Monthly Archives: August 2015

Oak Park Post Office 80th Anniversary Celebration

A quick reminder, if you live in the Oak Park, IL area and want to join in on the party for the Oak Park Post Office’s 80th Anniversary, it’s happening tomorrow, Saturday, August 29th, from 10am-2pm. There will be popcorn and giveaways and a tour of the gorgeous building and a special postmark…lots of postal fun. And regular postal business will be happening too, so buy some stamps, mail your packages, snag a passport or a money order. I’m furiously writing a stack of postcards to mail out tomorrow. Write, write, write! 

Inoda Coffee

Inoda Coffee and DessertInoda Coffee is another classic coffee shop in Japan. My sister-in-law, Hisae, took us there and then Naoto and I stopped in later for a quick cup of coffee and a snack after a long day of craft shopping. Inoda Coffee InteriorInoda has been around since the 1940s and when you visit, it feels like not much has changed since then. The shops feel very old-school and luxurious with comfy leather chairs, classic china, and impeccable service. The servers have omotenashi (Japanese hospitality) perfected with their polite, efficient service. There are no frappes, macchiatos, or mochas here. Though they do offer a latte and “coffee with ice cream”, most of the menu is devoted to different varieties of plain ol’ (but very delicious and strong!) coffee. Inoda Coffee, Kyoto, 3 cupsApparently, they will prepare your coffee with the perfect amount of cream and sugar. Back in the day the owner noticed that customers were lingering over their coffees, thinking or chatting with friends, and letting their coffee get cold before they had a chance to add the cream and sugar. Then the cream and sugar wouldn’t blend properly, making the coffee less enjoyable. So he decided that the staff should add the cream and sugar so the coffee could be enjoyed immediately without interrupting the customers’ thoughts and conversation. Inoda Coffee SignThere are several branches of Inoda all over Kyoto and we visited two of them, but not the “honten” (main branch). Next time!

If you want to learn more about Kyoto’s coffee culture, this episode of Core Kyoto is really good! They talk about Inoda and a few other local favorites. And while you’re on the NHK World website, this episode of Great Gear is super hokey, but it’s about the International Washoku (Japanese Cuisine) Show and some of the new food technology is really fun! (Both episodes are only available until September 2.)

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Kyoto, Part 1: Yasaka Shrine + Kiyomizu Temple

Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto, Japan

Yes, I am still posting about our three month old trip to Japan…

In between the Ramen Museum and the baseball game, Naoto and I took a bullet train to Kyoto. We’ve both traveled to Kyoto before–me for work in 2008 and him for a vacation in 1988–so we had done a lot of the touristy must-sees before. But we decided to do them all again, because, well, you can’t go to Kyoto and just eat and shop at the craft stores. (More on those later.) Naoto at shrineI really love Kyoto. It’s older, smaller, and much quieter than Tokyo. It felt like a nice break from the crushes of people and cars and trains in Tokyo. But, it was also a little bit weird. I felt like I was in a town of fellow tourists. I know that there are millions of tourists in Tokyo, but they must be drowned out by the sheer number of Japanese people living there. Or we don’t do enough touristy things in Tokyo? Naoto walking up to Kiyomizu TempleOn our first day, we knocked out some major tourist attractions. We went to Gion, the “Geisha District” of Kyoto and saw the Yasaka Shrine. (See the top two pictures…not a lot to say because “you’ve seen one shrine, you’ve seen them all”.) The we started the long, uphill stroll to the Kiyomizu Temple, which offers amazing views of Kyoto. cucumbers on a stick, Kiyomizu Temple, Kyoto Kiyomizu Temple, KyotoKiyomizu Temple viewOn the way up to the temple there are hundreds of little shops offering souvenirs and snacks (including cucumbers-on-a-stick!) and waving school children to keep you entertained. Oh, and tourists dressed in full kimono-wear are a common sighting all over Kyoto. For about $35 you can rent a kimono and have your hair and make-up done. (You couldn’t pay me $35 to walk around in a hot kimono and wooden flip flops.) views from Kiyomizu Temple views from Kiyomizu Temple kimberly and naoto, views from Kiyomizu TempleSelfie sticks were everywhere in Kyoto and several times we wished we had one. So many cut-off heads in our Kyoto pictures! Otowa waterfall at Kiyomizu TempleAt the end of the walk down from the Temple there is the Otowa waterfall. According to legend, if you make a wish and sip the water, your wish will come true. I did this when I visited in 2008 and my wish did come true. I sort of regret not waiting in line to make a new wish with Naoto. naoto eating kakigori, Kyoto, Kiyomizu Temple kimberly eating kakigori, Kyoto, Kiyomizu TempleOn the way back, we stopped at a little stand and shared a melon kakigori (shave ice–a must-eat when you are in Japan in the summer!). It was so refreshing on such a hot day! special Kyoto postmark at Kiyomizu TempleAs we were leaving the Temple, we happened upon a mobile post office!! (Now you know why I was so excited for the possibilities of a mobile post office here at home!) They were selling stamps and summer edition postcards and offering a special Kiyomizu Temple postmark! special Kyoto postmark at Kiyomizu TempleI had to write the postcards right then and there in order to get the fancy postmark, so I could only write a few since we were hot, tired, and hungry. But what wonderful serendipity to happen upon the Japan Post!

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Mrs. Roper Party

kaftans on the lania, Mrs. Roper Party guestsA few months ago on Twitter, I admitted that I was shopping for kaftans. I’ve been on a huge Three’s Company kick all summer, finding myself more interested in Mrs. Roper’s wardrobe than the storylines. If you’ve ever watched Three’s Company you know that every episode revolves around some sort of misunderstanding. But Mrs. Roper’s kaftans just keep getting better and better! The kaftans are so over-the-top fabulous and comfortable looking that I decided I needed one of my own. While I was deciding, we started chatting (on Twitter) about kaftans and Mrs. Roper and we all decided that we should get together and wear kaftans and lounge on the lanai. The Mrs. Roper Party was born.Zero bird Three's Company postcards, screen print I didn’t need to send invitations, but I had these fantastic Three’s Company theme song postcards from Zerobird Studio, so I sent them as little reminders about the party. crab dipcheese ballI had so much fun looking through old cookbooks and Pinterest for late 70s/early 80s recipes. For appetizers, Katie made crab dip, served on a groovy platter and I made a cheese ball, (I cut this recipe in half and used pimentos instead of green chiles and chopped cashews instead of pecans.) served with classic Ritz crackers. Peaches and Cream Jello MoldAnd I made a Jello mold! It wasn’t beautiful (My peach slices didn’t stay put and ended up floating around instead of making a pretty ring…rookie mistake) but it was delicious. And it was my first time using my vintage Tupperware mold and worked like a charm! For dinner we ate pineapple chicken (I used this recipe, but substituted canned pineapple for fresh, because 1970s…) and store bought fried chicken.Sidecar cocktail, Mrs. Roper PartyAs much as I wanted to stay on theme and make a Southern Comfort punch for the party, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, I made a classic cocktail, the Sidecar. (Thanks, Kathy, for the photo above!) I was going to serve Brandy Alexanders with dessert, but we finished the brandy thanks to bartender Naoto keeping our glasses constantly filled. chocolate fondue, 1970s fondue potWe had chocolate fondue for dessert. My parents gave me a vintage 1970s fondue pot and this was the first time I used it. (Fondue was so easy that I’m not sure why we don’t do it more often.)lanai, balcony lightsThe weather couldn’t have been more perfect for lanai lounging. My only regret is that we didn’t get a full-length picture of us all in our kaftans. Other than that, 1970s entertaining is easy living. Not only did I get to throw on a breezy kaftan, but I could have made most of the recipes out of my pantry. Normally I’m rushing around buying fresh produce and chopping fruits and vegetables for party recipes. This time, I opened cans and boxes–Jello, canned peached, canned pineapple, crackers…everything just got tossed together. 1970s hostessing is amazing!
eating 1970s party food, Mrs. Roper Party, kaftans in the kitchenThanks to Katie, Donovan, and Kathy for being up for a kaftan party and to Naoto for taking care of all of us Saturday night.

Next up…sometime in the future…a Golden Girls party complete with cheesecakes!

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Kings of the Keyboard at FitzGerald’s

FitzGeralds, Kings of the Keyboard cocktailsIt was such a great weekend around here! On Friday night, some friends and I went to FitzGerald’s to see Kings of the Keyboard, an event hosted by Chris Ligon and Heather McAdams, the same duo who put on the Everything But Country Calendar Show last year. Kings of the Keyboard hosts Heather McAdams and Chris LigonKings of the Keyboard, FitzGeralds night club, Heather McAdams artworkChris and Heather brought together a wide variety of amazing musicians: Daniel Souvigny, a fourteen year old piano genius, Chris Foreman, a famous organ player who plays at the Green Mill, Paul Lewis, pianist for the Joffrey Ballet, Charlie Pierce and Choctaw Wilfire, a honkey tonk band from Austin, Chris Ligon who played hilarious songs on the Baldwin Fun Machine, and Scott Ligon and the Letter 3 who are so much fun to listen to (and I promise I’m not biased as Scott is my friend’s husband).   Kings of the Keyboard, 16mm film stripEach act played a few songs and in between, Heather played an amazing collection of 16mm films of old keyboard acts. It was a non-stop cornucopia of entertainment!

I feel so lucky to live so close to FitzGerald’s.

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USPS Consumer Advisory Council Meeting 11

Oak Park Post Office, interiorOn Wednesday I attended our August meeting of the USPS Consumer Advisory Council. We spent most of the meeting recapping the Oak Park Farmers Market and planning for the 80th anniversary celebration next weekend.

The mobile post office made over $500 at the Farmers Market during its four hour stay! That was with the challenge of not being able to take credit cards (thanks to a broken generator and no access to power.) One of the concerns with the mobile post office was that it might hurt the business at the regular post office, but the main post office maintained its sales numbers. Because of this success, the USPS is planning to do more farmers markets and bring the mobile post office into the shopping areas of Oak Park, too. I suggested selling those stamped postcards and having a table for postcard writing near the mobile post office. It would be so great to see a mini letter social at the farmers market!

Plans are rolling along for the 80th anniversary celebration.  Press releases were sent to the local newspapers, though none have been printed or posted online yet. I’ve posted it below. The event will be happening next Saturday, August 29th from 10AM-2PM. There will be tours of the post office, including the second floor and the sorting room. (The committee got a tour of the sorting room a few months ago and it was fascinating to see how the mail and packages are sorted.) And there will be a display of old pictures from the ground breaking to the finished building. And…there will be a special postmark!! Woohoo! (I’m hoping to have a stack of mail ready to go!) If you live in the area, please come! USPS Press Release Oak Park, IL post office 80th anniversary celebration



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Mail Again, Mail Again, Jiggity Jig

outgoing mail August, #showandmail, #feedyourmailbox, mail artI’m finally making some progress in my mail pile! Over the weekend and each night this week, I’ve tried to tackle a letter or two. When I get behind, I always have high hopes of catching up in one sitting and then I get burnt out before even starting the first letter. (The same thing happens with cleaning–I have high hopes of cleaning the WHOLE apartment perfectly, then I just give up and don’t do anything.) Taking the pile one letter at a time has been a lot less stressful and way more productive! outgoing mail August, #showandmail, #feedyourmailbox, mail artI have a drawer in my desk that is dedicated to random paper scraps (used wrapping paper, junk mail, stickers, scraps, bits pen pals send me) to use for mail art. That drawer has gotten so stuffed that I couldn’t close it! So, I’ve decided that a “use it or lose it” policy needs to be put into effect. If I’m going to save something, I need to use it right away, even if that means making an envelope ahead of time. The colorful paisley paper has been around since 2014. It was wrapping paper from a gift Cath sent to me. It was really a joy to use on these envelopes. outgoing mail August, #showandmail, #feedyourmailbox, mail artThe green and white Japanese paper was from a gift Jess sent. I used it on her (late) thank you note and some other (late) thank you notes that day. outgoing mail August, #showandmail, #feedyourmailbox, mail artI’ve shared this before, but I always take an extra popcorn bag when I go to Rural King. I like to think of it as spreading the good word about my favorite farm equipment store. outgoing mail August, #showandmail, #feedyourmailbox, mail artI’ve barely made a dent in the map from the Letter Writers Alliance Mail Art Workshop kit. But at least I can close my drawer now…almost!

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Japan Does It Better 23: Line Drying Laundry

clothes drying outdoors in JapanIn Japan, it is common to see loads of laundry danging from balconies, billowing in the breeze. (Or in the winter, hanging stiff as a board.) It seems like everyone in Japan hangs out their laundry. It’s the complete opposite here in America. Hardly anyone hangs their clothes. Growing up, my mom had a giant clothesline that was always full in the summer. As a teenager, I would die of embarrassment at the thought of my underwear and bras on display in the back yard. But there really isn’t anything like putting on a shirt that’s been drying in the sun all day.

I know my mom is in the minority though, even in her small town that doesn’t scoff at “unsightly” clothing hanging in the backyard. Where I live, our condo association has rules against drying clothes on our balconies. (I’ve started breaking this rule a bit, putting small bits of laundry outside draped across a chair or on my drying rack. Unfortunately, I don’t have room to hang all of my laundry discreetly.) Most cities or associations have similar rules, making us slaves to our dryers. It’s sad for the environment, really. And I’m not really sure what’s so offensive about hanging laundry. clothes drying outdoors in JapanNaoto said his mom always preferred to hang out her laundry, especially the futon and other bedding, because the sun and cold air would kill the germs.

Because air drying the laundry is so common in Japan, they have the best little tools for doing it. From circular hangers for socks and lingerie, to heavy duty clamps for blankets and towels, and even cut cat-shaped pins, they have really perfected the art of laundry!

To see all of the Japan Does It Better (JDIB) series, go here.

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Fujishiro

Fujishiro in sangenjayaOn our last night in Japan, we finally ate ramen in a neighborhood shop. After our happy hour in Carrot Tower, we walked though the winding streets on a hunt for dinner. We found so many little ramen shops, but it was hard to choose which one would be tastiest. Fujishiro was tiny and crowded and it had recently been featured in a Tokyo magazine, so we figured it was good.Fujishiro in sangenjaya, ramen ticket, ramen in Tokyo We made our choices using the ramen ticket machine outside the shop and then we sat and waited on little stools outside for seats to open up inside. Fujishiro in sangenjaya, place settings, Tokyo ramen shops Fujishiro in sangenjaya, place settings, Tokyo ramen shopsOnce we got inside, Naoto gave our tickets to the guys behind the counter and they started making our ramen. One guy focused on the noodles, the broths, and the grilled meat and the other interacted with customers and built the bowls of ramen. Chopsticks, spoons, spices, and pitchers of water were on the counter so we could help ourselves. It was a no-frills kind of place. There were six other people filling the restaurant with us, mostly salary men, but also another couple enjoying noodles together. Fujishiro in sangenjaya, tonkotsu ramen, Tokyo ramen shops, fishcake Fujishiro in sangenjaya, tonkotsu ramen, Tokyo ramen shops I ordered the tonkotsu ramen. It had a meaty broth and nice, chewy noodles topped with pork, egg, scallions, nori (seaweed), and fishcake (that pink and white thing in the picture above). Simple, but delicious. Fujishiro in sangenja, shoyu ramen, Tokyo ramen shopsNaoto had the store special ramen*, ajitama ramen. It was similar to mine but it had two marinated soft boiled eggs (ajitama) in it. He enjoyed every bit of it and part of mine! It was the perfect end to our vacation!

*Ramen Tip: If you go to a local ramen shop that uses a ramen ticket machine, the shop’s special ramen will often be on the top left corner. It’s a fun way to try unique ingredients or preparations!


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Carrot Tower

Carrot Tower, SangenjayaContinuing our exploration of Sangenjaya…

We’ve walked by Carrot Tower a number of times without giving it much attention. It’s across from the Sangenjaya Post Office, it’s on a busy corner, it’s very tall…but it looked like an office building with a couple of street level shops. On our last day, Naoto wanted to go to a book store to get a magazine and a Kanji character dictionary, so we ventured in.

First though…how cute is the name? I learned from Wikipedia that it was named by local school children. The only thing that could make it better is if there were a carrot mascot greeting you at the door.

ambiance in Carrot TowerThe first floor is an open shopping area where you can buy Japanese pottery, stationery, souvenirs, pastries, flowers…I bought stationery. And the other floors are dedicated to the bookstore, a theater, and office space. But, at the very top, there’s a restaurant and an observation deck. We decided to go up to see what the observation deck was all about. The red carpet leads you to Sky Carrot, the restaurant and then the space to the right is the observation/banquet area. It was SO WEIRD! Some people were sitting quietly and reading. Others were chatting at tables. There was a small family with young children just hanging out. We saw vending machines and an ice cream freezer. ambiance in Carrot TowerKimberly & Naoto from Carrot TowerThen we ventured further and found the bar. It felt a little bit like a hotel bar with plush chairs and a few tables. There was a grand piano in the corner. And there were comfy seats facing the view, so we decided to stay awhile. The bar offered a few simple cocktails, beer and, and wine and it was so cheap! (¥500 for sparkling wine and even less for a beer!) view from Carrot Tower IMG_3769At twenty-six stories, Carrot Tower is no SkyTree, but the views were still pretty and it was fun to see Sangenjaya from a new perspective. Kimberly & Naoto from Carrot TowerCheers from the Carrot!

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