Monthly Archives: February 2014

San Francisco Favorites

San Francisco paper bitsI have quite a stash of paper bits that I picked up along the way in San Francisco. I am hoping to get them all stashed into a mini book with some pictures from the trip soon. (Of course, the fact that I still haven’t finished my book of our trip to Japan hangs over my head as I type this.) Hopefully, I’ll be back before I leave for Japan with a completed mini book…

As a final post about San Francisco and Ex Postal Facto, I thought I’d share a few favorites from my trip. juice at the hotel abri nightclubI stayed at the Hotel Abri near Union Square. Naoto and I chose it blindly because it was super close to the BART and within a short walking distance of two of the three Ex Postal Facto event locations. We got a really good rate, which made me nervous…inexpensive hotels in expensive cities can be scary places. Thankfully, the Abri was fantastic…the staff were all kind and helpful, the room was clean and modern (there was a super-large TV on the wall, perfect for middle-of-the-night viewings of the Olympics!) and they served little juice shots in the lobby every afternoon. When I checked in, they offered me the choice between an interior room or an exterior room. Of course, I wanted the street-side! (I’m no stranger to noise!) It turns out, the nightclub across from the hotel was JUST below my window (pictured above, velvet ropes and all). On Friday night when I got home, I had to laugh at all of the commotion, but it didn’t really bother me…the club music became white noise and I was up watching the Olympics anyway.

chocolates from naotoOn Friday, I came back to the hotel to find a surprise from Naoto. When I used to travel for work, he would send me something on every trip–a fruit basket, chocolate covered strawberries, a fruit bouquet, a cheese plate… It was fun to get a treat again. This time it was Ghiradelli chocolate-themed and it made me smile. streetcarsRiding iconic streetcars was the best way to travel! (Read more about car No. 1073 here.) tradition barWe had drinks at Tradition on Saturday night. They have a large book of handcrafted cocktails organized by style/era (Speakeasy, Dive-Bar, Tiki, New Orleans, pub…) and you can sit and enjoy those drinks in “snugs” to match. I had an Old Fashioned and a Colony and maybe it was just the company I was with, but man, those cocktails were tasty and I really liked this place. (We have a lot of bars in our neighborhood here in Forest Park, but sadly none of them are good craft cocktail bars…sigh.)craftsman and wolvesOn Sunday, Bob, Ana and I had breakfast at Craftsman and Wolves. Pictured above is The Rebel Within, a tasty asiago, sausage and onion muffin with a soft boiled egg baked inside (!!!), chocolate sourdough bread and the best cup of coffee I had all weekend. (I brought some beans home for Naoto…coffee makes the best souvenir.) card catalogI played around with a real life card catalog at the San Francisco Public Library while Ana perused their calligraphy collectionjapan townJapan Town was loads of fun…I think I would have appreciated it more if my trip to Japan weren’t so close. As a matter of fact, I’m super jealous that San Franciscans have such a huge portal to Japan!melissa and a jumbo hot chocolateMy trip ended (well, before that other ending) at La Boulange where I met up with a group of friends from letter writing and xPF. I didn’t eat or drink anything here, but I did covet the giant bowl of hot chocolate that everyone seemed to be enjoying! (Pictured above is Melissa of Craftgasm.)

All of my food and drink stories made Naoto wish he had joined me. I think if Ex Postal Facto become a recurring thing, he won’t be staying home for the next trip!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Spending in San Francisco

office supplies patrick & coWith our upcoming trip to Japan planned, I was able to restrain myself from spending too much in San Francisco. Don’t consider it saving though…consider it delayed spending. (I’m already making my wish list for Japan.)

Patrick and Co. is an old school office supply store much like Pieritz Bros in Oak Park. It is simple and charming and they had an awesome selection of pens and pencils. I’ve never owned a Palomino Blackwing pencil–which is regarded by pencil lovers as the best pencil ever–so I figured I would try out all three versions. I also picked up a Prismacolor Turquoise pencil, just because of its snappy color. And do you remember taking essay tests in the Blue Books? When I saw them on a shelf at Patrick’s I had instant flashbacks of staring at the blank pages in high school and college. I thought it might be fun to write a letter in one. Finally, I bought a bunch of postcards at Patrick’s, too…but those are traveling through the mail. I’m happy that the kind clerk at Patrick’s gave me a bag. (In San Francisco, stores charge ten cents per bag.) Those graphics–including a floppy disk!–are going straight into my San Francisco mini book! midori sakura paper clipsMaido is a sweet Japanese stationery shop that seems to be the go-to spot for Japanese pens and paper items in San Francisco. I’ve been coveting those Midori Cherry Blossom paper clips for a long time…and I didn’t find them the last time I was in Japan, so I bit the bullet and turned over an arm and a leg for them. Totally worth it…they will be used in my datebook and in my future Japan mini book. I also snagged those California stickers to stick on my San Francisco postcards and in my mini book. They are made by Candyspotting and ohmygoodness, they come in every state and you can customize where you put the heart! (I may have Illinois in my Candyspotting shopping cart right now!)coiccoina glueI’ve shared my love for my Coccoina glue stick before and I’ve had my eyes peeled for the glue pot. I finally found it at Arch, an amazing art supply store (and more!). The glue pot is a bit messier than the glue stick (you apply the glue with a teeny brush) but it smells delicious and it is so fun to use! Saturday Morning VintageAt Ex Postal Facto, I splurged on several items in the Saturday Morning Vintage booth. I was so excited to meet Xenia and to see her selections in person. As it turns out, it’s very difficult to resist old paper in person. I bought a giant book of trading stamps, some first day of issue envelopes, an Ex Postal Facto paper pack, some awesome skiing labels, lotto cards and World’s Fair tickets. paper pastries printI picked up this cat print at the Paper Pastries booth. Margaret had so many cute things that I’m having regrets about not shopping more. The cat print is going to hang above the desk…as soon as I decide what else I’m doing up there…(I’ve changed a few things since that post.)confessions of a yakuzaAnd finally, I got Confessions of a Yakuza in a Japan Town bookstore. I bought it for plane reading, but I was too distracted on the flight home to read it. But, it will make excellent reading for the flight to Japan. Naoto and I are obsessed with the Yakuza (Japanese “mafia”) so I figured we would both get some mileage out of this paperback.

So that was my restrained shopping in San Francisco…I think I may have one more post about San Francisco before I start obsessing about Japan again.

Tagged , , , , , ,

Musée Méchanique

musée mechanique On Friday, before heading to the Mail/Art/Book Opening Reception, Ana, her husband Bob and I went to the Musée Méchanique at Fisherman’s Wharf. For a few quarters, we had a fabulous time. The arcade is filled with antique arcade games that are sweet, creepy, weird and unusual (sometimes all wrapped up into one). The three of us shared a bunch of quarters and went to town trying out the strange games.musée mechanique musée mechanique The game above is the oldest in the museum. It used a series of Alice in Wonderland-like drawings and mirrors to create the vision of “Alice” jumping rope. musée mechanique opium denThis one was an Opium Den and a quarter made all sorts of doors and drawers open for real creepiness. musée mechanique musée mechanique There were two games with an “execution” theme…shudder…musée mechanique Ana and I were both excited to see a typewriter zodiac game…sadly, it was broken and only spit out a blank sheet of paper for Ana’s horoscope. But it was fun watching the old Royal attempt to type!musée mechanique I thought this game was pretty progressive…a MAN trying to comfort a crying baby?! Doesn’t he look like a doting father? Sadly, this game went on a little too long and the crying baby was awfully realistic. musée mechanique Spoiler alert: A husband.musée mechanique This was one of my favorites…the chef opens the pizza door and your prize drops into his scoop. Then he drops it into the bin and it flies out onto the floor! (Sadly it was a cheap necklace…but really, the real prize is watching the pizza guy do his thing…)musée mechanique musée mechanique musée mechanique Many of the games sing and dance…the clown dances on demand (because you push buttons to control his arms and legs.)musée mechanique This amusement park was made from toothpicks…it’s kind of incredible to think about building that and making it all move (with the help of a quarter). I mean, technology is great and everything, but building this kind of thing is mind-blowing.

The museum also had retro arcade games like Pac Man and pinball. We each took a spin at pinball…now I want a pinball machine for our home. (Take note, Naoto!) I’m terrible at video games, but pinball is fun even when you aren’t racking up a high score.

I’m really looking forward to taking Naoto here the next time we go to San Francisco.

Until then, I’ll leave you to ponder this: musée mechanique

Tagged ,

Letter Month, Round Up 4

letter month valentine letter month letter month letter month letter monthletter monthWe are heading into the home stretch of Letter Month! I feel–similar to last year–that I’m slacking lately. I’m sometimes barely making it by midnight, and not every letter is getting dropped in the blue box on the day it was written…but I’m staying on top of writing someone every day and returning letters within a week so I’m feeling pretty good about finishing this week strong! I have a few letters to return and I’m going to try to write a few of the people I met during Ex Postal Facto.

Are you still participating? One more week to go!

Tagged , , , , ,

Planned: Another Trip to Japan

view of JapanRight before I left for San Francisco, Naoto booked our flights to Japan!

In some ways, it feels like we just got back. I still have some washi tapes and some stationery I haven’t even opened! And, our bank account just recovered from our last trip (and Christmas!) But I’ve always wanted to go in the spring, and rather than go this summer again (too hot!) or hold off an extra long time until next spring, we decided to take the plunge and go in March. We scored a decent airfare (on ANA…love those Japanese carriers!) and made reservations at the same hotel.

I’m on pins and needles about seeing the cherry blossoms bloom. It’s hard to predict when they will open, but we will hopefully be there to at least catch a few…

Naoto wants to spend extra time with his mom while we are there this time. That means I will be adventuring around Tokyo by myself sometimes. I’m dreaming of spending all day in Itoya or Sekaido or spending extra time at Mister Donut for postcard writing and donut tasting. While this whole independence thing makes me super excited–I always feel bad for dragging Naoto into every single stationery store in the city–I’m also a little nervous. I don’t usually need to ask questions in stores–I have spending money in Japan perfected. But taking the train in Tokyo is still puzzling to me. So, if you hear about an American lost on the subway in Tokyo, you can say, “Hey I know her!”

The best part of our trip is that I get to spend my birthday in Japan. I’m already making up my list of must-do’s on that day.

I’ll share more about our trip as it creeps closer. In the meantime, I need to use up some stationery and washi tape so I can make room for more!

Tagged , ,

Ex Postal Facto

ex postal facto passportBefore the excitement of leaving San Francisco happened…there was Ex Postal Facto!Ex Postal Facto 2014 (20)For me, going to Ex Postal Facto was mostly about seeing (and meeting some for the first time!) the ladies I correspond with through the mail. The picture above is courtesy of Mary. (Back: Pamela, Bonnie Jeanne, me, April, Mary, Mandy. Kneeling in front: Bethany, Melissa, Anne Elizabeth and Karen.)

In the months leading up to Ex Postal Facto, it seemed like everyone I knew was planning to go, so it just seemed like the right time to take a little postal-themed vacation to San Francisco. When we looked into flights and found one for less than $300, it kind of felt meant-to-be. I am so glad I went…meeting everyone renewed my excitement to write to more letters!

mail art book openingOn Friday night, there was an opening reception for Mail/Art/Book at the San Francisco Center for the Book. Many people sent in mail art submissions that were amazing interpretations of mail and books…seriously…the creativity! mail/art/book submissionmail/art/book submissionmail art book opening receptionDuring the reception, there were opportunities to exchange artist stamps and addresses with the other participants. stamp from the National Postal MuseumWe had little red passports for collecting stamps and information…I will share a bit more in the ephemera portion of the Ex Postal Facto series of blog posts. You can see the fancy National Postal Museum stamp above, alongside Melissa‘s DC stamp.vendor fair ex postal factoOn Saturday there was a vendor expo at the Elks Lodge. There were tables and tables of great mail lovers selling and giving away paper, stationery, artist stamps, rubber stamps, postcardsand in the next roomthere was a bar! Elks Lodge San FranciscoIt was a relief to escape the hectic fair and chat and make mail with friends (while drinking a root beer). I met some really amazing mail artists and sellers and my eyes were opened to the vast array of personalities and styles in the mail art world. 

On Sunday there was a panel discussion at the San Francisco Public Library. A few of us decided to skip this in favor of enjoying the California weather. (What can I sayafter two and a half days of not wearing a jacket, I was hooked!) Mary’s Ex Postal Facto write-up covers this event nicely, if you’d like to read about it over there. 

I am so glad I went…most of my “near-home” friends aren’t into letter writing or the post office or old paper bits or stamps, so it was fun to get together with “my people” and geek out over that stuff. I’m hoping, whether there is an Ex Postal Facto II or not, we all can get together again for more postal shenanigans.

Tagged , , , ,

It Was All Fun & Games Until Somebody Got Shot

Presley nappingMy trip to SanFrancisco ended in dramatic fashion.

In hindsight, I believe I was never in danger, but in the moment…the unknown, the adrenaline, the confusion…

My hotel in SanFrancisco was in a decent area–a busy, tourist area filled with restaurants and shops and people. It reminded me of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue because there were high-end stores, plenty of travelers and also plenty of homeless people. I never felt unsafe going to and from my hotel, even though I had heard and read that the area near the hotel was a little questionable. I just did what I do here at home…I paid attention to my surroundings and held my bag close.

On Sunday night, I was scheduled to fly the red-eye home so I said goodbye to my friends, went back to my hotel, gathered my belongings and made the two-block trek to the BART (the subway that goes to the airport). If you are familiar with subways, typically you walk down from street level to the station, then go down another level to the train platform. That’s how the Powell Station was, and the first set of stairs down from street level is circular, giving you a wide view of the station from above (and the city from below).

I was walking down the first set of stairs (down from street level) lugging my suitcase and big bag when I heard three pops, right above and in front of me.

Pop. Pop. Pop.

I stopped in my tracks. I knew it was gunshots.

Then, in my head, I was thinking, Nah…there is no way that was a gun. I’m on vacation. This is a nice area full of tourists. That was performance art or something.

So I proceeded into the station where no one seemed to be affected by what I’d just heard. Tourists were filling their BART card with money, the transit workers were sitting in their booth chatting…everything seemed normal. Maybe it was just a fluke or something. I headed over to the gate to pay and go down to the train platform. Just as I was getting ready to scan my card, people started screaming and running in the station about someone with a gun.

I was frozen. I felt like I couldn’t go back up because that was where the shots were fired. I couldn’t go down, because the gunman could be down there. I didn’t know enough about the station to navigate a plan. Then some guy ran down screaming at the BART workers to call the police because someone had been shot. People continued to panic and scream around me but I can’t even tell you where everyone was going…I felt like I was in slow motion, but my mind was racing and rationalizing a plan. Although people were running through and around the station, no one was running up from the train platform, so I scanned my card and cautiously proceeded to the escalator down. No one down there even knew what was happening and I saw a group of ladies and asked them if they knew someone had been shot. They looked at me blankly and responded in another language.

I suddenly felt really alone and scared, so I did what any normal person would do…I tweeted.

OMG! A shooting at my train stop. I’m not going to stop shaking until I get home.

I was hoping my fellow mail-loving travelers, most of whom were staying in the area, would see it and know what was going on and maybe send a comfort tweet or two. (My friends did not let me down!)

In the meantime, more people were coming downstairs and no one seemed to be running from a shooter. In the back of my mind, I knew he still could be on the platform, but a train going the other direction had left, so I figured if he was escaping, he’d probably take the first train out, not wait around for mine. A United Airlines worker came down to the platform and we chatted a bit about the shooting and about the BART ride to the airport. He was going to work, he seemed nice and normal and I was feeling a little better because I knew if I stuck with him, I’d get to the airport.

I was still shaking, but I felt better. Tweets were coming in, Naoto and I were texting…it was going to be okay.

Then, the BART came and didn’t stop. There was no real announcement except that the train wasn’t stopping. My heart fell. The United guy assured me that the next train would be in about ten minutes and I had plenty of time to make my flight.

Then, the next BART didn’t stop. Still no announcement but everyone started making their way upstairs. The United guy lamented about taking a cab to the airport and just as I was going to ask if we could share a cab, he disappeared. In the meantime, Carolee is tweeting and asking if I was in Chicago or SanFrancisco…a completely logical question.

I got out of the station went outside. Of course in my confusion, I chose the street that the police shut down for the shooting. I desperately asked a security guard where I could catch a cab and he sent me out another exit and through Bloomingdales to a busy street.

Once I walked into Bloomingdales, I started falling apart. I could not find the exit. I was kind of wandering around the perfume counters, staring off into space, completely overwhelmed. Carolee tweeted me her number and told me to call her. I found the door to a street finally. I got outside and attempted to make a phone call.

I have an iPhone. Typically, when a phone number appears in the iPhone, you can just touch it and make a call. Apparently, not through the Twitter app though. I tried copying and pasting Carolee’s number. That didn’t work either. So I had to switch back and forth between the app and the phone to dial her number. I’m usually good with remembering an entire phone number long enough to make a call. I could not even remember two numbers at a time to make this phone call. My hands were shaking, my mind was racing, I felt this crazy relief that I was out of danger but this intense panic that I had come crazy-close to danger…all wrapped up with the fear that I would miss my flight and end back up at the hotel again. It took about six tries of going back and forth to finally get Carolee’s entire number dialed into my phone. I was on a busy street, there were kind-of-crazy homeless people all around me and it felt like they were all yelling at me. At this point, I felt a lot like Brenda from Adventures in Babysitting. (See clip below if you need an explanation.)

The second Carolee picked up the phone, I started crying. Instead of telling me where to catch a cab, she sent me into the City Target (right at the corner) to wait for her to come and get me…as Naoto put it (so dramatically) she “swept in and rescued me from the battle zone”. I felt an immense relief and although she doesn’t live around the corner, it felt like she got there in a flash. She had tissues waiting for me just in case, she kept me entertained with funny stories the whole way to the airport…Carolee was pretty much the most perfect post-shooting super hero ever.

And that is why all of my postcards came home with me…I completely forgot about mailing them at the airport after all that excitement…

So that’s how I ended my trip…with a scary situation and kindness of friends.

Needless to say…it feels good to be home.


Letter Month, Round Up 3

simple valentine cat themed valentine mail art abe lincoln mail art LWA It was my pleasure postcard naoto mail art postcard SanFrancisco postcardsI’m back from ExPostal Facto, but I spent yesterday recovering from a red-eye flight home and a very…eventful ending to my trip…hopefully I will be back tomorrow with a recap of what was an amazing weekend of mail goodness. I need to download about a thousand pictures and call my mother today.

In the meantime, please enjoy Letter Month Round Up 3. My Valentines are all sent out and I got a healthy amount of postcards written during my trip. Sadly, all of those postcards are still in my bag. I accidentally brought them home with me. (You will understand why later…) So I’m mailing them back to a postal saint in SanFrancisco just so they have that authentic postmark.

How are your Letter Months going? We are in the home stretch, and even though I haven’t thought about what I’m mailing out today, I’m feeling pretty good about a strong finish around here!

A Presidential Valentine

Honest Abe ValentineIn the US, we are celebrating Presidents Day today, which means banks, schools and post offices are closed and some lucky people have the day off.  Sigh…I love a good pun.

I made an Abe themed Valentine for my dad this year. abe valentine with demo label makerI started with another Paper Source 4-bar heart (the base for all easy homemade Valentines) and added the words with my vintage DYMO label maker. I love punching those letters…I don’t use that thing nearly enough. I decided to make a pun based on Honest Abe. If this Valentine was for Naoto, I would have gone the b(Abe) route…but it would be weird to call my dad a babe.

I topped off the Valentine with my inspiration for the Valentine–this button from La Familia Green. (They make the cutest buttons–I have my eye on the coffee and donut one for perhaps a future Valentine.) I taped it on with a little piece of washi tape. Simple and sweet.

From my land to yours…Happy Presidents Day!

Tagged , , , , , ,

2014 “Cat Lady” Valentines

cat lady valentinesEven though I gave up making my own Christmas cards last year, I’m still going strong in the Valentine-making department. Last year, I did mostly store-bought cards with handmade garlands but this year, I made my cards again.

cat pun cardscat pun cardsI love a good pun, and I wanted to use my cat template, so I came up with these cat-themed cards for my cat-fan friends. Each one ended up being a little bit different because I was spending out some Valentine papers from yesteryear. I started with a good pun–You’re the cat’s meow!–and typed it up on Paper Source 4-bar heart cards. Then I stamped on a cat and a heart. I had tiny hearts punched out of leftover paper that I glued on, along with vintage red sequins (using my favorite glue pen). cat pun valentine with paper pastries cat note templateEach card ended up being a little bit different (and each card had varying amounts of Presley fur and coffee spills.)

The non-cat people got the same heart cards stamped with something tea or coffee related…slightly less exciting than cat puns.

Happy Valentine’s Day! I hope your day is filled with love and pink mail!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,