It’s hard to believe that our whirlwind eclipse trip was over a week ago. The day was hot, exhausting, emotional, stressful, worrying…but in the end, it was so worth it. I didn’t realize how much I needed a break from being at home stressing about politics and world events until Naoto and I were out on the open road driving to see one of the most beautiful sites in the sky.
I should explain that I was the only willing participant in this trip. Naoto was totally not into it. He didn’t want to take off work or make the very long drive. I had to talk him into it. I was prepared to go alone, but I convinced him that it would be a fun adventure. At the moment of full totality, he told me it was worth it.
On Sunday we drove down to my parents house in central Illinois in hopes that we could get a jump start on the Chicago drivers Monday morning. That part of the plan worked like a charm. We left at 3AM and made it down to southern Illinois around 8:30. We didn’t have a solid plan. I just wanted to be in the path of totality. I didn’t care if we were standing on the side of the road. I just wanted to be there.
But we made it down to Makanda (rhymes with Miranda,) Illinois, which had been hyped in newspapers as the place to see the eclipse. They were doing the postmarks and had a little town celebration for the eclipse, so we decided to pay the $20 to park our car in a field along the side of the road. (The field is pictured above.) There really wasn’t another option in Makanda. I had immediate second thoughts, but it ended up working out perfectly for us, so I’m so glad we stayed. Makanda is a small town of 350ish people. They have a cute post office, a few shops, and…fields. I didn’t get a good picture of the shops, but they all had a hippie vibe to them. Actually, the whole town had a hippie vibe. A lot of the guys walking around reminded me of Willie Nelson. (This may explain the fact that someone came around offering people some marijuana before the eclipse!) Everyone was chill and welcoming. One of the shops had a backyard “sculpture garden” that was fun to walk through. We climbed stairs and walked through doorways all in the name of shade. Oh, have I not mentioned it was almost 100 degrees? We packed water and snacks and forgot sunscreen. This is us in the garden around 10:30AM. We were still fresh then. By the time the eclipse started, we were melting. I spent part of the morning writing out postcards, but the heat was making me delirious, so I didn’t get as many done as I’d hoped. We went back to the car a couple of times to turn on the AC and get out of the sun, but we have an old car so I was worried about something overheating before the drive home. We had a little snack, but it was so hot, neither of us felt like eating much. Finally, it was time for the eclipse to begin! We got out of the car and got our glasses ready and made friends with our field neighbors. There were tons of people from Chicago! We parked next to a family from Naperville. There were three single guys, one from Downers Grove, one from Pittsburgh!!!, and one from the Champaign area. And there was another couple from Arlington Heights. CW, the guy from Champaign, had the eclipse app so he helped us all stay on track with what to see during the whole experience. We were all stressed about the clouds, which kept blowing through and even covered the sun for a few moments as the moon was crossing over. But thankfully…it all worked out and we had clear skies after that. So sweaty…by the time we reached 70% coverage, all of the men were shirtless. Except Naoto. (Remember, I forgot sunscreen.) It’s so hard to see in my pictures, but the two shots above show the light changing as we went into full totality. The top picture is at the start of the eclipse, and the bottom picture is a few minutes before totality. The changes were really subtle at first, but as the moon covered the sun, the darkness became really sharp. Even the street lights came on by the time we reached totality. And, like a gift from the heavens, the temperature dropped!
The guy from Pittsburgh had a playlist and we listened to Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” during totality. It was a party atmosphere as we all high fived and just said, “Can you believe this?” to one another as we looked at the sky. Here I am, during totality. You guys…it was magic. I kind of rolled my eyes on the drive down when someone on NPR said a total eclipse was life-changing. But he was right. It was. I didn’t try to get a picture because I knew it would never compete with the real deal. I just tried to focus on soaking it all in. We all had our glasses off for the quick moment the moon completely moved over the sun. (Our eyes are okay, don’t worry!) The corona was brilliant, blazing white, glowing behind the moon. It sparkled. And the sky…it was a deep, dark blue, not black like you see in the pictures. The sky was darkest above, and there was some light left around the horizons. The sun and moon felt so close, right above us in the sky. We were able to see Venus and Jupiter, but not Mars and Mercury. It was the shortest two and a half minutes of my life. I know it’s a cheesy cliché but, I just wanted to bask in the moment forever. I know some of the most beautiful things in life are fleeting, but I just wanted to look a little bit longer. I’m so thankful I had the chance to see it, even if it’s just once in my lifetime.
We left soon after totality. Naoto had to work early on Tuesday morning and we were sort of exhausted and anxious for the long drive home. We headed back to my parents’ house (again so we didn’t have to fight traffic all the way back to Chicago.) The trip back to my parents was long and tedious. We hardly hit any traffic on the way down, but going back up was stop and go the whole way. Our GPS sent us on an “alternative path” to “save twenty minutes” but we ended up in these weird country road traffic jams because everyone else was getting the same routes! So basically every time there was a stop sign on a country road, there would be a long line of cars waiting to go through. It took us almost twice as long to make it back and we decided to stay the night and drive home in the morning.
By the time we got home Tuesday morning, we’d driven more than 800 miles in 1.5 days and I had a sunburn all over, even in places my shirt had covered! So Tuesday was all about napping and recovery for me. (Naoto was able to sleep in the car.) In spite of the driving exhaustion, we are both so grateful for the experience.
Heck, I’m already plotting 2024 when the eclipse will come to Makanda again!
P.S. Chicago’s own weatherman, Tom Skilling had such a great reaction to the eclipse…I feel ya, Tom!
I finally finished my Thanksgiving invitation…about three hours before Thanksgiving. I wasn’t feeling very inspired in November but I really wanted the invitation to include the vellum ledger paper and vintage Avery metallic tape I bought on Instagram. (Note: Vintage paper sales on Instagram are very addictive. And fun.)
I always try to add a quote to our Thanksgiving invitations. (Here’s a list of some favorites.) “Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way” is a Native America saying and I love how optimistic it is. I typed it out on a leaf that I cut from patterned paper and layered it with some other leaves from my stash. I added a strip of the vellum and a bit of the tape and a Japanese stamp. Done, right? Well, no. I had to make a mess of things and try to stamp the year on the top with my giant number stamp. But I didn’t press down hard enough and the numbers were messed up so I had to write over the numbers…anyway…I’m trying not to dwell on the numbers…or the fact that I handed the invitation to my parents when they walked in the door on Thanksgiving Day…I did send some other Thanksgiving mail. A few weeks ago I attended the LWA letter social at my library and there were some vintage books available for mail art. I had too much fun choosing images for mail art. And when I didn’t use vintage paper, I had fun using postage stamps and turkey stickers to jazz things up. (That Write More Letters postcard is from Craftgasm. I added the turkey.) And now…holiday card season begins. Once I finish decorating, that is.
Have you started your cards yet?
Another Thanksgiving is in the books. Naoto cooked a perfect turkey, his famous stuffing, and mashed potatoes. I made Kathy’s grandma’s cranberries and my mom made a veggie tray and a caramel apple cheesecake. Everything was delicious and the day was relaxing. We watched a lot of Leave It To Beaver…you can’t get more wholesome than that! The table was really simple, just some paper leaves and the usual corn and turkey. Jackie gave me that fantastic pumpkin a couple months ago and it was perfect for the table! I found the candlestick holders at Goodwill last month and I loooooove them for fall. They fade from red to a golden yellow and are groovy-good. And I sprinkled my Field Notes Shenandoah leaf buttons on the table, too. Because I already had the cognac out and lemons squeezed for the cranberries, I made us some Sidecars. I spend too much time scoping out seasonal cocktail recipes (usually on Pinterest) but I always find that those are too sugary for my tastes. I can always find a good classic cocktail that fits the bill just fine. Since even my mom enjoyed the Sidecar, I think it will become a new Thanksgiving tradition. I made new place cards with my Yellow Owl Workshop stamp and stuck a glittery turkey sticker on the plate this year. Even Presley got her own place card and plate of turkey and gravy!
Today I’m going to finish putting away the Thanksgiving decorations and start pulling out the Christmas stuff. Naoto and I bought our tree last night so I’m excited to get started on the decorating festivities. I have strict feelings about waiting until after Thanksgiving to move into the Christmas season, but once Thanksgiving is over, I’m all in.
How was your Thanksgiving? Did you try any new recipes I need to add to our list for next year?
In Japan, it is common to see loads of laundry danging from balconies, billowing in the breeze. (Or in the winter, hanging stiff as a board.) It seems like everyone in Japan hangs out their laundry. It’s the complete opposite here in America. Hardly anyone hangs their clothes. Growing up, my mom had a giant clothesline that was always full in the summer. As a teenager, I would die of embarrassment at the thought of my underwear and bras on display in the back yard. But there really isn’t anything like putting on a shirt that’s been drying in the sun all day.
I know my mom is in the minority though, even in her small town that doesn’t scoff at “unsightly” clothing hanging in the backyard. Where I live, our condo association has rules against drying clothes on our balconies. (I’ve started breaking this rule a bit, putting small bits of laundry outside draped across a chair or on my drying rack. Unfortunately, I don’t have room to hang all of my laundry discreetly.) Most cities or associations have similar rules, making us slaves to our dryers. It’s sad for the environment, really. And I’m not really sure what’s so offensive about hanging laundry. Naoto said his mom always preferred to hang out her laundry, especially the futon and other bedding, because the sun and cold air would kill the germs.
Because air drying the laundry is so common in Japan, they have the best little tools for doing it. From circular hangers for socks and lingerie, to heavy duty clamps for blankets and towels, and even cut cat-shaped pins, they have really perfected the art of laundry!
To see all of the Japan Does It Better (JDIB) series, go here.
My parents came up to visit over the weekend and brought our anniversary gift. Part of the gift was these fantastic vintage ice tongs that they found in a vintage shop. Don’t my parents know how to score a vintage treasure? (And they know me so well…and Naoto, too, though he didn’t squeal like a school girl when he saw the box.)The tongs came in their original box, an added bonus. (And yes, I will totally keep the tongs in their box!)I love the Mid-Century style illustrations of cocktails on the handle. I think they are going to make a great partner with my vintage penguin ice bucket at our next Hasegawa Happy Hour!
Thanks, Mom & Dad! xo
My parents came up for a visit this weekend and they brought me a few vintage treats including these fantastic old souvenir stationery sets. The Yellowstone is almost full but sadly the Abraham Lincoln one has one sheet left of each design. I’ve never been to Yellowstone, so I’d feel like a cheater using this stationery, but I think using it for a nature lover would be acceptable, right? (This stationery seems like a good enough reason as any to bump Yellowstone up on my travel wish list.) I have been to Springfield, the state capitol of Illinois, several times so these Lincoln landmarks are all familiar old friends from school trips and family trips of my childhood. I think every child who grew up in Illinois has rubbed Lincoln’s nose at least once. Since there’s only one sheet left of each of these designs, I probably won’t be writing letters on this stationery, but maybe I could use them in a mini-scrapbook of my next trip to Springfield? (First I have to get Naoto on board with a mini road trip!)
Have you seen any souvenir stationery lately? It seems like the best kinds of souvenirs (stationery, handkerchiefs, plates) are all things of things of the past now.
Today is my dad’s birthday. To celebrate, I’m sharing a story I wrote back in 1986 called Mike the Phone Man. I think we were finishing a segment on tall tales and we were assigned to write one of our own. I wrote about my dad, who was a telephone repair man. Here’s the story:
Once there was a telephone man. His name was Mike. One day something magical happened to him. Somebody wanted their phone fixed. And then one thousand more people called and he fixed them all at once. And then came pay day. Mike got one thousand dollars. And the next day he got called out to fix a line. And it was an eighty foot pole. And he climbed it in one second! And he got one thousand dollars again. And the next day he had to go fix another line. But the weather was very bad, But he walked and fixed it perfectly. And he got payed one thousand dollars. But the next day was Saturday and everybody went shopping that day but Mike went to the electric shop and bought a wire for Mrs. Jenken’s phone and it cost 12 dollars but of course he had it. When he went to fix Mrs. Jenken’s phone he had to go home for lunch. That night the magic went away and the next day he didn’t do so great but he was happy anyway. So he, his wife, and his two children lived happily ever after. THE END
Happy Birthday, Dad! Let’s celebrate with Portillo’s & Old Overholt! xo
(The story was written in second grade and, in case you’re wondering, I got an A in spite of the fact that I started every sentence with the word and.)
I 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.