The Holiday Recap

December is a blur. I guess it always feels that way, doesn’t it? The holidays come in like a rush and leave the same way. Then we’re left with January…gloomy, quiet January. (To be fair, January hasn’t been so bad. I kind of like staying in after a month of holiday parties and activities.)

We got our tree on the Portillo’s lot a few blocks from our house. It was SO convenient and it lasted a pretty long time (for a dead tree!) I am still not used to our higher ceilings here at the house but we juuuuust made it this year again! Whew!

On December 2nd, we hosted our annual Holiday Walk party. Forest Park hosts a holiday walk along Madison Street the first Friday after Christmas. Shops and restaurants have live window displays and specials, the tree gets lit, and Santa arrives and meets kids. It’s like a Hallmark movie here in Forest Park. Naoto and I have been inviting people over after the walk for soups and snacks for several years now and it’s grown from two people to thirty people. Naoto made minestrone and his famous chicken noodle soups and our house was full for the first time ever. (Last year we held the party outside around the fire pit which was fun, but less comfortable than being inside on a cold night!)

I ordered us all matching pajamas. Presley hated them. (But isn’t she so cute?) But for real, these are the first non-sweatsuit winter pajamas I’ve had in a long time and now there’s no turning back. I’ve ordered myself more.

We sent out loads of Christmas cards. They deserve their own post because like last year, Donovan captured Presley just perfectly.

We went to the year’s favorite activity, Chris & Heather’s Calendar Show, which was fabulous as always. Naoto and I got there late but ended up with a front row seat (well, stand technically) and I got to change out the artist cards! It was so ridiculously fun.

Due to a close call with Covid, I had to miss our book club tea this year. It was a bummer but I didn’t want to risk infecting anyone if I did have it. (Thankfully I came out unscathed!)

Christmas was very cozy at home. I’ll share my gifts in another post, but one of Naoto’s highlights is this cookbook holder made by my dad. We are trying to cook out of our cookbooks more (it’s been a long struggle) and this has been making it more convenient. (I sent this idea to my dad and he modified it a little bit to make it even better!)

Presley got slippers for Christmas…she tolerates them but will kick them off and send them flying through the air.

She also got a catnip banana for Christmas, which ended up being her favorite toy. She didn’t leave its side the entire day. (And totally like a cat, she hasn’t touched it since!)

I hosted the book club friends for a little post-Christmas dinner. I used my Ruby Red Depression Glass set and decorated the table with some of my favorite Christmas things (like my green mailbox!) and vintage Shiny Brites. I made Ina’s lasagna and everyone contributed for the appetizer, salad, and dessert. It was such a warm, comfortable night…I just love hosting small groups and using some of my more special things.

The Putz Christmas village has a new home in the kitchen! When we remodeled this fall, we added in this “china cabinet” area next to our new pantry area. It turned out to be the perfect place for the village. Plus, I love having some Christmas spread across the house. I’ll share our kitchen someday…we’re still waiting on our last light fixture to come in and still choosing furniture for the space.

And finally, we ended the year with some friends at a dinner party. It was a perfectly quiet way to say goodbye to 2022 and ring in 2023.

I hope your holidays were jolly and the new year is treating you well.

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Strings Ramen

After origami, we realized we were within walking distance of Strings Ramen. Strings is often voted the best ramen in the city, and it’s been on our list forever. The original Strings is in Chinatown, and I’d still like to try that shop, but this was a closer choice on origami night.

I got the miso ramen, and it was tasty, but it fell short of the “best ramen in Chicago” for me. I’ve preferred bowls at Furious Spoon and Ramen-San. It was good, but the noodles weren’t as good as those other spots. Naoto got the tonkotsu ramen and he felt the same. We both loved the gyoza though! When we visit the Chinatown shop, we will definitely be starting with that appetizer again!

The shop was tiny, and I loved the Japanese bench style seating. We didn’t get drinks (because Naoto was driving and I had drinks at the origami class) so we just had water. (I don’t think they offer alcohol, at least not at this location.) But ramen was the perfect ending for the night, especially since it was one of the first really chilly days of the fall. Looking forward to more ramen season adventures!

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Origami at Konbini & Kanpai

Last month, Naoto and I joined a Halloween origami class at Konbini & Kampai, a Japanese liquor/convenience store in Chicago. It was hosted by Ty Yamamoto and the Japanese Cultural Center. We have been wanting to visit Konbini and Kampai for so long, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We learned how to fold a ghost and a bat, and thanks to this super-strong (but delicious!) bottled Manhattan, I was terrible at both! Thankfully we had someone at our table who was an expert and could walk us through a couple of the harder steps.

Konbini & Kanpai has so many unique beer offerings, and they have an amazing wine selection, interesting canned cocktails, and offer sips of bottled spirits from Japan and other places. Naoto had so much fun shopping and making himself a little 6-pack of weird beers to take home.

They also have a nice selection of Japanese snacks, and I would highly recommend the corn soup crunchy triangles to go with your bottled Manhattan.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why Ty has a purple nose and a panda was helping Naoto at the coolers, costumes were highly encouraged! So, we dressed up as Ina Garden and Jeffrey! (The whisk really sold it!)

The origami workshops are a monthly thing, so we’re hoping to attend another one in the future. If you’re in the area, maybe we’ll see you there!

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My Trader Joe’s Guy

It’s that time of the year again–the scarecrows have invaded Forest Park. I finally finished mine last week–Trader Joe’s Guy is now standing in front of my house, startling me every time I look out the window.

Here he is with the REAL deal. Naoto got a kick out of him. I was pretty proud of my bag of groceries, which was made from leftover packaging of things we ate that week. I secured everything with packing tape, so hopefully we don’t create a trash issue on our block!

There are so many great scarecrows around Forest Park. You can find a map here (the link will only be available for October.) I’ve share a few on Instagram already, but I’m hoping to get out this weekend to see some more. This weekend is the Casket Races and it’s supposed to be in the 70s, so I’m looking forward to a last hurrah of nice weather in my charming little Halloween village.

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Presley’s Sweet 16

It’s a little delayed but I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that Presley had her 16th birthday/gotcha day over Labor Day weekend. (We got her as a small kitten from a friend’s barn.) She was a very good sport about wearing her party hat. She enjoyed a fresh slab of tuna while we ate sushi and we all watched the Sky game.

She has really gotten chill in her senior years, but she still doesn’t enjoy being touched by strangers. (Relatable!) She has also been a true champ during our kitchen remodel this month. (Did I tell you our kitchen remodel is in full swing? It’s bananas around here!) I think it helps that she’s deaf and didn’t notice all the loud noises. She has cozy nooks all over the house where she can go to get away from strangers, so I think she’s really loving house life.

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Everyday Card Making Workshop at FPPL

I taught another card-making workshop at the Forest Park Public Library in August. We used paper folding, rubber stamping, and watercolors to make four cards that could be used for all occasions. It was so much fun!

Have I ever told you the story about the time my manager at Paper Source kept insisting that I teach the origami class until I finally asked her, “Why me? Because I have a Japanese husband and I learn by marital osmosis?” (She dropped the subject.) Well, the joke’s on me because now, every class I teach has some sort of paper folding incorporated into it!

This time, we folded an origami watermelon and this dahlia. The watermelon was my favorite because it’s so easy, and who doesn’t love a pun? The dahlia is also pretty simple, but it looks so elegant, especially if you make it with pretty patterned papers.

Then we used watercolors and a black marker to make a simple cake card. I bought these cheap pearlescent watercolors from Michaels and I love them. They have a lovely little shimmer and nice coverage. (There is a fancier Japanese version, too!)

And finally, we used rubber stamp masking to make the last card. Have you ever done masking? It’s such a fun way to layer your stamps! (Should I do a little tutorial?)

Naoto was one of my “students” so he took some pictures of the class in action. It was a great group, with everyone helping and supporting each other! I know I’ve said it a hundred times, but I love our library and I love teaching workshops there.

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Garage Galleries 2022

Garage Galleries 2022 is in the books and I’m finally recovered from a week of mad-prepping and a day of meeting new people and chatting with familiar friends about stamps, typewriters, letter writing, mail and more. I made a bunch of new cards (using the stamps pictured above) and I sold out of every one (except one design, which I am now convinced is a dud!) so I have to replenish my stock so I can add them to my website.

Here was our set-up, similar to last year (which I just realized I never blogged about!) I have so many styles of cards now that my two racks are full, and even my mini rack couldn’t handle the holiday overflow. I’ve come a long way since my very first craft show in 2016!

We did not host in our own garage this time like we did last year. Instead we moved into our friend’s garage with two other artists and Smokey Joel’s Red Hots. That’s right! We had a hot dog stand right behind us! This could explain why I have only a few pictures from the day–my assistant was too busy eating multiple hot dogs (and helping out!) to take pictures of the crowds!

Speaking of crowds, it was our most successful Garage Galleries ever–it was such a gorgeous day and we were in the center of town, so the foot traffic was incredible. Garage Galleries has become such an event–I mean how cute is this crowd of families and pups out enjoying art among the neighborhoods?!

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Cyanotype for the Tiny Art Show

I really did try making these cyanotype prints for fun. But then I remembered I signed up for our library’s Tiny Art Show. I decided to incorporate the vintage music and negatives print into my piece. I’ve been thinking about nostalgia a lot lately–a mix of watching Stranger Things and visiting my hometown and just existing in today’s cruel world…

Anywayyyyyyy…I have had this quote by George W. Ball in my journal for a long time, “Nostalgia is a seductive liar, evoking bowdlerized pictures of times past with all the shadows painted out.” So I distilled the point down to a few words and typed them out and added a shiny vintage Dennison star.

Last Sunday, I met some friends and we went to check out the Tiny Art Show together. (We found Naoto there!) It was such a great variety of styles! Most people painted, but there were a couple who (like me) chose to go another route. I’m sharing some of my favorites:

Now my piece is back home on its little easel and I think I am going to display it with my other library art which just happens to match!

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A New Hobonichi Cover

For my birthday earlier this year, Naoto gave me a new leather cover for my Hobonichi. It’s a deep, dark blue with a natural interior and a brass zipper. When I say this is the nicest thing I own, I am not lying.

He got it from Baum Kuchen, one of my favorite shops for just quality, gorgeous “artifacts,” which is what they call the items in their collection. The planner cover is made by Superior Labor, a Japanese lifestyle brand. I have a couple of other things made by them that I got at the Travelers Notebook store in Japan, and their handmade attention to detail just cannot be topped. They are true artisans.

In the front pocket, I keep a little variety of pictures and cards that I just like to have around—good memories, quotes to remember, a letterpress postcard of a typewriter.

This is the first cover that I’ve had for a Hobonichi where you don’t tuck the front page of the planner into the cover. I kind of like that there’s more of the Hobonichi exposed and more surface area for my sticker collection! I’ve been adding some of my favorite stickers to the front that just feel very 2022 to me.

Here are the other stickers that I started the year with when I was using my plain Hobonichi cover. I’ve always been someone who gets anxious about using stickers, but for some reason, sticking them in my planner is so easy for me! (If you are curious about any of the stickers, let me know and I’ll share a source if I have one!)

I’m still decorating my monthly and weekly pages with stickers and washi tape. Every Sunday, I work on my upcoming weekly pages and towards the end of the month, I work on the upcoming month. It’s just a nice, relaxing, (somewhat) mindless activity. Since the pandemic, I’ve found myself really needing to make sure I have downtime/alone time carved out in my schedule. (I guess you could say that my re-introduction back to regular life has been slow!) Spending some time each week with my calendar and looking ahead to commitments helps me to schedule for my introvert needs.

Yet again I have failed to use all of the pages Hobonichi offers to me, but I do keep track of the books I’ve read in the blank pages at the back of the planner. (I’m so behind on my reading this year! I was doing so well in the beginning and then I fell off the wagon!) Someday, I’ll document all of the TV I watch during the year—just to see exactly how many times I watch The Office if nothing else!

In the back pocket, I keep this hilarious vintage Instagram of me and Pres, along with my Historical Society of Forest Park business cards, some little inspirational cards, a pen, some stickers, and some postage stamps.

I am so thankful that Naoto pays attention to what’s important to me! I love that something I use every day is encased in such a special cover. It just feels like a treat to use my calendar every day!

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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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