Pictionary for real

webster's picture dictionary

The little red dictionary that fits into your (slightly oversized) pocket

The other day, after a trip to my favorite neighborhood hardware store (Crest, on Metropolitan Ave. The only hardware store I know of with it’s own beautiful Tumblr…), my daughter and I stumbled into Desert Island, a quirky shop overflowing with art/comic books. We quickly lost ourselves in all sorts of illustrated worlds and would probably still be there, were we not so hungry for dinner.

I managed to escape with only one purchase (see above)… and how can a mother say no when her kid is actually begging to buy a dictionary? The Pictorial Webster’s Pocket Dictionary is, in it’s own words (or rather, the words of author John M. Carrera) “a collection of G & C Merriam dictionary engravings of the nineteenth century printed alphabetically as a source for creativity in the human brain.” If you see several seemingly unrelated images on the same page, he reasons, you will inevitably begin to make associations, and from these all sorts of inspiration can and will occur.

An interior page of the dictionary, selected at random.

An interior page of the dictionary, selected at random.

Or, you’re a six year old, and you are first excited to see a drawing of a Heron (“Grandpa’s favorite bird!”) before becoming distracted wondering what kind of space alien the Holothurioidea (on the opposite page) might be.

Suddenly the dictionary is transformed from a somewhat outdated tool, into a visual and literary experience that changes and grows with each viewing.

But I digress. Lets just say, it’s a great book with beautiful reproductions of old fashioned engravings. While it is not technically a kids’ book, there is an equally profound experience awaiting readers of all ages, as long as they are willing to dive in. And if you can’t make it over to the east side of Williamsburg (which you should, because Desert Island is a treasure of a store) you can of course just order one of these up on Amazon and be done with it.

Monday, Monday on Tuesday (again) or more links to help get you through Halloween

Photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens.

Photo courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens (bhg.com).

Take a break from the traditional leering Jack O’Lantern and check out these alternatives for the pumpkin you are about to pluck from the patch and plop on your doorstep (or table, or shelf…)

Planning on making your kid’s costume? Martha Stewart has some ideas for you (of course). She’s got some plans for your own costume as well…

Or there’s always this eagle mask (hat?) I saw on Pinterest…

Looking for an alternative to that plastic pumpkin basket? A ghost bag could work, or this embroidered one, or this little black-cat-on-burlap number…

If anyone is interested in being a Native American, or Robin Hood, or an elf, this is the bow and arrow for you.

Kids like their candy, but the adults need a little something else to survive this holiday. The people over at Saveur have gathered up these 13 cocktails that should fit the bill perfectly.

Last but not least, give your kids a non-candy alternative with these 13 healthy Halloween treats. And if that ain’t enough, here are 64 more!

Monday, Monday– or more links about music

keyboard set up

Here’s what a girl needs if she is 6 and a half, lives in a small apartment and is learning to play the piano. The pedals are potentially superfluous, but I was so happy to unearth them, so I kept them in the picture.

I have spent the better part of today cobbling together a music set-up appropriate for my daughter’s first piano lesson tomorrow evening. It has forced me to uncover all sorts of keyboards and cables and reunite with all sorts of toys from my once and future musical life. (See above for some photographic evidence of the effort.)

The beautiful thing is, pretty much all of the stuff still works, and as I blow the dust off of that part of my brain, I find that the musical part of myself is still alive a kicking as well. Which makes me happy, because to tell you all the truth, I was a bit worried.

So in honor of my own reunion with the world of making music, and my daughter’s continued integration into the same, I give you a whole bunch of links about this nearly universal form of communication that is so central to the way we humans tick.

For starters, there are two (yes, 2!) new brand new Prince albums out for our listening pleasure. Ben Greenman writes an appropriately intelligent review for the New Yorker that is well worth reading. And if you want to skip straight to listening, start out with this one, called U Know, which should warm the hearts of Prince fans everywhere. The Purple One is still very much in charge, Allah Akbar.

Last night I made a rare voyage down the street to the Music Hall of Williamsburg to see my longtime friends The Afghan Whigs play. Their shows are always a treat, and well worth the haze of exhaustion that envelops the following day. As an added bonus, Usher jumped on stage for a surprise and inspired co-performance of Climax… Here’s the video for your viewing pleasure.

Listen to this beautiful recording of and about the eerie songs of the humpback whale published in 1979 for National Geographic. Watching the record spin around is almost as gratifying as listening to what they have to say…

Lisa Jaeggi, a friend from the hood, has a new band and a new CD out… Band is called Darling Din and you can stream their songs on their website, but if you’re smart, you’ll order up one of their limited edition CD’s. Each one has a handmade cover and inner sleeve which reckon back to the days when people used paper, scissors, and glue (instead of computers) to make pretty stuff. However you get it, you should all listen up. We’ve been dancing to it in our house all morning.

And if you like dancing around in your house, try making a real difference in the world by making a video of yourself singing Joan Jett’s Bad Reputation and sending it to my friend Sarah Sophie Flicker. She and some friends are making a PSA to help get out the female vote for this crucial midterm election! Submissions are due on Oct 12… Get all the info you need here.

I don’t know if you guys are familiar with the cultural salad of a website called Here We Go Now, but you should be. If for nothing else, because their playlists never disappoint.

And last but not least, the brilliantly madcap Dr Who tells us a thing or two about the music of the spheres and reminds us that there is music inside of each and every one of us.

My kid was home sick today so I didn’t really have a chance to do anything productive

So instead, I give you this hilarious story about Jimmy Fallon playing ping pong with Prince, in recognition of HRH’s 2 brand new albums just out today.

Please enjoy.

And afterwards, join me in praying that my daughter’s fever breaks and she is up for reconnecting with the outside world tomorrow. Because I would really like to be able to listen to those new Prince records in peace.

My fall uniform

maria cornejo lola skirt

I know that Maria Cornejo didn’t actually have me in mind when she cooked up this skirt, and yet it really is one of the most perfect-for-me things I’ve ever worn.

I have always dreamed of being one of those women who wears a uniform. And by uniform, I of course don’t mean a plaid kilt with a white shirt and navy shoes, but rather a small set of perfectly-suited-to-me clothes that I just alternate. I’d always look pulled together and great and chic and all that, without having to think twice about what to wear on any given day.

My closet would be all neat and whatnot, with space between the hangers holding several variations on my personal wardrobe theme. I’d be able to see everything at once. My drawers would open and close with ease, the contents neatly folded. All of my socks would be in perfect pairs and of course have no holes…

I could go on and on.

The reality is that I’ve saved t shirts from as far back as 1985. And sweaters. And dresses. And pants. The list could go on and on…

It would be easy if I didn’t wear them, but of course they all come out from time to time and I get a kick out of rocking a bit of my own personal history through the streets of ever-in-the-current-moment Williamsburg.

However, there are a few items that have elevated themselves to the status of uniform… that I find myself turning to again and again, that can be dressed up while still feeling like pj’s, that automatically make me feel like a lady. The above “lola” skirt by the brilliant Maria Cornejo is one of those pieces.

I should probably just buy 3 of them and be done with it. And you guys should too. If you’re into wearing skirts, that is…

Monday, Monday– or 7 truly random links reflecting the scattered nature of my mind this morning

portrait of Obama by John Hart

The world’s tiniest portrait of President Obama was made by John Hart, a professor of engineering at the University of Michigan using some kind of crazy laser technology. To the naked eye, they evidently look like tiny black dots. (Photo courtesy John Hart via NPR)

And with that, I welcome you to the wonderful world of nanoart.

When you’re feeling the need for a clarifying detox, you may not need to look further than your own fridge.

This doesn’t help me (or my fellow iPhone users) but you Android people should check out Unclouded, a brilliant new app that helps clear out the clutter in your cloud. (I can’t believe I just wrote that…)

I’m not sure why I am linking to this, but if you want to feel kind of badly about how you’ve been doing, read this New York Magazine piece about how the .00003% live, and weep.

Phew! Modern Farmer has finally investigated how to farm a clam that can grow 3 feet long and live for over a century.

OK to make up for the absurdity of the last link, here’s something useful… 28 fall weeknight meals you can make in under an hour. Thanks Bon Apètit!

I forgot how hilarious Robin Williams is in Mrs. Doubtfire

Happy 5775!

honey apple brandy cocktail

I lifted this photo from Bon Appetit… which should be obvious from the carefully cut out star pattern in the perfect apple slice. I don’t think I could even pretend to have the patience to garnish my drinks like that. Perhaps in my next life…

So here it is, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year.

I am not Jewish, but my husband is and our daughter proudly embraces pretty much any religion that involves gift giving and/or the eating of sweets, which makes for a busy holiday season. It begins now and basically slides on down the slippery slope through Yom Kippur into Halloween, Thanksgiving and then the holy grails of Christmas and Hanukkah. We finally get to rest our wallets (and our sweet teeth) in January.

One of the great things about being a multi-faith family is that we are able to pick and choose our favorite bits from all of the traditions we grew up with and create our own mixed green salad of celebrations. And one thing I think I may add to the pot this year is the above pictured absolutely delicious looking drink I saw on the Bon Appètit website yesterday.

It’s got apples (in the form of cider and brandy) and honey (for a sweet new year) some bourbon to add extra kick and some citrus to help ward off the early autumn colds. In short, everything you need to help start the new year off sweetly.

Here’s what you need:

2 cinnamon sticks
3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
3 whole allspice
¼ cup honey

6 ounces fresh blood orange juice
4 ounces applejack brandy
4 ounces bourbon
8-12 ounces hard cider
Apple slices (for serving)

And here’s how to do it:

Bring cinnamon, cardamom, allspice, honey, and 1/2 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Let cool, then strain into an airtight container; discard solids.

For each cocktail, combine 1 1/2 oz. blood orange juice, 1 oz. brandy, 1 oz. bourbon, and 1 Tbsp. spiced honey syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice and shake until outside of shaker is frosty, about 30 seconds. Strain into a rocks glass filled with ice and top off with hard cider. Garnish with an apple slice.

Or go straight to the source and see it on Bon Appètit!

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

wooden rulers by Hay

Do you think if you get rulers like these, your kids would automatically understand the metric system of linear units of measure?

OK so part of my (seemingly endless) de-cluttering project has involved discovering just how many versions of single items I actually have. Lets not get into how many blank pads of paper (of various sizes) or scotch tape, or half empty bottles of Elmer’s glue, or scissors I have unearthed… And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Turns out I have 4 or 5 rulers, of various sizes. But none of them are as happy as these Geo-metric rulers by Hay that my evil husband had the nerve to point out to me the other night. He claims to want to help me to minimize my possessions, but I’m not so sure. Luckily, the site is in the UK, so maybe I can’t get my hands on them after all.

Oh no wait, they ship internationally, for a small fee.