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#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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#30DOC Week 3

This week was another “catch-up” week. It’s like I lost all steam. But the end is near, and it would be silly to quit now! I was tempted to count my new tomato as a “creation” but let’s be honest…it did that without much help from me. Besides, it’s bad enough that I’m counting cocktails!

IMG_2435 IMG_2440 IMG_2445 IMG_2484 IMG_2486 IMG_2488 IMG_2491From the top: 6/16 Letherbee gin & tonics (recommended by Kathy & Chicago-made), 6/17 popsicle themed mail (I stayed up super-late writing letters & had so much fun making these!), 6/18 more mail art, 6/19 birthday card (made at work), 6/20 pun card (made at work…I love a good pun), 6/21 another pun card (I’m not proud of these), 6/22 notecard

If I create something tonight (which I will), I will be all caught up. And, even though we are traveling over the weekend, I’m hoping to remain on track and finish strong.

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#30DOC Week 2

This week was a lot harder to manage because life got in the way…in a good way! We had some unexpected get-togethers with our neighbors last week, which is always a good thing in my book. I used my Sunday afternoon to catch up on a few days, but now I’m back and ready to stay on track this week. I have a few projects planned, so that should help with the “what should I make today?” dilemma. This is what I created during week 2:

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From the top: 6/8 etagmai practice, 6/9 somen, 6/10 handmade business cards, 6/11 sun tea, 6/12 Father’s Day mail art, 6/13 rope plant hanger (using this simple tutorial by Elise) 6/14 glittered bomb pop stationery, 6/15 glittered neon stationery (I’m clearly in a glitter mood! Both glittered stationery projects used the Sakura Quickie Glue Pen from my Little Red Toolbox.)

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#30DOC Week 1

I’ve been working through my 30 Days of Creativity Challenge all week. Like a champ. Of course, it’s only the first week–the real challenge will be keeping up the momentum all month. Here’s what I’ve been working on:

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From the top: 6/1 plant markers, 6/2 handcrafted cocktails, 6/3 two handmade thank yous, 6/4 one handmade envelope and three more pieces of mail art, 6/5 this (free) pattern from Wild Olive (I loved making this! Thanks, Mollie!), 6/6 water colored stationery & envelope (I’m really enjoying playing around with water coloring things lately!) and 6/7 a kitty donut in honor of National Donut Day (from this Wild Olive Donut Shop pattern) I’m a little disappointed in my execution of the kitty pattern…I think I might need to re-do some of the stitches…I don’t feel like my interpretation is fulfilling kitty’s cuteness potential!

I’ve just been winging it each day, but the next two weeks are looking much busier, so I might have to plan out my creative projects to ensure I’m carving out the right amount of time for them. Also, I’m finding myself sticking in my comfort zone and not stretching myself…the whole purpose of this project (for me) is to get a jump start on a few artsy things on my Summer Manifesto…I must try harder!

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(Belated)

Lily of the Valley embroidery pattern from Wild OliveToday I’m making the drive down to shop and have lunch with my parents. I haven’t seen them since they came up to visit with my grandma (and I didn’t have the Mother’s Day gift ready then) so I’m finally delivering the gifts for both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

I worked on this embroidery project over the 30 Days of Creativity in June. The pattern is from Mollie’s blog, Wild Olive, and can be found here. I really loved stitching it–it was a nice mix of back stitching and French knots (I love stitching those knots!) and I finished it in an evening. embroidery backingYesterday, I typed up a little message on blush paper and pasted it on the back of the embroidery hoop. I know there’s a nicer way to do this (where the fabric tucks around the larger hoop and the paper backing goes back into the smaller hoop), but sadly, I cut my fabric just a bit too short to make it all happen. So, I glued the fabric down to the back of the hoops and glued the paper backing on top. It looks fine, but the perfectionist in me is annoyed at the fact that it could be better. But, the important thing is, the front is lovely, the back is fine and the gift is (finally) going to be delivered this afternoon!Mother's Day gift wrapping

Here it is all wrapped up in a flat paper bag with some twine, a Martha Stewart flower sticker (from my huge sticker stash, collected over the years) and with a tiny piece of tape from Oh Hello Friend. Simple.

And, in case you’re curious, for Father’s Day we got my dad a Blackhawks cap and these fancy County Fair Field Notes (the Illinois ones, of course!)

Off to central Illinois for some thrifting and dining!

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Returning to the JC Penney Museum

When you’re back in Hamilton, you cannot miss another opportunity to see the J.C. Penney Museum! My dad and I took Naoto and showed him around. We felt like after our visit four years ago, we were qualified to be J.C. Penney Museum docents.

Of course I pointed out all of the old typewriters… I tried to notice and photograph new things this time… I was especially fond of the old catalogs and the first credit cards! I know it’s better now with saving paper and all, but I really miss looking through catalogs. I always loved looking through them and imagining myself as a grown-up lady. 
I’m so glad we went back. Postcards (which I shared yesterday) were still ten cents each, making them the best deal in town!

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Passport to Adventure

Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listIs it too late to talk about our summer plans? This year for our summer manifesto/bucket list, I made us a little “Passport to Adventure.” I got the idea from this old blog post that has been on my Pinterest board since 2013 or so.) Of course, her passport was for her children, but really, who doesn’t like documenting things with a sticker? Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket list, passport to summer We’ve done a summer bucket list before, but not in the past few years. It really is, for us anyway, the best way to plan the summer and to prioritize all of the possibilities the warm weather brings. (Seriously, in the Midwest, sometimes it feels like I spend 80% of the year stuck inside.) So, I decided making a little book would be a fun way to get back in the game and organize our checklist for the summer. Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listPassport to Adventure Summer Bucket List

Supplies:

Field Notes notebook (or another small notebook with <50 pages)

stickers (I used the tiny daruma stickers pictured above, but any small sticker will do.)

stamp (or you could just draw a square)

vintage DYMO label maker (or you could just write the title or use letter stickers)

date stamp (or you could write the date or not worry about dates at all)

pen Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listI kept it really simple. I wrote a bucket list item on each page and stamped a little rectangle on the bottom for the sticker on completion. Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listIf the task was something I wanted to repeat, I wrote it once and then stamped blank pages with numbered rectangles. Then when we try new recipes, we can write down the name or a brief description of the dish and put the little daruma sticker in the box.Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket list Field Notes Sweet Tooth, Field Notes Colors edition, summer passport, summer manifesto, summer bucket listI’ve already finished two books this summer. I am not ashamed to admit that it was very satisfying to choose a sticker for those boxes. It was like summer reading and Book-It all over again!

Here’s our official summer bucket list:

read 10 books/Read 3 books (K/N)

host 5 Hasegawa Happy Hours

dine on the lanai

road trip

Hasegawa Tanabata

see fireworks

Hole in the Wall

Lost Lake

rooftop cocktails

Proviso fundraiser

send 50 pieces of mail (K)

try 5 new tomato recipes

try 5 new herbal cocktail recipes

run the 8 mile course with the Oak Park Runners Club (N, obviously)

run 5K (K…it’s a stretch goal!)

Quincy Street Distillery

We have a couple of blank pages left, so maybe we’ll add a couple things as we go, but this list feels doable. I’d love to hear what’s on your summer list!

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New Letter Ledger

letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersAhhhh! Paper & Type recently released the latest Letter Ledger and it’s soooo good! I bought it even though I still have a lot of pages left in my old letter ledger. I can’t wait to move to the new one! It comes in four colors, champagne, rose, ochre, and grey. Of course I chose the grey. letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of letters letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersThere are so many details…I love the deeply blind embossed and letterpressed cover. It feels special and luxurious. I was thinking I would paste some of my favorite vintage postage stamps on the cover, but right now I’m appreciating the simplicity of it. letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersThere are so many wonderful letter writing quotes. And there is a place to write down the cost of postage. (I always forget postcard and international rates. Now that I’m using more vintage postage instead of Forever stamps, this comes in handy.) The front cover is also folded over to make a little pocket to store letters or stationery for your next missive. letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersThe set-up is slightly different from version 2.0 and 1.0. The sent/received column is together now and there is one section to write down topics. I really like the tiny, unassigned column on the left. I use it to document whether I sent a letter, a card, a postcard, or a package. (If you use the Letter Ledger, I’d love to hear how you utilize that column.) letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of letters letter ledger, paper & type, letter writing, letter documentation, keep track of lettersAnd the back cover opens up to reveal a place to write down your pen pal’s addresses and birthdays. I don’t currently send birthday cards to all of my pen pals, but it’s something I’m working on. Some months, I’m really on top of holidays and birthdays…other months, I’m so behind. (I haven’t sent my Father’s Day card yet!)letter ledger 2.0, vintage stamps, rifle stationery, coffee, letter writing, Kaweco penI’m still in the middle of my Letter Ledger 2.0, so I can’t use the new version yet. But I’m filling it up fast because lately, I’m SO on top of my mail stack! It’s a very happy feeling to get a reply out within a few days of receiving mail.

Off to finish Little Women for book club tomorrow. Have a good weekend!

P.S. This is not a sponsored post. I just love this little letter writing tool!

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Cherry Almond Angel Cake

cherry almond cakeLast week I had a couple of friends over for “Christmas” lunch. I made an orange pomegranate prosecco cocktail, Ina Garten’s split pea soup, a salad, and this cake. Isn’t it cheerful?

It’s a Cherry Almond Angel Cake and it’s basically a doctored box mix cake. I read about this cake many years ago on a blog I can’t find anymore*. She made the cake based off a Betty Crocker recipe and she made hers in two loaf pans. I wrote down the recipe and all these years later, I finally tried it. It’s so fun. My cherry “glaze” was more of a frosting, but it was really delicious so I’m not complaining.

Cherry Almond Angel Cake

1 box angel food cake mix (Betty Crocker gets my mom’s stamp of approval, so that’s what I used.)

1 1/4 cups cold water

1 1/2 teaspoons almond extract

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries (One tiny 10 ounce jar will be plenty for this recipe, with a few leftovers for a Manhattan or two!)

 

Make sure your oven rack is at the lowest level possible and preheat your oven to 350.

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, water, and almond extract on low for 30 seconds. Raise speed to medium and beat for 1 minute.

Fold in cherries.

Pour into an tube cake pan. DO NOT GREASE YOUR PAN! (Also, do not use a non-stick pan!)

Bake for 37-47 minutes until the top is very dry, cracking, and dark golden brown. If the top is still sticky, the cake is not done.

When done, remove from oven and turn over onto a glass bottle. (If you don’t have a glass bottle on hand–this isn’t 1950–you can set your pan on top of 2-3 cans. The important thing is that the cake cools upside down.) Let the cake cool completely. When the cake is cooled, run a knife along the edges of the pan to remove it.

Cherry Glaze

2 tablespoons butter

2 cups powdered sugar

2 1/2 tablespoons (or more) of maraschino cherry juice

Full disclosure, I broke my hand mixer making this glaze. The hand mixer was pretty old, but also, apparently 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar and 2 tablespoons of juice were more like wall putty than a nice, glossy glaze. I finished the glaze by hand, with a spoon and ended up using 5 tablespoons of juice and still, my glaze was pretty thick. Start with 2 1/2 tablespoons and add as you go, 1/2 tablespoon at a time to be safe. When it’s the right consistency, drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake

Decorate the cake with extra maraschino cherries and beam at your work like a 1950s housewife.

Three things: Wouldn’t this cake be so cute for Valentine’s Day? I’m going to make it again for a Valentine karaoke party we’re going to next month. And, if you aren’t a frosting person, I always think angel food cakes are delicious on their own. Maybe slightly less cute, but delicious still. Lastly, if you’re interested, the box mix has instructions for making your angel food in two loaf pans. One for yourself, and one for a gift.

 

*Maybe you’ve read this blog? The woman lived in Champaign, Illinois. She was married, had a corgi, and she made quilts and doilies to show at fairs. She also had an etsy shop where she sold a pattern for aprons made of pillow cases.

 

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Off The Menu at the Asian American Showcase

Along with Made in Japan, we saw Off the Menu, another movie presented with the Asian American Showcase at the Gene Siskel Film Center a few weekends ago. Off the Menu was only an hour long, but Naoto and I have been talking about it since we left the theater. The film explores Asian Americans’ relationships with food and how their traditional foods have evolved over time in America. There were six stories featured in the movie, and each one brought a different layer to the conversation. After the movie, a panel of Asian American chefs from Chicago discussed their reactions to the movie. It was all so interesting that Naoto and I had a great dinner discussion about Asian American food culture.

The filmmaker, Grace Lee, begins the film telling her own story of growing up in her Korean family in Missouri. She talks about having a basement refrigerator that held the kimchee and other “stinky” traditional Korean foods, hidden away from their “Wonderbread existence” in the Midwest. (I wish I had written down the exact line from the movie because it was brilliant.) This was in the eighties, long before kimchee and other traditional Asian foods became the popular fare they are today. (Have you seen this book on fermented foods? It’s one of many published in recent years.)

With her voice sprinkled throughout, Lee shares the stories of the six people. A few stood out for me:

The first, Glen Gondo, is a Japanese American who is known as the “sushi king of Texas”. His business provides sushi services for the largest grocery chain in Texas. He has a research and development team (headed by two Korean chefs) creating sushi rolls for the American palate (or maybe more specifically the Texan palate?)–sushi with barbecue sauce, sushi with jalepeños, sushi with crumbled Flamin’ Hot Cheetos on top. The film asks the question, “Is this really Japanese sushi if you water it down so much for American tastes?” Lee is sort of taken aback when she sees that alongside the Japanese sushi are spring rolls and pot stickers. Lee points out that those aren’t Japanese. Gondo replies no, but they are best sellers. Lee admits that sometimes she questions eating Korean food made by non-Koreans. Naoto and I exchanged glances during this moment in the movie because we are totally guilty of this! Our favorite Japanese restaurants are owned by Japanese (or Japanese-Americans.) I think this is partly due to the fact that Naoto enjoys speaking to the chefs in his native language, but also that it feels more…authentic? (I should also admit here that I am very much a traditionalist. Sleek, trendy sushi restaurants have never been my scene.)

Next, the Kawelos, who are catching octopi, a traditional food in Hawaii where most of the food is imported. Hi’ile, the daughter, is trying to reconstruct an 800 year old fish pond to keep the tradition of catching fish for her community alive. Hi’ile and her father share that food is “mana“, a native Hawaiian term with an abstract meaning…power, an energy in everything, a life force. Naoto, who grew up in Hawaii, even had a hard time explaining it to me. I sort of took it as food connects people and generations in a way that nothing else can and keeping that tradition of catching fish alive in Hawaii was Hi’ile’s way of connecting Hawaii’s past with its future.

And, in the most touching part of the movie, Lee visits langar at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. This temple was the site of a horrible hate crime in 2012 when a white supremacist stormed in to the temple and killed seven people. It is so amazing to see all of the women in the kitchen at the temple cooking and the men serving a huge meal to people sitting on the floor. Although langar is centered around the food, it really is about the community preparation and sharing of the event. I got a little teary-eyed when they talked about how a neighboring temple came in and prepared langar for them in the days after the shootings. A simple gesture, but I can just imagine how cared for and supported the Oak Creek families felt in that moment.

Food, how we share food, is mana.

P.S. If you read my Made In Japan post, there is an update to Tomi Fujiyama’s story:

The Grand Ole Opry invited Tomi to play! I have to think the movie influenced this decision, right? She is playing on the Opry Stage TONIGHT. The show begins at 7PM and it looks like Tomi will hit the stage during the 8:45PM (Central Time) segment. (Scroll down on this link to listen to the live stream on WSM 650 AM. Naoto and I will be listening!)

 

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