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NEED TO DITCH CHEWED GUM? TRY `SCRATCHBOOK'

It started out as one of those quintessential "California things."

Julie Johnson-Williams, co-owner of Frog's Leap Winery in the Napa Valley, was in Kansas City to be host of a tasting at the Ritz-Carlton hotel.Before our interview began, she plucked what looked like a matchbook from her bag, then ripped out a tiny square of paper to dispose of her chewing gum.

"What a great idea!" I said while admitting to rummaging through my car's glove compartment for a crumpled tissue or an unnecessary cash register receipt to stash my gum just moments before entering the hotel.

Johnson-Williams handed me the "scratchbook" insisting she could get plenty more at California restaurants where they have become quite popular.

"It was actually designed for the California market as anti-smoking laws got so strict," confirms Mike Godwin, national sales manager for the Atlas Match Corp.

The Texas-based company has produced scratchbooks for three years, and the concept is catching on nationwide.

If you believe the stuff in Hollywood movies, matchbooks have long been used to jot down phone numbers and odd bits of information. Of course, they have their limitations. "It's not something to make a big, heavy grocery list on," says Leesa Christian, a customer service representative.

Another fun new item: There are cookbook collectors. And there are refrigerator magnet collectors. Now there's minicookbook magnets, sure to please both camps. Sterling Publishing's Magnet Gourmet series includes mini-magnetic cookbooks shaped like a main ingredient - chili, salmon, tomato, chicken, garlic or banana - with recipes to reflect the theme. Each magnet costs $5.95. Call (800) 848-1186.