Happy Anniversary to this guy, who sometimes feels like a third wheel with Presley and me. Life wouldn’t be the same if you hadn’t stopped by my table on that fateful Wednesday evening at the Daily Grind. I’m so grateful for every single day.
Last week I hosted a spring tea for Peggy’s birthday. Our weather has been so cold and rainy so it was a bummer that we couldn’t sit on the back deck but we made do inside. I bought this vintage tablecloth on eBay and it arrived just in time to be washed and ready to go!
I used the blue dishes Karen gave me for my birthday and added these strawberry & butterfly dishes that Peggy gave me. The butterfly glasses were also a gift from a book club member who moved away.
Karen, Susan, and I made the food. We ate ham salad and cucumber tea sandwiches, Helen Corbitt’s chicken salad, fruit salad, and scones with whipped cream and strawberry jam. I made May Day cocktails—I’ll share the recipe soon! They are so perfect for spring!
For dessert, we had petit fours from the Forest Park Bakery. They were such a fun treat and made a pretty addition to the table.
It’s so nice to be hosting again and I always love using my vintage treasures. Hopefully more tiny parties can continue through the spring and summer. I’ve missed them.
February was our book club’s 20th anniversary. Because of Covid numbers, we waited to celebrate together in March with a 1920s party. (You can read more about why we chose a 1920’s theme on this post that talks more about the history of the group.) Sadly we were missing Virginia, who is only one of two original members still with the group, but we had a great time and really landed the theme!
Susan decorated the table with many old copies of books we’ve read. It was so fun to reminisce about each book–it’s also amazing how many we forget reading! We ate tea sandwiches, Waldorf salad, stuffed celery, relishes, deviled eggs, pineapple upside down cake, chocolate phosphates, and Southside cocktails.
We read Richard Wright’s The Man Who Lived Underground, which was written in between his novels Native Son and Black Boy in the 1940s, but not printed until last year. It was a really good, but really tough book.
I’m so thankful for this group and for a chance to talk about old books.
The Winter Olympics are here! We haven’t missed hosting an Olympics party since London (though I didn’t blog about last summer’s outdoor affair) so we are back at it again on Friday for the Opening Ceremonies. We ordering Chinese food and it wouldn’t be a party without a signature cocktail!
I wanted our drink to be gold and glittery so I ordered edible cocktail glitter from Brew Glitter. (It’s a shockingly tiny jar for $10, but a little goes a long way! Each jar is supposed to provide enough glitter for 20+ cocktails.)
It’s very hard to capture the glitteriness in a photograph, but I promise, in person it’s gorgeous!
Going for Gold
0.5oz dry curaçao or triple sec
0.5oz fresh lemon juice
tiny pinch of cocktail glitter
Add everything to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe and enjoy while watching the Parade of Nations or bobsledding.
We’ve been laying low this month since Covid numbers are up and several close calls have been had. To entertain ourselves last weekend, we had a little tiki night for two. You may remember our Fondue Fun Fest and our Hasegawa Supper Club from 2020–this was like that but so much easier since we took some help from take-out this time!
We re-used decorations and our playlist from a past tiki party. It was pretty low-effort, I admit, but it really did give us something to look forward to. I love party planning and trying new cocktails, which is something I’ve really missed during the whole pandemic.
I got some craft orgeat for Christmas so I’ve been trying to use it up in cocktails I don’t get to make often. (I have made my own orgeat before, but I always end up with lots of leftover ingredients that go to waste.) So, we started out with Mai Tais before we realized that we didn’t have enough rum to make a second round of rum cocktails. (We hardly ever drink rum…we’ve had the same bottles for almost 10 years! Very excited to try something new soon!) I turned to the internet for some other ideas and found this recipe for Inside the Suns. It was as if the internet took a look at the back of my liquor cabinet and threw together some neglected bottles into a very tasty drink.
For our dinner, we made Pioneer Woman’s cashew chicken and we got fried rice and crab rangoon from a local Chinese restaurant. Now, I know what you’re thinking…”Isn’t this just Chinese food with tiki drinks?” I’ll leave you with this fascinating story that explains the connection.
Happy birthday to this guy, who keeps us all together and fed and laughing and loved every day. In true Naoto fashion, he is working all day, but hopefully we can make up for it with a fancy sushi dinner tomorrow. ❤️
Over July 4th weekend, Naoto and I went all out for a fondue feast. I’ve been wanting to have fondue for awhile now, and at the beginning of the pandemic, I made it one of our stay-at-home goals…who knew at the time we’d have so much time to accomplish that list!
(Try to ignore Naoto’s hair here…it’s even longer and more epic now!) Randomly, we own three fondue pots. I received the metal one for a Christmas gift in college and then learned cheese works better in ceramic, so I bought the ceramic one at Marshall Fields (RIP) almost twenty years ago. And my parents found the burnt orange 70s model at a thrift shop. So we figured we’d break out alllll the pots for our three course fondue fest.
We started with traditional Swiss fondue. I have (had?) a fondue cookbook but I couldn’t find it in time for the fest, so we relied on Food & Wine for the recipe. (We halved the recipe since there were only two of us which was more than enough and included leftovers.) We made the fondue in the pot, adding the cheese slowly and stirring often. It worked like a charm! (We learned our lesson the last time we had fondue…seven years ago!)
We had bread, carrots, potatoes, and broccoli for dipping. I can’t believe we forgot apples and pretzels for this round!
After we’d had enough cheese (yes, there is such a thing!) we started preparing the main course–meat and vegetables.
For the main course, we used this recipe for a broth fondue. We built the broth in the pot and let it come to a boil slowly. We found this was a nice way to pace ourselves…
We were going to do a few kinds of meat and vegetables, but we ended up just going with steak…next time I would add shrimp or chicken for some variety. (We were afraid of having too much food!) With the steak, we had carrots, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, and mushrooms.
We ended up making little shish-ka-bobs, mixing meat and vegetables together on the same fork.
My favorite combination was steak + carrot + zucchini dipped in ponzu sauce. Fondue sauces are a great part of the experience and next time we’d like to experiment with more. I have to say though…the ponzu was the perfect citrusy balance to the meats and vegetables.
For the dessert round, I mixed up some Brandy Alexanders while Naoto prepped the fondue ingredients. It was a very indulgent evening!
For the chocolate fondue, we used this recipe and we made it on the double broiler on the stove before we transferred it into the fondue pot. We dipped strawberries, bananas, brioche, marshmallows, and pretzels. I had to blow out the flame after a few minutes because the pot got too hot and the chocolate was burning, so we need to find a better heating element for the chocolate fondue next time! Maybe just a little tea light? It took three days of soaking to get the pot clean!
It was such a fun project to plan and to execute. I’m really missing hosting parties and it might seem silly to make a big to-do on a regular ol’ Sunday night, but I found it such a great distraction. I love a good theme party and why not throw one just for ourselves? Oh, and it was a perfect excuse to wear my kaftan and bask in the 1970s for the evening. (P.S. We used these forks from our coffee shop pal, Madonna.)
Cheers to more celebrations this summer.
Our anniversary was June 2 and we were both bummed we couldn’t go out to dinner. Well, we could…Illinois is technically open for outdoor dining (and indoor as of today) but neither of us feel comfortable with that option yet. So when I saw that Furious Spoon is offering virtual ramen classes, I decided that would be a fun way to celebrate. The class came with a ramen kit with everything we needed to make two servings of pork and mushroom ramen at home. So we mixed a drink (this one!) and opened a Japanese beer and followed along on Instagram. I’m sure you’ve guessed (as much as I look like I’m paying close attention up there,) Naoto did most of the work, but I helped with the broth. Speaking of the broth…I know it doesn’t look super appetizing but it was interesting to see it come together. Real ramen broth takes hours and often uses bone-in pork, but this is a quick ramen broth made with ground pork, mushrooms, scallions, garlic, and some other things. I think it simmered for about forty minutes. I really enjoyed the ramen, but it’s hard to duplicate that taste of a long-simmered broth.Here’s the finished product–I need to work on my ramen plating, and also, we need some official ramen bowls if we want to make homemade ramen on a regular basis. The chashu (braised pork) was amaaaazing–the marinade was really tasty and Naoto cooked it perfectly. And Furious Spoon’s noodles (made in-house) are really good, holding up perfectly in the hot broth, even with a slow eater like me. Have you watched Never Have I Ever? Don’t you think Chef Shin gives off Paxton Hall-Yoshida vibes? I thought having the class on Instagram would be weird, but it ended up being great. We could ask questions and interact through the comments and we were even able to stay on track with cooking. Our ramen finished maybe five minutes after the end of the class–perfect timing for eating together for our anniversary.
For the past several months, our library has been under construction and finally, last month, it was officially re-opened. There was a huge celebration with food and activities and Shelly the Library Turtle. The library, in its current form, had been around since 1995 so some changes were due. They moved offices downstairs and opened the main floor up so the patrons could enjoy the light and they built study rooms for patrons who need a quiet space to work and community rooms for programming. They also gave the carpeting and furniture a face lift. We were clearly there to see Shelly the Library Turtle. Oh, and the cupcakes.
Almost 600 people came to the library re-opening party, which is pretty amazing in a town of 15,000. I’m super excited that regular programming is back at the library. I’ve gone to small business planning workshops, cooking demos, a yogurt making workshop, screen and block printing workshops, letter writing meet-ups, and so many other great programs there.
Does your library have great programming? I always love to hear what other libraries are doing. If you don’t go to events at your library, goooo! It’s a fun, free way to get out into the community and to support your local library so they can continue providing great services and events. And really, how many things are free these days? (I know, I know…we pay for it with our taxes, which is all the more reason to use the library!)
P.S. I still have quite a few Japan posts in the works so we’ll return to those soon!
We celebrated Naoto’s birthday in Japan on January 5th. I found this local craft cocktail bar, Bar Lariat, in “our neighborhood” near our usual hotel and I insisted we try it. Five years ago, we went to Mixology near Tokyo Station and we had a great time…all the time not knowing that this tiny gem of a bar was within walking distance of our hotel! There is no menu. You just let the bartender know what kind of drink you’re in the mood for and he creates something for you. I will admit that this kind of stressed me out. I didn’t want to drink something terrible…but it turns out, the bartender is a great listener and he hit it out of the ballpark all night! With our first cocktail, we were given this little amuse-bouche, cheese and a dried apricot. To start, Naoto ordered something like a Moscow Mule. And I requested something bright and gin based. The bartender muddled a ginko with gin and some other mixers and I was handed a refreshing, delicious cocktail. When Naoto told me a ginko would be part of my drink, I was scared. Have you ever smelled a ginko tree? It’s not good! But the fruit was really delicious! Kind of sweet and orangey? For his second drink, Naoto had a vodka and kumquat. I finished the night with a yuzu cocktail. Everything about this drink, and especially the delicate chilled glass, was perfection. I felt so fancy drinking here! Naoto had a coffee liquor drink for dessert. We definitely want to go back on our next visit. The bar only has ten seats and it’s dark and cozy inside. The owner, Masahiro-San, is an expert in his craft and he really creates a relaxing ambiance in his shop. Thanks to him, we ended Naoto’s birthday on a high note!