Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Chow Time: Andre's Drive-In

Now, usually, I am not one for making new year's resolutions - much less, keeping them.  However, as the circumference around my equator (on an anatomically-correct body I believe it is referred to as a "waistline"???) ever increases, the changing of the calendar year seems like a adequately-arbitrary time to reign in the chronic binge-eating of the past few months.

"Yay!  I'm a fatty!!!!"

Before 2014 officially comes to a close, we have just enough time left to savor the sweet, sweet, burger-flavored memories of our trip to Bakersfield, CA and Andre's Drive-In (est. 1955).

Andre's Drive-In - Bakersfield, CA

With all of the surrounding cars, and electrical poles, and wires, it was difficult to capture Andre's at its most photogenic; surely, to most people it is about as plain a hamburger stand as California's Central Valley could muster.  I'll concede that without the finishing touches, it would merely be a stucco-clad, burger-dispensing, beige cube.  It is the genius of those simple finishing touches (see the optimistic script of the sign) that transform it from bland box to atomic space crab!

Sure, those splayed beams both anchor the building to the ground and frame the drive-thru, but they also create all kinds of form and dimension as the scuttling legs of our space crab.  I can't help but love the improbable use of DIY, corrugated siding and the remaining hand-painted signage still adorning the windows.  Did somebody say, "FRIED PIES?!?!!!"

The real delight at Andre's is the free-form, al fresco, dining room.
Undulating amongst the encroaching landscape, the curving benches are punctuated by floating,
kidney-shaped tables; they are perfect for dining alone or cuddling up with your new steady.

If the food was as good as the paintings in the window led us to believe, we were in for a real treat.  Seeing as how we had eaten only a short time before, Mary and I decided to opt for something on the "lighter side."

We acted like we were exhibiting some kind of restraint by splitting Andre's famous "French
Burger."  The fact is, as the sign so clearly states, the French Burger is actually two ham-
burgers made indistinguishable by the large french roll on which they are served.  But, hey, we
didn't order french fries or fried pies...so that's a healthy choice.

The French Burger left us questioning our own patriotism as all we could muster between sloppy, mustard-tinged bites was, "Vive la France!"  At "a million francs or three," we would definitely go Dutch on another French should we again find ourselves in the burger-friendly climes of Bakersfield!  

"La Marseillaise" from Casablanca (1942)

Do you have any resolutions for the new year?  Do you lie to yourself by eating half of a double-burger and then telling yourself that you are halfway to a one-hundred-percent vegetarian, gluten-free, paleo diet?  Whatever your issues, whatever your resolutions, we wish you and yours a very Happy New Year!!!

Andre's Drive-In
1419 Brundage Ln.
Bakersfield, CA


Mr. Tiny

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sew What?! The "Happy Holiday" Frock

People often ask me where I go shopping for the fabrics that I use to create Mary's wardrobe.  The answer is simple - everywhere.  Wherever there is fabric being sold at discounted rates, one will likely find this oversized cheapskate knee-deep in broadcloth, seersucker, tartan plaids, and even metallic upholstery yardage.  It is, in fact, six-and-a-half yards of lamé, ribbed upholstery fabric in crimson and gold, bought at a deep discount at a hole-in-the-wall fabric store, that became Mary's Christmas frock this year.

As usual, my design process meant allowing the fabric to dictate the silhouette.
Surely there are myriad directions one might take with this light-as-a-feather, shimmering,
fantasy fabric, but in my mind, Christmas always calls for an extremely-full skirt!

Adapting the pattern I drafted for Mary's Halloween costume, I made a drop-waisted, boned bodice with princess seam lines.  When Mary wore the dress to a Christmas party last weekend, I was flattered when a new friend complimented my decision to vary the direction of the stripes (vertical on the bodice, horizontal on the skirt).  As much credit as I wanted to take for the clever design choice, I had to come clean that it was merely a byproduct of laziness.  Vertical stripes on the bodice meant I didn't have to worry about matching stripes; horizontal stripes on the skirt meant I could use the full length of the yardage with only one seam at the back.  The real question is, why is it so hard for me to just accept a simple compliment?

If you follow Mr. Tiny on Instagram, you might remember this picture, a
sneaky peek-y of  the dress in progress.  When a fabric I love comes in
multiple colorways, I will almost always buy them all.  Having bought
this material in purple (project pending), red, and acid green, I thought
I could use the latter colors to add a whimsical hip corsage in the form
of holly and berries; when it came time to apply it to the dress, I just
couldn't make myself do it.  Even the king of wacky tacky found the
size and scale of this appliqué a little too whimsical.  Occasionally,
I am forced to admit that in some cases, simplicity really is best. 

While a very-talented friend, and photographer, has graciously offered to take proper pictures of Mary in her new dress, I couldn't resist sharing a couple of photos of the Happy Holiday Frock in action before the big photo shoot.  I figure that it is best to share a couple of "low-budge" images and give you a very honest sense of how regularly unprepared we are to take glamorous photos (the following were taken at two-thirty in the morning on the streets of Los Angeles using an iPhone) and how much we preferred enjoying the scintillating company of the amazing party to pretending we know what to do with a camera.  The lighting and the resolution may both be low but the dress still sparkles!

It is hard to convey the scale of the corsage but I would estimate
that it was roughly the size of her face.  Don't you think I was right
to leave it off?  Even thought the belt was part of my original design,
I sort of hemmed-and-hawed over that decision as well.  In the end, I
think it defines the waist well and breaks up Mary's already-long torso.

Mary was a trooper; it was crazy-cold by Southern
California standards and the only she thing she had to
protect her from the cold night air was the matching wrap...
and the six-and-a-half yards of skirt.  Nary a crinoline nor a
petticoat was needed;the fabric was so airy and voluminous
that the skirt's fullness supported itself!  

What will you be wearing this season?  Do you have a favorite holiday ensemble?  Be you clad in fancy frock or ugly Christmas sweater, we wish you a very Happy Holiday!!!

"Happy Holiday" - Bing Crosby with The Music Maids (1942)


Mr. Tiny

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kitsch-en Kounter: O Krisp-mas Tree, O Krisp-mas Tree

Am I on Pinterest?  Yes.  Am I positive that I understand the intended purpose of Pinterest?  Not so much.  At face value, I think it is an ingenious way to electronically organize and store useful bits of information that would otherwise clog my years-old, unbacked-up hard drive and/or perpetuate that archaic process of tearing pages out of magazines.  In action, I see that it is just another way of wasting time online while simultaneously making me feel equal parts self-important and hopelessly inadequate.  Inadequate not simply because it is hard to imagine living up to the professional-quality photos of clever crafters lit beautifully by perfectly-diffused afternoon sunlight, rather because I am pinning neither as often nor as well as I should.  Seriously, you don't want to be inside my head when I launch into a neurotic inner-monologue about how I don't have enough pins, how the pins I do have aren't cool enough, and how I can't re-pin other people's pins because then I would just look like a dirty copycat.  It is entirely possible that I have problems much greater than Pinterest.

My biggest issue with Pinterest is that it proves the saying, "There is nothing new under the sun."  When struck with the "best idea in the whole wide world," I have been known to check Pinterest to make sure that mine is a wholly original one.  Inevitably, I learn that the pancake layer-cake has been done far earlier and far better than I could ever do.  After so many Pinterest-induced disappointments, I abandoned this practice - much like I had abandoned so many of my "original" ideas.  Just because somebody somewhere else in the world had come up with the same brilliant idea didn't mean that I hadn't experienced my own brush with brilliance, right?  Two bolts of lightning can strike distant points on a map without diminishing the electrifying brilliance of each other, am I right?

Brilliance often begins with Rice Krispies (or puffed rice, or "Crispy Rice" cereal
product, or whatever generic label suits your fancy).  It just so happens that the
real deal was on sale and less expensive than the store brand - Christmas miracle!  

It is always a challenge at holiday time to come up with something to take to the never-ending series of potlucks.  On a side note: the occasional potluck can be a real kick but what ever happened to throwing a party and just allowing your guests to be guests?  Call me old-fashioned, but sometimes I want to just show up at a party without having to bring the entire party with me (hostess gift, hors d'oeuvres, white elephant gift, ornament for the ornament exchange, two-dozen cookies, and ugly Christmas sweater).  In many ways, I am such a control freak that the thought of someone bringing something unexpected to a party I had so carefully planned would be enough to send me into a tailspin.  Like I said, my issues extend far beyond Pinterest and potlucks!

Charged with bringing "something to share" to a holiday party this year, I knew I needed a dish that would be easy, that would travel well, and that would bring a spark of seasonal drama to the heavy-laden buffet table.  I needed to make something that would snap, crackle, and - dare I say it - pop!  With Rice Krispies at the ready and a pantry full of staples like mini-marshmallows and green food coloring, I started farming my very own Rice Krisp-mas Tree!

Nestled on a bed of newly-driven coconut snow, the Rice Krisp-mas Tree
 is adorned with cinnamon candies and dusted with powdered sugar.  Designed
to be a pull-apart finger food, the tree felt like it was missing something... 

I almost forgot the topper, a Krisp-mas star!

Although, the real star of this show is probably the chenille-stem,
spun head snowman and his cheery, cherry-red top hat!

Just like a real one, even the most perfect tree on the lot needs a bit of trimming after it survives the ride home on the roof of the car.  After trimming the excess away from the graduated layers, notching out the branches, and several rounds of sampling , there were still more than a few scraps.

Ignoring the admonition to not play with my food, some of the scraps
turned into the perfect pretzel-shaped Krisp-mas mask for Santa!

Even if there are already 1,000 similar examples, there will be room for one more Rice Krisp-mas Tree on Pinterest by the time this post is published!  Hopefully it will have everyone singing, "O Krisp-mas Tree."

"O Christmas Tree (O Tannenbaum)" - Vince Guaraldi Trio

Be sure to check out Mr. Tiny's Pinterest page for other Kitsch-en Kounter ideas and to feel good about how superior your pinning is!  What are you taking to your holiday potlucks this year?


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

wacky tacky Icons: Mary Wickes, What a Character!

Mary Wickes
June 13, 1910 - October 22, 1995

From postmistress/switchboard operator (It Happened to Jane), to wisecracking housekeeper (Annette, On Moonlight Bay, By the Light of the Silvery Moon, Sanford and Son, I'll See You in My Dreams), to gargoyle with a heart of gold (The Hunchback of Notre Dame), Mary Wickes is your favorite actor whose name you probably don't know.  Imbuing every one of her roles with the plain-speaking, salt-of-the-earth gumption suggestive of her Midwestern roots, Mary Wickes was the go-to character actress for nearly every no-nonsense nun (Sister Act, Sister Act 2, The Trouble with Angels, Where Angels Go Trouble Follows, Punky Brewster) and nosy neighbor (Dennis the Menace) that Hollywood created during her seven-decade career.

"You don't say."

Featured in practically all of Hollywood's more memorable productions, scanning her extensive IMDb page is to realize that Mary Wickes is at the heart of wacky tacky's most beloved screen classics.  At this time of year, the role that immediately springs to mind is Pine Tree, Vermont's most misguided, if well-intentioned, hotel housekeeper.

Columbia Inn's head of housekeeping, Emma Allen (Wickes), counsels
General Waverly (Dean Jagger) in a pivotal scene from White Christmas (1954)

It is an underreported fact that White Christmas' entire love story hinges on Wickes' character; her meddlesome eavesdropping results in filmdom's greatest weather-related, hotel-reviving, sister-act-involved, Crosby-crooning, yuletide misunderstanding.  And without her eleventh hour cajoling of the General, there would be no glorious, snowy, Technicolor resolution.

As a child, I couldn't forget her star turns in White Christmas, Dennis the Menace, and Punky Brewster.
To the world, she was unforgettable as ballet mistress, Madame Lamond, on I Love Lucy.

There is little on record in regards to Mary's private life.  For that reason alone, she had just the kind of career I would want should I ever become a player in motion pictures.  Friendly with the major stars of both the big and small screens, Wickes side-stepped the relatively short career spans of those same friends by avoiding the press and Hollywood's biggest pitfall, vanity.  Taking a face perfectly suited for radio and turning it into a lifetime of steady screen work, she will always be an inspiration to those of us blessed with less-than-matinee-idol looks.

"Pick a Little, Talk a Little"
Wickes played one of River City's clucky society matrons, Mrs. Squires,
 in one of my all-time favorite movie musicals, The Music Man (1962)

Some of Wickes' earliest film roles were as uncredited dress extra.  Turning a corner, her career gained momentum when she donned a nurse's uniform for two of 1942's greatest films, Now Voyager and The Man Who Came to Dinner, both starring Bette Davis.  

"Dora, I suspect you're a treasure."

Always forthright, always funny, always fallible (but never mean-spirited), Mary Wickes brought tremendous charm to every character she played.  As a consistent presence in my preferred childhood entertainment, she is unquestionably one of my favorite actresses - character or otherwise.  I, too, suspect she is a treasure!

Don't you just love Mary Wickes?  Do you have any other favorite character actors?  Wherever you live, we hope that Mary Wickes ushers in a White Christmas for you this year!

Mary Wickes is a panelist on Match Game '76

Mary Wickes guest stars on Doris Day's radio show (1952)


Mr. Tiny

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Crazy Crafty: I'm Dreaming of a BIG Dream Pet!

Perhaps it is the flocks ("herds" doesn't allow for such clever word play) of flocked reindeer so ubiquitous at the holidays. Perhaps it is because they are the only pets that don't amplify my seasonal allergies.  Or perhaps it is the fact that they are a perpetual line item (bold and underlined) on my yearly letters to Santa Claus.  Whatever the reason, Dream Pets always remind me of Christmas.  It doesn't really matter that the only two Dream Pets I own that are not currently in storage include a backpacking squirrel and a red-and-white poodle; I can't help but get wistful for the holiday season whenever I see a Dream Pet.

At least I think it's a poodle...

One might think that after my tedious dealings with Mary's Showgirl Halloween costume that I would have gotten my fill of red velveteen but after giving the remnants a second look, I started dreaming of a big Dream Pet.  Attempting to recreate the red-and-white poodle Dream Pet in a large scale, would be my way of finally setting Halloween aside and welcoming in the winter holiday.

I actually had nearly all the materials on hand - red velveteen, fiber fill,
button nose, pink material for the tongue and eyelids, and black vinyl for the
eyelashes.  The only thing I needed to buy was one skein of nubby white yarn!

Much like the crack team at Madame Tussaud's, I had to carefully study my subject, taking countless measurements, making several plaster molds, and photographing it from every angle.

Or maybe, and much more likely, I just dove head first into making my own pattern with
absolutely no technical understanding of pattern drafting/grading for poodles whatsoever.

After one rough draft, I started sewing, pushing past the usual thoughts of, "This is never going to work," that occur whenever I begin a new project.  I was afraid I had hit a major roadblock when, after stuffing its red, velveteen body, I sewed the Dream Pet shut and stood up, or rather tried to stand up, my strange, faceless creation.  The disproportionately-gargantuan head toppled the pet over every time.  Mildly discouraged, I forged ahead, figuring that adding the tail would act as a suitable counterbalance; and wouldn't you know, it worked! 

What resulted, however, was hardly an exact replica of the toy.
Generously described as only a reasonable facsimile, the poodle's
fluffy fur was achieved by making the world's longest chain of single 
crochet (I'm trying to make that sound fancy but after one lesson, 
more than fifteen years ago, the only crochet stitch I still remember 
how to do is a single crochet).  I simply wrapped the legs and looped 
the crochet chain over the tail's wire frame.

Sure, my big Dream Pet's enormous head is cocked at a jaunty angle, the fur is bright white, and the eyes
are a little high on the head.  Nevertheless, I think this pair could easily pass in public as parent and child.

To heighten the seasonal splendor, and to avoid the inevitable cease-and-desist
orders from the Dakin Corporation, I averted what would otherwise be considered
blatant trademark infringement by making my Dream Pet's bow out of vintage
"Velvette" ribbon in emerald green and topping it with a holiday pick from the
local cake supply store!

This Christmas, while most people are dreaming about luxury goods and a giant, red bow atop a brand new car, you can be sure that Mr. Tiny's Dream Pet reverie will only be briefly interrupted by the occasional visions of sugarplums dancing in my head.  

The most common emails I receive all revolve around the same basic
question, "Mr. Tiny," they ask, "in what do you sleep?"  The answer is
always the same - my glasses and a stocking cap, you weirdos!

Incidentally, the photographer indicated that this is possibly the most disturbing
photo she's ever had to take of me.  All I can say is, "Sweet dreams, everybody!"

Do you dream about Dream Pets?  Do you collect them?  Which is your favorite?  Does a giant Dream Pet defeat the purpose of these terrifically-tiny little toys?  Whether you dream of Dream Pets or White Christmases, we hope that all your holiday dreams come true!

"White Christmas" - Bing Crosby


Mr. Tiny