Monthly Archives: May 2012

the art of relaxation


As a former workaholic (and a current lover of relaxation), it is sometimes a challenge to be married to a workaholic. My husband works two job, not because one job doesn’t pay the bills, but because he LOOOOVES both jobs and can’t imagine giving up either career. Naoto excels at both jobs and he looks forward to going to work. He has boundless energy…he works from 8-4ish, comes home and goes straight to his other job from 6-11ish. Then, he usually comes home and happily scoops out the litter box, takes out the recycling and cooks himself a snack. Sometimes, he sweeps the floor. Sometimes, he empties the dishwasher. Sometimes, he washes a dish or two. (I am terrible about leaving wine glasses next to the sink to be washed “tomorrow”.) People often wonder if he’s on drugs. Unless you count the copious amounts of coffee he drinks, no, he is not on drugs. On Saturdays–his only day off–he does sleep in…a lot. And then he gets up, runs out for coffee and sweeps the floor and takes out the garbage. On his occasional weeknight off and on Sunday evenings, Naoto almost always cooks dinner. He loves cooking–it might be his only hobby (outside his second job).

So, last month, I encouraged the workaholic to take off work from both jobs on Memorial Day. He was hesitant, but I insisted. He hasn’t really had a vacation since we went to Japan last year, and he usually works at his second job on national holidays (when he’s off from his first job). Everyone needs a little holiday every now and again. And I didn’t want us to have major plans–just let Sunday afternoon and Monday set the tone.

I think Naoto appreciated the fine art of relaxation as we sat outside drinking wine {Sidenote: If you haven’t tried Darkhorse, they make a delicious cabernet that sells at Trader Joe’s for a mere $7} and reading books and chatting about summer. I think he felt a small sigh of relief that there was no alarm, no place to go, no one to see, no pressure, no obligation. He didn’t even cook dinner.

Of course, he bounded out of bed this morning, ready to tackle a new week. That’s my workaholic.

the one where i mail a pigeon

My dad loves pigeons. (Needless to say, he has never lived in a city, where they are perceived as dirty pests.) So when the Letter Writers Alliance came out with the Pigeon Post, I knew it would be a perfect gift for dad’s birthday in March. For Pigeon Post to make sense, you have to know that homing pigeons were used to send messages in World War I and II. Some pigeons were even awarded medals for their heroics during the wars. (See this article for more information.) The LWA’s Pigeon Post is a plastic carrier pigeon that delivers a letter through the mail. He weighs less that 13 ounces, so you can drop him (with postage!) in a blue mailbox without a box and he SHOULD get to your recipient. Yes, technically the USPS would prefer he is in a box, buuuut, he doesn’t have to be. And seriously, what kind of postal worker wouldn’t get a kick out of seeing this face pop out of a mailbox?

So, I typed up my dad’s birthday message:

And then stuck it into the pouch, taped it on his back and stuck on some postage (the LWA ladies make it so easy–everything you need is included, even the proper amount of postage!):

Then, after his photo shoot, Naoto & I walked him down to the neighborhood mailbox:

And, I dropped him in. It took a little shove, but he fit. One last goodbye:

This is where Naoto is telling me that it isn’t going to work.


Now, I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t take much to make me happy (especially when it comes to postal goodness), but dropping him in the mailbox and anticipating his ride through the mail system and into my dad’s mailbox made me downright giddy. And I was on a postal high when I talked to my dad two days later and he had already received him! He said that he opened his mailbox and didn’t know what to think when he saw a BIRD inside! He got a kick out of it for sure!

Now, I’m on the lookout for more crazy things to send. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever mailed?

the elevated envelope

Back in the winter, I signed up for the “Elevated Envelope” exchange. I would be making four envelopes to exchange with four other people. May (the deadline) seemed so far away at the time…and the deadline came and went, and today, I finally sat down to make mine. The original plan was to embroider the Big Dipper on envelopes (using lovely French knots in shimmery thread on dark paper)…but then, I checked the blog one day and saw that someone else had done constellations…BOO! Then, I was super-mad at myself for over-thinking my plan and not just going for it.

Still stuck in the embroidery mindset, and wanting to use my new neon embroidery thread, I decided to embroider arrows on faux bois paper and then make some glittery neon notecards (inspiration found here on For the Love of…) for the letter inside. (Sidenote: Martha Stewart’s neon glitter was totally worth the drive to FOUR Michaels to find it!) I protected the stitches by sliding everything into a cello sleeve, then labeling and putting a stamp on that. I didn’t want to cause a mail machine malfunction. I think they ended up looking simple but pretty…and fun to receive.

I have to admit, I really love the neon trend. I love that it feels like summer and when it’s one or two neons paired with a neutral color…unlike the neon of my childhood, which was an explosion of eye-popping colors. I had this really fabulous white cotton tank patterned with neon orange, yellow, pink, red and green flamingos and it had a pleather green & pink sun & flamingo accent on the shoulder…it was awesome…especially because I probably paired it with some sort of neon short…

And that is exactly why I probably won’t be wearing neon this summer…just crafting with it.

happy mother’s day!

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom! We spent Saturday together because Naoto & I both work today. On Friday night, I had a mini craft-a-thon and made my mom’s gift and a gift for my sister’s baby.

My mom is the librarian in my hometown, so I embroidered her a bag with some librarian patterns from Sublime Stitching. I’d never embroidered a bag before…it took me awhile to get the hang of it. I only caught the handle in my stitches once… And I am notoriously bad at keeping the back of my work neat. I tried really hard to keep things tidy so the stitches will stay in tact as books and things are coming in and out of the bag. I folded it all up with a pretty notebook and some lovely bird stickers and wrapped it in this fun “tweets” paper from Snow & Graham.

I made a little tag out of a circle punch of chartreuse paper, a scallop punch of white and a little Amy Tangerine brad. I tied it all up with a sheer pink ribbon. I usually wrap with plain kraft butcher paper, but it was fun to break out the pretty stuff for mom!

Once I finished the bag, I moved right along to a bookbinding project. My sister’s baby, Riley, is only 5 months old and this is his “baby” gift…I had visions of using this perfectly sweet Japanese farm animal paper, but sadly I didn’t have enough and couldn’t find it anymore…so I went with this bright, cheery Japanese koi paper instead.

I used a photo album text block from Paper Source. They are really lovely, and have onion skin between each page to protect the photos…I hope it makes a nice place to put some of the baby pictures of the little guy. As I was working on the project, I was thinking, “Why don’t I make these more often…a little measuring, a little cutting, a little gluing…this is no big deal!” Then, I got to the last step and remembered–gluing the text block into the case (the covered book boards and bookcloth spine) is SOOOO stressful! It’s hard to get it just right, and the perfect measurement and gluing is the only way to make the book WORK properly…but it did and I was cheering. I should build books more often than every two years–I’m sure it would get easier.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there–especially my own!

mary, mary, quite contrary…

…How does your garden grow?

Yesterday was perfectly spring…so I decided to skip cleaning and head outside to work on the balcony garden. First stop: Menards to buy some flowers and some new pots. Last year, I had good luck with geraniums–they bloomed constantly and all but a few (weaklings) stayed alive–so I bought eight new geraniums, two violas, a Shasta daisy and a teeny, tiny balloon flower (it was 99 cents and it was so small that it got lost in my back seat on the ride home). You can see them all (except the balloon flower) packed in the granny cart above. I spent the rest of the day re-potting my new flowers, re-potting the old ones, sweeping the floor and dragging out the rest of the balcony furniture. It made me smile this morning when I peeked out to greens & pinks & purples instead of the wintry drear.

There is still work to be done (like the dreaded task of washing the sliding doors!) but having blooming flowers feels like a giant leap into warm weather. I can already feel myself out there reading a book and drinking coffee (or a cocktail) this summer!

Homemaker’s Challenge #1: Ricotta

I will never buy ricotta cheese in a grocery store again.

A few months ago, my book club friend, Peggy (who is a homemaking guru) talked about making her own ricotta cheese for a party appetizer. I was intrigued. She made it sound so easy that I had to try it. Isn’t it easier just to buy ricotta in a plastic tub in the grocery store? Sure, that’s easy, but this is too–and the results were delicious! You know how store-bought ricotta is a little bit rubbery? Well, this isn’t. And, it was pretty amazing to see how it all comes together so quickly.

I used Ina Garten’s simple recipe:

4 cups whole milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

Over medium heat, bring the milk, cream and salt to a full boil, stirring occasionally. While you are doing this, set a large sieve over a deep bowl and line the sieve with two layers of dampened cheesecloth. Once the mixture is boiling, turn off the heat, stir in the vinegar and let it sit for a few minutes.

Ina says to let it sit for 1 minute, but several reviewers recommended 10 minutes. I let mine sit for 10 minutes. It is fun to watch the quick separation of the curds and whey–it looked a little bit like runny cottage cheese at this point.

Next, pour the almost-ricotta into the sieve. I don’t have a super-deep bowl, so I had to pour out the whey from my bowl right away. Once I poured out the initial whey, I only had to empty out my bowl once more. Let the ricotta sit on the counter and drain for about 25 minutes. The longer you let it sit, the thicker it gets. Mine was perfectly spreadable and completely delicious in this time.

We spread the ricotta on a toasted baguette and topped it with fresh tomato jam and grey sea salt…it was the perfect appetizer!

***This post is a first in a series of Homemaker’s Challenges: activities that get me (and hopefully you, too!) out of the everyday routine of cooking, cleaning and laundry and into a routine of trying something new and experimental. I’d love it if you’d play along!

cinco de mayo…early

When I decided to make these simple tacos for dinner tonight, it didn’t occur to me that we are creeping up on Cinco de Mayo…I mean, I still think it’s the beginning of April, for goodness sakes.

The recipe is from an old episode of Everyday Food-the PBS Martha Stewart show that is like a thirty minute taste of the magazine.


Shredded chicken (I just baked up 2 chicken breasts the only way I know how–in foil packets to keep in the moisture, 400 degree oven for 30 minutes-ish, or until my meat thermometer says 165 degrees.)

Diced sweet onion


Sliced avocado

Tomatoes (not in the original recipe, but they add a bit of sweetness)

Limes, for squeezing on at the end

Corn tortillas, charred on the gas burner (mmm…the blackened goodness!)

Chop everything up while the chicken is baking (except the avocado…do that right before serving), char your tortilla, pile everything on, squeeze the lime, add a sprinkle of salt and you’ve got dinner. It was so easy that I had time to make a fresh margarita. See those glasses with the cactus stems? I’ve had those since I turned 21 and this might be the first time I’ve used them in a decade…when I got them out of the liquor cabinet, I noticed they still had paint chips from my old white built-ins on the bottoms of them…needless to say, they got a good wash before this use AND based on Naoto’s reaction, they will be used again soon for another margarita night.


2 parts tequila

2 parts triple sec

1 part fresh lime juice

Shake (with ice) and pour over ice in a salt-rimmed margarita glass. While delicious, I think the recipe could use more lime…

I like dinners like these, with little room for failure. With my cooking skills, these go-to recipes come in handy.

Letter Writing Social

This weekend, I went to another letter writing social hosted by the Letter Writers Alliance. I try to go as often as possible…because I like writing letters and seeing other people who do too, and because seeing other people creating mail art inspires me to do create some myself. I cranked out four letters during the social, and another one yesterday morning and plopped them all into the mail box this morning. Two letters, just because, to my sister-in-law and my dear friend, one pen pal letter, one overdue thank you and one letter to include with some recipes that I could have emailed (but it was way more fun writing them out on old fashioned recipe cards!)

Other than letter writing, it’s been pretty quiet around here. I’m trying to reclaim the guest room and dining room from the Honor Flight mail call mess. Oh, and my own mess.