Monthly Archives: August 2012

my little red toolbox

My dad gave me this toolbox awhile ago after I bombarded him with links to several expensive ones from Etsy. I knew he had one or a dozen to spare and when he offered up the red one, I was thrilled. I love it’s scratchy paint and well-placed rust. I love that it has a tiny tray inside for little bits and a large compartment on the bottom (for big bits?) Until now, this toolbox was holding my giant pen collection, some frequently used erasers and some infrequently used watercolors. Now that my toolbox is going to move into the new (ok, halfway-finished) office area, I’ve decided that it should hold something else.

You see, I am a total disaster. I am completely unorganized and messy. I take after my dad in this sense. My mom is completely organized and tidy…and she–like Naoto with me–fights a losing battle with trying to keep my dad organized. And I often find myself searching for my most frequently used tools–the tools I need to paper craft or make mail art. Instead of putting them away where they belong, these tools often get shoved on the guest bed or in a drawer in the frenzy of tidying up for guests. I’m hoping that having a dedicated crafting space (instead of the kitchen island or the dining table) helps with this problem…but in case it doesn’t, I’ve come up with a fool-proof system just in case my disastrous ways don’t change.

I’m going to use the little red toolbox to hold all of my most frequently-used paper crafting tools. It’s big enough to hold all of my favorites, and small enough that I can leave it on my desk (or take it on crafting adventures). I will always put my tools away. And, in another irregularly regular blog feature (like this one and this one) I am planning to share all of my favorite paper crafting tools.*

In the meantime, a place for everything and everything in its place…

*Hopefully each Friday starting next week can be dedicated to the little red toolbox…and hopefully I can get back on track with posting about the apartment on Thursdays…I’m going to try to make it happen!

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this is why i love geraniums

There have been many losses in the garden this year…the over-watered geraniums (the pot wasn’t draining properly), the under-watered Japanese shiso, the non-producing tomato plant and under-producing mint plant…so much sadness. I blame it a little bit on the dry weather, but mostly, it’s me. I didn’t water it enough.  But there has been one success with the garden–the sad peachy pink geranium above.

This geranium is two years old and it lived in our spare room (that faces north but gets limited sun thanks to the tree and the building next door) over the winter. When I brought it out, the poor geranium was a pale green single stalk with one tired leaf. I threw it in this hanging pot with my ivy geranium (the pink one), some filler and some petunias (which were another garden casualty this year). I didn’t have much hope for the little guy, but look at it now! It’s flowering and it has a new little branch coming from the bottom! So maybe the garden wasn’t such a huge failure this year after all…

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tea in peggy’s garden

My book group friend Peggy has an amazing garden. She knows a ton about plants and flowers and spends the entire winter plotting her summer garden. She also has a vast array of pretty teapots, gorgeous teacups and lovely tablecloths. And, to top it off, she is an incredible baker–her desserts are famous in our book group.

On Tuesday, Peggy invited me over for tea in the garden. It was a perfect summer day to sit among the blooming flowers in the shade of the backyard trees. We enjoyed tea and blueberry coffee cake with a pistachio and coconut topping…soooo good!  And we were visited by several birds–goldfinches, cardinals, a woodpecker–and one teeeeeny tiny brown mouse munching innocently on some plants…until he made eye contact with us and decided he should find another yard.

It’s days like these that make me wish fall wasn’t creeping up on us so soon…

Thank you for a lovely day, Peggy!

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mail art with a trader joe’s bag

We have a LOT of Trader Joe’s bags around here. I know, I know…we SHOULD be taking our many reusable bags to the store, but somehow, we always forget. Or they are in the car and we are walking… We always reuse our bags. Some hold donations ready for Goodwill, some hold recycling, some go back to the store for another round. We still have a lot though. Then one day I was noticing the fun, foodie graphics on the bag and I thought hmmmm….mail art!

All I needed were my tiny scissors and a glue stick, but I added some gold stars, rubber stamping and washi tape (of course!)

Donovan’s letter is ready to go, because I had a fun stamp for it (silverware with silverware). I have a ton of the Pioneers of American Industrial Design stamps, and I find that they work on almost any letter.

My mom is a tea drinker, so I thought she might enjoy the tea envelope. I wanted to use the 5 cent teapot stamp on it (you know, to beat the theme to death), so I just used a mishmash of stamps that added up to forty-five cents (although, I bet she enjoyed the Foxglove stamp!)

I haven’t decided who will be the recipient of the “man” envelope yet…but I do know he won’t be going in the mail until this stamp is in my hands. I’m loving that ship!

Not bad for a humble grocery bag.

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rainy night cocktail–the classic margarita

I have been wanting to try another margarita recipe for awhile now, one that includes agave nectar (supposedly the secret ingredient of all excellent margaritas). So, Sunday afternoon we actually remembered the agave at Trader Joe’s and we decided margaritas would make a perfect rainy evening cocktail.

After a tiny bit of research, I found this super-informative Wall Street Journal article. We made the Classic Margarita (#3) and it was just about perfect!

Classic Margarita

2oz tequila

3/4oz freshly-squeezed lime juice

3/4oz orange liquor

1/4oz agave nectar

Shake all ingredients with ice and pour in a cocktail glass (or a cactus margarita glass) with (or without) a salted rim.

For me, the salt is what makes the drink. We enjoyed our margaritas on the rocks, but the article says that when the margarita is perfected, you can drink it without…I think we’ll have to up our quality on the tequila for that to be the case…but the ratio of ingredients was perfect to us…and the agave–I’m not sure what it adds but it adds something.

While some people might have enjoyed curling up with hot tea and watching this rain, we curled up with margaritas…it works for us.


i love a rainy night

It’s been a really dry summer. It’s been bad for farmers, bad for gardeners, bad for people who love green grass…and bad for people like me–people who love rainy nights. Last night we got the best steady, heavy rain, so I poured a glass of wine and sat out on the balcony for a bit. It was damp and chilly enough that I could curl up in a blanket. The cool air reminded me that fall is coming and these warm summer days are numbered yet again…time to check off the last few items of that summer manifesto!

Are you looking forward to fall, or are you still trying to soak up the last bits of summer?


simple summer suppers | wine & cheese

Naoto had two nights off last week–unheard of around here… We decided to break open a bottle of wine and enjoy some cheese & salami for dinner…it was a well-balanced meal because of the whole-wheat crackers and the grapes. We usually get our cheese from Trader Joe’s–which is obviously very convenient–because one of us is there almost seven days a week–but Naoto splurged at got the cheese and the salami from the Marion Street Cheese Market, right by his L stop in Oak Park. The Manchego was so delicious that I think Naoto let me eat the whole block myself…to be fair, I let him eat most of the salami…

Last week was another crazy one with work and mail call deadlines and we had plans all weekend (which is unusual for us)…and this week brings something every day…I don’t mind, but I’m looking forward to working on a few things–not things for Honor Flight or for work–things for me…ideas that have been bouncing around and projects that have gotten dusty from neglect. Luckily, Naoto has a few nights off again this week, so he can help me with the heavy lifting and furniture moving*, too.

*Yes, we will be moving the desk in the background of this photo…after having it sit in the middle of the doorway for two weeks!

more neon love

Last week, I mailed a thank you to a friend. She tweeted that she liked this, and so I ordered it (oh, and one for myself in grey), waited three weeks for it to arrive, and then finally wrapped it up in a kraft envelope with some twine, glitter and washi tape, packed it up with some Japanese treats (all of my favorites from the Japanese grocery store) and mailed it on its way.

I know summer is fading but my love for neon isn’t going anywhere… Neon isn’t really a “fall thing” so I’m going to soak up (and use up!) all of the neon while I can.

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on elvis

I love Elvis…probably not to the same level as those people who make the pilgrimage each year to Graceland to honor his birth and his death, but I do love him.

My cat is named Presley, I have been to Graceland twice (purely coincidental–both times were with my old job when we were in Memphis on business), and I did dance with my dad to Love Me Tender at my wedding (sweetest song ever!)… And many years ago I did the Elvis is Alive 5K–a race that ends with an Elvis (impersonator) concert (I was a runner back then) and I have been to see another Elvis impersonator in Hawaii (Don’t judge–it was touristy fun!). Oh, and I did have an Elvis impersonator surprise me at my bachelorette party (thankfully he was not a stripper!) But, that’s it…(other than the giant Elvis mug in my cabinet and those Elvis Pez dispensers and……..)

To honor the 35th anniversary of Elvis’s death in our own low-key way, Presley & I danced around to Suspicious Minds (my favorite Elvis song) this morning, and listened to the rest of his music on repeat all day. I’m sure the neighbors loved it!

How about you? Do you love Elvis? What is your favorite Elvis song?

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letterpress class with Rar Rar Press

I had an epic weekend: a sausage-centered party at Big Guys Sausages, a letter social with the Letter Writers Alliance & a letterpress class with Rar Rar Press. While the party at Big Guys was fun (I had the Italian Chicken Sausage and I am officially three-for-three with loving what I order there!) and the letter writing social was as lovely as always (I wrote 1.5 letters and one postcard!), the letterpress class was a huge highlight.

I’ve been wanting to take a letterpress class for a long time and Rebecca’s class came highly recommended. Unlike a lot of letterpress printers today who design on the computer and have a polymer plate made for printing, Rebecca still hand sets all of her type using old letters made of wood or metal. Some of her type is from the early 1900s! I kind of wanted to spend the whole four hour class just poking through it all and playing with fonts, but there were posters to print!

We learned a little bit of terminology (oh, there is so much terminology…and measuring & math!) and about setting our type and we learned about her two presses before we got started. It took me a long time to choose my type styles and Rebecca assisted a lot when it came to setting my chase (the frame that holds all of the letters together). It is like playing Tetris trying to fill in each and every inch of the chase so the letters are securely set and ready for print. (Rebecca joked that she can pack a car like no one else!)

Rebecca printed the rainbow background first, then we printed the text on top. Every print is a little bit different, some have darker blue-green rainbows, some are lighter …I love that about them. Naoto said I should sign each one (since they are a limited edition of 25) and I think I will. Guess what everyone is getting for Christmas!

The biggest challenge for me before the class was choosing what I wanted to print. I have a long list of quotes that I love (most of them are pinned here on Pinterest), but in the end, I decided “Comparison is the thief of joy” (Theodore Roosevelt) is a perfect life lesson to have on my wall. It’s a good reminder, don’t you think?

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