May 06, 2015

Writing Games and Talking Sticks

This is a blog I spotted - I am so happy Stephanie ( The Knack)  posted it because these games are truly wonderful and rewarding & you will learn so much about yourself and each other. Thanks  J

TOPS Malibu Writing Games & Talking Sticks- Game Night just got more interesting 
It used to be that gatherings I held for friends and family centered around food. Now they are about sharing a meal and playing a game.

As much as I love boardgames/cards/cribbage/charades, I have found over the years that most people don't adore them quite as much ("One more round!" I have shouted at every party).

That's why you should have TOPS Malibu Writing Games and Talking Sticks on hand.

It's a fun way to interact whether you're at the cottage or in the living room. Not only will you get to know fascinating aspects of buds and family, you'll probably find out stuff about yourself along the way.

And don't think for a second that because I'm a writer, I'm better at it. Quite the opposite (same as Scrabble, Boggle and any other word games) In fact, it's always the non-writers that show off real talents at these things. 
Psst, teachers - these are fantastic for creative writing exercises!
Give these a whirl:
TOPS Malibu Writing Games
Writers Prompts
Long wooden popsicle sticks should be set in a glass or vase. Each stick hold two prompts. The host of the event is to pick a stick and everyone chooses the prompt they wish to write about. The timer is then set for 8 minutes. Which can feel like no time or too much time, depending on what you get. For example - "Write about things you can't throw away even though you never use them." I bet at least three things came to mind just now. I have a feeling "Write about what you would tell your five year old self," will be a little more challenging. Good thing you've got 8 minutes...
Writers Improv
With 101 prompts, it will take you awhile to get through this one. Someone takes a topic stick and reads the first sentence aloud. The timer is then set for 2 minutes. At 2 minutes, the host reads the second prompt. Everyone adds the second one and continues on for 2 more minutes. The 4 minute writing game is fantastic for people wanting to explore their creativity and even better for those with writer's block or in a rut. I mean, when you've got a start like "I have always done what was asked," and "Everything seemed right just as it was," it's hard not to want to get right in there and add in the middle.
Celebrating Family
This is a lovely walk down memory lane where you can write about your favourite toy or book as a child. I bet prompts such as "Write about the activities with a grandparent or older adult" will have you remembering things that you'd long forgotten.
TOPS Malibu Talking Sticks
These sticks work a little differently. First of all, you lay these on the table. Players close their eyes and choose a stick. You answer the question  ("What is the most daring thing you've done? Would you do it again?") and hold onto the stick. Each stick is marked with a category - heart, mind, truth, discovery, dream and adventure. The first person to answer from all six categories wins.
All stick games are beautifully packaged in colourful paper and finished with pretty twine, so they are ready to bring to the party as is. Leaving you more time to play and less time to fuss with wrapping.
Shop TOPS Malibu now.  
p.s. They also happen to have fantastic party stuff such as Party's In the Mail, the most amazing confetti collectiongorgeous pennants and tags, and a whole whack of cool stuff just in time for Mother's Day! Take a look around.
May 05, 2015

Designing Elf face Surprise Balls


I once had a professor in Drama at the University of Washington. He said:

"It is a sin to leave a puppet sitting on a shelf." That quote stuck with me. I don't like 

objects that sit on shelves. Tonight I designed some elf and gnome Surprize Balls. They came to life for me.

These are just prototypes, and the balls I use on Kauai are so  faded and jaded from the tropical air. 

But I put on a face and they come to life and I fall in love with the characters. I am excited to put them into production.

Snap, Crackle Pop!


May 04, 2015

Designing- With good ingredients- the stew can never be boring.



Oh how I love designing. Tonight I am alone in my greenhouse studio on Kauai. Dan has left for the NY Stationery Show. The dogs are playing with ribbons strewn on the floor and I don’t care. I need to come up with a couple more new Christmas designs. I want to make Holiday Surprise balls.


 The rain is softly hitting the corrugated roof and all is well.

 My mother used to say that if you have good ingredients when you cook, you can’t go wrong. Well I agree with that philosophy. If you start out with beautiful trim and embellishments, you just have to find the right combination and voila!


 Well, I started playing with some German gold dresdyn that are made on antiquated machines from the 1880s. Some of the machines are breaking down and some styles will be no more. They are so beautiful. You can never re make them in China- never.

 They are delicious embossed shiny gold gems from Germany. Putting together combinations of these beauties until it feels just Ahhhh… so. Perfection.

 I finalize the BOM ( bill of material),  thinking about the cost of each part and the time an artisan will spend in production. All of this is so important to come up with a final product.  

Here is a sneak preview of what I came up with tonight.   They will be polished and prettier when they are in final production.

And sometimes they never get to production. I show it to my staff in the morning  and they give a thumbs up or down.


January 15, 2015

Vulnerability, Conversation, Intimacy & Friendship

I really enjoyed  this article. It exemplifies the reason why  I designed our Conversation & Writing Games. I know from experience that these games truly work to bring a group together. The questions at the end are interesting. 

Written by Daniel Jones  Published in the NY Times Jan 9 2015.

In Mandy Len Catron’s Modern Love essay, she explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions. The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one.

The idea is that mutual vulnerability fosters closeness. To quote the study’s authors, “One key pattern associated with the development of a close relationship among peers is sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personal self-disclosure.” Allowing oneself to be vulnerable with another person can be exceedingly difficult, so this exercise forces the issue.

Set I

1. Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want as a dinner guest?

2. Would you like to be famous? In what way?

3. Before making a telephone call, do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?

4. What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?

5. When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

6. If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?

7. Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?

8. Name three things you and your partner appear to have in common.

9. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

10. If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?

11. Take four minutes and tell your partner your life story in as much detail as possible.

12. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?

Set II

13. If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?

14. Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?

15. What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?

16. What do you value most in a friendship?

17. What is your most treasured memory?

18. What is your most terrible memory?

19. If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?

20. What does friendship mean to you?

21. What roles do love and affection play in your life?

22. Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of your partner. Share a total of five items.

23. How close and warm is your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?

24. How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?


25. Make three true “we” statements each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling ... “

26. Complete this sentence: “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ... “

27. If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important for him or her to know.

28. Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time, saying things that you might not say to someone you’ve just met.

29. Share with your partner an embarrassing moment in your life.

30. When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?

31. Tell your partner something that you like about them already.

32. What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?

33. If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?

34. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

36. Share a personal problem and ask your partner’s advice on how he or she might handle it. Also, ask your partner to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

December 26, 2014

Coco, the face and voice of TOPS is a doula

My daughter Coco answers your calls at TOPS Malibu. She is also a doula.

If I had it to do again, I would have become a doula to help bring babies into this world. I cant think of anything better.

I loved the sweetness of this story I heard today:

An 8 year old boy had been begging his mom to see his birth video. Finally she succumbed to his request.They watched it together in silence.

Finally the boy erupted” MY that was so hard” and the mom looked down at her son feeling his empathy and agreed . “Yes it was.”

 And then he looked back up: “Yes, And – it must have been really hard for you too! “

December 26, 2014

Being in the moment on Christmas day

On Christmas morning – I walked into the living room – alone in the early hours. Quiet, wanting to make this a special day for my daughter Coco and her husband Alex before they move back to Venice Ca. The first thought I had was the sound of a little sterling silver bell we used to sell at TOPS gallery in the 1980s. I hadn’t thought about that bell in 30 years. I used to have a bell wand with a black obsidian handle and also another I wore around my neck. 

It was a Tinkerbell sound, a magical transforming sound-signifying to me the awesomeness of life. I used to ring that little bell for Coco when she was a baby. I used to make that sound sprinkle like fairy dust around her little being.

I wished that I could make that sound for Loretta, my grand daughter on her first Christmas and once again for her mom Coco. Dreamily I pondered how I would find that bell again. Would the company still make it? What was it called?

It was a moment and then the thought flew away as easily as it had come in.

Several hours later, Coco’s friends Melissa and Jackson walked in the door and she was wearing the silver bell. The same sterling silver bell.

“Chicken skin” as they say in Hawaii.

She had received it as a gift years earlier and had just found it again one week ago.It may have come from TOPS. It was from the 1980s or early 90s.

 How? Why? When? Who began this chain of events coming forward from so long ago?Did Melissa find it because I was going to think about it? Did I think about it because Melissa was going to walk into the door with it? There are so many possibilities. Time seems to travel back and forth…. Here and there.

 Life is grand and the unknown is haunting, What are the logical explanations?When will we understand more about clairvoyancy and the spirit paths that connect us?

What was Steve Jobs doing when he thought up the I phone?

 Merry Christmas.

November 30, 2014

The creative process defined

This is a great description of the creative process written by Kate Wenner.

Once when I was quite young Einstein gave me a compass as a present. He told me about his first compass and how it started him thinking about the magic of the universe. When he gave me my compass, he explained that what it did was make an invisible force of nature apparent to the human eye. And then he told me that I also had a compass inside my heart, and if I could learn to feel it, it would help me know what direction to go.