Monthly Archives: March 2013



Every spring I look forward to picking up a little bunch of daffodils from Trader Joe’s. I know when these bright stems show up in the store, real spring is just around the corner. My first experience with a bouquet of daffodils was years ago when Naoto and I were “just friends”. I wasn’t feeling well–I had a bad spring cold–and he showed up at my door with tea, honey, an orange, some vitamins and a tiny bouquet of yellow cheer.

Last weekend Naoto bought three bouquets for the Fondue Fun Night, but they didn’t bloom until my birthday. Huge explosions of sunshine popped up throughout our apartment, making the sting of the snowfall  just a little less painful.

It’s the little things that make me smile…especially as I wait (not-so) patiently for spring.

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Tokyo-in-a-Bag & Birthday Pie


I’m a child inside. Tokyo in a Bag–the wooden play set you see above–has been on my wishlist for awhile now. Naoto and Presley gave it to me for my birthday. So far, each time I’ve built Tokyo, Presley has decided to play the role of Godzilla–she knocks everything over and tries to scurry off with a car. It’s great fun really.


We spent my birthday recovering from Fondue Fun Night and watching the snow fall. But on Monday night, Naoto took me out to the Little Goat Diner for my “birthday” dinner. I’ve been dreaming about the pie and the coffee ever since we tried the Little Goat during the Week of Indulgence, so there was no question where we’d be dining for my birthday. (That’s my latte above, next to Naoto’s chocolate malt. There was plenty for him to choose from on the menu!)


I got the Bull’s Eye French Toast–sweet onion brioche with eggs cooked inside, topped with crispy fried chicken and gooseberries smothered in BBQ maple syrup…ohmygoodness it was delicious. Super-rich. If I got it again, I’d share it and get the syrup on the side…but no regrets here! Unfortunately, I could not eat my pie again!! I had to get it to go, and this time we made sure I didn’t forget it on the table.


Once we got home, I was ready for pie. I ate half of it right away and saved the other half for a 3AM snack.

(It’s a lovely experience to dream of pie and then actually wake up and eat it!)


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Fondue Fun Night


On Saturday, Naoto and I hosted our first ever Fondue Fun Night. We had a fun time planning the party, checking out fondue recipes and dusting off the fondue pot–which was one of my first purchases when I got my own apartment. For some reason, fondue has always sounded like fun to me. The community, the bite sized food, the pretty forks, the cheese… We clearly need to break out the fondue pot more often because it was a great party.


We used a modified version of this recipe. We mixed everything up in our yellow pot, then transferred it to the fondue pot. Once we put the cheese mixture into the fondue pot, disaster struck. The flame under the pot went out and the fondue was just a big hunk of gloppy cheese. Thankfully, Karen & Naoto saved the day with some quick Googling, a little more wine and a little more fire…and once people started eating and stirring the pot, the cheese was just right.

We served apples, pears, broccoli, prosciutto, tiny potatoes, carrots, grape tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, zucchini and of course bites of bread for the fondue. Karen made deviled eggs and I made a grape salad and an orange pineapple Jell-O salad to keep with the 70s theme along with the Brandy Alexanders for dessert. There might have been a mini bourbon tasting in the middle of the party, too. Maybe…

It was a perfect not-a-birthday-party…friends, food and good fun!


P.S. I always wish I had taken more pictures…


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Slow Productivity


We are having a little party on Saturday night (Fondue Fun Night!!!), so naturally I’m busy hanging stuff on the wall, checking out Jell-O molds and planning menus instead of doing what I’m supposed to do (finish cleaning, finish the spare room, finish painting the bathroom door…)

I’ve had the square Ikea frames for almost a year now. I originally had another idea for them (I actually own four), but that didn’t work out. I’m not sure this worked out either. I’m not in love with it. It’s fine, but not great, but I can’t decide if it’s the placement, the papers, the colors or just the whole thing that’s bothering me. (If you’d like a closer look at the papers–you know, without the camera glare– the left one is similar to this Lokta paper, the middle on is this Japanese paper, and the right one is this Lokta paper.) I love the papers…I took the colors from my chevron pillows…I love the gold, I’m just not sure if it all looks a little too matchy matchy..maybe it would look better with only one paper design in all three frames? Maybe I need a new lamp? (I definitely need a new lamp shade!) Also, this whole set-up doesn’t help with that awkward hold between the side table and the television…

In addition to hanging some lame frames, I finally got up the nerve to hang the bathroom mirror yesterday! I was very nerve-wracking, lots of measuring and leveling and math (the math part I can handle…it’s the stress of holding the measuring tape and the level and the drill and the screw that is the hard part! Home improvement is not a solo gig!) So, the mirror isn’t hung perfectly, but it is centered and level, so that’s perfect enough! You should have seen all of the hang-wringing and sweating that was going on in there as I held my breath and prayed for a straight outcome!

Hopefully next week, I can be back with some pictures of the finally finished bathroom. I am still searching for an elusive frame for my artwork (and I have to paint the door still…can’t forget that.)

In the meantime, any ideas for the living room?

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J-E-L-L-O, the Vintage Way


Letter Month is over, and my letter writing has slowed down quite a bit. I have letters that came in during the first week of March that still need to be returned. I’m slowly making my way through the pile before I go to bed each night. Thankfully, my outgoing mail timing has been good, because some amazing mail has been trickling into my mailbox.

Last week I got this amazing vintage Jell-O pamphlet from Donovan. It was printed in 1928 and it has all sorts of Jell-O recipes and many of them are featured in Jell-O molds. It makes me wish I had a Jell-O mold! (Confession: I spent an hour on Ebay last night checking out my vintage Jell-O mold choices!)


My favorite part of the booklet is the line: Jell-O is like the princess in the fairy tale: it is as good as it is beautiful. So true! I remember being so excited when I saw a bowl of Jell-O in the fridge when I was little…my favorite has always been Lime. From reading through the pamphlet, I learned that lime must be a “newer” flavor, as the only five flavors listed in the pamphlet are Lemon, Orange, Strawberry, Raspberry and Cherry.


I am completely enamored with the illustrations of the fluffy Jell-O desserts and the perfectly shiny Jell-O molds sitting atop beds of lettuce or whipped cream. Everything in the first half of the booklet is expected–Jell-O with fruits and whipped cream served as molds or in stemmed dessert glasses. So pretty!


Then there’s the second half of the booklet–the Jell-O salads. Back here, we are mixing up Jell-O with tuna and olives and cabbage and horseradish. I was really excited about the Shower Salad…Strawberry Jell-O with pineapple, apple and maraschino cherries?? Sign me up! But then, I read the last line: Garnish with Hellman’s Blue Ribbon Mayonnaise. Hmmmm…ick. I guess I shouldn’t knock it until I’ve tried it…but quite frankly, I think if I made the Shower Salad, I’d be garnishing it with Dream Whip! Little did I know that the Shower Salad is probably the least offensive salad in the section…tuna and lemon Jell-O…eeks! It all reminds me of that Friends Thanksgiving episode where Rachel makes the traditional English trifle (and accidentally adds meat!)

Have you made anything interesting with Jell-O lately? Have you ever had it with olives or meat or other savory bits mixed inside?

Thanks, Donovan, for the sweet ephemera and for feeding my Jell-O obsession!

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Happy Birthday, Dad!


Wishing a very happy birthday to my dad today! Dad, we owe you a birthday lunch at Portillo’s soon!




The How Green Was My Valley Tea


I didn’t disappear last week…I spent all day Thursday and Friday reading the most lovely book, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn. It was the March choice for my book group and we celebrated it with a green-themed tea at Peggy’s house. We all contributed a little something, but as usual, Peggy went above and beyond baking up a storm and choosing the perfect linens, dishes and flowers to set the mood. Seeing the daffodils throughout the room really made it feel like spring, even though we all came in our winter coats on a chilly grey day.


Peggy made a leek, bacon and goat cheese frittata, rosemary pistachio scones, homemade lemon curd and citrus cranberry pull-apart rolls. Bobbie brought chicken salad cream puffs, Peggy (we have two Pegs!) made Irish soda bread, I made homemade ricotta and we enjoyed English breakfast and Highland Toffee teas along with mimosas. It was a tea to end all teas…so much deliciousness in one place!

We indulged and chatted and then spent a good part of the afternoon talking about the book…we always talk about the book. (We aren’t one of those book groups who just gets together to drink wine and gossip.) Everyone wholeheartedly loved How Green Was My Valley. It captivated me for two days, and over those long afternoons of reading, I had to remind myself to slow down and soak in the beauty of Llewellyn’s writing…

I keep reading several passages from the book over and over again. (I need to take it back to the library, but I can’t let go yet!)

There is good a cup of tea when you are feeling low. Thin, and plenty of milk, and brown sugar in the crystal, in a big cup so that when your mouth is used to the heat you can drink instead of sipping. Every part of you inside you that seems to have gone to sleep comes lively again. A good friend of mine is a cup of tea, indeed.”  [from chapter sixteen]

There is a lovely smell with tweed. Good it is, and honest, of the earth and of humankind, and a pleasure to wear, and always a friend to you. I had a brown tweed, the colour of a ploughed field in the pebbly soil, when leaf has been put down about three months before, and grass is just poking through, barely to be seen, but there. That, and a grey, the colour of spring rain, and almost as soft to the touch.” [from chapter twenty-two]

Throughout the book I was lulled into the comfortable arms of Huw’s memories growing up in a big family with strong and tender parents…and the book is peppered with tales that are sometimes shocking, sometimes horrifying, sometimes hilarious…very real for the turn of the century in a South Wales mining community.

I absolutely loved the book and I love that we chose to read it this month. It couldn’t have been a more perfect choice for a morning tea at the arrival of spring.

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Magically Delicious


I am a donut lover.

While Dunkin Donuts will do in a pinch, I really prefer smaller donut shops (and Japan’s very own Mister Donut). Last year we discovered Glazed & Infused, a Chicago donut shop that is close to Naoto’s office. Every once in awhile, upon request, Naoto will come home with a donut for me…usually lemon or vanilla bean.

Monday, when Glazed & Infused tweeted a picture of this week’s special–a Lucky Charms donut in honor of St. Patrick’s Day–I told Naoto I wanted one and he came through, delivering a giant Lucky Charms donut to me at work last night. I love Lucky Charms…those tiny marshmallows make me ridiculously happy. Lucky Charms on a vanilla bean glazed donut…imagine a sugar high that rivals your biggest childhood Halloween. And this donut is enormous…it’s sitting on a salad plate in my picture above. I ate half of it last night and instantly fell into a sugar coma. I finished it off for breakfast this morning. I would have shared it, but no one at work or at home (including Presley) thought it sounded good enough to try…they don’t know what they’re missing! It was definitely a one-time treat for me, but I’m glad I tried it.

I’m going to use my sugar rush to power through the rest of the kitchen today. The pantry is organized, the drawers are almost done…it’s looking good in there. Now that I have the carrot of spring dangling ahead of me, I’m more than motivated to get this home-stuff done!



Sidetracked: Fondue Forks


I’m in the middle of tidying up the kitchen drawers and the pantry. I’m in the middle of trying to convince Naoto that we need to get rid of our steamer. We’ve only used our steamer once AND we have a steamer function on our rice cooker AND we have a huge pot with a steamer tray…why keep it? (I’m losing this fight. Does anyone need a steamer?) I’m in the middle of replacing our three incomplete sets of measuring spoons with the one complete set from my parents. I’m in the middle of sorting through our pantry and thinking that we buy too much food that we don’t finish. We need to make better choices at the grocery store.

This morning I was sorting through the drawer that has the “infrequently used” things…things like summery serving trays (a gift) and tiny vases (and pretty bottles that I use as vases) and fondue forks. These fondue forks were a re-gift from our coffee-shop friend Madonna. We used to drink coffee with Madonna when our friends owned the bakery near our old apartment. When Madonna learned we had hosted a little fondue party, she brought us these fondue forks. They had been a gift to her in the 70s.


In case the picture is unclear, it says:

Dear Madonna,

Sorry we were late that night. We were looking for a place to buy a liqueur to “warm” your house. As it turns out, maybe you’ll get more and longer enjoyment from these.


Jessica & Terry


I love the wooden handles and the gold Roman numerals on each fork. I think the handles could use a bit of oil, but it is really such a lovely set. I love that Madonna thought to give them to us–it’s nice to have a little but of her history in our home since she was a big part of our life when we lived in Oak Park.


I think a little fondue party might be in the making!

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The Everybody Loves a Parade Weekend


I’m a little sad that the weekend is over. Naoto & I both had Saturday and Sunday off…that’s a rarity around here. This weekend was the perfect balance between activities and lazing…and cooking–I made a tasty zucchini and cheese omelet for Saturday’s breakfast and Naoto made a delicious soy-glazed salmon for Sunday supper.

On Saturday we walked a couple of blocks to Madison Street for the Forest Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was our first time seeing this parade and my first parade in a very, very long time. I was glad to see the usual characters like the Shriners, clowns and a guy on stilts (both awesome and creepy…but not as creepy as the clown! I found myself avoiding eye contact so he wouldn’t come talk to us!) The bagpipers were my favorite part…


On Sunday I went to another letter social with the Letter Writers Alliance. It was a fun time as usual, but not a super-productive one for me (I spent more time talking!) since I only finished one and a half letters! The picture at the top is of my letters and supplies hanging out on the table.

Today I am trying to tidy up the kitchen. We have been buying a lot of new food to accommodate Naoto’s diet and all the new food is making me realize that it’s time for a pantry clean-out. And maybe an entire kitchen clean-out. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves…the spare room is still a mess!

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