Monthly Archives: March 2015

Going Postal Birthday Gifts

postal themed birthday giftsA certain mail-lover had a birthday last week and Naoto really hit it out of the ballpark (or should I say the post office?) with my gifts. He went with a postal theme and shopped on Etsy for some ideas and ended up choosing an upcycled mail bag purse, a postman rubber stamp, and an envelope necklace. I was thrilled with everything! postal themed birthday gifts, etsy, stiksel, upcycled old mail bag, pursepostal themed birthday gifts, etsy, stiksel, upcycled old mail bag, purse The purse is made from an upcycled old Dutch mail bag. He ordered it from the Stiksel in the Netherlands and gave it to me with the idea that I could make it into a traveling mail pack. I love this idea, but I will probably carry it as a purse sometimes, too. I love that it has a “patina” and it’s the perfect size for both mail supplies and daily trips to the store. postal themed birthday gifts, etsy, pictureshow shop, postman rubber stampThe next gift was a mailman rubber stamp from Pictureshow. Isn’t he dreamy? He reminds me of John if John was a mail carrier in the 1950s. Look at that overflowing mailbag of letters! postman rubber stamp, postcard raceIt stamps like a dream and I love how detailed the image is. Here he is on a new Postcard Race. (By the way, I’m still doing some postcard testing…updates coming soon!) postal themed birthday gifts, etsy, monyart shop envelope necklaceAnd last but not least, Naoto gave me an envelope necklace from MonyArt. The envelope charm is kind of rustic looking and I’ve been wearing it every day.

I love a good theme gift…way to go, Naoto!birthday bouquet birthday bouquet

In addition to the mail stuff, Naoto came home with a stunning bouquet of flowers. Those orchids…sigh…I’m reminded that spring weather is around the corner (even though it snowed seven inches on my birthday eve!)

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New Vintage Stationery

vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and YellowstoneMy parents came up for a visit this weekend and they brought me a few vintage treats including these fantastic old souvenir stationery sets. The Yellowstone is almost full but sadly the Abraham Lincoln one has one sheet left of each design. vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and Yellowstone vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and Yellowstone vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and YellowstoneI’ve never been to Yellowstone, so I’d feel like a cheater using this stationery, but I think using it for a nature lover would be acceptable, right? (This stationery seems like a good enough reason as any to bump Yellowstone up on my travel wish list.)vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and Yellowstone vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and Yellowstone vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and Yellowstone vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and Yellowstone vintage souvenir stationery, Abraham Lincoln and YellowstoneI have been to Springfield, the state capitol of Illinois, several times so these Lincoln landmarks are all familiar old friends from school trips and family trips of my childhood. I think every child who grew up in Illinois has rubbed Lincoln’s nose at least once. Since there’s only one sheet left of each of these designs, I probably won’t be writing letters on this stationery, but maybe I could use them in a mini-scrapbook of my next trip to Springfield? (First I have to get Naoto on board with a mini road trip!)

Have you seen any souvenir stationery lately? It seems like the best kinds of souvenirs (stationery, handkerchiefs, plates) are all things of things of the past now.

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Hasegawa Happy Hour Menu

Hasegawa Happy Hour menu coverIn a sign that I *may* have too much time on my hands (or that I was avoiding doing something productive), I typed up a menu for our Hasegawa Happy Hours. And when I say “typed” I mean typed on the typewriter because that’s how I roll. I know a menu seems weird and excessive, but honestly, if I didn’t have a set cocktail planned for our HHH guests, I was looking through my archives for suggestions. This way, I have all of my favorites in one place. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu openI typed the menu on a piece of 8.5×11 card stock scored and folded the long way. It’s very simply “formatted” since it was done on the typewriter and it’s spring-centric, which means I can type up another one for summer (ooh, for balcony cocktails! I can’t wait!) Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 1I have a section for “Think Spring” cocktails, which are coincidentally all gin-based. (Eagle eyes will notice that I messed up on the Vieux Mot and typed the wrong ingredients. Womp, womp.)Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 2Then there’s a section for “Cozy Nights” that includes mostly whiskey cocktails, perfect for right about now when it’s damp and cold outside. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 4In the “Deliciously Bitter” section, I have a small list of bitter cocktails. I’ve added several bitter liqueurs to my collection this year and these four are tasty winners. Hasegawa Happy Hour menu 3And, on a removable tiny business card, I typed up two Hasegawa originals, the CAP Cocktail and Pining for the Queen. It’s harder to keep those ingredients readily on hand around here, so I like to be able to remove the card if we don’t have any pomegranate juice or rosemary in the house.

Hasegawa Happy Hour, sushi nightWe tested the menu out last weekend when we had friends over for a little sushi-making party. It worked like a charm!

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Old Painting = New Art

P. Rambert oil paintingIn January when I went thrifting with my parents, I found this old painting. It was only twenty dollars, it’s an actual painting, not a print, and for reasons I can’t explain, I really liked it. The painting is signed P. Rambert, which means nothing to me, but apparently people on Ebay think some of his paintings can fetch $50-550…mmhmmmmm. P. Rambert oil painting I’ve been working on hanging up more art (again) and so I tried this one in the living room near the lamp. (I do think the matchy-matchy pillow looks a little ridiculous…an interior decorator I am not!) I didn’t plan to keep it there, but it’s grown on me and I’ve really liked having some color on the wall! (I think my desire for spring and something other than grey skies and a grey home is getting to me!)

Am I the only one who freezes and fears decorating decisions?

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Seed Swap 2015

Yellow Owl Workshop garden stamp kitOn Sunday the Forest Park Community Garden hosted their fifth annual Seed Swap. Have you ever been to a seed swap? It was my first time, so everything was new and exciting for me. Basically, you bring packets of seeds to the swap–either something you no longer want to plant, or something you have in excess–and trade them with other gardeners’ seeds. It’s a perfect concept for city gardeners and community gardeners who do not have the space to plant an entire packet of seeds in their tiny plots. forest park community garden seed swapThe swap was held in a school gym, plenty of space to allow for milling around, browsing seeds, and chatting with fellow gardeners. LaManda Joy from the Peterson Garden Project and The Yarden gave a presentation about gardening, her experience as a home gardener, and starting a community garden. The Lisle Seed Library was also there sharing seeds and information about their library’s programs for gardeners.

I brought six packets of seeds to swap (pictured at the top)–lettuce, broccoli, loofah, eggplant, beets, and snow peas. I made my packets from baby envelopes that I had on hand, my favorite Yellow Owl Workshop garden stamp kit, and a little bit of washi tape. (They *may* have been crafty overkill, but I didn’t care.) forest park community garden seed swapI came home with edamame, milkweed, malva, alyssum, morning glories, ornamental grass and a clipping from an oregano plant. I worked registration at the swap, so I missed out on seeing the wide variety of vegetable seeds, but I was kind of more into the flower seeds anyway. I wanted some perennials to plant on the balcony and some edamame to try in our plot this year, so I came home a happy camper.

spring in chicago, snow march 23Speaking of gardening, this was the scene when I left for work on Monday morning. Forest Park got about seven inches of snow…I hope it was good for my winter sowing project!! I’m working on planting some more this week. Spring gardens are just around the corner, right?

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Happy Birthday, Dad!

Mike the Telephone Man storyToday is my dad’s birthday. To celebrate, I’m sharing a story I wrote back in 1986 called Mike the Phone Man. I think we were finishing a segment on tall tales and we were assigned to write one of our own. I wrote about my dad, who was a telephone repair man. Here’s the story:

Once there was a telephone man. His name was Mike. One day something magical happened to him. Somebody wanted their phone fixed. And then one thousand more people called and he fixed them all at once. And then came pay day. Mike got one thousand dollars. And the next day he got called out to fix a line. And it was an eighty foot pole. And he climbed it in one second! And he got one thousand dollars again. And the next day he had to go fix another line. But the weather was very bad, But he walked and fixed it perfectly. And he got payed one thousand dollars. But the next day was Saturday and everybody went shopping that day but Mike went to the electric shop and bought a wire for Mrs. Jenken’s phone and it cost 12 dollars but of course he had it. When he went to fix Mrs. Jenken’s phone he had to go home for lunch. That night the magic went away and the next day he didn’t do so great but he was happy anyway. So he, his wife, and his two children lived happily ever after. THE END

Happy Birthday, Dad! Let’s celebrate with Portillo’s & Old Overholt! xo

(The story was written in second grade and, in case you’re wondering, I got an A in spite of the fact that I started every sentence with the word and.)

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Postcard Race

postcard racesLast week, Carolee tweeted a question: Do postcards really take longer than letters to arrive?

A long time ago, someone told me that putting a first class stamp on a postcard would help it arrive faster than it would with a postcard stamp, but of course I’d never tested it. But Carolee’s tweet made me wonder how it all worked. So this week, I decided to create a little postcard race. I sent a postcard (or a letter) with a Forever stamp and a postcard with a postcard stamp from the same blue mailbox on the same day to the same address and asked each recipient to let me know when the cards arrive.

postcard race round 2Here is what I’ve sent so far:

On March 14–

To Washington DC: a postcard with a Forever stamp, a postcard with a postcard stamp

postcard race round 3On March 16–

To Tacoma, WA: a postcard with a Forever stamp, a postcard with a postcard stamp, a letter with a Forever stamp + 21 cent stamp (because it was rigid)

To Wheaton, IL: a postcard with a Forever stamp, a postcard with a postcard stamp

To Washburn, IL: a birthday card with a Forever stamp, a postcard with a postcard stamp

postcard race round 4I figured I needed to try out different distances, so I chose different parts of the country, a nearby suburb, and a “faraway” place in Illinois. Depending on the results, I may send a few more out.

I promise to report back on my findings! In the meantime, does anyone know the answer?

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 6

Two weeks ago our postal advisory council met for a combined February and March meeting. (Our February meeting was postponed at the last minute.) Postmaster Crawford missed the meeting due to a death in his family, but we had four representatives from the post office present and plenty to talk about.

Our main agenda topic was the handling of passports at the Oak Park Main Post Office (the only post office in the three communities that offers passport services.) One council member experienced a very long line on a Saturday morning while mailing a package. Apparently the passport line was long and filled with (naturally) impatient children and both the lines for mailing services and the line for passports were running very slowly. The council member wondered if there could be better staffing for Saturdays, which are busy passport days because it is the only opportunity school children and people who work normal 9-5 hours have to get their passports. The post office representatives said that this is a particularly busy time for passports because people are preparing for spring break and summer trips. They offered that some post offices have “passport fairs” once a month/every six weeks when the window is open longer and is more heavily staffed.

The passport discussion was the perfect transition to my own experience in the passport line last month. I was renewing my passport (which you can do without going to the post office passport line) but I had a question about my documentation (my name changed since my last passport) so I stood in the passport line at least six to eight feet behind the customer being served. (For the record, the customers in line for stamps were standing closer to the passport customer ahead of me.) The passport clerk looked up and yelled, “IF YOU ARE IN LINE FOR PASSPORTS GET BEHIND THE LINE!” No signage in the post office directs you to stand behind a line. I didn’t even see a line…there were rugs on the floor, but no visible line. I was not breathing down the proceeding customer’s neck or lurking at the counter. I could not hear anything they were speaking about. And again, the customers in line for stamps were closer to the passport interaction than I was. If passports involve such private information that customers are getting yelled at for standing “too close” why are passports being handled in such a busy room? Of course everyone in line turned and looked at me and I was completely embarrassed. When I told my friend about the experience later that day she said that every time she goes to the Oak Park Main post office, somebody is getting yelled at by an employee. To me this type of behavior is unacceptable and the reason so many people despise the post office. I don’t think anyone expects a parade and a free gift for visiting the post office, but customers deserve courtesy. In any other retail/customer service job, this type of customer “service” wouldn’t fly, so why is it so common at the post office?

I debated about sharing this story during the meeting. It felt like “tattling” on someone. I didn’t use her name, I used her clerk number (from the receipt I received when I mailed my passport renewal.) But this is what I’ve learned from six months on this committee, making very little progress:

We cannot just complain about the post office. We have to direct our complaints to the post office. If you experience really bad customer service at the post office it is okay to ask for a supervisor. If you are constantly getting your neighbor’s mail, it is okay to call the post office and mention it. If your Amazon Prime package says it’s out for delivery but doesn’t show up for two more days, it’s okay to call and see what’s going on. If anything, the USPS needs to get an idea of where their customer service is at in order to begin the road to improvements. (And, just as importantly, if you have a compliment about the professionalism of your clerk or your carrier, the post office needs to hear that, too. They need to know that good service is appreciated!) 

Moving on to another topic… We discussed the snow removal issues plaguing the mail carriers. In Oak Park, the homeowner’s snow removal ordinance only covers the public sidewalks, not the home’s walkway and stairs. Carriers find it difficult to navigate icy walks and stairs. The post office has printed notices to place in mailboxes of homes that have dangerous walkways and stairs but these are often ineffective. A mail carrier could skip delivery to these homes, but that means carrying all of that undelivered mail back to the post office and dragging it all back out again the next day…it’s often easier to just risk the ice and deliver the mail. The USPS has sued home owner’s in the past when carriers were hurt on the job due to falling on icy walkways and stairs (and injuries from dog bites.) Other than continued efforts at education customers, this seems like something the post office has little control over. One manager brought over a dozen pictures of houses with stairs and walks covered with more than a foot of snow and ice. The pictures were taken almost two weeks after our last big snow and were from a single carrier’s route in Forest Park. Homeowners should be doing better.

We also discussed the fact that the mailbox at the Oak Park Main Post Office was still surrounded by a few feet of snow. The committee wondered why the post office hadn’t done a better job of clearing its own box for its customers.

And lastly…the best part of the meeting was the public relations discussion. The committee is encouraging the post office to participate in Oak Park’s Day in Our Village and the Farmers’ Market. There is a mini “post office on wheels” that can be used at outdoor events to spread the word about post office services, sell stamps, and just spread good PR about the post office. The postal representatives mentioned that they could tie in the Farmers Market stamps with a special postmark at the Farmers Market. This idea was met with great enthusiasm…I hope it happens!

Our next meeting isn’t scheduled until April 22. In the meantime, fellow mail lovers, feel free to comment with your thoughts about the post office.

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Thoughts on Jury Duty

view from the Daley Center, 26th floorI’m officially done with jury duty! I have to say, I thought the whole experience was interesting and dare I say…kind of fun? Our group of jurors was really great–everyone got along and we were able to have a little bit of fun together. Our judge was relaxed, respectful of our time and our comfort, and he kept us informed of the process. Our bailiff was funny. The court reporter was animated as he recorded the dialogue…he was kind of like Stevie Wonder, grooving to the closing arguments while he typed. Even one of the accident reconstruction experts was interesting enough to make me want to take a physics class again!

view from the Daley Center, 26th floorAs much as I’d love to write a blog post describing the details of my case, I don’t feel right about it*. I would never want the plaintiff’s family to find my blog and feel disrespected or criticized. But I will say, we deliberated for less than five minutes–all twelve of us were that much in agreement about the facts of the case. We found for the defendant, who shed a tear as the verdict was read.

view from the Daley Center, 26th floorBecause none of us could talk about the case (to our families or to each other), we felt such a relief when we all realized that we were all on the same page. And it was a glorious experience to finally be able to talk to each other about the case. Imagine twelve people in a room talking on top of each other trying to release four days of pent up conversation about the case. view of the Daley CenterEven though my jury duty was pretty painless, I’m looking forward to getting back into my normal routine around here. Today it’s suppose to be 70 degrees outside. I’m going to take a walk, write some letters, read my book club book, and feel thankful I’m not cooped up in a jury room!

*But if you know me in real life, I’m happy to talk about the case! I even made a diagram to explain things to Naoto!

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Out For Jury Duty 

Sorry for the quiet blog this week. On Tuesday I got picked for jury duty, which, if you know anything about jury duty, it throws a wrench into all your plans. I can’t talk about it (this part is so hard for me!) but our case is supposed to go through Monday. Thankfully I’m on a jury with a lot of nice, funny, food-loving people. This type of thing is much more bearable when everyone gets along and can have fun together. (As much fun as you can have in a courtroom anyway…)

Does anyone have a good jury duty story?