January 2014

The secret life of a whisperer

Judith Puckett-Rinella on the phone in her Long Island City studio.

Judith Puckett-Rinella on the phone in her Long Island City studio.

Ok so this is not really about the secret life of anybody, but I liked the sound of that phrase for the title. I also think it goes really well with the photo, which is one of my favorites from a recent shoot I did with the inimitable Judith Puckett-Rinella for the People section of Jill Platner’s website.

This is one of my favorite photo gigs, because I always get to hang out with singular and inspirational people, ask them lots of questions and snoop around their spaces a bit. What’s not to love about that?

In this case, I had the privilege of photographing Judith Puckett-Rinella (a former photo editor at Vanity Fair and T magazines) at the HQ of her new venture, Whisper Editions, a collection of limited edition original works resulting from collaboration with an exclusive group of artists and designers. It was part office, part photo studio, part design workshop, with huge windows covering an entire wall. An ideal space to create. I totally wanted to move in.

Each week, a new edition is released into the world. The current offering, just out today, is a decoupaged mirror by Joseph Heidecker. It’s released in an edition of one as part of their new Original Fridays series, so run don’t walk as I’m sure it’ll go fast! If the edition doesn’t sell out during the first week, the remainder of the work moves into the “vault” where we mortals who might not be quite so quick on the draw can check it out and make our purchases in a more leisurely fashion.

The work is always incredible, ranges from fine art photography, to jewelry, to tinctures and tea and ranges in price from the ‘whoa-ok-that’s-beautiful-maybe-in-a-future-life’ to the ‘wait-I-can’t-believe-that’s-all-it-costs’. There’s something for everyone.

So go check it out. And maybe get something for that special valentine you’ve been wanting to pamper. (yep, it’s that time already…) Or for yourself, for that matter. And then, if you’re in NY, go outside and enjoy the balmy 30 degree day we’ve been blessed with after such an insanely long deep freeze. It almost feels like springtime out there.

Judith Puckett-Rinella

Judith Puckett-RInella, hair tied back, ready to go to work in her studio. Smiling because she’s doing exactly what she wants to be doing. May she be an example to us all.

F.lux will save your life

f.lux screens

The f.lux version (on the left) of your phone looks warmer and easier on the eyes by night, while by day it’s back to normal. Photo courtesy brit.co

Or at least, it’ll improve the quality of your sleep, which will in turn make you happier and more productive, which is basically the same thing as saving your life.

They say (and if you clicked on the links above or have been paying attention to this topic recently you know already) that spending time in front of a screen at night before bed is a surefire way to mess up the quality of your night’s rest. And if you’re anything like me, and have trouble fitting in 7 – 8 hours a night, Every. Second. Counts.

Well it turns out that a large part of what messes with your brain waves is the spectrum of the artificial light emanating from your iPad, or laptop, or smartphone. The light coming out of our screens is designed to look like the sun, which is fine during the day, but really confuses the hell out of our animal brains at night. By just looking at something a bit less blue, we can reduce the stimulating effect of the lights, thus helping to slow our brains down in preparation for a quality night’s rest.

Here’s where f.lux comes in. You tell it where you live, and it automatically adjusts the color temperature of your screen to match the time of day. At 9:30 am, it’s a blue skies and business as usual. But after sunset, the hue slides over towards a warmer tone. The first time this happened on my screen, I could actually feel the muscles of my eyes relax. It was insane. In a instant-gratification-I-totally-did-the-right-thing-yay-me kind of way.

I do not like telling apps anything about me. I erase cookies form my computer. I do not partake in any autofill options. I don’t even let my own browser remember my passwords. But I happily hand over my geodata to f.lux because it’s that good. If you have any questions, they serve up all sorts of links to research on sleep and screens to help prove their point.

You can use the default settings, or adjust the colors to fit more seamlessly into your own surroundings. And if the change feels too drastic (I like the sudden drop and subsequent eye muscle relaxation, but that’s just me) you can also fiddle with the speed of the change.

And did I mention, it’s free? So there is absolutely no reason why you don’t download this right away and begin taking better care of yourself. Because lets face it, there is little chance of us completely shutting off our screens for hours before we go to bed. But we can tweak the experience a bit and sleep better as a result.

Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Monday, Monday – or more links about technology and other alleged brain helpers

WITCH computer

The WITCH computer read programs that were punched into strips of tape in the 1950′s.

According to a Brittish study, it turns out that e mail hurts your IQ more that pot. Why am I not surprised?

And of course you all know by this time that screen time for kids under 2 is not super helpful for their brain development. SO throw out the Baby Einstein videos now, if you haven’t already…

Is this what keeping a journal has come to?

It’s a bird… it’s a plane… No.. it’s supercalender. Never miss an appointment again.“supercalendar” target=”_blank”>

Ok this one is potentially good for hours of fun looking for random things online. It’s a search engine, devoted to hastags…

One day I should do a whole links post just about the weather. In the meantime, here’s a beautiful new weather app to check out.

It is a sad sad day if stirring up memories has come to this.

Who needs school?

The pardee collection

Some hand painted hairdressing signs from Ghana and small paintings of birds at The Pardee Collection’s pop up gallery show in Chelsea.

Outsider art can bring all sorts of things to mind (a guy painting alone in a field, a lonely kid drawing comics in her room) but in actuality, it just means that the artist has had no formal training. Once dismissed as “craft” or “primitive” and relegated to small shows in folk art museums, the category is finally getting it’s due and the artists who have been drawing, painting, making and building their hearts out are finally finding a bit of a market in this crazy place we call the art world.

I’ve always been a big fan of this type of work, thanks to my parents who are long time collectors, and have the very beginnings of my own collection starting to take up some space around here.

I get notices of shows from time to time and today, for some crazy reason, I decided to actually trek through the snow to Chelsea to check out a pop-up show of an Iowa City based gallery called the Pardee Collection. Run by Sherry Pardee (who is also a photographer) this collection of vernacular work by both American and African artists is a labor of love, the result of thousands of miles driven, doors knocked on and unknown places explored. Pardee has wonderful taste, and each one of her artists brings something different, but no less significant to the table.

I could go on and on, but suffice to say that if you are going to be in Chelsea this weekend, walk up to 29th street and check out this show. At the very least, go look at the gallery website and mark your calenders for the Outsider Art Fair, coming to NYC in May. The work is spirited and subtle and beautiful. And relatively affordable, which is really appealing to fellow artists like me, who may not have thousands to spend on art, but love to surround ourselves with inspirational work:

Emitte Hych

The brightly colored animal paintings of Emitte Hych.

"Uncle Pete" Drgac

The subtly colored graphic work of “Uncle Pete” Drgac. (Except the piece on the top right, which is by Jim Work)

Jim Work drawings

The breathtakingly meticulous architectural drawings of Jim Work.

Go check this show out if you are in the hood this weekend. You won’t be sorry. Details are below.

Pardee Collection popup gallery showing
527 W 29th Street (bet 10 & 11 Aves)
Second Floor

Saturday (1/25) 11-6
Sunday (1/26) 11-5

And if you want to learn more about Outsider art without leaving the confines of your living room, check out this great BBC documentary:

Turning The Art World Inside Out from Jack Cocker on Vimeo.

Painting with vinegar on baking soda

painting with vinegar on bakng soda

Three kids, mesmerized, sitting happily around a table, creating magic with the simplest stuff. Without stopping. For over 40 minutes. I kid you not.

What do you do when you want to hang out with your adult friends who are spending the weekend, but the kids just want you to play monster and chase them all around the house for hours on end? You bust out a cookie sheet (perfect use for the one that my husband has ruined by blackening a few too many vegetables on it’s gentle surface) a lot of baking soda, some white vinegar and food coloring. Oh and glass droppers, which you can often get at your local pharmacy, or, of course, online. (These, by the way, are a good thing to have on hand for all sorts of uses.)

It’s very simple:

  • Set the cookie sheet out (or smaller cake pans, if the kids each need their own surface) and fill it with a generous amount of baking soda. You may want to put a towel underneath, in order to protect the table.
  • Fill small cups (or the compartments of an ice tray) halfway with vinegar.
  • Put a few drops of food coloring in each cup. Show kids how to use droppers and squirt colors onto the vast whiteness of the baking soda trays. Watch them marvel at the fizziness that ensues.
  • Sit back and relax, while your kids play for a good 30 to 45 minutes, if not more, with no need for adult intervention. It is truly a gift from the gods.


If you choose, you can get all science class about the experience and explain to them that carbon dioxide is released when acids (like vinegar) and bases (like baking soda) combine and react to each other. Or you can just keep the whole thing feeling more like a magical arts and crafts show. Up to you.

Oh and a shout out to the excellence of my friend Nancy, who brought all of the above supplies with her to our house (along with her family) this past weekend. A lovely morning was had by all as a result of her foresight. They are welcome at our place any time.

Monday, monday (on Wednesday) – or more links about staying warm

bakeri window

Today it was 17 degrees when I went out in the afternoon to run a few errands. I could see my breath inside the pizza place. But the window outside of Bakeri on Wythe was truly breathtaking and worth the deep freeze. If only for a sec…

It is freezing outside. Yesterday was some kind of storm they are calling a bombogenesis. Whatever. We did not get the 12 inches of snow that were promised. It’s just really really cold, with enough snow to make walking laborious. Both because it’s slippery and because your kid, should you choose to travel with one, will insist on jumping into every snow bank she (or he) sees. Cute, but time consuming.

Here are a few things to do to stay warm on the inside when it’s like this outside.

Eat soup. I made a butternut squash soup with coconut milk and miso that I found on Food52. I’m planning on making it again in about 5 minutes.

I might also heat up one of these delicious chicken pot pies that came to my doorstep via the ever fabulous Good Eggs.

Exercise always gets the juices flowing, and nothing I have ever experienced makes a person sweat like a 45 minute indoor cycling class at your friendly neighborhood SoulCycle.

Pretend it’s springtime and go buy yourself some strappy sandals at Bird.

Or this dress at Zero + Maria Cornejo.

Rent this breathtaking Academy Award winning animated film version of Peter and the Wolf and watch it over and over.

Make yourself a nice hot cup of Emotional Detox tea and feel the worries, and the shivers, melt away.

The King

Michael (later Martin) Luther King, Jr as a young boy in Atlanta, GA

Martin Luther King, Jr as a young boy in Atlanta, GA

Everybody has to start out someplace.

Here’s to all the hot meals, the bedtime stories, the songs and the love that went into helping this little boy become one of our country’s greatest leaders.

May our kids continue to advance the dream.

Tiny steps, part 2

cleaner desk

Here it is, less than 24 hours later. A cleaner desk.

I have always been a firm believer in having a wedding for one main reason. It is a time when you stand up, in front of a bunch of people who mean something to you, and promise that you are going to work really hard to make this relationship work. And you enlist their help in ensuring that the promise becomes a reality. There is something about stating this type of business in public that makes it all the more vivid, and makes one all the more motivated to keep up one’s end of the bargain, so to speak.

Same thing seems to go for taking a photo of the messy-ass left side of my desk yesterday. Because if I hadn’t posted that, I never would have spent 45 minutes this morning, filing, discarding, sorting and arranging all of those papers. I even found a couple of flash drives that I forgot I owned.

In a perfect world, I might upgrade to some prettier folders, though I like the fact that my overflowing to-do file has the word LIMBO written on it in huge bold letters.

Mind you Tiny steps parts 1 and 1.5 were completed and posted on this blog about a year ago, but I am clearly a person who likes to take her time with things.

I am now going to post this, and then go happily off to the shredder with a pile of paper which I will reduce to tiny little strips (fun!)


I would like to say that I am person who is entirely motivated by an unselfish desire to transform the world into a better place, to improve the lives of others thus covering their faces with smiles, to give without even the slightest consideration of reward.

But that is not entirely true.

I will, I admit, walk a bit faster when there is a carrot tied to the end of the stick in front of me. At least I can say I am honest about that. And while there are certainly times when that carrot takes the form of a smile, there are other times when it looks more like a new pair of pants from Maria Cornejo.

So I am currently in the process of figuring out what the carrots are for my particular 2014 resolutions. Or goals, lets just say goals. It feels less intimidating, somehow.

wooden doorstop

It just feels better when you look down and see something beautiful keeping the door open. Trust me. Photo courtesy of Twine.

I am looking to take care of unfinished business, which in my language means clearing out the piles, for it is in the form of mountains of stuff that my unfinished business takes shape. Like when I recycle all of those junky plastic doorstops I keep around, I get to replace them with 2 of these nice ones (because I only ever need to prop open 2 doors anyway.)

Or when I organized the little shelf in our bathroom… (see before and after pictures below)

shelf organization

Before is on the left, a hodgepodge of bath related items, tossed into the shelves as though the enemy were coming and we had to escape quickly. On the right, just a quick moment to straighten and organize, the kid stuff is no longer overwhelming when condensed onto one shelf, and the entire top level is now devoted to lovely smelling things, which tend to look really nice and include the delicious big sur cabin spray. Oh and the little wikistick snake that has become part of the family.

This completed task justified the purchase of the otherworldly cabin spray by Juniper Ridge that makes me feel like I’ve stepped out of the shower onto a secluded forest trail in Big Sur. I’ll take the mountain in the middle of Brooklyn any day.

This style of motivation works for me, and at this point, I stand firmly in the by-any-means-necessary camp when it comes to clearing out my situation. There is no harm in rewarding oneself for a job well done.

Now you may have noticed that I have made no mention of the-catastrophe-that-was-once-my-office, because I’ve been putting it off.


But today is the first day of a bright new future. Today I begin tackling one corner of my desk, because I figure I’ll start with a clean work area, and then I can begin to face the music of the stacks of boxes, one by one. If there are any of you out there embarking on a similar project and you want to swap stories, or give me some tips, please oh please be in touch. I can use all the help (and company!) I can get.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow I will be able to show you a much more together version of this little area.

Fingers crossed that tomorrow I will be able to show you a much more together version of this little area.

A flight of fancy


This is a beautiful video that makes me want to quit everything and just do collaborative art projects forever.

Which probably isn’t going to happen.

But maybe I can work towards increasing those types of projects in my life from their current number of zero (unless you count the Sketchbook Project I’ve been helping my daughter with) to say, one or two.

A girl can dream.