Monthly Archives: January 2014

My Little Red Toolbox | Bone Folder

bone folderMy Little Red Toolbox is finally back again…

Today’s featured product is the very utilitarian bone folder. For the non-crafters out there, a bone folder is a tool that scores, smooths and creases paper. It is made from real bone (sorry vegetarians & vegans), but there are other options. Martha Stewart’s bone folders are made of plastic (but I find Martha’s don’t work quite as nicely as other bone folders). And, for the “Rolls Royce” of bone folders, the teflon bone folder is dreamy to work with. (I only own the teflon one because I temporarily lost my original bone folder. When I went to the store to buy a new one, they only had the teflon ones–which cost more than twice as much as the bone ones..sigh…the cost of being unorganized!) Today, I’m glad I own both because each has its own strengths for crafting projects.

I bought my first bone folder when I started “bookbinding” and making boxes from these kits at the Paper Source. The bone folder is crucial to perfecting the corner folds and smoothing the papers while adhering them to the book board. Now I use it more for origami and scoring card stock.

The real bone folder has a sharper point, making it better for scoring and getting a really clean crease in the cardstock. It’s so sharp that if you press down too hard, it can actually cut the paper. The teflon folder is much more forgiving. It’s not as sharp on the end and it doesn’t leave a sheen on the paper like the bone folder can. I use my fancy folder for more delicate papers and for messy projects. Glue doesn’t stick to it so it stays nice and clean. folding cardstockunscored cardstockIf you’ve ever tried to fold a piece of cardstock, you know that it’s difficult to get a smooth fold because the edge gets wrinkly. The red card above was folded in half without any help of the bone folder. See how it’s all sad and imperfect and lumpy? scoring cardstockFor the next piece of card stock, I used my ruler and the bone folder to score the fold ahead of time. scored card stock with Midori brass ruler and bone folderIt’s hard to see, but there is a faint scored line down the middle (or, almost-middle) of the card. neatly folded cardstockThe scored line allowed me to get a nice sharp fold on the card. bone folder v non bone folderSee the difference?

using a bone folderI pulled out the bone folders to work on some Valentines. (Spoiler alert.) I decided to use the Paper Pastries Cat Note Template for some cards. (A 4-bar heart fits right inside…genius!) Because I was using card stock to make the cat, I wanted to score the folds in order to get a neat kitty in the end. I dragged the bone folder along the fold guides in the template to score them. creasing paper with a bone folderThen, once I folded everything over, I used the bone folder to gently smooth the folds. It worked like a charm.

Off to make more Valentines…

*This and all posts about my little red toolbox are not sponsored posts. I just thought it would be fun to share my favorite tools for paper crafting. For more about my little red toolbox, go here.

Dinner Party 1 & a Sweet Hostess Gift

dinner party one, tonkatsuLast Saturday, we hosted the first dinner party of the year. I invited my book club friend Peggy and her husband over for Naoto’s tonkatsu. It was a fun night, filled with tasty cocktails (which I will be sharing next week), delicious food and of course good company. The dinner party made me wonder why we don’t entertain more often…I’m thinking I might need to increase my dinner party goal for the year–three seems so few now. This time we kept things simple, because last week got a little crazy for us. Hopefully over the course of the year, we can fancy the dinners and the tables up a bit…you know, stretch the goal.
hostess gifts
Much to my surprise, Peggy brought me a hostess gift! Of course, hostess gifts are unnecessary but I was completely delighted with Peggy’s thoughtfulness. She found this vintage martini pitcher and vintage relish dish–be still my heart!vintage martini pitcherThe martini pitcher is heavy and has its own glass stirrer with a frosted ball on top. It has a lip that holds the ice in during pouring, too…things were so practical back in the day! Tonight, I’m going to whip up some martinis for Hasegawa Happy Hour and use it for the first time. vintage relish dishThe divided relish dish is so sweet. There are pictures of celery (the large section), olives and pickles (the two smaller sections) etched into the glass. I don’t have any pretty relish dishes, so I know this is going to get a lot of use. Whether it’s just Hasegawa Happy Hour for two or a larger gathering, pickles and olives and yes, even celery are going to be making more classy appearances around here.

Thank you, Peggy, for being such a thoughtful and fun guest. You must come back soon for an Aviation cocktail (and maybe some more lychee cocktails, too!) 


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Letter Month III

fish mail artOn Saturday, Letter Month begins again. This is my third year participating, and even though I ended February last year feeling a little bit burnt out, I’m really excited to jump in again. This year, I plan to try to send at least one letter every day through the month of February, including Sundays and holidays. (To see the challenge guidelines, see the Letter Month website).

I have two things on my side again this year: 1) Valentine’s Day…I am already working on creating my Valentines so I can have them at the ready for mailing on February 1st, and 2) my trip to SanFrancisco where I will be bringing a slew of postcard stamps (even though more than half of the people I correspond with are going to be there with me). I also downloaded the Letter Month planning calendar and put it in my datebook so I can keep track of my plan and progress for the month.

In addition to sending one letter every day throughout the month, my other goals are to spend out some more of my paper/stationery/washi tape stashes, to be more creative with the ol’ mail art (I feel bored by my attempts lately) and to beat last year’s number of 41 letters mailed.

I will be posting my mail daily on Instagram (I’m @adamihasegawa over there) and I’m planning to do a mail round-up each Sunday during February to show what I’ve sent and received during the previous week.

Are you participating in Letter Month? Are you doing anything special to celebrate?

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Vanilla Steamers, Cozy in a Cup

vanilla steamerOh the weather!

I make it a rule to never complain about snow until March. I mean, it’s only fair…winter begins in December and ends in March. It’s only sensible to expect it to snow once or twice (or a million times) in those months. Naoto and I are lucky that we can walk just about anywhere to get what we need. I’m sure if we were forced to drive on slick and snowy streets, I would feel a little bit more resentful of the weather…but for now, I’m accepting of the fact that I live in the Midwest and we get the best and worst of the four seasons.

But this winter, with its polar vortex, arctic blasts, constant snow and ice…is testing my patience. Today it is -5°F with a possible -40°F wind chill. There are wind chill warnings until Wednesday when it will warm up to a balmy 17°F. And, for the third time this year, Naoto is working from home because it’s too cold for his commute to work. Being outside for a mere ten minutes can be dangerous, so his company decided everyone should work from home just to be safe. (Most people commute by train, so walking to and from the stations and waiting for trains can be quite miserable.)

I haven’t left the apartment since Sunday afternoon…we bought a ton of groceries and prepared to hunker down at home. But last night, I was feeling a little bit stir crazy. And then I got a serious craving for a vanilla steamer. Starbucks is only two blocks away, but I thought it was rather silly to risk the tip of my nose for a drink. Plus, the steamer wouldn’t be steamy for long in sub-zero temperatures. And then I remembered that someone had given me a recipe for steamers at home…and we happened to have all of the ingredients on hand. It was meant to be.

vanilla steamer ingredientsVanilla Steamer

1 cup milk

1 tsp sugar

2 tsp vanillawarm milk on the stoveWarm milk, sugar and vanilla over medium/low heat in a saucepan. Stir until sugar is dissolved and the milk is hot but not boiling.vanilla steamer before frothPour into a mug. You could go ahead and drink it now, but part of the fun of a steamer is the frothy milk.frothing milk We have this handy, inexpensive milk frother and it froths the milk perfectly. If you don’t have a frother, the internet says you can use a blender (immersion or regular) to get the same effect, but I’ve never tried it. vanilla steamer target cat mugSteamers are perfect winter night treats, especially when you’ve hit your caffeine limit for the day. (I’ve been drinking so much coffee and tea lately just to stay warm that I was beginning to think heart palpitations are my normal heart rate…)

Stay warm this week, everyone!

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Cocktail Perfected: The Correct Cocktail

the correct cocktailI had never heard of the Correct Cocktail until Ana sent me a hand-typed recipe and a picture of one in my Christmas card. It has been so cold here so I figured it would be a perfect time to cozy up with a gingery cocktail. I have to say, as a fairly new convert to ginger (this cocktail was the turning point for me), the Correct Cocktail might be a new winter favorite.

The Correct Cocktail

1.5 oz gin

0.5 oz ginger liqueur (Ana recommended Stirrings…it’s delicious)

0.5 oz triple sec

0.5 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 dashes orange bitters

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist. Enjoy on a cold, snowy night while watching Metallica play the Grammys.

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National Handwriting Day

Christian Dior handwriting quoteOh Mr. Dior, I couldn’t disagree more…

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Homemaker’s Challenge #3: Avanti’s Bread

Avanti's GondolaI grew up in a tiny town in central Illinois. Peoria was the closest city with things to do (like shopping, buying groceries, eating at chain restaurants, meeting boys other than the fifteen I had known since kindergarten…) and quite often we would eat at Avanti’s. Avanti’s is an inexpensive Italian restaurant with several locations in Peoria, East Peoria, Pekin and Normal (near ISU). We ate there as a family growing up and my friend Leah and I would go there almost every weekend throughout high school and college (when we were home for the summers).

Avanti’s bread is sort of famous in the area. It is a sweet Italian bread that is something dreams are made of. It makes a perfect treat to sop up Avanti’s red sauce, it makes a tasty garlic bread and it’s probably most famously used to make a gondola: a sub with mayo, lettuce, ham, salami and American cheese. It’s a taste memory so clear that I could still taste a gondola, even though I hadn’t eaten one in years. Last week, I set out to create the gondola on my own, which meant, baking some Avanti’s bread.

My dad has a sweet bread recipe that he makes all the time that is kind of like Avanti’s bread, but sweeter. He mailed me the recipe almost two years ago and because it looked complicated, I’ve been putting off making it. I have never baked bread before. In 2011, I was on a bagel-making kick all winter and then got kind of burnt out on the bread-making…which is why I added “make bread” to my 2014 goal list…it was time to try some more breads. Dad’s recipe still felt complicated (it involves scalding milk) so I googled “Avanti’s bread” to see if I could find another recipe. I found this one…it was the winner. messy kitchenEverything on Thursday afternoon pointed to me not baking bread. I couldn’t find the yeast (I know we had some leftover from “bagel days”…it was probably expired.). I got home from buying yeast and realized Naoto had used up all of our oil for Christmas tonkatsu. Our neighbors had oil but it was too old to use. Then my Kitchen Aid mixer died. Twice. During the kneading process. I had to use my hands while the motor cooled off. The dough didn’t feel right so I added a couple of tablespoons of water and it felt better…but I really had to idea through the whole process if anything was going to taste good.

Did the yeast activate properly?

Did I put in nine cups of flour or ten?

Was overworking the dough going to make my bread tough and chewy?

Was starting and stopping the kneading so many times going to mess up the yeast?

Was all that flour that flew out of the mixer important?

Was using butter in place of oil going to ruin everything?

It turns out…bread baking is less about an exact recipe and more of a feeling…this dough is supposed to be a little bit sticky and very elastic. This dough doubles in size when it rises. This bread is done when it sounds hollow. These tips in the recipe made me feel better about my steps along the way. And, encouragement from experienced bread bakers on Twitter and on the phone (I called my dad three times) helped me feel like I was on the right track as I went through the process. I have to say, after all that worrying and hand-wringing…my bread turned out perfectly…I was jumping up and down in the kitchen. Beginner’s luck.avanti's bread ingredients

Avanti’s Bread

2 packets of dry active yeast

3 cups of water + some for yeast activation as indicated on packet

3 tablespoons softened butter or vegetable oil

3 eggs

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cup sugar + some for yeast activation as indicated on packet

10-11 cups flour activated yeastActivate the yeast according to the package.

Once activated, add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer. Once you get to the flour, slow down and count out cups carefully. After two cups, start mixer and slowly add the rest of the flour. Stop at the tenth cup and determine if you need the eleventh. (I only needed ten in my dry winter apartment.) Once the dough is smooth and elastic, it’s done. (Confession: my dough was a tiny bit lumpy but very elastic…)Avanti's bread doughPlace the big ball of dough in a greased bowl, flip it over in the bowl and cover with a tea towel. Place the bowl of dough in a warm spot in your kitchen. (I feel like my kitchen is chilly, so I turned my oven on low and set the bowl on the stove top. The dough rose like a champ!) After 1 1/2-2 hours, it should double in size.

After the first rise, punch down the dough in the bowl, flip it over again and re-cover. Put it back in the warm part of the kitchen. After another 30-45 minutes, it should double in size again. avanti's bread doughTake the dough out of the bowl and divide it into six equal portions. They should each be the size of a grapefruit. (Mine were not perfectly equal, as you can see.) Cover these and let them rise for 10 minutes.

avanti's bread loafAfter 10 minutes, flatten each ball of dough, pressing out the air. You will hear some air escaping…it’s a good sign. Then form the loaves. avanti's bread doughPlace the loaves on a prepared baking sheet (I used parchment paper, but a greased & floured baking sheet works, too.) Cover loaves and let them rise for another hour. Use this time to pre-heat the oven to 350°F.

Finally, it’s time to bake!

Bake for 20-25 minutes.Avanti's bread loavesI baked mine three loaves at a time and 23 minutes was the magic number. The first batch seemed ready (it was a nice shade of brown and sounded pretty hollow) after 18 minutes, but when we cut into the “test loaf” you could tell it was still a little gooey/sticky/undone inside. After five more minutes (at the 23 minute mark), everything was perfect–the tops were golden and they really sounded hollow! The biggest thing I would change is to make the loaves a little skinnier and longer next time…they were kind of short and plump, but made excellent sandwiches anyway.

We sampled the bread during Hasegawa Happy Hour. It got our friend Karen’s approval for authentic Avanti’s taste. (She went to ISU and loves Avanti’s too.) For dinner, we made gondolas and walked down memory lane…Avanti’s bread with ham, salami, American cheese, lettuce and mayo…the best taste memory ever.

***This post is part of a series of Homemaker’s Challenges: activities that get me (and hopefully you, too!) out of the everyday routine of cooking, cleaning and laundry and into a routine of trying something new and experimental. I’d love it if you’d play along!

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Making Some Changes

vintage postageLast week, I made the very difficult decision to give up the Mail Call volunteer work I’ve been doing with Honor Flight for the past two years.

In some ways, I’m very sad to leave the job. I loved packing the mail for those veterans. I loved seeing all of the creative and sweet letters that area school children wrote to the veterans. I loved hanging out with my volunteer friend Barb on the Friday night before the flight, eating dinner and packing up the mail together.

But I was feeling very worn out by the job at the end of last season and I wasn’t really looking forward to going back in April when our flight season resumes, so I decided to step away. After I made the decision, I felt sad and kind of like a quitter. I work with amazing volunteers who always seem to be taking on more, not less…it’s hard not to feel like a “slacker” when I compare myself to them. But I really want some freedom this summer–freedom to spend less time monitoring mail emails, freedom to travel with Naoto without the constraints of the Honor Flight schedule, freedom to not spend anymore beautiful sunny summer days inside sorting mail all day. (Last season, every single mail sorting day happened to be a perfect summer day…)

In the end, we all make choices about how we spend our time and I have to make the choice that is right for me.

Today I feel good about my decision and I’m looking forward to spending my time on fresh new adventures.

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January Paper Parcel

Saturday Morning Vintage January Paper ParcelMy first installment of Paper Parcels arrived in the mail on Wednesday. It had been the cause of much stress for over a week because apparently the Polar Vortex was holding it hostage for awhile. When I saw it lounging in my mailbox, I squealed with delight and opened it right away. The picture above shows it right out of the package…adorable, right? I didn’t unwrap the package for two days because I was savoring it. Saturday Morning Vintage January Paper ParcelToday I finally opened it and pored through the fifty pieces of old paper, playing cards, labels, stamps and other vintage bits. Saturday Morning Vintage January Paper Parcel ephemera contentsAll of the pink and red goodness is getting me excited for Valentine’s Day…I love Valentine’s Day (as mentioned here) and now I’m feeling the urge to start working on some Valentine mail. (Too soon?)Saturday Morning Vintage January Paper Parcel, my favoritesIt was hard to pick out my favorite vintage bits from the pack, but the things above caught my heart. I’m especially smitten with the Mohr Beverages label, the playing cards (the medallion, the horse, the girl and the hugging cat & dog), the vintage Valentine (she’s TYPING!) and Dennison labels, saver stamps and old BINGO cards are always enjoyed around here. Saturday Morning Vintage January Paper Parcel, she moves too fastAnd this little card–from a 1970s penny arcade game–made me laugh. In case the type is too small, it says:

Modern Miss:

The pace you set is too speedy for me. You travel on five wheels with no brakes, and have lost all control. I like the shy, old-fashioned miss who hasn’t forgotten how to blush. With women I am just a babe in the wood, so you are too dangerous for me. Bye Bye baby–get a hip flask daddy.

Your old fashioned,


Ralph sounds fun, right?

I’m super excited for the next five months of my subscription. I love a good themed package and Xenia has a true talent for vintage paper pack curating. Thanks, Naoto, for such a fun gift (and for taking the hint from my Pinterest boards!)

For more detailed pictures of the Paper Parcel, see the Saturday Morning Vintage blog.

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More Mail Fun with the Cat Note Template

Paper Pastries cat note templateOne of my favorite Christmas gifts was this ingenious Cat Note Template from Paper Pastries. It was a gift from Mollie, who knows me well enough to know that cats + letter writing = perfect gifts. I decided to use it for my long-overdue thank you note to Mollie.

Basically, you just trace the template onto any paper of your choice, cut it out, fold it up and it it’s ready to tuck into a 4-bar sized envelope. (Which, at 3 5/8 x 5 1/8, is almost the smallest mailable envelope size.)Paper Pastries cat note templatePaper Pastries cat note template

You can use the cat template on plain paper and write your letter directly onto it, but I decided to use the template to make an “inner envelope”. I used an old USA Philatelic magazine as my template paper and then I wrote my note on a 4-bar flat card (from Paper Source). Paper Pastries cat note templateI used my bone folder (more on this tool, soon!) to help crease the edges as I folded the template up with the card inside and I used a piece of washi tape to hold it together. The template comes with marks to make slits so you can tuck the folds into the slits to hold without the help of washi tape, but I like using up some of my washi stash, inch by inch. (You can see the “slit indicators” on the right and bottom sides of the template.)thank you notesI tucked the kitty in a fuchsia envelope, used my new Vintage Email stamp (clearer picture below…gold is hard to photograph!) and called it done. (Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture of my corresponding cherry blossom postage stamp before I dropped the thank you in the mailbox.)vintage email stampI’m looking forward to creating more cat-themed mail soon!

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