Category Archives: Less than 50 cents

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:

http://www.origami-instructions.com/origami-box.html

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

Popping Up, Re-engineered

I mentioned that when I was in LA I visited the Japanese bookstore of my dreams, Kinokuniya in Little Tokyo. Boy, was I a good girl: I got out of that crack house with change from a Benjamin. Most of my moolah went towards one item: The Art of Paper Folding for Pop-up , by Miyuki Yoshida.

It contains thirty stunning examples of paper cutting/origami pop-up inserts for cards, from so simple I could get it, to those so elegant and complicated that they require the skills of a sushi chef and a mechanical engineer. In fact Yoshida gives her profession as “paper engineer.”  I’m more like a paper hod carrier, an I proved it again today.

You see this is one of those too cool for school “art” not “craft” books. There’s a short author bio and thassit — not one line of type. No dedication, no acknowledgements, and certainly no directions! You’re given the elegant finished product, then you’re on your own.

I chose the first example which calls for but one cut and five folds. I spent some time with a T square and a pencil, a watercolor pencil and a pair of scissors, and loved the result. Here’s a kiss to my favorite card maker:

Cute, huh? A talking mouth or a cheeping beak? But the experience was enlightening: I was making it too complicated and I was doing it backwards! Hey, maybe I inherited one tiny engineering gene from my father, a chemical engineer who spent his professional life in the newsprint business. That makes him a paper engineer, right?

OK, I cheated. Drawing that perfect square on the spine of the card was a pain. Of anyone I know, who owns more square colored stuff? Why moi: origami paper, and thanks to my friend Priscilla, small squares. So I decided to make a trio of cheeping beaks, suitable for Easter or National Poultry Week.

Step one: Paste the squares, diamond style, on the spine of the card:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Draw a faint line in pencil across the center of the diamond. Fold the card, and cut across the line:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

nd here’s the genius part: turn the card inside out so that the colored squares are on the inside. Fold the sides downward , in what in origami-speak is a valley fold. The center lines should be pinched upwards , in a mountain fold, which the refolding of the spine encourages. This is helpful: what the pop-up looks from the wrong side:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ta Dah!

Yacketty yack!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, bored during a thunderstorm. I trotted out my essential, in too many ways to mention, paper. I had to figure something out, and realized I was making it hard for myself. Then I conjured my paper engineer and made myself laugh. Funnnnn.

 

 

 

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

French Frogs Fast

I’m not talking cuisses de grenouille a l’ail here, nor am I using a francophobic slur. I present to you my five minute menagerie of frogs, the invention of my fave French folder, Didier Boursin. I have no idea why they’re included in his Advanced Origami, because a five year old could master the model in a few minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The blue, yellow and pink frogs are rare South American specimens. They are cheap and man, are they cheerful, especially if you press two spots on either side of their necks and make them “talk.” The model calls for a long, not too wide strip of paper; the two green garcons were made from the leftovers when I squared up an 8 1/2 X 11 sheet.

Step One: Fold the strip in half vertically, then unfold:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Two: Fold two adjacent corners to the center line:

 

 

 

 

 

Step Three: Fold the triangular flaps backwards so they project past the diagonal folds:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Four: Fold the frog in half behind, horizontally, just under the lower corners of the folds you just made. Turn it over and pinch fold upwards the lower “jaw” to form the mouth, then fold the little triangles backward to form the eyes, Comme ca:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 5: Grab a pen and draw two circles for the eyes.  Voila!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have fun.

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Filed under Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, How Cool is That?, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper

Boursin Boxes and Bliss

My readers have noticed , I’m sure, that I’m good at keeping myself entertained. Give me a piece of paper, half a pound of butter, a crochet hook, a yard of fabric or a book, and I’m all good. (In a couple of weeks a few package of seeds and a rake will keep me out of trouble until Memorial Day.)

Origami is my private place — it calms me, focuses my mind, satisfies my twin fondnesses for mystery and order. The mystery is trying to figure out how the hell anyway will I ever figure out the series of folds that emerge into a beautiful or practical object. The order comes from the knowledge that sometime, sooner or later, I will figure it out.

Saturday afternoon my fingers were twitching for a piece of paper and a challenge. I pulled Didier Boursin’s Advanced Origami from my bookshelf and decided that I’d try, for the seventieth time over a period of three years, to complete his Serving Dish. Biographical information on Boursin is scant — he’s a French architect and famous paper folder. His style is clean and modern and his fold patterns are, well, different. I’ve loved his work since I found it four years ago and I’ve wasted reams of paper trying to get it right. (By the way, my  piece on Boursin’s origami wallet is the most viewed post ever on this blog, so I’m not Didier’s only fan girl!)

Reader, I did it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love this little box so make, and was so relieved that I’d finally done it, that I tried to attempt two other boxes from Advanced Origami.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love these triangular boxes so much I’m going to post another picture. Humor me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was blissed out enough at my progress, and my boxes, to risk one more model I’d never completed before — this cunning cube box. You make two identical cubes, but there’s a tricky and satisfying series of folds that locks the inner box into the outer box — it opens by pulling opposite corners. It’s cool.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m not preening — there are at least forty more forms in the book I may figure out before I draw Social Security. Mais, merci M. Boursin for two hours of  perfect peace.

 


 

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Filed under Art, Books, How Cool is That?, Into the Mystic, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper

The Zen of Poached Eggs

I’ve never met an egg style I didn’t like In fact, I was included in Best Food Writing of 2010 for a piece about my obsessive quest for the perfect soft boiled egg: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/122037-eggs-enough-and-time/. Scrambled, fried, stirred raw into fried rice, omelettes, soft boiled, deviled, egg salad — name it, I love it. I especially love eggs when they’re mated with butter — oh, lots! — or bacon grease.

But then there’s the Vestal Virgin of eggs, the poached egg, so pure so fat free, so divalike in her means and methods. I used to love the perfect saucer-shaped poached eggs my mother produced when I was little, with the metal cups that fit into a steamer. (I think I have the same setup rattling around in the Goodwill box.) Julia Child instructed me in the whirlpool of acidulated water method, but even she, in “Mastering”  recommended an metal poacher that reminded me of an Thonet chair. I’m enchanted by the new generation of egg poachers, adorable silicone cups that bob in the water like coracles — but they’re steamed, in a covered saucepan, not poached.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve fussed. In the last thirty years I’ve used

every truc and cute vehicle to a poached egg recommended by Julia or my mother. It was a big fail — this for an easy method for a cooked egg.

I love poached eggs. I eat a poached egg on toast for lunch every week, at least once. I love restaurant Brunchland Eggs Benedict, a poached  egg over a plate of corned beef hash, an oozy poached over a salad. It’s just an egg, cooked simply in water — any fat, like the butter on my toast, is aftermarket.

Six months ago I wanted a poached egg. I brought some water in a saucepan to a simmer (Yes, I added some white vinegar, and although there’s some new science that states the acid isn’t necessary, I’m not taking risks.) I slid an egg into a saucer, then into the water. I grabbed my slotted spoon and twirled  the whites around the yolk so they’re aren’t lacy bits in the water. I watched and waited. I waited for like, a big deal minute and a half.

Then I pulled the egg into the slotted spoon after a couple of minutes and poked the whites. If they’re too soft, I dunk the egg back into the slowly percolating water and test again until the white’s firm. It’s like being at one with your egg.  The toast is lying there, all buttery — I drain the egg on the slotted spoon and plop it on the toast — in this case an English Muffin, lots of pepper and, today, Himalayan Pink Rock Salt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All those years fussing and fretting and wrapping eggs in plastic wrap, like the avant Spanish chefs. Such a waste. All I need is a pan, some water, an egg, a spoon and a little attention –and understanding that a poached egg isn’t science:it’s patience, calm, and attention.

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Filed under Food, Incredible Edible Egg, Less than 50 cents

Valentine’s Day: Julia Knows her Cheap and Cheerful

It was a sweet, swell Valentine’s day, here in our sisterly site in the Great White North. Cards were served up at the breakfast table , with pretty little caskets of candy from Daddy and Megan. I didn’t give sweets, I gave meat in the form of a filet mignon/Duchesse Potatoes dinner for my peeps. (Note to anonymous suitors: to make me swoon hold the candy and FexEx me some animal protein from Niman Ranch.)

I received a huge bunch of flowers  from my faraway guy, so sunny on a grey February day:

And the mantle was all family hugs and kisses — the origami hearts had been our dinner place cards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But wouldn’t you know it: My sister Julia,https://cheapcheer.wordpress.com/2011/01/06/the-julia-mcarthur-gastronomic-star-system/ , the Sultana of Sweet, the Contessa of Cheerful, the Keeper of All Holidays (she was asking about Easter on February 15th,)  put the VaVoom into Valentine’s Day. With some pilfered printer paper, paint, crayons and scissors, she’s been beavering away in her bedroom since Jan. 2.

I got three cards from her: (double click to enlarge.)

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s an example of  but one flat surface  she hearted:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every table — at last count seventeen on the first floor — was tiled with hundreds of hearts, some painted, some in crayon, she’d cut and colored over the last month. Abondanzza is a wonderful thing.

I don’t want to hear any twaddle about St. Valentine’s being a greeting card holiday: it was around long before Hallmark, unlike, say, Sweetest Day. (That is a Hallmark holiday.)And Julia proved yet again that  holiday fun is mandatory, cheap and cheerful — all you need is love.

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Filed under History, Holidays, Less than 50 cents, Paper

Six Second Origami Santa

Maybe even a four second Santa. He’s kinda of a mid-century Mies Santa, all elegant angles. I decorated my Christmas cards will him a few years ago, and because I’m not thrilled with my card design this year I’m feeling nostalgic.

You just might have some red wrapping paper lurking — if so use it. There’s no reson to spring bucks for origami paper unless, like me, it’s irresistible to you. It looks best in a smallish size — an eight inch square is too big.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step One: Paper white side up. I’ve penned a dot on the upper left hand corner and half way down the right hand side for explanatory reasons — you wont need them. Fold the left corner over  to the halfway spot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step 2: Fold the paper backwards on a line between approx. 1/5 up on the right hand side and 1/3 up on the left hand side. It will look like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Step Three: It will look like this. Now turn it to the right and ta-dah!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hat, beard, bag and everything.

(Original folder Paula Versnik)

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Filed under Art, Cheap and Cheerful Object of the Day, Less than 50 cents, Origami, Paper