Monthly Archives: August 2017

Red/Blue Pencils

caran d'ache and mitsubishi red and blue pencilsOk back to school supplies!

I’ve been using these red and blue editing pencils in my planner this summer. I got the Caran d’Ache from CW pencils last year and I just uncovered the Mitsubishi (similar) in my Japan drawer. (The Japan hoard is vast, guys!) caran d'ache and mitsubishi red and blue pencils, planner checklist, So…I know this is groundbreaking…I use my red/blue pencils to mark my to-do list. (As you can see above, last Thursday was a very productive day.) When I complete a task, I check it off in blue. When I don’t get to something, I draw a red arrow next to the task so I can move it to the next day. I know I could do all of this with a plain lead pencil, but where’s the fun in only having one pencil in your pencil cup?caran d'ache and mitsubishi red and blue pencils, RSVP listI hosted book club this month and I used the red/blue pencil to keep track of RSVPs. Blue checks for yes, red X’s for no. 
caran d'ache and mitsubishi red and blue pencils, color test, Hobonichi techoSo, which pencil is better? Honestly, I just reach into my pencil cup and grab the closest pencil. I’m not using them long enough to truly have a favorite. (Though I do tend to be biased towards all things from Japan!)

The Caran d’Ache is a bit softer, and apparently the lead is water soluble, though I’m not drawing or coloring in my planner, so it doesn’t really matter for my uses. The pencil is a hexagon, which can sometimes be more comfortable than the round Mitsubishi, but again, I’m just checking off to-do lists, so I’m not holding it for very long.

The Mitsubishi is a firmer lead and a round barrel. But the writing feel is similar to the Caran d’Ache. I love the way they both write in my Hobonichi planner, very smooth and easy. Even though the pencils look like the colored lead would be very different, the colors look pretty much the same to me. The Mitsubishi red is a bit more orange and the blue is a tiny bit darker (it says Vermillion and Prussian Blue on the barrel,) but the two pencils are very close in color.

I’d love to hear how you color code your checklists.

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The Eclipse…

Kimberly and Naoto, eclipse 2017, Makanda, IL It’s hard to believe that our whirlwind eclipse trip was over a week ago. The day was hot, exhausting, emotional, stressful, worrying…but in the end, it was so worth it. I didn’t realize how much I needed a break from being at home stressing about politics and world events until Naoto and I were out on the open road driving to see one of the most beautiful sites in the sky.

I should explain that I was the only willing participant in this trip. Naoto was totally not into it. He didn’t want to take off work or make the very long drive. I had to talk him into it. I was prepared to go alone, but I convinced him that it would be a fun adventure. At the moment of full totality, he told me it was worth it.

On Sunday we drove down to my parents house in central Illinois in hopes that we could get a jump start on the Chicago drivers Monday morning. That part of the plan worked like a charm. We left at 3AM and made it down to southern Illinois around 8:30. We didn’t have a solid plan. I just wanted to be in the path of totality. I didn’t care if we were standing on the side of the road. I just wanted to be there.

cars parked to see the eclipse, 2017 path of totality, Makanda, ILBut we made it down to Makanda (rhymes with Miranda,) Illinois, which had been hyped in newspapers as the place to see the eclipse. They were doing the postmarks and had a little town celebration for the eclipse, so we decided to pay the $20 to park our car in a field along the side of the road. (The field is pictured above.)  There really wasn’t another option in Makanda. I had immediate second thoughts, but it ended up working out perfectly for us, so I’m so glad we stayed. Makanda, IL, path of totalityMakanda is a small town of 350ish people. They have a cute post office, a few shops, and…fields. I didn’t get a good picture of the shops, but they all had a hippie vibe to them. Actually, the whole town had a hippie vibe. A lot of the guys walking around reminded me of Willie Nelson. (This may explain the fact that someone came around offering people some marijuana before the eclipse!) Everyone was chill and welcoming. Makanda, IL Makanda, IL One of the shops had a backyard “sculpture garden” that was fun to walk through. We climbed stairs and walked through doorways all in the name of shade. Oh, have I not mentioned it was almost 100 degrees? Kimberly and Naoto, Makanda, IL, eclipse path of totality We packed water and snacks and forgot sunscreen. This is us in the garden around 10:30AM. We were still fresh then. By the time the eclipse started, we were melting. I spent part of the morning writing out postcards, but the heat was making me delirious, so I didn’t get as many done as I’d hoped. We went back to the car a couple of times to turn on the AC and get out of the sun, but we have an old car so I was worried about something overheating before the drive home. We had a little snack, but it was so hot, neither of us felt like eating much.  Makanda, IL, Path of totality, eclipse 2017Finally, it was time for the eclipse to begin! We got out of the car and got our glasses ready and made friends with our field neighbors. There were tons of people from Chicago! We parked next to a family from Naperville.  There were three single guys, one from Downers Grove, one from Pittsburgh!!!, and one from the Champaign area. And there was another couple from Arlington Heights. CW, the guy from Champaign, had the eclipse app so he helped us all stay on track with what to see during the whole experience. We were all stressed about the clouds, which kept blowing through and even covered the sun for a few moments as the moon was crossing over. But thankfully…it all worked out and we had clear skies after that. eclipse watching, path of totality, Makanda, ILeclipse watching, path of totality, Makanda, ILSo sweaty…by the time we reached 70% coverage, all of the men were shirtless. Except Naoto. (Remember, I forgot sunscreen.) eclipse 2017, path of totality, Makanda IL, light changes eclipse 2017, path of totality, Makanda IL, light changes 2It’s so hard to see in my pictures, but the two shots above show the light changing as we went into full totality. The top picture is at the start of the eclipse, and the bottom picture is a few minutes before totality. eclipse 2017, path of totality, Makanda IL, light changes eclipse 2017, path of totality, Makanda IL, light changesThe changes were really subtle at first, but as the moon covered the sun, the darkness became really sharp. Even the street lights came on by the time we reached totality. And, like a gift from the heavens, the temperature dropped!

The guy from Pittsburgh had a playlist and we listened to Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” during totality. It was a party atmosphere as we all high fived and just said, “Can you believe this?” to one another as we looked at the sky. Kimberly, during totality, eclipse 2017Here I am, during totality. You guys…it was magic. I kind of rolled my eyes on the drive down when someone on NPR said a total eclipse was life-changing. But he was right. It was. I didn’t try to get a picture because I knew it would never compete with the real deal. I just tried to focus on soaking it all in. We all had our glasses off for the quick moment the moon completely moved over the sun. (Our eyes are okay, don’t worry!)  The corona was brilliant, blazing white, glowing behind the moon. It sparkled.  And the sky…it was a deep, dark blue, not black like you see in the pictures. The sky was darkest above, and there was some light left around the horizons. The sun and moon felt so close, right above us in the sky. We were able to see Venus and Jupiter, but not Mars and Mercury. It was the shortest two and a half minutes of my life. I know it’s a cheesy cliché but, I just wanted to bask in the moment forever. I know some of the most beautiful things in life are fleeting, but I just wanted to look a little bit longer. I’m so thankful I had the chance to see it, even if it’s just once in my lifetime.

We left soon after totality. Naoto had to work early on Tuesday morning and we were sort of exhausted and anxious for the long drive home. We headed back to my parents’ house (again so we didn’t have to fight traffic all the way back to Chicago.) The trip back to my parents was long and tedious. We hardly hit any traffic on the way down, but going back up was stop and go the whole way. Our GPS sent us on an “alternative path” to “save twenty minutes” but we ended up in these weird country road traffic jams because everyone else was getting the same routes! So basically every time there was a stop sign on a country road, there would be a long line of cars waiting to go through. It took us almost twice as long to make it back and we decided to stay the night and drive home in the morning.

By the time we got home Tuesday morning, we’d driven more than 800 miles in 1.5 days and I had a sunburn all over, even in places my shirt had covered! So Tuesday was all about napping and recovery for me. (Naoto was able to sleep in the car.) In spite of the driving exhaustion, we are both so grateful for the experience.

Heck, I’m already plotting 2024 when the eclipse will come to Makanda again!

P.S. Chicago’s own weatherman, Tom Skilling had such a great reaction to the eclipse…I feel ya, Tom!

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Washi Weekend: Back to School Edition

washi weekend, MT tapes, sparrow notebook, school suppliesI’ve been in 100% neon mode for my mail and my planner this summer. I’ve been using all of my neon washi tapes, pens, pencils, stickers and papers. It’s been fun, but I’m ready for a change, a change to school supplies. Even though I’m not going back to school, I ordered myself a few pencils from CW Pencil Enterprises last week. Those new pencils got me in the mood to refresh my desk space and break out some back-to-school treats from my washi and Japan stationery hoard. I have a “Japan drawer” in my desk that holds a bunch of washi tapes and backup pens. Since we most likely aren’t going to Japan this year, I’ve been dipping into my stash more and more. It’s like having my own little store to visit. washi weekend, MT tapes, sparrow notebook, school suppliesI bought a few limited edition washi tapes during our last trip that fit the back-to-school bill perfectly. The top two are collaborations between mt and two iconic Japanese brands, and the bottom one was a special tape created by bunbougu cafesparrow notebooks, sparrow washi tape, japanese office suppliesThe first tape (similar) comes from the Tsubame Notebooks in Japan. These notebooks are iconic in Japanese schools, kind of like composition notebooks here in the U.S. Except, as usual, Japan Does It Better! The paper is high-quality and works really well with pencils and a variety of pens. (This JetPens video shows it all nicely!) Tsubame Notebooks have been hand-bound since the 1947 and have remained unchanged since then. I just love the graphic sparrow logo. And here’s a little secret: I bought the notebook after I bought the tape. Fueki glue, Japanese glue, washi weekend, MT tapes, school suppliesFueki glue is another popular Japanese school supply. Fueki-kun, the little yellow mascot, is a pot of glue. It’s made from 100% corn starch and is safe for young children. Fueki has been around since 1925 and offers a large line of products, including (grown up) glue sticks, India inks, paper supplies, and even cosmetics. I’m a bit older than the Fueki-kun market, but I thought the little pot was so cute and it was only sixty cents so I bought a few. The little dog makes such a cute tape, don’t you think?

bunbougu cafe, tokyo office supplies, tokyo stationery, washi tape, pencil sharpenerAnd lastly, a little bit about the bunbougu cafe tape. It has drawings of pencil sharpeners, pencils, and pencil marks. Next to the pencil sharpeners, it says, “gari gari” which is the onomatopoeia for “grate grate.” (Things sound different in Japanese–all of their animal noises are different too!)

presley with Fueki nori on her head, things on my catI’m looking forward to some back-to-school mail this week!

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Postmark from the Path of Totality

solar eclipse, postmarks, Makanda, IL, path of totalityOn Monday, Naoto and I made the trip to the southern part of Illinois to be in the “Path of Totality” so we could see the full eclipse. It was incredible! I’ll have a post about the full day soon–I’m just trying to recover from driving over 800 miles and thinking about how fleeting it was…

But today, I’m sharing the special postmark from tiny Makanda, Illinois. This is where we watched the eclipse, alongside locals and hundreds of other people from Chicagoland. post office, Makanda, IL, path of totality, solar eclipse 2017The Makanda post office created a special postmark (seen in the top picture) to commemorate the day. They had a tent outside where they sold the special eclipse stamps and cancelled envelopes and postcards for everyone. There was always a huge line (our viewing spot was across the street so we could see the line ebb and flow throughout the day) and it was hilarious because a lot of people were not postal “nerds” so they didn’t understand how the whole thing worked.

“So, I can just buy one stamp and then they’ll cancel it?”

“How much is a stamp?”

“Can I mail it?”

“I have to bring my own postcard?”

Of course, when they learned it was only forty-nine cents, people were really excited to buy a few for their friends to commemorate the day. And when they saw how neat the eclipse postage stamp is, they were even more excited! It was fun to see the post office getting some well-deserved love. The two postal workers couldn’t have been more delightful, sitting out in the heat and patiently explaining everything to postal novices and then cancelling hundreds of postcards and envelopes for people. Oh and they were giving out Moon Pies! Hammerpress total solar eclipse postcards, solar eclipse 2017I ordered a few of these Total Solar Eclipse postcards from Hammerpress that I brought with me. And I sent some mail themed cards from my stash and these Tiny Post Office cards, which fit in nicely with Makanda. The Tiny Post Office and Hammerpress cards took the ink of the cancellation way better than some of my other, shinier cards, but the post ladies were great about setting them out to dry for a bit before stacking them up.

If you are interested in a special eclipse cancellation, the Letter Writers Alliance shared a list of participating post offices. I didn’t see Makanda on there, but according to this article, they will perform the cancellation for up to thirty days after the event. Send your addressed and stamped postcards or letters to:

Makanda Postmaster

709 Makanda Road

Makanda, IL 62958


I ran out of time to write postcards to everyone on my list, so I may still send a few their way. And I didn’t see any cheesy eclipse t-shirts I liked, so my cancelled postcard is the only souvenir I have. That’s enough for me.

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Gnome-Body Paints Like We Do

naoto and his gnome, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenLast weekend, Naoto and I went to a local Forest Park spot, Creativita, to paint garden gnomes with our Forest Park Community Garden friends. When I was little, I would often go to a little shop in my hometown to paint ceramics. I painted flocks of geese and ducks, spoon rests and teabag holders for my mom. I painted a cow for myself…I still have him on my dresser. So I knew I was excited to paint a garden gnome, but I didn’t think Naoto would be. To my surprise, on Saturday afternoon he told me he was really looking forward to painting. As you can tell from the picture above, he was verrrry serious about his gnome. He was also full of gnome puns. “I don’t gnome-ally do this, but it’s fun.” “Gnome one told me it would be this difficult.”

Our group sat at a table together and we all brought wine and snacks to share. It was so much fun choosing colors, deciding on designs, and laughing at our own painting skills (or -ahem- lack thereof.)
norm the gnome 1, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenNaoto painted “Norm the Gnome” and I painted “Norma the Gnome.” We decided to make them kind of coordinate so they could live in the big pot on our balcony together. norma the gnome 2, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenI went the traditional route, mostly because I love blue and red. I didn’t paint her face because I was afraid to screw it up with too much detail. norm the gnome 2, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenNaoto gave Norm a blueish green outfit and painted his eyes black. finished gnomes, creativita forest park, ceramics painting, forest park community gardenWe went back yesterday to pick up our gnomes. I think they turned out pretty well! I just love Norm’s white beard! And I admit Norm’s black eyes look better than my faceless Norma. In spite of her lack of lips and eyelashes, I think they make a cute pair for our balcony garden.

There are tons of things to paint at Creativita and I’m looking forward to going back and painting again. They have a really cute cat dish that would be perfect for Presley. And maybe I can add to my mom’s ceramic collection. (Just kidding, Mom!)

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