Tag Archives: adventures

Dive Bar Letter Writers is Back

After a bit of a hiatus for the holidays and Covid, the Dive Bar Letter Writers are back again! We met last month for National Card & Letter Writing Month and I’m scheduling our summer meet-ups.

Naoto has been a regular at our meetings but this time he actually wrote a letter! (Usually he reads or just eats a burger.)

If you’re in Chicagoland, please join us for our next meeting, May 22 at 2pm in Goldyburger’s beer garden! You can sign up for email reminders here.

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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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It’s Been Awhile

Hello again! It’s been awhile! I can’t believe we are halfway through 2021! And a lot has happened since my last post on November 24th! The biggest news is–we bought a house! We closed out 2020 (literally, on December 31st) by putting an offer on a house we loved. We closed in February, sold our condo in March, and we moved in March. It was a whirlwind! Pictured above is what our back yard looked like when we closed in February with feet of snow on the ground. Thankfully, by the time we moved in, all of the snow had melted and there were signs on spring in the yard!

The month between closing and moving gave us time to have hardwood floors installed on our second floor (replacing the carpet) and to paint most of the first and second floor. It was nice to have a little cushion. We still want to remodel the kitchen and paint the bathrooms and basement, but all in good time!

And Presley has adjusted like a little champion. We were very nervous since she’s older and deaf, but she is loving sneaking upstairs when she’s had enough of us and having afternoon sun naps (something that wasn’t possible in our condo since we faced east.)

We are still settling in–hanging art is so stressful and figuring out how to use all of our extra storage space is more challenging than I anticipated!–but we’re finding our house groove. Naoto has really embraced mowing the lawn (with our reel lawn mower!) and we have three little garden plots along the side of the house to tend. It was sad giving up our Plot 6 at the community garden but we love just popping out the door to tend to our tomatoes.

That’s the news for today–I hope to come back Thursday and share a little more about the house or the garden. And, now we have a larger lanai (really, a back deck) for happy hours and gatherings which is a total dream come true.

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Okinawa Part 2: Riding with Matayoshi-San

To enjoy the island of Okinawa, you really need a car, but neither of us were interested in driving so Naoto hired a driver, Matayoshi-San, to drive us around to our Orion brewery tour and to see some other sites on the island. We spent the morning at Orion, which will get its own post because I took a ton of pictures and videos for Naoto. Okinawa is known for Orion beer, salt, glass, and pottery (among other things.) We stopped at a glass shop where they were blowing glass on site. I spent way too long choosing a single dish to bring home. Everything was so beautiful. Okinawan pottery is also really different from some of the other pottery in Japan. The designs and the shapes were so great.Matayoshi-san picked us a couple of shikuwasa which we enjoyed in our hotel room in some sparkling water. What a treat! Aside from the Orion tour, the best part of the day was visiting the sea and breathing in some fresh ocean air. These craggly rocks were formed over centuries of wear and it was such a perfect day weather-wise for enjoying the views. All over Okinawa, you will find Shisa, usually in pairs. They are meant to protect the home or business–one keeping in the good, the other keeping out the bad. We weren’t tempted to buy one for our own home, but it’s a really popular souvenir. In the middle of the day, we stopped at a roadside stand for sata andagi, Okinawan donuts. They were fresh and delicious! (You know how I love a donut!)We also stopped at an artisan shop where they hand paint fabric for obi (the sash for kimono) and other accessories. Everything was so gorgeous and the amount of work that went into each inch of fabric was incredible!
Naoto really enjoyed Matayoshi-San’s humor and his stories about the island. It was fun spending the day with a local and being carted around like a celebrity!

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Okinawa Part 1: Tourists & Taco Rice

hasegawa happy hour, okinawa We always take a little side trip away from Tokyo when we visit Japan and this year, our trip was to Okinawa. Okinawa is a small island in southern Japan. It really felt so much like Hawaii to me! We stayed in Naha, the capital city of Okinawa. It really felt like Honolulu to me. It was beachy and carefree, with a huge strip of shopping and restaurants and lots of tourists. Our first night, we checked out the strip and ate at a little Okinawan izakaya that had Orion beer and taco rice, Naoto’s favorites. We started with drinks. Naoto had an Orion beer and I had a shikuwasa cocktail. Shikuwasa is native to Okinawa and Taiwan and it’s a citrus that is kind of bitter and really sour. It makes a really good cocktail with shochu and soda. We ordered gyoza (shown above) which really hit the spot. Next we had a salad with shredded cabbage, tomatoes, scallions, pork, and a citrusy dressing. Then we had Okinawan sweet potato fries dipped in honey. Seriously, honey is under-utilized as a dipping sauce in America! We should take a break from ranch dressing and eat more honey!And the main dish: taco rice! It’s basically a taco salad but on a bed of rice. We’ve made it at home before and it’s really good and comforting. I told Naoto we should make it this week and share the recipe so I’ll keep you posted. The version we usually make doesn’t have cheese, but let’s be honest–everything is better with a little shredded cheddar!  After dinner, we strolled around the tourist area and I picked up some stationery (surprise, surprise) and we got some salt. Okinawan salt is a “thing” so we bought some shikuwasa salt and onion salt to bring home. I really loved the paper onigiri in the store display. 

 

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Niigata Dinner

Hisae and Norio (Naoto’s sister and her husband) took us out to dinner in Shibuya while we were in Japan. They live in Mie, which is quite a bit away from Tokyo, but they took the shinkansen to spend an evening with us. It was really fun to hang out with them. Hisae is so sweet and Norio is kind and funny. We haven’t seen them both together since their wedding many years ago! We have seen Hisae on all of our other trips to Japan, but we haven’t seen Norio in years because he is so busy working. The izakaya, Takumi, specializes in Niigata food. You may remember that Niigata is where they grew up. My favorite thing about izakaya eating is that you can order tons of small plates and try a bunch of different things. We had kaarage (fried chicken,) shrimp tempura, amazing sushi, and pickled eggplant. And smoked fish, cartilage and sperm sac…just kidding, I did not eat the cartilage or sperm sac. Then there was noppe, a vegetable stew, and tomago (egg) with herbs. Our last dish was this fried tofu with scallions which was really good, but really oily and rich…a good dish for drinking. At the end of the meal, they brought out a huge tray of noodles and we each had our choice of dipping sauce. I got the tomato dipping sauce which was really unusual, like nothing I’ve had in Japan before. It was a rich red and super concentrated with tomato flavor. I ate soooo many noodles because I liked it so much. I haven’t been able to find a good recipe like this online but I’m sure trying!

Let’s do it again soon, Hisae and Norio!

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Forest Park Public Library’s Grand Re-Opening

Forest Park Public library, Forest Park, library, grand reopeningFor 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. Forest Park Public Library grand reopening, Kettlestrings bandThe 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!

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Pen Pal Stationery Tour Part 3: The Wares

Yamada stationery think this is all I bought during the Pen Pal Stationery Tour…

Above is what I bought at Yamada. The library stuff is my favorite and I restocked my stash from our last trip. I couldn’t resist the avocado handkerchief for Naoto. And those green things are stickers modeled after a famous notebook company, Japonica, that every school kid knows. And I just realized that the little bird and mountain notepad snuck in here, but I bought it at Tonarino. (It’s too dark to re-take the pictures now!)Tonarino stationery, Sublo 36 stationery At Tonarino, besides the notepad, I stuck with mostly their in-house designs. And the sumo eating the hot pot (chanko) is the only thing I bought at Sublo 36. (I told you I had regrets.) Hachimakura vintage papersAnd finally, some fun new and vintage papers from Hachimakura. Hachimakura vintage papersI’m excited to use some of these in my Traveler’s Notebook. From the top left: the red shrine is an old tobacco box from the Showa Era (1926-1989) that I want to display. The Moon Pencils label is a pencil box label. The geisha girls are matchbox labels from the 1920s. Below that, is old play money. (Isn’t it so fun and colorful?) The sheer pink and white things are nouget candy wrappers, also from the Showa Era. I liked the onsen symbol on them. And the circle labels are liquor shop labels from before World War II.

(Thanks to Naoto for translating all of that for me for this post. He and Geof stayed outside while April and I shopped so we were on our own to make our purchases!)

 

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Naoberly’s Noodle Tour: Afuri Ramen

Believe it or not, we only had ramen once while we were in Tokyo. I know, I know…what a waste of our visit during the cold months! But seriously, there is so much to eat in Japan…it’s hard to not explore a thousand different cuisines there! Afuiri Ramen SangenjayaWe found Afuri near our hotel in Sangenjaya. (It’s been there since 2014! How were we sleeping on this for so long?!) It’s a chain, so you can find them all over Tokyo (and even in Portland!) Their specialty is yuzu ramen, so you know I was a happy camper eating here!ramen ticket machine, Afuri RamenIt’s the kind of ramen shop where you order at the machine and get a ticket to present at the counter, but it’s a fancy computerized ticket machine with pictures! (Also, pro-tip…you should choose your meal on the menu outside and then go to the machine when you know exactly what you want…otherwise you look like a dumb American, not that I would know how this feels…) Afuiri Ramen SangenjayaI had the Yuzu Shoyu Ramen, which is a chicken and dashi shoyu (soy sauce) broth with all of the traditional ramen toppings. It may have been my favorite chicken broth ever. It was bright and citrusy because of the yuzu but the shoyu made it a little bit more robust. Naoto had a special dumpling ramen that I couldn’t find on the website.

Now writing this, I’m totally in the mood for ramen.

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Pen Pal Stationery Tour Part Two

Sublo 36Our next stop (after lunch) in the Pen Pal Stationery Tour was Sublo 36. It’s a tiny shop and it was verrry crowded. And like, Yamada, there are so many products in little cubbies and drawers, it was kind of a challenge to shop when you’re basically on top of the next person. I’d love to go back on a quieter day because I’m having regrets about not buying some things! I didn’t get many pictures inside Sublo (which is up these quirky stairs by the way) because it was too crowded for my photographer and I was too busy shopping and trying to stay out of other shoppers’ ways. They have a lot of original products (you can see them here) that I totally didn’t take advantage of buying when I was there. After this, Naoto had discovered that we were a short walk away from Karel Capek tea shop so we took a stationery break. I’ll write about Karel Capek in another post–it’s the cutest. On the way to the train for our next stop, we bought some gyoza from a very busy gyoza shop in the neighborhood. Delicious! (Oh and that’s April’s partner Geof. He and Naoto were the best sports about stationery shopping all day!)Hachimakura, vintage paper store JapanAt the end of the tour was Hachimakura, which we’ve visited before. April and I delighted in the vintage papers in this tiny shop. We finished the tour with dinner at a little izakaya near Hachimakura. We ate cabbage with yuzu dressing, bacon with grain mustard, tomago, fried mozzarella dipped in honey (It was soooo good I need to try this in America,) wasabi chicken, cucumber dipped in miso, and we drank beers and yuzu drinks. It was the perfect meal to end a really fun day. Until next time, April & Geof!

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