Sunday, January 25, 2015

My New Product Line: JCreatures® - T-Shirts With Attitude

Anyone you follows me on Twitter or Instagram knows that my handle is JCreature Travel. But the JCreature is not just part of my social media presence. I'm very excited and happy to have found such as awesome actor,India Choquette for my photo shoot featuring my new product line: JCreatures® - T-Shirts With Attitude. These American Apparel silkscreened shirts are oh-so-soft (100% fine Jersey cotton), featuring different colors on each short-sleeve as well as a different colored pocket. Perfect as a Pajama-Tee or Beach Cover-up for kids or adults who are kids at heart. They are available in two color tones: pastel or vibrant + bold. (Notice that little pink creature? She will be go sale later in the year.)

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Travel Podcast: Finding Hidden Travel Treasures + Staying In Shape When Traveling

Do any of you still wonder how I manage to travel for more than a month to both warm and cold weather climes and not check luggage? Or what exercise gear I bring on all my travels so that I can stay fit? Or why I chose to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia and not visit its signature sight: Angkor Wat? Or how I actually find all those hidden treasures that I report on?

You'll get the answers to these and a lot of other questions -- including the clothing manufacturers I most adore -- by listening (below) to an interview I recently did with Daniel Parlegreco. He's the man behind The Traveling Dan Travel Podcast on iTunes.

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Sunday, January 4, 2015

Touring Gracie Mansion in New York City: Then and Now

A lot has changed since I visited Gracie Mansion just before Mayor Bill De Blasio took office. For one thing, there are no public tours on the schedule and when they'll return is anyone's guess. (They apparently have been suspended indefinitely.)

But, perhaps more importantly, New York  City's new mayor has taken to making some major design and architectural changes in and around this two-story landmark mansion that dates from the 18th century. Ringing part of the property now is a 10-foot-high
fence to improve the De Blasio family's security and privacy, presumably. (And that's in addition to the six-foot-tall wall that already surrounded the house.)

The first three images below represent the public spaces on the first floor. The fourth is the exterior beyond the barriers. The fifth shows the new security fence. And the last two are the newly-designed rooms on the family's second floor.

Photo credit: William Waldron

Photo credit: William Waldron.


Photo: Brigitte Stelzer

As far as the interior, on the last of the public tours, when we visited the living quarters on the second floor, I learned that, once a mayor is in residence, this floor becomes off limits. Of course, this mansion overlooking the East River stood vacant for 12 years, during the Bloomberg era. (Mike Bloomberg preferred to reside in his own mansion on East 79th Street.) But he spent millions of his own money, restoring and renovating this sun-filled Federal house where every room comes with a fireplace and is bedecked with a flourish of details. The oldest piece of furniture in the house dated from the 1600s; and a rare, five-leg, 200-year-old settee was found in a hallway. (Who knows if these antiques remain, though typically the public spaces can't be touched.) On the second floor at that time, a sunny suite has one of its two room is lined with floral wallpaper. This is where Nelson Mandela once stayed. A master bedroom was outfitted with an antique four-poster bed where wood pineapple carvings represent hospitality; and a guest bedroom contains faux bamboo (really maple) furniture.

Mayors make their own decisions as to how to decorate the second floor. And the De Blasio family clearly decided on a design path that is in complete contrast to the historic nature of the dwelling he and his family moved into. (Fiorello La Guardia -- one of New York City's airports is named for him -- was the first mayor to reside in Gracie Mansion where a mantle displays a Revolutionary War cannon ball found on the property.)  Interestingly, centuries ago, this part of the city was considered the country. The compass on the floor in an entryway refers to the shipping interests of Gracie, a Scottish fishing merchant. And one wall in the midnight blue room on the first floor is lined with a tall bookcase that comes apart in a half dozen pieces. (In fact, that's how it was moved into the room.)

The De Blasio's decided to go with a contemporary but hardly luxe design ethic, reminiscent of what one might find in a well appointed first apartment of a new university grad. Normally photography of the family quarters is banned but not in this case, most likely because West Elm in Brooklyn supplied the furnishings and are using this as a PR coupe. After seeing the pendant globe lights  and L-shaped purple couch with different colored throw pillows perhaps it's no great loss that the public won't be exploring the second floor.
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

All Occasion Photo Greeting Cards - Nature, Landscape, Travel

For all of you who enjoy following my travels, I just came out with a line of all-occasion greeting cards displaying my landscape, nature + travel photos. They are blank and each features a different image from my domestic and international travels. The images were taken all over the world, including in Israel, Iceland, Montenegro, Portugal, Bangkok and Siem Reap in Cambodia.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Holiday Discount: Ethical + Fashionable Bags Making A Difference For Women + Girls

I met a couple of very wonderful women last week with a company called Catrinka. It's an ethical fashion accessory brand that's dedicated to investing in women and girls. All the products are made by women, and a share of the proceeds goes to education and mentoring for teen girls. Their motto is: Catrinka: buy a bag, employ a woman, educate a girl. This is completely in line with my sensibilities, especially given  that I'm a former educator who now mentors women at Barnard, the all-woman's college that's part of Columbia University, where I graduated; and the products I'm designing mostly are focused on women and girls. This company is graciously offering a discount to all my readers and followers: 10% off everything through 12/31 by using discount code: J10. Check out these chic, fashionable bags:

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Discount: Cute, Fun, Fashionable Belt Bags

I just met a very cool designer who has some cute, fun, fashionable and practical fanny packs.  Lots of different patterns and fabrics. The clutch converts to a belt bag; the tote converts to a backpack. And she graciously offered all my followers a 20% discount (Code: FREEHANDS) through January 1. Check out her collection, Beau and Ro

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Cambodia In Pictures

Though lauded for the ancient temple site of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap is also a center for contemporary art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and cafes. And, while troves of tourists descended on this magnificent complex, I wandered the streets of downtown Siem Reap, exploring what the town itself had to offer. I found out that down the street from my budget-minded and very socially responsible hotel, the Soria Moria, was an active Buddhist pagoda. It was within walking distance though I had the place to myself. There, one of the monks invited me into the principle, 100-year-old structure where they pray. 

I spent almost a week in Siem Reap and this is my YouTube video slideshow illustrating that it's a very creative mix of the old and the new. 

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gear Review: Comfortable Wool Sport Underwear

What I'm about to say I packed on my month-long trip to Southeast Asia this past summer may be one off the most surprising things you've read on my blog. That's because, though the temperature and humidity were both off the charts, I carried along three pairs of wool underwear -- and the only underwear I brought. Yes, you heard correctly, wool, Merino wool, at that. It may sound like an odd, ill-conceived choice but, in fact, it was the best thing I could've worn against my skin. I chose the Women's PhD Seamless Bikini underwear manufactured by SmartWool. They performed impeccably, keeping me comfortable -- they're ultra soft and they don't bunch up -- and dry no matter the temperature nor the activity. (I often wore them for bicycling and hiking and they easily wicked away sweat.) They also don't retain odor and they dried quickly when washed. This particular model -- and they have several -- is made with 79% Merino wool, the rest synthetic fibers. Now I'm a convert and I'm all about wearing wool panties even when I'm in New York City where it's about to snow today. (The same wool fabric that kept me comfortable in the hot weather also keeps me warm in the winter.)  And the men aren't left out in this shopping experience: SmartWool makes men's underwear as well.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

2015 Landscape, Nature, Travel Photo Calendar

Right in time for the holiday season, I'm now accepting orders for my 2015 wall calendar. This 12-month calendar features 33 of my landscape, nature and travel images (including on the front and back covers) captured all over the world, including Thailand, Vietnam, Montenegro, Cambodia and Israel. Each month contains two and more often three images of mine. The calendar measures 13" x 10.4". There's a limited supply. You can purchase this calendar here or contact me for more information.

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