We are continuing the tomato jungle tradition at the house… Everything was fine at first. I was even removing lower branches and leaves and suckers and keeping the plants tidy. But then we got a ton of rain all at once and, well, the tomatoes have minds of their own.
The previous owners built these raised beds along the side yard, which faces south. The picture above is from when we first moved in. I call the side yard the working part of the yard–it’s where the garden is, and we placed our composting bin there, and it’s where the air conditioning unit is. It might look like the area gets much sun, but all three beds get a full day’s worth, even with the fence. The old owners left us a huge garlic crop in the bed on the far right and potatoes in the bed to the far left, so we decided to work around them this season, and hopefully we can come up with a better plan for ourselves next spring.
We sort of focused on the middle plot for all of our usual crops. Our tomato plants are doing well with no signs of whiteflies or blight, which is so exciting since the past few years have been pretty sad for our tomato crops. Our basil and thyme and lima beans are thriving too. And we planted a strawberry plant that seems to doing well, and it’s producing many teeny, tiny fruits.
In the potato bed, we planted edible flowers, cucumbers, edamame, and a brussel sprout. Then tragedy struck. I lost two cucumbers and Naoto lost his entire edamame crop to the rabbits. It was heartbreaking! So, in that bed, we still have our potatoes sprawling around the edible flowers and the brussel. We added a tomato (which isn’t doing well because potatoes and tomatoes don’t grow well together) later in the season just to see what would happen.
The borage is booming with blooms and the nasturtium is looking good, but there are no flowers yet. I’m excited to use them both for cocktail garnishes.
Naoto ended up finding some edamame seedlings at our favorite local garden center and we planted them in a hanging basket and so far, they have remained safe from the bunnies!
In the garlic bed, there is tons of garlic, and plenty of nightmare mint spreading all over. In that bed, we planted some zinnias for cutting and some lettuces that are long done. I dug up a few garlic heads last weekend and I’ll probably dig up the rest soon so we can plant some late-season crops and take advantage of the extra room.
We have two of these arches in our basement (one on each side of an arched doorway) with built-in hooks, so that’s where the garlic is curing for now. I’m so excited to have some space in the basement to start seeds and prep for the gardening season. (Some day I will show you the basement, but not until we finish getting the rest of our boxes unpacked and put away!)
It’s book club weekend so I will be finishing Double Indemnity and enjoying the garden walk so I will see you next week!
I’ve been planning to start a little letter writing club that blends my two favorite hobbies, letter writing and cocktail making, since before the pandemic and…it’s finally time!
On Sunday, July 25th from 2-4PM, I’ll be hanging out in the beer garden at Goldyburgers in Forest Park with a cocktail and my letter writing supplies. Goldyburgers is at 7316 Circle Avenue, which is a short walk from the Harlem Green Line and Oak Park Metra Stations and there’s street parking available, too. As the name implies, they do serve burgers and other food–I highly recommend the cheese balls. Goldyburgers is CASH ONLY, so while it’s free to attend the club, please bring enough cash to cover your drinks, snacks, and tip.
I want to make the club a regular thing, hopefully monthly, but it might take some time to find a good groove, so bear with me as we get this thing started. In the meantime, follow us on Instagram (@divebarletterwriters) or sign up for occasional email updates here.
Naoto has spoiled me the entire pandemic by pouring my Manhattan into a frosty cocktail glass. This spring, as we’ve branched back into other cocktails (mostly involving gin,) we have continued to serve things up in a frosty glass. Most of my vintage cocktail glasses are tucked away until we remodel the kitchen. And they are too delicate for the freezer. So we’ve been using our Libbey workhorses–we have twelve of these, which are perfect for larger parties and for keeping a few in the freezer at all times.
Even when he’s not home and I’m mixing for myself while I water the garden, I’ve been treating myself to a frosty glass. I’ve been on a Jasmine kick since June. Jasmine cocktails are so crisp and tart and slightly bitter…perfectly refreshing on a hot evening. The original recipe calls for Campari, but I prefer the slightly more subtle Cappelletti. Both are delicious, so use what you have.
0.75oz fresh lemon juice
0.25oz Cappelletti (or Campari)
Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a frosty glass (or a coupe if you want to be proper.) Serve as a reward for putting the hose away without swearing.
Hello again! It’s been awhile! I can’t believe we are halfway through 2021! And a lot has happened since my last post on November 24th! The biggest news is–we bought a house! We closed out 2020 (literally, on December 31st) by putting an offer on a house we loved. We closed in February, sold our condo in March, and we moved in March. It was a whirlwind! Pictured above is what our back yard looked like when we closed in February with feet of snow on the ground. Thankfully, by the time we moved in, all of the snow had melted and there were signs on spring in the yard!
The month between closing and moving gave us time to have hardwood floors installed on our second floor (replacing the carpet) and to paint most of the first and second floor. It was nice to have a little cushion. We still want to remodel the kitchen and paint the bathrooms and basement, but all in good time!
And Presley has adjusted like a little champion. We were very nervous since she’s older and deaf, but she is loving sneaking upstairs when she’s had enough of us and having afternoon sun naps (something that wasn’t possible in our condo since we faced east.)
We are still settling in–hanging art is so stressful and figuring out how to use all of our extra storage space is more challenging than I anticipated!–but we’re finding our house groove. Naoto has really embraced mowing the lawn (with our reel lawn mower!) and we have three little garden plots along the side of the house to tend. It was sad giving up our Plot 6 at the community garden but we love just popping out the door to tend to our tomatoes.
That’s the news for today–I hope to come back Thursday and share a little more about the house or the garden. And, now we have a larger lanai (really, a back deck) for happy hours and gatherings which is a total dream come true.
[Insert long explanation of why I haven’t been posting.]
There is really no excuse. Let’s just say “living through a pandemic and all of its uncertainty and chaos” and call it a day.
This week, Naoto and I are gearing up to have Thanksgiving at home with my parents over Zoom. We’ve adjusted our menu, only cooking a turkey breast and we’re going to try to cut our mashed potato and stuffing recipes in half. (I know there are those of you who could argue that you could never have too many mashed potatoes and stuffing but…I get bored easily. Leftovers are fine, once, maybe twice. After that, I’m ready for something different. Like pizza.)
Oh and with the new stay-at-home request here in Illinois, I’ve started up #spritzerswithpritzker again. It’s a little harder this time because, well, pandemic burn-out and I’m working at the office still (and therefore have to “cheat” with canned sparkling beverages during work days.)
I know a lot has happened since August. (Well, maybe not a LOT, but I do have a few things to share!) Hopefully, I’ll make some time to pop in again this week to share our tiny Thanksgiving and some Christmas preparations. I have my first long Thanksgiving weekend in years coming up (no retail job and no craft show this year) and I’m so looking forward to digging out the Christmas bins and doing a little decorating. But first…I need to clean.
In the meantime, I hope you are well and finding some joy in these strange times.
Back in May, we received a huge box of treats from Jaarsma Bakery in Oskaloosa, Iowa. My friend Tremaine grew up nearby and she sent us all of her favorites.
I sadly did not capture everything in pictures, but we enjoyed the cinnamon bread (which was amazing toasted,) the almond poppy seed creme cakes (melt-in-your-mouth delicious, pictured above) and the almond blanket (mmmmmm, pictured below) right away in May and June. It was so fun looking forward to opening new treats while we were still in the throes of staying at home!
The pastries freeze well, so we put a few things in the freezer to enjoy later. The Stroopwaffel (pictured at the top, warming on my mug of tea) were a favorite for sure! I’ve had prepackaged ones before that were fine, but homemade are amazing. The caramel hits the spot with a cup of strong tea!
We still have Apple Rings in the freezer, which I’m saving for September, which (in my opinion) is apple season (followed by pumpkin season, which is in October…not a moment sooner.)
And last night I opened the last mystery package and it was St. Nick cookies! I could have put them back in the freezer for December, but we’re going to eat them now and make another order later this year.
Have you received any food treats in the mail? I love that these were tastes of my friend’s childhood…I have such good food memories from growing up and I always love learning about these tiny hometown gems.
This weekend, I’ll be participating (from a distance!) in the Madison Street Art Stroll here in Forest Park. Because of Covid, Garage Galleries was canceled and the wonderful organizers decided to try this instead. Several local businesses opened their windows to artists who will be displaying their work over the next week. My work is in the window of Local Yoga at 7234 Madison, a yoga studio right down the block from us.
Saturday, Naoto and I will be walking along Madison (wearing our masks!) to see the art and to wave to some friends we haven’t seen all summer. It’s funny how “normal” it feels to make some plans, even though it won’t be normal.
I’ve been working on setting up an online shop for my cards, something that is long overdue… It’s been a slow project listing everything…it’s fun work though! And I’ve made some new cards that I’ll be sharing on Instagram (@adamihasegawa) over the weekend and all next week.
I’ll share my window set-up next week, too. It was fun to put some of my window display skills to work again…though my display is much simpler than some of the concoctions I had to hang at my old job!
For my birthday this year, I really wanted to drive up to Wisconsin to eat at a real supper club. I’ve eaten at a true Wisconsin supper club exactly once, but it is what my dining dreams are made of–many courses of delicious home-cooking without any pretension.
We were just starting to research the best options when the pandemic hit and everything shut down. It was really depressing. I didn’t give up on my supper club dinner–but there was no way I was going to Wisconsin in the middle of a pandemic. Soooo…once the library started opening back up again, I got this book and started planning a menu from home.
I should preface this with a disclaimer: supper club food is not for the weak of heart…there is a lot of cream and fat in many of the dishes. (Though there are a few tasty looking, lighter fish dishes in the book, in case that’s your thing!) So for us, this definitely isn’t a weekly thing, but it was really fun to make everything from scratch and to indulge a little bit–orrrr a lot!
I’m going to share two recipes from our feast in case you want to create a little Wisconsin supper club happy hour at home.
We started out with the Wisconsin classic, brandy old fashioneds. Did you know that 1/3 of Korbel’s brandy is sold in Wisconsin? (I didn’t know until I read the book.) If you like a sweeter cocktail, this might be for you. It was fun to try, but I’ll stick with a regular Old Fashioned. (Or I’ll at least skip the 7-Up and make it with club soda!)
Brandy Old Fashioned (from the Wisconsin Supper Club Cookbook)
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of bitters
2 orange slices
1.5oz brandy (Apparently Korbel is the official brandy of Wisconsin, but we used something from Trader Joe’s!)
lemon lime soda (We used 7-Up.)
Muddle the sugar, bitters, and orange slices in the bottom of a glass until the sugar has dissolved. Add the brandy, soda, and ice. Stir to mix and garnish with an orange wedge and a maraschino cherry.
I’m glad we tried it for the full experience and when we can finally (safely) dine out again, I’m totally going to order one at a real supper club in Wisconsin.
Along with the old fashioneds, we had two appetizers. The first, pictured at the top, was beer cheese from Kavanaugh’s Esquire Club in Madison, Wisconsin. This place has been around since 1947 and it’s a top 5 contender for our supper club road trip.
The beer cheese is so easy to make and I found it perfect on Club crackers (because they’re a classic!)
Beer & Cheese Spread
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar
2 cups shredded swiss cheese (Sargento makes this, but you can also shred your own for better texture.)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
0.5 tsp dry mustard
1 small garlic clove, minced
0.5-0.66 cups beer (We used Heineken.)
Add everything but the beer in a large mixing bowl. Beat in enough beer to make a spreadable cheese…add it slowly because you can always add more but it’s hard to take it away…(says the person who had to add more cheese to soak up the extra beer!) I used my stand mixer and beat everything on high to get it to combine. I don’t think my execution was perfect but man, was it tasty! And easy!
Naoto was in charge of the second appetizer–bacon wrapped water chestnuts. This recipe is from The Packing House in Milwaukee. The Packing House is at the top of my must-see list. They have a famous fish fry that is so popular, they built a drive-thru for it. And they have a piano player who has been performing there for forty years. And apparently their banana cream pie is not to be missed…
The bacon-wrapped water chestnuts were soooo good–I love water chestnuts and they were the perfect vehicle for the crisp bacon and the sweet and salty sauce.
For our salad, I made homemade blue cheese dressing from The House of Embers at the Wisconsin Dells. Named because they smoke ribs over embers of charcoal, The House of Embers has been around since 1959. I love the dark and moody feel of the place! The blue cheese dressing was excellent, but we did skip the recommended bacon on our salads. (Sad!) I chilled our plates in the freezer before adding the lettuce (iceberg!) and tomatoes and we served the dressing at the table. I highly recommend chilling your salad plates! It made everything feel so fresh!
For our entree, we went with the classic, Steak Diane. The recipe is from Joey Gerard’s: A Bartolotta Supper Club. Joey Gerard’s is a newcomer–they’ve only been around since 2012 though they are part of a restaurant group that’s been active since 1993. Friends, this Steak Diane recipe was incredible. I don’t want to oversell it here, but…I finished the whole steak. (That never happens…I usually take the sides much too seriously to bother with the steak!) Honestly, I kind of want Naoto to make it again this weekend. If you don’t know Steak Diane, it’s a classic dish, popular in the 40s and 50s, made with mushrooms and cream and so much more. Back in the day, it was often flambéed tableside. This recipe used a magical mix of butter, shallot, garlic, brandy, white wine, beef stock, dijon, cream, soy sauce, and worcestershire sauce. It was an orchestra of flavor!
For dessert, we did stray from the cookbook. We planned to make the Buck-a-Neer Supper Club‘s peanut butter pie, but we couldn’t justify an entire pie for the two of us! It is a recipe we want to try…maybe someday when we can have people over again!
Instead, we made Smitten Kitchen’s Chocolate Budino. (No regrets!) They’re kind of like really rich chocolate puddings and I’ve been wanting to make them for awhile. A tiny portion is just the right amount to end the meal.
If I had been eating at a restaurant, I may have indulged in a grasshopper.
I can’t wait to share a real supper club dining experience here someday…but in the meantime, I give the Hasegawa Supper Club five stars!
Since August 6 marks the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, I thought this week might be a nice time to talk about our trip to Hiroshima back in 2016. I fell off blogging when we returned and never got around to writing about this trip. (I missed telling you about so many things!) We spent a few days in the city and visited the major World War II sites, including the A-Bomb Dome and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum. Hiroshima had been on our list for a few years before we went, but we put it off because, well, we knew it would be depressing. Naoto visited the city when he was in grade school and we both knew it was going to be a sobering experience. Boy was it ever. But, Hiroshima is so much more than the bomb sites. We found it to be a vibrant city with a lot of beauty tucked among the sober sites of war. I can’t imagine living in a place where most of the world only knows you for something tragic.
It was pouring on the day we decided to visit the Peace Park and Museum…fitting for the mood of the day. The first thing we saw when we got off the streetcar was the A-Bomb Dome, the remains of a building that was near the epicenter of the bomb. Originally, this was the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. The bomb exploded about 1600 feet away from the building, but about 1900 feet overhead. The interior of the building was completely destroyed by fire and everyone inside died instantly, but the walls and the steel dome frame remained after the fires.
When we went, the azaleas were blooming so beautifully and the contradiction between the vibrant, lively color and this battered building that has stood pretty much unchanged* since 1945 was quite jarring. And, while the area was pretty busy with people milling about, around the A-Bomb Dome, it was practically silent. No one spoke above a whisper.
*Japan is working to preserve the site to the exact “state of destruction” after the bombing. It is a challenge because age and weather are causing deterioration of the building and they need to discreetly protect it from earthquakes.
The Aioi Bridge connects the A-Bomb Dome to the Peace Park (pictured above.)
Here is the view of the A-Bomb Dome from the other side.
In the Peace Park, there are special memorials to the many victims of the bombing and the war and a couple museums. Here’s Naoto ringing the peace bell.
This is the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students. The Japanese government “mobilized” students to take part in the war efforts, especially once Japan was facing defeat. Students were “drafted” to work in factories making uniforms and bullets and to work in fields to help with food production. Over 10,000 students were killed by the bombings (atomic and otherwise) during the war.
These huge plaques by the memorial show students working in the field and in a factory contributing to war efforts.
This is the Children’s Peace Monument. Did you ever read Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes? Sadako’s classmates and children all over Japan raised money for this monument in honor of her and all the children who died because of the atomic bomb and its aftermath. That is Sadako at the top, holding a wire crane.
A perfect bronze crane hangs from a bell on the underside of the monument.
Surrounding the monument are booths that house paper cranes and artwork sent by children from all over the world. Folding 1000 paper cranes feels like a hopeful classroom project, doesn’t it?
This is the Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall. This was incredibly somber place, meant to memorialize all of the souls lost that day and to share the personal stories of the victims and the survivors. On the roof (which is ground level, as the memorial in underground) there is a clock that is frozen at 8:15, the time of the bomb. In the Hall of Rememberance, there is a panoramic recreation of Hiroshima, made with 140,000 tiles, the number of people who died in the attack. Audio recordings of stories from survivors brought me to tears here.
This is the main memorial to the victims. The saddle is meant to shelter the victims’ souls in the empty tomb below. On it reads, “please rest in peace, for [we/they] shall not repeat the error.” (The language is left ambiguous so the victims could be memorialized without making the issue political/blaming the US for the bomb or blaming Japan for pushing the war to the brink of destruction.)
The memorial was designed so it frames the Peace Flame and the A-Bomb Dome.
You can see the Peace Flame a bit better here. The flame was lit in 1964 and will be lit until the threat of nuclear war is eliminated.
Lastly, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. Here we saw the history of Hiroshima from before the war and after, as well as the massive destruction caused by the bomb. I didn’t take many pictures inside–just the one below–because it was so somber and there was so much to learn. It was honestly overwhelming. (I haven’t felt so overwhelmed in a museum since I went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in college…) This model was so shocking…to see how far the reach of the bomb was.
I took a picture of Sadako’s cranes, which are preserved in a climate controlled dome inside the Peace Memorial Museum. The cranes are so, so tiny…the largest ones are about the size of a quarter. It’s so hard to imagine a real little girl folding these tiny cranes, knowing she was dying.
My blog post does not do the city and the memorials justice, but I am so thankful to have witnessed it and I wish I had shared it here sooner. President Obama visited Hiroshima the month after we did. He was the first sitting President to visit the city. I understand that the relationship between the United States and Japan regarding the atomic bombs is fraught with challenges, but man, those challenges aren’t going away without a hard look at history and the destruction of war. I remember that there was so much controversy around whether Obama would apologize or not…the risks of offending American veterans, the risks of offending Japan.
Obama’s speech at Hiroshima was, to me, one of his best. (You can read the transcript here on the New York Times site.) I’ll leave you with his words.
That is why we come to this place. We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell. We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.
Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering. But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.
And then a bit later…
That is why we come to Hiroshima. So that we might think of people we love. The first smile from our children in the morning. The gentle touch from a spouse over the kitchen table. The comforting embrace of a parent. We can think of those things and know that those same precious moments took place here, 71 years ago.
Those who died, they are like us. Ordinary people understand this, I think. They do not want more war. They would rather that the wonders of science be focused on improving life and not eliminating it. When the choices made by nations, when the choices made by leaders, reflect this simple wisdom, then the lesson of Hiroshima is done.
The world was forever changed here, but today the children of this city will go through their day in peace. What a precious thing that is. It is worth protecting, and then extending to every child. That is a future we can choose, a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare but as the start of our own moral awakening.
Naoto and I went to the garden on Sunday to fix a broken hose splitter and to check on our tomatoes’ progress. We had a good rain right before we went so it made pulling weeds easy and the temperatures cooled down a lot, which was a nice break from the heat we had been having.
On the north end of our plot, the Bells of Ireland are taking over! I can’t believe how out of control it’s gotten! It’s kind of crowding out the chamomile, but I’m all about the strongest surviving this summer in the garden.
Naoto’s edamame is coming along nicely…there are tons of little pods that need a little bit more time before they are ready to be picked.
On the south side of the plot, our herbs are flourishing and yes, we need to cut some parsley and rosemary. The tomatoes are all a jungle in the middle of the plot (one of these days I will plan this better!) I can’t find any white flies on our tomato plants this year (hurray!) but our tomatoes so far aren’t looking great. We picked four, but they definitely aren’t picturesque. We’ll have to wait and taste them to see…
In other news, NOW is the time to plant some radishes or some kale or something to fill in that bare hole of wasted dirt. I’ll report back soon with what we decide to plant from our seed tin.
Our basil is still going strong…we’ve had quite a few harvests from it so far this summer…just waiting on the tomatoes to catch up…
I told him to smile three times before he yelled, “I am smiling!” #maskproblems