Monthly Archives: July 2011

Apron of the Day: “Order in the Court”

I’ve been a sluggard of a seamstress for a couple of months. I put it down to heat and humidity induced laziness, too many thrillers, a week without power, and my continuing flirtation with bookbinding.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve turned out two. One was a gift, and I’m awaiting pix from the recipient — that means you, John dear. I made this one because I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the fabric. These two prints belong to the same group, but they’re as different as Maggie and Natalie Portman.

Here come the Court Cards:









And the full length version:











“Today’s photos don’t do the product justice,” sniffs the coutouriere. Yeah, I need a better photog than I am.

The verso print makes me smile — a classic calico, but slightly naughty. Maybe not: that god-fearing granny might have disapproved of gambling, but maybe played a couple of hands of euchre at the kitchen table.

Detail of pocket trim:










The full Loulander:












Making this apron was almost as fun as a being dealt a natural twenty one. Should you wish to gift a card playing cook, shoot me an email.



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

Object of the Day: ZBT Dance Card, 1929

Sometimes objects yell at me, when I’m strolling through an “antique” mall. I don’t know why I handed over ten bucks for this Zeta Beta Tau celluloid covered dance card from a  ZBT Spring dance from 1929. ZBT is interesting in itself: the first major Jewish frat.

I’m guessing this was a chapter at University of Wisconsin, Madison.

The programme:

The menu, and love that 1929 vibe:

I’ll have to do some checking on Green Peas a la Greene. What I love is this is a dance cards for guys! This fella didn’t do too bad.


These kids might have been dancing the Charleston., overseen by the chaperones:

What random objects can suggest! The Jewish youth and beauty at U Wisconsin, 1929, Chicken a la Maryland, frat lads plotting their dance moves. This is such a strange, personal piece of history. I doubt it would bring more than a buck on Ebay but I don’t give a care. I’m thinking about the flapper dresses, the band, and Madison in May.

Potatoes au Greenwich? Who knows?


Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, How Cool is That?, Ten bucks or fewer

Chicago Chutney: Cheap and Cheerful

I could bitch on endlessly about the heat wave of 2011, and I might still. I’m an English rose, not a hot weather bromeliad. I wilt, I sweat, my hair and shirt plaster to my skin and I’m not good for much but lolling — even in air conditioning. My garden? The weeds are as high as an elephant’s eye. My beautiful birthday bike — the heat’s cheated me out of my summer fun and workout. It’s been so hot that I haven’t even made it out mi casa to buy my longed-for basket and bell.


But hunger happens, even if one’s been dogging it reading thrillers, vacating the couch only to take a shower and grab a glass of ginger ale. Skinless boneless chicken breasts were on sale, and because I’m dumber in the summer, I bought a pack because there’s no other cut of meat than can be transformed into edibility with zero effort. They’ve been rubbed with Thai chile paste and will be sauteed in five minutes. The timer has just beeped, so the basmati rice pilaf awaits.

But today I used  some cherries, pears, celery, onion, garlic, jalapenos, onion, cider vinegar,cumin and white raisins to make an informal chutney. I channeled my Indian sisters — I understand the heat and humidity are dreadful in Delhi.  Chutney is a relish reared in India, and like any great condiment it can be tinkered. Suvir Saran’s Tomato Chutney rocked me and propelled me to try other varietys, like Mint Chutney. I have mentioned that I run a mint farm?

I love making chutney with what lurks in the fridge. Today it was two pears and some disappointing Bing cherries, along with the aforesaid ingredients. Chutney must be sweet and sour, hot and cool, spicy and vegetal. It’s like exotic cranberry sauce, and this is the bowl I serve my sauce in everything Thanksgiving.









It’s terrific with every meat except beef. Your grilled cheese sandwich will sing, and I adore it with any soft stinky cheese. You’ve got apples, nectarines, nasty hard peaches, apricots, aging zucchini? Yum. The vinegar can be anything handy: cider, white, red wine, white wine, balsamic. The sweet? Go for it : honey, white sugar, brown sugar,  whatever.

It’s hardly more complicated than making applesauce, but I’m saving applesauce for a cool October day when the sun’s shining, it’s 65 degrees and the air’s like champagne. If I’m not greedy, I may have a scrape of chutney in a jar in the fridge in October. More likely? I’ll use it up on a Croque Madame within a month.



Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Body, Food

Batty about Boxes: Masu Edition

Actually, I think there are bat homes called bat boxes, a concept I find troubling — can a weasel box be far behind? But I was using batty in it’s colloquial meaning: I love boxes.

Shoe boxes, Faberge boxes, Whitman’s Sampler boxes, Tiffany blue boxes wrapped with a white satin bow, velvety hinged ring boxes, the maroon box that contains my daughter’s American Girls doll Samantha. But man, do I love Japanese boxes, all of them, with a concentration in bento boxes.  Another post, another time.

In the United States we have a noble, elegant rival to Japanese boxes: it’s just too bad the Shakers were celibate. But my Shaker sewing box will be the subject of another post.

In fact, my second favorite movie ever was based on a Robert Louis Stevenson story called “The Wrong Box.”












I mean, that cast! Peter Sellers alone, as a cat loving abortionist who uses his kitties as blotters is a reason to queue it up on Netflix.

I digress.

If you have two  square pieces of paper and one minute you can make a beautiful box, an origami classic called a masu box. You need a fast and dirty receptacle  for some earrings or hairpins? Bam! Taking some fudge to a coworker on his birthday? Bam! You just want someplace to collect pocket change? Bam!









Here are a few I’ve made, from origami paper and flyers  tucked into my mailbox. The biggest one is about four inches square, the yellow one is smaller than a Starburst candy.

I like these instructions, because I always prefer photos to diagrams:

Please go there. Square up a couple of pieces of printer paper, and make The Right Box.

(I was without power last week — it’s not about me being lazy.)

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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Less than 50 cents, Media, Origami, Paper

My New Wheels!

Ain’t she a beauty!

Lou asked me what I wanted my my birthday. You know, that’s getting harder as I get older. When I was fifteen years younger and a little better off, my answer was “Go to the silver room at Tiffany and buy me a bracelet.” He did, and I have a lovely collection. Much older and much poorer, I was stuck, but just for a minute.

“Bring me a bottle of Guerlain’s Jicky, or buy me a bike. A real bike, not like the ones we sold for ten bucks each three years ago. I want something with a seat that doesn’t split my buttocks like some creep in an S&M blog. No gears. No hand breaks.”

I was describing the red CCM I learned to bike on when I was ten. Sure, riding up the steep coteaux in Trois-Rivieres was real work, even for a fit twelve year old. But I wasn’t forcing my weight on aching wrists, staring at the pavement, as I did on my zillion speed racing bike. I could look around me, checking out traffic and the Dairy Queen and Notre Dame des Sept Allegresses. I could signal with my thumb on the handle of a bell, and I could carry my homework home in my bike basket.

You know how you can pull up a supremely happy moment as if it were a (to continue the retro tech thing) slide? Another birthday, long ago, when Honor was, perhaps, three. I was working as the supervisor of the Junior Lingerie department of Carson Pirie Scott on State Street, and because I worked later than he did, Lou would pick me up in the red Ford Fiesta. On that birthday evening, I crossed Wabash to wait for my ride, and looked south. Lou was riding a red bicycle up the sidewalk, with my daughter perched on the handlebars, her blonde curls flying. They were both grinning, she was squealing, the  El  clattering above us. He strapped the bike to the roof of the Fiesta and we drove back to 1208 W. Lexington, where he gave me a martini and his other present, a Mahalia Jackson LP. I stood on the back porch, looking over the unrivalled Chicago skyline, a tiny bit buzzed and feeling the Spirit run up and down my spine while Mahalia sang “Born in Bethlehem.”

I’ve had great birthdays, but that one is my favorite. Young as I was, I knew there was powerful magic happening. And I loved that bike. When we moved to the ‘Ville we were a one car family, so in decent weather I’d ride to work (in a dress and heels) along the Prairie Path. Sometimes I glowed when I arrived at the Unisys Training Center, sometimes I arrived wet from a a shower, sometimes I showed up with a bouquet of wildflowers.  Once I arrived home with the magic pastoral terror of the great outdoor god Pan, because a red fox had fled before my wheels.

The bike got stolen, and I endured twenty years of racing bikes and mountain bikes, eyes downward, wrists aching. ‘Lor love a duck, I’m not an athlete, I just like to pedal about, go to the library, feel the burn in my thighs and see and smell the flowers.

Lou received my rigorous standards for the bicycle of my dreams, and he met and exceeded them. (It was cheaper than a bottle of Jicky.) This bike could have been ridden by Miss Marple or Twiggy.

Daisy detailing, whitewalls with sky blue trim.

Note: No gears, no brakes. I’m going to buy a basket and a bell and I’m going to cruise around, no hands, looking up and looking around.


Filed under Body, Machines, On the Street Where I Live, The 'Ville, The Great Outdoors, Worth it anyway