Category Archives: About a buck

LA Journal: Ozzie Dots

I love Los Angeles. I say that loud and proud, and you’re hearing this from someone who sniffed with disdain at the very mention of LALA land — no good places to walk, no high culture, too hot, superficial, blah blah blah. Of course that was before I’d ever been to LA. When I first walked out the doors at LAX, I fell madly in love, even though the view from the Arrivals sidewalk consists of a parking garage and my daughter wasn’t yet in the frame of that first snapshot . I learned that every single one of my snooty preconceptions was wronger than socks with sandals.
I was reminded of all these things last night when I was dressing to go to a barbecue at my ‘Villian buddies, Gretchen and Darryl. Yeah, well, the shirt’s too big (Mens L) but on a sticky night all that cottony drape seemed like a good idea.











But you have to see a close up of the print to understand why I bought this, the first “Hawaiian” shirt ever to grace a hanger in my closet.









It was made for the US Water Polo Team in 1996, when the Olympics were held in Atlanta. The shirt’s stupendous deco print didn’t bring our lads any luck: they finished seventh, and watched Spain, Croatia and Italy on the medal stand.

This good-as-new beauty cost me exactly one dollar. I found it on a “Everything’s a Dollar!” rack on the sidewalk in front of:





It’s Ozzie Dots, on Hollywood Blvd., a few blocks away from the kids’ apartment in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Los Felez Village, their hood until a few weeks ago. I swiped the photo from their website: . To get the real feel of the interior, check out the YouTube video.


Ozzie Dots does costumes, wigs, theatrical makeup (fushia false eyelashes, anyone?) vintage clothing,Levis 501 jeans and “Hawaiiana” — random kitsch and lots and lots of shirts that would look good if you were hauling your long board to the beach. Or the Water Polo pool.

It’s a cramped, crowded wonderland. Lou usually drags me out forcibly after an hour, so we can devote a couple of hours browsing at Soap Plant Wacko next door. (It’s another pilgrimage shopping spot for us, and I’ll devote an entire post to it at a later time.) Does Ozzie Dots sell anything I need? Um, no. I’m not in show business, their goodish-quality costumes are too far away for a quick trip after work on Oct. 3o, and I there’s a 30/70 chance I could find a pair of vintage 501s in the back of Lou’s closet.

I want everything.

But some pix from Honor last year showed me why Ozzie Dots is as necessary as few bags of Tootsie Rolls when Halloween rolls around in LA. I mean, here in the ‘Ville I can’t walk a few blocks and pick up a Bride of Frankenstein wig.










I mean, beyond!  The slinky silver knit dress counts as vintage — my mother wore it in the late 70s, and Honor herself wore it to a high school formal. (Doesn’t her girlfriend make a winsome Frieda Kahlo?)

LA: I’ll be back!










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Filed under About a buck, Body, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, How Cool is That?, LA Journal

Adventures in Bookbinding: Ten Minute Notebook

I’ve diddled about with bookbinding since my twenties, when a magazine article — who knows where, because there was no Martha Stewart Living back then —  with photos, showed me how to build a real book. Oh frabjous month! I cut pages of blank paper, sewed signatures, cut spines, chose end papers, learned the properties of PVA and starch paste, manufactured book cloth by the yard, and owned more clamps than Norm Abrams.

Turned out that (with a couple of false starts and wonky editions) I could make a book : real hardcover book, covered in whatever fabric I fancied, any dimensions I desired, thicker or thinner, sized like an atlas or an address book. Looking back on a lifetime of making things, that first mad flurry of bookbinding was one of the most satisfying periods ever. I learned that with zero formal instruction,trial and error, cheap materials and (very) little practice I could build a real book. 

Then I had a baby and decided that Xacto knives and pots of adhesives standing on every flat surface of a tiny apartment weren’t going to win us any Safe Parents Awards. I turned to smocking for a few years, and a few of those tiny dresses outlive the books.

I’ve never stopped making books, acquainting myself with brochures, Japanese stab binding, Leporello (or accordion) binding, single signature books and portfolios. In fact, I dropped $23.00 (!) bucks at Paper Source last week for a bookbinding awl that looks like a darning egg with a long nail driven through it, because I’m contemplating experimenting with stab-bound hardcovers.

What I created yesterday doesn’t deserve to belong to a post about bookbinding, because someone else bound the book — cheap.

I scored this, my favorite school notebook (a “scribbler, in Canada) for seventy five cents last week, because it was stacked in a tower next to the bakery department in my closest grocery store. I didn’t need it, but I find it hard to resist that dalmatian front cover and the tables of weights and measures inside the back cover. Where else to answer, instantly, any questions about the drams of Avoirdupois weights? So, I had it sitting on the table, next to my sewing machine, inches from a stack of cotton apron scraps and two feet from my glue stash. I pulled out the Mod Podge, a “bone” folder (plastic,)  grabbed a piece of paper from the printer and cut myself a paper pattern.












I grabbed the nearest remnant, cut out two covers, applied glue to the front and back of the book, and smoothed the fabric thereon with the bone folder.



Five minutes, less than a buck, and I almost wish I were fourteen again, assembling my back to school kit.


Filed under A yard of fabric, About a buck, Books, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Paper

Scrap Bag Rollup

I cut out a couple of aprons today (Janice, I haven’t forgotten) and pulled out the sewing machine for the first time in almost a quarter! Where does the time go?

You’ll see the Warrenville Zoolander modelling aprons later this week, but I didn’t use the Kenmore today for apron production. I cleaned its tiny parts with its tiny brush , threaded it up, and whipped up a roll for my crochet hooks. When I started “C & C” I had higher, more practical and more philosophical goals — bleach, fireflies, striped Swedish cupcake papers — but I’ve noticed that it’s leaning towards a fabric/paper/crafts blog. Bear with me for awhile: it’s just that folding and hooking and sewing is what I’ve been about while I’m trying to lose this cold.

I have crochet hooks stashed in three different spots (four, counting my father’s house,) and I’ve replicated sizes because I had no motherlode of aluminum in one place.  I’ve been reproached daily by a stack of Log Cabin pieced place mats I’d made in early December, thinking to give them to my father for Christmas. Har. They never got past the pieced tops before we left for Ottawa, but they were the right size and shape to turn into a hook roll.

So, with the important needlework done four months ago, it took about half an hour to produce this.









Two solid rectangles would of course work just as well, but the vertical “logs” of the piecing were good guides to sewing the slots for the hooks.










I sewed the ribbon into the seams, nice and tight. This silly thing, my welcome back to my sewing machine, would work as well or better for knitting needles, sketching pencils, watercolor brushes, pencil crayons or chopsticks. You, my cherished apron patrons, may recognize some of the scraps.



Filed under About a buck, Needlework, Yarn

Furoshiki:A New Japanese Good Thing

How odd that I decided I’d write about a classic Japanese folding technique last night, before I woke up to the God awful news about the earthquake today. My extended family and friends in Japan are just fine, thank God, but it’s impossible not to think of the loss of life and the material destruction to so many.

I don’t believe in reincarnation, but if I did I’d guess that I was a Japanese lady in a former life. I love the engineering elegance of the everyday: the gardens, the paintings, the crazy Baby Doll outfits young ladies wear around Tokyo, Hello Kitty, woodblock prints, tempura, washi paper, manga, ikebana, quilting, bonsai and — of course — origami. I know I’d love their whack toilets.

Back to Canada and Canadians, a subject I know better than I know Japan and Japanese. Canadians don’t travel or shop without their reuseable fabric shopping bags — I felt dirty admitting to the checkers that I’d need plastic grocery bags. (And pay twenty five cents per bag.) My father is so kind and so Canadian that he’d take only the Metro bags to Metro and the Loblaws bags to Loblaws. When I asked why he was such a dang fool he said:”Well, I don’t want to hurt their feelings.” Oh Daddy, I roll my eyes.

Well I discovered this week that the Japanese have the reuseable tote bag nailed, with a square of fabric. That’s it: a square of fabric — silk, rayon, polyester or cotton. It needs to be thin — so the knots don’t get too knobbly, and strong. The fabric square can be a wall hanging, a picnic tablecloth, gift wrapping, a book cover or —  a shopping bag.

Please click: Don’t you want an apple carrier? The double wine bottle carrier is soooo cunning.

What you have to do is name your corners:









Then you have to find a big, light strong square of fabric. The lightlbulb went off and I checked out my scarf drawer.My late mother had it covered: a yard square hand- painted silk scarf from Japan. Merci Mummy.









Then I grabbed some random objects and dumped them in the center of the scarf:









I tied corners A and B in a square knot, likewise corners C and D. Mes amis, it made a tote, related to the bundle that the Depression hobos toted on a stick.











It totally fits in the hand. It works! If I were picking up a few items from the supermarche or Walgreens all I’d need to do would be to unfold the scarf I’d been wearing, French Lady style, tied around the strap of my purse.

I like this twist on the basic tote: Pull one handle through another and you have something tighter and cooler:










This isn’t like trying to remember the intricate fold pattern of an origami model that I’m not quite up to — Furoshiki seems organic and practical.Check out that link and have some fun.

Furoshiki : another gift I’ve received from Japan.




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Filed under A yard of fabric, About a buck, Cool Japanese Stuff, How Cool is That?

Twenty Second Tulip

My cold whomped my week. I remember a couple of trips to Walgreens for OTC meds that did exactly jack, blinding coughing jags and ears that haven’t cleared since I walked onto the tarmac two Thursdays ago. Oh yeah, there was that awesome Cooks Illustrated coffee cake I made a week ago.

What crushed me was my lack of ambition. Blog? Eh, about what — Kleenex? Start that apron I’m so excited about — a commission? Sorry, Janice, much as I’ve longed for my sewing machine, the thought of standing at the table, pinning and cutting seemed as likely as running a 5K. Pitching that book idea? Puhleeze.

I got comfy on the couch with John Le Caree,  Laurie R. King and Margaret Maron. It sounds like more fun than that it was.

I found a lovely thing, only two days ago, when I could lift my eyes to the stack of mail on the hutch : a teeny magic package of origami paper — maybe an inch and a half square. He said:  “Um, I think Priscilla sent it to you.”

Today I felt well enough to eat apple pancakes and sausage. I still can’t hear and cough too much, but I took on The Times Sunday puzzle, and played with those adorable paper squares. This tulip model has many creators, the stem’s from Gay Merrill Gross’s Minigami.

My pix are so bad that that these tulips might take you more than twenty seconds, the first time. I’ve included the stem pattern, but if you don’t want to fuss, pull out your green pencil crayon and draw your stem and your leaves.





Fold the square in half horizontally, then turn one side up slightly higher than the original point. Fold the left side up to match.










Flip the flower over and fold in the points.

Turn it over, et voila: tulip. Twenty second tulip.











Here’s the stem: use a bigger square than you used for the tulip.











Fold the paper in half, then unfold.











Turn the sides into the fold line, then do it again:











This is fun: fold the bottom point up :











Then fold the model in half vertically, left to right. This is fun too.











Then flatten it, and pull the stem out to the right. Stem and leaf.











If you grab a glue stick and a blank card what do you get? A card with a tulip pasted on it.











I like it. Thank you, Priscilla.






Filed under About a buck, Art, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Cool Japanese Stuff, Origami, Paper

Penalty: Hooking

I’m not spending a two minute minor cooling my skates in the penalty box. It feels like a two game suspension.

For those of you so underprivileged, so culturally bereft as to not know hockey, check out this dead-serious sweetly dull explanation of the hooking penalty, here:

If I had a pair of skates here in Ottawa I’d lace ’em up and hit the Rideau Canal, two long blocks away and hit the World’s Longest Skating Rink, channeling Hans Brinker  and avoiding all the crazed kids playing hockey and hooking like mad. But I’m just fooling around with a pun here, and not a clever one.

This morning I found that doing anything — reaching for The Ottawa Gazette, lifting a coffee mug, brushing my teeth, brought tears to my eyes faster than watching Dumbo. I have a searing, brutal flame running along the top of my right forearm that makes picking up anything heavier than a cocktail coaster freaking agony. I tried to pour myself a glass of wine thirty seconds ago and squealed like a little girl. What the hell?

Friends, I’m off the ice for two games because of a crochet injury. (Hooking, get it? Lame.) I’ve been crocheting like a fallen woman in an eighteenth century convent. (Yes, there’s bilingual pun there: crochet is the French word for hook, and the good sisters made those French hookers crochet lace to earn their keep. ) I’ve been crocheting like a woman trying to save her immortal soul, but not to make lace to trim the trousseaus of Ottawa aristocrats .

I want some Vicodan to combat my injury making tea towel toppers. You know them, a staple of any good Crafts Table at the Church Ladies’ Christmas Bazaar. Take half a tea towel, then crochet a doohicky so that you can hook it (sorry) from the handle of a stove, handy for hand drying during messy kitchen tasks. I love mine, a birthday gift from family friend Betty who’s the boss of the Crafts Table at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian’s Xmas wingding. I blame blameless Betty for dumping me on injured reserve because she said “I wish I could crochet. Those tea towels sell like mad.”

I do crochet, and here in Ottawa I can walk a mere ten minutes to Yarn Forward, a classic yarn store owned by a stereotype: an English lady sporting a salt-and pepper crop, sensible shoes and a hand knit Fair Isle sweater. (Er, jumper.) Bliss!

I cranked out four of these beauties in four days — it was crazed crochet because it was so much fun. I tell you, I cranked!
(I gave the fourth to Betty.) For those, like me, who are Needlework Engineers, the task, the personal improvements to the pattern, the ornament, the sourcing of vintage buttons (thank you, Sassy Bead Company) the snowy strolls to Yarn Forward — well, let’s say, I overextended myself.

So totally worth it.

But would you mind plumping my cushions? My cup of tisane is over there on the sideboard — thanks! Oh, and would you mind calling my tennis coach and tell him I can’t make it tomorrow? You’re the best!



Filed under About a buck, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Needlework

Forbidden Food Pleasures: Lima Bean Edition

One of the themes of “Cheap and Cheerful” is my delight in conversion to a food, a band,or  an author that I once loathed. I adore being proved wrong and getting on board with something that’s given pleasure to millions and which I’d once loudly, vocally scorned. Two musical examples are Country and Gustav Mahler. I would once have averred that I would never like liver, banjos and harpsichords — now I’m looking forward to the aha moment that will change my mind.

About liver: It’s just fine in a pate lashed with cognac. Otherwise I agree with this 1970 song from Second City:

“I hate liver, liver makes me quiver,
liver makes me curl right up and die, makes me cry…
it gives you hives, gives you scurvy, turns my stomach topsy turvy,
liver just simply ain’t my bag, makes me gag, makes me want to throw up…
Now liver is neither solid or liquid, but merely an amorphous, viscous colloid of putrid protein…
It is located between the 7th and the 10th dorsal vertebrae,
JUST south of the diaphragm, “lounging like a whore on a pillow of fat.”
Now did you ever look at the word liver?
Is it any coincidence that there are 5 letters in the word liver?
The same number of letters as in the word death? the word drugs? the word hippy?…

Well, maybe you just haven’t had it cooked right…

Naaah, I’ve had that stuff sauteed, I’ve had it breaded and broiled and broasted and braised,
I’ve had it diced and sliced and riced and sunnyside up over easy fried, and it still comes out, LIVER….
I hate liver, liver makes me quiver, liver makes me curl right up and die, (makes me cry)…
Why, first time I had it, I didn’t like it at all…

Well, what happened?

Well, I was about 9 mammy gave me a hunk of that Gerber’s baby food.
Well, I rolled it around, looked at her eyeballs, spit it out and uttered my first words…

At nine months, what’d you say?

I said… I hate liver, liver makes me quiver,
liver makes me curl right up and die, makes me cry…
it gives you hives, gives you scurvy, turns my stomach topsy turvy,
liver just simply ain’t my bag.”

Come to think of it, I suspect that a banjo provided the musical accompaniment.

My poor mother: she loved liver, bought only the tenderest and priciest calves liver and served it up to Daddy’s acclaim with a mess of fried onions. To my siblings and me, the scent of Mummy’s Friday Night Special might just as well have been Chernobyl-like radiation. Nothing in our young lives was as terrible as liver and onions — yes, we were lucky. My parents back then, came  from the school, of: “You’re going to eat it, and what’s more you’re going to like it!” One Friday night, while my cheerful Daddy poured two glasses of Gamay, we kids cracked. The hopelessness of our plates of calves liver and onions brought us to our knees. I don’t know which of us first burst into tears, but within one minute Ian, Megan, Julie and I were pictures of despair, sobbing into our napkins.

We didn’t have to eat our liver that night, and my mother never cooked it again. Liver and onions became a forbidden pleasure for her, eaten at restaurants. Pasta alla Carbonara is a dish Lou hates and I love, so I sneak in the bacon, eggs, cheese and pasta when he’s not around. I let him fuss around with chicken livers, but it’s accepted that I won’t be forced to eat them.

Thing is, I’ve never met an expensive food I didn’t fall for, hard, at first taste. Oysters on the half shell? Score! Caviar? I’ll never eat enough in my lifetime. Ancient single malt Scotch that tastes like moss and smoke? Bartender, another, please.  But I have some long-standing issues with true-blue popular food — I have to be very hungry or drunk to eat a hot dog, and I come from the home of the iconic dawg: Chicago. Yes, I have eaten a good hot dog. I plain don’t like them.

Lima beans came from Peru — I never would have believed it if I hadn’t looked it up. Second only to liver, lima beans were  the most despised dish my mother set down at the dinner table. In fact, even Daddy disliked them, so limas were another favorite food my mother had to give up.

(Photo: Santa Rosa Greenhouses.)

In 1974 my parents lived at 166 The Driveway, in Ottawa. My mother and her next door neighbor Gail just clicked, although Gail was Mummy to children in elementary school and my youngest siblings were in their early twenties. Mummy met her Lima Bean lover — Gail, like Mummy was forbidden by her family to serve Lima beans. They both felt deprived. What did they do? Instead of tea time or cocktail hour, they’d meet up for Lima beans. I’ll never forget my mother’s rhapsodic descriptions of sitting on the front steps at four o’clock, sun on her face, eating Lima beans and chatting with her friend.

Lima beans taste like chalk, and the skins snap. Now I love them — apart from liver, my mother was always right. For much of my life the mere sight of a box of frozen Lima beans would activate my gag reflex. Now I can think of nothing more fabulous than sitting on the front stoop in the late afternoon with my Mother, sun on our faces, laughing and digging into a big bowl of Limas — floating on pools of butter and speckled with coarse ground pepper.


Filed under About a buck, Food, History