Monthly Archives: February 2013

So Long, Letter Month…


Today is the end of February, which means the end of the Month of Letters.

The sad news is I missed one day–the day Naoto had his surgery, February 19th. I wrote a letter that day at the hospital, but I was unorganized and didn’t bring my stamp and envelope and didn’t get it sent out in time…I am super-bummed about not having a perfect record, but I’m going to try to let it go because I sent a total of 41 letters!! I’m pretty excited about that number and I hope it means I will keep on keeping on with my mail habit.

At one point in the middle of the month, my mailbox had been empty for a few days. I started panicking that I wouldn’t have someone to write to during my daily writing time. It also didn’t help that my life was particularly unexciting this month, aside from Naoto’s surgery. During the mail drought, I took time to write notes to my grandparents and to a couple of friends who are going through difficult times. Any other month, I probably would have put off sending these notes because I didn’t know what to say, or didn’t have the perfect card, or just because I let it slip my mind. This month, since letter writing was at the forefront of my mind, I made the time and I made the effort. In the end, hearing from me was more important than perfection… It was a good reminder: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good!


One thing that kept me ahead of the game was Valentine’s Day. It helped that this sweet little holiday gave me an excuse to churn out a few easy notes (along with buntings and decorated envelopes!) I felt so good on the days when more than one letter was going out the door…most days (19 of them to be exact) it was just one letter. Some days, I wasn’t into decorating the envelope, but other days I was really into it. During Valentine week, I was really into it. I was able to use up some papers and bits that have been hanging out in my stash for a long time (like those pink “Be Heart Smart” hearts on the envelopes above that have been around since, oh, maybe second grade…)


I got some really amazing mail from my always-reliable pen friends throughout the month, too. I returned every letter I received this month (except for one I received yesterday which I plan to devote some time to tomorrow night). I also gained three new pen pals–yay for more merry mail making!


I am so glad I participated again this year, and that I beat my goal of sending 28 pieces…it’s not often I beat a goal (ahem…guest room clean-out). It’s really thanks to my regular pen friends that I was able to send out more mail…because even my grandparents (among other non-letter writers) didn’t reply to my letters or Valentines…(cue the violins!) A huge postman-sized hug for those of you who filled my mailbox this month!


I’m ready to move onto another project (after the spare room is done!) Today I’m going to put my red and pink mail things away, tidy up my desk and bring out some fresh supplies for March. Because the mail making doesn’t end with Letter Month, but there’s room for something new, too!

These were some of my favorite envelopes this month. To see the rest, you can take a peek here on Instagram.


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A Thankful Update


One week post-surgery and Naoto is feeling ready to go back to work. He had a follow-up appointment with his surgeon today and he gave Naoto the go-ahead to return to his office job and to Trader Joe’s (which makes me nervous because “light duty” means nothing to Naoto!) While he’s been home, Naoto has been showered with love on Facebook and Twitter, through phone calls and texts, in the mailbox and in soups from our neighbor friends and my book club friend, Peggy. We are truly so thankful to have so many kind friends and coworkers (seriously, Naoto works with the nicest people!).

Naoto has really embraced this liquid diet like a champ–getting excited about microwaving another bowl of pureed soup and spooning into a new flavor of Jello (my specialty) cannot be as easy as he makes it look! Next week, if all goes well, his diet expands like crazy–we can even add fish, pasta, rice and (meatless) casseroles! What a huge difference that will make!


In other news, it snowed again yesterday…this picture is from my walk home from work last night. It’s the kind of wet, heavy snow that leaves everything a mess. There are deep puddles at every street corner, which have pushed the “waterproof” standards of my cheap snow boots! It’s still snowing tonight, so I’m lucky I can stay home tomorrow and Friday to FOCUS on finishing the guest room…yes…I’m still working on the guest room. Actually, I stopped working on the guest room because I felt it was a lost cause, but now I’m ready to be DONE with the guest room, so I am going to work until it’s done. I’ve already donated ten bags of things (both from the guest room and our clothes closets) and there is plenty more that needs to go. It will be nice to begin March with a nice clean guest room so I can focus on other things around here…like framing more things…and making more Jello.

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Cocktail Perfected: The Last Word


Chartreuse has been on my must-try list since last year when I started seeing it in so many classic cocktail recipes (cocktail recipe research has become a part of my bedtime reading routine). The problem is, a bottle of Chartreuse is big and pricey…we didn’t want to risk buying it and then hating it. And, the bars we frequent don’t serve such sophistication. But when we were at Fitzgerald’s, Naoto surprised me with a cocktail–The Last Word. It was a pretty shade of green, very herbal, tart and delicious…needless to say, I’ve been talking about making one at home ever since.

I figured Naoto would buy me a bottle of Chartreuse for my birthday, but instead he brought a bottle home on Sunday (along with Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur). He doesn’t like the taste of Chartreuse (crazy man!) so he encouraged me to mix one up for myself in spite of the fact that he cannot drink for awhile.

The Last Word is easy to remember…equal parts of four tasty ingredients, shake and pour…


The Last Word

3/4oz gin (I just used a basic gin, but I’m interested to try this out with one of our more juniper-y gins.)

3/4oz Chartreuse

3/4oz Maraschino Liqueur

3/4oz freshly squeezed lime juice

Fill cocktail shaker with ice, add ingredients, shake until your hand freezes off, strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy on a cold Monday night (while your husband drinks a cup of soup).


Another Procrastination Project


The spare room is still a disaster. The bathroom still has no mirror or towel hooks. The floors need to be swept. Am I taking care of those things? No. I’m hanging up kitchen art.

I spent Saturday framing a bunch of old family pictures. My plan (eventually) is to make a family photo wall on the open wall in the dining room. (You can see a bit of the wall in this post.) I would have hung everything up on Saturday (I’m feeling very hammer happy these days.) except I realized I have zero pictures of myself. Grandparents, parents, and a young Naoto, yes…but no young Kimberly. I’m going to have to see if I can come up with some good choices (hint, hint, Mom!) before I start making holes. I’d love to do something like this by Young House Love, mixing my photographs with other sentimental things but, let’s be honest…at the rate I’m going it would take a lifetime to fill our wall!


Since I couldn’t hang up the stuff I’d framed (and the bathroom details are on hold until Naoto can help me lift things), I decided to finally hang two more doughnut pictures in the kitchen. The top one is a letterpressed greeting card that I found while cleaning and the bottom one is the picture (the sprinkles are police officers) that has been sitting on my kitchen counter for a long while. It took two minutes–no templates, no measuring, no level…I just eyeballed it this time. It’s a small improvement, but it feels good to get two more things on the wall (instead of on the floor!)


And while we are talking about the kitchen…when the weather got colder, we brought in our wicker loveseat from the balcony. It just happened to fit on the little wall in the kitchen. (We kept Presley’s food and water bowls along this wall, but she moves them around so much that pretty much the whole kitchen floor is her food and water bowl.) It turns out that the loveseat has been a useful little addition to the kitchen. We hang out there when we’re cooking and Presley takes naps on it every day. It’s kind of the perfect place for her. She can get her snooze on and be aware of what is coming out of the refrigerator. She can hear the sound of the cheese drawer opening and yogurt containers opening from anywhere in the apartment…being close gives her the advantage of seeing if the food choice is worth the effort of getting up to beg for it.

So, that’s what’s going on around here in the recovery house. Naoto is probably going back to his day job soon…Presley and I are going to miss him as we’ve gotten quite used to him hanging around with us during the day!

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Whew…the surgery is done. It was a success (as far as we know at this point in time) and the patient is doing well (although he is getting a little stir crazy, just as I predicted…I will be doling out chores this afternoon). The Week of Indulgence seems like a lifetime ago…

Our neighbor-friend Brett came down with some pureed potato and leek soup for Naoto. (They are pictured above…and yes, Naoto is wearing his Trader Joe’s sweatshirt–complete with name tag.) Between the soup, broth, jello, yogurt, pudding, Italian ice and water, Naoto has been eating like a soft foods king. And best of all–he can have coffee! When the nurse told us this, we both had a little celebration dance in the hospital room.


He’s starting out slowly, with a tiny cup, but it made him ridiculously happy…it is the little things that make life great, isn’t it?

We got a few inches of snow last night, so I think this afternoon we will make time for a walk…it will feel good for both of us to keep the cabin fever at bay and breathe in some snowy air (and maybe stop for a coffee on the way home!)

Thanks, everyone, for your thoughts and good wishes! Naoto & I are very appreciative!

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#WeekofIndulgence: Gaetano’s


Gaetano’s is a little Italian restaurant here in Forest Park. If no one had told us about it, we would have never noticed it because it is so removed from the other restaurants on Madison Street. To say it’s Italian probably conjures up images of meatballs and red sauce, but Gaetano doesn’t do Italian like that…his cooking is full of interesting combinations, fresh flavors and gorgeous presentation. The next time we go, I want to get the risotto because it comes out in a foil swan! This article explains it better than I can (and for the record, those chorizo-stuffed dates in coconut tomato sauce…incredible!)


Naoto decided this was the perfect place for his last indulgence. We shared the tuna carpaccio, Naoto enjoyed a seafood pasta (pictured above with the cheerful indulger) and I had butternut squash gnocchi with mushrooms and beef short ribs. Of course, I couldn’t finish my dish, so Naoto willingly ate the rest.


We finished with coffee and dessert, Creme Brule Napoleon con le Peche–“carmelized phyllo dough layered with custard and peaches with caramel sauce*”. Just like the pie at the Little Goat, I’ve been thinking about this dessert since the first bite. I’m kind of hoping Naoto will take me here while he’s on his soft foods diet…he can have the custard and caramel sauce, while I “take one for the team” and eat the peaches and phyllo!

After dinner, we headed back to FitzGerald’s to meet up with our neighbor friend for a cocktail and a little bit of music before we headed home for the night. I can’t think of a more perfect end to the #WeekofIndulgence than that!

Now that we are rolling into the “restricted diet zone”, our focus has moved to “fun pureed food” research and party planning for April when Naoto can join the living again and eat and drink with the rest of us! It’s always good to have something to look forward to–even if it’s something as simple as a beer and a Spam musubi!

*from Gaetano’s menu

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#WeekofIndulgence: Bluebird & Fitzgerald’s Club


On Wednesday night Naoto and I attended a little cocktail party at The Bluebird in Bucktown. We had a great time munching on mini sandwiches, drinking old fashioneds (mine is pictured above with my fawn clutch, a Valentine gift from long ago) and catching up with our realtor friend, Nancy.


Since the party ended at 7 and it is the Week of Indulgence we decided to hit FitzGerald’s on the way home to catch a little Jazz concert. FitzGerald’s is a little gem of a nightclub in our “neighborhood” that we don’t take advantage of often enough. On Wednesday nights in the Sidebar (a smaller bar to the side of the main club) they have acoustic jazz and serve classic cocktails.


It wasn’t overly crowded and the music was good and the drink was delicious. I had the 20th Century–gin, lillet blanc, creme de cacao and lemon. There are about a dozen more cocktails on the list that I want to try, so hopefully we’ll make it out again as soon as Naoto is feeling better (or sooner, because I have a built-in designated driver for the next eight weeks!)

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Over the Moon


I like to send silly greeting cards to Naoto at his office (the translation office, not Trader Joe’s). I do it because he mostly gets the boring mail at home and because I have a compulsive habit of falling in love with the perfect greeting cards for him and buying them too often. I love going to visit Naoto and seeing them all displayed on the ledge behind his desk.

When I saw this card with “Presley” flying over the moon, I fell in love (as I do with all Rifle cards!). I decided to send it to Naoto as a little pre-Valentine. I also made him a special blue washi tape bunting (because blue is his favorite and all of the pink ones just seemed too girly!) and tucked in inside the envelope.



I decorated the envelope with some blue washi tape and a vintage paper heart from this set by K is for Calligraphy and I used one of our leftover wedding invitation stamps for the postage (because who else wants to see that stamp!).


When I went to Naoto’s office on Wednesday night, he had the bunting all strung up by his desk. You can see his little card collection in the background (along with the all-business bulletin board information!)


For his “real” Valentine, I bought him a box of Choco Tacos (mentioned recently here)…I’m pretty sure he appreciated those more that the washi bunting!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!


I know some of my Valentine’s are still en route, being lovingly handled by the post offices in a few countries, but I wanted to share them before red and pink become as stale as Christmas cookies in February.

I had the little gold foil heart cards in my stash from last year. They are from the Paper Source (and are apparently out of stock). I also bought these postcards from Rifle Paper Company. I am pretty much in love with anything Rifle and once I saw the little flying cupid postman and the postage stamp edging, I knew I wanted these in my stationery stash.


Last week I pulled out my washi tape stash and some twine and started making some simple washi tape buntings. I got kind of addicted to playing with different colors and patterns and ended up with more than a dozen of them so I tucked the tiny buntings into little glassine envelopes and sent them off with some of my cards.


I miss the Valentine’s of my school days when my classmates used to add little stickers or candy hearts in the tiny, thin white paper envelopes of their store-bought Valentines, so this seemed like a good way to bring that back.

I hope you have a super Valentine’s Day! Whether you are spending it with your significant other, your family (both human & furry!), I hope your day is full of love and good mail!

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Big Band at the Library


Naoto and I had a date at the Oak Park Library. In February and March, Oak Park is doing a set of programming–films, discussions, movies and concerts–celebrating America’s music. They kicked things off Saturday night with the Glen Ellyn Jazz Ensemble performing a big band concert.

At first it felt a little weird going to the library on Saturday night, but they had the Veterans Room set up like a “club” with little tables and candles (the battery-operated kind!) and balloons and starry confetti. There was a cash bar in the back (yes, a bar at the library!!) serving up beer and wine and there were cheese trays, popcorn, grapes and candy. In spite of the brighter lighting (the lights were dimmed, but understandably not “club-dark”) it definitely felt more festive than a library event room! We were lucky enough to score a little table for two in the back and we had a really great time listening to the energetic sounds of the band and watching the horns bob and move with musical vigor. A few people were even dancing (but not us…we have the rhythm you’d expect from a small town white girl and an Asian guy)! The whole night made me wonder why we don’t go out and enjoy more music…

The best part (besides the fact that the concert was free!) was that it ended at nine and I could get Naoto tucked in early for his 5AM shift Sunday morning! (Exciting Saturday nights around here!)

If you are interested in seeing the rest of the America’s Music programming at the Oak Park Library, go here.

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