Monthly Archives: June 2014

Postcards from Okaasan

postcards from okaasanMany years ago, Naoto’s mom sent us a couple of postcards. First the one on the left, and months later, the one on the right arrived. Naoto explained that doing colored pencil-by-number was a hobby of his mom’s. These are postcards that she had colored. I was so impressed. They were so good that they almost looked printed, especially the fruits on the right. I kept them in a little drawer and when we moved, I put them in frames and hung them in the kitchen. (You can see them hanging in this post about the kitchen.) When I met Okaasan back in 2010, I enjoyed listening to her talk about her colored pencils. At that time, she had won an award for her skills and she was really excited about her hobby.

Two weeks ago, Naoto’s mom passed away. It was very sudden and it took us by surprise. Naoto was back in Japan all last week to handle the arrangements and attend the funeral services. (I stayed behind. It just made sense logistically and financially for him to go alone.) He got back on Monday and we are slowly getting back into our routine here at home and at work. We are beyond grateful that he got to spend so much time with her when we visited in March. But obviously it is a very sad time. postcards from okaasanWhen they were cleaning out her apartment, Naoto and his sisters found this postcard book of cats that his mom had colored. They decided I should have it, which was really touching. The original postcard is on the left (or top in some cases) and the postcard Naoto’s mom colored is on the right (or bottom). Both postcards are perforated so you can tear them out and mail them. Here are a few of the pages. postcards from okaasan postcards from okaasan postcards from okaasan postcards from okaasan postcards from okaasanAren’t they beautiful? We haven’t decided yet if we are going to keep the entire collection in tact or if we are going to choose a few to frame. Either way, it’s just nice to have a little piece of her here at home.

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Plot #6: Rapid Rain, Rapid Growth

plot 6 peasNaoto and I went to the garden last night for the first time in a week. It’s been raining every day here since my last visit and while I should have popped over between rain storms, I didn’t. I’m kind of glad I waited though…I almost didn’t recognize the garden when I saw it! plot 6 peasThe peas, which were only about three inches tall last week, are now at least a foot tall. I couldn’t believe it! There are plenty of flowers but no pods yet…soon! plot 6, peasI “built” my pea teepee and untangled the pea patch. Hopefully the bamboo stakes will promote better growth and less of a pea jungle. plot 6 limasRemember the lima seeds I carelessly stuck in the ground last Tuesday? I think most of them came up and they are about three inches tall now. They are kind of…rough looking…something is eating them. We had a similar problem last year, but we still had limas so I’m hopeful for this season’s crop, too. plot 6 loofahThe loofah are really taking off, too. This is causing some anxiety. What to do with those crazy vines? plot 6 brandywineOur tomato plants are kind of hit or miss. The ones we planted right away are all looking good and have flowers or tiny tomatoes on them like the baby Brandywine above. plot 6, julietAnd our Juliet has a lot of blossoms and tiny tomatoes growing as well. But the two Juliets we planted last are looking pretty weak. The rain and wind seemed to beat them down. We caged them and tied up the other plants to the big bamboo stakes and are hoping they all come through in the end.

But maybe I won’t have to open a roadside stand after all.

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Canada Does It Better

Ketchup potato chips, all dressed potato chips and dill pickle potato chipsNaoto recently came home from a trip including a layover in Canada. He messaged me to ask if there was anything I wanted from the Calgary airport. My heart went all aflutter and I quickly messaged back “POTATO CHIPS!!!”

It all might sound weird since we have so many flavors of potato chips here in the States, but Canada really does it better when it comes to tasty chips. I requested my three Canadian favorites–dill pickle, ketchup and all dressed–with hopes that Naoto could at least find one. Well, he found all three!!

We can find dill potato chips pretty easily in the U.S. but dill pickle remains elusive. There is a huge difference in flavor as the dill tastes like dill and cream (kind of like sour cream and onion, except with dill) as opposed to tasting like the pickle in the Canadian version.

And ketchup potato chips can be found here in the U.S. too, but it’s not as good as the Canadian ketchup. While I despise ketchup in its gloppy, red, squeezed-from-the-bottle form (french fry dip, burger topping, egg accent…yuck!), I love the potato chip flavoring. It’s kind of sweet and tangy and salty.

And last but not least, all dressed, which are the most difficult to find here at home. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what the taste reminds me of…kind of a mishmash of flavors including salt and vinegar, ketchup, sour cream and onion. Crazy good!

It’s going to be such a treat to tear into these later today.

Not as much as a treat of having Naoto home again though.

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June Paper Parcel

Saturday Morning Vintage Paper ParcelJune’s Paper Parcel was another stunner–the theme was “Farmers’ Market” and every little bit was better than the last. I am really excited that Naoto renewed my subscription for the rest of the year because it has been such a treat to get these in the mail every month. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper ParcelThis is how it arrived…sweetly packaged in brown paper with a fruit label and sweet gingham fabric ribbon. (Sorry for the weird foot picture. I tore open the package before taking a proper picture.) Saturday Morning Vintage Paper ParcelThese are some of my favorite bits: milk and juice caps, milk tickets, stamps, a Dennison orange seal and tiny Dennison labels. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper ParcelAnd I love these red fruit and vegetable labels. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper ParcelThe “big pieces” this month consist of ledgers, cookbook pages, gardening book pages, fruit & vegetable delivery receipts and dairy receipts. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper ParcelA Florida orange grove postcard, a recipe card and two seed packets were other vintage treats. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper ParcelThere were lots of little price tags and fruit and vegetable crate labels. I love the graphics on those labels and the “Fruit Cup” one is making me crave a can of fruit cocktail. I’m going to use the pea label in our garden journal. Saturday Morning Vintage Paper ParcelAnd as always, Xenia can find a playing card for every theme. The rooster and the pear are wonderful, but the soybean and oat cards (both from different Pit games) are so unique and have the best graphics. And of course the Florida orange round card takes the cake…round cards for the win every time!

To see more Paper Parcels from my subscription, go here and for more information on Saturday Morning Vintage’s Paper Parcel Subscription, go here.

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Plot #6: Let There Be Loofah

plot #6We neglected the garden last weekend because of false rain predictions and unexpected schedule changes. I thought by the time I visited Plot #6 on Tuesday that everything would be dead. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. Some of the tomatoes were a bit droopy, but nothing a little shot of water couldn’t fix. And our peas and flowers looked great. But who cares about all that… plot #6WE HAVE LOOFAH!!! I wasn’t expecting to find anything on the loofah mound and I yelped with delight when I saw these. Then I yelled “LOOOOOFAHHHHH!” in the middle of the empty community garden. We’ve never gotten to the plant portion of loofah growth before! It seems that allllll of the loofah seeds I soaked and planted came up…which means I might have to thin them a bit. But I’m really excited. And worried. We didn’t think anything would happen, so I’m not really sure we left enough room for an actual vining plant. Details, details…I’m just going to bask in the loofah celebration for a little longer and worry about building a loofah trellis when Naoto gets home. (Oh and any loofah advice you may have is completely welcome!) plot #6Our crazy pea patch is growing nicely. I planned to build our pea teepee on Monday, but I forgot the twine at home. Instead of building, I found some leftover lima bean seeds in the bottom of my gardening bag and planted them next to the peas. I might regret that decision later. Maybe I’ll just name this gardening season Planting on a Whim.

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Japan Does It Better 15: Powder Sheets

Japan Does It BetterLet’s talk for a moment about showering, shall we?

Have you ever showered in the morning, then realized that the weather reports are all wrong again and it wouldn’t be raining yet again, in spite of all the warnings from the weather person and your iPhone? So, you put on your gardening clothes and pop over to the garden to water your poor, thirsty tomatoes that you’ve neglected because of said weather reports. You water the plants in the hot sun and try to get on with your day (which involves seeing more people than your cat at home), but you are a little bit sweaty from being in the humid Chicago air. Do you take another shower? Do you skip the shower and feel sticky and gross for the rest of the day and hope that no one notices?

Well, Japan has a solution for this…actually Biore has a solution for this, but it’s only available in Japan (in spite of all my letters to Biore asking them to make them available in the U.S.)

Biore makes these powder sheets that are perfect for a little freshening up throughout the day. My sister-in-law introduced them to me almost ten years ago and I’ve been a devoted follower ever since. I bring a summer’s supply home with me each time I visit Japan. (They are significantly cheaper in Japan so it makes sense to stock up.) The powder sheets are kind of like wet wipes, but they leave a cool powdery finish behind, perfect for clearing away sweat and leaving your skin soft and refreshed. Some are lightly scented like citrus (pictured above) or baby powder or fresh soap but the scent is light and clean, not overpowering. The powder finish helps to absorb perspiration throughout the day, so you feel nice and clean long after you use the little sheet. I carry a pack of powder sheets in my purse for sweaty emergencies on the go. They are the next best thing to a shower. (And really, who has time for a shower?)

Biore Powder Sheets…yep, Japan Does It Better!

For more JDIB posts, go here.

P.S. Apparently Ban has introduced something similar in the U.S. I haven’t tried them yet to compare. If you’ve tried them, please let me know what you think. Hopefully Biore will take note and bring theirs to the U.S. too!


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Happy Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day, Dad! Xo
P.S. How’s that bourbon?

Thrifted Treasures

American Cancer SocietyA few weeks ago, I met my parents in Peru, Illinois (almost the halfway point between our houses) for some shopping. We always go to the thrift stores around there to see what we can find and I had a jackpot day at Lily PadsThe Story of a Cigarette coloring book was my favorite find…actually my mom found it and thought it was funny. I was slightly disappointed (but also relieved) that it wasn’t a promotional coloring book put out by the tobacco industry. Instead, it is an anti-smoking campaign put out by the American Cancer Society. American Cancer Society American Cancer Society American Cancer Society American Cancer SocietyIt is in really good shape, just a little discoloration on a few of the pages and some staple rust in the center…not bad for a dollar, right? Hank's Bar CoastersAnd another purchase that might seem weird to some, but feels perfect to me, I got these Hank’s Bar coasters for twenty cents. I bought them mainly for inspiration since I really do want to create some Hasegawa Happy Hour coasters for us. I’m going to add one to my coaster collection for now and keep working on ideas for my own.

Have you found anything good at the thrift stores lately? What constitutes a “jackpot day” for you?

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Plot #6 Progress

plot #6Our garden is growing! On Sunday we went down to the garden to plant our last two tomato plants. (My dad gave us four Juliet plants and we couldn’t find anyone to take the extra two, so now we have four Juliets. If they all live and all produce as many tomatoes as our last single Juliet plant did, I will be opening a road side stand this summer.) I need to go buy some more bamboo stakes. Our peas (shown above) are growing nicely, and soon I will need to build my little pea teepee so they don’t grow into a big jungle like they did last year. I also soaked some extra loofah seeds overnight and planted them on National Donut Day…still nothing. I’m sure that the cool days and nights we’ve had recently didn’t contribute to the poor loofah’s growth either since they tend to like hot weather. I’m still holding out hope that we will see a little sprout soon. plot #6On Sunday, we met our friends Laura and Scott at the garden for the first time this season. Laura planted some delicious radishes last month and we tried her harvest…it made us regret not planting any radishes. So, maybe I’m going today to buy a seed packet or two…

There’s just something about gardening that turns me into an optimist!

P.S. Happy Loving Day! In case you missed it, here’s a post I wrote about our experiences with interracial marriage last year.

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Balcony Mail Art Afternoon

mail art on the balconyLast week the weather was perfect: low 80s, sun shining, breeze blowing… On Tuesday I had my morning coffee on the balcony and decided to stay outside and work on some mail art. I grabbed a big sunhat and my mail art kit from the LWA Lab and decided to use all of the components up and make as many envelopes as I could. I brought out part of my washi tape collection to supplement, but otherwise almost everything I used was from the kit. Here’s what I came up with…mail art on the balcony mail art on the balcony mail art on the balconyThere were so many great vintage papers in my kit. I was tempted to hoard some of the bits, but making myself use them up was quite satisfying. One of Donovan’s mail art tips was to limit yourself on supplies so you’re not overwhelmed with choices. I think limiting myself to the kit and a few rolls of washi tape made this mail art afternoon more fun and productive than some of my other mail art making sessions. The weather didn’t hurt either… I still have a couple of leftover envelopes and a huge map to work with on later mail art projects. Now…I just need to write some letters to fill those envelopes!!

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