Category Archives: Media

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.)

1 Comment

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

Apron of the Day:”Truly, Madly, Mauvely” and my Favorite Movie

This apron’s name didn’t surface until I was almost finished with it. Then it popped in the Naming portion of my brain — which is overdeveloped.

Truly, Madly, Mauvely.

Here’s a closeup of the aubergine print, pleasingly purple.

The verso is another print I love, a mauve floral:


The apron’s name is a riff on the title of my all-time favorite move — yes, my favorite movie of all time.

It came out in the early 90s, was written and directed by Anthony Minghella. Juliet Stevenson plays a young woman devastated by the death of her lover, Alan Rickman, who was a cellist. (How great to see Alan as a romantic lead!) Alan returns as a ghost and after 90 or so heady, romantic minutes shows Juliet how to get on with her life.

If it sounds like Ghost, it isn’t. At all. (One critic at the time called TMD something like “Ghost for people who can do crossword puzzles.”) One telling point from my own experience is remembering my reaction s from my first viewing of both flix.


I went to Ghost with two girlfriends and we escaped being tossed out of the theater by stuffing our gloves in our mouths — the movie was so lame we laughed hysterically.

The first time I watched Truly Madly Deeply I sobbed for so long my husband was concerned. But it’s no romantic three hanky weeper — it’s smart, often funny and somehow uplifting.

If I recall correctly, there’s a scene set in Juliet’s kitchen. Alan Rickman’s wearing an apron


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

End of Year Lists

I’m not talking about New Year’s resolutions (I have yet to keep one, so why bother?) or Christmas lists –somehow Christmas has become much simpler. I’m talking about those “Best of” lists that bloom in the first week of December, the lists about books.

We’re New York TImes “Weekenders,” which means that we walk down the driveway Friday, Saturday and Sunday and scoop up the plastic bag that holds one of the few fripperies in our lives. (A subscription to The New Yorker is another. Um, I guess we’re officially Old School.)He’s a fiend puzzler and these three days provide the most challenging grids.

How would we spend Sunday without The Times? It’s the atheist’s Sunday observance , and I continue to amaze myself that I can spen three quarters of an hour reading the Style section, Easy.

But I digress. The Book Section had the traditional 100 Best Books listing this Sunday, and the tab-sized sheets are sitting on the piano bench lest they be carelessly recycled. The fun of reading the list is to discover that fancy-dancy literary critics agree with some of your faves, remembering books you should have read and haven’t, and scowling at entires that strike you as super snores.

Here are a couple of books on the list I’ve read and loved loved loved.

This is modern Jane Austen. I saw it at the library and took it out because I’d read a rave review somewhere. Never has a rave been more deserved — it blew me away.

A gentle, witty cookbook that made most everyone’s  Best Cookbook list is Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table. This is not a rehash of French classics, it’s fresh and modern. I loved that she gave me permission to buy chicken bouillon cubes — it seems that French ladies use them all the time.

But jeez, I haven’t dipped a toe into the “100 Notable Books of 2010.”  I want to read Operation Mincemeat and Charlie Chan and Big Girls Don’t Cry and Keith Richard’s Life. That’s the beauty of saving this section — it’s a heads-up for wintry treks to the library.

Send me your list!





Filed under Books, Collections, Five bucks or fewer, Media, Worth it anyway

The Cheapest and Cheerfullest Thanksgiving

Yeah, I missed a table of family and I missed my Wednesday ritual of preparing the pies, the cranberry sauce and blanching brussel sprouts. But, oh, so much to be grateful for, like Rafa Nadal pulling off a tough match against Andy Murray. My father and siblings, my daughter and son-in-law, the roof over my head and a car in the driveway.

It was Cheap and Cheerful because my ex-boss and dear friend Gretchen asked Lou and me over for dinner. Gretchen was a saint when she was my boss, given my unprepared career in the cut throat world of the payroll biz. She helped with me with my failings and promoted my strengths, like training and writing.  We ate, drank, played after dinner games, and it felt like family Thanksgiving. I love young folks and talking to her son Joe about writing code and Darryl’s daughter Jackie about her (literally) astronomical ambitions reassured me once again the the kids are all right. Thanksgiving in the ‘Ville. After dinner we were joined by my friend Jason, another unfortunate ex-boss of mine at Paychex and one of the funniest men I know.

Left to right: Gretchen, Jason, Darryl.

Today was one of those miracle- of- Facebook things: I met my (second) cousin Bill for lunch at a Portillo’s in Schaumburg after a period of, conservatively, forty years. My great-aunt Chi, his grandmother, was an inspiration and role model to me — in fact, my high school literary prize was a story about a trip Chi and I took to Quebec City together when I was fifteen. When I walked up to the restaurant door I saw Bill and we basically fell into each others arms –no reserve, no stiffness — it felt like the big hug we should given each other when we were teen shy teens. Portillo’s was packed —packed, but I swooped on an empty table while the guys waited in line for Italian beef sandwiches. I was hungry, but eating was wedged into chatting and I’m sure I talked with my mouth full.

Bill’s a doll. He’s my long-lost cousin. We’ve hatched a fledgling fam reunion, centered around the family compound in Sauble Beach, Ontario. As Bill said: “I think Chi would be very happy knowing that we’re here together.” Yes, Bill, she’d be thankful.


Filed under Food, History, Media, The 'Ville

Site of the Day: The British Monarchy

Queen Elizabeth has a Facebook page. Go revel:

No, you can’t Friend her. But you can read the Court Circular!  One or another of her lame sons or grandsons are doing Good Works (when they’re not dressing inappropriately at Hallowe’en parties, fighting in Afghanistan , pushing organic produce or playing polo.) You can see pix of ambassadors presenting their credentials. Endless pix in what I can only describe as Queen chic . She’s not a bit chic, but I admire her matchy matchy outfits, always with a hat. I love hats.

I saw the Queen once, when I was a toddlesr. She and her newlywed husband drove in an open car  around the track at the Semanaire St. Joseph in Trois-Rivieres. She was young and beautiful, the Dook was young and handsome. Then time happens, kids happen, the Empire dissolved.

Unlike most Canadians, Kiwis, Indians and Aussies I was raised in a Jacobin family. My father was vocal in his loathing of the monarchy, rich twits with no clue. Even my Nana, who was born in England, despised the whole House of Windsor, and she saved her bile for the beloved Queen Mum. Poor Nana, she would have made a fab Queen Mum.

So this site is for retro fun, disengaged from the reality that Queen Elizabeth might be the only member of the House of Windsor with two brain cells to rub together, great hats and a bunch of weird kids. And that royal hubby, quite mad .

For followers of Brit soap operas, it’s just Coronation Street with money. But I can tell that’s it’s going to become a guilty pleasure. BTW, Camilla rocks hats too.


Filed under Free, History, Media, Politics, Site of the Day

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

Site of the Day: Hyperbole and a Half

Your bloggiste has a headache, a deadline and a noisy cat who just can’t believe that I refuse to open a fourth can of cat food tonight — that would be two over his dinnertime average. He’s pushing my left elbow with his head as I type, because that usually bends me to his will.  Oh, go eat your Iams kibble!Yeah, him, Ajax.

This is a plea for patience,Dear Reader, a whining roundabout suckup and apology for not writing a proper blog post tonight. But I’ll point you towards a site that’ll entertain you more than I ever could.

You see, when I’m on Facebook, and someone I respect  “likes” something, I’ll check it out. Thank you, John Nguyen, for turning me on to It’s been around for awhile, but I didn’t meet up with Allie and her crazy art, skewed world view, and mad funny writing until yesterday afternoon. Yes, I could have written my column and two blog posts, expanded my apron empire and cleaned the powder room in the time I spent giggling.

It was worth it. Thanks John! Now I’m gonna let the Advil kick in.



Filed under Art, Free, HeeHee, How Cool is That?, Media, Site of the Day

Site of the Day:The History Chef

If you’ve followed my food writing around for awhile, you know I’m a food history geek. Go the the History section at to see how deeply psyched I am at   this part of the food world.

I’m thrilled to introduce you to The History Chef at The blogger is Suzie Evans, JD, Phd, mother, and her goal “is to help parents and kids learn how to cook together, learn about history together, and hopefully help them create many great memories and meals together.”

It’s a gorgeous site, a thoughtful site, and who  could resist the most recent post:

Chicken Tarragon, Chicken Divan, and the Mysterious Origins of Country Captain Chicken

Jane Grigson’s “Food With the Famous” is in my Top Ten cookbook rotation. I adored Laura Shapiro’s “Perfection Salad.” I swooned at Joanne Clevenger’s Thomas Jefferson Menu at Upperline in New Orleans. Suzie Evans’s take on food and history — with recipes!–  will work its way into your kitchen and your family’s  history lessons.

It’s a gorgeous, intelligent treat.

As I said, with recipes.


Filed under Free, History, How Cool is That?, Media, Site of the Day

Robert Mitchum and Robert Downey Jr.: Two Dangerous Men

We watched the 2009 movie Sherlock Holmes last night, a fun bit of fluff set in the days when Sherlock and Dr. Watson were young and studly. What the world needs now is a hot Doctor Watson, and we got that in Jude Law. Rachel McAdams disappointed as Irene Adler, but that might be because I’ve always wanted to play Irene Adler.

Robert Downey Jr. appears to have cleaned up his drug habit after a year in jail, after many previous drug busts. God, I hope he has, because as I’ve said before here, he and Daniel Day-Lewis are the greatest film actors of a generation. I’m not going to say IMHO. I love George Clooney’s intelligence and independence. (And face.)  For me the Leos and Bens and Javiers and Matts of the movie world are excellent, but second tier to my Big Two.

I think it’s those brown eyes. Downey has done more for brown eyes since anyone but Van Morrison.

My mother had a huge lifelong crush on another  naughty Robert, Robert Mitchum. I have no issue with this,ladies and gents.

He rules film noir, and guess what, he got busted for some maryjane in his pocket and spent three months in jail .Mitchum was married to the same lady for like, almost fifty years and he wasn’t in and out of rehab as Downey was. I love his take about acting:I’m paraphrasing here but it was something like “Acting is easy. You show up on time, you know your lines and you hit your marks.”  Robert de Niro (hmmm, another Bob) was swell in Cape Fear but you don’t know real fear until you’ve seen Mitchum in the original.

If this was a film school thesis I’d have to write a cunning and scholarly summing up about the two Roberts. This is a random blog post, soI’m not obligated. Just rent the movies, OK? And I bet my virtuous mother would have had as big a crush on my Robert as she had on her Robert.


Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Art, History, Media

Site of the Day: Passive Aggressive Notes

I had a dream (nightmare?) last night that included employees from every job I’ve ever had. As far as I can remember, we were putting on a talent show and everyone, from Miss Neel at Holt’s, Les Lingelfelter at Unisys, Steve Ligeza at Ameritech Cellular, Joanne Maxwell at Attention!, Brian Speadling at Sprint PCS and Charolette Guilford at Paychex were all on the same page: I was such a loser I couldn’t appear in the talent show.

I hasten to add that these people, in real life, were nice to me. Some are still friends. Some were important role models. If I had an analyst,I’m sure she’d have something deep to say about this, unemployed as I am. For myself, I have no clue.

I’d forgotten about how much I loved those notes attached to the microwaves and fridges in break room kitchens, the screeds in Comic Sans in the Ladies Room. Yesterday, on Facebook, my eGullet buddy Chris Amirault posted a link to this fabulous site. Be prepared to waste at least an hour and ROFL.


Filed under Free, HeeHee, How Cool is That?, Into the Mystic, Media, Site of the Day