August 27, 2014

Summer, upstate

Summer is easier, gentler, and less sweaty when you have the pleasure of leaving. At some time between spring and summer—between realizing the snow would indeed melt and the blackberry brambles taking over the porch screens—our house was done enough that we weren't always working on it. We could just be in it, and have people at it. We also invited other people, those we didn't know, never saw, and remember only through kind words on airbnb. 

Summer with a house upstate is watermelon from Davenport Farm. It's swimming holes and warm rocks. It's icy water and mosquitos up your nose. It's peaches by the side of the road. It's a local library fair, barn sales worth pulling over for, bike rides around the reservoir. It's earlier awakenings to songbirds whose chirps are drowned out in the city. It's going to a place where days are defined by meals and hikes rather than meetings and plans. The biggest problem is not getting there enough, and also in knowing that it's as good as it is because of this other thing I have: life, work, city, deadlines, projects, friends, a social life—that occupy and push me on all the days I'm not there. 

And, it's hardly a secret. "Upstate" is this passcode for rural respite, peace, quiet, farms, food. 

This morning I was getting coffee at Budin in Greenpoint on my way to the G-train shuttle and a guy, late thirties (probably), handsome, boxers with palm trees exposed, asked a friend sweatily sitting on the neighboring bar seat if he was headed anywhere for this Labor Day weekend. The friend described an excursion to Massachussetts with ten other friends and reciprocated the question. This guy said he was going upstate: 

"Millbrook. You know it?" 

The friend said no. The man said: "Farm country. Pretty much perfect." 






August 12, 2014

Recent ceramics: Terrain series




A few recent ceramics from what I'm calling the Terrain series. Textures inspired by my time upstate.

August 6, 2014

Hiking the Mohonk Preserve

One of the reasons we were so excited to find our house upstate was a combination of proximity to the city and access to an abundance of nature (we're smack in between the Mohonk preserve, the Catskills, Minnewaska State Park).

Until spring, we'd been faced with mountains of snow which stayed on the ground far longer than it historically has, so aside from a handful of winter hikes, frozen waterfall excursions and snowshoeing, we hadn't seen a huge range of trails. This spring we got passes to the Mohonk preserve which has hundreds of trails for any level outdoorsman. Here, with my family on a trail from the Coxing Trailhead (which also boasts a terrific swimming hole). Tulip tree flowers and flurry of fungi were bursting around the forest.





August 5, 2014

The last evening at Tim & Linda's

The last evening at our friends Tim & Linda's apartment before they took off for the west coast. And J, that morning having coffee at the Bushwick escape, AP Cafe.




I've got a backlog of things to share on here, mostly photos taken on my phone (the way it is these days).

July 3, 2014

Coconut lime popsicles w/brandied cherries


J and I were upstate last week, ostensibly on vacation. But fool's judgement (mine) agreed to a re-flooring project, so there we were, tugging on 30-year-old dust-saturated threads and a thousand rusty staples. We buckled down with air compressor, a nail gun and a chop saw, and were many times thwarted by rain threatening our precious and raw wood. By day three of the project we'd only projected to take 1 day, all I wanted to do was watch the World Cup and eat some ice cream.

Despite it all, I did have the forethought to Amazon Prime a popsicle mold to my house, and, inspired by SCB's popsicles at 3191, made this concoction.

Mix together
1 can light coconut milk
2 tbsp maple syrup
a big spoonful or two of greek yogurt
zest of 1 lime
juice of 3 limes

Pit a few handfuls of cherries, cut in half
Cook the cherries in a pan with another splash of maple syrup and a generous splash of brandy (but make sure it's not too liquidy).

Prepare molds: pour in coconut mixture halfway, drop a few cherries in. Pour in more coconut mixture, top with a few cherries. Once popsicles have set (30 minutes to an hour), add popsicle sticks. Allow to freeze overnight. To unstick, run mold under hot water for a few seconds, then they should pop right out.

Enjoy while watching the World Cup.

July 1, 2014

Kelli Anderson on The Great Discontent


The Great Discontent interviewed Kelli Anderson, a friend, collaborator, and someone whose work and process and thinking around creating always serves as an inspiration to me. There are way too many juicy snippets to excerpt, so read the whole thing. But, for starters:
If I was pressed, the advice I would give is that people should try to understand the context and importance of their work. What does it all really mean? What is this about? If you don’t sit down and write it out or understand what it is that you’re doing on your own terms, you’ll be misrepresented at best and ignored at worst. Even if you’re working on a project and don’t know what it means while you’re in the throes of doing it, set aside a chunk of time afterward to digest it and figure out what you learned and what ideas were at play. That packages the project into a format that others can consume. Writing about my work has brought others to my projects and made them more accessible.
And, on NYC
New York City is kind of awesome and kind of a trap, because I don’t think I could live anywhere else now! What I value about New York is that you can’t control it. There are always things happening that will be a surprise. When I walk out of my door in the morning, I don’t know who I’m going to talk to or what I’m going to encounter. It is a bit anarchic. And I want nothing more than to be surprised by the world.

May 22, 2014

The last few months + then some.

Things have been busy.

Tinybop grew from 4 - 20 people.

We made an app that launched this morning in 150+ countries in 52 languages. It's called Plants and it's the second app in the Explorer's Library. Our first app—you may recall—was The Human Body, which has been downloaded 5 million times to date. I find that number overwhelming and unbelievable; seeing something you poured your heart into reach that many kids is a major motivator every day.

Now, about Plants: The beautiful illustrations were made by a French artist named Marie Caudry, whose work I fell in love with the first time I saw her portfolio. The app begins in the forest and the desert. It uses algorithmic system dynamics, particle physics, artificial intelligence, and digital puppetry to bring whimsical illustrations to life. You can make forest fires, crash lightning. Go find fireflies on summer nights. See what happens during rainy season in the desert. You can grow oak trees, burrow with badgers, make bees pollinate, and control the seasons. It's based on encouraging slow play and the discoveries and questions kids can make through interaction and observation.

You can get the app on the App Store for a limited time at $1.99. If you buy now, you also get the next two biomes for free.





Personally, I love this "app" because it feels like diving into the magical world of a story book. But, it is different every time. It has dimensions of sound, movement, unpredictability, along with characters and objects and worlds you can attach yourself to.  Marie's illustrations also have so much whimsy and so much life. It's not often you get to work with artists to create interactive materials where kids can both learn and make up stories as big as their imaginations; I think these apps allow them to do that. 

Steve Schlafman, perhaps better answers the bigger question, What is Tinybop? in his blog post announcing RRE's leading our Series A Funding:
So what exactly is Tinybop? Tinybop is building a constellation of highly immersive educational apps that are global, universal and timeless. Each application, along with their teaching guides and marketing collateral, is translated into more than 50 languages. They’re one of the first studios I’ve seen that is taking advantage of the collapsing digital divide. Additionally, the content is universal and evergreen, meaning the topics are relevant on every continent and will never fall out of favor with parents and educators. The company’s goal is to build a global media brand that teaches kids in every country about the world through play and exploration.  Every single person at Tinybop deeply cares about education, design, creativity and community.  The values of the team shine through their products when you experience them. The children’s space is littered with thousands of mediocre apps so the team at Tinybop is always pushing new boundaries with their apps. 

You can also see how the app works in the trailer, made by Jacob / Wild Combination:

Plants by Tinybop from Tinybop on Vimeo.

Kelli Anderson & Daniel Dunnam also worked together to make this spectacular trailer, inspired by the illustrations Marie Caudry made for the app. You have to read about it to believe it, but it's a journey through the forest, made entirely out of paper (yes! every blade of grass), shot in stop-motion. It's epic, to say the least. I keep watching it over and over again.


Paper to Plants from Tinybop on Vimeo.

Then, the process involved in making the stop-motion video just blew us away so much, Wild Combination also made a video about the behind-the-scenes:

Paper to Plants: Behind the Scenes from Tinybop on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, we also redesigned the Tinybop website. So good on mobile, pow!




We also updated this other app, The Human Body. Amazingly, it's been the #1 educational app in 143 countries in the world.

Tinybop also found a new office. It's 6,000 sq feet. Now we're redesigning it, from scratch. The entire thing was demo'ed recently.



Unrelated to Tinybop, we started renting out our house upstate. In advance we replaced a sink, hung some lights, thrifted the hell out of the Hudson Valley.

My brother graduated from law school.

We bought the newest (still used) car ever. It's a subaru because we're adults that now value a car that isn't going to break down on the way to a photo shoot.

Oh, and my photo is going to be in a room at the Wythe Hotel. Reception next Thursday.


Going to take a nap now. But, see you there? 

April 30, 2014

George Saunders's Advice to Graduates

I first read this graduation speech George Saunders gave to the Class of 2013 at Syracuse University last year, then came across it again on Sara's tumblr earlier this week. Since then, I've read at least parts of it once a day. It helps me keep perspective and remember that what's memorable and lasting are acts of kindness. I can't recommend it enough.
Do all the other things, the ambitious things — travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness. Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial. That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will — is as bright and shining as any that has ever been. Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s. Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place. Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.
 [The whole thing].

April 27, 2014

The End of Winter







Back when we were still fighting through the end of winter, these glimpses of sunshine meant everything. The water was flowing (not frozen), at the very least—and it is at this moment, when it's warm but still cold, that the maple taps flow best. We went over to Platte Creek Farm for their annual maple weekend, when the all-you-can-eat buffet of pancakes, sausage, and cookies for breakfast is a friendly $5 (coffee and tea included). The food came straight off the griddle into aluminum sheet trays hovering over propane burners inside the woody tap house where the syrup was still boiling off. Maple syrup was unlimited so we drenched our plates.

Though the winter seemed endless, it was also perpetually cozy; a good reason to stock up on extraneous blankets and own multiple pairs of slippers. I'd gotten this book, Truck: Nest for Jacob's birthday last day-after-Christmas, the most inspiring guide for making a place your own I've discovered yet. It's about how to find the sunlight that wakes your heart up, the importance of plants, how to wait for the right materials, how to put quality first, how to surround yourself by a canopy of trees, and how to decide to splurge on a doughnut machine. Sounds like good living to me.

Widow Jane Mine





We finally went to explore Widow Jane Mine in Rosendale at the end of the winter. Ice hung and reached for the roofs; stalactites and stalagmites. An ice rink formed over the surface of the inside of the cave, reaching down to the interior lake. I can't wait for summer, when there are events + shows inside the caves.