The Darling

In March, Naoto took me to The Darling for Sunday night birthday cocktails. (I’m very behind on blogging!) It came highly recommended for the drinks and the experience. We had a fabulous time.

There’s very much a speakeasy vibe here. When you go in, it looks like you’re in a weird flower shop, until the host breaks open the wall so you can enter the bar area. There are cozy leather couches and lounge-seating, and that night, there was a fire crackling in the fireplace.

We started with a Buds of May (me) and a Paddington’s Marmalade Negroni (Naoto.) Both were really delicious, and mine was served at the table from a teapot and the presentation was everything. The next round, I got the Mary Poppins, which had strawberry-flavored boba bubbles in it that popped when you bit into them. It was a fun drink, a little on the sweeter side. Naoto got the Curious George because I was curious (for lack of a better word) about it with the chocolate and banana and whiskey, and we both really liked it.

Naoto was in an especially goofy mood and made me laugh the whole night. The video is a little hard to hear, but he’s channeling Bob Harris in Lost in Translation.
Our last round was something I can’t remember and a Secret Garden (the one with the pretty flower on top.) All of the cocktails were well-crafted and interesting. We did get a few small bites but nothing was super memorable or mind-blowing. The drinks and special touches around the place make The Darling and must-return for us, probably for before or after dinner drinks.The check is presented in an old book with two tiny glasses of Last Words. We’re planning on visiting the West Loop this weekend for our anniversary, so maybe we’ll pop in again before dinner…

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April Book Report

My April book stack looks so puny! My reading has definitely slowed down now that spring is (supposedly) here.

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden 

I feel like I need to own this book and read it slowly throughout the year. This book is just what it says, the 1906 diary of a woman from the country. It’s been on my list for awhile, and I’m glad I read it in the spring, but I would love to revisit it as she illustrates each season and has thoughts, poems, and sayings to complement each season. Holden’s illustrations are just beautiful. Everything is done by hand, including the words and it really encourages you to slow down and appreciate nature. I am going to be on the lookout for a copy of my own.

A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf 

Can you believe I haven’t read this? I loved it, though it felt like it took me forever to make it through. Woolf refutes the assumption that women aren’t good writers, explaining that unless they have the privilege of money, education, and a place to write, they will never be writers. Most women were too busy raising their children and taking care of the household and they didn’t have time to make observations about the world, let alone write them down. Women at that time were considered property, so even if they had the money, they were left at the mercy of the men to use the money for education or to advance their writing.

Plum Bun by Jessie Redmon Fauset 

This was our book club read for the month. It’s very similar to Passing by Nella Larson, which our group read back in 2002, so no one really remembered enough to do a good comparison. In general, it was a really good story about a woman who is able to pass and the choices she makes to get by as white in the world. But as a group, we were disappointed in the ending and sort of the lack of strength in the main character. Some of her choices were appalling, but they made for a good “what would you do?” discussion in book club.

My books for May have been really interesting so I’m looking forward to writing that post soon…I am having trouble making time for the blog lately and feeling like my writing is choppy and substandard…but I think the only way through it is to keep writing and keep posting and hopefully I’ll start feeling better about things soon…

 

 

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More from Hamilton, MO

I thought I’d share a few more pictures from Hamilton earlier this month. There are a few great murals in Hamilton that celebrate the history and the current state of the town. The top one is new since we were there last time. I love how it is a patchwork quilt of famous people and events that bring people to Hamilton, including the Steam & Gas Engine Show, which we used to attend with my grandparents over the summer. It was a really beautiful day for walking around town. Since it’s been a very wintry spring in Chicagoland, I really appreciated shedding my coat and walking around in the sunshine for the afternoon. This mural of the Hamilton Train Depot is located on the wall of the Missouri Quilt Company‘s flagship store. The actual depot is gone now, but it was built in 1859 for the Hannibal and St. Joseph railroads. And this quilt one, obviously an ode to the Missouri Quilt Company that basically put Hamilton back on the map. We didn’t spend a lot of time in the quilting stores since I sadly have no need for more fabric in my closet. We did pop into the Levi Garrison & Sons Brewery for a beer (cider in my case.) It was a great little spot and Naoto was really happy with all of the offerings in his beer flight. It feels weird that this may have been my last visit to Hamilton…unless my mom and I take up quilting and have another excuse for a visit…you never know!

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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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National Postcard Week

Did you know this week is National Postcard Week? I didn’t until today, but I accidentally got off on the right foot by sending these postcards out from our weekend road trip to Hamilton, Missouri for my grandparents’ memorial service. I failed miserably at sending out thirty things last month for Card and Letter Month, so maybe I can make up for it with a stack of postcards this week!I even took a couple of books of vintage postage with me so I could use some fancy stamps on my postcards. I really loved the old stamps on the old JC Penney Museum postcards. The postcards were still ten cents each, just like they were when I visited almost five years ago!

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March Book Report

 

It’s almost the end of April, but I wanted to squeeze a February/March book report in before I write the April one. My reading really slowed down after my Hibernation January. Two of the books in the stack above are short story collections that I only read one selection from. Everything was a pretty quick read, except one, which sucked the life out of me for awhile…

The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley

This has been on my Goodreads list for years. For some reason I was having a hard time finding a copy and then all of a sudden, it was in the library system. It was such a fun read. Just charming. A little old fashioned mystery in a bookshop run by a delightful older couple. I really enjoyed it from beginning to end.

“A Rose for Emily” by William Faulkner

This is a short story that I’ve apparently read before but I didn’t remember it until the very end. It’s great, and has really made me realize that all of my favorite short stories are pretty macabre.

Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa

I discovered this book because of Goodreads! Blog reader and pen pal Cath (Hi, Cath!) was reading Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa and it popped up on my Goodreads feed. I was intrigued since I’ve been trying to read more Japanese authors. It’s about a sweets shop worker who befriends an older woman who is disfigured from a childhood disease. She is an expert in making Japanese sweets and she helps him transform his mediocre sweet shop. It’s such a heart-warming and bittersweet story about multi-generational friendships and acceptance and the trauma of being an outcast.

Summer Will Show by Sylvia Townsend Warner

This book killed me last month. I probably should have given up on it but I really wanted to see it through because the premise is so good. It’s about an aristocratic British woman, Sophia, whose husband cheats on her so she decides to raise their 2 children alone. (Slight spoilers ahead!) When the children die unexpectedly, she goes to Paris to find her husband so she can get pregnant again because she feels motherhood is her only purpose in life. While she’s in Paris, she meets her husband’s lover, Minna, who is free-spirited Russian who gives dramatic readings and lives a very bohemian life in Paris, making little money with her talents. All of this is happening during the 1848 revolution in France. Sophia’s character develops from a “lady” to a more free-spirited resister who falls in love with Minna, but it’s all kind of bogged down in the details about the revolution. (I really think I spend two weeks on the middle hundred pages of the book…) The novel is a feminist tale and it is an early example of lesbian fiction. In the end, I’m glad I finished it because the ending was worth it but I would say, if you’re going to read Sylvia Townsend Warner, start with Lolly Willowes because it’s fantastic. (Lolly is the reason I read so many spinster novels.)

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell 

We read this for March’s book club and it was brutal. It was so good, but his descriptions of restaurants and housing and the general living conditions of the “down and out” in the 1920s was so vivid that I couldn’t eat or drink while I was reading it. The book really consumes you, and even though Orwell wasn’t really poor, and he could have walked away at any point to go back and live his middle class life in London (making you question whether or not this is a true memoir,) he didn’t. It was a great book club discussion, too!

Trifles by Susan Glaspell 

This is a tiny, feminist, one-act play about a rural murder. (It’s also a short story, “A Jury of Her Peers.” If you don’t enjoy reading plays, you can read it in short story form.) Highly recommend…it’s less than twenty pages…I can’t say much else!

The Covenant by Beverly Lewis

One of my friends had an idea to start a bonnet-rippers book club. There was wine involved so I joined and I actually enjoyed the book…it’s definitely not a genre I would pick up on my own, but we had a really good feminist discussion about the book. The Covenant is the first in a series of five(?) books and there’s a bit of a cliffhanger at the end, but I don’t think we’re going to finish the series as a group. I haven’t decided if I am going to go on…

I’ve been in the middle of two books all month and I read my book club book, but I’m sort of slogging through the reading right now. I just started a new one to see if I can get my mojo back. This week I am preparing for a craft show and next week I’m traveling, so hopefully I can sneak in some good balcony and bedtime reading so I have something to talk about for April!

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

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Maker’s Market

This Saturday I’ll be at The Lantern Loft in Forest Park for the brand new Maker’s Market! I’m very excited to do a local show. It’s fun to meet fellow neighbors who love handmade. There will be a light focus on Mother’s Day since it’s the next major holiday but I’ll have some new cards and framed quotes for Teacher Appreciation Week (coming up May 6-10,) graduations, and Father’s Day. And, as always, a mix of sweet and snarky handmade greetings for everyone else on your list.

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April in Chicago in April

My pen pal, April, and her partner Geof were in town this month for a visit. They live in New Zealand and April is a huge fan of Presley so she stops in to see her when she’s in town. And, we always go to Greer when she visits. It’s so fun to shop in Greer with someone else who loooooves stationery and fancy office supplies as much as I do. We were the only customers in the shop while we were there, but you’d never know it as much as we were chattering about Mr. Boddington’s great style, vintage pencils, the many, many notebooks we have in our stashes, and the great variety of greeting cards at Greer. mr. boddington's stationery, pencil case, vintage pencil, Mr. Boddington's pencil stationery Naoto gave me a gift card to Greer for Christmas and this was the first chance I had to spend it. I still have some money left to spend again, but I this time I chose some Mr. Boddington’s pencil-themed stationery, a vintage pencil, and a new pencil bag. (Neither the vintage pencil nor the pencil bag are available online.)We also went to Quimby’s to look at zines and take pictures in the photo booth. (I can never pass up a photo booth.)April and Geof were in town for Record Store Day and they shopped a lot of the record stores in Chicago, so we took them to Val’s Halla and Old School Records in our neighborhood. Val’s had live music which really put me in the mood to shop. On their last day in Chicago, it snowed six inches, so our plans were adjusted. We ended up going shopping and to Portillo’s for Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beefs. Weirdly, we didn’t write any letters together this time, but there’s always next year!

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Happy Spring!

I know it’s been spring for awhile, but it’s just starting to feel like it around here. Today I’m going to brunch with some friends and maybe eating Easter dinner at home, depending on what Chef Naoto decides. And hopefully, I can catch up on some blog posts because it’s almost the end of National Card & Letter Writing Month and I still have mail things to share! Hoping it’s a lovely day where you’re at and cheers to a relaxing Sunday!

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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