“Bus Is Turning” T-shirts: Fundraiser Against Housing Insecurity

RIPTA “Bus Is Turning” T-shirt at Frog and Toad
(Photo: Frog and Toad)

RIPTA found the perfect fundraiser: “Caution: Bus Is Turning” T-shirts echo the loud warning that has become as iconic in RI as “Mind the Gap” in London. Priced at $25 from Frog & Toad, available at their Hope St PVD store and on the web – frogandtoadstore.com – sales benefit House of Hope to purchase transit fare products for the state’s vulnerable populations, including those who are unhoused and facing housing insecurity. Designed by Dan Freitas, the light blue shirts in sizes XS to 4XL are made from airlume combed and ring-spun cotton.

Going Bananas for Bananagrams: a word game with special RI a-peel

When Rhode Islanders think of a local game company, they think of Hasbro. But there are other Providence-based game companies that have ripened to international stature. That’s right, we are talking Bananagrams. 

“Bananagrams stemmed from my family’s passion for games,” said Rena Nathanson, CEO & Co-Inventor. “At the time we developed it, in the mid-2000s, we were a proud Rhode Island-based family of three generations, spanning in age from 7 to 75 years, and we were craving a word game that we could all play together.” Bananagrams was developed at their Narragansett family beach house in a successful attempt to create a game that was fast, portable and had universal age appeal. 

“After marathon sessions experimenting with various permutations of word games (and subjecting our extended family and friends to hours of testing!), we finally came up with Bananagrams,” Nathanson shared. “The name originated from my dad, Abe, declaring, ‘This anagram game is driving me bananas!’ Hence, Bananagrams!” 

Abe’s wife Sandy designed the iconic banana-yellow pouch, and today their daughter Rena leads the business. From humble beginnings, Bananagrams was recognized as the Game of the Year at the New York Toy Fair in 2009, and has sold over 13 million games as of 2020.

Nathanson describes the game as both “addictively simple, and simply addictive.” Players and their opponents are given letter tiles – think Scrabble – and have to create a grid of words out of them. Once a player uses all of their letters, they shout “peel!” and everyone takes an additional tile. Grids can be rearranged at any point to handle the problem letters (think Q, Z, J), so quick-thinking has saved many a Bananagram player. The first player to have no more tiles to play after the draw pile is empty wins! 

And, if Bananagrams is already in your collection, there are lots of twists on the original game. The company sells a Party Edition where players can blow up other player’s grids, a WildTile edition with tiles that can be substituted for any letter, and a Duel edition in which two players can face off, plus a plethora of other games that we can only assume are just as awesome. 

“It’s a great gift for friends, family, teachers, kids, co-workers, your dentist, your vet…I could go on and on!  And it’s packaged in a simple banana-shaped small cloth pouch making it an ideal stocking stuffer.” Nathanson said. 

Bananagrams is the perfect gift for the competitive, fast-thinking logophiles in your life. 

While you can buy Bananagrams at Walmart, Target, or on Amazon, Motif suggests shopping at a local toy store, like Henry Bear’s Park, 736 Hope Street, PVD. www.henrybear.com

Still an RI Institution, Even After “Knock It Off”: Frog and Toad continues to impress

In 2001, Erin Piorek Schofield and Asher Schofield found some retail space on Hope Street in PVD which they made their own to pursue Erin’s dream of being an entrepreneur. They chose the name due to their childhood admiration for Arnold Lobel’s Frog and Toad books; the shop, they decided, should aim to mimic Lobel’s quirky style and positive message. 

Twenty years later, they have created a neighborhood gift shop with community as a core pillar. They’ve helped respond to national disasters, including organizing a donation drive for New Jersey victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012, donating to residents of Flint, MI during their water crisis, and most famously supporting the RI Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund with proceeds from the ubiquitous “Knock It Off” t-shirt. The shirt’s catchy directive was inspired by former Governor Gina Raimondo’s admonishment of RI’ers hosting social gatherings during the early days of the pandemic, and along with proceeds from some other catchphrase-bearing products, the effort raised over $64,000 for pandemic relief. 

Oh, and did we mention their gift shop is worth a visit? The tight, eclectic store is an especially likely source for an RI-centric gift to match any style, from the kitchy to the absurd.

In the words of Schofield, Frog and Toad’s mission is to “sell stuff you don’t need but gotta have.” They sell all kinds of curiosities, including hand-knit sweaters, sassy greeting cards and graphic tees designed in-house, mugs, jewelry, stickers and more, sprinkled with smart local humor that has come to set the shop apart.

For the Festive Drinker

It’s that time of year to get cooking, get traveling, and get shopping! And while lots of people can be easy to shop for, some prove more difficult. That person can often be the alcohol enthusiast, as the world of cocktails, wine, and beer get so big so fast! So what do you get for the home bartender, or just plain lover of alcohol? I reached out to a few local shops to see if they’re doing any gift packages for the holidays, this is what I found out!

Campus Fine Wines

127 Brook Street

Campus Fine Wines is doing holiday wine packs to bring to a party, give to a friend, or easily stock your own bar for guests! They have two options for packs consisting of six bottles of wine which include red, white, and bubbles! All these wines are small production and low intervention. You’re bound to impress your friends and family with these hard-to-find wines!

Holiday Vax’d Pack $100

Holiday Boostah Pack $150


756 Hope Street

This adorable shop for all things cooking and bartending will have their shelves stocked with various cocktail books, glassware, and of course bar tools for you to choose from. And while they always have the materials, the staff is well adept at putting together personalized gift baskets for you. From the perfect shaped ice to a variety of shakers, mixing glasses, and jiggers, Stock has you covered!

And of course, books are always fun! Here are some cocktail books I recommend, which Stock is selling right now:

The Art of the Japanese Cocktail by Masahiro Urushido and Michael Anstendig from PR powerhouse Hanna Lee Communications. This is on my personal wish list! I can’t wait to get my hands on it! I’d recommend it for the more advanced home bartender, someone who will hunt down rare ingredients and make time to make their own syrups. 

For beginners, Stock has The Curious Bartender Cocktails at Home by Tristan Stephenson. 

So whether you’re looking for gifts or just looking to stock your own shelves, local shops have you covered! Happy shopping! 

I Only Have Pies For You

Hartley’s Pork Pies is a Rhode Island secret treasure; “The Great British Baking Show” wishes they could make pork pies this perfect. 

Located in an unassuming building in Lincoln, they’re only open Wed through Sat from 7am (8am on Saturdays) until the pies run out. This could be early or could be late, so if you really want one (or ten) call ahead to reserve.

Naturally, we asked for a press tour, which is when Dan Doire, whose family has owned the business since 1995 crossed his arms and said, “Nope. Nobody sees in the back.”

We prodded and pried, but Doire was firm. He wasn’t giving any hints about what goes into those savory crisp-crust pies. And maybe that’s for the best. Because something that tastes this good has to be bad for you.

If you’re looking for other exceptional pies of the sweet or the savory variety, PVD Pies in Pawtucket’s Hope Artiste Village has been serving them up since mid-pandemic. A tiny showcase with a ginormous kitchen behind it, PVD Pies took over where the Duck & Bunny baking used to happen (that treasured snuggery has been on indefinite hiatus while their building on Wickenden St is torn down and rebuilt). D & B owner Dan Becker extended the use of the facility to Gina Herlihy, who had been bartending at sister-bar Ogie’s Trailer Park but dreaming of pies. 

She chased that dream, brought on help from Maia Pons, and now produces a limited selection five days a week, along with pies-to-order and pie kits you can simply bake at home. “I started with my grandmother’s recipes for Chicken Pot Pie and Apple Pie,” says Herlihy, “But people have really taken to many of the others, like the chocolate cream pie — Maia’s a wizard with pudding, and it tastes so very different, so much better, when it’s homemade.” Other top pies include the savory Chicken Broccoli Alfredo and the sweet Blueberry Crumble.

All pies make great seasonal gifts or gift certificates.

Hartley’s Pork Pies, 871 Smithfield Ave, Lincoln, RI, (401) 726-1295
Note: The first Hartley’s store, “Hartley’s Original Pork Pies,” founded in 1902, is at 1729 S Main St, Fall River. And there’s another at 1165 County St, Somerset, MA 02726. All three stores use the same pie presses, but have different owners and slightly different recipes. 

PVD Pies in Hope Artiste Village in the main concourse, right next to vintage clothing store Back of the Closet, 1005 Main St, Pawtucket, Suite #8208. fb.com/PVDPies 

Stock Culinary Goods: Food lovers, feel free to salivate!

When Motif caught up with Jan Faust Dane, owner of Stock Culinary Goods on Hope Street in Providence, she didn’t jump to sell us on some of her top-of-the-line wares, like handmade Forge to Table Knives, Andiamo Presentation Boards crafted in Warren, or Michelle Phaneuf’s teeny bowls, which feature little Rhode Island motifs such as the Superman Building and the Manchester Street Power Station. Instead, she talked more about the experience people have when they hang out at a party. 

“So often, parties end up in the kitchen.” Dane said. “I wanted the store to have that same feeling: convivial, and sociable.” 

Since 2012, Stock has become just what she envisioned. “There are no average customers here. We have little kids getting milk, aspiring Johnson & Wales chefs, neighborhood regulars and gift buyers.” 

The store has an approachable air, so that both casual enjoyers of food and kitchen experts can feel at home. It’s also a place of congregation, where Dane has the pleasure of introducing many of her friends, vendors and customers to each other. 

From eclectic spices to RI-sourced gifts, from cookware and cookbooks to coffee paraphernalia and bakeware, if you or someone you love enjoys the experience of eating, Stock has something for them. “It’s like your neighborhood kitchen store,” Dane said, her smile wide. “We have all kinds of great gifts for the lovers of food in your life.” 

Stock Culinary Goods is located at 756 Hope Street, PVD. stockculinarygoods.com

Concrete and Cardinals

Scott Turner’s brief articles in The Providence Journal always provided welcome glimpses of natural landscapes. Beauty in the Street – Nature Tales from the Neighborhood collects many of these, as well as other reminiscences of Turner’s life and its intersections with the natural world in Rhode Island, Seekonk, and the Bronx. It’s not a book that you’ll read cover to cover. Instead enjoy a snippet here and there; the timeline is fragmented. One piece titled, “Sitting with Several Species of Butterfly,” dated 2012, begins, “On a sunny Sunday afternoon in summer, I lazed on a lounge chair in the shade of a red maple…” The next piece is three years later in Seekonk, finding Turner standing “in amazement before a dolphin, which surfaced less than 10 feet away, exhaling in a loud, sighing hiss from its blowhole.” This is a collection of essays to dip into on a cold day, or when it’s raining outside, or when you need a smile to connect you with birds and the water, the air and the wind. Beauty in the Street – Nature Tales from the Neighborhood by Scott Turner, available on Amazon and at Stillwater Books.

Where the Benny’s Used To Be: A Rhode Island Pictorial History Series

Rhode Island Memories is a three volume coffee table book published by The Providence Journal that serves as a pictorial history of this state. With photos beginning in the late 1800s and proceeding through the end of the 20th century, this book archives the many transformations Rhode Island has gone through. Featuring photographs from award-winning and nationally recognized photographers, historical societies (both regional and national) and family pictures, this collection is an authentic representation of this state and its inhabitants. 

Volume I: The Early Years — A Pictorial History has photographs from the 1850s through the end of the 1930s, with a focus on the Hurricane of 1938. Take the time to look at each picture, and you will see how the state was built or rebuilt after natural disasters. It’s fun to see which buildings are still here today and which businesses have come and gone. Of course, transportation changed drastically, from horse-drawn carriages and boats to trains and  automobiles. Paging through this book is like looking through a time capsule from a long forgotten era. This is the standout of the three books. It’s a history not often seen.

Volume II: The 1940s & 1950s shows Rhode Island modernizing itself in the post World War 2 period. While there is less focus on infrastructure, the emergence of cars in society is well documented. This book showcases the fun people had during those times. There were a lot of sports, concerts and community events that took place. A surprising number of national politicians visited and campaigned in the state, which seems odd in today’s world where a Presidential visit in Rhode Island is nearly unheard of (and somewhat of a traffic nuisance when it happens).

Volume III: From Turmoil to the Providence Renaissance: The 1960s Through the 1990s shows a time that is less interesting, because it has already been well documented. This book has everything expected from that time period: the Kennedys, Salty Brine, the longest baseball game ever, Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals, the Blizzard of ’78 and the building of the Providence Place Mall. It does well highlighting pictures of events younger people have only heard about.

Each book begins with a letter from former Providence Journal Executive Editor Alan Rosenberg and an introduction from Director of Photography & Graphics Michael Delaney. Chapters each have a brief introduction, and every picture features a brief but detailed description, along with the date (or year) it was taken. 

Interestingly,  the photographs are printed in black and white until the 1990s chapter. The business profile of the Providence Journal reports that they didn’t start publishing color photographs until 1987, when they opened  a new printing plant and switched to a process called flexography. While this is logical, and it would have been difficult to color over 100 years of photographs, colors would have added to the experience of Rhode Island’s history. 

I had fun paging through the visual history of the State of Rhode Island. The many structural changes are interesting, but the pictures of people are  truly wonderful to view. Rhode Islanders’ interests haven’t changed all that much in over a hundred years, whether it be shopping, sightseeing, enjoying nature, working or helping out their community. While the environment and styles are drastically different from year to year, the expressions, joy and camaraderie of the individuals pictured are engagingly familiar.  

You can purchase Rhode Island Memories Vol. I, II, and III through the publisher at pediment.com. 

Stoner Stocking Stuffers: Pot-entially excellent gifts

Getting gifts for the cannabis lover in your life can be quite an undertaking. With an ever-growing list of options and the average stoner’s taste becoming more sophisticated, you can easily rack your brain trying to nail down the perfect gift. Thankfully, I’ve done a lot of the legwork for you and narrowed down some of the best items for anyone who enjoys cannabis.

For the Classic Smoker:

Flower is probably the product we all know the best, but can often be the hardest to decide on. If you’re looking for something with a little more pep, look out for White Nightmare, a sativa-hybrid from Cultivate in MA. The name might sound intimidating, but it delivers that classic head-high without leaving you too dazed. You can find this strain at Cultivate’s own dispensaries scattered throughout the state or at many of the other dispensaries. (I originally found these guys at Apotho Therapeautics in Plainville, but I’ve seen it at several other locations).

Now if you’re like me, and prefer a more relaxed sensation from your flower, you have to check out the Member Berry indica-hybrid strain. The best part about this strain is that it’s grown by several different growers throughout RI and MA, and they all deliver that euphoric sensation that’s perfect to help prep for bed or relax before a long movie. 

If the person you’re buying for is always looking for something new, check out the slew of new strains coming out at Greenleaf in Portsmouth (medical only). These include Layer Cake (hybrid), Mr Clean (sativa-hybrid), Purple Drank Breath (indica dom), Tangie & Cream (sativa dom). Each of these unique hybrids deliver pungent terpenes with a smooth smoke. No matter which one you pick, it’s sure to be fresh and full of flavor.

For the One who likes to “Eat Green:”

I’ve always been a lover of edibles, and I appreciate seeing new brands become available. For the chocaholic in your life, grab a delicious laced-candybar from Incredibles. They have a ton of different flavors, such as the “Peanut Buddha Bar” and the “Bay State Bar,” and every one is packed with flavor. At 100mg per bar, they’re easy to break up to get the perfect dosage.

If the person you’re gifting is into something a little more fruity, keep an eye out for Betty’s Eddies. These vegan taffies come in a variety of flavors, without the earthy aftertaste. My personal favorites are the lemon-flavored “Bedtime Betties,” which also contain melatonin to send you off to sweet dreams as you drift into blissful slumber.

For the Experienced User:

Cannabis extracts can be a little intense for some, but we’ve come a long way from seeing someone bust out a blow-torch at a frat party. If you’re able to visit a medical dispensary in Rhode Island, I highly recommend the array of concentrates made by Mammoth RI. From their Glue Cheese Live Rosin to their Scooby Snacks THC Diamonds, they deliver that heavy impact with robust flavors that are perfect for the cannabis lover who isn’t afraid to take it to the next level.

I must also give an honorable mention to Northeast Alternatives in Fall River for their wide selection of extracts, many which are made in-house. Between the great selection and knowledgeable staff, you’re sure to walk out with a great extract to give (and hopefully a little something for you).

For the Dabbler:

We all have someone in our lives that likes to dabble in the dank. They enjoy the occasional party puff or a gummy before a concert, and generally prefer a lighter touch when it comes to cannabis. For this particular giftee, you should definitely look for Cann Social Tonics. These 8oz canned tonics contain 2mg of THC and 4mg of CBD giving you a balanced and relaxed sensation. They also come in several great flavors like Lemon-Lavender and Grapefruit-Rosemary.

Now if they’re someone who has a little more experience, but still prefers to only occasionally partake, you should definitely grab them some Howl’s Tincture. These tinctures make it easy to give yourself the perfectly measured dose, and they even categorize them by Daytime, Nighttime, and Anytime. It’s great for the person who likes a specific feeling at a specific time. They’re available at Summit Compassion Center in Warwick (for medical patients only) as well as many of the recreational dispensaries in Mass.

Greenleaf Compassion Center: 1637 W Main Rd, Portsmouth, RI 02871

Summit Medical Compassion Center: 380 Jefferson Blvd, Warwick, RI 02886

Cultivate: Locations in Leicester, Framingham, and Worcester

Apotho Therapeautics: 119 Washington St, Plainville, MA 02762

Northeast Alternatives: 999 William S Canning Blvd, Fall River, MA 02721

Cannabis Gift Guide 2021: For Those On-the-Go

Whether your upcoming travel plans include heading to Grandma’s house for the holidays, hiking in the wintery woods, or finally getting on a plane again, here’s hoping this winter will offer the “booster” that we need, so more Americans can continue to maintain the go-go-go lifestyles we so love to hate. In that festive spirit, I’ve put together a gift guide for the cannabis lover in your life that is always on the move – clever, affordable, and convenient ways to take your ganja on the go, so you can “stay grinding” in style. 

Green Jay Rechargeable Windproof Electric Lighter – $20

I mean, it’s all in the name, isn’t it? This little device may look like it came out of a galaxy far away, but it just may be the ticket to a winter free from cold, wet, dead lighters. Safe, subtle, and completely wind-proof, this lighter is fossil fuel-free and can last up to 30 hours before recharging.

Verde Grinder Card – $20

Leave the bulky, sticky metal grinder at home, and slip this sleek little number into your wallet for convenient and effective herb grinding on-the-go. You may be skeptical at first (I know I was), but at only $20, you’ll be amazed at how well it does the job!

Stay On the Grass” Water Bottle – $21

Black woman-owned business Jane Parade always nails it with unique cannabis-themed gifts, and this 16oz Nalgene is no exception — a great choice for the subtle stoner in your life who takes their hydration seriously. Or, who really needs to start carrying a reusable water bottle…

The Battpack by Octave – $79

Is it a universal charger? A travel safe? It’s BATTPACK! This multitasker combines the convenience of a portable charger with the security of a secret stash container accessed by an “adult-proof” button. Now you can charge your device and store your valuables in one safe spot, and it even includes a sleek stainless steel magnetic tray for a clean, contained surface for… whatever….

PenSimple – $59.99

Another multitasker, PenSimple is advertised as “a revolutionary herb grinder and portable storage vault” that allows you to grind, store, and dispense up to 3 grams of ground cannabis (or any other herb, like dried basil) on-the-go. In a world where clean hands are more important than ever, I can definitely see the appeal of a tool like this.

Higher Standards x Revelry Companion – $55

Stylish and sturdy, this black-on-black fanny pack is durable, water-resistant and odor absorbing, complete with a carbon filtration system and secret stash pocket to keep it discrete. Form meets function to make the perfect gift for your cannabis-loving friend who rocks a fanny pack.