Tag Archives: summer

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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Plot 6, Where Are My Tomatoes?

plot 6, tomato jungle, forest park community garden, community garden, raised bedHere’s a look at our garden yesterday. I’ve resigned myself that we will never have a tidy garden. We’ll just call Plot 6 a free spirit and let it be.

Our tomato plants are growing tall and going strong but we’ve hardly had any red tomatoes yet! The green ones are there, but I’m ready for a big, juicy red garden tomato! (Ok, I just went back to the archives of the blog…usually the big tomatoes don’t start coming until August so I guess I should relax. Sometimes it’s nice to have a blog to jog your memory about things.) plot 6 first tomato 2018, Juliet tomatoWe picked our first Juliet on July 9th and then we didn’t have any red tomatoes again until yesterday. tiny tomato harvest, plot 6, forest park community garden, juliet tomatoesWe’ve been cutting a ton of basil and parsley each week, so I’m going to make a tiny caprese salad with these guys later today. Naoto has been making pesto like a champ. And we harvested a big batch of garlic, too. We’re pretty set for any upcoming Italian recipes. edamame, forest park community garden, plot 6, soybeans And most exciting of all is our edamame has ALL SURVIVED this year! Not a single bunny nibble in sight! Now we regret not planting more! I’ll try to get a better picture of the edamame patch. The plants are really tall, tucked in between overgrown walking onions and some tomatoes. In fact, I believe it was the walking onions that have kept the bunnies away. Last year, I cut back the walking onions and the bunnies ate the edamame. Lesson learned.

In the meantime, I’m collecting tomato recipes in hopes that big tomato season is just around the corner. I started a Pinterest board over here to collect ideas. After this summer, maybe I can make a little tomato cookbook! If you have any fresh tomato recipes, I’d love to hear about them!

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Upcoming Craft Shows

I have a couple of craft shows coming up…it will be my first time showing outside, so I’m hoping for good weather and not too much of a breeze! Both are smaller events so I can see if outdoor craft life is something I can handle. To be honest, it makes me really nervous because water and paper don’t mix and I have limited supplies of so many of my vintage stamps. But, outdoor craft shows are a part of selling things so if I want to be successful, I feel like I have to at least try it.

The first event is Riverfest on Saturday, July 28th in Riverside, our neighbor to the south. It’s a small, local festival with music and food and drinks and Tropical Snow!! The gates open at 4pm and the craft sellers will be selling their wares until 9.  I’m excited. This week I’ll be busy making some new cards and refilling ones that have sold out. I’m trying to add a sympathy card and a wedding card to my line, if I can find stamps that will cooperate. Also, I’m going to sell packs of vintage postage so my customers can add some vintage flair to their envelopes to go with their vintage cards. art dans la rue, oak park, ILAnd, on August 7th from 2-9pm, I’ll be at Art Dans la Rue in Oak Park. This is, as you may have guessed, a French themed street fair and I’ll be debuting a couple of cards with vintage French postage and French phrases. There will be a poodle parade and can can dancers and amazing French food, so I’m pretty much counting on Naoto to man my booth for a bit so I can enjoy some wine and puppies.

I’m keeping a running list of upcoming shows over on the Shop page if you’re interested in seeing what’s coming up.

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Our Fourth

July 4th dinner, patriotic, independence dayJuly 4th seems like weeks ago. I remember when I was a kid, it felt like July 4th was the end of summer…like it had this power to make the rest of summertime rush by. As an adult, I still kind of believe this, especially since school supplies are already out at Target. (Really…it’s ridiculous.) But really, there’s so much summer left! plot 6, forest park community garden, community gardening, raised bed gardeningIt was soooo hot and humid on the 4th. It rained a teeny bit, but not enough to really impact the garden, or the heat. I gave our plot a good soak during the community garden BBQ. Our tomato jungle is coming along nicely…no tomatoes yet…but our edamame is growing like crazy and the rabbits haven’t eaten it yet! cherry manhattans, vintage glasses, july 4th, hasegawa happy hourNaoto and I had a mini Hasegawa Happy Hour and made Cherry Manhattans (recipe from Leopold Bros.) Cherry Manhattans have become our lazy summer drink.  Despite what this picture shows, we drank them inside because it was too sweaty to be outside. We had Chicago-style hot dogs, corn on the cob, and baked beans for supper. It was the epitome of America. fireworks over 290, circle bridge, forest park fireworksWe ended up watching fireworks from the Circle Bridge over the Eisenhower (Interstate 290 for you non-Chicagoans.) I love fireworks, but I hate crowds, so it was kind of the perfect spot. It was still so hot, but there was a decent breeze (from the traffic?) and the were no mosquitos, plus it was only a few blocks from home. (What can I say? I’m a lazy reveler!) vintage postage, patriotic postage, galaxie safari, red, white, and blue

Oh! And here are those vintage patriotic stamps in action!

I’d love to hear about your Fourth/last Wednesday!

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Tanabata Time Again

tanabata, cats watching fireworks, japanese postcardsIt’s Tanabata time again! Naoto and I are throwing another mini Tanabata party, complete with Japanese picnic foods and sushi. And I’m making spumonis for the first time all summer. The weather is perfect today for another summer celebration! Hopefully I’ll have some pictures to share next week. Have a good weekend!

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Thank You for Being a Friend

golden girls gala, friends on the lanai, golden girls party, kaftans, peignoirsA couple weeks ago I threw a party that has been on my theme party list for a looooong time -actually since before the Mrs. Roper party- The Golden Girls Gala! I love The Golden Girls. It’s my favorite comfort TV and I’ve seen most of the episodes at least ten times each. I love the girls’ style, especially their pajamas. (It makes me want to up my pajama game.) I love Dorothy’s sarcasm, Blanche’s confidence, Rose’s innocence, and Sophia’s attitude. This is my favorite Golden Girls moment:

It’s hard to say what my favorite episode is…maybe “Yes, We Have No Havanas” (Season 4, Episode 1) where Blanche and Sophia fight over the same man? Or “A Little Romance” (Season 1, Episode 13) where Rose is dating a little person and the other girls handle meeting him with…awkwardness. What’s your favorite episode?
golden girls paper dolls, golden girls, paper dolls, golden girls gala decorationsI found these great Golden Girls paper dolls and used them to decorate the food table. golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaI ordered these Golden Girls faces from Paper Party Parade on Etsy. I used them to make little cheese picks. golden girls gala, golden girls banner, golden girls, blanche, rose, dorothy, sophiaAnd I used the leftover circles to make a garland with some Golden Girls postcards from my collection. I’ve used the gold glitter rosettes for a thousand parties and I think they’ve met their end. They have served us well…golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaWe mostly hung out in the kitchen where Naoto made pizzas (reminiscent of Sophia and Max’s pizza shop in “Sophia’s Wedding” from Season 4, Episode 7.) We ate other 1980s snacks like cheese balls, Crunch-n-Munch, and Pop Tarts. And we ate guava cheesecake because of course…we had to eat cheesecake.golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaWe eventually made it out to the lanai to enjoy dessert and cocktails. I encouraged everyone to dress “in costume” and it was a fabulous variety of Golden Girls interpretations. I wore a peignoir set. (My mom was shocked that I was going to wear it in front of guests, but it covered as much as a summer dress would, so I figured it was fine.) My peignoir set was borrowed from my mom (she, too, has fabulous pajamas) and it’s not as colorful and luxurious as Blanche’s, but it worked for the party. Karen wore a very Dorothy outfit, long and loose. (She also borrowed from her mom’s closet!) Robyn wore the most fantastic 1980s working girl outfit, bright colors, bold necklace, neon sunglasses, clip-on earrings!! (You can see her at the top picture.) Donovan and Kathy both wore wonderful kaftans that were casually fabulous. And Jackie found a hilarious t-shirt of The Girls and the moon. golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaI made a Golden Girl punch based off a recipe I modified from Serious Eats. I’ll share it soon. It was a hit, though we ran out of some key ingredients and I had to save us with Aviations later in the night! golden girls decorations, golden girls, blanche, dorothy, rose, sophiaOf course at the end of every party I always think about the thousands of ways I could have decorated better or hosted better, but I think everyone had a good time…and really, that’s all you need with friends.

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