Monthly Archives: May 2013

The End of Mays…


I’m just going to say it: May FLEW! (I know you’re thinking it, too.) I’m excited for June, I’m excited for summer (even though I’m currently melting from the heat because I’m trying to be a hero by refusing to turn on the air conditioning!) and I’m excited for the weekend. Our anniversary is Sunday and we have no solid plans for the entire weekend except for our traditional anniversary dinner at Golden Steer, Forest Park’s most famous steakhouse.

Today I finished  Naoto’s gift. It is imperfect, but filled with love (and a few swear words). I will share it next week.

I also finally made some simple plant markers for our garden. I just stamped some craft sticks with my alphabet stamps and StazOn ink. It took about five minutes (most of that time was spent searching for the elusive R stamp!) in between loads of laundry. We are going to the garden this weekend for sure (it’s been raining again, so I’m dying to see the progress and stay on top of the weed growth!) so I’ll show them “in action” next week.

Have a good weekend!

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Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer.

Last year, I created a summer manifesto–a list of activities, projects to accomplish and things to learn during the summer months. I was really happy with my progress! While I didn’t accomplish everything on the list, it was still fun to keep the manifesto in mind as I made summer plans. It made me prioritize the important things of summer, like sitting outside and eating fresh fruits and cool popsicles. I had a great time documenting everything in a little photo book (which I completed but never shared the final product here…would it be weird to share it a year later?) I plan to do the same thing this year. I’ve already purchased this book in neon pink so I’m ready to get started!

This summer I will:

* embrace the mornings (as in, get up and get something done before noon!)

* tend to the gardens (balcony & community garden plot)

* take advantage of our Farmers Market in Forest Park (It’s in an inconvenient location & happens on Friday nights, but I want to support it so it sticks around!)

* travel to Boston

* take my camera out more often and practice

* make an anniversary gift (due on Sunday!!)

* master three more cocktails (Summer-y ones with in-season ingredients would be awesome!)

* host a Hawaii-themed party (We thought we were all partied out, but by mid-summer we’ll be itching for something new to plan!)

* paint the bedroom (It’s the last big, nagging thing on my home improvement list!)

* create three pieces of art for our home (I have ideas…it’s the execution I’m lacking…)

* participate fully in 30 Days of Creativity (I love a good month-long challenge.)

* start working on my zine idea (I’ve had the idea floating around for two years now…it’s time to get started. I have no dreams of selling it, I just want to create it.)

And three more from last year…

* find the ice cream truck

* wear sunscreen & sun hats

* document summer & finish my summer minibook

Of course, Naoto will be along for the ride, and a real participant in some of the things like traveling to Boston, tending the garden, chasing the ice cream man, drinking the cocktails and painting the bedroom (ahem…)

I can’t wait to get started!

How about you? Any summer have-tos on your list?


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Grandma Visits Forest Park



This weekend my parents and my grandma drove up to visit us and to see our apartment. I haven’t seen my grandma in for-everrrrr so it was great to spend time with her and to know she is as spunky as ever. I really don’t think she has aged a bit since I’ve seen her last! We gave her the tour of our apartment (including the dreaded spare room!), took her to Portillo’s for an Italian beef, checked out our community garden and stopped by Trader Joe’s for some snacks. It was pretty much a run-of-the-mill Saturday with the extra bonus of spending it with my family. Nothing fancy, just quality time together.



At the community garden we all did a little weeding and I planted a new Juliette tomato plant from my dad. The garden is looking really good! Thanks to all of the rain lately, everything is popping up except my loofah. My mom and grandma sat on the garden swing while we finished planting and weeding. (I joined them, letting my dad and Naoto take care of the rest of the weeds!) After garden and shopping we came home and indulged in some Portillo’s chocolate cake for dessert. Yum. Then, Mom, Dad and Grandma got all packed up to leave…I’m so glad they could come.

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It’s been a rainy week here in Chicagoland, so gardening has been put on hold…the rain takes care of the watering, but we need to get in soon to pull weeds! BUT, we visited the garden quickly last night before the sun went down and I’m happy to report that WE HAVE PLANTS! And not just weed plants (hmmm…you know what I mean…) we have daikon and watermelon radishes, lettuce and cucumbers peeking out of the ground! Many a high fives were exchanged in the car after this picture was taken. I know we have a lot more growing to do, so don’t think we are getting over-confident around here, but it’s good to see things popping up. Thanks to Mother Nature for all of the good rain to help things along!

We have a busy, busy weekend planned. Tomorrow my parents are bringing my grandma up to see our apartment for the first time! I’ve been trying to clean and get our place into “show mode” and failing miserably. So the rest of my Friday night shall be spent mopping floors and dusting and trying to pretend the guest room looks okay (even though it is the retired furniture graveyard and full of Honor Flight Mail Call stuff!) I haven’t seen my grandmother in so long and we’ve never hosted her in our neighborhood, so I’m really excited to see her and my parents, too! We’re taking them to see our garden and to Portillo’s for an Italian Beef. Then Sunday we both work, then we are going to a potluck BBQ at the community garden and then we are hosting cocktails for our friend Karen’s birthday. And on Monday (Memorial Day here in the US), we both work (boo)…

I’m looking forward to a quiet week next week. Our wedding anniversary is coming up and I still need to finalize my plan for Naoto’s gift. I am wishfully thinking of making something for him…something out of wool or copper. (Those are the traditional gifts for the 7th anniversary.) I’ll keep you posted.

Have a good weekend! I’ll be back Monday

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Geranium Troubles


Do you remember this geranium from last year? Well, it’s back outside again this spring–it’s the tall, skinny, flowerless one right by the gnome above. Last year, it lived with a couple of annuals and an ivy geranium (which, sadly, did not make it through the winter). This year, I planted a couple of fresh new geraniums with it. It looks nice and colorful in the hanging pot. The trouble is, I have another hanging pot filled completely with last year’s geraniums. It looks sad. See?


It’s just hanging out…not producing any flowers…last year, my old geranium didn’t bloom until August…I don’t want this pot to languish without blooms until then. Is there anything I can do to hurry it along?

It’s too late for this year, but it looks like I should take a different approach to overwintering my growing geranium collection. (I just leave them all in their pots in a north facing window…not much overwintering there!) This article from the Iowa State University Extension Program was informational on the proper way to overwinter geraniums…I’m hoping next year, my plants will be ready for blooming in the spring!

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The Good Earth


We read The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck for book club this month and I loved it. The book can be summed up with one classic phrase from the late, great Notorious B.I.G.: Mo’ money, mo’ problems.


In turn-of-the-century China, Wang Lung is a poor farmer who marries a slave, O-Lan, who has working hands and big, unbound feet. But it is because of O-Lan’s work ethic, resourcefulness and working hands and feet that Wang Lung is able to survive droughts and famine to become a rich landowner. Wang Lung does not appreciate this until the end…after he takes another woman (with beautiful, small features and tiny, bound feet), builds a larger house to accommodate his first family, his lover and his mooching relatives, and realizes he has raised spoiled children because they didn’t have to work for everything as he had.

I think Wang Lung is a good man (in spite of the fact that he followed the traditional rich land owner’s path of having a concubine…) who gets caught up in the human desire for more. It takes him awhile to learn the lesson, but I think as he’s struggling to learn it, he just wants everyone around him to be satisfied, even though this often leads to more unrest among the ungrateful members of his family.


O-Lan is now one of my favorite literary characters. She is such a strong woman who accepts her path in life and makes the most of it. She is so resourceful, stretching small luxuries out so they could be enjoyed longer, conserving even when they are rich enough to be wasteful. In spite of Wang Lung taking a second woman in the home, O-Lan remains devoted to her family, true to her role and wife and mother, but also draws her boundaries clearly. I cannot imagine living at a time when working class women were considered slaves from birth, expected to care for her husband and his family in addition to working in the fields and bearing children alone.


I loved reading this book in the spring as we were starting our garden since so much of the book is centered around the earth and farming. I borrowed an old copy from the library (I think this copy was published in the 1947, the original book was published in 1931) and I am so glad I did because throughout the book, there were wonderful illustrations. I loved seeing Howard Willard’s interpretations of the story (as seen throughout this post).


Have you read The Good Earth or any other books by Pearl Buck? I own her book A Portrait of a Marriage and I’m thinking I need to pull it off the shelf. Are there any other good summer reads I should add to my list?

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Cocktail Perfected: The Goliath



Thanks to a timely tweet by North Shore Distillery, I think I’ve found the summer cocktail of 2013. The Goliath is served at The Tiny Lounge in Chicago (note to Naoto: I want to go here) and Refinery 29 shared the recipe last week. It was the perfect storm of ingredients for me, because I happened to have everything on hand Thursday night for a little impromptu happy hour on the balcony. It’s summer in a glass–lime, cucumber, herb-y Chartreuse and gin… so refreshing on a sunny afternoon! Naoto loves this cocktail, which is a little surprising since he hates Chartreuse (crazy!), and we are both excited to drink a few more of these this summer with our very own, community garden grown Japanese cucumbers!

The Goliath

2 oz gin (We used North Shore No. 6 because that’s what we have, but No. 11 is better!)

1 oz freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 oz simple syrup

1/4 oz Green Chartreuse

5 slices of cucumber, + a few slices for garnish

Soda (optional…I liked it better without)

Add all ingredients (except the soda) to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake vigorously to break up the cucumber. Strain into a glass with ice. Top with soda (we had it both ways, I prefer it without the soda) and garnish with cucumber. Enjoy on your balcony after you’ve tended to the garden.


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The Garden is Planted

IMG_2116Yesterday afternoon Naoto and I popped over to the garden and planted MOST of our garden. It was the perfect day for planting–warm, sunny and quiet in the garden. It was nice to be there with Naoto…and not just because he did some of the heavy lifting! We both quickly realized that this whole gardening hobby could be a lot of fun this summer–and probably could be pretty rewarding as long as we actually grow something!

IMG_2114We pulled weeds and added a little bit more mulch to our plot before we got started. Then, Naoto dug holes for me and I planted our three tomato plants (two Big Boys and one Brandywine) and our pepper plant in the south end of our plot. Then, while Naoto weeded around our garden plot (the man was a weeding maniac!), I planted our Japanese cucumber and our luffa seeds in the North part of the garden. (Yes, we are going to try to grow our own loofah sponges…a totally weird experiment that I just couldn’t resist!) Our watermelon is going in this neighborhood, too, I just forgot the seeds at home. Then, in the center of the garden, we planted our daikon, watermelon radishes, lettuce, golden beets, limas and peas. There is still quite a bit of real estate left on our plot…I’m thinking more tomatoes. Or green beans. Or tomatoes. Definitely tomatoes. Oh, and we dug up the chive (thanks to Danielle and my dad for knowing what the big ol’ mystery plant is!) and it is now living happily (?) in a pot on our balcony.

IMG_2115At the end, Naoto gave our garden a hearty rain shower. I’m looking forward to going back later this afternoon to check on things…and I’m trying to remain an optimist that things will actually grow!

Have a good weekend! I’ll be back next week with a tasty, Naoto-approved somen recipe, my new favorite summer cocktail recipe and hopefully a peek at the balcony garden!


Disclaimer: As much as it looks like Naoto was the only one working, I promise that is only because I was the only one taking pictures and my work went undocumented. 




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The Garden Awaits

DSC_0013It has been such a weird spring around here. There have been days where temperatures were creeping towards 90, and then the next day, I’m pulling out my winter coat again. Typically in the Midwest, you can put your tomato plants in the ground by Mother’s Day (Sunday). We had plans to plant our garden on Saturday after the Community Garden meeting, but there was a frost warning on Sunday night, so we put planting on hold. Sure, we could have put our seeds in the ground and then waited to put the tomato and pepper plants in, but we kind of want to do it all at once. Naoto is off from Trader Joe’s the rest of the week, so hopefully we can squeeze in a little garden time one of the evenings this week.

Last weekend with my parents, I chose three tomato plants, one pepper plant and a bunch of seeds for the garden (pictured above along with some from my pen pal Danielle). Everything is pretty straightforward except the vining plants, which will need a little trellis to grow up into. The trellis will need to be a weekend project in the coming weeks. Ahhh…projects like this make me realize how little we know about gardening…but that’s the fun of this project, right? (Right?!) Naoto is very excited for the daikon radishes and I’m most looking forward to our tomato varieties, the golden beets and the lima beans…I love limas!

Today I am working on repotting some flowers I bought yesterday. Now that we are spending more time out there, I want to make sure it’s not a giant mess of outdoor furniture and empty pots (which it is now). Off to work!

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