Letter Writing Presentation with Lake Villa District Library

Have you been celebrating National Card & Letter Writing Month? I’ve been trying to work through my to-be-returned pile and get back into the habit of writing, but I’m a little bit behind my goal. I’m determined to finish strong next week!

Tonight I’m joining the Lake Villa District Library for a discussion about letter writing. It’s an online session and if you’re interested in joining us, here’s the link.

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Cocktail Perfected: Clover Club

I’ve been working on an egg project, so it’s only fitting that I added an egg cocktail to my repertoire. I’ve never made a proper Clover Club with the egg white foam on top before and it was time I tried! I can’t believe I waited so long!

The Clover Club

2oz gin
0.5oz lemon juice
0.5oz raspberry syrup
1 egg white (or 3T of egg whites from a carton)
fresh raspberries for garnish

First, make your raspberry syrup. In a pot, add one cup of sugar and a half cup of water. Heat until sugar is fully dissolved. Reduce heat and add a half cup (or more for a stronger raspberry flavor) of fresh raspberries. Smash your raspberries as they heat up. Remove from heat and let your mixture stand for a few minutes before straining out the seeds with a fine mesh strainer. Chill before using.

To make the cocktail, add your ingredients to an empty cocktail shaker and dry shake (without ice) for about 20 seconds to fluff up the egg whites. Then, pause to add ice. Shake until fully chilled (>15 seconds) and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with three fresh raspberries. Enjoy while painstakingly covering hallowed out eggs with Japanese papers.

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February 2022 Books

February flew by and so did its books!

If Winter Comes by A.S.M. Hutchinson
This was our book club pick for our 20th anniversary. It was the #1 best seller in 1922 and for most of the book, you are kind of left wondering why. Not much happens, except you watch an unhappy marriage slowly fall apart. But in the last section, all the drama hits the ceiling and then you understand why it sold so well. I personally love a book with some marital strife so I loved this book, from start to finish. Reviews in our group were mixed.

The Cocktail Party by T.S. Eilliot
This is a play about an unhappy marriage. (Fun accidental theme for February?!) There are eccentric characters, therapy sessions, lots of cocktails and conversation. I loved it.

How to Carry Water by Lucille Clifton
This was my introduction to Clifton and I loved her work. Some of my favorites were “note to myself,” “new year,” “cigarettes,” “shapeshifter poems,” and “November 1, 1975.” I don’t read enough poetry.

All the Days and Nights by William Maxwell
I still have a couple of stories to finish but I had to return it to the library, so stay tuned for a final review when I get the book back. I have been trying to go through these stories slowly. Sometimes I tend to rush short stories and then I miss out on the enjoyment they can bring. Maxwell’s stories and books are made for lingering…so that’s what I’ll do.

Month by Month Gardening in Illinois
This was supposed to motivate me to plant some seeds and get a grow light set up in the basement. So far, it hasn’t worked. I did, however, buy a bunch of seeds and tubers to plant as soon as the threats of snow and frost are over…which at this rate, will be May.

March was a slower reading month for me, so expect a full report on that soon…ish! Tell me what you’ve been reading!

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New Vintage Linens

This winter I fell down the eBay rabbit hole and landed in the vintage linens. It started with a search for some dainty, plain cocktail napkins and then I quickly veered into the Vera options. Her designs are so bright and colorful and cheerful which is just what I needed in January when things were gloomy and the pandemic was raging again. The napkins gave me some hope that I’ll be able to host a spring garden party someday soon…

I ended up getting the cream linen napkins with the crocheted trim on eBay. I got the unbranded turquoise and the Vera strawberry ones on Etsy from a seller who specializes in vintage linens. (Those came in acid-free paper and really felt like a gift to myself.)

I wasn’t able to host a garden party, but I did host a small dinner party with a few friends last week. I used my turquoise napkins for our appetizers and the cream linen ones with dinner. It was fun to set the table again! I even starched the napkins because who doesn’t love crisp linen? (Plus I couldn’t get them smooth enough without a little starch!)

I asked Naoto to pick up some pink flowers and he chose these orangey carnations. (I know carnations get a terrible rap, but I really love them! Their fluttery petals are so pretty!) The color ended up working perfectly with these paper placemats from Japan. (I have a few different sets of these that I need to use up!) And the placemats worked with the vintage pink runner I had on the table. (The pink of the candles didn’t really work but hey, it was close enough for a Thursday night!)

For dinner, I made this Smitten Kitchen dish. It was so easy and really tasty! Plus it’s one of those dishes that takes little effort to prep and kind of does it’s thing until you take it out of the oven–low maintenance so you can enjoy your friends without being stuck in the kitchen. I haven’t cooked in so long and I was very nervous about it working out, but it all worked out. Whew!

It’s been so nice having people in our house! Last month we had our Olympics party, a little ramen dinner party, and this dinner party. It’s made us really want to get the kitchen remodeling done (hopefully this year!) but otherwise, we really like entertaining here. It’s nice to be fully living in our house after almost a year of being here!

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The Beijing Bobsled

The Olympics are flying by like a bobsled on a fresh track, so I thought I’d make another cocktail to drink while I watch the wildly unfair women’s figure skating events this week. This is a variation of a gin rickey, with the addition of lychee liqueur. It’s refreshing, like the monobob.

Beijing Bobsled

2oz gin
1oz lychee liqueur
0.75oz lime juice (freshly squeezed!)
club soda

Add gin, lychee liqueur, and lime juice to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake to chill and combine and strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and garnish with a lime wheel and lychee fruit. Enjoy from your warm, comfy couch while you watch amazing athletes competing in the freezing cold.

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Presley’s Valentines

This year, we sent Valentines from our cat to everyone on our Valentine list. (Unlike in 2016 when we just sent them to a few of Presley’s favorite fans.) I wanted to send a bunch of little Valentines this year, and I didn’t have anything in my stash that would work. (Also, confession–I think I have an old Paper Source Valentine kit somewhere…but I don’t know where.) I decided to see what Walgreens had in terms of photo cards and I found this design. They are basically a 3×8 photo card that is designed to be cut into classroom Valentines. I chose a serious Presley, a sweet Presley, and a family picture from last spring, sent them off and they were ready in less that thirty minutes.

I used 4bar envelopes from my stash, and some I made last year, and had fun playing with postage stamps. I am very tired of my love stamp selections, so I need to make a point to find something better at the next stamp show. (Also, I regret not buying more of the monster stamps–they are super fun to play with since they come with little accessories in the selvage.)

It felt good to make some mail again. Next up, Olympics mail!

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Origami Heart Valentines

Last year I taught a Valentine workshop online with the Forest Park Public Library. These origami hearts were some of my favorites. They are super easy to learn and they’re so versatile! You can tuck them in with a letter or a card or you can use them to build your own DIY Valentine.

I used this short video to learn the folds:

I folded a ton of hearts to prepare for the class. I used some thin, cheap origami paper and also some really fancy washi, like this purple one above. (Can you see all of the fibers in the washi paper?) Washi makes really dreamy hearts, but the thinner stuff is easier to work with, especially if you’re folding with kids.

For some of the Valentines, I tucked a little message inside the front where the two halves split. I just used thin strips of scrap paper leftover from another project.

I don’t have a better picture of the origami heart card I made because I mailed it last year! But if you wanted to send something more substantial than a tiny origami heart, you could always glue it to a fold-over card. I made a little banner for my message and adhered it with foam squares for some dimension.

I had most of these hearts packed away from last year since we were closing on the house and packing up to put our condo on the market. It felt good to find them again and release them into the mail world along with my cards for this year.

Have you sent any Valentines out this year?

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Going for Gold Cocktail

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

2oz gin
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.

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January 2022 Books

The pandemic has killed my concentration, so reading has been a challenge. In 2020 and 2021, I mostly just read for book club and not much more. January was a really good reading month for me, so hopefully I’ve broken the spell! I also signed up for a winter reading challenge at the Forest Park Public Library. It involves reading twenty minutes a day, which is the perfect amount to stay in the habit, and just enough if I have to read before bed to get my minutes in.

The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe
Our January book club read was The Best of Everything. It was a really good discussion book but not my favorite read. It’s billed as the “Sex and the City of the 1950s” and that’s probably a good description. I didn’t love how each girl fit into a stereotypical box, but it definitely gave a good perspective of the single girl life back then and the cocktail scenes were wild.

My Mortal Enemy by Willa Cather
Willa Cather’s My Mortal Enemy entered the public domain this year so it caught my attention. It’s a short book, and it’s heartbreakingly beautiful. Without giving too much away, it shows a marriage from the outside and the inside and how it changes over time. The book is titled perfectly. Cather is a book club favorite.

The Lazy Genius Way by Kendra Adachi
The Lazy Genius Way is a self help book and it’s fine. I guess I just prefer following Kendra Adachi on Instagram and her podcast for my self help needs. There are a lot of good tips in the book, especially for parents. And I always appreciate her message that you get to decide what’s important for you.

Edmonia Lewis: Wildfire in Marble by Rinna Evelyn Wolfe
Have you seen the new Edmonia Lewis stamps? I was super excited to order them because her story has a fascinating Forest Park connection (which you can read about here!) Her famous work, The Death of Cleopatra, used to sit at the Forest Park Amusement Park and was found years later in a storage yard in Cicero, Illinois before it made its way to the Smithsonian! I wanted to learn more about her, and this book was an easy introduction to her.

I’m not quite done with Lucille Clifton and William Maxwell but they’re due next week so I wanted to include them in my stacks. I’ve been dipping into Clifton’s poetry after work and Maxwell’s short stories before bed and both have been lovely ways to pass the time. (If you’ve been around long enough you know Maxwell is one of my all-time favorites.)

Have you been reading anything good lately?

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Cocktail Perfected: Pegu Club

Last week, Naoto made a Pegu Club and…it was not my favorite. We’ve made Pegu Clubs before and I love them so I was confused. I asked him what he had used and among the usual ingredients was…Marie Brizard’s curaçao. The recipe did call for curaçao, but poor Marie has been sitting in the back of the liquor cabinet for awhile now because she is my least favorite orange liqueur. I can’t remember why we bought her, but I know that we will choose almost any other curaçao, orange liqueur, or triple sec instead of Marie.

We made another Pegu Club, this time with Pierre Ferrand, one of my favorite cocktail ingredients. Pierre Ferrand is dry curaçao and added a little bit of complexity to the Pegu Club. Pierre is not too sweet and has a unique orange flavor.

So, last week, I made it my goal to test out all of our triple secs and curaçao to see which one is the best in the Pegu Club. (I knew it was going to be Pierre Ferrand.) I reported my results on Twitter over the course of ten days. It wasn’t a super scientific test, but it was fun trying new ingredients. In order of preference, my results are below:

Pierre Ferrand Dry Curaçao
North Shore Distillery’s Beehive Curaçao (limited edition)
Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
Bols Triple Sec
Marie Brizard Curaçao

For all of the test cocktails, I used Costco gin, and the same amount of lime juice, bitters, and orange liqueur. The Pierre Ferrand made a complex and delicious cocktail that wasn’t too sweet. Cointreau was slightly sweeter and brighter. (Honestly, I will probably choose Cointreau in the summer…it was really refreshing.) The North Shore was good, but it was even better when I added a teaspoon of simple syrup. Normally, I love Solerno and it was fine, but I don’t think the Pegu Club is the best use for this bottle. And the Bols was fine, but obviously not as good as Cointreau. (It never stood a chance!) And you already know how I feel about Marie. If you’d like to make you own, here’s the recipe:

Pegu Club

2oz gin
0.75oz triple sec or curaçao
0.5oz fresh lime juice
1 dash of Angostura bitters
1 dash of orange bitters

Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled and pour into a coupe (or a frosty martini glass in my case since my coupes are still mostly packed away) and enjoy the fruits of your cocktail labors.

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