Category Archives: vintage

Fondue Fun Fest

Over July 4th weekend, Naoto and I went all out for a fondue feast. I’ve been wanting to have fondue for awhile now, and at the beginning of the pandemic, I made it one of our stay-at-home goals…who knew at the time we’d have so much time to accomplish that list!

(Try to ignore Naoto’s hair here…it’s even longer and more epic now!) Randomly, we own three fondue pots. I received the metal one for a Christmas gift in college and then learned cheese works better in ceramic, so I bought the ceramic one at Marshall Fields (RIP) almost twenty years ago. And my parents found the burnt orange 70s model at a thrift shop. So we figured we’d break out alllll the pots for our three course fondue fest.

We started with traditional Swiss fondue. I have (had?) a fondue cookbook but I couldn’t find it in time for the fest, so we relied on Food & Wine for the recipe. (We halved the recipe since there were only two of us which was more than enough and included leftovers.) We made the fondue in the pot, adding the cheese slowly and stirring often. It worked like a charm! (We learned our lesson the last time we had fondueseven years ago!)

We had bread, carrots, potatoes, and broccoli for dipping. I can’t believe we forgot apples and pretzels for this round!

After we’d had enough cheese (yes, there is such a thing!) we started preparing the main course–meat and vegetables.

For the main course, we used this recipe for a broth fondue. We built the broth in the pot and let it come to a boil slowly. We found this was a nice way to pace ourselves…

We were going to do a few kinds of meat and vegetables, but we ended up just going with steak…next time I would add shrimp or chicken for some variety. (We were afraid of having too much food!) With the steak, we had carrots, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, and mushrooms.

We ended up making little shish-ka-bobs, mixing meat and vegetables together on the same fork.

My favorite combination was steak + carrot + zucchini dipped in ponzu sauce. Fondue sauces are a great part of the experience and next time we’d like to experiment with more. I have to say though…the ponzu was the perfect citrusy balance to the meats and vegetables.

For the dessert round, I mixed up some Brandy Alexanders while Naoto prepped the fondue ingredients. It was a very indulgent evening!

For the chocolate fondue, we used this recipe and we made it on the double broiler on the stove before we transferred it into the fondue pot. We dipped strawberries, bananas, brioche, marshmallows, and pretzels. I had to blow out the flame after a few minutes because the pot got too hot and the chocolate was burning, so we need to find a better heating element for the chocolate fondue next time! Maybe just a little tea light? It took three days of soaking to get the pot clean!

It was such a fun project to plan and to execute. I’m really missing hosting parties and it might seem silly to make a big to-do on a regular ol’ Sunday night, but I found it such a great distraction. I love a good theme party and why not throw one just for ourselves? Oh, and it was a perfect excuse to wear my kaftan and bask in the 1970s for the evening. (P.S. We used these forks from our coffee shop pal, Madonna.)

Cheers to more celebrations this summer.

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Write On Check-In

write_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postageHow is everyone’s letter writing coming along? As of today, I’m ahead of the curve and hoping to finish strong. The last week is always the hardest because I’m either behind or desperately losing steam. (But it’s not like I don’t have extra time right now!) I’ve been having a lot of fun with rubber stamps and vintage postage this month. I love a good stamp collage, themed or not.

In a huge mail fail, I was in a rush to get a birthday card out to my coworker on Saturday morning and I forgot to put a stamp on it. Oops. write_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postage, easter mailwrite_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postagewrite_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postageDear Hancock, quarantine mail, write_on, national card and letter writing month, vintage postageI couldn’t resist ordering some pandemic cards from Dear Hancock earlier this month, even though I’m still making my way through my greeting card collection. Does anyone have enough self-control to not buy more cards and stamps even though you have plenty at home?

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Pen Pal Stationery Tour Part 3: The Wares

Yamada stationery think this is all I bought during the Pen Pal Stationery Tour…

Above is what I bought at Yamada. The library stuff is my favorite and I restocked my stash from our last trip. I couldn’t resist the avocado handkerchief for Naoto. And those green things are stickers modeled after a famous notebook company, Japonica, that every school kid knows. And I just realized that the little bird and mountain notepad snuck in here, but I bought it at Tonarino. (It’s too dark to re-take the pictures now!)Tonarino stationery, Sublo 36 stationery At Tonarino, besides the notepad, I stuck with mostly their in-house designs. And the sumo eating the hot pot (chanko) is the only thing I bought at Sublo 36. (I told you I had regrets.) Hachimakura vintage papersAnd finally, some fun new and vintage papers from Hachimakura. Hachimakura vintage papersI’m excited to use some of these in my Traveler’s Notebook. From the top left: the red shrine is an old tobacco box from the Showa Era (1926-1989) that I want to display. The Moon Pencils label is a pencil box label. The geisha girls are matchbox labels from the 1920s. Below that, is old play money. (Isn’t it so fun and colorful?) The sheer pink and white things are nouget candy wrappers, also from the Showa Era. I liked the onsen symbol on them. And the circle labels are liquor shop labels from before World War II.

(Thanks to Naoto for translating all of that for me for this post. He and Geof stayed outside while April and I shopped so we were on our own to make our purchases!)

 

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Pen Pal Stationery Tour Part Two

Sublo 36Our next stop (after lunch) in the Pen Pal Stationery Tour was Sublo 36. It’s a tiny shop and it was verrry crowded. And like, Yamada, there are so many products in little cubbies and drawers, it was kind of a challenge to shop when you’re basically on top of the next person. I’d love to go back on a quieter day because I’m having regrets about not buying some things! I didn’t get many pictures inside Sublo (which is up these quirky stairs by the way) because it was too crowded for my photographer and I was too busy shopping and trying to stay out of other shoppers’ ways. They have a lot of original products (you can see them here) that I totally didn’t take advantage of buying when I was there. After this, Naoto had discovered that we were a short walk away from Karel Capek tea shop so we took a stationery break. I’ll write about Karel Capek in another post–it’s the cutest. On the way to the train for our next stop, we bought some gyoza from a very busy gyoza shop in the neighborhood. Delicious! (Oh and that’s April’s partner Geof. He and Naoto were the best sports about stationery shopping all day!)Hachimakura, vintage paper store JapanAt the end of the tour was Hachimakura, which we’ve visited before. April and I delighted in the vintage papers in this tiny shop. We finished the tour with dinner at a little izakaya near Hachimakura. We ate cabbage with yuzu dressing, bacon with grain mustard, tomago, fried mozzarella dipped in honey (It was soooo good I need to try this in America,) wasabi chicken, cucumber dipped in miso, and we drank beers and yuzu drinks. It was the perfect meal to end a really fun day. Until next time, April & Geof!

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The Quilt from Grandpa & Sharon’s House

I’m finally sharing the quilt that my mom picked for me at Grandpa and Sharon’s house when we were there last spring for the memorial service. I dont’t know the history of the quilt or who made it, but it’s created with various fabrics that look like they would have been clothes or recycled from other things. It’s a mix of florals, a weird mountain scene, some children’s fabric, and stripes. Nothing really matches or goes together, which is part of the charm.

When we got home with it, I washed it and held my breath the whole time. (You’re apparently not supposed to wash old quilts…who knew?) I used the delicate setting and let it air dry and came out fine. I figured I can’t have a blanket in the house that I’m not washing and I’d rather use this quilt than just store it in the closet. Since then, Presley barfed on the quilt and I had to wash it again, so I guess it’s just going to be a part of our lives…which is kind of the point, right?

 

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Christmas Post Office

christmas village post office, holiday village, ceramic post officeI’ve been wanting a Christmas village post office for awhile now. I have my Putz house village, and I’ve never seen a vintage paper post office before, so I told my mom and dad to keep an eye out for some vintage or new ceramic ones. Well, they found this perfect little jewel at a thrift shop for $2.50! They found the postman Santa last year. He might not be to scale but he fits right in!

I don’t know how vintage it is, but I think it’s charming and now I want a little collection of just random post offices (serendipitously found at thrift stores because I don’t need to stalk something else on eBay!) My mini post office collection of one is living on my desk so it stays safe from Presley. (She has taken to knocking things down at 4AM to get our attention.)

Tomorrow, I need to go to the actual, non-ceramic post office to buy some stamps for the church and to mail something…wish me luck!

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Halloween Mail

I have been very behind in my correspondence–I was responding to letters from June, so it felt good to catch up with some of my pen friends. I think I like Halloween mail more than Christmas mail…maybe it’s just that it feels like there’s more time to attend to Halloween mail. At the last stamp show, I tried to collect some “scary” stamps. I was so excited to score the ten cent Legend of Sleepy Hollow ones, and I also picked up the Movie Monsters, Pharmacy, and Houdinis. I had the Alfred Hitchcock stamps leftover from a few years ago. Usually when I use vintage stamps, I leave the rest of the envelope blank so the stamps really pop, but I also bought a ton of great Halloween washi tape in Japan last year, so I was excited to use some of that too. Everything is still relatively simple…In my Halloween stash, I also found some unused decorated envelopes from one of Donovan’s mail art parties.I pulled this one out because it was basic enough to add vintage postage without too much distraction. The bats are from a torn napkin, so I slid the envelope into a plastic card sleeve (leftover from a birthday card I sent) and put the address on some vintage gummed tape that has the texture of bandages. (So spooky!)

In spite of my many, many stamps, I had Naoto pick up a few sheets of the latest USPS Halloween stamps. Have you seen them in person? They look fine on the website, but they have a bit of metallic shine that is very impressive in person. I’m looking forward to finishing out the month with those!

 

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In My Mailbox: Vintage & Current

Happy October! (Obligatory can-you-believe-it’s-already-October comment here…) It has been so hot and humid here this week, it’s hard to believe it’s pumpkin weather. But, I know that’ll change soon enough. I’ve been super busy the past couple weeks preparing for Brookfield Fine Arts Festival and Music, Art, & Wine at Empowering Gardens, and applying to more shows this fall and winter…this month is going to be busy with preparations for that and some other changes I’ll talk about soon. For now, let’s talk about mail!

Recently in my mailbox, I was delighted with a surprise package from Robyn. She found this vintage Forest Park, ILL stamp at a flea market. Isn’t it fun? I’ve already used it on some mail. I made me curious to know when the post office changed to 2-letter abbreviations for states. It turns out it happened in October 1963 and it was because of the zip code! Apparently, in June 1963, the post office came up with a list of abbreviated state names, but it was too long for the 23-character limit of addressing equipment. So, they had to change it again in October. Weirdly enough, Illinois was Il. in 1831, and for some reason, they added an extra L from 1874-1963 and removed it again for the final 2-letter abbreviations we know today. And we are both fans of Schitt’s Creek and we convinced Katie to try it again when we all got together for gel plate printing, so the keychain is fitting. If you haven’t watched, I can’t recommend it enough. I was not crazy about the first part of Season 1, but I stuck with it and it’s totally worth it…it’s just so fabulous.

Also, how cute is the package Robyn sent?! It just made my day. Thanks, Robyn, for the treats and for prompting a little postal history lesson, too!

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Vintage Postage Mail

Happy Monday! It is gorgeous out today and I’m looking forward to some lanai time this afternoon. We’ve been enjoying cooler temperatures and no humidity all weekend and it just feels so good to open the windows and take a break from the air conditioner. Today I’m sharing some of the mail I’ve been sending out lately. I’ve been using a lot of vintage postage on my letters instead of washi tape and other decorations. It’s been fun piecing together random stamps or theme stamps. I’ve been able to take some time to sift through my collection since I reorganized everything after last month’s stamp show. I don’t think my system is perfect by any means, but it has helped me use up more of my stash, so I guess it’s working for me. Maybe I should share here? It’s also helped that I’m pretty caught up on my mail, so writing a few letters and finding stamps for them isn’t overwhelming me like it might when I have a huge stack of letters to return. And Naoto has been taking my letters to the River Forest Post Office for hand cancellation. He’s made friends with Paul and Vicky who are both amazing and friendly and efficient dreamboats. You don’t have to have your vintage postage hand cancelled, but if you don’t, your stamps are at risk of getting a big black sharpie mark swiped across them…it’s very sad. (I was trying to find an example in my mail but I can’t so I’ll send you here if you’d like to see what I mean.)Sharpie mail makes me so sad, but I get it…time is of the essence at the USPS and they have to cancel the stamps so that people won’t re-use them. To me, it’s worth saving up a few letters to get them hand-cancelled. I have broken into a number of complete sheets and it feels so good! I use a tape runner to attach the stamps. I am a bit of a germphobe so I try not to lick things that have been handled by many people. (Some of the vintage postage comes in plastic protector sleeves, but some comes naked.) Also, I’ve had stamps fall off on the way to their destination so a permanent adhesive ensures all postage survives the trip.  These were some of my favorites–thank you notes to book club friends who I know would appreciate the literary stamps! Fun fact: out of all of those stamps, we have read everything except Emily Dickinson (because we don’t read poetry. Oh, and I guess we didn’t technically read Little House on the Prairie but we read Farmer Boy and The Long Winter so it counts in my book!)

So that’s my mail for the past few weeks. I’ve sent some letters with the new Sesame Street stamps too…they are so cute and I’m just really excited to see Guy Smiley get his due.

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Happy Fourth of July!

It’s Independence Day in the US and I’m off work, but Naoto isn’t. So, I’m celebrating by watching as much of Stranger Things Season 3 as possible while he’s gone. (Naoto doesn’t watch any television with me…it’s really his only flaw.) The weather is all up in the air in Chicagoland today, so we’re deciding between fireworks and live music later tonight.

Either way, Happy 4th to my fellow Americans, and happy Thursday to everyone else!

P.S. Here is some patriotic mail I sent out this week. I love a good postage stamp theme lately!

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