Tag Archives: Halloween

All I’ve Been Doing is Reading

The title is true. Other than work, a few custom card orders, writing letters, and watching my way through Schitt’s Creek and The Office, I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Our apartment is a mess, Naoto has been doing 95% of the cooking, and I’ve been neglecting my emails, but man, I’m really enjoying books lately.

What Diantha Did by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

We read this for book club in January. I picked it because we all loved “The Yellow Wallpaper” and it’s always fun revisiting authors we’ve enjoyed in the past. Diantha’s marriage to the man she loves keeps getting pushed back because he can not afford to provide for her and his mother and his unmarried sisters. So Diantha takes control and starts her own cleaning business which takes off like crazy until she rules over a cleaning empire. The book really makes you think about the value of women’s work and the roles of women at home during the 20s. Diantha’s fiancé has a very difficult time understanding why she works and can’t come to terms with her role as a provider. The ending felt a little rushed but in general, I liked it a lot.

The Odd Women by George Gissing

Have I mentioned here how much I love a good spinster novel? (I need to write a blog post about the book that started my infatuation with these books!) This one really fit the bill. The title comes from the fact that there were about one million more women than men in England at the end of the 19th century. The “odd women” were the unmarried women. The book explores five women: two “early feminists,” unmarried by choice, two by happenstance (their parents died and they had little family money,) and one woman who marries for financial security, which ends up being a terrible mistake. It shows the limited options for women back at the turn of the century, especially women without family money. I’ve never read Gissing before but now I’m curious about some of his other titles.

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster

I can’t believe I haven’t read this before. Lucy Honeychurch falls in love on vacation in Italy but ends up engaged to another man back in England. She has to decide between following her social class and the old rules of Victorian society or following her own heart. I loved the main story, but all of the supporting characters made this book such a fun read. (There were spinsters!) We read Forster’s A Passage to India in book club, and now I want to read Howard’s End and Maurice.

“Afterward” by Edith Wharton

This was recommended a few years ago during our book club Halloween reads and I never finished it. At Christmastime, I picked it up again and finally set out to read it last month. I’m annoyed that I waited because it’s so good, such a well-crafted short story. Pick it up at Halloween, or at Christmas, because apparently reading creepy books at Christmas is a thing?

The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell 

This was our book for February’s book club. We read Maxwell’s They Came Like Swallows a few summers ago and everyone loved it. Maxwell’s writing it so beautiful and there are a lot of autobiographical details in his books. The Folded Leaf is a coming of age story about two boys in Chicago: Spud, strong and confident, and Lymie, weak and thoughtful. The book follows the two friends from grade school to college and gives a wonderful glimpse into life in Chicago and Illinois in the 1920s. In book club, we had a good debate at book club about whether it’s a friendship novel, or a love story.

Asleep by Banana Yoshimoto

I read Yoshimoto’s Kitchen last fall after reading The Convenience Store Woman. I loved Kitchen, and its companion short story, “Moonlight Shadow” so much. Both just were so emotional and magical. I had high hopes for Asleep and it fell short for me. It was actually three separate stories, all having to do with sleep and death and mourning and ghosts…similar themes to Kitchen, but just not executed as well (to me.)

So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell 

Ugh…this one was killer. The narrator is looking back on a small town murder that happened fifty years earlier. The murder happened after an affair was discovered between two neighboring families. The story of the murder is slowly woven into the coming-of-age story of the narrator, who ends up moving away and seeing his old friend years later in Chicago. (Oh yes, it’s another Illinois story by Maxwell.) This book is only 135 pages, but again, like The Folded Leaf, Maxwell does such a masterful job getting you to feel his regret and sadness, all those years later.

Hardboiled & Hard Luck by Banana Yoshimoto

Again, nothing beats Kitchen…”Hardboiled” was interesting, about a women who is celebrating the anniversary of her ex-lover’s death. Again, there is a lot of sadness and a little bit of a mystical aspect happening… And “Hard Luck” is about a woman whose sister is dying and she’s falling in love with someone new. So, a little bit of loss and a little bit of promise…I’m taking a break from Banana Yoshimoto.

Unpunished by Charlotte Perkins Gilman 

This one wasn’t printed until well after Gilman’s death but it’s fantastic! It’s a detective story that had me thinking about The Thin Man movies. Of course, since it’s Gilman, there are a lot of feminist themes throughout the book. The detectives are a husband and wife team and the murder victim has been killed five times, five different ways (but you’re not sorry for him because he was a controlling, abusive jerk.) There are some great twists and some great symbolism but it’s still a light, fun read.

Since I started this post, I finished another book, but I’ll save that for my next book report. I’m starting a book by another Japanese author tonight (I think!) My reading is going to have to start slowing down though so I can get some projects done and get ready for my first craft show of the year next month. It’s been so nice though…I guess I just need to give up some other things so I have more time to read…

I’d love to hear what you’re reading!

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Mister Donut Museum

Kimberly AH at Mister Donut MuseumOne of the sillier things we did on this trip to Osaka was visit the Mister Donut Museum. It was…odd, but a lot of fun.  Mister Donut Museum, Osaka, JapanLocated on the first floor of the Duskin* office building in the suburbs of Osaka, the Mister Donut Museum is not easy to find. Naoto and I left the train station and walked and walked and walked and ended up in what reminded me of an American industrial park but there were also houses and other office buildings. When we got there, we were all, “This is it?” It reminded me of the McDonald’s Museum at Hamburger University in Oakbrook…it’s really offices with a mini-museum of the company. Mister Donut Museum Mister Donut Museum Mister Donut Museum Mister Donut Museum Mister Donut MuseumThe museum covers Mister Donut from its American roots all the way to modern-day shops in Japan. Nothing in the museum is in English so Naoto patiently translated all of the displays for me. I love learning about the history of my favorite companies and seeing the way the menus and logos and shop designs have changed over the years. In the last two pictures above, we are standing underneath photographs of every single Mister Donut in Japan. Mister Donut Museum Mister Donut Museum Mister Donut MuseumAfter you see the history of Misdo, there’s an area to make your own donut holes. (It was me and children doing this activity…I should tell you that we were the only grown-ups without children in the museum…which gave me flashbacks of the Crayola Factory!) There wasn’t a gift shop, which was the biggest disappointment for me. I was so looking forward to sending some Mister Donut postcards! They did sell Mister Donut mugs and cleaning things like sponges and dust cloths. Mister Donut Museum Mister Donut Museum The highlight of the museum is that the Mister Donut in the building has allllll the donuts. They even had some Halloween donuts that I hadn’t seen in our other shops. We tried a créme brûlée donut and just a regular honey pon de ring. Mister Donut Museum Mister Donut MuseumThe crusty sugar top of the creme brûlée donut was amazing. Mister Donut Museum, ramune ice creamJust as we were leaving, I noticed the very obvious ice cream freezer at the Mister Donut counter. We have never seen a Mister Donut with ice cream in our travels in Japan, so this was new to us. I spied ramune** ice cream and even though I was pretty full, I HAD to try it. It was so refreshing, like a creamy sorbet. The ramune flavor was perfect and there were little bits of…something fizzy in each bite. I spent the rest of our trip looking out for this ice cream, but sadly, I didn’t see any again.

I don’t know that I would recommend the Mister Donut museum to the average tourist to Japan. For me, it was worth the trip out to the suburbs to see some history of my favorite Japanese hangout. But seriously, Mister Donut/Duskin…invest in some good postcards for your gift shop.

 

*Duskin is Mister Donut’s parent company. They started out as a cleaning company and expanded their portfolio over the years. The first floor of the museum was devoted to Mister Donut. The second floor was devoted to cleaning tools.

** I talk about ramune in this blog post. I should do a blog post about the original ramune soda with the marble…

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Misdo’s Halloween Donuts

As with every other trip to Japan, this trip included many trips to Mister Donut. We didn’t go every day, but most days. For some reason, “our” Misdo in Sangenjaya didn’t have the Halloween donuts out when we got to Tokyo on October 23rd. I had researched Mister Donut’s seasonal donuts before we left (#priorities,) so I was very much looking forward to them. Thankfully, there was no donut crisis because we found the Halloween specialties when we visited Osaka.There were these cute mummy donut sticks that tasted like black tea with white chocolate on top. This one was definitely cuter than it was tasty…it was a little dry and white chocolate isn’t my favorite. We didn’t try this pink mummy one, but it was filled with apple whipped cream.And we didn’t try the Pon de Mummy, a white chocolate dipped classic pon de ring. This one was my favorite. It was a chocolate donut with chestnut whipped cream inside. Cute and delicious. Naoto refused to partake in the Halloween donuts, so he got a hot dog donut and a black sugar pon de ring…It was sort of a weird Mister Donut because it was a small satellite shop, so the donuts weren’t made in house like most Mister Donuts. It was a fifteen minute walk from our Airbnb so we only went once during our stay. But, I’m glad I got to eat these guys.

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mt Halloween Pop-Up at Tokyu Hands

Next week, I’m hoping to finally work on my little “scrapbook” from Japan, so I figured I could start blogging about it as I go through pictures to print and ephemera to paste. It’s going to be weird talking about Halloween in January but, I think we’ll be okay. Halloween has become a pretty big deal in Japan. In fact, thirteen people were arrested in Shibuya celebrating Halloween…it was a huge scandal and all over the news. (We watched from our Airbnb in Osaka.)

But I digress…

I found out about an mt pop-up shop at the Tokyu Hands store in Ikebukuro before we left and Naoto made sure to add it to the stationery tour list. We decided to check it off the list on our first day in Tokyo.   The whole front of the store was “wallpapered” with mt’s Halloween tape and the first floor was mostly devoted to mt. They had all of their limited edition Halloween and fall tapes available and tons of other packs and single rolls set up in bins for easy perusal. In the middle of the shop, there were Halloween patterned streamers hanging down…the picture doesn’t do it justice…we really needed a selfie stick to show off the full effect. They also had a game where you could pay ¥500 and blindly reach into a bin and take out as many washi tape as you could grab in one handful. I decided not to partake because most of the tapes were pretty basic and I have plenty of washi tapes. I sort of went into this trip deciding not to buy too many washi tapes because I already have so many, but that plan flew out of the window when I landed in Japan.I did try to buy just the ones I truly loved……but really, what’s not to love? I ended up getting the Halloween washi tapes (and duplicates for friends,) mt Halloween monsters wrapping paper, Bande Halloween roll stickers, tiny jack-o-lantern stickers, and some other stationery. Oh and Naoto got Presley a cat treat…at this Hands, there was a whole floor devoted to pet supplies along with a cat cafe. I am looking forward to THIS Halloween when I can use some of the things I bought. If you’re in Japan, I’d highly recommend checking out mt’s website and Instagram to see if they have any pop-ups near you. Thanks to Naoto for starting our trip out with a bang.

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Cocktail Perfected: Twentieth Century

Twentieth Century Cocktail, vintage cocktailsI’ve been working this week on decorating and pulling out some of my Halloween mail art supplies. I’m hoping to have everything done tonight so I can enjoy the season and maybe make a cheesecloth ghost or something. It was really hot on Wednesday, so I was able to finish the balcony. Temperatures dropped yesterday and leaves are actually falling, so I’m definitely feeling like getting cozy and reading spooky books this weekend.

Ok, so the Twentieth Century is not a true Halloween cocktail, but there is a hint of chocolate so we can consider it grown-up Halloween candy-esque. I had this cocktail for the first time at Fitzgerald’s a few years ago and it’s a favorite classic cocktail of mine. It was created in 1937 as a nod to the Twentieth Century Limited, a train that went between Chicago and New York City from 1902 until the 1960s. You might think it sounds weird with the creme de cacao and the lemon…it is strange but it works. Trust me.

Twentieth Century Cocktail

1 1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce Lillet Blanc (We use Cocchi Americano if we have that on hand instead.)

3/4 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 ounce white creme de cacao

Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake until fully chilled and strain into a coupe. Enjoy on a chilly fall night. (Or a warm summer night…it works.)

P.S. Two true Halloween cocktails: Purgatory and Corpse Reviver #2

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Summer Book Report, Part 2

summer reading, a good man is hard to find, we have always lived in a castle, a country doctor, consequences, convenience store womanI gave myself until the technical start of fall to finish my goal of reading ten books, and I’m going to call it complete. I finished my last book on Tuesday, and one of my choices is technically a short story, but…it’s all good. I’ve been reading up a storm, finishing all of these this month. (Don’t be too impressed…one book was a layover from August and the others are quite short!)

A Country Doctor by Sarah Orne Jewett (1884): This was for book group and it was kind of meh. The writing is really lovely, but many parts were too verbose and I didn’t feel the same connection to the characters that I have in other books. Oh, and it’s another single woman, finding her way in the world, struggling between career and marriage…I’m not complaining. I love those books. This just wasn’t my favorite.

“A Good Man is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor (1953): It’s a short story that I can’t believe I’ve never read. I can’t tell you anything. Don’t read about it. Just get it and read it. It’s perfection.

Consequences by E.M. Delafield (1919): Another spinster novel…I loooooved this. It took me almost a month to read it and I had to take a break from reading it to read for book club. But, every time I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. It is a tale of a misunderstood child turned single woman who makes many bad choices in life (a life constrained by society’s expectations and restrictions) and has to live with the consequences.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2016): Oh look! It’s a book written this century! Naoto’s sister recommended this book to him a couple years ago and it was the book that got him back into reading. He read the Japanese version and I was a little bummed because it wasn’t available in English when he told me about it. Then, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Work Over Easy, and I was reading this post thinking “huh, this book sounds like that one Naoto read!” and sure enough it was! I immediately ordered it from the library and read it in one day. I loved it so much, but it’s hard to explain why. Weirdly enough, it’s another book about a single woman who has made some “non-traditional” choices. I loved the main character and I loved how the author paints the perfect picture of life in a convenience store. (Sidenote: convenience stores are way better in Japan…perhaps I need to write a new Japan Does It Better post.)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962): I haven’t read enough Shirley Jackson. “The Lottery” is one of my favorite short stories ever. This was the perfect introduction into my spooky October reading. The book was creepy and captivating and funny…and the first paragraph is one of the best ever written:

My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in my family is dead.

For book club next month, we are reading Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and I just started Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto, another Japanese book that I read about in the New York Times review of Convenience Store Woman. Perhaps I’ll be back with a fall review soon! In the meantime, here are some of my favorite book club reads from October!

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In My Neighborhood: Empowering Gardens

empowering gardens inc, forest parkEmpowering Gardens is one of those unique places that makes me thankful I live in Forest Park. It is a local garden center with a mission to provide job opportunities for people with disabilities. Everyone who works there is so knowledgable and friendly. And EG offers such great plants, definitely heartier than some of the stuff at the big box garden centers. Plus, their prices are competitive, which means you can buy more and help a good cause.empowering gardens, fall pansies, fall flowers, garden center, mumsRight now, they have a gorgeous array of pansies which love this fall weather that we’re just dipping into, and tons of mums–tiny ones and giant ones in all different autumnal colors. empowering gardens, ornamental pepper, fall flowers, garden centerThey also have a few varieties of ornamental peppers, which are so cool! (I’m kicking myself for not buying this one.) They also have some ornamental cabbages, fall grasses, cold weather vegetables, and plenty more. Pretty much everything you need to give your porch or garden a boost for the new season. empowering gardens inc, forest parkHow cute would one of these be on a Halloween porch? empowering gardens inc, forest park, Naoto at Empowering GardensWe bought a couple of small mums and this really neat black plant…I need to clear off the balcony of all the dead summer stuff and I’ll share the living fall version next week. (It’s really a mess out there on my lanai!) I really wish I could trust myself to water the pansies because they have so many stunning colors! And, this Saturday, I’ll be at Empowering Gardens selling my cards at the Music, Art & Wine event! I’m so excited to participate in this event that combines my love of gardening with my love wine and music and handmade art!

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Phantom Flight Night™ 2017

Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineIt’s that time of the year again–Phantom wine time! Earlier this month we hosted our THIRD annual Phantom Flight Night™, our little wine tasting gathering where we compare notes on several years of releases of Phantom wine. This year, we tasted 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. (2014 is available now at Trader Joes and other wine shops!) Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I packed most of our Halloween decorations in the dining room since that’s where the party was. I labeled the bottles so we could easily identify the year and poured each person two ounces. This was the biggest Phantom Flight Night™ yet, so I had to borrow some wine glasses from Karen so we’d have enough for everyone. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineKaren brought her grandma’s wine glasses. As you can see, wine glasses (right side) were, uh, a little smaller back then. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine, meat and cheese trayKaren made her fabulous homemade pimento cheese and we served meats and cheeses and minestrone soup. The “other Karen” made Lucky Charms treats which were amazing. Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wine Phantom Flight Night, Bogle wines, Bogle Phantom, wine tasting party, halloween wine tasting, red wineThis year, I printed some wine tasting wheels so we had some wine language to work with. I’m terrible at discerning different tastes in wine, so it’s nice to always have a guide and some Trader Joe friends who’ve had some wine tasting training. Even though I’m no sommelier, I still find comparing Phantoms interesting. The blend changes a little bit each year (for instance the 2014 blend is 42% Petite Sirah, 34% Zinfandel, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot) and the finished wine is vastly different. Overall, 2012 came through as a favorite.

Every year I love this party more. Mainly because it’s an intimate group of fellow wine lovers, but also because wine, snacks, friends…simple. It’s the perfect October tradition before the busy-ness of the holidays begins.

P.S. Here are the posts for Phantom Flight Nights™ of years past: 2016, 2015

 

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Phantom Flight Night™ 2016

sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night Another fall, another Phantom Flight Night™. I just love this party…this year it was a small group, only four of us, enjoying Bogle’s Phantom wine from 2008, 2011, 2012, and 2013. Unlike last year, this bottle of 2008 was fine and delicious, though I can’t remember which one we liked the most. sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night Simple decorations this year…sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night We made this one pan Autumn dinner and it was amazing…apples, brussel sprouts, sweet potato…all the best of fall. sheet pan fall vegetables and chicken thighs, Phantom Flight Night It was a good night.

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KimBOOly HAUNTSegawa’s Mailbox

Paper Pastries Halloween MailMy mailbox was filled with a steady stream of Halloween mail last month. Margaret sent the package above, adorned with all of the fabulous spooky stamps of the post office’s history! Inside, there was a Halloween card and a tiny wooden casket filled with candy. I LOVE the creative use of the wax seals! Margaret wrote a blog post about creating the little candy caskets. Such a fun postal treat! I’m going to use the little casket in my Halloween decorating next year and I’m hoarding the envelope too. candy corn postcardSarah sent this fun see-through candy corn postcard. It was laminated into the postcard size, like the corn was floating. Japan Post Halloween postcardYuki sent this amazing Japan Post Halloween postcard. These seasonal cards are coveted by me and many other Japan Post lovers…I screamed with delight when I saw it in my mailbox! Japan Post Halloween postcardYuki sent the postcard in an envelope, but still used vintage stamps with special postmarks on the postcard. I’m sure the postcard will make a reappearance next year in my Halloween decorating. It’s too good to file away with my other mail. Halloween cardsAnd, above are the other sweet, charming, funny Halloween cards I received. punny addressesDanielle, who sent me two Halloween cards, addressed them in the BEST way! KimBOOOly Adami- HAUNTSegawa and KimberlEEK! ADOOMi-HAUNTED HOUSEegawa made me laugh for days. And that Parcel Ghost sticker–so good!

Thanks to everyone for making it a great mail month! Anyone else receive anything spooky in your mailbox?

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