Tag Archives: summer

James & Presley’s Avocado Birthday Bash

This weekend we hosted a little joint birthday party for Presley and our friend James. They share a birthday week. I found an avocado dress on Amazon and avocados were “on trend” this summer at Paper Source, so we decided that was a perfect theme. Presley took to wearing the dress pretty well, but we didn’t leave it on her more than fifteen minutes, as I think dressing her up is cute but I also don’t believe in torture. Naoto made an avocado corn salad and Korean beef tacos. Karen made bruschetta and a key lime pie. I made yuzu sidecars. I borrowed the giant hanging avocado decorations from the Paper Source window and used a kit to make little avocado place cards.Naoto’s was my favorite…Presley’s too…Presley ate rotisserie chicken for her birthday meal since she’s not a fan of tacos and corn salad.She is, however, a fan of her new avocado catnip toy from James. I keep finding it in different places when I wake up in the morning.

It was a fun night. We haven’t really been hosting very much this year, and I kind of missed it. Maybe we’ll have a few more opportunities to have people over this fall.

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The Garden is Still Growing

I haven’t been to the garden as much as I’d like lately. Naoto has been running down to harvest tomatoes and basil and herbs on an as-needed basis, but yesterday, we were both home and free to go together. As usual, our plot is a jungle of tomato vines, but this year, it’s also a jungle of overgrown herbs and nasturtium! Look at that nasturtium!! I just can’t believe how the plant took off. It seemed like it wasn’t going to do much but now it’s huge and it has lots of flowers inside the big poof a leaves. I just found a recipe for nasturtium pesto, so I think we might experiment with that soon…which is good timing because our basil is done. Some of our tomatoes were slow to produce this summer thanks to the white fly infestation that plagued the garden. But we’ve gotten a decent harvest from our Juliet and a few other heirlooms. We haven’t been overloaded with tomatoes like we have in the past, but it’s definitely enough for us to feel good about plot 6 this summer. I picked a bunch of zinnias, nasturtiums, and marigolds to make a little bouquet for my desk. The zinnias are as tall as me and still going strong. And in other happy garden news, my tiny carrots are coming in! I planted them kind of late in the spring and they were quickly overshadowed by the tomato plants, so I didn’t have very much hope for a harvest, but I think it’s going to be decent! I’m not quite ready to pick them all, but I wanted to do a little test. This variety is supposed to be only 2-3 inches big. We’ve never had luck with root vegetables, so I decided to try a tiny kind and I think it worked!

How is your garden growing? Any other ideas for my nasturtium bounty?

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Please Hold…

I’m having a hard time staying on task lately. I think my brain shut off this week after Garage Galleries. Hopefully I can get back on track this weekend and have some posts ready next week. Do you have any plans for the holiday (in the US) weekend? We have no plans! It’s very exciting. Right now, Naoto is at a brewery tour with some work friends, so Presley and I have the apartment to ourselves. I’ve repotted my fall mums and a new spider plant and I feel like I’ve accomplished more in an hour than I did all last week. I’m going to try to take some fresh photos of my cards for my website and finish cleaning up around here. Things are out of hand since I decided to clean out a closet AND prepare for Garage Galleries in the same week. Big mistake.

Anyway, I hope you have a good weekend!

P.S. I know Bitmoji are passé but Naoto and I really love using them when we text each other and this one was very on point for my non-productive week.

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Mid-Summer Update from Plot 6

 

We had a stretch of very hot and humid days a couple of weeks ago, making gardening a dreadful chore. Thankfully it rained a lot during that time, so the garden was on autopilot for a couple days.The good news is the rain washed off some of our white flies. The bad news is some of our early Black Krims split due to the uneven watering they received during the huge rains. So, no tomatoes yet, sadly.Naoto is really excited about the edamame growth. The edamame has gotten really tall and there are beans on them! I’m excited because I finally have a nasturtium flower among all the leaves. (You can see the orange flower peeking out on the left.) My lavender is still not blooming so I transplanted it last week. I think it was being shaded by my wayward zinnias. (I planted the zinnias in the center of the garden but the seeds moved during the big rains this spring.)

Our dill is huge and I need to look up some recipes to use a bunch of it. We’ve harvested so much parsley and basil already. It’s pesto city around here!

And the chamomile is growing like crazy but I missed harvesting the first bloom so hopefully another will come soon. I want to dry it and use it in a cocktail recipe and maybe some tea (though chamomile tea isn’t my favorite. I am a black tea or bust kind of gal!)

I cut some zinnias from the plantings around the garden. They’re “cut and come again” so hopefully people will help themselves as I did and we will have some continuous blooms around the garden, for ourselves and for the bees and butterflies. Zinnias make me so happy! They’re all so different and colorful and carefree (which is the opposite of how I feel today after dealing with my iPhone and photo storage all day…the good news is, my phone is busy uploading pictures so I have no reason not to finish my last book of the month tonight!)

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Upcoming Summer Art Shows

August is almost here and I am breaking out the tent for some outdoor art shows! I’ll be back at Art Dans La Rue on Tuesday, August 6 from 2-9pm. I’ll be sharing a tent with my friend Alicia from Spotted Kettle Studio and we’re calling ourselves The Mail Truck because we want to buy a mail truck and sell cards on the go…but we need a truck first. (Seriously, if you know anyone with a spare mail truck…)

Last year it poured during Art Dans La Rue so hopefully this year the weather is better. In spite of the rain, it was one of my favorite shows last summer. Beignets and French wine and a poodle parade…what’s not to love? And at the end of the month, I’m returning to Garage Galleries here in Forest Park. Another favorite, we’ll be back in a Forest Park garage with other artists showing (and selling) our work. It’s such a great local event for Forest Park and I just love how casual it is. I haven’t heard where I’ll be placed yet, but I’m looking forward to meeting more new-to-me artists and neighbors in Forest Park.

As always, I update my Upcoming Shows page as I schedule them. I have two in September then I’m done until November unless something changes. I’m always looking for new shows to add to my list so if you know of anything (especially in Chicagoland or the Midwest,) I’d love to hear!

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A Dispatch from the Forest Park Community Garden

Sorry for the radio silence this week. For the past couple of weeks we’ve been preparing the Forest Park Community Garden for the Forest Park Historical Society’s Home & Garden Walk. It’s the first year we’ve been featured on the walk and well, we had a lot of work to do! The garden usually looks fine, but we wanted to get some plantings done and clean some stuff up before we had official garden walk visitors. Some people in Forest Park don’t even know we have a community garden, so we wanted to be on the walk to raise awareness, increase our visibility, and hopefully get some new gardeners and people who want to be involved with the garden. The garden is officially ten years old in 2019 so there’s definitely some areas to refresh and improve, but money and man hours are always our challenge. We’ve been slowly rebuilding older plots and trying to repair things as needed. But July is really a great time to feature the garden because things are growing like crazy and most of our 55 plots are looking good! It was fun to show visitors what people are growing and how each gardener organizes his plot. These pictures were taken on Tuesday while I was doing some chores at the garden, but on Sunday it was sunny and hot. A few of us spent the day at the garden to host the tours and, even though we spent most of the day under a tent, I got a little sunburn. It’s been so hot here, and it’s supposed to be near 100 the rest of the week…thankfully it rained a ton today because the plants were starting to get dry and sad. This little future swallowtail is living in my dill right now. He’s a welcome visitor. So far this summer, we have harvested a ton of basil (pictured at the top) and some dill and parsley. (As always, I’m kicking us for not growing more spring vegetables but it was such a weird spring!) Our tomatoes are battling white flies again, but we have a few on the vine, so hopefully we’ll have a harvest soon. Naoto’s edamame is growing like crazy and our chamomile and carrots are doing just fine. It’s always an adventure in Plot 6 and around the garden!

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Hasegawa Tanabata 2019

Hasegawa Tanabata was a low-key affair this year. We didn’t invite any guests and I didn’t decorate (gasp!) but it was such an amazing summer night for enjoying a light meal on the lanai. And of course Naoto is my favorite “guest” anyway! We had a busy day at the community garden so it all kind of fell together at the last minute, thanks to some Tensuke Market sushi and some easy Japanese recipes. I thought Naoto was going to get a sushi tray, but he really held back at the sushi counter, only bringing home two rolls and six pieces of sushi. (For the record, this is barely enough sushi for HIM!) Thankfully we had other things on the menu…Japanese potato salad and ham & egg salad sandwiches. We were going to make somen, but we ended up feeling full with what we had and some Japanese snacks.I made yuzu cocktails and they were so good, I think we need to share the recipe. We bought this yuzu liqueur at Mitsuwa a few weeks ago and we really like it! It’s good on its own and with soda water and it worked really nicely in the yuzu cocktail, too. The rest of the night, we shared some sparkling wine.It was so unseasonably chilly, we both ended up in jackets but no regrets at all…it was perfect…maybe not blog post perfect, but perfect for us. 🙂

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The Lanai, 2019

Hello from freezing Forest Park! It has been so cold! This weekend it got down to the low 50s and, while it’s great sleeping weather, it’s not great weather for sitting outside. It’s also been rainy, so at least my plants are happy and everything is still alive as of this week. Our lanai furniture set-up is the same as last year, but we have lots of different flowers and I decided not to make any rainbows this year. It didn’t translate well from the sidewalk below, anyway. Oh, and last summer, Naoto painted the floor so it’s a steel grey now instead of that weird pale green. We really like it. We’ve barely been able to have dinner outside because of the cold weather, but we’ve enjoyed plenty of mornings out there reading in the sunshine and cool breeze.

I got this fantastic almost-neon begonia at Empowering Gardens and it’s so bright and full, it even pops from the street below.

Last year, I mentioned that I can never find good yellow and orange flowers. This year, I have plenty of orange and orangey-red flowers, but still no yellow. I’d love to add some yellow in with those bright pink petunias. Hopefully I can find something good while I’m out later today.

We also have some climbers and radish sprouts growing from seed and I transplanted some mint from the community garden, so hopefully we’ll have enough mint for cocktails soon since it tends to spread like wildfire…

That’s all from the 2019 lanai…it’s supposed to warm up eventually so I’m looking forward to spending some days and evenings outside. Naoto and I are already planning our Tanabata celebration in a few weeks and I’m sure it will be blazing hot by then!

 

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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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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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