Monthly Archives: July 2015

Mobile Post Office at the Oak Park Farmers Market

stack of mail artYou guys…I’m so behind on my mail. The stack is growing and growing and I have entires in my Letter Ledger that are as old as May. This weekend, I need to start catching up. I’m hoping to have a few letters written for tomorrow when I go to the Mobile Post Office at the Oak Park Farmers Market! I know I promised you some details this week, but sadly, I never heard back from the post office whether or not there will be a special postmark offered tomorrow. (I have a feeling there won’t be one since I never heard back…I hope I’m pleasantly surprised though.) If you go, I’d love to hear about it (and make sure you get a donut at the Farmers Market. You won’t be sorry!)

Postmarks or not, I’ll report back next week!

Have a good weekend!

P.S. Annie commented on my tourist postcard post last week and shared a vintage postcard from Salt Lake City with a tiny bag of salt sewn into the edge! So fun! You can see her post with a picture here!

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Cup Noodles Museum

Cup Noodle Museum entranceBack to Japan

After we stuffed ourselves at the Ramen Museum, we decided to make a noodle day of it and visit the Cup Noodle Museum. We just made it with an hour to spare, so we didn’t have time to read every word in the museum, but we had a good time learning the history of our favorite late-night snack*. Cup Noodle Museum lobbyThe museum is really spare and modern. The lobby is huge, open and only decorated with an illumination of a Cup Noodle. You take a giant staircase upstairs to the museum. Cup Noodle Museum hall of noodle packagingThe first part is the Instant Noodles History Cube where you can see the history and the packaging of 3000 instant noodle products. Cup Noodle Museum hall of noodle packagingCup Noodle Museum hall of noodle packagingIt was crazy to see the subtle changes in packaging over time and all of the regional flavors that were introduced as Cup Noodle took over the world. Cup Noodle Museum noodle artCup Noodle Museum Momofuku AndoMuch of the Museum is devoted to Momofuku Ando, the inventor of the instant noodle. (You may be familiar with Ando because he recently was honored with his own Google Doodle!) Because he invented the instant noodles later in life (he was 48) after two failed careers (he was even jailed for tax evasion!), Ando is the perfect example of how success can come at any age. Cup Noodle Museum Momofuko AndoCharming illustrations take you through the history of instant noodles. It took over a year of trying and failing every single day (and only sleeping four hours a night), but in 1958 Ando invented Chicken Ramen (which is like the packaged block of noodles we have today.) Cup Noodle Museum Momofuku AndoLater, in the 1960s, Ando came to the U.S. and saw people breaking up the blocks of ramen into styrofoam cups and adding hot water and eating them that way. Ando figured, why waste time with a separate bowl when the ramen could come in its own bowl! Cup Noodles were introduced in 1971. Cup Noodle Museum Momofuku Ando Cup Noodle Museum historyCup Noodle Museum historyAndo’s last invention and lifelong dream invention was Space Ramen–instant noodles that could be eaten in space. (They are thinner so they cook quickly and have a thicker broth that won’t float around as easily.) Cup Noodle Museum historyIt was fun to see the annual consumption of Cup Noodle around the world. Cup Noodle Museum historyCup Noodle Museum history, Momofuku Ando's obituaryAndo passed away in 2007. (Isn’t the drawing sweet?) I loved reading the New York Times obituary. Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleCup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleIn the next part of the museum, we got to make our own Cup Noodles. (It was an extra ¥300, so less than $3US.) There were stations set up in another huge room where you could decorate your cups. (I’ll share ours tomorrow, but we didn’t go too crazy with the decorating!) Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodle Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleNext, the Cup Noodle guy sanitized our cups and we each turned a crank that and added a block of noodles to our cups. Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleThen we got to choose from four different soup flavors and twelve different toppings to personalize our cups of ramen.Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleThe guy seemed excited about my choices, but now I’m not so sure: spicy tomato soup flavor, scallions, corn, cheese, and little bird wafers (I can’t remember what they are). Cup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleCup Noodle Museum, making our own cup noodleNaoto played it safe: chicken soup flavor, ham, bacon, corn, and little bird wafers.

Then our cup noodles went through a machine that sealed the tops on and shrink wrapped the cup. (Please enjoy my mediocre video.)

“Noodle Day” was definitely one of my favorites on our trip. I really left the Cup Noodle Museum feeling thoughtful about failure and age and invention. Ando’s determination to turn his life around and his success at midlife was really inspiring. Momofuku Ando said, “It is never too late to do anything in life.” and I couldn’t agree more.

Do you eat Cup Noodle? Have you ever tried the spicy tomato flavor?

*We’ve slowed down our instant noodle eating because it’s not the healthiest diet (though Ando supposedly ate it every day for his whole life and he lived to be 96), but we still enjoy a cup now and again.

P.S. This bit about the Cup Noodle Mascot shoveling snow made me smile.

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Double Indemnity on the Big Screen

Double Indemnity On Monday night, Peggy and I went to see a special screening of Double Indemnity at the movie theater. The film was shown as a part of the Big Screen Classic Events with Turner Classic Movies (TCM) and Fathom Entertainment. They are showing classic movies in select theaters around the country with introductions from TCM’s Robert Osborne (or Ben Mankiewicz.) Robert Osborne, TCM and Fathom PresentsBefore the movie, Robert Osborne shared some history of the movie. Fred MacMurray was very reluctant to do Double Indemnity because he was afraid of ruining his squeaky clean image by playing a murderer. In the end, MacMurray thought it was one of his best roles. And Osborne discussed how the Hays Production Code dictated changes to the script. Has anyone read the book? I just ordered it from the library because I’m curious about the original ending of the book. (No spoilers, please!)

I’d seen parts of Double Indemnity before, but it was such a treat to see it on a huge screen where I could appreciate the darkness and the light in the movie, the facial expressions, and the score. Someone on Twitter* mentioned that he noticed the silences during the movie better. I thought that was a great observation.

Sadly, there were only five other people in the theater with us at Melrose Park, so I hope they continue offering the rest of the series. Next up is a Grease sing-along**, but I am so excited for Psycho in September! (Full line-up is here. I’m sad I missed JAWS last month.)

Have you gone to one of these? Have you seen anything else good in the theater lately?


*If you like to watch TCM, the #TCMParty is a fun hashtag to follow if you want to have a Twitter chat during a movie.

**I hate Grease!

Double Indemnity image from here. (The article about women in Film Noir is excellent reading!) Photo of Robert Osborne is mine from the theater.

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Sakura Ballsign Knock Pens

Sakura Ballsign Knock Gel Pens, metallic and glitterEvery time I step into Loft, my second favorite stationery & more store in Japan, I head directly for the pen displays. I stand there, section by section, trying out all of the different pens, different colors, different styles. This time, I was shopping for a new pen that I could use for letter writing. (My reliance on the Frixion pens has gotten risky for letter writing since some of the ink disappeared on the way to Tacoma, Washington recently.) So I was shopping for something a little bit more permanent. I found and fell in love with these Ballsign Knock gel pens. They come in a few different varieties, but I ended up getting a pack of the metallic ones that can write on dark and light paper, a pack of the shimmery ones that glitter in the light, and a single neon one. sakura ballsign knock gel pens, metallicMy favorites are the metallic ones. I love pens that write on dark papers, and I was excited to have some that went beyond the normal white, gold, and silver options in my arsenal. I love the metallic gold (it’s almost a white gold), green, blue, purple, and pink colors, but sadly, they don’t show up as strong colors on black paper. (It’s hard to tell from the picture, but they read more silver metallic on the black paper.) I think part of the reason is the colors aren’t very dark to begin with and that they have a 0.6mm point. (I like a thinner point on my pens, but I’m also not sure that this style comes in other sizes.) I still love the way that they write and the way that they look on dark paper so I’m pleased with my purchase. (Plus I have these other Ballsign gel pens in my pen stash and their true colors show up perfectly on dark papers. I’ll be sharing more about them in a future blog post.) sakura ballsign knock gel pens, glittersakura ballsign knock gel pens, glitterThe glittery ones are a lot of fun, but only show on lighter papers. I purchased the 0.8mm points in these (again, I think that was all Loft offered) and the thickness is perfect for showing off the shimmer of the ink (the box calls them lamé). The colors are very opaque and the ink flows really well. These will be fun for addressing envelopes and making mail art. sakura ballsign knock gel pens, neon redI almost bought a box of the neon pens, but I decided that I should leave some pens for the other people. So I just bought the red one. (Neon is out of style now anyway, right?) But I like the width of the neon red pen and there was a tiny bit of skipping at first, but it got better as I used it a bit. It’s hard to tell from my picture, but the ink really pops off the page.

Sakura also offers a pastel version that can be used on dark papers and a regular ol’ gel ink version (in a 0.4mm point). All in all, I’m really happy with these pens. They are nice and slim and comfortable to hold. Time will tell if they are good workhorses for letter writing and list-making. I’ll have to put my precious Frixion pens away to find out.

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 10

Stamp Collecting 8 cent postage stamp, USPSAt last…our July council meeting!

We started the meeting with a follow-up report about the Freedom of Information Act request about our council. The USPS provided the meeting minutes of all of our meetings but redacted all member’s names. The USPS also declined the person the right to attend one of our meetings since meetings are only open to current council members.

The next order of business was a discussion about the mobile Post Office visiting the Oak Park Farmers Market. The Postmaster determined that July 25 was too close for him, so he decided to push things back to August 1. Again, this was disappointing since we’ve been talking about the farmers market for months. I wondered if it would actually happen. Since the meeting, I’ve received confirmation that the mobile Post Office will be at the Oak Park Farmers Market on August 1! I am hoping to get more details (timing, whether or not there will be a special postmark, services) and I will share more information then.

We moved onto the big topic of the meeting–planning for the 80th Anniversary celebration. It will be held on Saturday, August 29 from 10am-2pm. We discussed contacting the historical society to see if someone there could create and host tours of the building that day and to see if they had more old pictures of the building through the years. Two members had already reached out to the local newspapers, but more media attention was planned. Council members volunteered to attend and help with refreshments and greeting people on the day of the event. The post office decided, in spite of our offers to help, most of the planning would be done by the post office. (Honestly…this makes me a little bit nervous. Considering how poorly the planning of the other two (smaller) events has gone, I hope they get on the ball and create a really great celebration.)

We got more updates about the facilities issues at the River Forest Post Office.

  • An order was put in for repaving and striping the lot to make the handicap spaces more clear.
  • There is also funding approved for a new roof for the building in 2016.
  • Funding has been approved for more maintenance staff in the Oak Park post offices, which will benefit River Forest since they share.
  • As far as the Oak Park Post Office is concerned, the building’s exterior (the bricks and the brass) will be professionally cleaned thanks to private donations. (For those of you who have no idea what the post office looks like, I promise to have pictures soon…it’s really a beautiful building!)

Nationally, a lot of changes happened in the past few weeks. Apparently the new Postmaster General has made some personnel changes and cuts at the top. The USPS is trying to save money on management to relieve money and resources for delivery and sales. Sadly, some people lost their jobs or got moved around, but the postal employees at our meeting seemed to feel this was a step in the right direction to improve operations in the long run. Customers will benefit from the changes and improvements and hopefully that will increase sales in the future.

New delivery vehicles are coming soon. The vehicles will be tall enough for mail carriers to stand up inside and there will be a skylight so carriers can see the mail and parcels better. All of these changes are driven by the huge increase in package delivery, the future of the USPS.

A USPS marketing manager was scheduled to visit the Oak Park Post Office on Friday (July 17) to observe the service counter and to look at the post office from the customer’s eyes. This conversation brought up a suggestion that signage at the post office is sometimes lacking. For instance, it’s difficult to know (unless you do it all the time) what forms you need to fill out for each service you need. The signage is not helpful. The USPS app is not really helpful. And we reiterated our frustration that the cost of a first class stamp is very difficult to find anywhere on the USPS website.

Last month, all USPS employees attended a “Deliver the Brand” training. There is a huge focus on customer service right now. I would love to hear from you whether or not you have noticed a change in your local post office.

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 9

Letter Carriers We Deliver StampsOur June Post Office Consumer Advisory Council meeting was…interesting. Phil (the Postmaster) was not in attendance but his manager, Jackie, was, so we sort of rehashed a few things from the previous meeting in order to clarify some concerns better.

The meeting started with the announcement that someone filed a Freedom of Information Act request about our group. This person is a former postal employee who now travels around filing FOIA requests about the post office in his role as a self-appointed USPS watchdog (my words). My fellow council members and I were concerned whether or not our names would be given to this person, so the post office promised to follow up with more information at our next meeting.*

We talked about the Passport Fair again. Apparently this is the “year of the passport” and more fairs will be scheduled. Council members who did receive postcards about May’s Passport Fair mentioned that the type was very small and there were spelling errors on the cards.

We talked about the 80th Anniversary celebration again. Saturday, August 29 was confirmed as the date for the celebration. Jackie said she would approve small giveaways like coloring books for kids. And she thought there would be a small budget for refreshments. A few members mentioned they would reach out to the local newspapers to give them a heads up about the event.

Bob, our co-chair, offered to contact the Oak Park village newsletter to ask them to put something out about dog bites and mail carriers. The post office said they would give him an official “blurb” for the newsletter.

The (Oak Park, River Forest, Forest Park) carriers have new scanners that are connected by satellite so if you get text alerts for your Amazon packages, you will get your text even faster letting you know your Prime package has arrived.

We confirmed that July 25th would be the date for the mobile post office’s visit to the Oak Park Farmers Market.

We learned that all postal employees would be attending a “Deliver the Brand” customer service training.

We reiterated the shabby state of the River Forest Post Office grounds.

At the end of the meeting, we discussed the effectiveness of our group. According to Jackie, who manages a number of post offices in Chicagoland and Northern Illinois, Oak Park has recovered from its initial challenges much better than other “troubled post offices” that she manages.

It is still to be determined if our council appointments would end after one year. (If so, August would be our final meeting.)

I’ll be back tomorrow with our July meeting notes and then next week, we can get on with our lives and talk more about Japan, okay?

*I’m obviously blogging publicly about the advisory council, so I don’t have any expectations of privacy in that sense…but my name handed to this guy on a government document feels a little bit invasive. And my fellow council members don’t blog about our work, so they certainly deserve a level of privacy.

P.S. The guy in the middle of the stamp reminds me of John the Mailman.

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 8

US Postal Service stamps 8 cents(I’m a little behind in blogging about the postal advisory council. So, I apologize for the upcoming clump of posts about the council’s work.)

Our May meeting was a little bit disappointing. (I mentioned last time that I’ve been feeling a little bit of ups and downs with the council this year.) First, the post office reported that their Passport Fair was kind of a bust. Apparently, they didn’t have more traffic than most other Saturdays, but things were spread out over the extended hours. This may have been slightly more convenient for customers. Robert, the council co-chair, expressed his frustration that he didn’t receive any advertising about the fair until 5:30PM the night of the fair. The post office representatives insisted that the postcards were all sent out to all Oak Parkers the Wednesday before the fair, but only one or two council members actually received any advertising. Also, the weekend of the Fair was a busy weekend in Oak Park. We suggested that the post office look at the public calendar before scheduling the next fair.

After months of discussion and planning for Oak Park’s Day in Our Village, the post office was unable to secure a booth at the fair because they sent in their application too late and all of the spaces were filled. Since we had been discussing Day in Our Village since March, it felt like a big let-down that the ball was dropped on this. The main job of our council is to help improve postal relations with the public and Day in Our Village would have been a great community event to participate in.

The focus turned to the mobile post office visiting the Oak Park Farmers Market and we decided the second or third week of July would be best. The Postmaster planned to look into securing the post office on wheels for the market.

We eagerly discussed the Oak Park Post Office building’s 80th anniversary. We talked about having past Postmasters there, getting in touch with the Oak Park Historical Society to help with a display of artifacts and to ask the Oak Leaves (local newspaper) to republish their archives about the post office.

A council member brought up the facilities at the River Forest Post Office. She noticed that the handicap parking sign was upside down, there were no clear markings on the pavement for handicap parking, the trash can was overflowing, and the weeds and grass were overgrown. We learned that River Forest shares a custodian with the Oak Park post office, making time tight for managing all of the properties. And, postal employees cannot spread any chemical based weed treatment (per their union contract), so that part of the landscaping is outsourced to a professional company. The Postmaster said he would look into new striping in the parking lot.

The post office is trying to lease the second floor of the post office for more income. (Random note…but wouldn’t it be fun to have an office in the post office?)

In other maintenance news, over the next year, the post office will be refurbishing sixty-nine mailboxes in Oak Park.

Our discussion moved from customer issues to mail carrier delivery issues. According to the post office’s records, summer weather brings a new challenge for mail carriers—dog bites. Apparently, Chicago is #3 in the country for the most dog bites. So the post office sends out little postcards reminding people to keep their dogs away from the letter carriers.

And finally, we talked about package theft and the new challenge the post office has with leaving Amazon Prime boxes on people’s porches. Because Amazon deliveries are promised 2-day deliveries, the letter carriers have to balance finding a place on the customer’s porch where the package is out of plain sight, or leaving a redelivery card and risking an upset customer. It seems there isn’t a great solution for this.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more exciting notes from our June meeting. In the meantime, anything going on with your mail carrier? Or in your post office?

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Pilot Frixion Stamps

pilot frixion stampsI’ve never done a post about Pilot Frixion Pens, but they are my favorites. (I’ve mentioned them in these posts.) I love that they are erasable, because I’m a perfectionist at times, and I love the way my handwriting looks when I use them. I use the pens mostly in my calendar so I can easily erase appointments when plans change. When I read about the Frixion Stamps, I immediately put them on my shopping list for Japan. (This should tell you so much about my Tokyo shopping addiction!)pilot frixion stampsI sometimes regret not buying all of them (they are sold individually, but you can see all of the options here on Amazon), but since I also have a planner sticker addiction, I chose the four that I thought would be most useful for me: the umbrella for tracking rain in the garden, the coin purse to mark pay days, the birthday gift to remind me to buy or send a present, and the birthday cake for noting birthdays. Just like the Frixion Pens, the ink is erasable, so if plans change, you can erase the stamp with the rubbery edge of the cap. The stamps themselves are about 1/2 inch square and a little over 2 inches long, so they can easily fit into a pencil pouch for on-the-go planning. The stamped images are about 1/4 inch and fit perfectly in smaller calendar squares. Hobonichi planner with pilot frixion stampsHobonichi planner with pilot frixion stampsSo far, I am using the coin purse and the cake on my monthly calendar spreads. Hobonichi planner with pilot frixion stamps Hobonichi planner with pilot frixion stampsAnd I’m using the gift and the umbrella on the daily pages. (I guess mainly because buying and sending gifts is more of a to-do list item which I put on daily pages and because this summer has been rainy so I don’t have room for a hundred umbrellas littering my monthly calendar spread.)

Like any new stamp, using the Frixion Stamps takes some getting used to. At first, I was pressing too hard and the images were getting all muddled together. They really take a gentle touch. And, though the stamps dry pretty quickly on normal paper, they dry really slowly on the smooth Tomoe River Paper in my Hobonichi Planner. (But, if the ink smears or transfers to another page, you can just erase any mess.) Now that I’m used to them, I’m really enjoying using these little guys.

(Rumor has it that Jet Pens will be carrying the Pilot Frixion Stamps soon!)

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Tourist Postcards

DSC_0180My mailbox has been buzzing lately with all sorts of good mail. Two of my pen pals sent interesting travel postcards this month. I’ve never seen this “mailable souvenir” concept before but now I think I’ll be keeping my eye out for something like it next time I travel.

DSC_0183Anne sent the Wildflowers of Colorado postcard. It’s a postcard-sized seed packet with Wild Red Columbine inside. I’m looking forward to winter sowing them for next summer! And Ali sent a postcard packet of sourdough starter from Alaska. I’ve been wanting to make sourdough bread for years, so this is the perfect excuse to try!

Have you ever seen anything like this when you’ve been shopping for postcards? I want to know what other fun things are out there!

Thanks for the good mail, Anne & Ali! 

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Plot #6: Back to the Jungle

plot 6 from the north endI failed again this year to make my garden neat and tidy. It’s a jungle again. I feel like the tomatoes are more disorderly than ever and the cucumbers…well, let’s just say not thinning them out early on has created a tangle of rebellious vines that will not take the hint to stay in the plot. tiny edamame, plot 6But, growing in the jungle are teeny, tiny edamame…tiny green bean, plot 6…and the beginnings of a strong crop of green beans. huge daikon, plot 6 The daikon are almost done, but I pulled this huge guy last week and Naoto enjoyed it on Sunday night. first tomato of 2015, plot 6And I picked our first red tomato! It was a Sweet 100 and I shared it with Naoto. It was so sweet and juicy! I hope there are hundreds more in our future!

So far, we’ve harvested almost 15 ounces in radishes, peas, tomatoes, and lettuces. It’s just the beginning!

I hope to have some balcony* garden pictures next week. Some of my vining plants are finally starting to bloom and I think it’s my best summer out there yet!

How is your garden growing?

*I’ve begun calling the balcony the lanai as a nod to the Golden Girls.

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