Monthly Archives: January 2013

Month of Letters

For the second year, I am participating in the Month of Letters, a challenge created by Mary Robinette Kowal to mail something every day (that the mail is in operation) in February. That’s twenty-three letters, because of Sundays and President’s Day. Last year, in spite of high hopes, I just made it to the goal, thanks to a few special Leap Day mailings. This year, I’m raising the bar: I want to mail at least one thing every day for the month of February. This year, I have far more letter writing friends than last year, so it should be attainable (as long as I’m not lazy). And, I’ve embraced the postcard as a quick, thoughtful means of communication…even a few sentences can brighten someone’s mailbox (and sometimes I don’t feel like decorating an envelope). Letter Month is a perfect way for me to spend out some of my stationery stash, too! I’ll be posting my daily mailings on Instagram (adamihasegawa) if you’re interested in following along.


So far 2013 has been a good mail year, and this week I’ll be finishing the responses to these sweet missives from my mailbox this month–a fresh start for February!

In other news, today it’s sixty degrees in Chicago…which makes my SNOW! post from Friday just seem ridiculous. I’m off to take advantage of the warm weather by running some errands and breathing in the spring-like air.

*Month of Letters picture courtesy of the Month of Letters website




The last real snow we’ve seen in Chicago was 335 days ago. So today I am celebrating the freshly fallen 1.1 inch on my street. And I’m trying to pretend that you can’t see blades of grass peeking through the whiteness. This morning, I walked down the street to grab a cup of coffee in my oh-so-unstylish, but very practical winter boots. Now I’m off to spend the day finishing my closet clean-out, visiting the Hallmark store and maybe, just maybe hanging some art on the walls.

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Early Risers


This morning, I woke up before sunrise…a nice change from my stay-up-late, sleep-til-afternoon phase. I got out of bed and hung out on the couch with Presley, and we both enjoyed some quiet as we watched the sun rise. Since we live on the second floor on a street full of houses, the view from the sliding doors is as good as it gets for sunrise viewing…not perfect, but I’ll take it.


Simple Suppers: Greek Orzo Salad


This recipe is an old stand-by in the Adami Hasegawa home. I think it’s particularly delicious in the summer, but it sounded good last night so we made it. (Or, I should say Naoto made it…my contribution was scanning the pantry and creating the grocery list to eliminate the inevitable trip back to the grocery store!)

The recipe is inspired by this one from Giada De laurentis, but we added a cucumber and cheese (who wouldn’t?) and changed out the herbs because we both love parsley in the salad instead of the mint and basil. Basil tends to brown over time, so the parsley keeps the salad looking fresh for leftovers or for parties. No one wants a wilty brown salad at a party.

Greek Orzo Salad

4c chicken broth (you can also use vegetable broth or just plain water)

1.5c orzo

1 can garbanzo beans (15oz)

1.5c grape tomatoes, sliced in half (we used a few tiny yellow tomatoes, too)

1 small red onion, chopped finely

1 English cucumber, seeds removed, chopped

1c crumbled feta (or more)

3/4c chopped flat leaf parsley

In a covered saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Add the orzo and cook (partially covered) for about 7 minutes, until the orzo is al dente. Strain the orzo and transfer it into a large serving bowl and toss to cool. While the orzo is cooking and cooling, you can prepare the rest of the salad: strain and rinse the garbanzo beans, slice the tomatoes and chop the onion, cucumber and parsley.

Once the orzo is cooled, you can toss in the vegetables, beans, parsley and cheese and toss gently to mix. (Make sure the orzo is fully cooled, otherwise you will end up with one big chunk of feta melted together at the bottom…not that this ever happened to us!)

For the vinaigrette:

1/2c red wine vinegar

1/4c fresh lemon juice

2t honey

3/4t pepper

1c olive oil

In a blender, mix the vinegar, lemon juice, honey and pepper. Then, drizzle in the olive oil while the blender is running and blend until emulsified. Give it a taste and add salt and pepper to your liking.

Add the vinaigrette to your salad and toss to coat. As the salad sits, it will soak up the vinaigrette (so if things look a little soupy at first, don’t worry!) This salad tastes best served at room temperature, making it great for parties. It’s also delicious chilled, leftover the next day.

A couple of notes:

Cooking the orzo in broth really does add a layer of flavor to this recipe, but if you’re on a budget or in a pinch (or a vegan), water works just fine here.

Vegan? Switch out the broth (water or vegetable broth), the feta and the honey.

An addition of a yellow pepper would be delicious in here, too, for a little more crunch and color!


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I *Heart* David’s Tea


Naoto & I had a tea date Sunday night. See him up there paying for our tea like a true gentleman? (The money comes out of the same account, but sometimes it feels nice not to have to be the one pulling out the card…it gives me an opportunity to take awkward pictures.)

David’s Tea has quickly become our favorite place. I read about it over a year ago here, and didn’t really give it a second thought…I mean, it was a Canadian shop and I wasn’t going to order tea online when I have a tea store in my neighborhood. (A tea store that I never shop at, by the way.) One day last summer while visiting Naoto’s office, I noticed that a David’s Tea came to his neighborhood–the design of the store made me take note–I love the clean, simple logo, the teal and the bright store! (I’m a sucker for these things!)


Our first visit was a little overwhelming at first–we got attacked with samples right away. And once we said it was our first visit, the staff eagerly started pulling down tea after tea after tea for us to smell. Once we narrowed down that I don’t like chocolate in my tea (ew!) and I don’t like herbal tea (double-ew!) it was easy to narrow down the wide array of teas and focus on the black teas for my initial visit. (I love oolong and green teas, too, but to keep things simple, I wanted to stick with black on my first try.)

We’ve been going regularly since the fall to try out cups of tea and to stock up for our teapot at home. Naoto goes so often that he is known as the Matcha Man (he gets a cup of matcha every time he goes). I get something different every time I go. David’s has a really interesting menu of teas, with some really unusual choices. One of the first ones I tried was Root Beer Float, and it really does taste like root beer! (This is both tasty and weird…) Right now, I’m working my way through the menu one pot at a time. I get a cup of tea to drink in the store, and usually have them measure out one pot’s worth of something new to try at home. Once I know I love something, then I get a larger amount to have on hand.

We’ve tried more than a dozen teas so far and my top three are Ceylon Star, Cream of Earl Grey and my favorite, Glitter & Gold. Glitter & Gold is such a show stopper! It has cinnamon, gold sugar balls and silver sugar crystals in with the tea leaves. As the tea steeps, the sugar melts and it leaves your tea slightly sweetened and shimmering!! I sometimes feel guilty about making it for myself on a Tuesday afternoon, but who says you can’t have a little celebratory tea on a chilly winter day?


They also have a gorgeous collection of tea cups and tea pots…


…and a rainbow of other tea accessories.

The only bummer for me is that this location is more of a tea store/take-your-cup-to-go kind of place. There is a couch in the front by the window, so if you’re the only one in the store, you can sit there for a bit and enjoy your tea. Otherwise you can sip your tea and check out the teapots or take your cup to go. I still love this location though…the staff is so nice and helpful (and of course it helps to know the Matcha Man!)


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Mrs. Cox Would Be Proud


Last Monday I started the unplanned project of organizing my desk drawers. (This led to the opening of the paper storage trunk and several other cans of worms.) Between the two desks there are four (large, but shallow) drawers. Since we’ve built the desks, I’ve just been using the drawers as a safe-keeping-dumping-ground for when company came over and when I needed to use the desk top for actual work/craft stuff. Over time, each drawer kind of took on its own personality–there was the mail drawer (letters to be returned, bits of stationery, stamps, the good pens), the coupon drawer (sale ads, weekly inserts from the Sunday paper, store coupons, the random checkbook that I can never find because I use it once a year), the crafting drawer (recently used rubber stamps & inks, all of the other pens, recently purchased washi tapes, random bits of paper, photographs, fancy paperclips) and a relatively empty drawer (where I was keeping stuff for the Election party and Thanksgiving, but now that stuff is in our storage closet and miraculously the drawer hasn’t been overtaken by other stuff).

So on Friday (after procrastinating and getting the rest of the worms in order) I finally finished–the desktop is clear (except the fun stuff) and the drawers are organized. And, not only are the drawers organized, but they are beautiful–I lined them with large sheets of paper from my stash. Spending out=big win.

Meet the newly organized coupon drawer (which also holds some other things I use while I’m at the computer):


The mail drawer (I am so excited to get some of my favorite stationery out of the second bedroom and into the desk where it’s easy to see!):


The “extra” drawer after:


The craft drawer:


Next I want to hang up the art that is just sitting on the desk top (and in the closet). I’m hesitating because I’m not sure how the vintage time card holder is going to work up there. Any opinions?


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Gearing Up for Volunteer Work Again…


If you’ve been reading long enough, you know I spent a significant amount of time collecting and sorting mail for Honor Flight Chicago. (If you haven’t been following along, this post explains it all.) I’ve had a lovely (and much needed) break from mail call since our Honor Flight season goes only from the spring to the fall, although if you looked at my four foot pile of school mail that has come in over the winter, you would wonder if there really was a break!

Now we have our dates set for the 2013 season. I wasn’t surprised to see that there are only five flights for this season. For the past few years, we’ve done ten flights…but World War II veterans are getting older and slowing down, and filling flights is more of a challenge with the unpredictable medical situations facing the men and women of this age group.

So, if you live in Chicagoland and would like to thank a World War II veteran in person for his or her service to our country, please consider attending a Welcome Home Celebration at Midway Airport. It is magical, it is emotional, it is patriotic, it is unforgettable…

If you don’t live in Chicagoland and would like to thank a World War II veteran for his or her service to our country, please consider writing a letter. Last year when I started the mail collecting adventure the Letter Writers Alliance helped spread the word about Honor Flight to their members and I received a lot of great letters–some from as far as the Netherlands (thanks, Cath!)–to fill the mail packs of veterans with no families. If you would like to participate, you can find the address here under the Thank A Vet tab.

Our flights for the 2013 season are April 17, May 14, June 12, July 10 and August 7. If you would like to attend a Welcome Home, be at Midway Airport’s baggage claim area by 8pm on the flight day of your choice. If you would like to send a letter, feel free to send one at your leisure. Our mail call deadline is the Friday before each flight, so your last chance to send a letter is August 2nd.

And finally, if you know of a World War II veteran who hasn’t flown with Honor Flight but might like to, please have him or her fill out the application and send it in.

And now, back to taking pictures of my shiny clean desks (and to start tackling the new mess I created in the second bedroom).

Photo from here

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Tiny Plastic Pig


I had the nicest teacher ever in third grade. Mrs. Cox was so patient and caring, but she was also firm. One morning when I walked into the classroom, I found the entire contents of my desk tossed on the floor and on my desktop sat a tiny plastic pig. I was a very sensitive child–a bit of a goody, goody–so at first I was stunned, then I was saddened by this “mean” act. But when I looked at Mrs. Cox, she was smiling and she said that when desks got this messy it was best to start over. That just made everything better (well, a little bit…to this day I still feel slightly mortified by that moment, even though other students–mostly boys–had pigs on their desks, too). I got to work putting my desk back together and throwing out a ton of old papers and other stuff (I was apparently a hoarder back then, too!). My third grade desk never got that messy again…but I hardly learned my lesson–I am still very messy today.

So on Monday, I pulled out the tiny plastic pig (unfortunately, this is only a metaphor…I really do need a plastic pig) and started dumping everything out of my desk drawers. What you see in the picture above is some of my desktop clutter mixed with the contents of one of the drawers. All week I’ve been working on getting my desk to “perfection” status (all while trying to remember not to let perfect be the enemy of the good!) It’s quite a challenge. Since most of my crafting happens on the desks but most of my craft supplies are in the second bedroom, the process involves a lot of walking around and deciding what should go where…and what should go into the donation pile. In other words, organizing the desk has opened a whole other can of worms that involves the spare room (and somehow the junk drawer in the kitchen). I’m trying to keep my eye on the prize: a neat & tidy & functional work surface.

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Spend Out


When I read The Happiness Project, one thing that stayed with me most was the part where Gretchen Rubin talks about “spending out”. She confesses to having a hard time using brand new things for the first time (not wanting to ruin their “pristine glory”) and tells a personal story about a bottle of perfume that sat on her grandmother’s dresser for as long as she remembered. The bottle was full when her grandmother died, most likely because her grandmother was saving it for a special occasion.

I’m a total saver. In some ways, it’s a good thing. My savings paid for our wedding and the down payment on our apartment. But in many other ways, my saving is just crazy. I save my “good outfits” (just in case some fun, unexpected plans come up) instead of wearing them to work or to run errands. I save gift cards for the perfect purchase. (We still have three gift cards from our wedding almost seven years ago.) I save the snacks I bring home from Japan. I save the “good” pens for the “right” use, as if I don’t deserve to enjoy writing out my to-do list. I save the good stationery for special occasions (which, for the record, never happen). I save scrapbook supplies because I never think I’m good enough or creative enough to use them the “right” way. I save good art in the closet because I’m afraid to mess up where/how I hang it. I save (as pictured above) fancy paper for juuuust the right project. (Full disclosure: this is just a small portion of my paper collection…the rest is in bins in the closet. Shall I take a break while you call the Hoarders people now?)

I don’t think I’m alone in my saving (hoarding). I often hear to other crafters lament that it’s hard use up their “best” supplies. I know other letter-writing lovers who talk about “hoarding” their vintage postage. I know people who have a hard time making the first pen mark in a brand new journal. I have a set of teacups that my mother received as a wedding gift that sat in its original box in her attic for thirty-nine years before she gave them to me. (A year later, I have yet to use these teacups.)

One of my goals for 2013 (and beyond) is to spend out–to use up or wear out everything I’ve been hoarding. I am going to break out the new dishcloths that my mom gave us for Christmas in 2011. (See how crazy I am?) I am going to use up my fancy papers, even if it means dreaming up reasons to use them. I am going to spend the gift card stash and wear the good clothes until they cannot be worn anymore. I am going to hang up all the art, even if it means patching a few mistakes in the walls. I am going to crack open the journal I made five years ago and fill it up with messy handwriting. I am going to use up ALL of my stationery (I’ve actually been doing well using up this lovely stuff Naoto bought me!) I am going to fearlessly use my typewriter, knowing I can easily buy more ribbon for it, and use my vintage Dymo label-maker knowing I can buy more tape for it. And…I’m going to use up my washi tape–which is by far my most-hoarded supply. I don’t want my craft stash to become the perfume bottle of my existence.

Are you a saver? Is there something you would like to use up this year? Are you a spender? Any words of wisdom for the savers?

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We Heart Pistachios


We eat a lot of pistachios around here. Naoto eats them almost every night when he comes home from work. He should actually be on one of these commercials, except for the fact that most of the time we are eating Trader Joe’s pistachios. When I randomly came across the Joseph Joseph Double Dish on the internet one day (I have no idea where I first saw it), I added it to my gift list. (For the record, the price on Amazon has gone up $10 since I bought mine…what’s up with that?!) I gave the dish to Naoto for his birthday and I think he was impressed!


It’s a genius design. The top dish holds the pistachios. When you break off the shell, you just drop it down one of the side slots and it falls into the lower bowl–out of sight! It’s perfect for a party because you don’t have to have the unsightly shell bowl on the table, and even better, if you use the dish for olives, no one has to look at each other’s slobbery pits.


Amazon also suggests using it for edamame, but around here, we would need the jumbo version of the bowl for that to work out.

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