Monthly Archives: September 2010

Carjacked by Carl Hiassen

I have more lists going on than Santa gets at Christmas. Preparing for our trip to my Nation’s Capital is never easy, involving as it does: organizing the bucks, renewing prescriptions, mailing off aprons, quality time in the laundry room and at the ironing board, laying in bulk cat food, planning road trip picnics and trying to make the house presentable for our beloved cat sitter, Charlene Simpson. (Hey, Char, Lou painted some kitchen cabinets for you!)

I swung by the library yesterday, to avoid late charges, clutching eight books to my bosom. I dropped three on the floor as I walked to the circulation counter, and my kindly librarian said: “Lady, you need a bag!” She handed me , for free, a cloth Warrenville totebag, which I’ll forget I own next time I go to the libe.  I won’t need it next time I swing by with my returns, because I’ll be toting just  one volume.

The Tom Jones classic “Mama Told Me Not to Go” has been rattling around my brain since I  watched( online) Bristol Palin’s tacky turn on DWTS. I had promised NOT to check out New Releases, because I have enough on my multiple lists that I should avoid any reading except a turn through The New Yorker or Martha Stewart Living.

FAIL! I strolled up to the New Releases and glommed onto the H authors. My God, there it was, as irresistible to me as a pile of horse poop to a Pomeranian.

The new Carl Hiaasen.

I checked it out in a hurry and buried it in my purse so Lou wouldn’t snatch it from my hands as I walked through the door. Carl is addictive as the white powder most of his characters in South Florida inhale as often as Jane Austen’s ladies drink tea. Hiassen is an award-winning journalist for the Miami Herald, a passionate Floridian who mourns the cooption and corruption of his state by real estate sleazeballs, drug dealing, and corruption. A collection of his journalism on Florida is called (one of my fave ever titles) Paradise Screwed.

His over-the-top “crime” novels are what’s got me as hooked as a starlet on Vicodin. They are environmentalist agitprop for south Florida, and the greed and excess it attracts. They always include a cynical good guy, an intelligent woman, a crazed outta control enforcer , and Skink, a mentally ill Viet Nam vet, ex-governor of Florida, with great teeth,and  one eye: an environmental enforcer and road kill gourmet.

Carjacking in Miami is an everyday thing in Hiassen’s novels, and he carjacked my to-do list today. Not entirely: I heard the dryer tumbling as I willingly gave up a day of my life to one of his profane, outta control , hilarious romps. Chemo, the crazer with a weed whacker attached to his stump of an arm, is back. There’s a feisty heroine (Carl likes smart women, always) an obese South Beach paparazzo, a real estate scam, a Brittney/Lindsay clone, press agents, plotting, and lots of roadkill.

Yeah, he kinda made me his literary bitch today, and I loved every minute. I’ll get up earlier tomorrow and tackle that list.


Filed under Books, Free, HeeHee, Library Card

Going to Bed

It’s hard to not recall Rose Macauley’s immaculate essay “Going to Bed” from her book, “Particular Pleasures” while I’m writing this. I especially adore her sister essay “Not Getting Out of Bed,” but I’m not the stylist Rose is, nor am I erudite enough to sprinkle all those words I’ve literally never heard in my life in my low rent blog, as Rose does in her essays. But the granddaughter of Thomas Babbington Macauley and I have one sisterly theme in common: the bliss of the bed.

I’m not discounting the carnal pleasures of going to bed, or that snug spaniel lying over your toes in February, or a tousled toddler creeping in to lie between his parents. They’re all good, but I’m just talking about that miraculous piece of furniture designed to soothe and pleasure us into rest. Or, in my insomniac case, a soft scented platform on which I can read thrillers and sip water from the carafe on the nightstand, and disobey that childhood television warning: “Don’t smoke in bed.” Once a night, I do.

I don’t iron my sheets –geez – but I do iron my pillowcases, and that crisp cotton beneath my sagging cheeks is delicious. Sleep, as WS said, does “Ravel up the ragged sleeve of care,” but not so much for me. I wake up every two hours, have dreams that are a cross between Fellini and Chucky, heavy on family guilt and endless wandering and searching. I literally can’t remember a good dream, but when I’m shocked awake I say: “Just another shitty scary dream. Let me take a sip of water and pound my pillows and slip down again into this bonny bed.”

And I sink, once again, into my good mattress and good enough count thread sheets. My legs go limp, and I think about all the kids in Haiti and Darfur who sleep on the ground with no blankets. I send them my love.

Then my body stretches out, Willow rearranges herself on the bed and I count my blessings. Bed.


Filed under Body, Books, Free, History, Home, Into the Mystic

Apron of the Day: For Katie

My niece Katherine is a Babe, a mother of four, lives in Fort Collins , and is a one smart woman. I was touched that she asked her Aunt Margaret to make a Christmas present apron for her mother-in-law,  I admired her fabric suggestions, and I sourced them.. One side: a vintage fabric depicting children, the reverse a sage green/gold print to harmonize with her MIL’s kitchen. She’s received it and given it the thumbs up so I’ll post the picture — it was before Zoolander got a haircut.

The reverse:

While uploading the snaps, I realized that my full frontal shots of Lou modelling the apron were crap beyond the means of Picassa to improve.  But I’m happy that Katie (like me, the eldest of our generational  cousinly federation) liked the apron. She has an eye, she knows what she wants, and I wish she didn’t live so far away.


Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Needlework

Folding Fun: The Origami 2-Pocket Diamond Envelope

Lou’s become so inured to the arrival of the UPS guy that he didn’t even ask what the handsome dude in khaki shorts was handing me — it must be more apron fabric, right?He didn’t even look up from his thriller when I ran upstairs with my booty and broke a nail opening the box that held my first new origami book in five whole months! That’s a four years record.

Hello gorgeous!

Origami Card Craft by Karen Elaine Thomas. Because I own a shelf  of origami tomes, I was delighted that many of these projects were ones I’ve never seen before — I may not like all of them, but I love many of them, especially this envelope. The envelope is an enormous origami topic, and one that makes me yawn, mostly.

Not this one, and let me count the ways. It’s so easy — I achieved perfection in one go, in one minute, which isn’t often the case. The folding pattern is elegant. The closure is clever. And somehow, the interior is divided into two pockets, which is magic. I used a 12 inch square , which resulted in a 4 1/2 X5 1/2 inch result. C’mom, grab any old paper square and fold along.

Step one: Paper in diamond formation, colored side down.

Step 2: Fold it in half.

Step 3: Align the paper pointy side up, and turn down the top edge until it touches the center fold.

Step 4: Eyeball the bottom edge into thirds, and fold the right point to the two thirds mark. Step 5: Fold the left point to the right edge. It’s starting to look like an envelope.

Step 6: Fold the left point back to meet the left corner.

I’m going to show the next move in two pix — it’s the cool part.

Step 7a: Stick a finger into that point you folded in Step 6 and  open it out. Then:

Step 7B: Flatten it along the center line so it forms a diamond. The card and the art show ticket are in two separate interior pockets.

The reveal! Tuck down the top point into the diamond.

Not being the austere or sensible type, I folded up a few. Here are some of them:

Dear Reader, go find a piece of square paper and give it a whirl. So much pleasure for so little effort, and a standard 8 inch piece of origami paper will make a wee envelope, perfect for carrying a few stamps around in your purse or wallet. Hmmm, stamps … waxed paper maybe? I’m off to the pantry.


Filed under Art, Books, Cool Japanese Stuff, How Cool is That?, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper

Apron of the Day: Geishas and Manga

Actually, this was an apron I made last week, but because it was a commission, I waited until I got the heads up today that my patron had received it.  I made it for the daughter of old and dear friends, whom I saw last when she was a tiny budding ballerina. Now she’s an Art History major in college. As Melissa and I aren’t FB friends, I assume her birthday present surprise won’t be blown here.

I started buying this geisha print a couple of years ago — a huge amount for me, like six yards. I have enough left for one more apron.

The manga reverse:

I’m mad for this fabric, and have enough left for one more apron.

I thank my friends and patrons for being such good clients, and for giving me the chance to make this, one of my all-time fave aprons.


Filed under A yard of fabric, Apron of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Needlework

Cheap Cheerful Object of the Day: The Smiley Japanese Terry Sponge

Honor gave Lou a grab-bag Father’s Day present — the result , I suspect, of a swing through LA’s Little Tokyo. ( Don’t get me started about shopping in Little Tokyo: there’s so much beautiful, weird, arty, functional, cool Japanese design and cheap cheerful junk that I could max out my bank account in two hours.)

The Father’s Day prezzies included a scary long poker called an “ear pick,” and a set of molds to transform a hard boiled egg into a fish-shaped hard boiled egg. But here’s my fave:

It’s an oval sponge enrobed in high quality terry cloth. It’s soft, it’s silly, it’s swell  — a white terry cloth enrobed and embroidered sponge with a generic cute animal face. I can’t tell you how much I love it. God help me, I’ve scrutinized its construction, and I know I could make one myself, with an even cuter face. Hmm — how about a piggy sponge from pink terrycloth with ears? Likewise, a sheep version. Or a bee!

Dear Readers, I’ll take the pledge right now, right here: I will not go down this road. You’ll not see me posting snaps of goldfish sponges, breast-like sponges, kitty-cat sponges, Betty Boop sponges. That I can rattle off so many sponge design schemes in five seconds scares me: you just know I want to while away a couple of weeks with some embroidery floss. Nope. No way.

I’ll stick to my aprons. But God love you, all you Japanese peeps with such kawaii brilliance.


Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Home, How Cool is That?, On the Street Where I Live

Mrs. Peel, You’re Needed — My Once and Always Heroine

I wish I could say that my lifetime role model was Marie Curie, Mother Teresa or Mahalia Jackson. Jane Goodall, maybe, or Margaret Mead. Wonderful dames, all, but I regret to say that the woman I’ve always yearned to be isn’t a real person, appeared to have no real visible means of support, wore a lot of leather and Pierre Cardin, and drove a Lotus Elan. I mean, what more could a fourteen-year-old wish for? Or indeed a 50 something woman.

If you were to ask “Hey, Maggie, what’s your favorite TV show of all time?” I’d interrupt before you finished the question. The Avengers, a British program that aired between 1961 and 1969, It played into the James Bond/John le Carre Cold War British Intelligence  meme, but it was really a comedy of manners/sci fi/action flick mess of a show. Patrick Macnee played a shadowy bowlered, sword sticked, vintage Bentley driving spy.He always had a female foil — I liked Honor Blackman, Linda Thorsen and Joanna Lumley in their seasons. But any Avengers fan knows that it’s really all about the Emma Peel years.

Diana Rigg  (now Dame Commander Diana Rigg) played Emma Peel for three short seasons and from the first episode, then in black and white, I knew who I wanted to be when I grew up.

The mod newsboy’s cap, the leather jumpsuit, the minis, that perfectly smooth flip I yearned for and never quite attained.

My Senior picture demonstrates that I tried. I rolled the waistband of my uniform skirt a half inch shorter every day until it approached the length of Mrs. Peel’s , and when no one objected I ditched it and became the first girl at my high school to wear a genuine off the peg grey wool miniskirt. (I was not the last.) I traded that dorky blouse  for a ribbed white turtleneck, and the principal, the manic L.V. Fuller, said nothing. Emma Peel pushed the girls’s dress code at Three Rivers High School — my heroine!

At the beginning of each episode Steed would appear in Emma’s flat while she was doing something crazy cool, like sculpting, and announce: “Mrs. Peel, we’re needed.” Why Her Majesty’s Secret Service needed them was unclear, but it was sure fun. Emma Peel is the first female screen character who was a martial arts expert, and she’d kick and karate chop baddies into submission. Submission is the right word. I once heard her say “Well, yes I get a lot of fan mail — from fourteen year old boys and leather fetishists.”

I was too innocent to know about fetishes, but an episode called “A Touch of Brimstone” had an unlikely plot about Mrs. Peel going undercover in some Swinging London version of the Hellfire Club. I’m glad I found a picture, because I knew, I just knewthat this lace up corset, tall boots and spiked necklace wasn’t gonna cut it in second period Algebra. (Hmmm, Maybe Archie Cameron would have upped my grade to an A if I’d worn it to student/teacher conference.) Diana Rigg was the designer.

I loved the change to color:

I discovered that Emma and I had the same hair color, and I could scope out all that rainbow Pierre Cardin costumery. Emma and Steed were witty and mildly flirtatious, but there wasn’t any real sexual charge between them, as there had been with Steed and Honor Blackman’s  leather- girl anthropologist Dr. Cathy Gale. I mean, how could there be — Emma was a married lady, although her husband had disappeared into the Amazonian rainforest years ago. He reappears in the last episode of the Rigg/Macnee partnership, and guess what: he looks exactly like — No, I won’t tell you.

I’m wracking my addled cerebellum to come up with a television character since Emma who was is so effortlessly cool and witty, chic and powerful as Mrs. Peel. Nope, she broke the mold. Mrs. Peel, now and always, you’re needed.


Filed under History, How Cool is That?, Media