43 articles

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.)

scrubber

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

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.

redflowercandle

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…

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.

pengolo

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

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.

bigchristofflemenorah

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.

danielmichalikmenorah

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.

menorah_tags

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.

Tie em up

hair ties made from cute elastics

Cutest hair ties I’ve seen this summer.

The hair accessories fall fully under the category of things-I-could-totally-do-myself-but-lets-be-honest-I’m-never-actually-going-to-get-around-to-it-so-I-may-as-well-just-buy-it, but there you have it.

I was wandering though a store in San Francisco with my daughter who clocked these immediately and insisted that we buy them. And while I had the above mentioned feeling of why don’t I just make this myself-ness, I came to my senses and bought them. And my kid’s ponytails have been looking festive all summer, as a result.

The ones we bought out west are actually by a company called Calliope, but they don’t seem to have a website (only a facebook page– but then again, I’ve also just been trying to get my daughter to sleep for 3 hours, so I’m not the best web researcher right now)

The ties pictured above are by Mane Message and you can buy them direct from your laptop, which is a good thing for those of us who only have time to shop between 10:15 and 10:45 pm…

Speaking of which… time to order some more multivitamins from Amazon…