Category Archives: adventures at the library

Summer Book Report, Part 2

summer reading, a good man is hard to find, we have always lived in a castle, a country doctor, consequences, convenience store womanI gave myself until the technical start of fall to finish my goal of reading ten books, and I’m going to call it complete. I finished my last book on Tuesday, and one of my choices is technically a short story, but…it’s all good. I’ve been reading up a storm, finishing all of these this month. (Don’t be too impressed…one book was a layover from August and the others are quite short!)

A Country Doctor by Sarah Orne Jewett (1884): This was for book group and it was kind of meh. The writing is really lovely, but many parts were too verbose and I didn’t feel the same connection to the characters that I have in other books. Oh, and it’s another single woman, finding her way in the world, struggling between career and marriage…I’m not complaining. I love those books. This just wasn’t my favorite.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor (1953): It’s a short story that I can’t believe I’ve never read. I can’t tell you anything. Don’t read about it. Just get it and read it. It’s perfection.

Consequences by E.M. Delafield (1919): Another spinster novel…I loooooved this. It took me almost a month to read it and I had to take a break from reading it to read for book club. But, every time I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. It is a tale of a misunderstood child turned single woman who makes many bad choices in life (a life constrained by society’s expectations and restrictions) and has to live with the consequences.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2016): Oh look! It’s a book written this century! Naoto’s sister recommended this book to him a couple years ago and it was the book that got him back into reading. He read the Japanese version and I was a little bummed because it wasn’t available in English when he told me about it. Then, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Work Over Easy, and I was reading this post thinking “huh, this book sounds like that one Naoto read!” and sure enough it was! I immediately ordered it from the library and read it in one day. I loved it so much, but it’s hard to explain why. Weirdly enough, it’s another book about a single woman who has made some “non-traditional” choices. I loved the main character and I loved how the author paints the perfect picture of life in a convenience store. (Sidenote: convenience stores are way better in Japan…perhaps I need to write a new Japan Does It Better post.)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962): I haven’t read enough Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery” is one of my favorite short stories ever. This was the perfect introduction into my spooky October reading. The book was creepy and captivating and funny…and the first paragraph is one of the best ever written:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

For book club next month, we are reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and I just started Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, another Japanese book that I read about in the New York Times review of Convenience Store Woman. Perhaps I’ll be back with a fall review soon! In the meantime, here are some of my favorite book club reads from October!

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Summer Book Report, Part 1

summer book report, summer reading, little women, o pioneers!, the precipice, classic literatureI’m only halfway to my goal of reading ten books for the summer. Of course, I consider September summer still…autumnal equinox isn’t until September 22 after all. I need to buckle down and put my phone down more often and pick up a book from my towering stack of library options. (I’ve also been reading some non-fiction–cookbooks, a book about tomatoes, and a book about cleaning–on and off while I watch TV. I suppose I should consider these in my ten summer books but they’re more for personal and garden improvement. I’ll probably do a separate post about those kinds of books.)

I know I’ve mentioned my book club before, but we only read books written before the 1950s. We’ve made some exceptions, but nothing we’ve read is contemporary by any means. I cannot express how much I love these books, which are sometimes tedious and slow but almost always rewarding. Our discussions are usually really good, even better when we disagree on how good the book is or have different interpretations about a character’s motive or something. Someone in the group always brings up something really profound about the book that no one else thought of. And usually by the end of the meetings, we all like the book more than when we initially finished. When I read things on my own, I find myself popping onto Goodreads to see what other people say about the book, just so I can try to learn more and see things I didn’t see during my reading.

So…a little synopsis of my reading thus far:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868/69): We read this for book group in June and half of us had read it as children and the other half were experiencing it for the first time. I was in the latter group. It didn’t hold the same magic for me that people talk about when you mention Little Women. I found the little vignettes to be tedious and saccharine. I’ve since read some feminist perspectives about the book and Alcott that made me appreciate it more, but…I think I missed my chance to fall in love with Little Women. It probably would have been dreamy in fifth grade.

The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski (1953): Kathy recommended this one to me a long time ago and I finally had to just buy a used copy because no library could get it for me. It reminded me a lot of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which I’ve read too many times to count. Victorian Chaise Longue is terrifying and haunting. A modern woman who has tuberculosis falls asleep on a used chaise lounge and wakes up ninety years earlier (mid-1800s) in the body of another woman who also has tuberculosis. It’s a good feminist read, and sort of sticks around in your head after you’re done.

The Precipice by Elia Wilkinson Peattie (1914): We read this for book group last month and I flagged so many passages. The main character is a Chicago social worker at the turn of the century during the early years of Hull House. All different types of women are portrayed, from feminist progressive women, to women who held traditional roles as wives and mothers to women who were making compromises between the old and the new worlds and career versus family. It felt a little contrived at times…everyone fit into a box, but it was a nice perspective about life for women at that time and it’s always fun to read a Chicago book.

Death Takes Priority by Jean Flowers (2015): I talked about this one last week. If you like light reads and the post office, I recommend this book! (Mom, you would like it!)

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (1913): We just finished this one in book group over the weekend. I just love Willa Cather. (The group read My Antonia before I joined, and we read Song of the Lark a few years ago, which is the opposite order that the books were written as the “Great Plains Trilogy.” We also read Lucy Gayheart, which is one of her later books, and another Chicago book.) Her prose is so lovely, and O Pioneers! was a peaceful read. Nothing happens for the first two-thirds of the book but you don’t mind because she’s painting a beautiful picture and setting up the “action.” (I use that term loosely.) Her story structure is so good…there’s a point in the book where there’s a perfect break, a tiny breath between acts. And her description of winter as a pause between the abundance of fall and the promiscuity of spring was nothing less than life-changing. (Mom, you would love this one, too!)summer book report, summer reading, little women, o pioneers!, the precipice, classic literature, Presley the cat

Next up for me is Consequences by E.M. Delafield. It came as a recommendation as a good post World War I spinster book during a podcast about Lolly Willowes (which probably deserves its own post…it was such a fun read and so different from the other spinster novels of the era! We read it for book club and it was a surprise pick that everyone loved!)

Presley and I would love to hear what’s on your nightstand.

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Mavis Staples at the Library

Mavis Staples, Greg Kot, I'll Take You There, One Book One City, Chicago Public LibraryLast month, Naoto and I went to the Harold Washington Library to see an interview with musical legend Mavis Staples. Greg Kot, one of the hosts of our favorite NPR show, Sound Opinions, wrote a book detailing Mavis’s life and her musical and civil rights history. The book, I’ll Take You There, was the One Book, One Chicago choice for 2017.mavis staples, greg kot, one book, one chicago, I'll Take You There, Harold Washington LibraryI haven’t finished the book yet, but Sound Opinions devoted two episodes to Mavis this year (First episode, second episode) and she’s an incredible storyteller and has lead such a fascinating life. She has been singing professionally since 1950, starting out as a gospel singer with her family, The Staples Singers. Gradually, they branched into blues and pop. Even when Mavis was young, her voice was low and husky. She joked that people used to think she was a “fat old woman” until they saw her on stage, a young girl with a big voice.

Eventually, Mavis embarked on a solo career that’s been going strong since the 60s. Her father was close friends with Martin Luther King Junior and civil rights and social justice themes show up often in her music. When we saw her in concert last fall, she mentioned that she’s been fighting for social justice for sixty-eight years and she’s “not tired yet.” We’re big fans of 1960s protest music here at the Adami-Hasegawa house and Mavis has been a big part of that mix. Kimberly and Greg Kot, one book one chicago, mavis staples, I'll take you there, Harold Washington LibraryGreg Kot stayed after their discussion to sign books, so I had him sign mine. (We lamented the fact that Bob Dylan wouldn’t come on stage and sing with Mavis during their tour, which was a huge disappointment for all of us when we saw them.) I’m looking forward to getting back into the book once I finish my book club book this week. If you love music, history, and the Civil Rights Movement, you can’t go wrong with I’ll Take You There.

Here’s President Obama talking about Mavis at the Kennedy Honors reception in 2016. He gets the last word today.


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Stamp Out Hate 

Stamp Out Hate, resist, #resist, political postcards, Paper Pastries, sakura moonlight gel pens, letter writers allianceDonovan of the Letter Writers Alliance has taken letter writing to another level with her latest project, Stamp Out Hate. Stamp Out Hate is a “project devoted to spreading hope through the mail.” It encourages positivity and kindness by writing letters and postcards. Each month, there is an action item where Donovan shares the story and address of a person or an organization who could use some positive mail vibes. So far, it’s ranged from mosques and women’s groups to individuals who have received hate mail for speaking out. Stamp Out Hate, resist, #resist, political postcards, Paper Pastries, sakura moonlight gel pens, letter writers allianceDonovan has also been hosting mini letter socials for each action. This month I had a chance to go to one at the Read/Write Library in Chicago. There were pens, rubber stamps, stickers, a stack of postcards, and plenty postage. She had the addresses and stories ready to get us started writing. It took about fifteen minutes to write three postcards. It felt good to be a part of something positive. Sometimes writing elected officials brings out anger and stress. Writing people and organizations who are helping make the world a more welcoming place makes my heart a little bit lighter. (Not that I’ll stop writing my elected officials…it’s just not always fun.) If you’re interested, here’s the Action Items for July. Obviously you don’t have to meet Donovan to write a letter. You can write on any postcards or stationery you have at home, or print out some official Stamp Out Hate postcards or stationery. And there’s stickers, stamps, and postcards available to buy in the Letter Writers Alliance shop. But really, I think just writing is the key to Stamp Out Hate. The other stuff is icing on the cake. Spinning J's pie, raspberry lemonade pie, pie and coffeeSpeaking of cake…or pie…if you DO end up going to one of Donovan’s Stamp Out Hate Socials, they are often in her neighborhood which means you will be close to Spinning J’s Cafe & Bakery. I highly suggest you treat yourself to a slice of pie.

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“Emerson on Indigo” for the Forest Park Library

Kimberly Adami-Hasegawa embroidery project, Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, Forest Park Library, 100 ArtistHere is my final project, “Emerson on Indigo,” that I made for the Forest Park Library’s 100 Artists Event. It’s a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote handwritten and hand stitched on hand dyed indigo fabric.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” I know modern libraries are more about being community centers and hosting great programming and computer access, but for me, the “access” (the theme of the show) is in being able to get my hands on older books that are hard to find and that I don’t have the budget (or room on my shelves) to buy. I love how books become a part of you, that you can quote them when you don’t have the words to express your thoughts, and that when my book-loving friends and I get together, almost all of our conversations include the phrase, “It’s like that book we read…”

raw indigo fabric for embroidery project, Forest Park Library, 100 ArtistAt first I was really frustrated that my (normally neat) handwriting didn’t translate nicely in stitches but then I sort of ended up liking the wonky imperfections. I was also hesitant to cut into my indigo fabric. Part of the reason I haven’t done anything with my dyed fabric is that I’ve been too afraid to ruin them. (It’s silly, I know.) I think cutting this piece off was a sacrifice for the greater good. I was really excited that the segment I chose worked out like I had pictured. (You can see the whole fabric above, drying after I soaked off the stabilizer. It was a huge piece of thick cotton that I had done a circular tie-dye pattern.)

The project served as many firsts for me and I was sorely out of practice with embroidery. I had never stitched words before and trust me, smaller is not quicker and easier! I used Sticky Fabri-Solvy for the first time, too. (You can read more about it here.) Using the somewhat sticky stabilizer was tricky at first, but by the end I loved the results and how easily the stabilizer dissolved off of the fabric. It was like magic and I’m so excited to be able to transfer patterns easily to dark fabrics now. And it was my first time mounting an embroidery project. (I used this method.) Kimberly Adami-Hasegawa embroidery project, Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, Forest Park Library, 100 Artist, Bottle Rocket GalleryForest Park Library, 100 artists gallery show, Bottle Rocket Gallery Forest Park Library, 100 artists gallery show, Bottle Rocket GalleryThe art at the gallery show was really amazing. Everyone had a different interpretation of “access” and such different styles. Everything from pens and paper to fabric and wool and keys were used. Some pieces were very sparse, others were detailed and layered, and some were interactive. It was so fun to see each piece and meet some of the other artists. Jackie Lakely project, Forest Park Library, 100 artistsMy friend Jackie had a piece in the show as well, “Windows to the World.” Kimberly Adami-Hasegawa, Karen, Jackie LakelyJames and Kimberly, The Heritage in Forest ParkAfter the show, Karen, James, Naoto, and I went out to dinner at The Heritage in Forest Park. (That’s James and me, toasting above.) It was such a fun night with friends.

P.S. Sending out a special thanks to Mollie whose blog I visit frequently for stitching tips and inspiration. Thank you for walking me through the Sticky Fabri-Solvy stress and sharing so many other tips on Twitter 🙂 I couldn’t have finished it without you!!


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Victory Gardening Series at Lisle Library

Victory Gardening, Lisle Library,  Barb OttolinoLast Monday, my garden-friend, Laura and I went to a gardening workshop at Lisle Library. They are hosting a summer-long series, Gardening for Victory, that will cover aspects of gardening from soil preparation to planting and pest control. The series is led by Master Gardener Barbara Ottolino. Our session was titled Planning for Victory: Site, Sun, Soil, Bed, and Crop Selection. Ottolino shared a lot of tips for making gardening easier (less work, less time) and a little more interesting.

Ottolino is very enthusiastic about gardening and making gardens work for people, both in terms of saving time and maximizing the amount of produce you can harvest from your space. She shared a ton of tips and answered questions from the audience at the end. I left with a lot of takeaways for our garden plot this spring and some ideas for our balcony garden too.

For new gardeners choosing a site for a garden, she recommends drawing a simple map of your land, including your house, trees, fences, etc. Mark where you’d like to place your garden. Over the course of a day, record the sunlight shining on your land. Draw yellow stripes on the map at 9AM, red stripes at noon, and orange stripes at 3PM. Where you have the most overlapping colors is going to be the best place for your vegetable garden. But don’t count out the other places with fewer stripes! You could plant shade tolerant vegetables and flowers in those places. Ottolino recommends using what you have and not feeling stuck having your garden in one plot…spread things out over your property if that’s what you need to do.

Ottolino recommends alternating your plantings of lettuce and carrots in the same row or area. (Lettuce, carrot, lettuce, carrot…) Because of their roots (carrot roots are longer and deeper than lettuce roots) and their tops (carrots have way less going on above the soil than bushy lettuce), neither plant is competing with the other above or below ground. It’s a good way to maximize your produce haul in a smaller garden. She also recommended staggered sowing. Rather than throwing all of your radish seeds in at once, plant a few at a time over a week or more. This way you can enjoy radishes for a longer period of time and don’t have an overload of radishes at once.

Some of her tips seem to be geared for older gardeners. She recommends a specific type of lettuce for its ease of harvesting. (Salanova, because it grows into tiny heads that just need to be plucked out of the ground. You could harvest it from a wheelchair, if necessary.) She recommends a broad fork because it is easy to use, even without a lot of strength, and it loosens the soil instead of turning the soil. That brings me to her biggest tip…

She does not recommend turning or tilling your soil. Loosening, yes. Turning, no. This was groundbreaking news to me because I grew up in a home where every spring my father would go out and till the garden. Naoto and I turn fresh mulch into our garden plot every spring. Ottolino recommends layering your dried leaves and fresh grass clippings on your garden plot in the fall and then just planting in the spring. She says this way, you’re not dragging your compost out to the compost bin and then out to your garden…this is the perfect one step, no fuss solution for someone who might not have the strength to do a lot of hauling. (Not to say she’s against composting…this is just another way of looking at things.) Ottolino successfully gardened at her old home in Missouri in hard clay soil. She did this by making her garden beds with layers of manure, straw, dried leaves, and grass clippings. This method is covered extensively in the book Lasagna Gardening by Patricia Lanza.

In addition to her experience as a Master Gardener, most of Ottolino’s tips and philosophies derive from two specific books:  How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jeavons and The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. I am looking forward to checking out those books at the library soon. In the meantime, I really need to pop down to our garden plot and get started! The mulch just arrived and it’s time to transplant some of my winter sowing seedlings and to plant some beets and radishes! It’s been so cold here this week that it’s hard to imagine summer is just around the corner!

If you’re in Chicagoland and are interested in attending the next program in the Victory Gardening Series, you can sign up here.

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LWA Social at the Forest Park Library

letter writers alliance, LWA social, Forest Park Public LibraryOn Saturday, I attended the LWA Letter Social at my public library (as mentioned in this post.) As usual, I regret not taking more pictures. Kathy and Donovan had an amazing spread of stationery and mail art supplies, an array of rubber stamps and four fantastic typewriters. I used the Tippa pictured above and it typed like a dream! It moved like butter (or buttah!) LWA letter social lettersI wrote a letter and two special thank you notes (which I will be sharing soon!) and had a great chat with all of the other women writing letters. (It was all women, a coincidence I just realized.) A few of us came back to our place and enjoyed Negronis and funny conversation. After everyone left, I wrote some more letters and postcards until dinner. I’m officially staying on top of my to-be-returned pile and it feels great!

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Guess Who’s Coming To Forest Park?

show and mail, letter writing, Letter Writers AllianceOn Saturday (September 13) the Letter Writers Alliance is hosting a letter writing social at the Forest Park Public Library!

I love attending letter socials and LWA events and it’s even better when I can walk to one! The social goes from 1:30-3PM and more details can be found here on the library website.

Since I sent out twenty-five letters earlier this month, I’m not sure I will have anything in my mailbox that needs a response by Saturday, so I plan to write some friends and family just because. Those are the best kinds of letters anyway, right?

To see what to pack for a letter social, go here.

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San Francisco Favorites

San Francisco paper bitsI have quite a stash of paper bits that I picked up along the way in San Francisco. I am hoping to get them all stashed into a mini book with some pictures from the trip soon. (Of course, the fact that I still haven’t finished my book of our trip to Japan hangs over my head as I type this.) Hopefully, I’ll be back before I leave for Japan with a completed mini book…

As a final post about San Francisco and Ex Postal Facto, I thought I’d share a few favorites from my trip. juice at the hotel abri nightclubI stayed at the Hotel Abri near Union Square. Naoto and I chose it blindly because it was super close to the BART and within a short walking distance of two of the three Ex Postal Facto event locations. We got a really good rate, which made me nervous…inexpensive hotels in expensive cities can be scary places. Thankfully, the Abri was fantastic…the staff were all kind and helpful, the room was clean and modern (there was a super-large TV on the wall, perfect for middle-of-the-night viewings of the Olympics!) and they served little juice shots in the lobby every afternoon. When I checked in, they offered me the choice between an interior room or an exterior room. Of course, I wanted the street-side! (I’m no stranger to noise!) It turns out, the nightclub across from the hotel was JUST below my window (pictured above, velvet ropes and all). On Friday night when I got home, I had to laugh at all of the commotion, but it didn’t really bother me…the club music became white noise and I was up watching the Olympics anyway.

chocolates from naotoOn Friday, I came back to the hotel to find a surprise from Naoto. When I used to travel for work, he would send me something on every trip–a fruit basket, chocolate covered strawberries, a fruit bouquet, a cheese plate… It was fun to get a treat again. This time it was Ghiradelli chocolate-themed and it made me smile. streetcarsRiding iconic streetcars was the best way to travel! (Read more about car No. 1073 here.) tradition barWe had drinks at Tradition on Saturday night. They have a large book of handcrafted cocktails organized by style/era (Speakeasy, Dive-Bar, Tiki, New Orleans, pub…) and you can sit and enjoy those drinks in “snugs” to match. I had an Old Fashioned and a Colony and maybe it was just the company I was with, but man, those cocktails were tasty and I really liked this place. (We have a lot of bars in our neighborhood here in Forest Park, but sadly none of them are good craft cocktail bars…sigh.)craftsman and wolvesOn Sunday, Bob, Ana and I had breakfast at Craftsman and Wolves. Pictured above is The Rebel Within, a tasty asiago, sausage and onion muffin with a soft boiled egg baked inside (!!!), chocolate sourdough bread and the best cup of coffee I had all weekend. (I brought some beans home for Naoto…coffee makes the best souvenir.) card catalogI played around with a real life card catalog at the San Francisco Public Library while Ana perused their calligraphy collectionjapan townJapan Town was loads of fun…I think I would have appreciated it more if my trip to Japan weren’t so close. As a matter of fact, I’m super jealous that San Franciscans have such a huge portal to Japan!melissa and a jumbo hot chocolateMy trip ended (well, before that other ending) at La Boulange where I met up with a group of friends from letter writing and xPF. I didn’t eat or drink anything here, but I did covet the giant bowl of hot chocolate that everyone seemed to be enjoying! (Pictured above is Melissa of Craftgasm.)

All of my food and drink stories made Naoto wish he had joined me. I think if Ex Postal Facto become a recurring thing, he won’t be staying home for the next trip!

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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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