In My Mailbox: Masks

My pen pal Nic is at it again! If you remember, she sent me these fantastic mail coasters last year and this mail folder before that.

She and her mom have been making masks for their friends and family since they became a requirement in California and a “strong recommendation” everyplace else. She offered to make some for Naoto and me, which is amazing because Trader Joe’s finally allowed the staff to wear masks and we didn’t have time to come up with a good solution for him. On Monday, a package arrived full of these masks! They are the kind that tie for a perfect fit, and they have a little metal piece over the nose bridge so you can customize the fit on your face. They also have a pocket where you can pop in another layer for extra protection. She used fabric that reminded her of us. Above is a Japanese food and Hawaiian-inspired design. Of course Naoto chose to wear that one yesterday. Today he wore this cocktail one. cocktail face maskWe’re trying to save at least one for me to use if I have to leave the apartment for something before we wash the masks. postage stamp maskIt’s a toss up between postage stamps and Elvis! Elvis maskI really don’t leave the apartment much these days. I have to go into the office early next week, so I think I’ll save Elvis for that trip. In the meantime, Naoto will rotate these with his one store-issued mask and we’ll wash them as we go. Have you been making masks? I love seeing so many friends using up their fabric stashes for new masks. It’s been a tiny bright spot in this weird, new reality.

P.S. Nic also sent a book sleeve, which I will share when I do a long-overdue book post!

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Dispatches from Home Part 4

migration goods, ugh bunnyHow are we doing? Hanging in there? I thought with being home, I’d be on top of blogging but it turns out, I’m not on top of anything really. Ok, I have been on top of my mail for the month…it’s turned out to be a nice distraction. This week I’m trying to get my desk back in order and I’m planning our Easter meal. Naoto has FOUR days off in a row this weekend, so I’m thrilled to be able to plan some fun meals with him and to have him home and safe for a few days. Some other things I’m thankful for:

  • Schitt’s Creek…This final season has been the balm to my soul.
  • friends, in town and faraway, who text, call, or send mail
  • Presley who insists on being a part of my workday. (Though she hasn’t made a zoom meeting appearance yet!)
  • daily rituals (NPR, coffee, tea, journaling, mail)
  • zoom happy hours with my parents

How do things look where you are?

P.S. The UGH Bunny is from Migration Goods. Doesn’t he just say it all?

 

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National Card & Letter Writing Month

Is it really April? Is anyone sure about what day it is anymore?

Well, it IS April, and that means it’s National Card and Letter Writing Month!  This is usually one of my favorite months! I had so many plans! I was going to host a letter writing party! I was going to decorate with alllll my good postal finds! I was going to start a little letter writing meet-up! (More on that later!) I had so many blog posts planned!

Because of social distancing and stay-at-home orders, I can’t have a party or host a meet-up, but I can do the rest, so I think I’d better get started.

I hope you’re doing well and finding things that bring you joy while you’re at home.

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Okinawa Part 2: Riding with Matayoshi-San

To enjoy the island of Okinawa, you really need a car, but neither of us were interested in driving so Naoto hired a driver, Matayoshi-San, to drive us around to our Orion brewery tour and to see some other sites on the island. We spent the morning at Orion, which will get its own post because I took a ton of pictures and videos for Naoto. Okinawa is known for Orion beer, salt, glass, and pottery (among other things.) We stopped at a glass shop where they were blowing glass on site. I spent way too long choosing a single dish to bring home. Everything was so beautiful. Okinawan pottery is also really different from some of the other pottery in Japan. The designs and the shapes were so great.Matayoshi-san picked us a couple of shikuwasa which we enjoyed in our hotel room in some sparkling water. What a treat! Aside from the Orion tour, the best part of the day was visiting the sea and breathing in some fresh ocean air. These craggly rocks were formed over centuries of wear and it was such a perfect day weather-wise for enjoying the views. All over Okinawa, you will find Shisa, usually in pairs. They are meant to protect the home or business–one keeping in the good, the other keeping out the bad. We weren’t tempted to buy one for our own home, but it’s a really popular souvenir. In the middle of the day, we stopped at a roadside stand for sata andagi, Okinawan donuts. They were fresh and delicious! (You know how I love a donut!)We also stopped at an artisan shop where they hand paint fabric for obi (the sash for kimono) and other accessories. Everything was so gorgeous and the amount of work that went into each inch of fabric was incredible!
Naoto really enjoyed Matayoshi-San’s humor and his stories about the island. It was fun spending the day with a local and being carted around like a celebrity!

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Dispatches from Home Part 3

This weekend was less than productive, but I did catch up on some letters so at least there’s that. I also spent some time organizing my stationery for National Card & Letter Writing Month in April. I love changing my Classiky box with each season. I pasted my stay at home to do list into my Travelers Notebook so maybe I’ll take it more seriously now. I’m hoping to at least plant some seeds and get started on the bedroom this week. And I’m thinking fondue sounds fun for the weekend. I’m trying to decide if traditional or a beer cheddar is the way to go…so many decisions.Did I tell you I finally opened a PO box? If you’ve ever wanted to write, my public address is:

Kimberly AH

PO Box 6693

River Forest IL 60305

Naoto has been checking the box for me once a week when he drops off my vintage postage for hand cancellation. Feel free to write! In other news, we had a Facetime happy hour with our friends in New Jersey and a Zoom happy hour with our local friends over the weekend. And we didn’t hold a formal book club this month, but a bunch of us got together on Zoom to chat and check in. I also celebrated my dad’s birthday with him over Zoom. If you haven’t used Facetime or Zoom (or whatever video conferencing method is your favorite) to meet up with friends or family, I highly recommend it! It’s not the same as in person, but it’s pretty darn good.

How are you holding up? Is your state or country practicing social distancing, or is this whole thing foreign to you? Any tips on getting through a day at home?

P.S. The postcard at the top is from La Familia Green accented with stickers from Mrs. Grossman’s.

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Okinawa Part 1: Tourists & Taco Rice

hasegawa happy hour, okinawa We always take a little side trip away from Tokyo when we visit Japan and this year, our trip was to Okinawa. Okinawa is a small island in southern Japan. It really felt so much like Hawaii to me! We stayed in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. It really felt like Honolulu to me. It was beachy and carefree, with a huge strip of shopping and restaurants and lots of tourists. Our first night, we checked out the strip and ate at a little Okinawan izakaya that had Orion beer and taco rice, Naoto’s favorites. We started with drinks. Naoto had an Orion beer and I had a shikuwasa cocktail. Shikuwasa is native to Okinawa and Taiwan and it’s a citrus that is kind of bitter and really sour. It makes a really good cocktail with shochu and soda. We ordered gyoza (shown above) which really hit the spot. Next we had a salad with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, scallions, pork, and a citrusy dressing. Then we had Okinawan sweet potato fries dipped in honey. Seriously, honey is under-utilized as a dipping sauce in America! We should take a break from ranch dressing and eat more honey!And the main dish: taco rice! It’s basically a taco salad but on a bed of rice. We’ve made it at home before and it’s really good and comforting. I told Naoto we should make it this week and share the recipe so I’ll keep you posted. The version we usually make doesn’t have cheese, but let’s be honest–everything is better with a little shredded cheddar!  After dinner, we strolled around the tourist area and I picked up some stationery (surprise, surprise) and we got some salt. Okinawan salt is a “thing” so we bought some shikuwasa salt and onion salt to bring home. I really loved the paper onigiri in the store display. 

 

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Dispatches from Home Part 2

You know I am taking social distancing seriously when I make my own coffee at home on a Sunday morning. Because Naoto works every Sunday (and he is the primary home coffee maker,) I usually take a stroll on those mornings and either grab a Dunkin or a Starbucks. But in an effort to keep my community safe, I decided it’s best to drink coffee at home for now. I drank the entire pot by myself. Presley was my coffee co-pilot.On Sunday night we played Rummy and had snacks. Naoto made this Smitten Kitchen cannellini bean appetizer. (I highly recommend it–so garlicky and cozy and we had what we needed in the pantry!) And we enjoyed some seasonal Irish cheese and some wine. I went to work on Monday and Tuesday this week to get some stuff settled for the congregation. I am not sure what my job is going to look like after this week. Some of my job can be done from home, but some can’t. Some of my job kind of goes away because regular business has ceased, so I can’t imagine needing to go in three times a week. But again, I’m not sure. I updated my calendar (pretty much just canceling everything since I’m not able to plan anything right now!) and wrote a few letters…I’m listening to a lot of NPR which is better than watching cable news I guess.Yesterday’s adventure was a stroll to the blue mailbox on the corner and learning of the first official diagnoses in our area. I’ve been journaling in my Travelers Notebook because I know these days will be fuzzy in the future and it will be interesting (someday!) to look back and see what was happening during these crazy times.And Happy Birthday to my dad!! We were supposed to see each other this week for our birthdays, but…we’ll have to celebrate another time. (This picture was taken at Costco earlier this month when we drove down to see my parents. I’m so glad we were able to have that time together before this whole thing started.)

How is everyone holding up? Are your closets cleaned out yet? I made my to-do list but haven’t checked anything off yet…typical! Take care, everyone!

 

Dried Persimmons

persimmons drying Norio and Hisae gave us the best omiyage–dried persimmons!

Norio’s dad air dries persimmons every year and I can’t believe we are the lucky recipients of some of these little gems. Norio sent me some pictures so I could show you how it happens–doesn’t tying each one up look so time-intensive? He starts by peeling the persimmons and then he dips them in shochu. Then he ties them up outside for a few weeks. The actual amount of time varies, depending on the weather. He kneads the persimmons periodically to soften them and bring out the sweetness.After a few weeks, they get nice and shriveled. And their color darkens, too. After about a month or so, this is what they look like when they’re ready. The white dust is not mold, it’s sugar! We brought some home with us and broke into them a few weeks ago and made a little cheese board to eat while we watched ParasiteLook at all of that delicious sugar! Hisae recommended eating them with a cheese like manchego so that’s what we did. We just sliced one up and added it to cheese and a cracker. It was a perfect match!

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Dispatches from Home Part 1

Well hello there! How’s everyone’s social distancing going? I am such a homebody, this is fitting right in with my lifestyle, but some people (not naming any names *cough*cough*) are already having a hard time staying home and they are wanting to go get a haircut, go to the gym, go out to dinner with friends, and run errands. I sent him outside for a run today while I caught up on Schitt’s Creek. I did leave the house today to go vote. I’m not sure it was the right decision because the early voting location was busy and the voting booths were crowded close together, but I was afraid I’d get sick or things would be more risky on Tuesday (our actual primary day in Illinois.) I’m going to try to use my time at home wisely (hello closet clean-out!) and try to treat myself to some little indulgences. We bought this yuzu jam in Japan so I made toast for breakfast. Toast is the best indulgence. Oh and I completed our Census questionnaire online. I didn’t want it to get lost on my desk, so I figured it was as good a time as any!

Tomorrow I hope to spend my day writing letters and playing around with my typewriters. And I want to work on my to-do list for while I am home a little more. (Though I am still working my regular schedule for now.) Oh and I have to finish my book for book club, which probably isn’t happening in person this month.

Are you doing anything fun or interesting while you are staying home?

I hope no matter where you are, you are taking care!

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Niigata Dinner

Hisae and Norio (Naoto’s sister and her husband) took us out to dinner in Shibuya while we were in Japan. They live in Mie, which is quite a bit away from Tokyo, but they took the shinkansen to spend an evening with us. It was really fun to hang out with them. Hisae is so sweet and Norio is kind and funny. We haven’t seen them both together since their wedding many years ago! We have seen Hisae on all of our other trips to Japan, but we haven’t seen Norio in years because he is so busy working. The izakaya, Takumi, specializes in Niigata food. You may remember that Niigata is where they grew up. My favorite thing about izakaya eating is that you can order tons of small plates and try a bunch of different things. We had kaarage (fried chicken,) shrimp tempura, amazing sushi, and pickled eggplant. And smoked fish, cartilage and sperm sac…just kidding, I did not eat the cartilage or sperm sac. Then there was noppe, a vegetable stew, and tomago (egg) with herbs. Our last dish was this fried tofu with scallions which was really good, but really oily and rich…a good dish for drinking. At the end of the meal, they brought out a huge tray of noodles and we each had our choice of dipping sauce. I got the tomato dipping sauce which was really unusual, like nothing I’ve had in Japan before. It was a rich red and super concentrated with tomato flavor. I ate soooo many noodles because I liked it so much. I haven’t been able to find a good recipe like this online but I’m sure trying!

Let’s do it again soon, Hisae and Norio!

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