2017 Holiday Gift Guide Part 1: Help them to help themselves

It has been a rough year. I don’t think I know a single person who isn’t exhausted, mentally, physically, spiritually, economically– you name it. So I hereby dedicate this first installment of my annual holiday gift guide to gifts that will help your loved ones take care of themselves. Because if we don’t take care of ourselves, and we lose the strength to persevere, all will be lost. For reals.

Goldie's mood mist no 9

photo courtesy of Goldie’s


Nothing says “Everything’s gonna be all right” like a cloud of beautifully balanced essential oil scented mist that is grounding and energizing, detoxifying and hydrating all in one. Goldie’s Mood Mist No 9 ($26) is going to improve the tone of your skin or the room you’re in, and everybody who gets near you will feel better. Which is actually a holiday gift for your entire community.

Red Flower 10000 Facial

photo courtesy Red Flower


If I had all the money in the world, I might just dump all of my other skin care products and exclusively use this 10,000 Self Care Beauty Practice set from Red Flower. You can get it all for $498 (it’s on sale!) and I promise you it is worth every penny. These creams and oils and soaps are unparalleled. But if I had to “settle” for their Hinoki mint mineral bath soak ($52) I would do so happily. And still feel like a queen. Or a king, for that matter.

Southampton Soap Co foot scrub

Photo courtesy of Southampton Soap Co


Sometimes there is no bathtub available. In these instances, however, a large pot will do nicely. Rubbing down feet with some Southampton soap cucumber mint healing foot scrub (from $25) and then soaking them in a pot full of warm water is like an instant vacation without having to deal with the long lines at airport security.

reflexology chart

While we’re on the topic of feet, reflexology is the science of massaging along specific energy meridians of the foot to help heal all sorts of physical ailments. Give a gift certificate for a 60 minute session at Perry St Reflexology ($125)… because we have all been marching since January 21 and our feet (and bodies) have had just about enough.

palo santo insence

Palo Santo incense ($20), or Holy Wood, wards off evil spirits and creates positive energy. And Lord knows we could all use some more positive energy these days.

Photo courtesy of Puerh

Photo courtesy of Puerh Brooklyn


A good cup of tea can make just about anything better. The turmeric/ginger blend (from $8) at Puehr Brooklyn Teashop might just be my all time favorite herbal tea. The anti-inflammatory qualities of turmeric mixed with the anti-oxident superpower of ginger make it powerful medicine. And a lovely teapot ($33) in which to brew these concoctions only sweetens the deal.

mndfl studio

Photo by Julia Robbs for Homepolish.com.

Meditation is probably the one thing that is most consistently recommended by doctors, therapists, yoga teachers and hippies alike for helping to relieve the stresses of this crazy world we find ourselves in. I have never, EVER, heard anyone say it is anything but beneficial. But it can be hard to start a consistent practice, which is where MNDFL Meditation Studios comes in. They provide the space and the teachers, so all you have to do is show up. Easy peasy. Think of a gift certificate from MNDFL like a gym membership for your mind.

Happy Giving Tuesday!

SX-70 hands

This is just one pair of the hundreds of hands I photographed for a Polaroid project a ways back…

I’m not much for these manufactured “Days of Spending” that are thrust upon us while we’re still recovering from Thanksgiving, but I do stand behind the concept of Giving Tuesday, because I think it is always important to support the folks who are doing good work and trying to make our world a better place. And the more conscious you are about giving back, the further your gifts will go. Building this muscle is crucial if we want to actually keep this planet going.

This year, my family is sitting down together (yep, all 3 of us) to decide where our year end donations will go in 2017. Transparency and agency are both so important in any relationship, and when your kids reach a certain age, it’s important to actively help them understand the role that money plays in this complicated world, as well as to instill in them a sense of generosity. (More on this to come!) Each one of us will come to the table with a list of places we’d like to support, and then we’ll decide how to divide our resources so that our donations can be most effective.

Here are three organizations that I have come across recently that I’ll be adding to my list this year. Check them out, be inspired, donate, make your own lists and lets get this holiday season started with the spirit of giving!

The Alliance for Quality Education

The People's March for Education back in March 2017 organized by The Alliance for Quality Education. Photo courtesy Garn Press.

The People’s March for Education back in March 2017 organized by The Alliance for Quality Education. Photo courtesy Garn Press.

The AQE works to mobilize communities across New York State to advocate for a universally high quality public education for every single student in all schools. Advocating for great teachers, strong early childhood education programs, equity of funding, positive school environments, less testing and more engaged learning as well as more parent and family involvement, AQE uses its policy and organizing expertise to uplift strategies leading to student success and, in their words, “to create a powerful public demand for a high quality education.”

I first heard about AQE through their extraordinary Advocacy Director Zakiyah Ansari, while singing with the Resistance Revival Chorus, and she constantly inspires me not only with her singing voice, but with her words. I asked this mother of 8 (!!) why she does what she does and her answer was profound: “Over the last 17 years of educational justice work I’ve learned that it is not enough to show that our children are in need of resources if the people that can make the change don’t think they are worthy of those very resources. We have to organize the parents, community, and young people to demand that our elected officials do right by our children– and that includes equitable funding for a high quality public school education.”

If we are truly a nation that is Of the People, By the People and For the People, we need to Empower the People. And our kids most of all, because they are the key to our future. Check out the great work that the Alliance for Quality Education is doing, spread the word, and donate* to help build a better future for our kids.

Zappos For Good

soles 4 souls to haiti

This year alone, Zappos for Good helped Souls 4 Soles deliver thousands of pairs of shoes to people in need in Haiti. Photo courtesy Zappos.com.

If you’re anything like me, the hardest part about donating clothes is actually getting them to the charity or organization of your choice. Enter Zappos for Good, the philanthropic arm of the massive online retailer. They take their superpower- shipping and distribution- and use it to help make this step as easy as possible.

Here’s how it works:

1) Gather up to 50 lbs of lightly used shoes and clothes and put them into a box.

2) Download a free shipping label from Zappos

3) Tape up the box, put on the label and take the postage pre-paid box to any UPS store.

4) Walk away, happy in the knowledge that Zappos is delivering your stuff to people in need via Soles 4 Souls, a great organization dedicated to getting clothes and shoes to kids and grownups in need. They will also make repairs, so if you’re missing a button or need a new heel, no worries!

5) If you happen to be shopping for clothes in Williamsburg, you can just drop off your shoes in the Zappos For Good box at Bird (203 Grand Street) through the holidays.

6) Oh and Zappos has also partnered with several orgs that give school supplies and books to kids, so if you want to buy notebooks and backpacks for kids instead, they’ll take care of that delivery as well!

The Edible Schoolyard Project

Last but far from least, there is nothing in this world that should be more important to us all than the food we choose to put into our bodies. Learning how to cultivate it, how it links all aspects of our lives via community, politics, science, math… these are the building blocks of an edible education. The Edible Schoolyard Project is dedicated to spreading the gospel of Whole Food and getting edible curricula into every K – 12 school program in this country.

Just watch the video, get really excited about what they’re doing, and then head directly to their website and click on the donate button. Also, if there is an Edible Schoolyard project near you, it is well worth checking out. I have visited the mothership in Berkeley, CA and it blew my mind.

Monday, Monday… or more links about Election Day (which is tomorrow, by the way)

go vote

Getting the message across however I can these days… Voting is more important than ever. Please go exercise your right!

Election Day is TOMORROW here in New York, so today’s links are all about how to get yourself informed quickly. This way, when you go to the polls, which I KNOW you’re planning on doing, you can vote with confidence. Remember– all of these “smaller” elections add up to big things. Every vote counts. For reals.

First off, there is the official NYC Board of Elections Voter Guide, which I find a bit confusing, but it has all the official information you need to get yourself to the polls.

WhosOnTheBallot.org is a great resource for previewing what you are actually going to see on your own local ballot, with links to candidate’s websites, social media, etc. Plus it’s a great place to go to see if you’re registered (and to register if you haven’t already), find out exactly where your polling place is, etc… they will even set a calendar reminder for you.

My go-to, in general, is the WNYC voters guide, from our local NPR radio station. They have all of the candidates for each position, links to their websites and (this is what I love) links to a number of articles about each race, so you can go a bit deeper than just the candidate’s home pages.

The New York Times, of course, has a piece aptly titled Just Tuning In To New York’s Elections Now?, which is full of links and information to help you sort it all out before you head to the polls.

If you want the crib notes on who the reliably progressive folks are on the ballot, check out who the Working Families Party has endorsed. At the very least, if you just blindly follow their lead, you’re not going to be accidentally pulling the lever for a pro-assault weapon, anti-immigration style candidate.

Another thing I really don’t need but totally want, regardless

native union flat charger

Sometimes the secret to a good marriage is as simple as being able to share your phone charger…

In a way, this is the perfect post to come right after the one about me trying to get rid of things. Because the more stuff I usher out the door, the more stuff I discover and then subsequently desire urgently.

Like this sleek phone charger, for example. The little white cube style Apple chargers are tastefully neutral. The neon colored plugs and cords you can now find by the check out at every bog box drug store are fun. But this double USB port, charcoal grey charger is chic. Which means that maybe, just maybe, you’ll like it a tiny bit more than the white ones you are always losing. And because of that, you’ll hold on to it longer. Plus, when you are on that trip with your husband, who is constantly forgetting/losing/throwing overboard his own chargers, and his phone dies, you can both charge up your batteries at the same time.

Oh what a beautiful world.

The Goodbye Project

tori burch for target lunchbox

My Tori Burch for Target lunchbox. That I bought for myself, but that was shanghaied by my daughter.

I have too much stuff. This is an indisputable fact. Exactly how too much is up for debate, but there is no denying that I am closer to the Collyer Brothers than I am to Marie Kondo. I have read all sorts of books. I have done space clearings. I have wasted countless hours hating myself, trying to embrace the clutter as something beautiful, wishing I had a bigger apartment…

But now I have decided to turn declutterng into an art project. I figure, maybe if I take pictures of some of the things that are hardest to get rid of, it will feel easier. Plus I’m always up for making another photographic catalogue.

And so the Goodbye Project begins. I’m not photographing every object that leaves my hands, but there are certain objects that I just want to hold up above my head one last time before we part ways forever.

First up, my Tory Burch for Target lunchbox. I have never used a lunchbox, but there I was, on the Target website, suddenly feeling like I needed to have this one. It hung out on a shelf somewhere for a couple of years, until my daughter started bringing her own lunch to school. I lent it to her, just for a few weeks till she got her own, and that was the end of that. She must have used it for 4 years. But it is time for this noble lunchbox to retire. It wears its battle scars with pride, but there are so many of them… not to mention soy sauce stains too numerous to count.

And so we move on. But not without saying thank you, for all of the delicious meals you carried. And for helping my daughter acquire a taste for a more sophisticated vehicle for food carrying. You saved us from the Frozen lunchbox purgatory, and for that I will be forever grateful.

Lets take Father’s Day off the grid, shall we?

tree tent
You should seriously consider getting him one of these tree tents because they might be the coolest things I’ve ever seen, and I bet you he’s never even heard of something like this. Imagine the hours of fun…

bodum portable grill
My first choice for cooking would have been this one-use wooden grill, but since I’ve already written about it, how about considering this portable charcoal grill by Bodum? Because every dad should be able to carry a BBQ in his proverbial back packet, right?

portable solar light
I bought a couple of these solar rechargeable lights last year before we took a trip to an off-the-grid cabin in Maine and they are AWESOME.

rainbow cards
Leave it to Fredericks & Mae to take the humble playing card to the next level. Fredericks & Mae Playing Cards.

keysmart keychain
How about giving him the gift of organized keys? Keysmart Key holder.

jill platner alphabet keychain
Speaking of keys, I gave one of these to my own father (with his initials, natch) a few years ago and he still uses it… a victory I savor. Jill Platner silver keychain.

lunch bag
It’s a lunch box for the cool dad who seems like he doesn’t really care about such trivial things as lunch boxes but in reality would rather not eat than be caught dead with some random plastic bag from the drugstore. RainbowBeeDesign Lunch Bag.

Monday, Monday, or more links about how you should drop everything and go see Wonder Woman if you haven’t already, and related topics

I can honestly say that I’ve been waiting my entire life for the Wonder Woman movie to be made. And now that it is here, it does not disappoint.

Take your daughters, for obvious reasons. Take your sons because they need to believe in strong powerful women as much as your girls do. (And while we’re on the topic of boys, check out this great piece about raising feminist sons…) It is violent, so talk to your kids about that too. And about how, for this superhero, the real enemy is war itself, not the individual “bad guys” that swirl around within it.

On the off chance that you feel the need to read reviews before you go see it, here’s what they have to say at the New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Atlantic.

Frank Bruni also throws his hat into the ring, but his piece is a bit more cultural philosophy than review.

Wonder Woman, from her creation, is even more of a profound and radical feminist than most people think. The Smithsonian tells us all about her surprising origin story.

And then there was all that fuss about the all female screenings

The Mayor of Austin, TX received a letter from a guy who was clearly threatened beyond reason by the concept of a theater full of women. Here is his brilliant response.

And last but far far from least, there is Patty Jenkins the brilliant director who, against all odds, spearheaded the creation of the best superhero movie to come out in ages.

Suddenly summer…

It's time to start cooking out with the beautiful One-Way Grill from Manufactum.

The beautiful One-Way Grill from Manufactum.

I don’t know about where you live, but here in NYC, the dog days of summer are suddenly upon us. Like, it is OVER 90 DEGREES already. People are freaking out and getting all sorry that they ever wished for heat back in the days (the day before yesterday?) when it was sub 40 degrees and ice drizzling.

But I am looking on the bright side and starting to think about cooking outdoors. Maybe you’re like me and don’t have room to keep a grill in your apartment. Or maybe you want to cook on the beach, or in some campground someplace (where they allow cooking over open flame, of course).

In any of those instances, our German brothers and sisters over at Manufactum have you covered with this one-use alderwood grill. It’s designed to cook your meal to perfection, and then to cook itself into a pile of ash, which you can just sweep away. It doesn’t get much better than that, landfill wise.

Manufactum grill

Here’s the grill in prime cooking mode. Perfect coals, a little smoke, just primed to cook whatever your little heart desires.

You do need a pan or a little stainless steel metal rack to cook on (these can multitask as cooling racks for cookies or fruit pies, too!) But then you are good to go. And in the end, the whole grill burns down to almost nothing and you can sweep up and move on. The ash and carbon are great to add to compost, if you’re into that sort of thing.

manufactum wood grill

Here’s the grill all used up and ready to sweep into the surrounding earth, where it will enrich the soil and help new trees grow

Now all you have to do is figure out the menu. Manufactum One Way Grill made of Alder Wood. €11

Yesterday, at some point…

Post Comey firing protests outside of schumer office

Yesterday at 5 pm I hauled myself up to midtown to shout and wave signs and take photographs and make sure that Senator Schumer understands that we will not rest until there is an independent investigation into the whole Russia/Trump relationship.

I took lots of pictures, but this one is my favorite. Because it really does just boil down to this simple request, doesn’t it?

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Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day (or some point in the very recent past). The posts are meant to be stand alone images, though at times I can’t control myself, and I end up expanding the caption into a more lengthy bit of text. Hopefully the extra information is useful, or at least interesting.

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Yep, it’s that time of year again. This year I’m feeling the need for a little more peace and nature in my life, so here’s why I’m thinking any of these items would make a nice Mother’s Day gift… For me anyway…

Horses Atelier overalls

Because Horses Atelier has managed to make a pair of overalls that are elegant without being at all precious. Yes please. Horses Atelier overalls, $310

cork ipad case
Because covering the iPad with something as organic as cork just makes it all feel better, right? Cork iPad case, $30.

coffee pot
Because a deep purple clay coffee pot just makes the coffee taste better. $98.95.

wood wallet
Because a wood wallet is… well… a wood wallet. Walnut Wood Wallet, $65.

room diffuser
Because evidently the path to health and happiness runs through our noses and the best way to get a scent into the air is one of these diffusers and this one in particular is as good looking as it is effective. Stone Diffuser, $119.

City Skin potion #2
Because they say nothing preserves and promotes youth and energy in the skin like roses, and this new blend of Monk Oil packs a triple punch of three different rose scents in one. Monk Oil, $52.

jill platner necklace
Because this is one of my all time favorite necklaces that I almost never take off and so your mom will probably love it too. Jill Platner necklace, $255.