December 2014

Monday, Monday– or a few of my favorite Best Of 2014 lists for your reading pleasure

One of the 2014's best designed book covers is Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus; design by Peter Mendelsund (Knopf / January 2014)

One of the 2014′s best designed book covers is Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus; design by Peter Mendelsund (Knopf / January 2014)

Sorry this is coming to you on a Tuesday, but I’m on vacation, so sue me.

Please please enjoy and savor these last few days of 2014. And if you need to unwind in front of your screen, may these year end lists provide you with the procrastination you so richly deserve.

For starters, you might enjoy checking out 538′s scientific compilation and analysis of all of the Best Of lists it could find.

To keep you on your current events toes, The Atlantic has put together a quiz to test you on the year’s most memorable headlines.

One should never underestimate the power of good design. Especially when it comes to the supposedly-dying-but-clearly-still-thriving world of book publishing. Here are the 50 best book covers for 2014 according to The Casual Optimist.

And while we’re on the topic of books, check out this list of the best children’s picture books of 2014.

Don’t miss Saveur’s Best Food Blogs of 2014, so you know where to look for culinary inspiration in 2015.

Of course, no compendium of lists would be complete without an entry from the master of all listmakers, Flavorwire. Here’s their summation of 2014′s best films, complete with trailers in case you don’t believe them.

And last but far from least, The Fader’s Listmania 2014 always has some great lists chronicling all sorts of moments from pop culture, both great and small.

Yesterday, at some point…

teacher holiday gifts

This year, our teacher holiday gifts are pumpkin loaves, as pumpkins have become the latest obsession around here. Recipe thanks to the NY Times, wrapping paper from One Kings Lane, rubber bands (the best part!) from MOMA.

Yesterday, at some point is a series of photographs that describe a moment I experienced during the previous day. 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. If not, feel free to ignore it.

Monday, Monday… or 7 ways to keep things merry and bright this week

Watch Jimmy Fallon and the roots don Xmas sweaters, pick up some toy instruments and join Mariah singing “All I want for Christmas.” I will be very worried about you if you are not smiling by the end of the song.

Stop obsessing over what you haven’t done (what am I gonna get my mother-in-law?) and think about the future instead by picking up a 2015 calendar. Flavorwire has a list of some great ones to choose from.

Feeling a bit shattered by lack of sleep and overabundance of consumption (of alcohol, sugar, food in general)? Evidently, potassium broth is the answer. I have made a big batch and am on day 3 of drinking the stuff (which actually tastes good!) So far I am winning the battle against my impending cold, so it must be working.

And then once you’ve gotten yourself all healthy and whatnot, go check out these brunch recipes on the New York Times’ Cooking site and slide back down into the land of indulgence one last time in 2014.

Go to the biggest movie theater you can find and watch The Hobbit. Come on, you know you’re dying to see it.

Or if you prefer live entertainment, how about checking out Handel’s Messiah at Carnegie Hall?

Find a space for quiet contemplation in Douglass Gordon’s instalation at the Park Avenue Armory. Called tears become… streams become…, the show transforms the mammoth space into an immense reflective pool in the midst of which sit two pianos. Pianist Helene Grimauld performs at night… by day a player piano makes eerie music of it’s own.

Holiday Gift Guide Part 4: Oh my God, what am I going to get my (fill in the blank) for Christmas?

If they spend a lot of time in the kitchen…

bamboo bread knife

How much do you want to bet that your office-mate who is really into cooking already has a bread knife made of bamboo? I’m going to say 10% chance, tops. And if they do, they probably also have a second home so they need two of them anyway. Bamboo bread knife, $12.

live wire farm spoons

While we’re on the topic of wooden kitchen tools, these are my all time favorite spoons ever. They are the kind of thing Pa lovingly made for Ma in their little house on the prairie. But in real life they’re made by the incredibly talented father of one of my most remarkable friends (who is a fine woodworker in his own right). I would like to be more like them and make all sorts of stuff by hand. But instead I’ll just buy their goods and so should you. Live Wire Farm Spoons, $10 – $50.

If they like making electronic music but are also into the olden days:

OP-1 synth

It’s a full blown synth that is totally portable, looks great and is reasonably priced for what it is. A stocking stuffer it is not, but the kid/wife/bandmate who gets this under the tree is going to be a very happy camper, I can tell you that right now. OP 1 Portable Synthesizer, $849.

margiella feather pen

And come on, wouldn’t the desk that had this feather pen sitting next to the above mentioned synth be amazing? These two objects should come as a package. Maison Martin Margiella Feather Pen, $68.

If they like to ride bikes:

folding bike helmet

There are not a lot of attractive bike helmets out there, but this one is cool because it collapses, so you can fit it into your bag and take it in with you after you’ve locked the wheels up outside. Which means that you are more likely to wear the helmet in the first place. So this is kind of like giving a person the gift of safety without being at all preachy about it. Folding Bike Helmet, $139.

If they believe in fairies:

cedar sandalwood incense

I’ve seen incense sticks and incense cones and pieces of wood that burn like incense, but never incense made of rope. This stuff kicks the whole incense thing up a notch, which is what it very badly needs. Cedar Rope Incense, $12.

goodnight dust

Sprinkle a bit of this magic fairy dust into your tea at night and it will tranquilize your blood flow, detox your pancreas and promote beautiful dreams. No seriously, it will. I promise. In fact, maybe we should all just get this for ourselves and then the world would be a happier place full of well rested people who like to paint moons and stars all over their packaging. Goodnight Dust, $55.

If they like to collect things like ashtrays and art:

yayoi_kusama towel

A limited edition massive beach towel designed by Yayoi Kusama. Enough said. Beach Towel, $95.

saya woolfalk print

Or maybe you might want to lead somebody, via a limited edition print, into the mystical, brightly colored world of Saya Woolfalk which is full of detailed drawings of fantastical artifacts and messages that stretch our ideas about cultural boundaries. No Placean Anatomy (Human/Plant/Animal) by Saya Woolfalk, $1200.

And then, of course, if they are a spy:

clip tool

Any female James Bond shouldn’t be caught out without a hairclip that doubles as a saw, screwdriver, wrench, ruler and trolley coin (whatever that is). Mini Tools Clip by Clippa, $9.99.

Holiday Gift Guide Part 3: If you were shopping for my husband, here’s what you should get him for Hannukah

If you’re looking for a gift for a man (or a woman for that matter, as most of these gifts are gender non-specific) who is really into design, loves to make things and claims he wants nothing but socks for the holidays, you might find some ideas here…


What is this, you ask? Why it’s a chimney humidifier, of course. This is exactly the kind of thing my husband loves. He will happily toss our current, more mundane model into the landfill (I will then have to rescue it and donate it to some organization or something) and replace it with this sculptural number. On the one hand, he is really picky. On the other, quite easy to please, if you know where to look. Takeshi Ishiguro Chimney Humidifier, $200.

german chalk

Like, for example, he would be just as excited about this chalk from Germany. Because they bothered to design lovely packaging, because the chalk comes in all sorts of subtly refreshing colors and (most importantly) because it’s a little more difficult to come by as it hails from… well… Germany. Schulkreide Champagne Colored Chalk, $12.

hermes pen

And while we’re on the topic of writing…

Finally!! The pen we’ve all been waiting for!! OK maybe I haven’t been losing sleep for years wondering why Hermes hadn’t made a pen, but now that it’s here I’m thinking it’s exactly the kind of instrument that the Duke of York or some French Count might keep in his jacket pocket for jotting down notes about some large scale outdoor sculpture that he might want to purchase at Art Basel. And who doesn’t want to feel like that? Hermes Nautilus pen, $1350.

stool MOMA

Here is the perfect stool upon which to sit whilst contemplating just how Marc Newson managed to design a ballpoint pen that costs over a thousand dollars. It’s made out of cardboard, looks great, involves some simple assembly (which helps us feel like we are master builders) and is reasonably priced to boot. Riki stool, $45.

boot rescue

This is the kind of gift that can only really come from your wife (or maybe your mother, but then it would feel slightly annoying for no good reason) It’s not beautiful, it doesn’t automatically make you feel relaxed or stylish… and yet it is exactly the kind of thing your loved one will be sooooo happy to have in his life. Sometimes the little things are the best. Boot Rescue, $6.99.

moma power cube

If, hypothetically, you were married to the type of person who is kept up at night fretting about unsightly power cords, this is the gift for him (or her). It takes up way less space than the standard variety and kind of looks like it could be R2D2′s cousin. PowerCube, $20.

gold flatware food52

photo by James Ransom

So at Provisions, Food52′s lovely online retail shop, they have a special gift section for the cook who has everything. Not that we are anywhere close to that, but I am of course curious, so I check it out… and lo, there it is: the golden flatware I have been waiting for. Waaaaaay less expensive than the Hermes pen, and yet every bit as much a tool that might be found on the Sultan of Brunai’s table (if he were a minimalist). Gold Flatware set, $120.

jill platner cufflinks

And maybe he’s fancy, but really cool and understated so he doesn’t want gold flatware. In that case, go to Jill Platner and get him these cufflinks which he probably doesn’t already have and which are way nicer than the ones he usually wears (unless he has some amazing vintage set from his grandfather in which case you should just get them anyway because a man’s gotta be modern every once in a while…) Jill Platner belly button cufflinks, $305.

Just FYI, unless otherwise noted, all gift guide photos come courtesy of the websites that you will visit in order to purchase the the items. In case you were curious…

Monday, Monday– or links to a bunch of other people’s excellent gift guides

one kings lane gift wrap

I have not gotten it together to actually start wrapping gifts yet, so this lovely package comes courtesy of One Kings Lane. Check the bottom of this post for the link to learn how to make these beautiful ribbon-flowers…

We’ve all basically got one more week to get it together and buy everything for our loved ones before school gets out and all bets are essentially off. Unless you want to take your kids with you into midtown on a desperate search for something your father-in-law might like… but that would be utter madness.

I will, I promise, continue to flood you with my own gift guides for at least the rest of the week, but I thought I’d start things off with the traditional Monday links post, this time pointing you towards the lists from a few of my favorite shopping gurus. Enjoy…

Joanna Goddard’s A Cup of Jo Holiday gift guides might just be the gold standard in thoughtful, quirky, out-of-left-field-and-yet-right-on-target ideas for holiday shopping. Each year she breaks it down into specific lists for specific people and just about everything she puts up would make an amazing gift. (Her 2013 guide is worth checking out as well!)

Kim France (fearless leader of Girls of a Certain Age) is a total grown up, with a sense of humor and impeccable (but not overwrought) taste to boot. So who better to turn to when looking for a luxurious gift for that special someone this season?

Coos and Ahhs is probably my favorite site for little kids– My daughter has largely outgrown it’s content, but I still have friends and family with younger kids, so I always check out what they have to share.

This might surprise you, but Esquire has always done me right when it comes to serving up gift ideas for the discerning man.

God bless The Cut for posting (just a few minutes ago) a list of 50 chic, last minute gifts all under $50. Because it’s about to be the last minute, so we may as well stop fighting and go with the flow.

Shopping for someone who is always on the road? Refinery29 hooks us up with a list of items that are perfect for the stylish traveler.

Leave it to Grace Bonney of Design Sponge to come up with a brilliant list of gifts that don’t involve buying anything. More of this spirit for 2015, please!

ps: Check out this video on One Kings Lane to learn how to create a ribbon rosette like the one in the photo above!

Holiday Gift Guide Pt 2: A few ideas for the little people in your life

puro puzzle

First off, you can just feel good about buying anything at the Smithsonian Institute. Your kid will automatically be on the direct path to being a genius with anything you find there, right?

Even if not, they will have a blast building and creating with these blocks. Colorful, so they’re cheerful. Made out of cardboard, so they’re light (which means they are light weight and compact enough to take them with you on vacation… ) and with the 18 round and 48 square pieces, you can build just about anything. Puro Puzzle, $49.99.

casagami solar nightlight

While we’re on the topic of cardboard, what about this miniature house aka night light for a little something? Solar powered, so you never have to worry about your carbon footprint or getting new batteries. Casagami solar night light. $12.

georgie porgie thank you notes

Now I am all for kids learning to write. I also love how the letters look on a card or a page when the little author is just learning how to make them. I am also all about the thank you note, in it’s traditional pen-and-paper format. But sometimes getting one’s 5 year old to settle down and write a note can feel harder than negotiating peace in the middle east.

Enter the Georgie Porgie Thank You Notes For Beginners kit. Kids get to choose from a selection of stickers of words, phrases and pictures and can structure their own collage style message. Suddenly, writing Aunt Lucie becomes a game rather than a chore, and positive feelings become associated with thank you note writing, thus making the whole situation easier the next time around. Georgie Porgie Thank You Notes For Beginners Kit, $24.

crystal growing kit

The Exploratorium in San Fransisco is quite possibly the best interactive natural history/science/art/discovery museum in the world. Not that I’ve been to all of them, but after a day at this place, I don’t see how it can be beat. And their gift shop is full of all sorts of treasures for kids.

Like this crystal growing kit. There’s something for everyone… an experiment for the little scientist, mystical purple gems for the little fairy, the chance to build shapes like octahedrons and pyramids for the little mathematician, hours of occupied kids for the parents… a dream come true. Thames & Kosmos Crystal Growing Kit, $35.99.

chair game

Speaking of building shapes… these chair/blocks have always captured my attention (as I have a little architect in residence) and I have never gotten them. Perhaps this is the year. Look how great they are. Just think of how many crazy structures you can build with them. And they also serve as the perfect place for the fairies/toy mice/elves to sit when they have to gather for important meetings or puppet shows. Chairs Game, $80.


I have always imagined that Japanese artist Takashi Murakami is one of the happiest people on the planet because his work is so consistently joyful. I also love him because he makes “decorative” art (aka stuff you can actually use) and this flower pillow is a perfect example. Imagine how happy your little kid (or your friend’s kid or your nephew or whatever) is going to be if their brain gets to develop in the presence of such exuberance. And then in 15 years you can always sell it to help pay for college… Flower Pillow by Takashi Murakami, $399.

DIY Instrument Kit

As a lover and maker of music myself, I admit to being a bit of a hard ass when it coes to what kind of noise makers are allowed into our house. Toys that played that cloying electronic beeping music and had flashing lights were disposed of immediately. Or their batteries were removed, at the very least. Encouraging kids to generate their own music is a different story entirely.

Enter the DIY Instrument kit, that uses light to make music. You solder together a light sensitive board and then use two intersecting beams of light to control volume and pitch. DIY Instrument kit, $23.50.

wildcraft game from learning herbs

I will go on at length in a future post about the excellence of the Learning Herbs website and all of the incredible amazing things you can learn about herbs just by paying them a visit every now and again. But this is not the time for all of that. Right now is all about holiday gifts for the kids. So just make it easy on yourselves and get them Wildcraft, a cooperative board game that teaches young people about herbs while they are having a fun adventure climbing up an imaginary mountain behind their all-knowing grandmother’s house. And unless you are an herbalist, you will most likely learn a thing or two yourselves! The drawings are lovely, the game encourages players to work together as a group, you start to learn how to identify plants without even realizing it… What’s not to love?. Wildcraft, $37.

Hazel Village Lucy Owl

Here’s the thing that’s great about stuffed animals… especially ones that are kind of like humans and as such can sub in as make-pretend babies in a pinch. They are great gifts for tiny babies. They make the nursery look cute, you’ll probably spend more $$ on them than their own parents will (because you only have to get one thing for the kid), the babies sleep with them, drool on them, drag them around, etc etc. Then, for awhile, they become more decorative than anything else. But just when you start to think that the time for stuffed animals is over, inventive play comes back into full swing, and suddenly cities are being built for them, whole narratives spring up around their particular personalities, your kid actually starts to make things like clothes and furniture for them… it’s a whole rebirth.

So the lesson here for new parents is: buy good quality stuffed animals and dolls because they are going to be around for longer than you think. And we, as friends of aforementioned new parents, have a duty to supply our sleep addled fellow parents with some quality fabric companions for their little ones. Like this super cute Lucy Owl, who by the way is wearing the lovliest little skirt and bonnet you’ve ever seen. Hazel Village Lucy Owl, $39.

The 2014 gift guide begins now: Chapter 1– Help us feel beautiful, please

Vintage Black Glamour by Nichelle Gainer

And maybe hook me up with this dress while you’re at it…? Photo of Eartha Kitt from the cover of the new book Vintage Black Glamour by Nichelle Gainer

We are officially well into the holiday shopping season. So far into it, in fact, that panic has started to set in. Yesterday, it was October. Today, we have essentially 45 seconds before Hanukkah and a minute and a half to get ourselves together for Christmas (we do both in our family.)

How did this happen? Or perhaps the better question is… why does this happen EVERY YEAR? When will the lessons of the previous year sink in and inspire me to start buying holiday gifts in September like organized people who have assistants and use Siri on their iPhones and know how to fold fitted sheets?

Perhaps never. But at least I have some good ideas when it comes to what to give people and I’m happy to share them. For the rest of this week (and maybe into next week, too) I will flood you with all sorts of thoughts about what you might want to be getting your loved ones (or better yet, what you should be asking your mother-in-law to get for you!) for the holidays. Please enjoy, and if you have any great things you’d like to add, don’t hesitate to put them into the comments. I am always looking for new things to ask for…

Today, in honor of the cold and relentless rain, is all about beauty.

monk oil

Monk Oil is my newest obsession. This subtly scented body oil is formulated especially to help us to thrive in the city (and we NYC folks sure could use all the help we can get)! It’s got avocado and apricot oils to moisturize, cedar and lavender to ground and energize, rose otto to lift our mood and yarrow to ward off environmental toxins. But my favorite part is the tiny rose quartz crystal hiding inside of each bottle to help harmonize the whole mixture.

Mixed and bottled on full and new moons, it feels like you are spreading a little but of magic onto your skin whenever you put it on. And it’s brand new, so your wife/brother/sister-in-law probably doesn’t have a bottle already. And if they do, I bet they won’t be bummed about having a bit more.

spa heroes beauty subscription

There are zillions of beauty products out there, but many (if not most) of them have harmful ingredients that might make us feel good for a minute or two, but are really doing harm to our bodies long term. And how are we to know which products are entirely safe? Enter Spa Heroes, a brilliant and reasonably priced subscription service that has done all of the research for us and is ready to help us clear out our medicine cabinets and restock them with the kind of stuff that… well… Gwyneth would probably use. (Sorry. Couldn’t help myself.)

Every month has a theme: November was all about being luminous, while December’s selections are all about mood and memory. A box arrives at your doorstep with at least one new full sized product (moisturizer, cleanser, scrub, etc) plus a sample or two with no toxic ingredients. There is also a beautifully designed fold-out card with information about the ingredients and benefits of the expert selection plus tips on how to best use your new prize. You use the products, fall in love with them and then can restock (at a discount!) at their online store. Talk about the gift that keeps on giving…

skinny skinny glowing skin kit

Skinnyskinny is one of those shops in my neighborhood that is next to impossible to leave empty handed. They have their own line of beauty products, all totally natural and handmade, plus they sell little plants, candles, and the Best. Lip balm. Ever. But if I were to be getting a gift from these guys, I’d want the “Luminous You” gift set, which includes cleanser, toner, moisturizer and scrub. That way, I could immerse myself in their universe and come out all glowing and whatnot.

red flower hinoki mint mineral bath

Anybody who knows me (or has read this blog for longer than a few weeks) knows how much I love Red Flower. It is far and away one of the best beauty companies out there. Using their products is like drifting into a fairy bath of rose petals and lavender, with magic fingers giving you massages and splashing your face with mystical serums… I could go on forever.

To be perfectly honest, if you were shopping for me, you could go to the Red Flower store or website and pick anything, wrap it up, and give it to me for the holidays. I promise you I would be thrilled. Today, as I look out over the dark cold rain, I am fantasizing about a nice hot bath, so the Hinoki Mint mineral bath soak comes to mind. It’s both soothing and uplifting, and it always leaves me feeling like I’ve just spent an afternoon at some expensive spa in Costa Rica. Which, I might add, is a beautiful feeling to have.

ever brooklyn lavender hydrosol

Last, but not least, comes the hydrosol. Now mind you, I didn’t have the faintest idea what a hydrosol was until my friend Fannie McWatt started her aromatherapy company Ever Brooklyn, but now that I’m in the know I have become a true believer. There is nothing like spritzing your face with a light mist of lavender and feeling this fragrant herb regenerate and renew your skin as it calms your mind.