Tag Archives: summer

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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Brookfield Arts Fest

Brookfield Fine Arts Fest, Brookfield, IL, Galaxie Safari We had a great day in Brookfield on Saturday at the Brookfield Fine Arts Festival. It was such a beautiful day! It was the first day of fall and the weather really cooperated with true fall-like temperatures. Our set-up was similar to Art Dans la Rue and Riverside…next year, I’d like to invest in a new table (ours is small and kind of rickety) and I’d like to work on using more of the tent space for stuff instead of just putting our usual craft show set-up outside. This year was all about getting comfortable with an outdoor set-up…next year hopefully we can perfect it! Brookfield Fine Arts Fest, Brookfield, IL, Galaxie Safari In the morning, it was breezy and chilly. I wasn’t prepared for how cold I would be standing around my tent as the sun was coming up. Thankfully I had a blanket in my car, so I wore it as a skirt to keep my legs extra warm. We also didn’t bring any chairs, so you might say we were a bit unprepared. But we’re both used to standing, so it was okay. Brookfield Fine Arts Fest, Brookfield, IL, Galaxie Safari Naoto stayed warm in the morning by using the exercise equipment in the park. He got a good leg workout there, and running to the farmers market for breakfast and lunch. Brookfield Fine Arts Fest, Brookfield, IL, Galaxie Safari By the afternoon, he was able to take a little nap in the sun while I took care of customers. apple of my eye, Johnny Appleseed, postage stamp, Brookfield Fine Arts Fest, Brookfield, IL, Galaxie Safari It was our first time doing this show and we got a good reaction to the cards. A lot of people always say it’s a unique idea, which makes me happy that I’m able to offer something a little bit different. It’s always so fun chatting about puns and old stamps with people. LaBarra, cocktails, Galaxie SafariWe ended the show with our usual cocktail celebration. We went to LaBarra in Riverside, an Italian restaurant that we love. I am so lucky to have Naoto who is always game to help out and to man the booth when I need a little break. He’s worth every penny I pay him in dinner and beer.

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Summer is Almost Over…

neon mail art, neon mail, pen pals, summer mail…and I still have some things to check off in our Passport to Adventure! I’ll do a real update about that at the end of September. I’ve definitely met my goal of sending fifty pieces of mail though. I’ve been so good about mail this summer, I’m a little surprised at myself. Right now, I have a bit of a stack to return, so I’m trying to catch up so I can start October fresh and jump into Halloween mail! creamsicle letterpress card, neon mail, pen pals, summer mailYesterday I took down my summer decorations finally and put away my summery stationery. I tried to use up all of my neon paper and envelopes and cards but I failed miserably, so away it goes until next year. (Though it is 90 degrees today, so it feels like I should still be sending popsicle mail!)In other news…over Labor Day weekend, we always celebrate Presley’s “birthday” since we got her on Labor Day back in 2006. Well, this year, she got a case of pancreatitis and ended up at the emergency vet’s for two days. It was extremely stressful and worrisome, but I think she’s feeling back to normal finally.  It was so good to be able to bring her home and let her relax in her normal setting. She wouldn’t go to the bathroom or eat at the hospital, but once she got home, she was comfortable enough to do her thing. (Sorry.) We did have to feed her an appetite stimulant to get her back on track for eating. She refused her normal wet and dry foods for awhile so she ate loads of treats and -ahem- freshly baked salmon that we made for her with our own dinner. And thankfully, our regular vet made a little house call to help take Presley’s catheter out so we didn’t have to drag her back to the regular vet after her traumatic emergency vet stay. (The emergency vet was lovely…Presley just does not like the vet.) Presley has some lovely human, dog, and cat friends who sent her get well cards and treats. She’s very lucky.  And eventually her little shaved arm will grow back, but in the meantime…we’re trying to fashion her a fancy bracelet.

So…other than getting ready for my three craft shows this month and nursing Presley, not much has been keeping me away…I’ll be back with a little Galaxie Safari news tomorrow and then hopefully I can share a little news from Naoto’s kitchen. He has completely taken over the cooking and it’s wonnnnnnderful.

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Garage Galleries Recap

galaxie safari at garage galleries 2018We had such a great time showing at Forest Park’s Garage Galleries last weekend! It is such a neat local event and we are so happy that we participated. Our Forest Park neighbors came out in full force–we had over 140 visitors* in our garage! galaxie safari at garage galleries 2018Here was our garage set-up. Jerry was our host and he had a huge, clean garage with doors that opened on both sides, which was perfect for sunlight and a light cross-breeze. It was so hot and sticky on Saturday. He also had a beautiful garden that was a great place to retreat to when traffic was slow.

I shared a garage with Claire, a young artist who was showing her work for the first time, and Jason, who was a total pro with his own gallery walls and lighting. galaxie safari at garage galleries 2018So many people recognized me from the Review article, so it was fun that they sort of knew my style already. (Who says print is dead?) And of course so many people recognized Naoto from Trader Joes. It was fun meeting fellow artists and art lovers from our village. galaxie safari at garage galleries 2018Usually for each show I create something new, a framed piece or a card, and this time I sold out of a few new things, so this week, I need to beef up my stock and add some new pieces on Etsy. I have three shows coming up in September, so I need to get a jump start on what’s looking like a busy month!

Thanks to everyone who came out and showed your support! We hope to join in the fun again next year!

 

*I actually have no idea if this was a good number or not, but it felt busy and people seemed to be having a good time.

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Garage Galleries 2018

garage galleries, forest park, ILOn Saturday, I’ll be participating in Forest Park’s Garage Galleries, a neighborhood art walk where artists show their work in local garages. I’ll be in a garage in south Forest Park, 1306 Marengo Avenue, with two other artists. I’ll have my greeting cards and framed pieces ready to sell, but it’s a nice casual way to enjoy art of all kinds. There are forty artists from all over Chicagoland spread across sixteen garages, so you can meander your way through Forest Park and see it all, or pop into a cluster of garages and get a taste of what’s happening. The Forest Park Review did a story about it if you’d like to learn more.

I hope to see my local friends there!

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Summer Book Report, Part 1

summer book report, summer reading, little women, o pioneers!, the precipice, classic literatureI’m only halfway to my goal of reading ten books for the summer. Of course, I consider September summer still…autumnal equinox isn’t until September 22 after all. I need to buckle down and put my phone down more often and pick up a book from my towering stack of library options. (I’ve also been reading some non-fiction–cookbooks, a book about tomatoes, and a book about cleaning–on and off while I watch TV. I suppose I should consider these in my ten summer books but they’re more for personal and garden improvement. I’ll probably do a separate post about those kinds of books.)

I know I’ve mentioned my book club before, but we only read books written before the 1950s. We’ve made some exceptions, but nothing we’ve read is contemporary by any means. I cannot express how much I love these books, which are sometimes tedious and slow but almost always rewarding. Our discussions are usually really good, even better when we disagree on how good the book is or have different interpretations about a character’s motive or something. Someone in the group always brings up something really profound about the book that no one else thought of. And usually by the end of the meetings, we all like the book more than when we initially finished. When I read things on my own, I find myself popping onto Goodreads to see what other people say about the book, just so I can try to learn more and see things I didn’t see during my reading.

So…a little synopsis of my reading thus far:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868/69): We read this for book group in June and half of us had read it as children and the other half were experiencing it for the first time. I was in the latter group. It didn’t hold the same magic for me that people talk about when you mention Little Women. I found the little vignettes to be tedious and saccharine. I’ve since read some feminist perspectives about the book and Alcott that made me appreciate it more, but…I think I missed my chance to fall in love with Little Women. It probably would have been dreamy in fifth grade.

The Victorian Chaise Longue by Marghanita Laski (1953): Kathy recommended this one to me a long time ago and I finally had to just buy a used copy because no library could get it for me. It reminded me a lot of “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, which I’ve read too many times to count. Victorian Chaise Longue is terrifying and haunting. A modern woman who has tuberculosis falls asleep on a used chaise lounge and wakes up ninety years earlier (mid-1800s) in the body of another woman who also has tuberculosis. It’s a good feminist read, and sort of sticks around in your head after you’re done.

The Precipice by Elia Wilkinson Peattie (1914): We read this for book group last month and I flagged so many passages. The main character is a Chicago social worker at the turn of the century during the early years of Hull House. All different types of women are portrayed, from feminist progressive women, to women who held traditional roles as wives and mothers to women who were making compromises between the old and the new worlds and career versus family. It felt a little contrived at times…everyone fit into a box, but it was a nice perspective about life for women at that time and it’s always fun to read a Chicago book.

Death Takes Priority by Jean Flowers (2015): I talked about this one last week. If you like light reads and the post office, I recommend this book! (Mom, you would like it!)

O Pioneers! by Willa Cather (1913): We just finished this one in book group over the weekend. I just love Willa Cather. (The group read My Antonia before I joined, and we read Song of the Lark a few years ago, which is the opposite order that the books were written as the “Great Plains Trilogy.” We also read Lucy Gayheart, which is one of her later books, and another Chicago book.) Her prose is so lovely, and O Pioneers! was a peaceful read. Nothing happens for the first two-thirds of the book but you don’t mind because she’s painting a beautiful picture and setting up the “action.” (I use that term loosely.) Her story structure is so good…there’s a point in the book where there’s a perfect break, a tiny breath between acts. And her description of winter as a pause between the abundance of fall and the promiscuity of spring was nothing less than life-changing. (Mom, you would love this one, too!)summer book report, summer reading, little women, o pioneers!, the precipice, classic literature, Presley the cat

Next up for me is Consequences by E.M. Delafield. It came as a recommendation as a good post World War I spinster book during a podcast about Lolly Willowes (which probably deserves its own post…it was such a fun read and so different from the other spinster novels of the era! We read it for book club and it was a surprise pick that everyone loved!)

Presley and I would love to hear what’s on your nightstand.

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Tomato Time 2018

red tomatoes, plot 6, forest park community garden, big boyThe tomatoes are coming! The tomatoes are coming! So far, we’ve picked Big Boys, Black Krims, a Mortgage Lifer, and tons of Juliets. We’ve been eating plenty of tomato sandwiches, BLTs, and caprese salads and we added this caprese pasta salad into our menu. Our goal for the summer is to try five new tomato recipes, so one down, four to go. Once we get a good harvest of big tomatoes, it will be easier to experiment. Juliets aren’t slicing tomatoes, so right now we’re limited to salads. They are particularly delicious this year, so no complaints! red tomatoes, plot 6, forest park community garden, big boyWe haven’t had any red Brandywines yet, so…I’m waiting patiently. But I have to say, the Mortgage Lifter and Black Krims are really fantastic…we’ll be planting more of those for sure next year!

Anything ripe in your neck of the woods?

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Art in the Rain

galaxie safari, art dans la rue, downtown oak park, outdoor artFor all but about two hours, Art Dans la Rue was a blast. And those two hours were baaaaaad. So. Much. Rain. We were attacked by a deluge of water that threatened to ruin pretty much everything I sell. Thankfully, our borrowed tent stayed strong, and Naoto found a tarp in the car that gave an extra layer of protection to the table. (Tents do not protect your things from splash-ups that occur during heavy downpours…something I didn’t really consider when I was planning for the weather.) I got drenched though, so I was wet pretty much the entire night. And my poor white tablecloth was covered with mud splatters. But, on the happiest of notes, Naoto and I work with amazing people who all reached out and offered us towels, garbage bags, brownies, wine…everything to make things better. the skies above oak park during art dans la rueThe rain had good timing (well, ideal timing would have been waiting until Wednesday!) because it came and went before people got off work and things got busy. That was the bright side. There were a ton of people out enjoying the festivities after 5, and they all stayed mostly dry…except for an errant drip from a tent. madeline, art dans la rue, downtown oak parkDuring the rain, we kept ourselves entertained by chatting with our neighbors, the beignet sellers, and taking pictures with Madelineshoppers at Galaxie Safari, Art Dans La Rue, downtown oak park, street festNaoto kept buying me wine because I was so stressed out. It all worked out though…once the rain stopped and we all dried off, we had such a good time. So many of our friends and Naoto’s customers stopped to chat with us The highlight (besides selling Galaxie Safari cards to fellow mail-lovers!) was the poodle parade. My video does not capture the charm of people walking their dogs down Marion Street to French music and cooing dog-loving crowds. (Also, sorry I filmed it vertically…I was making an Instagram Story!)

A huge thank you to everyone who came out and supported the event. We can’t wait until next year!

P.S. The last picture was taken by Ally Vertigan. Thank you, Ally!

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Mail Reads: Death Takes Priority

Death Takes Priority, mail reads , postal books, mystery books Today is National Book Lovers Day, so let’s talk about books!

One of my goals for the summer is to read ten books. I’m halfway there. Most of the books I read are older books that, well, aren’t quick reads. I have resisted the “beach read” since my high school days of devouring three Danielle Steele’s a week. I was a literature major in college and for some reason, I’ve felt like I need to always read something challenging. It’s silly, I know. I’ve realized that sometimes it’s nice to just read for fun, instead of having to analyze every sentence and detail.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, Margaret posted an Instagram of a book she found on vacation, Addressed to Kill. It is a postal themed murder mystery, third in the Postmistress Mystery Series. So I hunted down all three at my library and started with the first, Death Takes Priority. (I can’t read things out of order, though I’m pretty sure it doesn’t matter here.)

I read it in a couple days, and I even stayed up past 1AM reading it, which seriously never happens with my other books. It’s definitely fluffy, but the story was good and there are a lot of delightful postal details. The main character is the Postmaster of her tiny hometown in New England. In Death Takes Priority, she accidentally gets involved in solving a local murder. There is a tiny bit of romance (nothing like a Danielle Steele book!) and some friendship sprinkled in. Death Takes Priority, chapter pagesOh! And each chapter number is framed with a postage stamp, which is just a kitchy-sweet little detail of the book. I’m going to read the other two, but after I read some heavier stuff in my stack. We’re reading O Pioneers! for book group next week and I want to get a jump start on that because I’m usually cramming the night before and I’m hosting this month so…I’m sure I’ll be cleaning.

Have you read anything good lately?

P.S. For other mail reads, go here!

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Art Dans la Rue

art dans la rue, downtown oak park, french festivalBonjour! I’m popping in to remind my local friends that today is the day of Art Dans la Rue in Downtown Oak Park. It’s my second outdoor show and we’ll have special French greeting cards featuring vintage French postage stamps. And of course I’ll have my usual cards and tiny framed art, and a few new cards, too. There will be wine, beignets, fresh flowers, art, live music, a mime, crepes…not to mention a poodle parade later tonight.

I’ll be back soon with a “beach read” book recommendation for mail lovers!

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