Category Archives: Chicago

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Strings Ramen

After origami, we realized we were within walking distance of Strings Ramen. Strings is often voted the best ramen in the city, and it’s been on our list forever. The original Strings is in Chinatown, and I’d still like to try that shop, but this was a closer choice on origami night.

I got the miso ramen, and it was tasty, but it fell short of the “best ramen in Chicago” for me. I’ve preferred bowls at Furious Spoon and Ramen-San. It was good, but the noodles weren’t as good as those other spots. Naoto got the tonkotsu ramen and he felt the same. We both loved the gyoza though! When we visit the Chinatown shop, we will definitely be starting with that appetizer again!

The shop was tiny, and I loved the Japanese bench style seating. We didn’t get drinks (because Naoto was driving and I had drinks at the origami class) so we just had water. (I don’t think they offer alcohol, at least not at this location.) But ramen was the perfect ending for the night, especially since it was one of the first really chilly days of the fall. Looking forward to more ramen season adventures!

Tagged , ,

Origami at Konbini & Kanpai

Last month, Naoto and I joined a Halloween origami class at Konbini & Kampai, a Japanese liquor/convenience store in Chicago. It was hosted by Ty Yamamoto and the Japanese Cultural Center. We have been wanting to visit Konbini and Kampai for so long, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.

We learned how to fold a ghost and a bat, and thanks to this super-strong (but delicious!) bottled Manhattan, I was terrible at both! Thankfully we had someone at our table who was an expert and could walk us through a couple of the harder steps.

Konbini & Kanpai has so many unique beer offerings, and they have an amazing wine selection, interesting canned cocktails, and offer sips of bottled spirits from Japan and other places. Naoto had so much fun shopping and making himself a little 6-pack of weird beers to take home.

They also have a nice selection of Japanese snacks, and I would highly recommend the corn soup crunchy triangles to go with your bottled Manhattan.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering why Ty has a purple nose and a panda was helping Naoto at the coolers, costumes were highly encouraged! So, we dressed up as Ina Garden and Jeffrey! (The whisk really sold it!)

The origami workshops are a monthly thing, so we’re hoping to attend another one in the future. If you’re in the area, maybe we’ll see you there!

Tagged , , ,

Stationery Store Day

Did you know Saturday was the very first Stationery Store Day? (Is Stationery Store Day a totally made up holiday? Yes. But so was Book Store Day and Record Store Day, so, why can’t paper sellers and fans have a day, too?)

When I saw that A. Favorite Design was a participating shop, I decided this was my chance to finally get up to the north side to see the shop. I’ve purchased things from them each year at Show of Hands, but I’ve never been to their shop.

In a total blogging fail, I didn’t take any pictures inside the shop. I haven’t been stationery shopping in so long–since we went to Japan in 2020! I was relishing every moment! Most of their offerings are their own letterpress designs, but they have a fun selection of vintage postcards, stationery, and wrapping paper, and they have other paper and desk offerings as well.

As you can see, I found plenty of treasures! I picked out some vintage advertising stationery (which I can’t wait to feed into my typewriter for a letter soon), some letterpress “Dennison label” cards, “Dennison Label” paper tape, vintage Chicago postcards, mail stickers, my new favorite pens, some greeting cards, a vintage ephemera and office supply letter set, a “Down the hatch” sticker, and (underneath it all) a sheet of vintage vegetable wrapping paper.

And, the picture at the top shows the Stationery Store Day freebies–a letterpress print I pulled myself, a Stationery Store Day bag and postcard, and a A. Favorite Design birthday card. (How great is that Etch A Sketch?!)

Before we went shopping, we stopped at Spinning J’s for brunch and pie.

I had a BLT, a strawberry rhubarb phosphate, and the key lime hibiscus pie with blueberry compote. (This is the meal I would recommend to anyone trying Spinning J’s for the first time, though their tuna melt is also excellent. Really…you just can’t go wrong with their menu!)

I brought out my letter purse that Naoto gave me last winter. It was the perfect accessory for the occasion! And, you can pencil in the next Stationery Store Day–August 5, 2023!

Tagged , , , , ,

Cherry Blossoms in Chicago

Cherry blossom season is almost over in Chicago, and while we didn’t have perfect timing, we did make it down to Jackson Park in time to see some blooms! Cherry blossoms are fairly new to the city. 2020 was the first year the trees were set to bloom, but we all know what happened in spring of 2020–everything was shut down and the parks were closed. Then last year, Naoto and I went down, but we both forgot our masks at home and it was super awkward because everyone in the park was wearing masks. (Now we know that it was probably ok, but at the time we felt so guilty!) We also pretty much missed full bloom.

This year, I watched Twitter and Instagram like a hawk so we could get down there in time to catch the blooms. It’s so difficult to plan around the blooming season, especially with unpredictable weather and work schedules getting in the way. When we both had a Tuesday afternoon free, we decided that would be the day. All of the trees weren’t in bloom and it was freezing cold, but we got to see the early bloomers and it was a gorgeous sunny day and the park was really quiet, so no regrets.

Someday, we hope to actually have hanami under Chicago’s blooms. (I’d also settle for hanami in Japan…)

This is in the Garden of the Phoenix within Jackson Park. There’s a gorgeous gate that you can enter and walk around a koi pond with a waterfall and bridge. There are hellebores and azalea and other spring blooms around the garden, but only the hellebores were blooming when we went. We have decided that we need to go again in May to see what other flowers we can find.

Just outside the gate, you’ll find this sculpture by Yoko Ono. Named Sky Landing, it was placed on the site of the Japanese Pavillion from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition and is a symbol of peace, according to Ono.

Spring has been really cold, rainy, windy, and pretty miserable, so I am grateful we made it. Hopefully it will warm up soon and we can enjoy our own garden a bit!

Tagged , , , , , ,

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Furious Spoon Ramen Class at Home

Furious Ramen take home ramen kitOur 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. asahi beer and empress cocktailSo 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.

 

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

Compex 2019

Earlier this month, Naoto and I attended COMPEX 2019. We attended last year, and I went alone the year before and it is one of my favorite events of the year. The bourse consists of stamp and postcard sellers from all over the country. Almost everyone is super friendly and helpful, even if you’re not a stamp expert.  Because I’m not a rare stamp collector, it was a little intimidating when I first attended because I didn’t feel like I was really there for the “right” reasons. I was just attending to find vintage postage stamps I could use on my mail. But I quickly got over the intimidation because everyone was so nice and helpful and really, the show is all about getting stamp collectors together, no matter what kind of collector they are. I always visit the Stamp King because he sells full sheets, partial sheets (for when you don’t want to commit to a full sheet,) and even mixed bags of stamps. He’s also a local stamp celebrity. There’s a seller who has boxes and boxes of first day covers and random postcards where I can always find a few gems. This year, I found some pre-stamped postcards and first day covers of some of my favorite stamps. Naoto found the book stamps (top left corner) for me…he’s such an enabler! The first time I went to COMPEX, I made the mistake of buying a ton of low value sheets, so now I have a ton of one, two, and three-cent stamps. Last year, I decided I’d better buy some higher value stamps so that I didn’t have to put twenty-five different stamps on an envelope to make fifty-five cents. I got a nice mix this time, and now I need to use them up, and maybe make some stamp packs to sell in the shop, because my collection is growing out of control. It’s hard to break up a pristine vintage stamp sheet, but once I do, it feels so fun to use them up.

I didn’t take any pictures, but there are also exhibits of stamp-related things, usually by theme. And there are meetings for local philatelic groups and a table for young/new stamp collectors. The audience at COMPEX definitely skews a little bit older (and male, and white…) but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for the rest of us!

P.S. I just need to point out that it was Naoto’s idea to wear his Mr. Zip t-shirt to COMPEX…I love a man who appreciates a theme!

 

Tagged , , , , , , ,

13th Anniversary

Naoto and I celebrated our 13th anniversary on Sunday. It was such a perfect weather day–60s and sunny. spent the morning on the balcony opening our gifts and drinking coffee and then we went to the West Loop for brunch. Three cheers for our gift wrapping this year! Naoto’s gift came in a huge box, so I had to use roll wrap for it. I was able to fold some tucks into the wrapping so I had a little pocket for the wooden card I gave him. And Naoto used this lovely gold and yellow handmade paper for my gifts. He’s come a long way in his wrapping skills. The thirteenth anniversary gifts are textile and lace. I gave Naoto a pillow made with Japanese sashiko fabric. I think he really liked it. And he gave me an Irish table runner and some Irish tea, Barry’s Black, (which Presley’s head is conveniently blocking above.) We went to Saint Lou’s Assembly for brunch. We got there just as the kitchen was closing, so we were able to squeeze in our order and then enjoy leisurely cocktails and peanut butter & jelly soft serve after our meal. The cocktails were amazing, and the atmosphere was very casual and fun. We are looking forward to going back for dinner and frosé outside once the weather warms up again. After brunch, we stopped in Open Books right across the street. (Naoto was very into this Edward Hopper book.)Since we ate such a late lunch and didn’t want to venture out again, we made a mini cheese platter for ourselves and had a little happy hour on the newly lit balcony instead of going out to dinner. We drank yuzu & soda cocktails and finished out the day wrapped in blankets. I’m so thankful for such a gorgeous day, and for thirteen years with this guy.

 

Tagged , , , , , ,

April in Chicago in April

My pen pal, April, and her partner Geof were in town this month for a visit. They live in New Zealand and April is a huge fan of Presley so she stops in to see her when she’s in town. And, we always go to Greer when she visits. It’s so fun to shop in Greer with someone else who loooooves stationery and fancy office supplies as much as I do. We were the only customers in the shop while we were there, but you’d never know it as much as we were chattering about Mr. Boddington’s great style, vintage pencils, the many, many notebooks we have in our stashes, and the great variety of greeting cards at Greer. mr. boddington's stationery, pencil case, vintage pencil, Mr. Boddington's pencil stationery Naoto gave me a gift card to Greer for Christmas and this was the first chance I had to spend it. I still have some money left to spend again, but I this time I chose some Mr. Boddington’s pencil-themed stationery, a vintage pencil, and a new pencil bag. (Neither the vintage pencil nor the pencil bag are available online.)We also went to Quimby’s to look at zines and take pictures in the photo booth. (I can never pass up a photo booth.)April and Geof were in town for Record Store Day and they shopped a lot of the record stores in Chicago, so we took them to Val’s Halla and Old School Records in our neighborhood. Val’s had live music which really put me in the mood to shop. On their last day in Chicago, it snowed six inches, so our plans were adjusted. We ended up going shopping and to Portillo’s for Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beefs. Weirdly, we didn’t write any letters together this time, but there’s always next year!

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Ramen Takeya

The day we went to the taping of the Very Serious Crafts Podcast was cold and snowy, so we decided to stop in the West Loop for some ramen. We went to Ramen Takeya, a sister restaurant of one of the best rated ramen shops in the city, Wasabi. We haven’t been able to get up to Wasabi yet, but Ramen Takeya specializes in chicken broth ramen, which seemed interesting. Plus we have quite a few friends who don’t eat pork, so we figured we’d do some ramen research for them!

We got to the restaurant a little before they opened, so we had a chance to scope out the menu outside in the snow. When we got inside, we were barely greeted and I just had a bad feeling about the whole thing. (Basically, the host–who also was our server–tossed our menus on a table and walked away while we were still at the front of the restaurant.) The shop was decorated with old metal Japanese signs and advertisements, including an old Japan Post sign. I just loved the “old Japan” feeling of the place! We ordered drinks, a beer for Naoto and a lychee cocktail for me. The drinks were good, and so were the buns (pictured above.) But the service continued to be…cold. I got the Osaka Shio ramen, which has both pork and chicken broth. It was good. I enjoyed most of the toppings and the noodles, but I felt like the pork was extra fatty (which I know some people love, I’m just not one of them.) I also got buttered corn as an add-on, which would have been delicious if it didn’t come freezing cold. Naoto ordered the Chicken Paitan Ramen with fried garlic as an add-on topping. He really enjoyed his bowl (and half of mine!)

At the end of our meal, we weren’t offered another cocktail, or water, or dessert, or any sort of friendliness, so we just paid our check and left…which seems like all they wanted anyway. I feel bad writing a negative post, but man, customer service is important…especially when there are so many ramen restaurants in Chicago. And I think our experience was just so shocking for us because the West Loop has so many great places to eat and we’ve always had stellar service in that neighborhood.  On the way home, I checked Yelp and all of the negative reviews mentioned the service and most of those people had our server, so…apparently no one at Ramen Takeya cares enough to give this dude some feedback. So, all-in-all, we’re glad we tried it, but a second visit isn’t in our plans. (Sorry to be a Debbie Downer today!)

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Very Serious Crafts Podcast

serious crafts podcast live taping, harold washington libraryMollie is the first “internet friend” I ever met. I went to a little stitching meet-up for her Wild Olive blog readers back in 2011 and we’ve seen each other a few other times over the years and obviously have kept up over social media. She and two other professional crafters (Haley Pierson-Cox and Heidi Gustad) host the Very Serious Crafts Podcast. I’m an occasional listener, so when they announced a live taping at Chicago’s Harold Washington Library, I signed up to go.During the podcast, the hosts talked about vintage crafts and what books got them started in crafting. They each passed around vintage crafts and supplies, including this kooky hairy couple and weirdly sweet kitty. There was also a terrifying clown made out of fabric yo-yos (sorry Mollie!) and some vintage needle books.

At the end, we each made a coffee cup sleeve using various techniques. I embroidered for the first time in a long time and it was pretty fun, even though my stitches were uneven and imperfect. I think I need to find my embroidery supplies and start making again!

They tape the podcasts in advance so I’ll let you know when it is live in case you want to listen in! Do you have any podcasts you listen to regularly?

 

P.S. Speaking of podcasts…Naoto still hasn’t posted his…

Tagged , , , , ,