Category Archives: some stuff about me

Letters & Libations

letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthday, birthday cake, kays bakeryFor my birthday this year, Naoto threw me a Letters & Libations party, complete with a theme cocktail, letter writing, and lots of friends. It was so fun and a perfect beginning to a new decade. My only regret is that we didn’t get more good pictures… letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthday So, about the cake…we got it at our local bakery, Kay’s. When Naoto ordered it, he asked if they could do red and blue (airmail colors!) and draw an envelope on the cake. Simple, right? I mean, and envelope is a rectangle with a triangle inside. (Even I can draw an envelope and I’m terrible at drawing!) They said they couldn’t do an envelope but they could do a pencil and a notebook so he figured close enough…well…that’s what we got. Funny, right? It still tasted delicious. Birthday cakes are my favorite…nothing fancy, just white cake with buttercream frosting.

letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthday letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayWhen Naoto sent out the invitations, a few people wondered what a letter writing party was. I was feeling a little nervous about making my non-letter-writing friends write letters, but it all worked out in the end and almost everyone wrote a letter! I even had some Mr. Rogers stamps on hand for people to use and Naoto had some special stationery made for me. (I’ll share that soon!) I was so happy to see tables of friends writing letters and drinking cocktails at my dining room table. It was really the best birthday gift ever. (Confession: I didn’t write a letter!) letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayWe ate Freddy’s meatballs (pretty much a party standard around here) and Lou Malnati’s pizza and salad, cheeses, chips and salsa, and Karen made her famous pimento. letters and libations birthday party, letter writing party, birthday, kimberly's birthdayNaoto turned my desk into a bar and mixed up a signature cocktail for us…I’ll share that soon, too.

My heart is full, and I’m well-stocked for National Letter Writing Month.

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Story Corps

Story Corps, Story Corps Chicago, Chicago Cultural Center

Last month, Naoto and I did a Story Corps interview! Do you know Story Corps? If you listen to NPR, you’ve probably heard some of the many Story Corps gems from everyday people all across the US. Their mission (according to their website) is “to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.” They have a few booths throughout the States and also a booth that travels. There is one in the Chicago Cultural Center and my book club friend’s daughter, Lauren, just got a job there so we signed up to be part of her training. Story Corps, Story Corps Chicago, Chicago Cultural CenterSo on a rainy Thursday afternoon, we went to the Story Corp booth and chatted about Naoto’s experience coming to America, his eventual journey to Chicago, and how we met. (Forty-five minutes–the time they allot to each conversation–is a really long time to talk! Story Corps edits things down to the best parts for a short radio and podcast snippets.) The room is very small, and dark (as you can see from our picture,) and intimate. To chat, you sit across from your partner and you both have giant microphones to speak into. The Story Corp facilitator sits in with you to do the sound check and to help keep the conversation going if you get stuck. We got stuck quite a few times because Naoto didn’t remember a lot about his first days in America and I wasn’t prepared to ask more questions, so it was nice to have Lauren guide us back on track. I thought it would be weird having someone sit in with us, but it ended up being fine. We didn’t know Lauren before we met her in the booth, so maybe that helped?

We haven’t listened to our recording yet (it takes 3-8 weeks to get it back) but I’m sure it will be fun to listen to in the future. (We are not exciting or profound enough to make it on the podcast or the radio, I’m certain!)

Here’s a link to some of the most recent stories. This one was a particular tear jerker for me. And on the Podcast, there’s a great conversation with Officer Clemmons from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Do you have a favorite Story Corp story? I’ve been listening to the podcast, but often miss them on the radio, so I’d love to hear what I’ve missed.

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11 Years

Naoto and Kimberly wedding dance, 06/02/06, 11th anniversaryToday is our 11th anniversary. I was looking through our wedding album to find another picture to share with you (I feel like I have shared so many over the years!) and this one made me smile. Our first dance was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Israel “IZ” Kamakawiwo’ole. Naoto made me laugh the whole time. Eleven years later, he’s still making me laugh.

xo.

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A Hanami Party

Kimberly's hanami picnic, the guests, sakura, cherry blossomLast weekend, Naoto and I threw a hanami theme party. Hanami is Japanese word for “flower viewing” and it refers to the picnics under the sakura (cherry blossom) trees in Japan every spring. I’ve never experienced one in real life. Sadly it was raining on the best day to see the sakura on our last spring trip to Japan. But I love looking at pictures of them and dreaming of breathing in the fresh air while eating and drinking Japanese fare. So a hanami party has been on my wishlist* for awhile, so Naoto and I decided to throw one for my birthday which just happens to be during cherry blossom season! We couldn’t have a sakura viewing without the tree, so I made one. Well, a branch of one. Conveniently, there was a tornado in my hometown last month. (It ran two blocks north of my parents’ house and they watched it from their porch! Please leave your scoldings for them in the comments section.) Thankfully everyone was okay. My dad brought me a selection of branches and I picked the best one and turned it into a flowering cherry branch. I used this tutorial and spent a couple nights folding and tying blossoms. It was a pretty easy craft. I added some lights and suspended the branch from the ceiling, kind of low so it would add to the ambiance of the picnic, and I hung some colorful paper lanterns behind it. Amazingly, Presley looked but didn’t touch the branch. And yes, I did make my friends sit on the floor for the picnic. I wanted it to be as picnic as we could get! Kimberly's hanami picnic, paper cup toast, sakura, cherry blossomKimberly's hanami picnic, sake toast, sakura, cherry blossomI didn’t want to have to shake up cocktails all night, so we drank lots of sparkling wine and sake out of cute paper cups. (I brought a tube of 100 paper cups home from Japan last year. They were sort of the inspiration for the picnic.) Kimberly's hanami picnic in progress, sakura, cherry blossomNaoto has been wanting to order a sushi tray from the Japanese market forever so we figured this was the perfect occasion! Isn’t it gorgeous? And we made two kinds of Japanese picnic sandwiches, egg salad with bacon & coleslaw and crab & cucumber. He also made a watercress salad with fresh tuna and wasabi dressing. (I want to share those recipes soon!) And we rounded out the menu with some cheese and crackers and fresh fruit. Oh, and birthday cake!! birthday cake, kay's bakery, forest parkKimberly's hanami picnic, sake toast, sakura, cherry blossomI recently added a couple of haori to my wardrobe. Haori are short kimono-like jackets. They’ve become the kaftan of my 2017.  I haven’t been brave enough to venture in public wearing one, but I’ve worn them to a couple of parties now. My spring one, with pink and blue and grey blossoms, was very on theme for the party. Kimberly's hanami picnic, Presley in hiding, sakura, cherry blossomKimberly's hanami picnic, Naoto and Presley, sakura, cherry blossomIt was such a fun night–as it always is with my friends  and Naoto. I’m sad to miss sakura season in real life this year, but hopeful for a trip in the fall to experience a whole new season in Japan!

 

 

*I have a running list of theme parties I want to host…I wish I was a millionaire with a huge yard so I could throw each and every one!

Petite Boutique 2016

craft show table, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016Ahhh…we survived our first craft show!

Petite Boutique was last weekend and I think for the first show, we did pretty well! People were generally really nice about my cards and I loved talking to everyone about old postage stamps and typewriters! I felt “in my element” for the first time in quite awhile. I loved telling people about the first USPS Christmas stamp and listening to customer’s stories about learning to type on a typewriter. (I, too, learned to type on a typewriter.)craft show table 2, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016All of the artists showing at Petite Boutique were spread throughout the home. Shoppers went from room to room looking at each little “shop.” We lucked out and got the sunroom, which ended up being really beautiful, both on Friday night and sunny Saturday. The windows look out on Mills Park and some great fall leaf and people watching. artist statement, craft show table, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016I had such a good time planning my merchandising. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but I think it’s a good start for future shows. I made a simple banner out of airmail envelopes and twine and added my name with some chipboard stickers that I found at Michaels. I pinned the banner on my (very wrinkly) tablecloth. The banner held up well, though sometimes it got disturbed by shoppers. Ideally, it would be hanging high behind me so shoppers could see it, even if my booth was busy.

I displayed my “artist statement” on one of my typewriters. (I didn’t actually type it on the typewriter because I thought the type might be too small.) Only a few people read it, but it was nice to have out there so people could learn a little bit about how my cards are made. holiday card display, craft show table 2, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016I displayed all of my holiday cards (boxes and singles) in old wooden boxes from my dad’s basement. I liked that they gave some height to the display. greeting card display, craft show table 2, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016Single non-holiday cards were all in another wooden box in the center of the table. I don’t really have enough card categories to require dividers. But if I keep doing craft shows, I’ll probably invest in a tabletop spinner or try to think of a better way to display these. Customers didn’t seem to mind sifting through them, but for a busier show, I think better visibility would make it easier.  stickers and stationery sets, craft show table 2, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016I had two options each of letter sets and sticker sets. And I offered the Japanese New Year cards like the ones I sent out for 2016. I made a sample so people could see that they could add a creative touch to the cards, or just write a new year message. The letter sets did not sell at all, but the stickers and postcards were pretty popular. framed quotes with postage stamps, craft show table, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016I also had a small display of framed and unframed quotes adorned with postage stamps. These sold really well, so I’m looking forward to adding some more to my shop soon. one whale, craft show table, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016And last but not least, I had a wooden whale holding white and silver gel pens for sale. I sold a few cards with dark envelopes, so it was a good way to give people an easy option for addressing those envelopes. shoppers at Kimberly AH, craft show table, Petite Boutique, Pleasant Home Oak Park, 2016Naoto was an amazing help! He learned the details about my cards (he loved telling people about the unique encyclopedia page envelope liners!) so he could talk to people while I was finishing up with another customer or chatting with friends. I know lots of people do craft shows alone, but it was perfect to have moral support and help for my first show. (I secretly think Naoto enjoyed it as much as I did, too!)

Thanks to everyone who shared their craft show advice in the comments, in letters, and in person (Sean!) And I have to send out a heartfelt thanks to friends near and far who came to say hi and to support the show. You all made my day and I loved being surprised when I saw your faces in the crowd. And a huge thanks to our shoppers who all seemed genuinely excited about buying handmade and to Pleasant Home for organizing the event. THANK YOU!!

 

 

P.S. I’ve begun listing my greeting cards in my Etsy shop and will continue to add more over the weekend. (All of my greeting cards are listed, but I’d like to add boxed options and mix & match savings.) Stay tuned.

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I’m Doing a Craft Show!

Petite Boutique Holiday Market, Pleasant Home, Oak ParkIt’s exciting! (And slightly terrifying…)

For the past few months, I’ve been making greeting cards using my Royal Safari typewriter and featuring vintage cancelled postage stamps from my collection. I recently got my act together to open a little shop and I applied for a local juried craft show at Pleasant Home. And, I got in! So over the next month, I’ll be busy typing at my typewriter and sifting through my stamp collection and cutting envelope liners out of Karen’s grandparents’ encyclopedia collection. (Thanks, Karen!) I am very excited and nervous. What if no one buys anything? What if I forget how to count money? What if I run out of products? (None of these scenarios are likely. I’m very good at math. But seriously…how do you even know how much to make?) Thankfully Naoto has agreed to be my customer service associate so he can help me manage small talk and sales.

I’ll share more as I get into a good production groove around here. If you’ve ever done a craft show -big or small- I’d love to hear your advice!

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Princeton’s Red Covered Bridge

Princeton Covered Bridge, mom and meThe last stop in our little tour of Illinois was Princeton, the home of the Red Covered Bridge. Princeton Covered BridgeThe bridge was built in 1863 and runs across Bureau Creek just north of Princeton. It is still an active bridge, allowing cars to cross one at a time. (It’s no two lane highway!) Princeton Covered Bridge, detail of ceilingI loved this advertisement on the ceiling beams for Brown’s Household Panacea.Princeton Covered Bridge, information plaqueWhen I was young, we visited the bridge. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago about our visit to the bridge, I would have said we drove across the country to see it. The ride, as an eight year-old felt sooooo looooooong! In reality, Princeton is only about an hour away from my hometown. Isn’t it funny how your memory plays tricks on you? Princeton Covered Bridge, June 1986My mom dug out this picture of us on our first visit to the bridge in 1986. (That’s my brother in the snappy Hawaiian shirt and my mom was pregnant with my sister at the time.)

Fun times in Illinois!

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Country Roads, Take Me Home

Reefer Road, Washburn, IL Do you know the John Denver song? It’s one of my favorites. Seriously, there’s no better medicine for the cold Monday morning blues than John Denver. 

Earlier this month, I spent some time with my parents in the corn and bean fields of downstate Illinois. We did a lot, which I’ll be sharing this week, but one of the most relaxing days was on Wednesday when my dad and I cruised the country roads together. We went to renew my license, went thrifting, had ice cream and on the way home we decided to take the long way. My dad pointed out who lived in each of the farm houses, where people I knew lived, and we had a lovely chat. It reminded me of when I was a student driver and got my blue slip. My dad rode along with me on my first drive through the country. He put his seat back and was the most chill I’ve ever seen him.

I’d forgotten how relaxing driving can be. When I was a teenager (driving my 1983 Cutlass) we “cruised” along the “main drag” (Illinois Route 89) of our small town before and after school every day…and in the evenings, after homework and supper. (It was a very small town with nothing better to do. Riding along in each other’s cars was the equivalent of hanging out at the mall, I guess.) When the speed limit is thirty and there’s no traffic, driving is fun!

Now that I live in a more urban area, I would have to drive a long way and through a lot of traffic to get to this kind of driving. There is just something so soothing about cruising along the winding rural roads, going no place in particular, where you hardly see anyone except maybe an occasional farmer or the mailman.

Don’t get me wrong…I love where we live. I love being able to walk or take the train to so many different places (as opposed to having to drive for twenty-plus minutes to get groceries or to eat out), especially in snowy weather. (Gosh, I really don’t miss driving in that!) But sometimes, I wish we had a little country house to retreat to when the city gets annoying. Then when times got tough, I could just hop in my car, turn on some John Denver and drive my blues away.

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Aaaaaaand, Disappointment

Presley nappingMy Japanese class was cancelled due to low enrollment. The school called on Monday and left a voicemail on our land line (yes, we still have a land line…we are your grandparents) and I figured they were just calling to remind me about the class or to tell me which room it would be in. Yesterday afternoon I listened to the voice mail and I got the news. (Thankfully I didn’t GO to the class to get the news!) I’m so bummed. I was all excited to learn again, especially something useful for our travels next year. But, it’s not meant to be right now. And that’s okay. I’ll just commiserate with this sweet face until I feel better.

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Back To School

Japanese Cat Chopstick RestsMy Japanese class starts tonight! I am very excited and a little bit nervous. I’m nervous mainly because I don’t know what to expect, so hopefully the nerves will go away after the first class–this is supposed to be fun after all. I promise to report back soon.

The sweet chopstick rests pictured above are a gift from my friend Mollie. She picked them up during her recent trip to Disney World. We don’t have any chopstick rests around here (nor do we have proper chopsticks!) so these were a perfect present! (Plus, she got one for Presley–how sweet is that?!)

 

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