Matcha KitKatWhen we traveled to Japan together for the first time in 2011, Naoto and I found Sakura (cherry blossom) Matcha KitKats. They were just as fabulous as the matcha ones–a little bit sweeter with hint of flowery taste complementing the green tea. YUM!matcha kit kat packagingI love the fact that they are made for gift giving. There is a place in the back for you to write a message for your recipient–the perfect omiyage! Inside each box, there are three small, individually wrapped KitKat pairs.

Now when Naoto and I go, we buy several boxes to bring home so I don’t have to get all hoard-y with them. I actually mailed out a bunch to my pen pals and I think they were a welcomed sight in mailboxes all across the country. Even with giving a ton away, I have five (ahem, now four) bars left in my pantry for an I-miss-Japan kind of day. (Yesterday was one of those days…while drafting this post, I had to take a break to eat a Sakura KitKat.)

pumpkin puree kit kat barWhen we were there in September, we picked up some Pumpkin Pudding Halloween KitKats. They were…interesting…not my favorite.

It seems that we have a lot more taste testing to do with Japanese KitKats. I found this article that reviews a “care package” of crazy flavored Japanese KitKats. Who knew there were so many more? I’ve rarely seen the matcha or sakura flavored KitKats in regular grocery stores in Japan (just at the airport and tourist shops), so I ‘m going to have to do a bit of research and hunting when we go back this year.

Matcha & Sakura KitKats…yet another reason Japan Does It Better!

P.S. For the rest of the JDIB posts, go here!

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Mini Olympics Party

international flag bannerOn Friday night, I hosted a mini party for the Olympics Opening Ceremony. Even though it was a small party, I felt compelled to decorate just a little bit. (I find the decorations distract guests from my messy desk.) I searched Pinterest for some ideas and found this fun flag print-out.Presley and the USA flag I trimmed out the flags of participating countries (they all weren’t represented, sadly) and pasted them around some baker’s twine. (Presley helped. She’s on Team USA.)olympics decorations I made two separate garlands and hung them up over the TV–front and center with the Olympic action–and right next to the official Adami Hasegawa Medal Count board. Naoto and I have a medal count competition–USA v Japan. Olympics appetizersFor snacks, I made these cheese crackers and these salami crisps. The cheese crackers were delicious and couldn’t have been simpler. I made the dough early in the afternoon, rolled it into the log and kept it in the fridge. Then, right before the guests came, I sliced the crackers and  popped them in the oven. My house smelled delicious and the crackers were amazing right out of the oven.

The sausage crisps were easy too. I used thinly sliced Trader Joe’s Chianti sausage and instead of Giada’s recommended basil, I used dill for topping…I love dill, and I felt like it was more “Russian”.

It was a fun way to welcome back the games and to gear up for two weeks of snow and ice (both on TV and outside…I don’t think our snow is going to melt until April.)

P.S. I really wanted to make these Olympic torch snacks.

P.P.S. For another Olympic party, go here.

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Letter Month, Round-Up 2

letter month day 3 letter month day 4 letter month day 5 letter month day 6 letter month day 7 letter month day 8Welcome to the second installment of Letter Month mailings (Monday-Saturday). Even though I’ve sent out a total of fifteen pieces, I’m a little behind on sending out all of my Valentines. I’m hoping to get them all finished today  so they have a chance of getting to their destinations before the fourteenth. presley on top of the mailAnd because a Letter Month post wouldn’t be complete without an appearance from Presley, here she is crushing some Valentines. Between Naoto spilling coffee on my cards and Presley crushing them, working at the dining room table has turned out to be a big mistake. Apologies in advance to Cath and Melissa for the kitty imprints on your letters.

How’s Letter Month going in your mailbox?

To see last week’s round-up, go here.

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Japan Does It Better 7: No Shoes

minnetonka moccasins, no shoes in the houseWhen we first moved into our apartment, we had new hardwood floors installed and I decided we would officially become a “no shoes” household. Naoto and I were both accustomed to taking our shoes off at the door, but in our old apartment, with its worn hardwoods, we didn’t really think about asking our guests to take off theirs. But the hardwoods in our new apartment were the most expensive upgrade to our home and I wanted to take good care of them. Wet shoes, snowy, salty shoes, un-maintained high heels, rocks…they were all the enemy (not to mention dog doo, spit, food, dirt and other unmentionables from the outside world).

But my mom pointed out that as a good hostess, you want people to feel comfortable in your home. For some people, that means keeping their shoes on. I know deep down that my mom is right, and I do want to be a good hostess, but it’s hard–especially with the snowy, slushy weather we’ve been having–to not cry when I think about muddy boots traipsing across my floors and rugs.

This is where Japan Does It Better…

In Japan, there is no question whether or not you should remove your shoes. Everyone removes their shoes. You walk into a tiny vestibule, take off your shoes and step into the rest of the home. Outdoor shoes never step up into the rest of the home. And most people have an array of house shoes that you can wear if you choose.

The aversion to outdoor shoes being worn indoors goes beyond homes in Japan. In some restaurants and shrines, you are asked to remove your shoes. Oftentimes at izakayas there are lockers where you place your outdoor shoes to keep them safe while you eat. (It can be hard to keep track of your locker key when you drink too much!) Some places have communal slippers you wear while inside, other places you just wear your socks. I often wonder how the communal slipper thing would be accepted in the US…I am pretty germ-phobic, but I never thought twice about putting on communal slippers in Japan. (Everything just seems very sanitary there.) And luckily, I’ve always had cute, hole-free socks in my suitcase during my trips to Japan!

What do you think? Shoes, no shoes? Would you think it was weird to take your shoes off in a restaurant?

No shoes indoors…just another way Japan Does It Better!

For more JDIB posts, go here.

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Scenes from Hasegawa Happy Hours-January Edition

margaritas and chipsHasegawa Happy Hour has been in full swing around here. Every week (usually on Thursday nights), I’ve been trying a little snack recipe and mixing up a cocktail for Naoto and me (and usually friends, too). I am loving this new tradition because it’s pushed me out of my comfort zone and into making some fun things, like bread and biscuits.

For the first HHH, I whipped up classic margaritas and carefully opened some Whole Foods chips and salsa. We made Martha Stewart tacos, too. Simple and perfect for the two of us. naoto and his cardiganThe next week, Karen joined us for Last Words and homemade Avanti’s gondolas. This Hasegawa Happy Hour has set the standard for all others…
limoncello martinis
tomato cobblerNaoto received homemade limoncello for his birthday, so I decided to use it for martinis for our next Happy Hour. Our neighbor friends joined us for drinks and my first attempt at making biscuits. I found Joy the Baker’s Tomato Cobbler with Blue Cheese Biscuits and decided to give it a try. There were some things about the recipe I loved (the caramelized onions and the blue cheese biscuits) and some things that I would change on my next attempt (blazing hot whole cherry tomatoes exploding in my mouth were not fun). duck fatAnd finally, last Thursday…I taught a workshop that evening and didn’t plan ahead for cocktails. And since Naoto and Brett did not carry the Hasegawa Happy Hour torch, we went out to a neighborhood bar for drinks and dinner…well worth it!

We already have fun plans tonight for HHH, and next week I’ll be in San Francisco, so February is shaping up to be another good cocktail month. Although, Naoto gave up drinking in February, so I’ll have to come up with a few fun mocktails for him!

My plan is to compile our pictures and maybe even some favorite recipes into a little mini-book at the end of the year. I love a good paper project, you know…

Cheers!

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Calling Cards for ExPostalFacto

Postal Themed Calling CardsNext week I’m heading to San Francisco for Ex Postal Facto, a mail art show and conference. I am super-excited about the trip, mainly because I get to meet–in person–many of the ladies I’ve been corresponding with through the mail.

I decided, since I will be meeting new people, too, that I needed some simple calling cards. I was going to order some from MOO (I’ve used them before–they’re great!) but I’m a huge fan of creative and complicated calling cards (I have a Pinterest board dedicated to them!), so I decided I should raise the bar and try something fun.

I bought some plain business cards from Paper Source and played around with a few ideas. My original plan was to type directly on the cards, but I had mixed results due to the tiny card not staying securely in the typewriter. I was disappointed to have to resort to labels, but then I had the idea to turn the calling card into a mini “envelope”. Anne sent me a big bag of used flag postage with my Christmas card so I decided to put them to good use on the calling cards. (Thanks, Anne!) And, since an envelope isn’t an envelope without a little washi tape, I added a strip of skinny airmail washi at the top.

As far as the labels, I used my Royal Safari typewriter to type out the information, toggling between red and black ink (just for fun…or to complicate things.) After going back and forth about it, I decided not to include my address on the cards. It feels weird not to include it, since it is a mail conference, but it’s better to be safe than to have some stalker climbing on your balcony, right? Instead, I included my name, web address, Twitter & Instagram handle and phone number (the blurred part).

So far, assembly is slow, but I have a week–I can do this!

Have you seen any interesting calling cards lately?

 

Cocktail Perfected: Lychee Valentine

Lychee liqueur and proseccoWhen we decided to host Peggy and Ken for our first dinner party, I went to work thinking up a fun cocktail to serve. I wanted to make something with the lychee liqueur but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to serve the CAP Cocktail again. So I decided it might be fun to try lychee and cava. Peggy loved it, and so did I. Actually, there’s a plan to whip some up again on Friday night..anyone game?

I named the cocktail the Lychee Valentine because lychees are supposedly one of the world’s most romantic fruits. Apparently they were used by an emperor in ancient China to woo his concubine…if that doesn’t scream romance, what does?

lychee cava cocktailThe best part of the cocktail is that when you put the lychee fruit at the bottom of the glass, it collects the cava bubbles a bit and they sort of explode out of it. Super festive…

Lychee Valentine

1-2 Tablespoons Lychee Liqueur (Soho is our favorite.)

Cava (We love Albero Cava from Trader Joe’s for sparkling cocktails, but you can use any sparkling wine you like.)

canned lychee fruit (found at Asian grocery stores, like Mitsuwa in Chicago)

In a champagne flute, drop in one lychee fruit. Add 1-2 tablespoons lychee liqueur (depending on how sweet you like your cocktail). Fill the rest of the glass with cava.

Enjoy on a cold, snowy night with friends or a romantic evening with your Valentine.

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Letter Month, Round-Up 1

letter month day 1letter month, day 2Letter Month started up Saturday–are you playing along?

I mentioned last week that I wanted to share each week’s mailings here every Sunday. (And I got sidetracked with a Law & Order marathon and the Super Bowl, so I’m already behind! Monday it is.) I sent out my first Valentines this weekend (shown up above, with sweet Presley). The rest should be heading on their way this week, thanks to a Valentine-themed crafternoon last Friday. I feel like I’m off to a prepared start for Letter Month…of course, that’s easy to say this early in the game!letter month stampOne thing I am trying to do this year is to use the Letter Month Participant stamps on each of my letters. I was pretty faithful about using them in 2012, but last year I kept forgetting. I printed out two sheets on regular paper and numbered them by hand. Then I cut them out each day (with my little Fiskars Stamp Scissors) and paste one onto each letter. The stamps usually end up on the back of the envelope (because sometimes it just doesn’t go with my mail art theme!) I’m hoping to remember to put one on each piece of mail I send out.

That’s all from the outgoing mailbox this weekend. How’s your Letter Month going so far?

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