November 2013

Thanks, again…

thank you

Thanks everybody. For making my universe the magical place filled with wonder and music and light that it is– even during the slightly darker, less musically wondrous times.

butternut squash soup

Oh and thanks to Food52, for hooking me up with this butternut squash soup with miso and coconut milk which has helped me to finally get rid of my huge squash with panache.

music makers

And lastly, thanks to my friend Sarah Sophie Flicker, who sent this poem out in an e mail earlier today. She is truly a wonder and one of the best creators of community out there. Here’s to all my fellow music makers and dreamers of dreams. The world would be a grey place without you.

The gifts begin…

handmade bunny

This time we went minimal and handmade with the now-obligatory birthday party goodie bag

I have a hard and fast rule that states that the Christmas/Holiday season does not start until after Thanksgiving. Hanukkah starting the night before turkey day is messing me up this year, and as my daughter recently had a few girlfriends over for a birthday tea party, we have had gifts on the brain. And goodie bags. And get-the-apartment-together anxiety. In fact, my husband and I stayed up till 3 am the night before, rearranging the furniture, redecorating and sewing together the little cotton ball stuffed bunnies that the birthday girl wanted to give out to her guests but was not quite skilled enough to complete on her own. I’m still tired.

And I must admit that, while sewing away, I did have a few moments of “are these girls even going to appreciate these amazing little pieces of handiwork?” But I pushed those dark thoughts aside. The bunnies were, of course, loved by all. And the birthday gifts that were left behind are a real tribute to how well these little girls know their friend.

They were so great, in fact, that I am going to share them here. Maybe there are some ideas here for the little ones on your list. But please don’t start singing carols till Friday, at least…

hansa stuffed rabbit

Hansa Toy International does not make stuffed animals. They make “portraits of nature.” That just happen to be really cute and soft and the kind of thing you’ll probably keep around long after the imaginary friend phase is over. At Sweet William, of course.


Pengoloo is a memory game made of all wood (yay!) involving penguins sitting on brightly colored eggs, dice rolling, icebergs… what’s not to love? At Mini Jake.

odyssey re told by Gillian Cross

We’ve been reading D’Aulaires Greek and Norse Myths for years, so Gillian Cross’ retelling of the Odyssey is a natural follow up. A contender for the greatest story ever told, with illustrations (by Neil Packer) that are a kind of mashup of greek antiquity-meets-tibetan mushroom trip. It’s on sale right now at Barnes & Noble.

magic science kit

This magic themed science kit is the perfect thing for a little person who is obsessed with science and who just finished reading all 7 Harry Potter books (and watching the movies, too.) You can get this at Target, since you know you go there regularly anyway. Don’t play like you don’t…

sew a dolly kit

This Sew a Dolly craft kit comes with a little stuffed doll and then all the materials you need to sew her dress. Everything is pre cut, and it includes a plastic needle and nice easy to handle thick thread so that the kids can do the whole project themselves! At My Sweet Muffin.

vintage 'gold' necklace

And lastly (but far from least) from my daughter’s oldest pal, this huge vintage ‘gold’ chain necklace. Which goes with the sparlky red Dorothy shoes and the box full of long shiny princess dresses she already has. You’ve got to happen upon a fine second hand treasure like this one, but you can always try browsing Krrb… you never know what you might find there.

Now it’s on to the thank you notes

Monday, monday– or more links about politics and Thanksgiving

How to properly set a table (both formal and informal) broken down in a chart for all of us to follow. And deviate from if we're feeling it. Illustration by Adam Dachis on

How to properly set a table (both formal and informal) broken down in a chart for all of us to follow. And deviate from if we’re feeling it. Illustration by Adam Dachis on

The 10 Laws of Thanksgiving Dinner, according to the great Sam Sifton.

Just Say No to Shopping on Thanksgiving has a Facebook page! Go like it right now.

If you’re going to be spending time in airports on the next couple of days, this app might help turn the layover into an adventure.

Here’s a culinary way to celebrate Thanksgiving and Hanukkah in one go: the baked parsnip and apple latke.

And while we’re talking about food, it now looks like going nuts (and by “going” I mean eating) on a daily basis has a significantly positive impact on longevity.

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner table topics, politics is generally taboo. But just in case you find yourself stuck in the conversational quagmire of the Middle East, this NPR piece does a really good job of breaking down what we all need to know about the Iran Nuclear deal.

And lastly, a propos of nothing, is the Matrix real? Turns out we may actually be living in some kind of simulated reality… so do we perform the necessary tests to find out or just keep our heads in the sand?

Granddad Sampson’s honey punch

honey punch

Three bottles of our own honey punch, with handmade labels by someone who is just mastering the art of the lower case letter.

Today was the Harvest Day Pot Luck afternoon snack party at my daughter’s school. My co-class parent and I (Yep, you heard that right… I am a class parent…) decided that it would be great if the things people brought in somehow reflected their cultural heritage, since the class looks like a mini United Nations.

So I, of course, turned to the deep south and my all time favorite soul food cookbook which just happens to be the work of close family friends: Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine. Written in 1978 by Norma Jean and Carole Darden, it is a combination of recipes and family history, with photographs and long descriptions of the various personalities who’s culinary creations grace it’s pages.

We decided to make honey punch (see recipe below). Partly because I loved the photo of Granddad Sampson and he seemed really cool and all-knowing, partly because it is sweetened only with honey, which is something we all need to be ingesting during this cold and flu season, and partly because it looked like the kind of thing my independent 6 year old could make largely on her own.

It was a huge success– subtly sweet, without that crazy saccharine taste. The kids loved it straight up, the parents mixed it with sparkling water (though it would probably taste great with rum, too…)

spoonbread and Strawberry wine

The Darden sisters, on the cover of their seminal cookbook, in the late 70′s.

So thanks to the Dardens, for helping me to serve up yet another delicious treat. (Norma Jean’s restaurant, Miss Mamie’s Spoonbread too, up in Harlem is well worth a visit) The book is out of print, but you can still find reasonably priced copies of it on Alibris. If you like soul food, you will love this book. I promise.

Here’s how to make the punch:

1 1/2 quarts water
1 cup honey
juice of 3 lemons
juice of 3 oranges
3 cups pineapple juice
1 cup unsweetened grape juice
1 cup crushed pineapple
fresh mint springs

Heat 2 cups of the water so that it is warm enough to blend honey into it easily. Cool. Then mix in remaining water, juices, and crushed pineapple. Pour into tall glasses filed with ice. Garnish with int sprigs. Makes about 3 quarts of punch.

Happy drinking!

Just stop for a second…

and watch this really short video about Hilary Lister, an incredibly inspirational woman creating a truly beautiful and triumphant moment for herself out of a situation that would have completely flattened most of us.

And give thanks that we are part of a race of beings who can make such miracles happen.

Tis the season, after all.

A book and a barrette

borrowers by mary norton

My aunt, who has rescued countless books from her local public schools’ discard bin, gave us this book several years ago and it’s been in regular rotation ever since.

Just a quick post to give a shout out to two items that are getting quite a bit of air time in our universe these days. Either one would make a good kids gift, what with Hanukkah bearing down on us and Christmas hot on its heels. My “official” (whatever that means) gift guide posts aren’t starting till next week, but I figured I may as well toss a coupe of things into the fray early.

First up, The Borrowers, the classic novel by Mary Norton chronicling the story of a family of tiny people who live under the floorboards of a big old house in the English countryside. We are currently reading this for the third time. The idea that there might be little people nicking our safety pins is almost too exciting for my daughter to bear, and I can’t imagine that she’s alone here.

I especially love our 1953 edition, because the line drawings (by Beth and Joe Krush) are so compelling. Plus I’m a big fan of buying books second hand whenever you can, and this one isn’t particularly rare or expensive.

Oh and then, once you’ve read the original version, check out The Secret World of Arrietty, a beautiful film from Studio Gibli (the folks who gave us Ponyo and Spirited Away) that takes the story and twists and expands it in a way that is entirely satisfying, true to the original spirit and lovely to watch. It was a children’s movie that I was actually excited to go see in the theater. And how often does that happen?

isabel et toi hair bow

Nothing puts a smile on a girly girl’s face like a big bow.

My daughter has pretty wide ranging taste… she loves scooters, star wars and digging for worms in the garden… but all activities must be done with as girly a dress as she can possibly get her hands on. Which can be hard for her mom who, while known to love a skirt and heels for herself, is not so into sparkles, lace and bows.

But they say you have to let them be their own people.

And I respect that. I swear. But if she’s going to wear big old bows in her hair, at least let them look like this one (by Isabel et Toi) that we found during a recent visit to our all time favorite kids store, Sweet William. You can order them online too, if you don’t happen to live in Williamsburg or lower Manhattan.

7 menorahs that don’t suck, including one my husband made in preschool

kid handmade menorah

This is the menorah that we usually use. Over 35 years old (so it’s vintage!) made by my husband when he was around 4. If you can get your hands on one of these, you should use it for sure. Only horrible people with cold hearts don’t like them. Plus it’s probably free. This is Menorah #1.

Last night, when I was putting my daughter to bed, I dropped the bomb that Hanukkah starts next week. NEXT WEEK. In 8 days, to be exact. Her face almost exploded with excitement (presents! candles!) which served as a comforting counterpoint to my interior monologue which runs something like: “Oh my god only 8 days plus we’ve got a belated birthday party in our messy apt this weekend, my office isn’t put back together, we’ve gotten NOTHING for anyone yet, my in-laws are all living on the west coast which means advance gift buying/wrapping/shipping is a must, and my husband, who is the Jewish member of the family by the way, is away on business till this weekend and is, as such, minimally helpful… which some would call useless but I don’t like that label as he is the opposite of useless in so many respects.”

So here we go, trying to get it together on the fly again.

First things first: The equipment. We have a menorah (see photo above) though I have just realized that we are out of candles. I only like the plain, white or natural beeswax candles, which are, for some reason that I do not understand, very difficult to find. Multi colored, striped, sparkly? No prob. Plain? Good luck. Thank god for Amazon. I just ordered mine, but supply is low so you guys better get on it lest you be stuck with whatever they have at the Whole Foods check out.

And then the menorahs. If you don’t have one that your husband (or wife, or girlfriend, or uncle…) made as a kid, there are untold millions of models to choose from. As with anything, one tends to have to scroll through lots of ‘maybe-nots’ to find the ‘that-could-work’ ones. Which I did. Last night. For HOURS.

Here are 6 (in addition to the sentimental one above) that I thought I might choose should the need suddenly arise. Hopefully, if you are actually in need, this post will save you from painful hours of late night scrolling.

menorahokl1 For Menorah #2, One Kings Lane serves up the grown-up version of the one you made in preschool (just in case your mom is like mine and threw everything out the minute you moved out of the house.)


modular wood menorah from etsy

Next up, Few Bits on Etsy is making this modular wooden menorah out of sapele (a wood in the mahogany family) You can place the candles in any configuration (gives the kids something to do and the in-laws something to argue about) and each block is hand carved to order and as such, unique, which is always a plus in my book.

industrial menorah

Out of the woods and into the factory with this industrial menorah made from copper pipes. I think my husband, who is obsessed for some reason with making things out of pipes, is going to love this one.


If money were no object, I might go for this one, by Christoffle.

jewish musclassicmod

Option #6: The Classic Modern Menorah from The Jewish Museum.
Nuff said.


And finally, this Daniel Michali cork menorah is different but still feels true to the spirit of the holiday. Perfect for when you’ve just moved into your new loft apartment in Toronto and forgot to look in the basement for your preschool menorah when you were at your folks house last month.


Oh and while I have you on the horn, these double layered menorah gift tags are nice too.

Feel free to add any suggestions of other nice menorahs in the comments. We need all the help we can get.

Monday, Monday – or more links about holiday food, tartan, and airbags for your head.

Just watched Brigadoon for the first time (with my daughter, who LOVED it) and was blown away by the fact that Gene Kelly was both the star and the choreographer. Is there anybody doing stuff like that today? That’s actually any good…?

It is much harder to commit to a year of wearing only 3 brands than I thought. Even if it is just pretend.

One of my favorite kids’ lines, Kallio, just busted out a great flannel tunic/dress that’s perfect for the cold weather that’s finally here.

This invisible bike helmet is the Best. Idea. Ever. Prepare to be blown away.

Hanukkah is basically the day after tomorrow (aka the end of next week) so here are some simple instructions for making a great latke.

But before the festival of lights comes THANKSGIVING. Thank you oh thank you sweet Julia Moskin and Melissa Clark for breaking the whole thing down for us lesser mortals. We will be forever in your debt.

And lastly, check out this 1994 Today show clip where they get all confused trying to figure out what the “Internet” is. The world had no idea what was coming:

When you wish upon a tree…

art - kids
yoko ono wish tree

This wish tree was recently at the Jim Kempner Fine Art gallery in Chelsea.

I had a couple of extra minutes before a recent shoot in Chelsea, so I wandered into Jim Kempner Fine Art Gallery and saw, in the courtyard, this Wish Tree by Yoko Ono.

Of course I had to participate in the project (anything to help motivate some of my wishes into transforming from dreams into realities) so I took one of the little labels, wrote down my wish, squeezed it with my eyes closed, and then tied it to the tree.

It was a really nice, contemplative thing to do before heading off to work.

That particular tree is no longer in that particular courtyard, but you can add your wish to the collection by going to They also have instructions for building your own wish tree (do I hear weekend activity with your kids, anyone?) with templates for tags and everything else you might need.

Maybe if we all wish hard enough for all the stuff we need to make a better world, it’ll come true.