Tag Archives: books

“Emerson on Indigo” for the Forest Park Library

Kimberly Adami-Hasegawa embroidery project, Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, Forest Park Library, 100 ArtistHere is my final project, “Emerson on Indigo,” that I made for the Forest Park Library’s 100 Artists Event. It’s a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote handwritten and hand stitched on hand dyed indigo fabric.

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” I know modern libraries are more about being community centers and hosting great programming and computer access, but for me, the “access” (the theme of the show) is in being able to get my hands on older books that are hard to find and that I don’t have the budget (or room on my shelves) to buy. I love how books become a part of you, that you can quote them when you don’t have the words to express your thoughts, and that when my book-loving friends and I get together, almost all of our conversations include the phrase, “It’s like that book we read…”

raw indigo fabric for embroidery project, Forest Park Library, 100 ArtistAt first I was really frustrated that my (normally neat) handwriting didn’t translate nicely in stitches but then I sort of ended up liking the wonky imperfections. I was also hesitant to cut into my indigo fabric. Part of the reason I haven’t done anything with my dyed fabric is that I’ve been too afraid to ruin them. (It’s silly, I know.) I think cutting this piece off was a sacrifice for the greater good. I was really excited that the segment I chose worked out like I had pictured. (You can see the whole fabric above, drying after I soaked off the stabilizer. It was a huge piece of thick cotton that I had done a circular tie-dye pattern.)

The project served as many firsts for me and I was sorely out of practice with embroidery. I had never stitched words before and trust me, smaller is not quicker and easier! I used Sticky Fabri-Solvy for the first time, too. (You can read more about it here.) Using the somewhat sticky stabilizer was tricky at first, but by the end I loved the results and how easily the stabilizer dissolved off of the fabric. It was like magic and I’m so excited to be able to transfer patterns easily to dark fabrics now. And it was my first time mounting an embroidery project. (I used this method.) Kimberly Adami-Hasegawa embroidery project, Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, Forest Park Library, 100 Artist, Bottle Rocket GalleryForest Park Library, 100 artists gallery show, Bottle Rocket Gallery Forest Park Library, 100 artists gallery show, Bottle Rocket GalleryThe art at the gallery show was really amazing. Everyone had a different interpretation of “access” and such different styles. Everything from pens and paper to fabric and wool and keys were used. Some pieces were very sparse, others were detailed and layered, and some were interactive. It was so fun to see each piece and meet some of the other artists. Jackie Lakely project, Forest Park Library, 100 artistsMy friend Jackie had a piece in the show as well, “Windows to the World.” Kimberly Adami-Hasegawa, Karen, Jackie LakelyJames and Kimberly, The Heritage in Forest ParkAfter the show, Karen, James, Naoto, and I went out to dinner at The Heritage in Forest Park. (That’s James and me, toasting above.) It was such a fun night with friends.

P.S. Sending out a special thanks to Mollie whose blog I visit frequently for stitching tips and inspiration. Thank you for walking me through the Sticky Fabri-Solvy stress and sharing so many other tips on Twitter 🙂 I couldn’t have finished it without you!!

 

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Recipes and Cookbooks in a Pinterest World

Better Homes and Gardens NEW COOK BOOK , 1989 editionFor the past few years, I’ve been going to Pinterest more and more for recipes. On Pinterest there’s an endless variety of choices, instant access to reviews, and of course that bottomless rabbit hole of internet clicks. A search for a quick supper recipe quickly unravels into a hunt for table setting ideas, crafts, and other nonsense. Basically, what should be a five minute search for something to eat becomes a thirty minute internet time-suck.

So lately, I’ve been craving the comfort of my own cookbooks. First of all, curling up with the iPad and falling into a net of random blogs and untested recipes is not the same as paging through an old cookbook of tested, tried and true recipes. I love sticking page flags on the top contenders and building a meal from several cookbooks. 
And–more importantly here for me–constant searching and making Pinterest recipes doesn’t leave a paper trail.

My mom has a metal box packed with delicious recipes that we’ve eaten through the years. It’s like a little family time capsule of yellowed 3-by-5 cards in her own handwriting, my great-grandmother’s handwriting, my grandma’s handwriting, my aunts’ handwritings… It’s so fun to poke through the box and see who brought each recipe into our mix of regular meals and family gatherings. She also has her Better Homes & Gardens cookbook from the 70s that is so well-used, the pages are falling out of it. 

My own recipe box consists of a handful of recipes in my college handwriting and has pretty much been untouched since then. My own cooking history lies in my Pinterest pins and my internet search history. If I don’t change things now, when I’m old, I won’t have that paper trail of my own recipes. I won’t have creased and yellowed cards in my mom’s handwriting. I won’t have little handwritten notes about what worked and what didn’t when I tried a new cookbook recipe. I won’t have stained and wrinkled cookbook pages, tangible evidence of a well-loved meal.

I’m trying to break the Pinterest habit and rely more on my cookbooks and recipe box for meals and desserts. (I mean, why have them if I’m not using them?) And I’m trying to write down some of the favorites I have found online, like Kathy’s grandmother’s cranberries

Naoto and I have a small collection of cookbooks, mostly vintage ones with a few Food Network titles mixed in. (We used to watch tons of Food Network shows together on Saturday and Sunday mornings.) The backbone to our collection is the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book. We both brought versions of this cookbook into the marriage. Naoto’s is the 10th Edition (1989, pictured above) and he got it in college when Auntie Judy (his host mother in Hawaii) took him to Waldenbooks and bought it for him. Mine is the 11th Edition (1996) and I, too, got mine in college, as a Christmas gift from my parents. We are emotionally attached to our respective cookbooks so we’ve kept both of them. Plus, even though the editions are only a few years apart, mine has some newer recipes and even the old standards have slight changes to them. We have favorites in each edition. My mom is bringing her edition to Thanksgiving so I can see if we are missing out on some good 1970s standards. I will report back. 

In the meantime, I’m cracking open the cookbooks to get ready for Thanksgiving tomorrow. And cleaning…

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Vintage Book: The First Book of Letter Writing

The First Book of Letter Writing Out of the blue one day, long, long ago, I received a package from my online friend Holly. Inside was this fantastic children’s book, The First Book of Letter Writing by Helen Jacobson & Florence Mischel. The delightful illustrations were done by Lászlo Roth. The First Book of Letter WritingPublished in 1957, it covers everything the mid-century child needed to know about letter writing: how to write a letter, how to address the envelope, proper penmanship, writing celebrities, thank you notes, condolence notes, stationery, postage and more. The First Book of Letter Writing CoverThe book originally came with a book of stamps to get the letter writing started! The First Book of Letter WritingThe First Book of Letter WritingJust like yesterday’s book, some of the book reads as a time capsule of children’s correspondence in the fifties. I didn’t realize there were rules for children’s stationery: “boys always use a single, unfolded sheet of paper” while “girls may use folded stationery.” But most of the book is still helpful in its teachings of letter structure and helping children to learn that their letters should be a mix of news and questions for the recipient. I think it would still be a great introduction to letter writing. The First Book of Letter WritingReceiving this book–which is a technically a “destroyed” library book–made me both happy and sad. Of course I am thrilled that Holly found it and thought of me and sent it my way. I will treasure it forever. But I’m sad because this book about letter writing isn’t out there in a library for a child to discover. Maybe checking out a book like this would inspire a new generation of letter writers. In my personal book collection, it has a very limited reach…how sad! But thankfully it was rescued from the dumpster, right?!

I just requested a bunch of letter writing books from the library, so hopefully in the coming weeks, I’ll have more books to share. It will be nice to keep the spirit of Letter Month going a little longer, right?

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Things To Make & Do For Valentine’s Day

Tomie de Paola Things to Make and Do for Valentine's DayI spent a few days with my parents last week and of course we went thrift shopping. I was in the store less than two minutes when this sweet book by Tomie dePaola jumped into my hands. It may be the best ten cents I’ve ever spent!

Tomie dePaola wrote Strega Nona and Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs, two of my favorite books from my days working with children. His illustrations are charming and his stories are sweet and timeless. Things to Make and Do for Valentine’s Day is a how-to book with crafts, jokes, tongue twisters, games and recipes to share for the holiday.

The book is designed for kids, but I think some of the projects are fun for adults, too. I’m going to try one out this weekend and I will report back next week. If it works out, I may use the idea for my Valentine envelopes this year.

Have you planned your Valentine’s Day cards yet? I have my prototype ready…now the real work begins.

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A Simple Tool for Book Club Readers

notebook and book darts, book club toolsA long time ago, while reading Kathy’s blog, I learned about these neat little things called Book Darts. They are tiny, thin page markers made of metal that slide on and off the paper without leaving a mark. I know some people like to fold the edge of the page over or use little sticky note page flags. Those are fine options, too, but I usually get my books from the library so folding the edge is not an option and the sticky flags sometimes damage older paper. (Our book club reads so many old books that often, at least one of us is reading a crumbling copy from the library!) So far, I’ve never had a book dart hurt even the oldest books.

book dart, page point in actionThe most genius thing about them is that they can be used to point to the exact words on the page that you want. I often try to take notes while I am reading for book club so that I can remember what I want to talk about during our meetings. But sometimes, I’m so into a book that I don’t want to stop at take notes. Grabbing a dart and marking a passage is often enough for me to remember what I wanted to say.

(Of course, for longer notes or questions about the book, I keep a trusty notebook set aside for book club. This one was a gift from my pen pal, Cath.)

Do you have anything special you use for book club?

P.S. Sorry for the quiet this week. I am hosting book club tomorrow morning and I’ve been reading and rushing around cleaning up and finally putting Christmas away.

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Another Christmas Tea

Bookclub holiday tea table settings 3 2014Another book club holiday tea is in the books (hehe) and we’re onto a new year. December book club always falls around winter solstice, so it was rather dark all day at Peggy’s, but hopefully you can appreciate the beauty of the rooms and the table settings in spite of my dark pictures. Bookclub holiday tea table settings 2014We split into two tables, each seen above, and as always the place settings were festive and lovely. Peggy should seriously give lessons on how to set a table because I always feel like mine lack the layering that hers have. She has such a great mix of dishes to play around with, too. Bookclub holiday tea cocktail 2014, ginger sage proseccoWe started the morning with a cocktail–ginger sage prosecco. We found the recipe here and I made the syrup, which is easy and delicious and amazingly useful in other cocktails too. It’s warm and wintry, perfect for this time of the year. Bruising the sage leaf before you float it on top of your cocktail is also highly recommended.

Our menu was very similar to last year’s menu. I made ham salad tea sandwiches again, and they were served alongside pimento tea sandwiches and classic cucumber tea sandwiches. We had two kinds of scones, cherry almond and coconut, served with Devonshire cream, Meyer lemon curd, lime curd and lilikoi curd. And we had Christmas cookies and lemon squares and lots and lots of hot tea. peggys house, bookclub holiday tea 1, snowglobesFor our book this month, we read Emma–our first dip into Jane Austen. Sadly, only a few finished the book (which is rare for us!) so the book discussion was not as long and as deep as usual. But lesson learned, choosing a lighter book in December may be the way to go. After the book discussion, we lingered on in Peggy’s comfortable home and chatted about our Christmas plans, families and other books. peggys house, bookclub holiday tea 2, snowmen on the sideboardI’m looking forward to another year of book club, and more reading in general. I didn’t read as much as I should have in 2014, so it’s time for a fresh start. For January we are reading Ethan Frome. Edith Wharton is a favorite of mine, so I’m looking forward to it. We don’t have any other titles planned for the year, which is a preferred way to go. Last year we planned an entire year ahead and a few of us felt stuck with some of the titles. It’s nice to plan a little at a time, and leave some openings for interesting titles that pop up in the newspaper or recommendations from friends. If you’re in a book club, I’d love to hear how you choose your titles.

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Spooky Short Stories for Halloween

Edgar Allan Poe book with skullEeps, Halloween is fast approaching! Are you in the mood for some spooky reading? In years past, our book group has read some good books for Halloween: Dracula, Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera, and The Jungle to name a few. My favorites, though, are the short stories we’ve read. Just because a story is short doesn’t mean it can’t leave a haunting impact. These are my favorites:

“Graves for the Living” from Nightwebs by Cornell Woolrich (1937): This one has it all–secret societies, paranoia, fear of being buried alive–such a good one for Halloween week. The fifty pages turn quickly and you find yourself gasping for air and being suspicious of everyone! Woolrich also wrote the short story “It Had To Be Murder which became Alfred Hitchcock’s famous movie Rear Window.

“The Apple Tree” from The Birds & Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier (1952): We inched outside of our “pre-1930s” restrictions for this one and it was worth it. A man is “haunted” by his dead wife in the form of an apple tree on his property. “The Birds,” another story-to-Hitchcock movie favorite is included in this collection.

“The Monkey’s Paw” from The Lady of the Barge by W. W. Jacobs (1902): Three wishes on a mummified monkey’s paw…what could go wrong? This was named one of the scariest short stories of all time and I would have to agree!

“The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe (1841): It’s the first modern detective story, but it has enough mystery and suspense to be a great “ghost story” too! Anything from Poe works this time of year though, right?

What creepy stories have you read lately?

P.S. Totally unrelated: Happy Anniversary to my parents, celebrating 42 years today!! (Here’s a picture of them on their wedding day!)

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Our Pleasant Home Book Group

pleasant home book groupI’ve mentioned being in a book club a few times over the past few years, but I figured it’s time to write a post about it. It is one of my favorite things, so I can’t believe it’s taken so me so long to talk about it here.

I know a lot of people are in book clubs. They read a book, they (may) talk about it, they drink wine, they eat snacks and go home. Our version is a little bit different. Our book club was originally started in 2002 as a park district program with the Pleasant Home in Oak Park. The group met in the Pleasant Home library and read books that would have been in the home’s library during the John Farson era (early turn of the century.) The first book was So Big by Edna Ferber. Apparently there were close to fifty people at the first meeting and the group gradually whittled down to a small group of core members who came every month with a handful of people coming and trying it out for a bit and not returning. There are still four original members from that very first meeting.

I joined the group in 2008. I was taking a drawing class at Pleasant Home and my teacher told me about the group. I had never been in a book club before, but the premise really interested me. I was a literature major in college and I missed reading “the classics”. Actually, at the time, I was hardly reading anything because I was so busy working. A book club would force me back into the reading habit and this book club in particular was reading great older titles, something I knew I’d enjoy.

My first book was A Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. I read it diligently, loved it and went to the meeting. As I walked in the door, I noticed that everyone was older than me. I felt a little bit out of place for a quick second and then instantly at home. Anne took down my information to send me a book list, my (small) contribution to the discussion was met with interest, Peggy invited me to lunch with the group…it was welcoming and I remember going home thinking that I had found “my people”–a feeling only matched by meeting fellow letter writers.

Now, six years later, one thing I love most about our group is that we are multi-generational. Our ages span from twenty-ish to seventy-ish. (We’ve had three members pass away, most recently Anne, who was in her eighties.) Everyone brings such a different perspective to the book because of her age and background. Our discussions would be much different, I think, if we were all women in our thirties. The other thing I love is that the group formed organically. We are all friends/friendly now, but for the most part, it is a group of strangers who have the interest of old literature in common. And, while it is all women now, at a few points in the twelve year history of the group, there have been male members.

In February, we had our last meeting at Pleasant Home. They decided to stop hosting our group as a park district program. (The house is open very limited hours and apparently paying a staff member to be there to open the door for us was too much for the Home’s budget.) So, now we meet in our homes–our “pleasant homes”–and it’s quite nice. The hostess usually bakes a little something and serves coffee and tea. While meeting in the Pleasant Home library was always interesting, our own homes are much more comfortable.

One of our biggest challenges is finding solid books that are still in print or are still available in a large enough quantity for each of us to borrow a copy from the library system. A lot of times, a great title will come to our attention, but since it’s not widely available, we can’t read it. Right now, we are reading mostly from the 1930s and before, so obviously, even after twelve years, there is still a huge amount of literature yet to read. And, believe it or not, the group is reading Jane Austen for the first time in December!

I’m hoping to do another post about my favorite titles that we’ve read and of our top “scary reads” from past Octobers. In the meantime, I’d love to hear if you’re in a book club and what kinds of books you read!

P.S. That’s us pictured above (with the exception of Susan R and two new members) after one of our last meetings in the Pleasant Home library.

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In My Neighborhood: Little Free Library

Little Free Library Forest Park, ILI’ve been reading about Little Free Libraries popping up in cities all across the country. It’s an intriguing idea–build a tiny library, fill it with a few books and let people give and take on the honor system. It’s so community-driven and idealist…two things I love.

Imagine my surprise when Little Free Library recently popped up in front of a tiny house in my own neighborhood!

This house is only a block north of me, and one that I walk by almost every day on my way to get a coffee or go to work. It’s in a neighborhood of both houses and apartments a couple of blocks away from the train station. If you ask me, it’s a perfect neighborhood for something like this. People can pick up and drop off books on their way to their morning trains. Hopefully some of the neighborhood kids can find some titles in there eventually. Little Free Library Forest Park, ILThe little library house is surrounded by solar-operated twinkle lights, but I haven’t seen it all lit up at night yet. I don’t see any titles inside that I want to borrow yet (I am a huge user of our public library), but I have a few good classics on my shelf that I’m going to drop off later this week. Little Free Library Forest Park, ILDo you have a Little Free Library in your neighborhood? There’s a giant list of them here and a map here.

Speaking of reading…I’m going to go outside now and finish my book for book group this weekend. We’re reading Two Years Before the Mast. What an adventure!

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Japanese Class

learning Japanese wordsOn a complete whim, I signed up for a beginner Japanese class this fall. I’m taking it at the Oak Park River Forest High School through Triton College’s adult continuing education program.

As an adult, I feel like a total language dummy. I confidently took four years of French in high school…I was pretty good. There were only two of us in French 4 (Stacey D & me!) and I could converse and write well. I had a French pen pal, too. We lost touch in college, unfortunately, and by then I was writing her in English anyway because I stupidly did not take French in college. (Regrets…I have a few.)

But when it comes to Japanese, I’m convinced I will never learn. Someone said I’d probably know the most in our class, but I seriously doubt it. Naoto has tried to teach me phrases and either I cannot pronounce them correctly to save my life OR I forget them within moments of learning. Maybe I’m too old…or maybe (hopefully!) I just need a structured class to help make things stick.

So I dug out my old (children’s) Japanese vocabulary book for the occasion. I’ve had it for years, long before I even traveled to Japan. I think the next logical step is to make some flashcards.

Whether I catch on or not, I’m really excited to take the class. It was only $140 and it goes from the end of August through the middle of November, and it will be a good opportunity for me to meet some new people and to hopefully learn some basics for our trip next spring.

I’m really hoping we can devote a whole session to donut flavors and ordering at Mister Donut, but maybe that’s wishful thinking?

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