Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Quirky Plush Doll -- Angry JCreatures®

Meet the “Angry J.” She’s the first of my JCreatures® line of quirky, plush dolls. Whether kids or adults, we all have moments when we’re angry: at our mom or dad, a teacher, boss, friend, partner, spouse, or postal worker. (The list goes on and on...)

But, no matter how rotten your mood, just looking at “Angry J” is sure to make you laugh. And, just like that, your frustrations vanish -- even for a brief time -- or at least they feel less important.

The “Angry J” is for kids and adults. Keep her on your bed or on your desk at the office; maybe she can sit with you on the school bus or when you’re commuting on the train.

The JCreatures® and I have a long history together: I’ve been drawing “Angry J” since I was 10 years old (as well as her companions, “Happy J,” “Mischievous J,” “Sad J,” “Hungry J,” “Surprised/Fearful J,” and “Sleepy J.”) I was a geeky little kid who had few friends and creating these Little Js was my creative way to express my feelings and deal with my frustrations at home and school.

The “Angry J” is Made in America. She sells for $25, and 10% of annual net profits will go toward supporting the efforts of She's The First, a non-profit that sponsors girls’ education in 11 low-income countries (including Nepal, Guatemala and Sierra Leone) with the goal of creating first-generation graduates and the next generation of global leaders. (After all, I’m a first-generation graduate of Barnard College, and a former educator.) I couldn't be happier to partner with this inspiring organization that has made it their mission to increase the number of female graduates around the world.

You can buy "Angry J" here

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Gear Review: Fashionable + Functional Winter Wear

It seems like every year when the first colorful blossoms appear on the trees in New York City -- and I don’t mean this winter when unseasonably warm weather tricked many plants to unexpectedly and inappropriately bloom -- in the spring, someone in my neighborhood will ask  if I lost a ton of weight. The answer is always “no,” (I’m as tiny as I’ve always been.) But the question arises because all winter long I’m wearing bulky clothing that keeps me toasty but makes my 104-pound frame look about 50 pounds heavier, until I shed the clothes at the first sign of a warm breeze. Those days are now over, thanks to some very cool clothing manufactured by Stio, a Jackson Hole, Wyoming company.  

As a cross country skier, snowshoer, and winter hiker and walker, whether on a trail or on city streets, I want outerwear that performs well when I’m active, giving me the warmth I crave but without sacrificing style. In fact, it’s not unusual for people to come up to me when I’m waiting on line or sitting in a cafe or coffee shop to ask me where I got the (Stio) sweater, jacket or vest. Some even ask to feel it because each item -- especially the jacket and vest -- looks (and feels) oh-so-soft.

The three items you see pictured below can be paired up, all worn together or separately. And each provides warmth without bulk. The Idyll Hooded Sweater is made of 100% Merino wool in a fashionable tunic style, making it work well whether I’m cross country skiing or lounging beside a roaring fire with a glass of wine at mountain lodge. (It looks good with jeans, leggings, polar fleece tights, sweater dresses or merino wool skirts.)

The grey-hued Lofted Sky Insulated Jacket is stuffed with PrimaLoft, a synthetic insulator that’s light, breathable and packs small -- something I value because I never check luggage. I’ve worn it in a freezing rain and found it to be water resistant and quick drying. You can put glove liners, for example, in an inside stash pocket. (The interior teal color is quite striking.)

The Marsten Down Vest is packed with HyperDry Water Resistant Down so that even though I was stuck in a freezing rainstorm, I was dry and warm. (The vest’s down hoodie and deep pockets protected my head, neck and hands from the elements.) And, the vest was quick drying once I found shelter. For Nordic skiing, depending on the temperatures, I like pairing the vest with a Smart Wool or Icebreaker Merino wool long-sleeve sweater. Like with the Ofted Sky Insulated Jacket, this article of clothing is very compressible. In fact, when flying recently, I brought along a small pillowcase that I stuffed the vest into, making a very comfy pillow. These three pieces of clothing are now my go-to winter wear items.



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Saturday, December 12, 2015

All-Occasion Photo Greeting Cards

In a world that’s rife with texting and other non-intimate, digital experiences, there’s a lot to be said for reaching out to others the old fashioned way: in person, with a phone call or with hand written notes and letters. That’s why, a year ago, I created a line of any-occasion photo greeting cards. They’re blank inside, giving you plenty of room to personally connect with those who touch our lives all year long -- not just around the holiday season -- for life-affirming occasions such as a wedding, anniversary, birthday, job promotion, or for events that bring sadness, anxiety or depression, such as an illness, job firing, or death. Or perhaps you just want to say “hi hi” to let someone know you’re thinking of them.

Each card features a different image -- nature, landscape and travel images -- from my around-the-world adventures. Send them to friends, family and colleagues who are avid adventurers or those who prefer to travel from the comfort of their home. 

My collection now features 22 images from such places as Bosnia, Corsica, Nicaragua, Japan, Iceland and Thailand. (I'm introducing 10 new additions to my collection. A limited supply of the original 12 are still available.)

They can be purchased singly or as a set of 5 or 12 different images, or as the complete set of 22. 

The cards are on sale here.

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Anguilla: It's More Than Beaches

Anguilla’s 33 beaches beckon with their pure, white swaths of crushed coral sand. Most visitors are enticed to the island by their picturesque allure, from the shelling possibilities at Shoal Bay West to Savannah Bay where sea turtles are known to nest. But there are plenty more activities on Anguilla to occupy those who want a break from the sand and sun.

That includes taking a guided walk with naturalist Oliver Hodge who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the medicinal and cultural uses of native plants. (You can trek with him along the lush Katouche Trail that ends at a picturesque bay.)

Or sign up with the Anguilla National Trust to explore caves on their Bats & Botany tour. When you're not bird watching along the island's brackish ponds or trekking to the arid east side of the island to spot curious cacti, you'll want to check out the creativity of the island's chefs (at De Cuisine and Hibernia) and artists, such as Cheddie Richardson at his shop and atelier, Driftwood Haven.
Find out more about the non-beachy side of Anguilla in the article I wrote for National Geographic Traveler - Intelligent Travel.

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