Category Archives: summer manifesto

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 is Almost Over…

neon mail art, neon mail, pen pals, summer mail…and I still have some things to check off in our Passport to Adventure! I’ll do a real update about that at the end of September. I’ve definitely met my goal of sending fifty pieces of mail though. I’ve been so good about mail this summer, I’m a little surprised at myself. Right now, I have a bit of a stack to return, so I’m trying to catch up so I can start October fresh and jump into Halloween mail! creamsicle letterpress card, neon mail, pen pals, summer mailYesterday I took down my summer decorations finally and put away my summery stationery. I tried to use up all of my neon paper and envelopes and cards but I failed miserably, so away it goes until next year. (Though it is 90 degrees today, so it feels like I should still be sending popsicle mail!)In other news…over Labor Day weekend, we always celebrate Presley’s “birthday” since we got her on Labor Day back in 2006. Well, this year, she got a case of pancreatitis and ended up at the emergency vet’s for two days. It was extremely stressful and worrisome, but I think she’s feeling back to normal finally.  It was so good to be able to bring her home and let her relax in her normal setting. She wouldn’t go to the bathroom or eat at the hospital, but once she got home, she was comfortable enough to do her thing. (Sorry.) We did have to feed her an appetite stimulant to get her back on track for eating. She refused her normal wet and dry foods for awhile so she ate loads of treats and -ahem- freshly baked salmon that we made for her with our own dinner. And thankfully, our regular vet made a little house call to help take Presley’s catheter out so we didn’t have to drag her back to the regular vet after her traumatic emergency vet stay. (The emergency vet was lovely…Presley just does not like the vet.) Presley has some lovely human, dog, and cat friends who sent her get well cards and treats. She’s very lucky.  And eventually her little shaved arm will grow back, but in the meantime…we’re trying to fashion her a fancy bracelet.

So…other than getting ready for my three craft shows this month and nursing Presley, not much has been keeping me away…I’ll be back with a little Galaxie Safari news tomorrow and then hopefully I can share a little news from Naoto’s kitchen. He has completely taken over the cooking and it’s wonnnnnnderful.

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Tomato Time 2018

red tomatoes, plot 6, forest park community garden, big boyThe tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming! So far, we’ve picked Big Boys, Black Krims, a Mortgage Lifer, and tons of Juliets. We’ve been eating plenty of tomato sandwiches, BLTs, and caprese salads and we added this caprese pasta salad into our menu. Our goal for the summer is to try five new tomato recipes, so one down, four to go. Once we get a good harvest of big tomatoes, it will be easier to experiment. Juliets aren’t slicing tomatoes, so right now we’re limited to salads. They are particularly delicious this year, so no complaints! red tomatoes, plot 6, forest park community garden, big boyWe haven’t had any red Brandywines yet, so…I’m waiting patiently. But I have to say, the Mortgage Lifter and Black Krims are really fantastic…we’ll be planting more of those for sure next year!

Anything ripe in your neck of the woods?

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Mail Reads: Death Takes Priority

Death Takes Priority, mail reads , postal books, mystery books Today is National Book Lovers Day, so let’s talk about books!

One of my goals for the summer is to read ten books. I’m halfway there. Most of the books I read are older books that, well, aren’t quick reads. I have resisted the “beach read” since my high school days of devouring three Danielle Steele’s a week. I was a literature major in college and for some reason, I’ve felt like I need to always read something challenging. It’s silly, I know. I’ve realized that sometimes it’s nice to just read for fun, instead of having to analyze every sentence and detail.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Margaret posted an Instagram of a book she found on vacation, Addressed to Kill. It is a postal themed murder mystery, third in the Postmistress Mystery Series. So I hunted down all three at my library and started with the first, Death Takes Priority. (I can’t read things out of order, though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter here.)

I read it in a couple days, and I even stayed up past 1AM reading it, which seriously never happens with my other books. It’s definitely fluffy, but the story was good and there are a lot of delightful postal details. The main character is the Postmaster of her tiny hometown in New England. In Death Takes Priority, she accidentally gets involved in solving a local murder. There is a tiny bit of romance (nothing like a Danielle Steele book!) and some friendship sprinkled in. Death Takes Priority, chapter pagesOh! And each chapter number is framed with a postage stamp, which is just a kitchy-sweet little detail of the book. I’m going to read the other two, but after I read some heavier stuff in my stack. We’re reading O Pioneers! for book group next week and I want to get a jump start on that because I’m usually cramming the night before and I’m hosting this month so…I’m sure I’ll be cleaning.

Have you read anything good lately?

P.S. For other mail reads, go here!

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Our Fourth

July 4th dinner, patriotic, independence dayJuly 4th seems like weeks ago. I remember when I was a kid, it felt like July 4th was the end of summer…like it had this power to make the rest of summertime rush by. As an adult, I still kind of believe this, especially since school supplies are already out at Target. (Really…it’s ridiculous.) But really, there’s so much summer left! plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, raised bed gardeningIt was soooo hot and humid on the 4th. It rained a teeny bit, but not enough to really impact the garden, or the heat. I gave our plot a good soak during the community garden BBQ. Our tomato jungle is coming along nicely…no tomatoes yet…but our edamame is growing like crazy and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet! cherry manhattans, vintage glasses, july 4th, hasegawa happy hourNaoto and I had a mini Hasegawa Happy Hour and made Cherry Manhattans (recipe from Leopold Bros.) Cherry Manhattans have become our lazy summer drink.  Despite what this picture shows, we drank them inside because it was too sweaty to be outside. We had Chicago-style hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans for supper. It was the epitome of America. fireworks over 290, circle bridge, forest park fireworksWe ended up watching fireworks from the Circle Bridge over the Eisenhower (Interstate 290 for you non-Chicagoans.) I love fireworks, but I hate crowds, so it was kind of the perfect spot. It was still so hot, but there was a decent breeze (from the traffic?) and the were no mosquitos, plus it was only a few blocks from home. (What can I say? I’m a lazy reveler!) vintage postage, patriotic postage, galaxie safari, red, white, and blue

Oh! And here are those vintage patriotic stamps in action!

I’d love to hear about your Fourth/last Wednesday!

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Tanabata Time Again

tanabata, cats watching fireworks, japanese postcardsIt’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!

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Happy 4th of July!

4th of july, patriotic postage, July 4th, Independence Day, fireworks flag stamps, vintage postageHappy Independence Day to my fellow Americans! (To everyone else, happy Wednesday!)

I’m spending today catching up on some mail (and topping it off with the patriotic postage above!) and going to a BBQ at the community garden. Naoto is making an all-American supper tonight (hot dogs, corn on the cob and baked beans) before we go see fireworks. (Or it might rain, so maybe no BBQ or fireworks…time will tell.)

I’ll be back tomorrow with a post about last month’s Golden Girls Gala.

P.S. Naoto was not as excited as I was that this postage ensemble accidentally added up to fifty cents…

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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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Cocktail: The Garden Party

garden party cocktail, snow and graham notecard, vintage cocktail glass, cocktail hourThis spring has been such a mix of weather. We’ve had everything from melt-your-make-up-off hot and humid to almost fall-like, crisp and cool. Today for Summer Solstice, it’s chilly with a deluge. Last week, we had a couple perfect nights and I was able to sit outside and write letters while the sun was setting. It was a dream evening alone.

Earlier in the day, we harvested our first lavender of the summer, so I decided to celebrate by making up a cocktail. I used some of my dried lavender from last summer to make a lavender simple syrup and mixed it with lemon, Cocchi Americano, and prosecco to make a refreshing, not-too-boozy drink. Cocchi Americano is a little bit bitter, thanks to the quinine, so the cocktail isn’t super sweet. It’s also low in alcohol, so this is the perfect drink for the afternoon (or if you need to keep your head about you while you write thank you notes!)

Lavender Simple Syrup

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

2 Tablespoons dried lavender

In a pan on the stove, dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add dried lavender. Steep for 30 minutes and strain into a container. Refrigerate until chilled.

The Garden Party 

2 oz Cocchi Americano Bianco (the white version)

1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 oz lavender syrup

prosecco, to taste

Add the Cocchi, lemon juice, and simple syrup into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until fully chilled. Strain into a coupe and top off with a bit of prosecco (or another sparkling wine.) Top with a sprig of fresh lavender. Enjoy on your lanai while writing letters, or at an actual garden party with friends.

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Out on the Lanai

blue hawaii on the lanaiIt’s been really perfect spring weather the past few days. We had a bad hot streak, but since the beginning of June, the weather has been mild, even chilly! blue hawaii on the lanai, kimberly and naotoLast Monday, after the gym and the garden, we enjoyed our annual anniversary Blue Hawaiis before dinner. It was just warm enough to feel like summer. first lanai dinner 2018We also had our first dinner on the lanai last week. (Naoto made this from Smitten Kitchen.) Last year I don’t feel like we enjoyed our balcony enough so I’m determined to get out there as much as possible this summer. We have a new furniture arrangement and have cleared off some other unnecessary things, so hopefully it will be more enticing.

I had the brilliant idea to plant our pots in rainbow order this summer. (You know how I love my ROY G BIV-ing!) It ended up being way more work than I bargained for…mostly finding the right kinds of plants to work with our sun situation…our balcony is pretty shady. But every summer I feel like I don’t have enough yellows and oranges out there, so this was a nice way to force myself to branch out. Of course, I love it, but I’m already deciding on color combinations for each pot for next summer!

Anyway, behold the rainbow…pink impatiens, container garden, lanai garden, balcony gardenmixed pot, pink flamingoes, garden gnomesred petuniasred geraniumorange petunias, orange geraniumyellow petunias, yellow marigoldsmixed greenslobeliapurple flowers, impatiens, story night petunias, fairy flowers starry night petunias, night sky petuniasThe “greens” are a bit of a mess right now because my wooden window box is falling apart and because I’m waiting for my climbers to grow. Hopefully it will fill out as summer rolls along. 

Do you have any favorite flower color combinations? I’m really into yellow and hot pink right now.

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