Stationery Store Day

Did you know Saturday was the very first Stationery Store Day? (Is Stationery Store Day a totally made up holiday? Yes. But so was Book Store Day and Record Store Day, so, why can’t paper sellers and fans have a day, too?)

When I saw that A. Favorite Design was a participating shop, I decided this was my chance to finally get up to the north side to see the shop. I’ve purchased things from them each year at Show of Hands, but I’ve never been to their shop.

In a total blogging fail, I didn’t take any pictures inside the shop. I haven’t been stationery shopping in so long–since we went to Japan in 2020! I was relishing every moment! Most of their offerings are their own letterpress designs, but they have a fun selection of vintage postcards, stationery, and wrapping paper, and they have other paper and desk offerings as well.

As you can see, I found plenty of treasures! I picked out some vintage advertising stationery (which I can’t wait to feed into my typewriter for a letter soon), some letterpress “Dennison label” cards, “Dennison Label” paper tape, vintage Chicago postcards, mail stickers, my new favorite pens, some greeting cards, a vintage ephemera and office supply letter set, a “Down the hatch” sticker, and (underneath it all) a sheet of vintage vegetable wrapping paper.

And, the picture at the top shows the Stationery Store Day freebies–a letterpress print I pulled myself, a Stationery Store Day bag and postcard, and a A. Favorite Design birthday card. (How great is that Etch A Sketch?!)

Before we went shopping, we stopped at Spinning J’s for brunch and pie.

I had a BLT, a strawberry rhubarb phosphate, and the key lime hibiscus pie with blueberry compote. (This is the meal I would recommend to anyone trying Spinning J’s for the first time, though their tuna melt is also excellent. Really…you just can’t go wrong with their menu!)

I brought out my letter purse that Naoto gave me last winter. It was the perfect accessory for the occasion! And, you can pencil in the next Stationery Store Day–August 5, 2023!

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Another Garden Update

We have cucumbers!

It almost makes up for the rabbit-eaten edamame buffet. (Almost!) These are Japanese cucumbers and they’re very tasty. So far we have eaten them in salads and hiyachuka.

We also have several tiny melons. I’m not a huge melon fan, but I’m hoping these will change my mind.

And at this point, we have a steady stream of cherry tomatoes coming in, with a few big tomatoes ripening now and then too. The tomato plants are full, so…it’s just a matter of time before it’s all caprese, BLTs, and tomato sandwiches allll the time!

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Speaking of Sunscreen

Do you remember this song from the late 1990s?

It was an essay written by Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich in 1997 that was turned into the spoken word song. And, fun fact, Mary Schmich spoke at my college graduation, where she read her essay, I think, for the first time to a graduating class.

I do have one more (non-Japanese) sunscreen I’ve been using this summer! It’s the Trader Joe’s Daily Facial Sunscreen that came out this summer. It’s $8.99 and is supposed to be a dupe for the Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen, which is $36. This one is less watery than the Japanese sunscreens I love, but it is an oil-free gel and leaves behind a velvety primer that is a good base for makeup. It is water resistant up to forty minutes and is SPF 40. I probably pull this one out of the cabinet once a week or so. Definitely not as much as my Japanese ones, but it’s good for work days where I’m outside less and I’m wearing more makeup. (The sunscreen blew up on TikTok, so I think it’s currently out of stock at most stores, but hopefully it comes back soon!)

My next hunt is for a good body sunscreen. We’re using some store brand stuff right now and it’s fine, but I’d be grateful to hear about any you love!

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Japan Does It Better 27

For the past few years, I’ve been trying to take my facial sunscreen more seriously. Usually, I would just slather on whatever body sunscreen we had on hand, along with a hat and called it a day. I was miserable the whole time because it was always thick and heavy and sticky. Finally, this is the first year I really started exploring Japanese sunscreens. Most really nice facial sunscreens at Ulta and Sephora are so expensive, like $30+ a tube, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that two out of three of my Japanese favorites are under $15!

The first one I tried was the Biore Aqua Rich. It was a game changer for me! I have oily skin, especially in the summer and all of the American sunscreens I have tried always left me feeling sticky and greasy. This one literally feels like water on the skin and it plays under makeup well. It contains royal jelly extract and hyaluronic acid to maintain the moisture in the skin without weighing it down. It is waterproof for eighty minutes and has no white cast.*

Next I tried the Nivea Super Water Gel because it seemed very similar to the Biore. I figured it would be nice to have a back-up option in case the Biore was ever out of stock. The Nivea is also SPF 50 and absorbs really nicely without any weight. It also has hyaluronic acid. The big difference between the two is that the Nivea is not waterproof.*

The Shiseido sunscreen stick is more of a splurge at $29, but I mostly use it for reapplication on days I’m outside a lot, so to me, it’s worth it. I am not going to claim the stick is perfect over makeup. If you press too hard or wipe too much, some of your makeup may rub off, especially if you don’t use a setting spray to set your makeup. But I feel like a little makeup lost is better than using an SPF spray or powder (the other two popular versions of sunscreen for reapplying throughout the day) and not having complete coverage. The Shiseido stick is definitely a little heavier than the Biore or Nivea, but it doesn’t feel greasy or leave a lot of shine. It’s waterproof for eighty minutes and reef-friendly (which the other two don’t mention.) The stick is so convenient–I carry it in my pencil case so I always have sunscreen with me.

I recently read this article in The Atlantic that explains why American sunscreens lag so far behind their Asian and European counterparts. (Spoiler alert–the FDA is holding things up!) I definitely suggest testing Korean and Japanese brands if you’re having trouble finding a good sunscreen for your face, because like many things…Japan Does It Better!

*Thanks to Naoto for translating the Japanese packaging.

P.S. To see more JDIB posts, click here.

P.P.S. The links are not affiliate links–I’m just sharing where I initially made the purchases of the three sunscreens.

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Cyanotype Trials

This week I’ve been experimenting with cyanotype printing JUST FOR FUN! I bought this set on Amazon because I wanted to experiment with paper and fabric. (You can also buy the pre-made sheets of paper if you want to keep things super simple.) I thought it would be more complicated to mix the components myself, but it’s pretty easy! You just add water to each bottle and let it sit for 24 hours. When you’re ready to make your prints, you blend the 2 components together in equal parts. It’s best to start out with a small amount to work with. (Separately the formulas last a long time. Once they’re mixed, the solution only lasts a few hours.) I’ve only used a few tablespoons for my experiments and I have plenty left to work with this summer.

This was my first day of experimenting. The bottom left sheet of cotton paper was my first try. I used postage stamps, Dennison labels, trading stamps, and my Japanese fern. I got some nice, clear prints but I knew I could do better. Next I tried some negatives and I got a nice outline (but no images.)

I tried a negative and a label on fabric, which was fun. And the square of fabric with the circle is a crystal old fashioned glass imprint.

The blue sheet with the random dots was my tomato test. It was around 5pm at the time so I think I need to try the tomatoes when the sun is straight up to see if I can get a better image.

After some reading online, I learned that the suggested exposure times on the package are not long enough. To get lots of detail, you need to leave your cyanotype out for much longer. So I left this one out for about two hours. It’s the Japanese fern, a feather from my yard, and a feather from Danielle.

I tried out vintage paper too. I put some negatives on a sheet of old music paper and left those out for over two hours and it was a success! You can see faint details of the Chicago architecture from these 2005 negatives in my personal collection.

You can see the details even better on this sheet that I left out from noon to 2:30pm. I even got the trading stamp details to come through!

I have a few more paper sheets and squares of fabric ready to go so I can keep trying new techniques on my sunny days off. My ultimate goal is to print a skirt or a t-shirt, but I want to have a better handle on what works best before I move onto high-risk clothing! (Also do you know how hard it is to find 100% cotton or linen clothes these days?!)

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Tomato Season is Here

On July 5th, I plucked my first Black Cherry tomato harvest! Only a small handful of tomatoes were ready but there are tons more ripening on the vine. Tomato season is finally trickling in!

Our Japanese melon and Japanese cucumbers are vining nicely and have tons of flowers on them…no fruit yet. Sadly, the rabbits made a buffet of Naoto’s edamame again, so we replaced them with three new tomato plants, a Mortgage Lifter, a Purple Cherokee, and a Pink Brandywine. They were late-season plants so we’re not sure how they’re going to do, but we figured it’s worth a try. We also added four poblano pepper plants, and a tri-color sage.

The rabbits made a feast of my ranunculus, but all of the other cutting and edible flowers are thriving. I’ve already used tons of borage blooms in cocktails and ice cubes. Other than nasturtium, the rest of the flowers have yet to bloom. And now that I know how big the dahlias will get and that the borage will take over, I have a better idea of how I’d like to plant this bed next year. Gardening is such a learning process!

This bed has–as it always does–turned into a tomato jungle.

Will this bed be big enough for these giant tomatoes and these wild vines? I guess we’ll find out!

In other garden-related news, the old owners left us an egg chair stand in the garage and this year we bought an egg chair to fill it. Zero regrets. It’s so fun hanging out in that thing reading and enjoying the yard, which is what I did last Sunday. Our weather has been pretty summer-perfect this week–not too hot and little humidity. Just dreamy.

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Sizzled Pork & Pineapple Tacos

Why yes, I am going to lead with this picture of Naoto trying to look like a pineapple!

This summer, we want to perfect our grilling skills and go beyond the steaks, hot dogs, nachos, and sweet potatoes that we attempted last summer. (“We” is doing some heavy lifting here since it’s really Naoto that does all of the grilling work!) So far this summer, we’ve attempted to grill bratwurst, (way harder than you think!) chicken, veggies (using this Smitten Kitchen recipe!) and salmon. Basically, if the weather is cooperating and Naoto is home, we’re grilling.

Naoto has been testing out cookbooks from the library and he’s really excited about Ali Slagle’s I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To.) We’ve made the Sizzled Pork & Pineapple Tacos a few times and we really enjoy them. They are so sweet and summery and just so easy since everything can be done on the grill.

Sizzling Pork & Pineapple Tacos from Ali Slagle’s I Dream of Dinner (So You Don’t Have To)

1.5 pounds boneless pork shoulder cut into 1/2 inch thick steaks (Or you can use the boneless pork chops from Trader Joes. They come in a pack of three which was plenty for us with leftovers.)
1 fresh pineapple
1 orange
2 limes
4 cloves of garlic
1 fresh chile
8-12 tortillas (the recipe calls for corn, but we used flour)
olive oil
salt & pepper
avocado (diced)

Heat your grill to medium high. Season your pork with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Peel the pineapple and cut into 1-inch spears. Place onto a shallow pan. Zest your orange and set the zest aside. Cut the orange in half and add it in with the pineapple. Drizzle both with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Zest the two limes and add to the orange zest. Chop the four cloves of garlic and the chile and add those to the zest with a teaspoon of salt. Mix together to make a paste. Transfer the paste to a bowl and add the juice of the two limes and 1/4 cup olive oil. Stir to combine.

Head to your grill with the pork, fruit, and tortillas.

Oil the grates with olive oil and add your pork, pineapple, and orange over the direct heat. Ali recommends cooking the pork 5-8 minutes per side, but we have more success using a meat thermometor to make sure the pork was cooked through, but not overly dry. (The CDC recommends cooking pork to 145° F.) The pineapple and orange will need 3-5 minutes per side, as both should be charred when they come off the grill. As things are ready, remove from grill and set aside.

Once the fruit and pork are done, cut the pork and pineapple into bite sized pieces and add to the sauce. Squeeze the charred orange juice into the rest of the sauce and stir to coat. Cut up the avocado into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Head back to your grill with your tortillas. Char each side of your tortillas before filling each one with the saucy pork and pineapple and topping with avocado. Serve with an extra lime wedge for an extra dose of freshness.

Enjoy with a tiki drink and some Hawaiian music in the background.

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Spring Has Spring in the Circle Garden

The circle garden is blooming again and our plots are finally fully planted for the summer. It’s our second spring here, so it was fun to anticipate was going to return. Early spring, I was greeted by daffodils, hyacinths, Columbine, and hellebore.

Now my iris, clematis, and roses are in bloom with more things opening up every day! I am also happy to report that all of our hydrangeas, which we planted last spring, and then transplanted later in the summer because they were getting too much sun, are back and look like they’re going to be fine. Hopefully they will start blooming soon!

The spiderwort and foxglove just started opening this weekend. The spiderwort was here from the previous owners, but I added the foxglove last summer. The color was a total surprise since it wasn’t in bloom when I bought it. I think it goes nicely along that side of the garden though.

If you remember from last year, we have three raised beds along the south side of our house. Last year, this bed was full of garlic, so we didn’t really use it (except for the garlic.) This year, a couple of garlic came up, but I was able to fill the rest of it with seeds and tubers to make an edible flower and cutting garden. So far, there are dahlias, ranunculus, poppies, nasturtium, zinnias, borage, and calendula coming up. I also planted cockscomb but sadly, none of the seeds have germinated. I’m so bummed because I have wanted to grow giant cockscomb since high school. There was an older gentleman who used to bring his crop to the golf course where I worked and I just love those velvety blooms!

In the middle bed, we have basil, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and marigolds alongside cherry, Black Krim, Purple Cherokee, and Brandywine tomatoes. Naoto also tucked in some daikon radish.

In our third plot, we have another cherry tomato variety, some leftover potatoes from the previous homeowners (that are probably planted too close to the tomato,) cardinal basil, edamame, Japanese melon, and Japanese cucumbers. We are hoping that the bunnies leave this bed alone, but history tells us otherwise. Our friend gave us a trellis for the vining plants, so I hope we actually get something to vine this year before the rabbits have a snack!

Since I was planting a slew of things I’ve never grown before, I made some plant markers to keep track of everything. They aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing project, but they get the job done!

I always love the garden this time of the season, all tidy and full of possibilities! We all know our plots will be tomato and zinnia jungles soon enough!

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Dive Bar Letter Writers June Meet-Up

Our next Dive Bar Letter Writers meet-up is next Sunday, June 12 at 2pm. We’re back at Goldyburgers yet again! After this month, I’m trying to schedule the meetings for the third Sunday of every month, just so it’s easy for people to remember. If you’re in the area, join us for letter writing, drinks, and conversation! I’ll have supplies on hand so don’t be afraid to come empty handed (though you will need cash for Goldy’s snacks and drinks!) If you would like an email reminder about our meetings, go to the Dive Bar Letter Writers page and follow the link!

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16th Anniversary

Happy Anniversary to this guy, who sometimes feels like a third wheel with Presley and me. Life wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t stopped by my table on that fateful Wednesday evening at the Daily Grind. I’m so grateful for every single day.

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