46 articles

Here come the hearts and roses

heart shaped pancakes

Or in our case, the heart shaped pancakes.

Sure Valentines Day isn’t till Friday, but last weekend we started to invoke the general positivity of the holiday by eating thematically, using nothing but things we already had on hand. I always love it when you can create something festive out of stuff that is already laying around. Oh and if you don’t already have heart shaped cookie cutters, may I suggest you get some ASAP. They are always coming in handy– a heart shaped cookie is sweet on any day of the year.

The big day, full of chocolate kisses and the obligatory card-for-every-kid-in-the-class, plus grandparents, and maybe a neighbor thrown in for good measure, is right around the corner. Here are a couple ideas to get your juices flowing if you are looking to go beyond the card/flowers mode. (Although don’t get me wrong, a hand made card can go a hell of a long way…)

For one, the good people at One Kings Lane have some great ideas of how you might celebrate.

We are making peppermint bark for all the kids this year. It’s basically a layer of white chocolate over a layer of dark chocolate with broken up bits of organic candy canes (oddly difficult to find) on top. Delicious!

If you’re having trouble getting into the mood, the folks at Flavorwire have a list of 50 books to titillate your fancy.

food52 hanging basket

You can get this really nice spherical hanging basket and fill it with chocolate and other treats. That’s good for an entire family!

jill platner silver heart

Who wouldn’t be excited about getting this open silver heart from Jill Platner?

kiosk dustpan and broom

This dustpan isn’t really romantic at all, but it is red, and beautiful. And there is a certain person (rare, but they do exist. I am married to one, in fact) who always yearns for beautifully designed cleaning implements. There’s lots of other red stuff at Kiosk as well, so go visit them now as the shop is closing on March 8. They have yet to find a new space, but hopefully one will materialize soon…

We don’t actually have any plans for Valentine’s day… To tell you the truth, my husband is going to be on the west coast at a meeting (thanks a lot!) returning home at some point after 1 am on the 15th. So the pressure is off, at least in this household, though I’m sure we’ll figure out something to do on Saturday that feels lovely and valentine-like.

Right Josh??

(Figured I’d give him a little nudge, if he actually ever gets around to reading this…)

Gift Guide, Chapter 8: Books, because one can never have too many, as far as I’m concerned, pt 2 ( for the kids)

These are a few of our current favorites that a) I haven’t written about before (or at least I don’t think I have) and b) are available new, so you can still buy them and have them shipped to whatever little kids you need to gift in time for Christmas. If you act right now.

may i bring a friend

May I Bring A Friend?
won a Caldecott in 1965 and continues to be totally charming today. A kid keeps bringing his sometimes badly behaved animal friends along when invited to dine with royalty, and the King and Queen keep inviting him back.

free to be you and me

Free to be You and Me. Because all little girls and boys should be allowed to be whatever they want to be, free of gender based stereotypes and full of great stories and songs (sung by the likes of Alan Alda and Rosie Greir if you get the CD)

pancho rabbit and the coyote
Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote. This charming book successfully tackles the issue of migrant workers from the point of view of a Mexican rabbit.

magic tree house
Magic Tree House Books. I have yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love Jack and Annie, the heroes of this seemingly endless series of adventure stories. They get to learn about various periods and figures in history in that sneaky this-is-not-homework kind of way that makes the parents love them too.

planting the trees of kenya

Planting The Trees of Kenya
. The inspirational story of Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan woman who singlehandedly inspired the planting of 30 million trees in her native Kenya. One woman really can change the world.

Mr Wuffles

Mr Wuffles
. The story, told all in pictures, of a finicky cat who finally finds a toy he’s interested in playing with. Only it’s not really a toy…

copenhagen cats james joyce

The Cats of Copenhagen
. This whimsical and humorous tale was originally written by James Joyce (yep, that James Joyce) for his 5 year old grandson, who must have had quite an imagination and clearly loved cats.

little women

Little Women
. A classic. And any book about a bunch of sisters who happily do tons of chores and are devoted to their mother is a favorite in my book.

Gift Guide, Chapter 7: Books, because one can never have too many, as far as I’m concerned, pt 1 ( for grownups)

book of jezebel

Because it’s funny. And smart. And feminist. And educational (it’s an encyclopedia of all things “lady” for crying out loud…) And edited by a woman who’s racial and religious mix is the same as my daughter’s, so of course she’s extraordinary. (The Book of Jezebel, edited by Anna Holmes. $16.20)

planting seeds meditation book

Because imagine how much better a world it would be if all kids learned to meditate early on. (Planting Seeds by THich Nhat Hanh, $22.15)

modern farmer

Because you definitely have a friend who likes to fantasize about an agrarian life and needs to be up on that scene, even if they really live in Brooklyn and the closest thing they have to a farm is the market in MacCarren Park. (Modern Farmer Magazine subscription, $29.97)

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.39.03 AM

Because the best pizza place in Brooklyn (aka the world) has a cookbook out. And you can give it to your friend and get them to make stuff and invite you over for dinner. (Roberta’s Cookbook, $21)

the interestings

Because this book follows a group of teenagers through their varied lives on into middle aged adulthood and is funny and beautiful and sad and true (in a fiction sort of way) and boy do I wish I had read something like this when I was younger and thought the future was only filled with roses… (The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, $17.94)

esopus 13

Because you are a person who firmly believes that a magazine can elevate itself to the level of art. And hates advertising. And loves anything that includes a CD that is actually worth listening to. And you want to spread the gospel. (Esopus Magazine subscription, $30)

updike box set

Because this man is truly the master of the form. (John Updike: The Collected Stories, $49)

galdwell david and goliath

Because they are going to buy it anyway, so they may as well get it from you. (David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell)

Monday, monday, or more links about New York’s greatness, it’s people and holiday decorations.

…and a cartoon.

A 1959 cartoon version of The Night Before Christmas featuring a sailor, a damsel in distress, a black-clad villain and, of course, Santa.

For the five or six of you who haven’t heard about Andrea Elliott’s extensive profile of a homeless girl named Dasani (after the water) for the New York Times, just click here.

Fellow New Yorkers, just in case you were thinking of skipping town, here are a whole bunch of reasons to stay and love New York.

I am sad that Alex Calderwood is no longer with us.

Leave it to NY Times photo editor Kathy Ryan to make photographs of office life beautiful on Instagram. Now you can actually buy prints of some images, too.

You can take a bus tour of the crazy amazing celebratory over the top Christmas light bedecked homes of Dyker Heights. Only in Brooklyn.

Coconut snowball cookies are suddenly the perfect cookie to make now that snow has started to fall on the streets of the big apple…

Gift Guide, Chapter 6: Things you might want to give me or my husband, if you were so inclined, pt 2

More gifts that we might like… and if we like them, other people you know might like them too.

snack containers

For all the moms (and dads) that need to tote around snacks for their kids (or themselves) but aren’t interested in using plastic because of the harmful effects of the chemicals leeching into the aforementioned snack. (Trio of snack containers, $24.32)

lene gloves

I do not like to be cold. (wool felt long mittens, $120)

tom dixon math  tools

Does including this brass set of measuring tools on this list out my “creative” husband for the math geek that he truly is? (Tool The Mathematician by Tom Dixon, $130)

whale opener

My favorite song as a kid was about whaling. I still sing it every night to coax my daughter into sleep.(whale bottle opener, $26)

kiosk felt inserts

Who doesn’t like warm feet? Certainly not the Swedes, who make these felt shoe inserts. ($24)

red flower hair conditioner

If you know me, you know about my love of all things Red Flower. Yet somehow I missed the fact that they make hair products. Like conditioner. That I would use every day if I had some. Just sayin’. (ocean softening hair conditioner, $32)

lunch tote

Trying to get my husband to bring a healthy lunch to work every day might be as easy as getting him this bag. (lunch tote, $65)

Gift Guide Chapter 5: Things you might want to give me or my husband, if you were so inclined, pt 1

Or at least, things you might give somebody like us (travels-a-lot, parents, city-dwellers-who-like-to-cook-fresh-produce, lovers-of-good-design, media-professionals-yet-secret-hippies… you know the type.)

charcoal toothbrush at schoolhouse electric

Charcoal toothbrushes. Come on, how cool are these? And lets be honest… how many people do you know who already have one? ($8 ea.)

pocket utensil kit

I mean, how often do you wish you had a spoon so you (or your kid) could just eat that yogurt right now! Just sayin’… (pocket utensil set, $16)

first aid oil

This is a little bottle of magic oil made with St John’s Wort which heals all things scrape, bruise or burn related. And it’s direct from Greece, the home of the gods, so it must work. Every parent should carry this in their bag to help with the inevitable injuries that go with being a kid. (Valsamelio or first aid oil, in English, $15.)

jill platner leather pouches

Whaaaat? Jill Platner makes leather pouches with the most beautiful silver zipper pulls ever and I don’t have one already? They’re sold separately or you can buy all three and give the medium one to me, the larger one to Josh for his travels and save the tiny one for yourself to keep your lip balm and credit cards snug. (from $150)

lumio lamp

It’s a battery operated lamp that unfolds like a book with a beautiful wooden cover. I mean, who doesn’t want this? (lumio, $160.)

cashmere socks for men

Giving somebody socks may feel unimaginative, but believe me it is not. At all. Especially when they are made of cashmere. And you’re a guy who loves soft things but maybe doesn’t want everybody to know that right away just by looking at you. (Corgi cable socks, $190.)

vik prjonsdottir shield of wings

it looks like a blanket, but really it’s a shield of wings. Which for some reason I feel like I must have. ($390)

Gift Guide Chapter 4: Things to give to the person who still listens to vinyl

Or at least the person who chose not to get rid of their record collection and likes nicely designed reminders of the kinder gentler world in which cars had tape decks and people wrote letters…

match safe

Like the olden days when you could strike matches on any rough surface (these days are still happening in Maine, by the way, where a person can buy strike-anywhere matches to her heart’s delight.) Match safe, $10.

futura slip mat

Nothing like a little pop of color on the old wheels of steel… Futura DJ slip mats, $19.99.

book box

They can hide all their secret stuff inside these literary boxes. Book boxes, from $10).

bookbook iphone case

And while we’re on the topic of hiding things in books… Bookbook iPhone case, $59.

cligraphy return address stamp

Imagine what it might be like to receive an actual letter in your mail box. Not from your state senator’s office or Con Ed either. From a real person. How nice that would be… Custom calligraphy return address stamp, $68.

ipad grammophone

Why choose between old and new when you can have both? iPad gramophone, $239.

cat dj scratchpad

Last but far from least… for all of those DJ/feline fanatics in your life, a cat DJ scratching pad for $35. Made of recycled materials, no less.

Gift Guide, Chapter 3: Things to give to the people you know who are really into food

food dice

Give them an answer to the ever nagging question: “What’s for dinner tonight?” With a simple roll of the dice. ($20)

harvest calender

A harvest calendar. So they always know what’s in season. ($18 on Etsy)

hudson valley seed packs

And for the know-it-all who already has the seasonal situation in the bag, how about challenging them to grow their own from seeds? Choose all herb or all veggie or go for broke and get all ten packs and really prod them to start their own farm for real. ($19 or $36)

brooklyn larder gift box

A customized gift box from the ever fabulous Brooklyn Larder will always go over well. (prices vary)

mouth gift box

Or, while we’re on the topic of gift boxes, there’s always the sumptuous 12 Days Of Christmas basket o’ sweets ($100) from Mouth. (Also a Brooklyn based company, so don’t worry, we’re still on trend. Just a few minutes north of the aforementioned Brooklyn Larder, should you be in the mood for a tour.)


This tawashi scrubber may fall into the too-mundane-for-a-gift category, but it’s from Japan, for crying out loud. I, for one, would be thrilled to get another one of these, as mine is beginning to wear our after over a year of heavy use. ($8)

spoonbread and Strawberry wine

I know I just wrote about this, but I’ll say it again. If you know anybody who is into cooking soul food, you should get them this book by Norma and Carole Darden. It’s out of print, but easy to find, so you get brownie points for delivering an obscure gift without having to do much legwork.

chef pencils

Always good to have a set of pencils in the kitchen. ($10)

r murphy knives

Probably the most essential tool in any chef’s roster is a knife. These R Murphy limited edition kitchen knives were made exclusively for Whisper Editions with maple handles hand fashioned from reclaimed homes in Ohio. They will last a lifetime. (starts at $125)

Gift Guide, Chapter 2: Things to give to young elementary school kids and their baby siblings

dagmar daily dress

It’s a total splurge, but if you have a special little girl in your life, you should go to Sweet William and get her this dress because her mother is probably too practical to spend this much on clothes for her kid. ($92, but worth every penny)

feather clips from sweet william

What little girl doesn’t want a colorful feather clip (for $24) in her hair?

wooden bus from land of nod

I spotted Land of Nod’s wooden Double Decker Bus ($19.95) on A Cup of Jo (who’s gift guides are brilliant, by the way) and almost wished I had a kid little enough to still want to play with it.

arrow mobile from one kings lane

This beautiful arrow mobile ($179) will keep your little one on the straight and narrow, but you have to act fast cause it’s only on One Kings Lane till December 9th!

activity book

The Littlest Activity Book ($15, also on One Kings Lane just till the 9th) is full of imaginative things to draw, patterns to make and tales to illustrate. A preschooler could use it with her parents and your 6 or 8 year old with an artistic bent could work on it alone. Instead of an iPad.

eboo bird

A pink floating bird ($5.95) or a blue one or a purple one…

embroidered raccoon art

What child wouldn’t love this magical embroidered ermine waving a wand perched atop a racoon’s head? (by Michele Varian, $148)

play kitchen

Every kid should have their own kitchen to play in. It’s up to you (and the size of your abode) to figure out which one. This big one ($339) has everything you need, plus a nice amount of storage.

tabletop play kitchen

Or you can go handmade and table top with this Little Kitchen ($100) by MamaMadeThem on Etsy. She’ll even made you one to order if you’ve got the time.

nuop strawz

Build your own long multi-sectioned drinking straw. (Only $11.95!) Hours of fun. No joke. My daughter went crazy for this one. She even figured out how to have us both drink from one glass at the same time. Clearly she is a genius…


Magnatiles. The holy grail of building materials. If I had a dime for every castle/fort/animal hospital/ocean liner we have built with these things, I would be writing this from some tropical island that I owned. (set of 100 for $120)

Gift Guide, Chapter 1: Seven gifts to take with you to the party

Ah tis the season of the cocktail party. Photo courtesy of jenbutneverjenn.com.

Ah tis the season of the cocktail party. Photo courtesy of jenbutneverjenn.com.

Let the gift guides begin! Everywhere you look, people are making all sorts of suggestions about what you should get for the ones you love (as well as the ones you feel obliged to give to for whatever reason)

For the next week or so, I will humbly add my two cents to the pile. Each day will be a slightly different set of things for a slightly different situation. Hopefully, at least one of them will save your proverbial a** as you stumble through the next 4 weeks.

Here we go:

First off, while we’re on the topic of those holiday parties, it is evidently considered uncool to show up to these things empty handed. Especially if the gathering is at someone’s home. So here are a few suggestions of things you can arrive with so you can feel totally justified in piling on mounds of caviar, or drinking your fill of expensive champagne…

glass bird ornaments

These miniature blown glass Chinese birds make perfect ornaments, plus they come in a set of 12, so if you buy these you’ll have to hit a dozen parties before you need to come up with another gift idea.

hand soap

It’s more fun to wash your hands when you’re using hands to do it, right? These soaps come in sets of around 8 as well (each set is different) so this gift can cover a few parties as well.

spanish bitters

I’m all about bringing consumable gifts to my friends because they take up less room and create beautiful memories. A splash of bitters turns any glass of sparkling water into a party, so it’s the perfect thing to bring to one.

wooden magnets

Upgrade their fridge with these oak and walnut magnets. Because nobody ever has too many refrigerator magnets.

greek animal bells at kiosk

Maybe your hosts have sheep, or maybe they just want to hang some sonic cheer around the house. Either way, these animal bells from Greece are the perfect thing.

youre cute card

Bring these cards as a gift if your host is single and looking for company. Maybe they’ll give online dating a bit of a rest.

sweet home mobile booklet

This Sweet Home Booklet Mobile (designed by Yusuke Oono for Artecnica) is just pretty. And small. So bring it to somebody who likes that kind of thing. Like me.


And last but certainly not least, who doesn’t love a beautifully scented candle? This diminutive set of candles by the ever wondrous Red Flower includes scents like Ocean and Italian Blood Orange. And again, a set of six means you can spread the love six different times.

Come back tomorrow for more…