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Kathryn O’Shea-Evans

Kathryn is a Colorado-based writer whose work is frequently published in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, among others. She is the author of Veranda: Elements of Beauty (Hearst Home), Veranda: A Room of One’s Own (Hearst), and many co-authored titles for Rizzoli.

Kathryn O’Shea-Evans's Articles

Courtesy Jill Singer

Sight Unseen’s Jill Singer on Why She Doesn’t Actually Consume That Much Design Content

Home is unequivocally where the heart is. But in a world that far too often embraces soulless or downright bland furniture and interior design trends, it may not always look like it. Which is where the pathbreaking work of Jill Singer and Monica Khemsurov, the co-founders of the online design magazine Sight Unseen, comes in.

Cover of “Rocky Mountain Modern” by John Gendall

A New Book Traces the Evolution of Modernism in the Rocky Mountains

The jagged spine of the Rocky Mountains is too beautiful to mar. Yet over the years, developers and builders have managed to do just that: The planet’s third-longest mountain range is covered in lackluster homes. But beyond the fray, courtesy of some extraordinary architects, there’s a group of standout residences that both honor the surrounding splendor and represent the latest evolution of a regional style that began in the mid-20th century, when leading architects including Marcel Breuer, Buckminster Fuller, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Eliot Noyes, and Eero Saarinen completed commissions in the Western United States, transforming it into a hub for architectural modernism. Journalist John Gendall, who grew up near the Canadian Rockies, surveys 18 of these distinctive structures in his new book, Rocky Mountain Modern: Contemporary Alpine Homes (Monacelli Press).

Courtesy Emeco

Jasper Morrison’s Latest Seats for Emeco Radiate a Warm, Tactile Presence

Among all the significant seats in the design canon, few are as recognizable as Emeco’s 1006 Navy Chair, which was designed in 1944, in the midst of World War II, for the U.S. Navy. Resourcefully made from scrap aluminum and built by hand in Emeco’s Hanover, Pennsylvania, factory, the chairs have since become enduring symbols of industriousness and perseverance, and of timeless design intended to last a lifetime.

Votary’s Lavender and Chamomile Pillow Spray

Pillow Mists, an Aromatherapeutic Cure for Sleepless Nights

In a world in which fitful sleep is all too common—more than a third of American adults don’t get enough rest—any serenity-inducing bedtime ritual is worth giving a go. But if listening to white-noise machines and banishing your smartphone to another room aren’t cutting it, it may be worth trying an age-old remedy: aromatherapy. Employed as medicine since at least 3500 B.C. and popularized in 1830s France, essential oils are now being reborn as ever-handy “pillow mists.” Despite their fanciful name, science proves that the ingredients typically used in the sprays produce measurable effects that help facilitate relaxation: Lavender calms the central nervous system, for example, while bergamot lowers blood pressure, and chamomile lessens anxiety.

Photo: Naomi McColloch. (Courtesy Chronicle Books)

A Practical Guide to Making Food With Flowers

About a decade ago, Cassie Winslow, a Northern California–based baker and cocktail-maker who runs the blog Deco Tartelette, started experimenting with edible flowers, concocting condiments such as rose salt and lavender sugar, and incorporating them into her drinks and food. She was instantly hooked. “Edible flowers add a beautiful touch of color and flavor to everyday dishes,” she says. “It’s fun to mix things up in the kitchen. I’ve found that I use dried edible flowers just as often as I use other, more common dried herbs in my cooking, like rosemary, thyme, and oregano.” In 2019, Winslow gathered her beverage recipes into the book Floral Libations, which includes instructions for how to make drinks ranging from dandelion tea cinnamon cappuccinos to plum rosewater gin and tonics. Now she’s sharing her expertise in edible flora within the culinary realm with a cookbook, Floral Provisions (Chronicle Books), out this week.

Awapuhi plant

Awapuhi, a Cousin of the Ginger Plant, Is Nature’s Shampoo

Ginger is beloved by many for its peppery scent, clean taste, and wide-ranging health benefits. Lesser known is its cousin awapuhi (zingiber zerumbet), a tropical plant with reddish, pine cone–like forms that contain a fragrant gel that’s more likely to show up in a shower routine than a stir-fry recipe.

Elderberry syrups by Carmel Berry Company

A California Condiments Brand Extols the Benefits of Elderberry to Fans and Farmers Alike

Hippocrates, the ancient Greek physician known as the father of modern medicine, affectionately called elderberry his “medicine chest.” The flowering shrub—which sprouts bright, antioxidant-rich berries that contain potassium, calcium, and vitamins C and D—has been used for centuries to remedy a range of conditions including the flu, insect bites, and toothaches. Since the seeds of the tangy fruit are toxic, elderberries must be cooked before they’re eaten, and often take the form of jams, syrups, and lozenges.

Faccia Brutto spirits

These Brooklyn-Made Amari Add Dimension and Depth to the Classic Italian Drink

New York chef Patrick Miller became besotted with amari—the Italian herbal liqueurs often served as digestifs—during his initial years at Rucola, the Northern Italian restaurant he opened in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill in 2011. He realized that his memories of Italy and of his discerning Italian grandparents, who loved making and sipping spirits, could serve as inspiration for new iterations of the drink. “I wanted to make spirits that were more balanced than what existed, and felt I could make something worthy of a well-stocked bar,” he says. After a few years of tinkering with making bitters, he left the restaurant and launched the spirits company Faccia Brutto—cheekily named after the Italian term for “ugly face”—in 2020, with a distillery in the borough’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.

Bad Habit’s Negroni ice cream. (Courtesy Bad Habit)

A Brooklyn-Based Ice Cream Brand Embraces the Avant Garde

At the start of a new year, many of us vow to resist guilty pleasures. This is not the case with the aptly named Brooklyn-based ice cream brand Bad Habit, which encourages a strategic embrace of such indulgences.

A wooden wick from Wooden Wick Co.

The Key to Maximizing a Candle’s Aroma? A Wooden Wick

Aromatherapy—the practice of using fragrant extracts from trees, flowers, and other plants for therapeutic benefit—has been a means of encouraging physical and psychological well-being for centuries. Because scents are processed in the brain, certain smells can quiet the mind, and allow us to feel more grounded and at ease. The Wooden Wick Co., a purveyor of natural-scented items for the home, bath, and body, adds another dimension to the self-care tradition by providing supplies and resources for people to make aromatic objects themselves—a therapeutic prelude to another calming experience. The company gets its name from the strip of porous material located at the center of its candles. Using patented technology, each wick is made from  F.S.C.-certified wood and produces an even, virtually soot-free burn (unlike the cloth variety, which tends to mushroom when lit). Compared to cloth wicks, wooden versions push up to 35 percent more fragrance into a room, and even crackle as they burn, like a miniature fire in the hearth.

Canopy raised bed

Grow Your Own Food in This Modular Raised Garden Bed

Green thumbs have long extolled the value of raised garden beds for their weed-reducing and water-retaining abilities, not to mention their capacity for growing herbs and vegetables almost anywhere. “The main thing is that they help you get your plants off the ground. So if your conditions aren’t ideal for growing, you can create a nutrient-rich soil and compost blend,” says Brian Shaw, who co-founded Planted—a New York–based company that provides resources and materials for cultivating your own food, including seedlings sourced from small, family-owned farms—earlier this year with brand strategist Anna Schiller and designer Jake Matatyaou. There are just a couple of problems: Raised garden beds typically don’t offer much protection from pests or climate control, as greenhouses do, and changing the layout can be an onerous task. So, Planted decided to make a version of its own.

A tonburi dish from Eleven Madison Park’s current tasting menu. (Photo: Evan Sung)

For an Ethical Alternative to Caviar, Try Tonburi

Few bite-size foods are as fancy as caviar, with its bursts of salty brine that tickle the tongue. But changing attitudes around harvesting the eggs—which traditionally involves killing a sturgeon to extract its ovaries, and which have led to the fish becoming a critically endangered species—have caused the luxury staple to fall out of favor with many upscale chefs and their patrons. (Chef Daniel Humm of the newly plant-based, three-Michelin-star restaurant Eleven Madison Park explains why he stopped using the delicacy on Ep. 53 of our Time Sensitive podcast.) Fortunately for those who still crave the eggs, an ethical alternative—one that’s being increasingly adopted by high-end establishments, including Humm’s—has earned international acclaim in recent years: Japanese tonburi, the edible, quinoa-like seeds of the summer cypress plant that are sometimes referred to as “land caviar.”

Almaborealis Puzzleware Kit

These D.I.Y. Sewing Kits Teach Kids the Value of Making Clothes That Last

Before fast fashion became the norm, children typically learned how to make their own clothes, often from their parents or from their home ec teachers at school. Edinburgh, Scotland–based knitwear designer Maija Nygren, a former children’s theater costumer, recognized the cultural shift in her eight-year-old daughter’s curriculum, in which sewing was notably absent. “We and future generations are losing traditional skills that we haven’t been without in human history,” Nygren says. So in 2018, she founded Almaborealis, a line of D.I.Y. sewing kits that teach kids the value of creating garments that last.

Mumgry chocolate peanut butter nut butter

Mumgry Makes Nutritious and Delicious Nut Butters With Moms in Mind

Anyone who has ever been hangry during pregnancy or postpartum knows that not all foods are created equal. “While pregnant with my son, I struggled to find a tasty snack that packed a nutritional punch,” says Ugandan-born, Vancouver, B.C.–based mom Lilian Umurungi-Jung, who knows firsthand what it’s like to sleeplessly decide between healthy and satisfying fare. The dilemma led her to found Mumgry, a plant-based condiment company created specifically with mothers—or mums—in mind.

Lord Jones CBD bath salts

Achieve Full-Body Tranquility with These CBD Bath Salts and Bath Bombs

Those who have come to embrace CBD—short for cannabidiol, a chemical abundant in the cannabis plant that, unlike its sibling tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, does not make you high—tout its calming effects in everything from memory-foam pillows to nail polish. Its popularity has far outpaced researchers, who are still working to understand the ingredient’s effects. (To date, the F.D.A. has only approved one CBD-derived drug, called Epidiolex, to treat rare seizure disorders; the majority of scientific studies on the chemical have been conducted on animals.) The CBD industry is expected to hit $16 billion by 2025, fueled by users who report relief from afflictions including anxiety, depression, and stress. So it seems only natural, if not exceptionally clever, to incorporate the chemical into salts that dissolve into the bath—a millenias-old method of chilling out.

A flower flash by Lewis Miller

Lewis Miller’s Flower Flashes Offer Wonder and Delight

Five years ago, under the cloak of darkness, New York–based floral designer Lewis Miller packed his team and 2,000 dahlias and carnations into a van, and headed for the John Lennon Memorial in Central Park. Working swiftly, they arranged the blooms around the perimeter of the circular black-and-white mosaic, and fled—leaving behind an anonymous highlighter-hued halo that quickly drew a crowd. The altruistic act stood in contrast to Miller’s typical work for private events, high fashion brands, and museums; he later called the guerilla installation one of the most rewarding he’d ever produced.

Marc J. Gian's book Aromatherapy: Essential Oils and the Power of Scent for Healing, Relaxation, and Vitality

How to Use Essential Oils to Improve Your Mind, Body, and Mood

The origins of aromatherapy can be traced back more than 3,500 years, when essential oils were first recorded in human history for their spiritual, therapeutic, cosmetic, and medicinal properties. In the centuries since, numerous studies have shown the positive effects that scent can have on our minds, bodies, and moods.

Amerikinda album cover

Unexpected Cover Songs, Performed by a Who’s Who of American Heritage Artists

On the whole, a cover song rarely captures the sonic greatness of the original tune—but sometimes, such reinterpretation gives way to a whole new level of distinction. The Nashville-based label Dualtone Records, which was founded in 2001 and has since released more than 200 albums and earned four Grammy wins, took the concept to heart in its new compilation album, Amerikinda: 20 Years of Dualtone. It features Dualtone artists and alumni, who represent a who’s who of American heritage musicians, all covering one another’s songs in celebration of the beloved label that’s supported them over the years.

The “green bean counter” at the % Arabica in Brooklyn.

Fresh Coffee Beans, Custom-Roasted On the Spot

Kenneth Shoji attended university in Southern California, far away from his native Tokyo, hanging out and studying at a Starbucks in Venice Beach. After graduating, he took a job at a trading company that took him traveling around the world, and into the lives of business owners, some of whom he found were happy, while others were unfulfilled. The experience prompted Shoji to contemplate how he might build his version of a satisfying life—one defined by a simple, down-to-earth ethos—and led him back to those gratifying cups of coffee he’d consumed during his college years.

Tech entrepreneur and strategist Azeem Azhar

The Media That Helps Azeem Azhar Make Sense of Complexity

“In the last few years, something distinctly different has been happening in the ways that technologies come to market, and come into our lives,” says London-based entrepreneur, analyst, strategist, and investor Azeem Azhar. He would know: A tech-industry veteran, Azhar has founded companies that were later purchased by Amazon and Microsoft, reported on the internet for The Economist, and launched a popular tech newsletter and podcast called Exponential View. (Last year, he discussed the present-day role of the smartphone, among other digital-related issues, as the guest on Ep. 56 of our At a Distance podcast.) Azhar cautions against the speed with which innovations such as artificial intelligence, automation, and big data emerge—which, he believes, is faster than people can adjust to the changes they impose—in his forthcoming book, The Exponential Age: How Accelerating Technology Is Transforming Business, Politics and Society (Diversion Books), out next week. With clarity and insight, he outlines new ways of thinking about technology, alongside concrete suggestions for how to prevent it from further fracturing society.

Weber Workshops Key Coffee Grinder

For a More Flavorful Cup of Coffee, Upgrade to This Grinder

Clunky and often noisesome, coffee grinders typically fall into the category of countertop appliances that most of us store out of sight as soon as they’re done whirring. But Key, a new streamlined version by Weber Workshops—a maker of well-crafted kitchen tools that was founded by Douglas Weber, one of the original members of Apple’s iPod product design team—offers a different take on the everyday necessity.

Paper bag on a table with food

How the Too Good to Go App Aids in the Fight Against Food Waste

Anyone who’s ever let leftovers languish in the back of the fridge might not be surprised to learn that a whopping third of the food produced each year—about 1.6 billion tons—goes to waste. The Too Good To Go app aims to change that by allowing users to order a “surprise bag” of excess fare from a local restaurant, café, bakery, or grocery store. (Currently the service is pick-up only, in an effort to simplify the process for businesses to participate, and to reduce carbon emissions.) Each bag costs around four to six dollars, and includes contents that are worth about three times that much. Since the Copenhagen-based company launched, in 2016, it has expanded to 15 countries and has saved more than 72 million meals through partnerships with more than 87,000 food establishments. By the end of the year, it plans to be in most major U.S. cities, and later, expand to small towns across North America.

Book Cover of "Promise That You Will Sing About Me"

A New Book Gets to the Heart of Kendrick Lamar’s Sonic Rise

“Kendrick Lamar is my favorite rapper of the modern era,” says veteran pop-culture critic and fiction writer Miles Marshall Lewis. After Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize in music for his 2017 album, DAMN., Lewis began talking about the songwriter and record producer with his agents and editor, and eventually set about unpacking the unquestionable impact the artist has had on the music industry, and on society at large. The resulting book, Promise That You Will Sing About Me: The Power and Poetry of Kendrick Lamar (St. Martin’s Press), out next month, eloquently considers and contextualizes Lamar’s work, life, and lyrics through the lens of contemporary culture. We recently spoke with Lewis about some of the sonic components that make Lamar’s music so distinct.

Colorful Chinese dish

An Instagram Account Captures the Breadth and Beauty of Chinese Cuisine

Anyone whose eyes are bigger than their stomach will get a thrill out of the visually beguiling vittles on Instagram account @chinese_plating, run by Dieter Mackenbach, a Los Angeles–based researcher and educator. Most of the throwback images he posts of plated food—including produce cut into petals and shaped into exultant spring flowers, or an atoll made from a stack of crispy fried trotter tips—he captures from vintage magazines.

Art world digital strategist Elena Soboleva

This Art World Digital Strategist Embraces Clubhouse, Memes, and Catalogues Raisonnés

In 2018, contemporary art dealer David Zwirner hired the young Elena Soboleva to optimize his galleries’ online sales operation and digital presence—prompting some critics to respond with skepticism, wondering if a “millennial social media influencer” could lead one of the world’s largest galleries into the virtual realm. But Soboleva, who was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, to a family of scientists, was up for the challenge. She’d first glimpsed the potential of the digital sphere as an assistant at Manhattan’s Jack Shainman Gallery, where, as its youngest staffer, she set up social media accounts and filmed YouTube walk-throughs in the early 2010s; later, she spearheaded partnerships at the online art marketplace Artsy. Simultaneously, Zwirner was experimenting with ways to expand online, and introduced initiatives such as online viewing rooms and a podcast, both atypical for the art world at the time. “David thought of the online spaces as shoulder-to-shoulder with the physical galleries,” says Soboleva, who’s based in Belgium and New York, and who was recently promoted to become the gallery’s first-ever global head of online sales. “And, of course, that vision was very prescient, because when the pandemic hit, we had an incredible team in place that was able to seamlessly transition. Last year, we did more than forty online exhibitions.”

Four tacos flanked by slices of lime.

New York City’s Newest Taco Spots Offer Enticing, Imaginative Fare

“We’re not going for authentic Mexican tacos,” says Tamy Rofe, the Mexico-born sommelier who runs Disco Tacos in Brooklyn with her husband, chef Felipe Donnelly, and their partner, Mac Osborne. “We’re going for craveability and deliciousness.” The trio, who also own the restaurant Colonia Verde in the borough’s Fort Greene neighborhood, are among a scattering of restaurateurs who have recently opened taco spots in New York City, each offering enticing, imaginative twists on the crowd-pleasing dish. At Rofe’s establishment, which launched as a food truck last summer and debuted as a brick-and-mortar space in May, Donnelly’s Latin American heritage informs the tacos, with fillings such as coffee-rubbed carnitas topped with grilled pineapple and coleslaw, chipotle cream–covered garlic shrimp, and carne asada sprinkled with chihuahua cheese. Each comes wrapped in a hand-pressed tortilla, made with corn flour from the nearby tortilleria Sobre Masa.

A stick of incense balanced with four pieces of stone

How Folie à Plusieurs Uses Scent to Amplify Emotional Encounters with Art

Anyone who’s ever inhaled the air in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Egyptian wing, which has the vaguest trace of millenia-old papyrus (or is it sarcophagi?), knows how scent can capture and enhance the act of taking in works of art. The concept is one that creative director Kaya Sorhaindo champions with Folie à Plusieurs, the Berlin-born, New York–based olfactory agency he founded in 2016 that creates aromatic profiles in partnership with institutions, artists, musicians, and other creative entities. Take its collaboration with New York’s Noguchi Museum and London’s Erased Tapes Records, with which the firm recently launched Co, a line of incense made by Kungyokudo, one of Japan’s oldest incense suppliers, each of which comes with a downloadable link to an album composed to accompany the savor as it burns. In a similar vein, Folie à Plusieurs has created several fragrances for movies, including The Virgin Suicides, The Lobster, and Blow-Up, presented through its Le Cinéma Olfactif series in theaters at the membership club SoHo House, where a custom scent diffused through the room adds another sensory dimension to a given scene. It’s also worked with Manhattan’s New Museum, and devised two perfumes that emulate the smell of walking through the space: Aspects of 1, created by the brand’s resident nose, Mark Buxton (the perfumer behind Comme des Garçons’s first scent), has a warm, musky aroma that evokes the building’s metal façade and neon lights, and Aspects of 2, designed by French perfumer David Chieze, references the cold, metallic odor of concrete used throughout the structure. (Both scents are available exclusively in the museum’s shop.)

A white Vermicular oven pot in sunlight.

These Lightweight Cast-Iron Pots and Pans Bring an Age-Old Craft Into the Modern Age

There’s plenty to love about a hard-wearing cast iron skillet (we’re particularly obsessed with this set by Nobuho Miya for Kamasada, available from Nalata Nalata). But they’re not exactly featherweight—a 1.9 quart version typically weighs in at almost seven pounds. Through a merging of traditional craft with modern-day technology, the Japanese cast-iron cookware company Vermicular is shaking up the game with its comparatively weightless frying pan (2.4 pounds, thanks to ultra-thin iron casting at 2,700-degrees Fahrenheit). Because of its enamel surface, one tablespoon of water takes just three seconds to evaporate on the pan—compared to 94 seconds in ye olde cast iron. (Translation: better caramelization, texture, and that all-too-rare edible delight, umami.) Another plus: The pan’s powdered glass glaze is PTFE- and PFOA-free. Our favorite part, though, just may be the handsome handle, hand-carved out of blond wood. Vermicular’s other items, a newly released line of oven pots (one of which is pictured) and cast-iron induction cooker, follow along similarly innovative lines, and are equally fetching in their sleek minimalism. The company is whetting our appetites for its next coming attraction, too: a much-anticipated new Tokyo restaurant and flagship store, opening in December.

A man feeding cows hay in a field from the back of a truck

At Knights Valley Wagyu, Respecting Cows and the Environment Go Hand in Hand

American ranches have increasingly been raising Wagyu, a full-flavored beef swirled with thin veins of fat that’s celebrated for its tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. For Knights Valley Wagyu, a company co-founded by real estate developers Adam Gordon and Will Densberger, raising exemplary cattle goes hand in hand with respecting the land they graze upon. Its cows roam freely in the Knights Valley region of Sonoma County, California, on Ghost Donkey Ranch, a 227-acre property located a short bicycle ride away from the homes and restaurants of three Michelin-starred chefs—Single Thread’s Kyle Connaughton, Harbor House Inn’s Matthew Kammerer, and the Restaurant at Meadowood’s Christopher Kostow—who exclusively use its Wagyu. “We respect the cows’ value as sentient beings,” says Gordon, who bought the ranch about a decade ago while serving on the director’s council at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where he was immersed in the principles of deep ecology: the notion that all life, including plants and animals, is sacred and of worth. This perspective continues to influence his work today. Here, we speak with Gordon about his holistic approach to ranching, and the subtle savors that set his Wagyu apart.

A crumble pie topped with whipped cream

How to Make an Exceptional Summer Pie, According to Four & Twenty Blackbirds’s Emily Elsen

Sisters Emily and Melissa Elsen experienced the delight of a toothsome dessert at an early age. They grew up in the tiny town of Hecla, South Dakota—“not the ranching, mountainous region, but the rural plains, like Laura Ingalls Wilder,” Emily says—working in their family’s restaurant, run by their mother and two aunts. Their grandmother Elizabeth made its pies, which regularly drew in hungry customers. In 2009, the pair channeled the work ethic and honest use of quality ingredients demonstrated by their relatives into the Brooklyn bakery Four & Twenty Blackbirds, which produces idiosyncratic pies, in varieties such as black-bottom oat and lavender honey custard, that are as distinct as they are delicious. (It also ships them nationally, via Goldbelly.) As summer picnics were beginning to pick up steam, Emily recently spoke with us about the pie she suggests making when the weather is warm, about cooking with personality, and why a home-baked pastry, even an imperfect one, is a reliably foolproof treat.

The interior of Google's first retail store.

Google’s First Retail Space Is Simultaneously Tranquil and Teched-Out

Technology, especially when it comes to screen time, can simultaneously induce sensory overload and sensory deprivation. It’s a concept that Suchi Reddy, founder of the New York firm Reddymade Architecture and Design, challenged with her design for Google’s first retail store, which opened last month on the ground floor of the company’s Manhattan headquarters (just blocks from The Slowdown’s Chelsea studio). Reddy worked with Ivy Ross, Google’s VP of hardware design (and the guest on Ep. 11 of our Time Sensitive podcast) toward a singular goal: to create an environment that demonstrates “how humans and technology [can] come together,” as Reddy puts it, through products that are seamlessly integrated into our everyday lives in appealing and practical ways.

Journalist Doree Shafrir

Doree Shafrir’s Favorite Media Outlets—Slow, Singular, and Unconventional—Mirror Her Life

Los Angeles–based journalist Doree Shafrir sees beauty in the particular challenges faced by those who find their footing a bit later in life. She identifies as one such person, having married at 38 and become a mother at 41. “I had so much shame about that for a long time,” she says, noting that she felt out of sync with her peers. “It took me a while to really come to terms with it, and to understand that this is what made me who I am.” Shafrir, who was among the first editors hired by Gawker and BuzzFeed, pours her lighthearted yet critical perspective on her experience into Forever35, a self-care podcast she co-hosts with her longtime friend Kate Spencer, and into her new memoir, Thanks for Waiting: The Joy (& Weirdness) of Being a Late Bloomer (Ballantine Books), out this week. In the book, she interrogates the often overwhelming pressure that people—particularly women—feel to achieve specific benchmarks by specific moments in their lives, and why taking the time to find one’s way can be a more fruitful, and ultimately more rewarding, approach to existence. Here, we ask Shafrir about her media diet, which focuses, perhaps unsurprisingly, on stories about complex social and cultural phenomena that are at once intelligent, amusing, and real. How do you start your mornings?

“The Sense of Smell in the Middle Ages: A Source of Certainty” book cover

Dr. Katelynn Robinson Unpacks the Role of Odors in the Middle Ages

How did people in the Middle Ages think about smells? It’s a question that Dr. Katelynn Robinson avidly explores in her ongoing research (which includes Visual Odors, a website she created to trace how scents were depicted in medieval European art) and her book, The Sense of Smell in the Middle Ages: A Source of Certainty (Routledge), out next week in paperback. It’s the first comprehensive investigation of the period’s olfactory understanding, which Dr. Robinson compiled by reading Latin texts produced between the 11th and 15th centuries—material that’s largely untranslated and unedited by modern scholars. Wading through writings by academics and doctors, she learned about the overarching factors—including Greek and Arabic studies, philosophical and medical texts, and pious authors who imbued the information with spiritual meaning—that contributed to popular opinions of odors and how they played out in everyday life.

A man wearing glasses and a striped shirt

How Dr. Michael Bull Helps Businesses Combat Objectionable Odors

If you’ve ever been overwhelmed by the aroma of freshly ground coffee upon walking into a café, or the particular bouquet of a hotel lobby, you know firsthand that scent marketing is real. But while some businesses strategically pump smells into the air, others strive to counteract ones that naturally exist on their premises—a subject to which Dr. Michael Bull, one of the leading air quality and odor experts in the United Kingdom, has dedicated more than three decades of his career. The former director of global engineering company Arup’s environmental consulting arm in the U.K., he established his own firm earlier this year. Dr. Bull applies his knowledge of assessing and managing smells to an array of industries, including farms, restaurants, airports, highways, wastewater treatment plants, and manufacturing facilities, making recommendations for how to plan infrastructure around the scents a venture emits or encounters, conducting odor assessment reports, and combating air pollutants. He has also presented expert evidence on air quality matters to committees at British Parliament and in court, where he regularly works with clients on statutory nuisance cases, in which a scent or air quality affects a person’s health or property. We recently spoke with Dr. Bull about his line of work, and the central olfactory issues he encounters today. What led you to choose a career in assessing odors and their relationship to architecture?

Four espresso cups and saucers with a paint splatter motif

How Illycaffè Uses Art to Enhance the Coffee-Drinking Experience

For nearly 30 years, the family-owned Italian company Illycaffè has engaged leading artists to enhance the act of enjoying its world-class coffee. It releases these collaborations through the Illy Art Collection, for which various creative minds, such as Marina Abramović, David Byrne, Yoko Ono, and Robert Wilson, take a Matteo Thun–designed cup and saucer, and use it as a blank slate for original, often playful work. A recent series by graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister, for example, featured a mirror-like finish on each vessel, covering its surface with a fish-eye view of its user’s own reflection. Last week, the brand introduced its latest addition, created by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei, who adorned espresso and cappuccino cups with bold, graphic paint splatters. The concept nods to the artist’s famed “Colored Vases” (2007–2010), made by dipping pottery from the Neolithic age in industrial paint, to alter each piece’s appearance and, in turn, its perception and reception.

A bottle of The Nue. Co.’s Functional Fragrance perfume.

The Science Behind The Nue Co.’s Stress-Relieving Fragrances

Among the many olfactory ways to de-stress—sniffing a bundle of lavender, lighting a scented candle, taking a breath of fresh air—perfume isn’t usually what we turn to. But perhaps it should be. The Nue Co., a line of wellness products informed by science and Ayurvedic medicine, suggests as much, offering fragrances that are clinically proven to induce relaxation. Jules Miller, the brand’s founder and CEO, says the scents came about by default. “When developing an anti-stress supplement, we wanted to deliver it in a medium that had an instant effect, so that quickly ruled out capsules, tinctures, or powders,” she says. “We came to the idea of a sensory supplement, since the olfactory system is essentially the highway to our brains.” Using findings from a 2015 study conducted by the Swiss fragrance and flavor brand Firmenich and the University of Geneva’s Brain and Behavior Laboratory that mapped people’s neurological reactions to specific scent groups, Miller’s team devised its aptly named Functional Fragrance with notes that soothe the mind, such as green cardamom, cilantro, and violet. Ninety-six percent of users the company surveyed reported feeling instantly calmer.

Author and ethical fashion advocate Maxine Bédat

Maxine Bédat’s New Book Traces the Lifespan of a Pair of Jeans to Illustrate the Ills of Fast Fashion

In this age of instant gratification, fast fashion innocently presents itself as a way to meet consumer demand. But behind the scenes, the industry’s supply chains are fraught with serious planet- and people-threatening problems. It’s a topic that Maxine Bédat, founder and director of the New Standard Institute—a think tank and resource for clothing designers and fashion brands hoping to make legitimate, impactful changes by 2030—tackles in her forthcoming book, Unraveled: The Life and Death of a Garment (Portfolio), out next week. In the book, Bédat, a former lawyer (and the guest on Ep. 11 of our At a Distance podcast), traces the lifespan of a pair of jeans to demonstrate the ills that accompany the processes that produce our clothes. Along the way, she encounters a number of tragic situations, including a cotton farm in Texas struggling to operate without using poisonous fertilizers, dyeing factories in China where harmful chemicals spill onto floors and drain into waterways used for irrigation, and warehouses in South Asia that require workers to perform with machine-like endurance. We recently spoke with Bédat about her eye-opening research, and the importance of building more meaningful relationships with our clothes. What exactly is the driving force behind fast fashion?

Five bottles of perfume on an ombre table

Old Family Photographs Are This Self-Taught Perfumer’s Muse

Years ago, while flipping through an old family photo album, photographer Maya Njie homed in on an invisible aspect of the pictures. “I found myself wanting to know how the place or person [shown] smells,” she says. She began experimenting with raw ingredients to make fragrances that capture a given image’s scene: The celebratory reception of her aunt and uncle’s wedding became Vanilj, a blend of vanilla and spices that’s redolent of bourbon; a photo of tropical vegetation, a nod to her family’s roots in Gambia, springs to life in Tropica, a citrusy spritz that incorporates pineapple, Mediterranean fig, iris, coconut, and sandalwood. Njie began wearing her concoctions, which quickly garnered a fan base that led her to found her namesake fragrance line in 2016. These days, Njie mixes and bottles her gender-neutral scents by hand in her London studio. She’s also eager to share her know-how with others. This week, after a hiatus due to the pandemic, she resumed hosting workshops, where participants learn how to blend their own perfume (next month’s sessions will be announced on her website’s events page soon).

A wood-fired oven in a kitchen.

The Unexpected Advantages of Wood-Fired Cooking, Explained by Japanese Chef Yoshihiro Imai

Tucked along the Philosopher’s Path, a cherry tree–lined walk in Kyoto, Japan, that was regularly trod by early–20th century philosophy professor Kitaro Nishida, the restaurant Monk eschews cooking with gas in favor of an ancient alternative that suits its storied locale: the humble wood fire. Owned by up-and-coming chef Yoshihiro Imai, the 14-seat omakase-style space has become something of a pilgrimage for food obsessives, thanks in part to Imai’s already serious chops (before opening Monk in 2015, he was head chef of Japan’s Enboca, a celebrated three-location wood-fired pizzeria where his toothsome toppings included salted plums and white miso paste). On the occasion of Imai’s recently released cookbook, Monk: Light and Shadow on the Philosopher’s Path (Phaidon), in which he details why making food with timber-fueled flames is essential to his restaurant, we asked the chef about what attracts him to his fuel of choice, and how it can be used to delicious, unexpected ends.

Writer and author Julian Sanction

Why History’s Harrowing Polar Expeditions Get Julian Sancton’s Blood Pumping

Julian Sancton knows a thing or two about bone-chilling temperatures. “For a while, I’ve been visiting a friend’s uncle’s lake house in New Hampshire each winter, when it’s typically around zero degrees,” says Sancton, a New York–based author who grew up in France and served as senior features editor at the recently-folded Departures magazine for nearly a decade. Despite the getaway’s frigid conditions, he continues, “It’s just so beautiful, and gave me a taste for the cold.” Perhaps that’s a reason why he was so drawn to the harrowing account of a Belgian polar expedition that took place at the end of the 19th century, in which a ship named the Belgica spent a sunless winter frozen in the Antarctic ice. Sancton traces the historic voyage, which wasn’t exactly smooth sailing, in his first book, Madhouse at the End of the Earth: The Belgica’s Journey Into the Dark Antarctic Night (Penguin Random House), out this week. We recently spoke with Sancton about what he read during his research, and the news sources, podcasts, and TV shows he’s taking in now. Tell us about some of your favorite books on polar expeditions.

still from the cartoon "the look make show"

A New Cartoon Uses Art to Teach Kids How to Confront Life’s Challenges

Arts education opportunities faded fast for kids in the learn-from-home fog of Covid-19. That’s where The Look Make Show, a new TV program by New York City’s Children’s Museum of the Arts, hopes to come in. The cartoon, of which the creators are raising funds to make future episodes via a Kickstarter campaign through May 14, focuses on Rod and Coney, two rotund, charismatic artists who refuse to let the pandemic get in the way of sharing their work with the world. “We’ve been stuck inside, rotting our brains with television,” Rod says on the pilot, which you can watch on the museum’s Kickstarter. “But that’s when it hit us: What if we made a TV show about making art, so all our friends can see the art we’re making, and we can see all the art that they make?”

A Brood X cicada on a log, surrounded by grass.

The Shrill Mating Songs of Billions of Cicadas Will Soon Fill the Air

Early American colonists mistook cicadas, compact insects with dark exoskeletons, glistening red eyes, and big wings, for locusts—and in light of recent events, we understandably might do the same. Billions of them, from the ominously named Brood X group of periodical cicadas, will emerge from the earth in the coming weeks, with epicenters in Washington, D.C., Indiana, and Tennessee. They’ve been living underground for 17 years, feeding on tree and plant sap and, once the soil warms up, will claw their way toward the surface to breed. You’ll know when they arrive: male cicadas rapidly vibrate a pair of ribbed membranes called “tymbals,” which sit on either side of their abdomens, to create a shrill, cacophonous mating call that varies from a genial whistle to a raspy din.

Dr. Evan R. Reiter on a gray background.

How Embracing Other Senses Can Help Those Struggling With Smell Loss

As the medical director of the Smell and Taste Disorders Center at Virginia Commonwealth University, Dr. Evan R. Reiter has been especially busy in the era of Covid-19. He’s currently tracking around 2,000 virus patients as they recuperate, noting how the senses he studies change and, in some cases, disappear. The distortion of smell may be part of the recovery process, he believes, as receptors in the nose reawaken and send signals to the brain that misfire or are misread. The experience can be unexpectedly devastating. “People have a hard time understanding what life would be like if they lose their hearing or their vision,” he says. “But smell? You almost don’t even think about it and kind of toss it aside—until it’s gone.” Here, Dr. Reiter details the ways that smell loss has impacted his patients, and how using other senses can help them cope.

Philosopher Simon Critchley having a drink at a bar

The Media That Gets Philosopher Simon Critchley’s Wheels Turning

The British-born, Brooklyn-based philosopher Simon Critchley has no shortage of interests. He’s written, in his refreshingly approachable, personal prose, about topics including Plato, the meaning of money, Mormonism, David Bowie, and the Liverpool Football Club for The New York Times, where he moderates its contemporary thinkers opinion forum, The Stone. For his forthcoming book, Bald (Yale University Press), out April 27, Critchley—who teaches philosophy at The New School for Social Research, and was the guest on Ep. 42 of our Time Sensitive podcast and Ep. 3 of our At a Distance podcast—compiled 35 of his favorite Times essays, forming an engaging series of short reads that suggest new ways of understanding the world. We recently spoke with Critchley about the media he consumes, which includes a lot of reading with his ears.

Four Valke Vleug wine bottles in a carton.

Vincent Van Duysen on the Complex Character of Winery Valke Vleug’s First Vintages

Puurs, Belgium, isn’t exactly known as an oenophile mecca—yet. That may change now that Valke Vleug, a year-old boutique winery created by former real estate developer Jan Van Lancker and Belgian architect Vincent Van Duysen, who designed the wood-and-concrete property in the vein of a Flemish farmhouse, has released its first vintages, both from 2019. There’s a sharp, slightly sour Pinot Noir, and a Pinot Auxerrois, a crisp white that’s redolent of peaches. Van Duysen, a self-described wine lover, is partial to the latter. “It has an intense nose of citrus and spring blossom,” he says. “Plus, it’s aged in an acacia barrel, giving the wine increased spiciness and length.” Both offerings sold out after debuting in January, demonstrating a demand for wine that derives its flavor from the chilly, often cloudy region’s terroir. (Those hoping to nab one of the estate’s 2020 vintages can sign up for its newsletter, which will announce the wines’ launch date soon.)

A hamster eating a piece of fruit in grass.

The Bizarre, Calming Effects of Listening to Animals Eat

“Studies have shown that listening to the sound of beavers enthusiastically munching on white cabbage can temporarily reduce stress levels by up to 17%,” @DickKingSmith tweeted last fall. (The account is maintained by the family of the late children’s book author, who wrote the story that inspired the critter-filled farmyard movie Babe). The post, accompanied by a video of a rodent enjoying a cabbage buffet, went viral and was clearly untrue—but nodded toward the bizarre calming effect some people experience while listening to the sounds of animals ingesting food.

A bottle of Hermés's H24 in futuristic lighting.

How Hermès’s New H24 Fragrance Defines Modern Masculinity

In the 15 years since the French high fashion house Hermès released its Terre d’Hermès men’s fragrance, the scent has come to represent the brand’s olfactory interpretation of masculinity. Spicy, minerally, and slightly vegetal, it was devised by the company’s former in-house nose Jean-Claude Ellena, who wanted the aroma to signal the presence of a man. In 2018, Hermès’s current head perfumer, Christine Nagel, reimagined the fragrance for a new generation, evolving it with notes of green bergamot, Sichuan pepper, and vetiver. Then she took on an even greater challenge: creating an entirely new smellable identity for men. Collaborating with Véronique Nichanian, Hermès’s menswear creative director, she devised the resulting H24 perfume, marked by a lively yet delicate bouquet, based on Nichanian’s ready-to-wear collections. But how, exactly, does the house’s latest spray define the modern man?

Journalist and writer Julia Cooke

The Words and Music Author Julia Cooke Is Escaping Through Right Now

In the era of Covid-19, you might think that Julia Cooke’s book Come Fly the World: The Jet-Age Story of the Women of Pan Am (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), out this week, was inspired by a longing for air travel, but you’d be wrong. “What I really wanted to do was write about spies,” the Vermont-based journalist says about the origins of her research. It began after she met stewardesses from the iconic, now-shuttered Pan American World Airways seven years ago, during an event at Kennedy International Airport’s TWA Flight Center in New York, and decided to immerse herself in their former lives. “Everyone talks about how Pan Am was intricately connected with the U.S. government,” Cooke says. “It sent a lot of women to sensitive areas of the world, from Vietnam to Moscow.” (Such international destinations led to rumors that flight attendants worked for the C.I.A.) Her book details the glamour and liberation of Pan Am’s female staff—who, between 1966 and 1975, had to speak two languages, hold a college degree, be under 26 years old, and weigh between 105 and 140 pounds to be hired—by telling the stories of their journeys. “They were magnetic,” Cooke says of the women she interviewed. “They talked with total authority about prime ministers as if they’d had martinis with them the day before.” To find out how the author travels, we recently asked Cooke about the media she packs in her carry-on, and what she’s reading, watching, and listening to now.

A hand pulling a steaming margherita pizza out of a green Roccbox oven.

Make Restaurant-Quality Pies at Home With These Portable Pizza Ovens

Among the sundry forms of comfort we’ve sought during the pandemic, perhaps nothing soothes faster than a piping-hot pizza. But instead of delivery, consider taking matters into your own hands with a portable pizza oven, designed to make enjoying Italy’s universally beloved export that much more enticing. Gozney’s Roccbox can cook a perfectly-crispy-crust Neapolitan pie in just 60 seconds, with its up-to-950-degree oven and cordierite stone floor. Last year, after the Illinois-based brand saw a steep increase in demand for its products, it released the Roccbox Wood Burner 2.0, a detachable device that adds oomph to its signature oven, with its ability to reach top temperatures even faster, and increased capacity for fuel. Other effective oven contenders include the Ooni Pro, which can be heated with charcoal, wood, or gas, and Camp Chef’s double-walled Italia Artisan Pizza Oven, built to mimic the performance of the wood-fired brick variety (it can also be used to bake bread or roast meats). However you decide to top and cook your pie, making pizza at home, like listening to a favorite album, is all about the journey—becoming that much more satisfying with each slice.

Moso natural pouches inside a pair of sneakers.

Eliminate Odors With These Bamboo Charcoal–Filled Linen Bags

Sweaty running clothes. The litter box. That odd funk emanating from the back of the fridge. Unpleasant scents can transform a home, particularly as we spend more time indoors, into an olfactory purgatory. Enter Moso Natural, a line of odor-eliminating linen bags filled with an unexpected ingredient: bamboo. The California-based brand is named after a species of the woody grass (pronounced “MOH-soh”), which it sources from China’s Fujian province, dries, and fires in a kiln to create porous charcoal that attracts and stores particles from the air. When placed in the sun, UV rays clear out the material’s cavities, creating more space to trap unsavory scents. Moso Natural tailor-made its bags, complete with a handy hanging hole, for closets, bathrooms, and kitchens; it also designed pouches that slide into shoes and sit discreetly in car interiors. Each lightweight sack works its magic for about two years. After that, the company recommends sprinkling the charcoal onto the soil in your garden, where the carbon-rich substance will help plants thrive.

Writer and "The New Era" editor-in-chief Hanna Nova Beatrice

“The New Era” Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Prefers to Consume Media the Old-Fashioned Way

Hanna Nova Beatrice is the founder and editor-in-chief of The New Era, a recently launched independent Scandinavian design publication. “It grew out of a strong belief in the [power of] print,” she says of the title, which comes out on a quarterly basis. True to form, the seasoned author and curator, who previously served as the editor-in-chief of Sweden’s interiors-focused Residence magazine, prefers to consume media the old-fashioned way, with an eye toward periodicals that innovate on physical pages. (She also peruses a select few online.) We recently spoke with Beatrice about what’s on her daily reading and listening lists, which include an exhibition catalogue, a podcast about the circular economy, and a genre of literature she prefers to keep out of sight. How do you start your mornings?

Tiffany-Anne Parkes smiling in front of a large fern.

At New York’s Pienanny Bakery, Pastries Pack a Punch

Tiffany-Anne Parkes, the chef-owner of New York’s Pienanny, makes sweet and savory pastries that chart new territory. Her recent creations include a Jamaican stout custard pie with a black-cocoa pastry crust, and a ginger-curd pie topped with cream-cheese frosting and a cut-out figure, inspired by Kara Walker’s 1998 artwork “Burn,” covered in a layer of vodka-infused watermelon gelatin. We recently spoke with Parkes about the unexpected origins of her bakery’s name, and what makes a great pie.

Sam Harnett and Chris Hoff holding audio equipment between two bushes in a parking lot.

How Two Audio Producers Are Using Sound to Bring People Together

“We love radio, but it’s become so dependent on information and story,” says Chris Hoff, who, with Sam Harnett, produces The World According to Sound, a podcast comprising minutes-long episodes that tell tales with sounds in lieu of language. “There’s not a lot of space to just listen.” A few years ago, Hoff and Harnett took their show on the road. “People sat in the dark, disconnected from their phones, and listened to the sounds on big speakers,” Hoff says. “The whole idea was to listen intently to things you’d never think to try and listen to, like a bridge, or an ant, or an athlete’s grunt.”

The Somewhere podcast art, featuring a cartoon desert and map.

A New Podcast Examines Everyday Life in Popular Road Trip Destinations

The middle of a pandemic may seem like an odd time to launch a podcast about road trips—but maybe it’s ideal, as unexpected as the journeys themselves. Longtime podcast producer Zach Mack certainly didn’t anticipate the onslaught of Covid-19 when he drove through the American South two years ago, schlepping his recording equipment around to interview locals and make audio-postcards along the way. He realized he was onto something. “I couldn’t name a single narrative travel podcast [at the time],” he says. “There were a few chat shows, but nothing immersive. It felt like a huge gap.” Mack devised a framework for his own podcast, which evolved as the coronavirus set in. About two months ago, he released the first episode of Greetings from Somewhere, a show about how travel affects us; how we affect the places we visit; and, to date, how the pandemic changed everything.

A pair of white denchers with gold and rose-gold grills.

Meet Ri Serax, the Australian Jewelry Designer Who Makes Outrageous Gold Grills

Dental grills might seem like a latter-day invention, but they’re actually anything but. Decorative tooth accessories were status symbols as far back as the seventh century B.C., when wealthy women adorned their teeth with thick gold wire. And like most innovations, they’re even more refined today. Among the trade’s most imaginative practitioners: Australian-born, New York–based jeweler Ri Serax, whose outrageous embellishments are worn inside the mouths of rap and R&B artists including Jpegmafia, Princess Nokia, and Vic Mensa. We recently spoke with Serax about the evolution of her practice, and why her work is especially relevant today.

A cup of Rasa Elderberry Boost with cloves of cinammon, ginger, and anise on a bright wood table.

These Coffee Alternatives Offer a Better Way to Add Some Pep to Your Step

Despite coffee’s side effects, which can include pit-in-your-stomach anxiety and sleepless nights, caffeine addicts have turned to the drink for ages—and consumption of the beverage, according to the National Coffee Association, only seems to be growing. But coffee’s not the only way to add some pep to your step. There are a number of tasty alternatives—both new and established—out there, with the aim of delivering a boost that’s better for us and, given much of the coffee and cocoa industry’s deforestation and labor issues, the world. One of our favorite coffee proxies? Mud\Wtr, a blend of familiar ingredients (masala chai, turmeric, sea salt, lion’s mane mushrooms, and others) that impart a comparatively calm, nerves-free stimulus, and can be sweetened with honey or creamer after dissolving a tablespoon of the powder into hot water. The similarly prepared, caffeine-free Dandy Blend actually tastes like a coffee-and-hot chocolate mashup, which is surprising, given that it’s made from dandelion, chicory, and beet roots that coincidentally support adrenal functions. We’re also drinking herbal tonics from Rasa, a company based in Boulder, Colorado, that offers multiple blends that promote immunity, lower stress levels, and increase joy. “So many of us use coffee as a way to extract more resources from our bodies,” says Lopa van der Mersch, Rasa’s founder and CEO. “We take too much, just like we do from the earth. At Rasa, we’re on a mission to redefine how we relate to energizing ourselves.” Caffeine jitters aside, these wholesome refreshments are well worth the while.

A diffuser from Fueguia 1833’s new collection of home fragrances.

Imaginative Home Fragrances, Created by a Former Musician

“I don’t consider myself a perfumer,” says Julian Bedel, a former musician who taught himself how to make wearable scents, and founded the Argentinian fragrance brand Fueguia 1833 in 2010. “I don’t know anything about perfume. My work is more of an artistic creation, and how I create the formulas is pure improvisation.” Being an industry outsider has boded well for the Buenos Aires native. His company has its own botanical sourcing and farming operations and purpose-built lab in Milan, and oversees everything from its bottling to its boutiques—located in Buenos Aires, Milan, New York, and Tokyo. Bedel’s scents are inspired by unexpected muses (napping whales, Charles Darwin) and incorporate equally unexpected notes, such as cactus flower, bog myrtle, and pink pepper. Muskara, one of Bedel’s favorite fragrances, has no aroma of its own; it chemically amplifies its wearer’s natural scent.

Screens from the Kama app featuring suggestions and techniques.

This New App Puts Sex Therapy Within Reach for All

The culture of wellness tends to focus on trends, like meditation hacks or CBD gummies. But a new app devotes itself to the personal health to be found in the most primal of experiences: sex. The recently launched Kama turns to leading neuroscientists, psychologists, somatic therapists, and other experts to help us better our bedroom habits. Their advice is incorporated into an ever-growing library of frank, easy-to-follow guides and exercises, each created to maximize sensual joy. Kama aims to do more than merely educate users about pleasure, an uncommon subject in sex-education classes and even in the medical field. It tackles issues such as stress, body confidence, and insecurity, and offers information that’s relevant for people of all ages, sexualities, and genders. Kama’s CEO and founder Chloe Macintosh, who built the platform from her kitchen table while sheltering in place last year, said in an interview with Forbes that she sees the company as a response to a “sex and intimacy recession” that’s happening around the world. “Our body is the most advanced technology that we will ever interact with, and yet we know so little about it,” she says. “[We] often leave it to others to make decisions about our health and sexual well-being, which ultimately leaves us unfulfilled.” Better sex, Kama suggests, begins with forming a better relationship with ourselves.

Aymeric de Gironde in an old truck on the vineyard.

What Makes a Great Vintage, According to Wine-Industry Veteran Aymeric de Gironde

Aymeric de Gironde, CEO of the Château Troplong Mondot estate, located in the Saint-Émilion wine region of Bordeaux, France, grew up working in vineyards—and has never looked back. Here, the industry veteran discusses something few wine lovers truly understand: what makes a great vintage, and why much of the fuss around the fermented grape drink should be tossed out as quickly as a corked bottle.

Dr. Kate McLean smiles and holds her dog in a garden.

Meet the Graphic Designer Who Maps Cities by Their Scents

Dr. Kate McLean, who spearheads the graphic design program at Canterbury Christ Church University in the United Kingdom, works at the intersection of cartography, scent, and language. For years, she has organized public “smell walks” in cities around the world, inviting residents to traverse their local terrain and record what their noses detect, often leaving participants with a heightened appreciation of sensory stimuli. McLean translates this information into “smellscapes”: colorful diagrams made of dots and wavy, concentric rings that detail where an odor occurs in a specific place, and how it moves around. Here, she explains how and why she’s mapping invisible aromas, one whiff at a time.

A Kokoro Care Package open to show its contents on a patterned white and red background.

This Subscription Box Service Brings Hard-to-Find Japanese Food to Your Door

If journeying to Japan feels out of reach—or even impossible, in the midst of a pandemic—fret not. The subscription box service Kokoro Care Packages brings the best of the country to you via monthly, quarterly, or one-off parcels, delivered year-round. Noodles, soups, seasonings, and sauces are among the eclectic edible items inside, along with English translations of ingredients and straightforward recipes that make it easy to turn each carton into a meal. “Everything is made by local Japanese farmers and producers, many of whom use techniques that are centuries old,” says Lillian Hanako Rowlatt, who co-founded the company with her partner, Aki Sugiyama, two years ago. “And several of the small-batch products are hard to find, even in Japan!”

Two wooden boxes, one with a clear top and one with a wooden top.

These Wood Boxes Hold Centuries of Japanese Culture and Craftsmanship

Wood boxes are something of a national treasure in Japan, where Buddhist monks began tucking stoles, prayer beads, and other ritual implements into them more than 1,300 years ago. With the rise of teahouses a few centuries later, vessels specifically created for tea and tea-making tools appeared, symbolizing and safeguarding their contents, and bringing the tradition of kiribako—boxes handcrafted from paulownia, a native tree with lightweight, durable, water-resistant timber—into the mainstream. Today, Japanese manufacturers produce wood boxes for a wide variety of objects, including food, furniture, flowers, clothing, and even trash. Among the country’s most lauded container companies: Masuda Kiribako, which has been skillfully producing traditional receptacles since 1929.

Marbled black tondela vessels in a gallery.

Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance’s New Lisbon Studio Celebrates Portugese Craft

Three years ago, French furniture and object designer Noé Duchaufour-Lawrance—whose clients include Baccarat, Bernhardt Design, Hermès, and Montblanc—moved to Lisbon, Portugal, to quell his desire to live in a small city by the sea. (He still maintains a studio in Paris.) Earlier this fall, he opened a space there called Made in Situ that champions the traditional crafts, techniques, and materials of the region through objects he designs and makes with local artisans. Its first collection, a line of black ceramic vessels, lamps, and diffusers called Barro Negro, is on view there through February 2021. We recently spoke with Duchaufour-Lawrance about his new platform and how he created the inaugural pieces with craftspeople who use a traditional firing method called soenga. How did the idea for Made in Situ come about?

A woman reads a magazine in a hot tub wearing a swimsuit

Artist and Editor Ekin Balcıoğlu Thinks You Should Read in the Bath

This year has driven many of us to create a de facto home spa—steeping in long, leisurely baths for solace. One such bath-lover: Ekin Balcıoğlu, a Taos, New Mexico–based artist and the founder and editor-in-chief of Hamam, a new quarterly print publication about the culture of bathing that will release its second issue later this month. Hamam, while bursting with originality, has parallels to Wet magazine, the subversive, now-defunct cult classic founded in 1976 by Leonard Koren (who was the guest on Ep. 78 of our At a Distance podcast) that explored pleasure and play through a loosely water-themed lens.

A waving Ghanan pakurigo basket.

Goodee’s Ethically Made Objects Make a Positive Impact on People and the Planet

Imagine shopping a trove of objects that are at once elegant and ethically made—no post-purchase consumer guilt necessary. That’s the concept behind Goodee, an online marketplace of homewares and clothing that make a positive impact on people and the planet. Founded by Montreal-based twins Byron and Dexter Peart—who famously kick-started the luxury outfitter Want Les Essentiels—the brand features products that embody a trifecta of virtues: It makes every effort to ensure that each piece is transparently sourced, socially conscious, and made to last. Among its most popular offerings: undulating Pakurigo baskets handwoven by artisans in Ghana from locally sourced vetiver grass, vegan seaweed soap that cleverly uses coriander seeds and peppercorns as exfoliants, and the sought-after Goodee Hoodie, recently released in three new colors (dusty rose, Egyptian blue, and alabaster) and made from Egyptian cotton by the Canadian fashion and textile brand Kotn. There’s also a handsome German Douglas pine daybed from Danish B Corp Skagerak, topped with Kvadrat upholstery, and a Japanese windmill palm fiber “corner brush” designed to dust the undustable. Feel like decking the halls? Try these multihued Jipi Baubles tree ornaments, handmade from Jipijapa palm tree leaves by Colombian artisans in the Andes. For those on our gift lists, including the most discerning ones, we consider Goodee a safe bet.

Four book covers from titles about the climate crisis on a white background

A New Digital Book Club Explores the Beauty and Fragility of Our Planet

In 2018, when writer Amitav Ghosh appeared at the Brooklyn Public Library to discuss his book The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable, Joel Whitney, who manages arts and culture programs at the institution, took note. “I was surprised by Amitav’s main idea: that contemporary fiction has a hard time dealing with climate change,” he says. The Climate Reads book club, a yearlong digital initiative launched by Whitney’s department and the advocacy group Writers Rebel NYC earlier this fall, suggests otherwise, with climate-focused fiction titles including Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad, The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engel, and Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk on its roster. The club plans to tackle a handful of nonfiction books, too, such as The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming by the late Japanese farmer-philosopher Masanobu Fukuoka, and Why We Swim—the focus of next month’s meeting—by swimmer and surfer Bonnie Tsui.

Olivia Lopez in a yellow dress, with a black leather handbag.

Olivia Lopez’s New Podcast Shows You How to Travel Without Leaving Home

An international pandemic may seem like an unusual time to kick-start a podcast called The Art of Travel. But for Olivia Lopez, a Filipina fashion blogger whose pre-Covid life entailed constant globetrotting, being stuck at home is the perfect moment to talk about the psychology behind the exploration of place. “With travel on pause, it’s never felt more timely to reflect on and raise questions about the why and [the] way we consume experiences,” she says on the first episode of the podcast, which she launched over the summer. Through the project, Lopez hopes to provide a “temporary escape for listeners, while sustaining conversations on a topic that has been fundamental for many people’s self-growth and exploration.” Each episode features an exchange between Lopez and a leading figure in hospitality, media, or design, with a focus on how curiosity can lead to delightful, soul-enhancing discoveries. Guests have included YOLO magazine founder Yolanda Edwards, who talks about an unforgettable trip to Greece; Life House Hotels founder Rami Zeidan, who discusses how to make travel more meaningful; and perfumer Frédéric Malle, who explains how to travel via the senses. The conversations have been a balm for Lopez, who, like all of us, has been missing the excitement of everyday life. “Despite our current climate,” she says, “the spirit of travel and connection to community lives on.”

Two hands covered in indigo dye.

How Kilomet109 Is Preserving Vietnam's Rich Fashion and Textile Heritage

Fashion brand Kilomet109, headquartered in Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi, is reviving the country’s textile traditions with each piece in its men’s and womenswear collections. Manufactured in collaboration with regional artisans from five ethnic minority tribes, the hand-sewn garments are made of fabric created from organic fibers, which are grown, spun, woven, and dyed in and around the company’s studio. We recently spoke with the label’s founder, Thao Vu, about what indigo paste feels like, the centuries-old weaving tools her artisans employ, and how her enterprise is expanding local economies.

A sunny park in Japan with blooming cherry blossom trees

Wind Down to the Meditative Wonders of Slow TV

Sometimes—especially in moments of political strife, pandemics, hurricanes, or all of the above—a television plotline can be too much drama to bear, even if it’s frothy and light. In those instances, we suggest getting lost in “slow television”: coverage of seemingly mundane occurrences at the rate they are actually experienced. Watch a train wend its way around the fjords and farms of the Norwegian countryside over the course of seven hours, or see a sweater get made, in the time of a typical work day, from A to Z (beginning with shearing a sheep’s wool), set to the tune of cheery folk music. Other bountiful slow TV options to stream: dogs frolicking on a beach, a meandering stroll among flowering cherry blossoms in Japan, and a sailing trip to Tobago, accompanied by the soothing sounds of waves lapping against a boat’s exterior. The format can arguably be traced to none other than Andy Warhol, whose 1963 film “Sleep” consisted entirely of his lover, the poet and performance artist John Giorno, napping. Regardless of its subject matter, slow TV demonstrates how everyday, drawn-out activities can be a form of meditation—even if experienced from a fly-on-the-wall perspective and through a screen. We’re feeling calmer already.

A dinner plate depicting an image of a blue eye

The Artist Plate Project’s Limited-Edition Dishes Serve Homeless New Yorkers

For those of us who are lucky enough to have a full plate right now, consider helping those who don’t. One avenue for altruism: New York’s Coalition for the Homeless, forced to cancel its annual fall fundraising gala due to the pandemic, is launching the Artist Plate Project, a limited-edition collection of porcelain platters depicting works by 50 legendary artists, including Tauba Auerbach, Jenny Holzer, Marilyn Minter, and Rashid Johnson (the latter of whom was featured on Ep. 25 of our Time Sensitive podcast). The series will be available on the organization’s website beginning Nov. 16. Profits from the heirloom-worthy tableware, produced by the collectible art and design company Prospect, will go toward serving the 59,000 New Yorkers who currently live in shelters or who struggle to survive on streets and in subways. A recent study by Columbia University predicts that homelessness will increase by 40 to 45 percent within the next year due to Covid-19—making the coalition’s work, which includes providing housing assistance, emergency food, clothing, and job training to those who need it most, all the more vital. Purchasing a single plate ($175, each available in an edition of 75) provides meals for 75 people in need—a big-hearted act and food for the soul.

Author Cat Warren and one of her dogs, Rev, crouching in an autumn forest.

Dog-Lover Cat Warren Explores the Remarkable Power of a Canine’s Snout

Anyone who’s ever owned a dog (or been owned by one) knows that scent is paramount to how canines experience the world. But for Cat Warren, a science journalism professor at North Carolina State University, this observation became something of an obsession. She interviewed countless cognitive psychologists, medical examiners, epidemiologists, and forensic anthropologists, plus dog breeders, trainers, and handlers, to learn more about the subject, and wrote two books on her findings—What the Dog Knows: Scent, Science, and the Amazing Ways Dogs Perceive the World, followed by an edition that translates her research for younger readers, newly out in paperback—that detail the remarkable, often life-saving power of a hound’s snout. “We humans are highly practical and slightly lazy, and use dogs for scent-detection work because they co-evolved with us,” says Warren, nothing that man’s best friend has many millions more olfactory receptor cells, and a significantly bigger part of the brain devoted to smelling, than humans. “And a dog can smell in stereo,” she continues. “Each nostril can operate independently, which helps trained scent-detection dogs locate the source of the smell much more quickly—whether it’s the smell of whale scat floating on the water a mile away, or the faint odor of a buried land mine.” It’s no wonder canines frequently become heroes, like the German Shepherd police dog, Trakr, who located the last 9/11 survivor in the rubble of the World Trade Center, or the pooches that find drowning victims more than 200 feet under the sea. “Dogs can help make the invisible visible,” Warren says. “We need to watch them closely, know they can help translate the complex language of scent for us, and feel gratitude that they are so willing to work with us sometimes clueless humans.”

Black and natural wooden bowls on small, built-in platforms that raise them off the table.

Industrial Facility’s Pared-Down Home Accessories Are Happy to Be Handled

In the design world, Instagramable interiors get all the fanfare—but true aesthetes know that tactility is key to lasting style. So when Industrial Facility, the London design studio co-founded by Sam Hecht and Kim Colin, created its Collection Objects product line, released this fall by Italian furniture company Mattiazzi, it went full throttle on the literal feel of things. “It suits everyday use and gives pleasure to living, working, and hosting at home,” Hecht says of the series, noting that each piece reflects Mattiazzi’s commitment to innovation and to minimizing its environmental footprint (the family-run company works exclusively with FSC-certified wood, and heats its factory with sawdust generated during the manufacturing process). Included in the assemblage: sculptural ash wall hooks by Hecht and Colin, and quilted seat pillows filled with recycled padding by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec. There’s also work by three up-and-coming designers, including bowls made of wood left over from furniture production by Julie Richoz, a stackable beechwood bottle rack by Max Frommeld, and a shallow box by Julien Renault that, at first glance, looks like an unassuming stack of two lumber slabs. The designs are “respectful of the material,” Hecht says, and have hard-wearing surfaces that are happy to be handled. “These objects can be kept for generations—a quick sand-and-wax will bring them back to their original condition after years of use.”

Baked potatoes sitting on wax paper with salt and pepper.

The Overlooked Potential of a Hot Potato

If you’ve found disposable hand-warmers to be tepid at best, consider the baked potato. According to historian Geri Walton, in the Victorian era, street hawkers doled out the humble spud as more than a meal: Large, coarse-skinned French Regent potatoes were baked for an hour and a half, swaddled in emerald green baize (the felt-like fabric of pool tables), then kept in a heated can—some of them very ornate, with polished brass-plated fronts adorned with names like the “Prince of Wales”—to be sold on frigid streets to warm the hands (and the cockles) of passersby. And those hot tubers could be big sellers. In a single chilly day, one vendor in Smithfield, England, was reported to dish out a thousand potatoes; customers would heat their palms with them in their pockets, and later devour them for dinner.

Journalist and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala

Journalist and Filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala Shares Who and What He’s Following Now

Durham, North Carolina–based journalist and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala has been particularly productive of late: In addition to shooting his first fictional film, a contribution to the Becoming America anthology, he’s host of the TED podcast Pindrop and a mentor to emerging Asian and Asian-American filmmakers through a new fellowship program called The Sauce.