Monthly Archives: September 2014

Rural King Popcorn Bag Becomes Envelope

Rural King popcornThe last time I visited Rural King with my parents, I accidentally dropped an unused popcorn bag on the floor. Instead of adding it back to the stack for another person to use, I kept it for mail art. One of my pen pals, Shannan visits the LaSalle/Peru area from time to time, so I thought maybe she’d get a kick out of some Rural King mail. Rural King popcorn bag mail art, 2I wrote my note on a 5×7 inch card and taped the bag closed with a couple of layers of washi tape. I think the actual “envelope” ended up being around 5×8 inches. (Maximum dimensions for a letter are 6 1/8 x 11 1/2 inches, according to the USPS website.)

Simple and quick, and full of Central Illinois charm, right?

Have a good weekend! Speaking of my parents, they are coming up tomorrow and my dad is going to help us hang a cabinet in our bathroom. Yay!

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John-the-Mailman Retires

Save the Post letterpress cardA quick post today…

I know I blathered on about my letter carrier, affectionately know as John the Mailman, in this post, but he’s retiring this week after forty years of delivering mail.

The Forest Park Review featured a really sweet article about John this week. Our new letter carrier has some big shoes to fill…


P.S. Pictured is a card that Donovan made during her letterpress class with Rar Rar Press. I’m going to give it to John as a retirement card.

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Plot #6: I Picked A Loofah

growing a loofah from seed, Presley and the LoofahI finally picked a loofah! I’m not sure it’s really ready, but this particular one kept falling out of our plot and I was nervous it would get stepped on. Plus, when I picked it, it had a giant slug on it (which I touched by accident and that is not a feeling my memory will be erasing anytime soon.) It was the lightest-colored*, most hollow sounding, biggest loofah on the vines, so I figured I would sacrifice it to see how “ready” the others might be.

So the next step is to cut into the experimental loofah to see if it’s “sponge-worthy.” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist a tiny Seinfeld shout-out. Also, totally different “sponge-worthy.”)

I will report back soon, along with some fall garden shots. Our tomatoes are really slowing down, but with the crazy gorgeous weather we’re having this week, I’m thinking maybe a few more Juliets will emerge. Cheers to a perfect early fall!


*I should note that the loofah looks really green in this picture but it’s significantly lighter than that in real life…maybe Presley’s eyes are bringing out the greenness?

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 1

Field Notes Shelterwood, Postal Consumer Advisory CouncilLast week I attended my first meeting of the Oak Park area Postal Consumer Advisory Council. As I mentioned in this post, the council was formed due to many, many complaints last winter involving delayed and missed deliveries in the Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park (Illinois) areas. Our group’s goal is to help the post office see and fix their issues from the customer viewpoint, to collect customer complaints (and compliments!) from others in our neighborhoods and to help the post office educate its customers on some of their limitations.

There were several “department heads” at our meeting, including the Oak Park area Postmaster, Phillip Crawford and eight other Station Managers and other staff who work for the USPS in regional marketing and management. There were about ten customer volunteers ranging in age from 30s-70s. Most of the volunteers were long-term Oak Parkers and I was the lone representative from Forest Park. It was clear that everyone in the room understood that the problems were severe, and no one was making excuses (though there were explanations) and everyone seemed to genuinely love the post office. It felt good to be in the company of other USPS lovers!

I have so many thoughts and learned so much already, even though our first meeting goals were limited to outlining the purpose of the council and introducing ourselves. I have a hodgepodge of things to share this time. I think over the next meetings, there will be more structure and our conversations will be more focused on individual problems and solutions (for instance: late deliveries, missed deliveries, counter service, post office building conditions, etc.) But for this time, I decided just to share the most interesting details. Please let me know if you have any questions and I’m happy to clarify.

  • These consumer advisory councils were very popular in post offices through the 1980s. In the 90s they kind of fell out of favor. The USPS is hoping that by bringing some councils back, the relationship and flow of communication between the post office and its customers will improve.
  • The USPS sees package delivery as the future of the post office.
  • Oak Park will become a Sunday & Holiday delivery hub for area Amazon Prime customers. (A council member asked why the USPS would take on a new, large responsibility while they are still reeling from a disaster of a winter last year. But again, if package delivery is the future of the post office, how could they not take this opportunity?)
  • During the 2013 holiday season, the USPS expected a 14% increase in package volume. The actual increase was 39%. Obviously the USPS was sorely ill-prepared for the volume of mail. To be fair, FedEx and UPS experienced a lot of problems too. The Postmaster believes that this year, with better staffing and systems, they will be ready for another huge holiday season.
  • All routes in Oak Park, Forest Park and River Forest now have permanent carriers. When a route doesn’t have a permanent carrier, another carrier would have to finish her route and then continue her day to finish another route. This obviously leads to delays in mail delivery, mistakes due to unfamiliarity and fatigued carriers. The Postmaster seemed confident that just by being comfortably staffed, the USPS is ready for the upcoming holidays. Plus, they have a small team of back-up carriers in case some of the newer carriers don’t work out. “Delivering mail isn’t for everyone.”
  • The River Forest carriers, who had been working out of the Oak Park South Station for the past two years, are now back at the River Forest Post Office.
  • One volunteer council member brought up the broken-down state of some of the blue mailboxes and had concerns about building maintenance.
  • We asked to have a letter carrier and a counter employee at some of the meetings as we discuss specific topics.
  • We discussed villages’ and customers’ roles in mail delivery. Oak Park (and I assume Forest Park and River Forest) has an ordinance that requires homeowners to care for their sidewalks during winter. However, this ordinance is rarely (or never, according to some Oak Parkers) enforced by the village. Snowy and icy sidewalks and streets not only slow down mail delivery, but they also make conditions dangerous for the letter carriers. The Postmaster told a story of one letter carrier in south Oak Park who delivered mail to a house in spite of its icy stairs. He fell and broke his tailbone and was out of work for several months.

One thing that the Postmaster told us as members of the advisory council is that he’d like us to be a bridge of communication to connect the post office to the area customers. Part of this role is collecting complaints (or compliments!) from my friends and neighbors. If you live in Oak Park, Forest Park or River Forest, Illinois and have a comment, complaint or a question about your mail delivery, post office counter service or anything else USPS related, please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me via email or twitter (details on my About page.) If you don’t live in our area, please feel free to comment as well (always feel free to comment!)

And, if you ever want immediate feedback about a customer experience issue, this is a more direct route to your Station Manager or Postmaster:


I think that’s everything…whew!

P.S. Pictured above, my council notebook, a doctored up Field Notes Shelterwood.


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Urbs In Horto

Urbs in Horto, Starshaped Press, Letterpress PrintI bought this amazing “Urbs in Horto” print from Starshaped Press last year at Show of Hands. This weekend, I finally framed it and hung it…one of those things that should have happened last November but didn’t. I originally bought the print for our front hallway. We have kind of a travel/map/Chicago theme going on in there. But I thought the print was too amazing to be stuck in a corner that we barely see coming in and out of our apartment. So I hung it up in the living room where we can see it all the time.

Urbs in horto, Latin for “city in a garden,” was Chicago’s slogan in the 1830s, celebrating Chicago’s commitment to parks in the city. (This article from the Chicago Park District can tell you more.) Starshaped Press created the print to celebrate Chicago’s 175th anniversary in 2012. The print is made with only antique metal type and letterpress printed in seven colors…it’s truly a work of art. I’m only sorry I waited so long to hang it up!

The weather is gorgeous in Chicago all week long, so if it gets a little quiet around here, just know I’m out soaking up the last bits of summer…now that fall is almost officially here!

P.S. To see some impressive detail shots of the print and the incredible set-up of all that type, go here!


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Kiwi Congratulations

patriotic mail art, vintage stamps, USA, New ZealandMy pen friend April just became a citizen of New Zealand. I wanted to send her a congratulations card but of course, finding a “Congratulations on your New Zealand citizenship” card in the U.S. was a challenge. But I knew Hallmark would sell a U.S. citizenship card (Hallmark sells every kind of card.) so I dug around in the Congratulations section in the store and found a one. Naoto was with me, shaking his head. He didn’t see the brilliance in my plan. Hallmark citizenship cardI figured if red, white and blue worked for a USA citizenship, it would work for a New Zealand one. I printed out a New Zealand flag and pasted it over the American flag in the forefront. It didn’t fit perfectly, but I was okay with that. It’s not like I was trying to hide that this card was modified. And I felt that the American flags in the background were a nice touch since April is an American, too.

I added some New Zealand flags to the envelope and went through my vintage stamp collection to find some red, white and blue postage stamps. I had such a great time digging through my stamps and adding up my favorites for this envelope. April often uses an eclectic mix of New Zealand stamps on her envelopes so I *think* she will appreciate the themed vintage postage.

Have you ever altered a greeting card to make it suit your needs? Or are you shaking your head along with Naoto?

Have a good weekend!

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Honor Flight Mail

military cards, honor flight, mailA couple of veterans from my hometown went on Honor Flight recently. Neither went with Honor Flight Chicago, so unfortunately I wasn’t able to see them off or welcome them home at the airport. They each flew on different flights with other Illinois-based Honor Flights. One veteran, my Great Uncle Tom went this year and the other veteran, my old neighbor Bud, went last year. When it comes to thank yous, I employ the “better late than never” rule.

This summer I came across an offer from One Canoe Two (and a sponsor, Veterans United) to get this 3-pack of military cards for free. I ordered a set because I knew two of the cards would be perfect for these guys. And, I had a couple of extra Honor Flight Chicago pins from when I started doing mail call a few years ago. (Maureen gave me several pins and told me to use them to “spread the word and good cheer” about Honor Flight.) At Saturday’s letter social, I wrote notes inside the cards and tucked a card and a pin inside some old notecard boxes. This is a trick I learned from Donovan who is the queen of reusing things in the name of mail.honor flight, military mail, patriotic mailThe clear plastic packaging just happened to be the exact size of my A2 cards and left room for the pinback. I had a good time decorating the boxes with patriotic washi tape. At the letter social, we weighed the package and it was 1.5 ounces. There was some disagreement about whether it’s a letter or a package, so I came home and looked up the specifications on the USPS website. It’s technically too thick to be a letter (the box is 1/2 inch thick, the letter limit is 1/4 inch) so the postage came to $2.32. I happily used my Inverted Jenny stamps and a flag forever stamp. Honor Flight of Greater PeoriaI hope Bud and Uncle Tom like their mail surprises!

P.S. That’s my Uncle Tom above with his daughters and son-in-law during his Welcome Home Celebration.

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LWA Social at the Forest Park Library

letter writers alliance, LWA social, Forest Park Public LibraryOn Saturday, I attended the LWA Letter Social at my public library (as mentioned in this post.) As usual, I regret not taking more pictures. Kathy and Donovan had an amazing spread of stationery and mail art supplies, an array of rubber stamps and four fantastic typewriters. I used the Tippa pictured above and it typed like a dream! It moved like butter (or buttah!) LWA letter social lettersI wrote a letter and two special thank you notes (which I will be sharing soon!) and had a great chat with all of the other women writing letters. (It was all women, a coincidence I just realized.) A few of us came back to our place and enjoyed Negronis and funny conversation. After everyone left, I wrote some more letters and postcards until dinner. I’m officially staying on top of my to-be-returned pile and it feels great!

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Renegade Craft Fair 2014

Renegade Chicago, Peg & Awl, New Academy PressLast year, we were in Japan during the Chicago Renegade Craft Fair and I really missed it as part of my “end of summer” routine. I love going to Renegade, so when it rolled around again this summer I knew to keep the weekend open.

I didn’t buy very much and as usual I had “non-buyers remorse”. I wish I had researched better before we went. I usually comb through all of the sellers’ sites and make a wishlist of things to look for, but I didn’t do as much investigative work this year and I missed out on a couple of things that I wish I’d seen. We got about two-thirds of the way through the fair and the crowds were picking up and we were hungry!! So, we skimmed through part of the fair, which was fine by me because tacos were waiting for us at Naoto’s office. Plus, there’s always the internet…I picked up a lot of business cards and can purchase from the comfort of my pajamas!

Renegade Chicago, Peg & AwlSo, what did I buy? I have been eying this Peg & Awl bag for almost a year now. (Mine is a slightly larger version of this one.) I love its polished rustic feel–it’s neat and tidy and not too bulky, but also has a worn, casual feel. I love the waxed canvas and the antique deadstock red gingham fabric trim. When I read that the straps were made from antique WWII gun slings, well that sealed the deal. So far, I’m loving this bag…it’s the perfect size for my planner and my wallet and a few other necessities and the front pocket is perfect for my phone and a lip balm (the real necessities!)Presley and her Peg & Awl bag nap matI should also note that the bag makes an excellent cat nap mat, according to Presley. (Thanks for leaving your fur behind, cat!) Renegade Chicago, New Academy PressThe Into the Night postcard set from New Academy Press is so good that I came home and ordered two extra sets (because I couldn’t imagine parting with this one.)  Renegade Chicago, New Academy PressThe set comes in a screen printed folder with a screen printed band. I’m thinking I will be able to turn it into a tiny staple-bound notebook when I’m all done with the cards. It’s just too fancy to throw away! Renegade Chicago, New Academy PressThe postcards are gorgeous screen prints that create a scene together and also work really well as a single card.We are going to frame this set for our bedroom wall. (The bedroom is lacking in wall art, style and creative direction.)

I also bought a paper tape (which is less than exciting) and a small gift (which I will share after Christmas). All in all it was a great Renegade. The weather was perfect–cool and sunny–and the company was wonderful. It’s always fun to meet the creative people behind the wares.

If you’d like to read more from Renegade Chicago, Rebecca from Hugs are Fun has a great post on Renegade with detailed shots of some of the booths and Robyn from Robayre has a lot of great stuff to share too.

OH, and if you missed Renegade, Show of Hands is coming up on November 22 and 23. Karen and I went last year and it was as great as Renegade, only smaller. I highly recommend is as a kick-off to your holiday shopping!

(My 2012 Renegade post is here.)

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Plot #6: The Loofah Takeover

plot 6, loofah, end of summerThis is the south end of our plot, where the flowers and the Brandywine tomatoes reside. And yes, that’s a loofah vine growing all the way over there. (The loofahs were planted on the northeast corner of our four-by-eight plot.) I’m not so worried, since our tomatoes are almost done, but man, next year we really do need to plan our plot better! plot 6, loofahBack in the north end of the plot, you can see the loofahs are overflowing outside of our raised bed…I’ve been tucking them back into the border, but some of the loofahs are cozily making themselves at home. They sound a tiny bit more hollow than they did last week, and their color is lightening ever so slightly, so hopefully, we can pick them soon. (I know I keep saying this, but really…I have no idea when the perfect time for picking is!) plot 6It has been really cold here the past few days–sweater weather, sock weather, jacket weather cold. I’m personally loving it, but I’m hoping it means long fall and not early winter. Yikes!

How is your garden growing? Are things slowing down?

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