Category Archives: vintage

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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Compex 2019

Earlier this month, Naoto and I attended COMPEX 2019. We attended last year, and I went alone the year before and it is one of my favorite events of the year. The bourse consists of stamp and postcard sellers from all over the country. Almost everyone is super friendly and helpful, even if you’re not a stamp expert.  Because I’m not a rare stamp collector, it was a little intimidating when I first attended because I didn’t feel like I was really there for the “right” reasons. I was just attending to find vintage postage stamps I could use on my mail. But I quickly got over the intimidation because everyone was so nice and helpful and really, the show is all about getting stamp collectors together, no matter what kind of collector they are. I always visit the Stamp King because he sells full sheets, partial sheets (for when you don’t want to commit to a full sheet,) and even mixed bags of stamps. He’s also a local stamp celebrity. There’s a seller who has boxes and boxes of first day covers and random postcards where I can always find a few gems. This year, I found some pre-stamped postcards and first day covers of some of my favorite stamps. Naoto found the book stamps (top left corner) for me…he’s such an enabler! The first time I went to COMPEX, I made the mistake of buying a ton of low value sheets, so now I have a ton of one, two, and three-cent stamps. Last year, I decided I’d better buy some higher value stamps so that I didn’t have to put twenty-five different stamps on an envelope to make fifty-five cents. I got a nice mix this time, and now I need to use them up, and maybe make some stamp packs to sell in the shop, because my collection is growing out of control. It’s hard to break up a pristine vintage stamp sheet, but once I do, it feels so fun to use them up.

I didn’t take any pictures, but there are also exhibits of stamp-related things, usually by theme. And there are meetings for local philatelic groups and a table for young/new stamp collectors. The audience at COMPEX definitely skews a little bit older (and male, and white…) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the rest of us!

P.S. I just need to point out that it was Naoto’s idea to wear his Mr. Zip t-shirt to COMPEX…I love a man who appreciates a theme!

 

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Returning to the JC Penney Museum

When you’re back in Hamilton, you cannot miss another opportunity to see the J.C. Penney Museum! My dad and I took Naoto and showed him around. We felt like after our visit four years ago, we were qualified to be J.C. Penney Museum docents.

Of course I pointed out all of the old typewriters… I tried to notice and photograph new things this time… I was especially fond of the old catalogs and the first credit cards! I know it’s better now with saving paper and all, but I really miss looking through catalogs. I always loved looking through them and imagining myself as a grown-up lady. 
I’m so glad we went back. Postcards (which I shared yesterday) were still ten cents each, making them the best deal in town!

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Olivetti Valentine

Naoto surprised me with one of the best gifts ever for my birthday last month: an Olivetti Valentine. If you don’t know, the Valentine is one of a few holy grails for typewriter collectors. It was originally designed to be an inexpensive portable typewriter, but became a classic among design lovers. There’s even one displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. This page has some fun information and old Olivetti Valentine advertisements. I was shocked because I don’t really remember dwelling on wanting one. I think I mentioned it in passing once when we saw one in a store window in Japan and that it is a coveted design item featured at the MOMA. But he remembered and managed to find one and have it shipped safely to him with a week to spare. I was genuinely shocked, which is rare because he has a very hard time keeping a secret and I never thought he would buy a typewriter. This Olivetti was made for Spain so it has some Spanish characters, like ñ and ¿. As much as I want to leave it out to admire it, I know dust is a typewriter’s kryptonite so I’m keeping it in its case and vowing to put it away after each use. Oh and I’m only using this typewriter for letter writing and other fun things–I won’t be using it for Galaxie Safari. I want to use it, but not put it through the card-making abuse that my Smith-Corona and Royal are put through. Its case is a hard red plastic that snaps into the machine. Apparently it’s designed to be a wastebasket when you take it off to use the typewriter. Every detail was considered! So far I’ve written a few letters on it using my personalized stationery from last year’s birthday. I’ll leave you with this fabulous 1970s advertisement for the Olivetti.

 

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National Card & Letter Writing Month

It’s April and my favorite month of the year: National Card & Letter Writing Month!

As usual, I will be participating in the Write On campaign, and trying to write a card or letter every day this month. I have a little set-up on my desk with some cards and stationery, all easily accessible for a quick note or letter. I am ready to write this month and I’ll share my set-up here soon, along with some other letter writing related posts.

Happy letter writing!

P.S. I found this vintage Dennison (I think?) letter carrier decoration on eBay last month. Isn’t he dreamy?

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Stationery Tour on the Chuo Line

I randomly started following a few Japanese paper shops on Instagram last year. When we were planning this trip, I told Naoto I wanted to visit some new places, and it just so happened that three of my top choices are situated along the Chuo line, out to the Tokyo suburbs. Our first stop was Hachimakura, a vintage paper shop.  Hachimakura is tiny and smells of old wood and paper. It is packed in every nook and cranny with vintage papers from all over the world. I spent so much time in there sifting through tiny envelopes and packages of labels, stamps, magazine pages, and patterned papers. It was a dark and moody shop, but oh so perfect for the wares. I ended up buying some new screenprinted patterned papers, some old deadstock Taiwanese labels, and some vintage Japanese beauty labels. Next up was Tonarino, a tiny stationery store located a little further along the Chuo line. They carry a lot of standard Japanese stationery brands, but also a lot of independent designers and they have so many cards and stationery that are designed in-house.Tonarino was so white and bright inside, making their colorful array of products pop off the shelves. It was such a cheerful little shop. I ended up buying some Halloween cards (which I sent from Japan) and a house-designed postcard and stationery set. The last place we went was Yamada Stationery. Yamada is in the suburb of Tokyo, Mitaka. Sadly, it was dark by then, so I don’t have any pictures of the outside or inside. I loved this shop, and probably would have bought so much more if we had visited later in our trip. They sell everything from basic Japanese office supplies, to craft supplies, and unique lines of washi tape and stationery. I ended up with a library themed purchase: library cards and pockets and stickers, library card washi tape, and a tube of lotion that looks like old school glue.

Each shop on their own had a lot to offer, but I’m glad we spent some time mapping out the visit so that we didn’t spend an hour on the train hitting up one shop…I always love a stationery adventure.

 

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In My Mailbox: Vintage Recipes

vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxMy pen pal Danielle has been sending me a string of vintage recipes lately and I love it! Each on is a little time capsule from days when sweets and treats were most often homemade and sometimes a little strange. (At least strange compared to what we’re used to eating nowadays.) This is my little collection from the past few letters. vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxI’m most interested in trying this one. (I keep forgetting to add butter scotch chips to Naoto’s shopping list.) I love how it’s handwritten, creased, and well-used. It sounds very sweet, right? Maybe I need to do an Instagram Story from my kitchen so we can all be surprised at the outcome! vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxAnd who doesn’t love a chiffon cake? I don’t think anyone makes these anymore. (Or maybe we just don’t call them chiffons anymore?) It sounds so light and fluffy. I wish I had a reason to bake a cake this week. vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxThe fact that someone clipped this out of the newspaper and wrote, “MAKE AGAIN” on it makes me verrrrry curious. It’s called Desperations for goodness sake! I can’t picture what the finished product looks like…any ideas?vintage recipes, chiffon cake, old recipes, recipe boxHere is where I draw the line… Canned pears and pimento cheese? Topped with green pepper? Nope. (I don’t think the salad dressing looks bad though…)

I wouldn’t eat that…would you?

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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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