Monday, December 28, 2009

A Word About the 2009 Sales

A confession: I'm not a very good sale shopper. I like the well displayed, the uncrowded store, the sense of leisure only non-sale shopping can provide. But I also have to face facts: stuff is overpriced, you have unwanted holiday gifts to exchange, and you often get more bang for your buck during a sale.

Except, perhaps, this year. Last year's end of year shopping was insanely good; even if you were on a tiny budget (or no budget at all) there were still things you probably wanted regular price that were suddenly doable on sale. This year, however, is a whole new ball game. Lacking funds, many of the larger department stores under rather than over-ordered. So, there's simply less on sale, and thus far less that you might want. And there's absolutely no order, display effort or anything else, even at the better stores. I went to Saks (yeah, a shopping masochist never learns) just to see what their huge sale was like, and I was shocked. All the shoe sizes jumbled together. Normally well-heeled and presumably civilized women snarling like wild beasts (ok, this is normal Beverly Hills sale behavior, but when combined with the merchandise chaos it's particularly awful).

Psychologically, this is very bad for the consumer who cares about aesthetics and the shopping experience (and we're the ones who will pay out a little extra for something really great). Look at it this way: one pair of Christian Louboutins, set on a pedestal under a spotlight looks perfectly luxe; fifteen pairs of identical Christian Louboutins in different sizes lined up haphazardly on a shelf looks like Loehman's. And if I wanted to shop at Loehman's (and pay the even lower non-sale Loehman's prices) I'd just shop there and screw the premium stores.

So what's worth it? Neiman Marcus in the lower end designer section isn't bad; there's Theory and Vince and all the usual suspects at an extra 33% off (a nice surprise if you're not expecting it at the register). Barney's has some good clothing on sale, but you should skip the shoes and bags. Nordstrom is a disaster, but that's to be expected. Just wear body armor and a warrior face and you should be fine. And by all means, support your local boutiques in their sales. They really need the cash and still make an effort.

Finally, ask yourself: would I buy this regular price? If not, skip it and move on. Sales encourage purchasing based on the idea of a good deal, not a good item. And that doesn't fit with the Find A Toad shopping philosophy at all. I say this after watching wealthy woman after wealthy woman try and jam their tootsies into sky-high whore heels that seem like "too good a deal" to pass up. They will never wear these whore heels. They will sit in the closet, a sad reminder of bad sale shopping.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Last Minute: Going Nuts for the Holidays

Ok, we're getting down to the wire. By now, you should have ordered everything you need online (and much of it should have arrived). Local Los Angeles shopping (or wherever you may reside) can be done up until Thursday the 24th, although I wouldn't recommend it in terms of sanity. Other than that, what can you do?

Well, you could go nuts. Cinnamon candy nuts, that is. My mother used to make them every holiday season, and I finally got the recipe. She described it as a "pain in the ass," but I'm pretty sure that's because she didn't have a candy thermometer, and sat there, staring at the seething sugar mass, dumping tiny droplets into a glass of ice water, anxiously awaiting the medium soft ball stage.

But there's no longer any need to fret over that. You see, if you have a candy thermometer , this recipe is fool proof. And so delicious, you may want to make double. Trust me: I've never made candy before in my life, and it was laughably easy.

The Toad's Mom's Cinnamon Nuts

2 cups assorted nuts (pecans and almonds are good, and easily purchased at Trader Joe's)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup evaporated milk (not sweetened condensed)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Line a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan with wax paper.

Combine everything except the nuts in a very heavy saucepan (I used a medium sized Le Creuset). Bring to boil until the mixture reaches 240 degrees (medium soft ball) on a candy thermometer (keep the thermometer in the mixture the whole time). Once temp is reached, turn off the heat, mix in the nuts, and spread out on the prepared cookie sheet to cool.

Break up into bite sized pieces. Place in individual jars, wrap the tops with ribbon, and give as last minute gifts.

Alternatively, eat alone, out of bowl, while watching The Hangover. Make new batch to give as gifts later.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just Local L.A. Desserts

So you've been invited to, like, a million holiday parties, and you must bring something. You could bring booze, but sugar is really what's in this year. And Los Angeles is brimming with sweet options, so you'll be branded the Sugar Plum Fairy the moment you make your grand entrance, pastry packed box in hand.

Sweet Lady Jane: She is an evil woman, that Lady Jane. This is probably the queen of all LA bakeries, sporting transportive cakes (as in transporting you to bliss). But there's not just cake. Cheesecakes, pies, tarte tatins, and cookies are all beautifully represented. Bring a dessert from Sweet Lady Jane, and watch everyone fall into a sugar coma. Word of warning: if you need a bigger cake, check online and order ahead.
8360 Melrose Ave.

Susina: Such fabulous little cookies of good fortune. Susina is a bakery along more traditional lines, with buttery croissants (perfect for a brunch) and meticulously formed cookies that seem to be from another century, or at least another country (say, Italy). The enormous brownies can really serve four, and the molten chocolate cakes are swooningly delicious. What has always stood out for me, though, is the tiramisu; order a whole one and get the party really glopped up.
7122 Beverly Blvd.

Joan's on 3rd: Joan's has very good bars, cookies, and cupcakes. In fact, the coconut cupcakes are some of the best I've ever had. And now that the establishment has expanded, ordering at Joan's is far less of a nightmare. That being said, it's still a pain in the ass, so be prepared for chaos and obnoxious hollywood types babbling on cells.
8550 W. 3rd St.

Little John's Toffee: It's just a little stand in the old Farmer's Market, but Little John's makes superior english toffee. With just the right ratio of chocolate and nuts to buttery toffee, each piece is a true candy experience. Plus, the toffee doesn't stick to your teeth (which is good, since finding a dentist during Christmas isn't easy). Boxes are reasonably priced, and a lovely party addition.
6333 W. 3rd St. (inside Farmer's Market)

Mashti Malone's: Ok, bringing ice cream to a party might seem weird. But some of Mashti Malone's flavors deserve their own dedicated tasting. Owned by Iranian Americans, this strange ice cream store features flavors like Ginger, Orange Blossom and Rosewater. That makes for an end of a meal that's more like an international adventure. And this isn't a gimmick: the flavors are really good and really refreshing.
1525 N. La Brea

Sprinkles: I don't really like cupcakes. They always make me want to lick the icing off and toss the rest. But if you must have cupcakes, you could do worse than Sprinkles. They offer a huge variety, and the quality is good. Plus, they're efficient and understand how to pack the little boogers so they don't get destroyed. It's not that their cupcakes are better than, say, Joan's, but the procurement is certainly easier.
9635 Santa Monica Blvd, Beverly Hills

Monday, December 14, 2009

Local Grub

SOS. Sometimes you just want to send someone food. Especially if the giftee lives in the frozen tundra that's most of the rest of the country, and there's not a healthy living thing for hundreds of miles around. And I'm not counting all the sweaty bodies locked up in the house together, Donner Party style, as healthy living things, either.

Now you can ship local grub from your locality, supporting your local economy, or local goods from the giftee's local economy. Local Harvest is a web site that helps you source produce and other goods by region, and then ship it to whomever you wish. That means your scurvy ridden Chicago relatives can get the Christmas bonus of a crate of Meyer lemons from California. There's tons of store categories, so you're sure to find a food specific gift for anyone, from organic honey to local chocolate to boxwood wreathes. Just click the link and send away, knowing you're supporting a local delicious endeavor with every purchase.

Explore all the local grub choices at And give them lemons to make lemonade in December.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Certifiable: Local LA Gift Certificates

Many view the idea of a gift certificate as a giving cop-out. But that's not strictly true! It depends on the certificate. For instance, a Trader Joe's gift certificate is a cop-out, but a spa gift certificate to a spa you might actually want to go to is a welcome present. You just have to really know your giftee before you certify that they'll use the thing and not tuck it away in a drawer somewhere.

Some Really Wonderful Local Gift Certificate Locales

Olympic Spa: Truly a Los Angeles institution, this Korean bathhouse is traditional and wonderful. For women only, this no frills spa has three steam rooms, two jacuzzis (one loaded with something called Anjelica, which seems to combat bloat), a cold plunge, and a heated stone floor for napping. It also features older Korean women wandering around in black bras and panties (sound glamourous, but trust me, it's not), throwing clients down onto tables, scrubbing all the dead skin off their bodies, strewing cucumbers on faces and massaging them into submission. There's NO sentimentality here, NO new age music, NO fancy smelly oils. Just you, your torturer, and your dead skin coming off. In the end, you'll be a smooth as a baby's behind. Get your giftee a certificate for a scrub and mini-massage. They'll thank you. Word of warning: this gift is not for the inhibited, since everyone except the employees are naked. No swimsuits allowed.
3915 W. Olympic Blvd.

R4U Spa: Thai massage has finally hit big time in L.A., and R4U is one of the best. Up in a mini-mall on Hollywood Blvd., R4U is surprisingly nice. They offer regular and Thai massage, but when in Thai Town... you get the drift. Thai massage is performing on clothed bodies, and they supply loose fitting pants and tops, as you lie in a dark room, being pulled and stretched by a tiny masseuse into impossible positions. One emerges refreshed and relaxed rather than pummeled. And did I mention the price? Around $45 for an hour. That's a great deal. Plus, there's the added bonus of hopping across the street to Ord Noodle and picking up a bowl of spice afterward. Perfect.
5300 Hollywood Blvd.

Arielle at Club Prive: I've mentioned Arielle a lot on this blog. That's because L.A. might be full of facialists, but truly excellent facialists are rare. Arielle is that rare and treasured person, who leaves your skin glowing and clean, but not brutalized. It really is an hour and a half of bliss, including fabulous French face products and hot rock massage. She places your hands in the heat mitts so they're soft and supple, too. I can't count how many times I've drifted off lying back on her table. Really, give an Arielle facial to someone you love. They'll love you back, I promise.

Man Han Tang: Asian foot massages are the hottest new thing around here. "Foot" is sort of a misnomer, since it's almost a full body massage whilst fully clothed. At Man Han Tang, your tootsies soak in a big wooden tub of tea mixture as you lean forward onto piles of pillows, receiving a shoulder and back massage. After twenty minutes, you're flipped onto your back, your head, face and arms are rubbed, and then the foot portion begins. And oh my, what a wonderful feeling. There's really nothing better. And afterwards, you and the lucky giftee can hop across Western for a margarita and nachos at El Cholo. At twenty bucks a pop, this is truly affordable luxury. Buy a certificate for foot rubs in bulk. And be sure to tip, because these employees work hard.
1120 S. Western Ave.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Dead Trees

So it's Christmas, and you're going to get a tree. Used to be, there were only two choices: dead tree or fake tree. Well, not anymore.

Now, in the Los Angeles area, you can actually rent a real live tree. That's right: you can rent a bonafide Christmas tradition, throw decorations all over it, water it well, and have it picked up after the holiday. That means no pine needles everywhere. No watching this vibrant live thing wither, dry up and die in your living room. No hauling it out to the curb, where the once proud plant is reduced to stand alone kindling, awaiting some sort of municipal wood chipper. Alternatively, renting a real live tree also means not buying some fake plastic thing, pre-lit, with zero personality that must be stored away, year after year, in a spider ridden shed in the backyard.

The trees are available up to about seven feet tall, and you have four varieties to choose from, so you should be able to find a tree to suit. Plus, it's delivered to your door (unless you're outside of the delivery area, in which case they'll ship it to you and you pay some shipping costs). Go online and check it out at It could make Christmas, your living room floor, and one tree's life so much brighter. And much less dead.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Accessorize for Everything Except a Crime: Shop Local LA Part IV

Here's a pretty well-known but oft-forgotten secret: you can wear a plain t-shirt and jeans, but if you accessorize it brilliantly, you'll always look fabulous. This is easy advice to give, but harder to follow unless you have the sources for great accessories. Accessories also make wonderful gifts, since many people simply won't fork out for them and have no idea how to i.d. an incredible outfit-making piece, anyway.

Accessorize With the Best of Them

Ten Over Six: This is the corner shop you really want around the corner from your house. The owners truly specialize in accessories, and it shows in the eclectic, often cutting edge pieces they stock. Their own line of purses and shoes, for instance (only found at the store) are a prime example: a perfectly sized clutch bag borrows the quilted leather of a Chanel bag, but then has one end "dipped" in house paint for something new and delightfully edgy (they offer booties like this as well). Many of the scarves are vintage and not very expensive, and they'll show you how to drape and tie one to dress up an ordinary t-shirt. All the jewelry is interesting, and they even have cool accessories for men. All in all, Ten Over Six is a must.
7274 Beverly Blvd.

Il Bisonte: Yes, Il Bisonte is based in Italy. But you really can't buy their goods anywhere except tiny boutiques (with limited selection) or at the stores, which are few and far between. Luckily, we have one right here in Beverly Hills, and that's local enough for me. These leather goods are streamlined, modern, and classic all at once. They have that cool equestrian vibe that Hermes boasts, without the out of line price tags. And they carry what I believe is one of the classiest and best designed key chains ever, for around $50. It's a great gift, really, and worth making a trip into the wilds of Beverly Hills to purchase some.
409 N. Camden Drive

Noodle Stories: This is primarily a clothing store on Third St., containing a meticulously edited selection of cult brand goods, some of which you've never heard of, but I assure they are of the highest quality. They also have high prices to match. However, the selection of scarves and odds and ends is truly lovely. I don't think you'll get out of here for under $200 (thus violating the Toad's price code), so just make sure whoever receives this gorgeous scarf, hat, wallet or pair of shoes understands exactly what they're getting. And hey, there's no law against going in to dream.
8323 West Third St.

Calleen Cordero: No local guide would be complete without mentioning Cordero, who produces her handmade belts, shoes, and bags right here in Los Angeles. These are rustic appearing goods that only the rich can afford in multiples, but there are still bargains to be had if you stick to the belt and smaller bag selection. When this store has a sale, the ferocity of the clientele becomes electric; don't fight these women unless you want your hair pulled out.
7384 Beverly Blvd.

American Rag: It's one big emporium of fashion, from jeans to ultra-trendy evening. But between the racks of unobtainable clothing lies a trove of accessories, much of them vintage and one of a kind. Most are in excellent shape, and perfect as gifts for arty people who love labels not. The sales assistance is lackadaisical at best, so good luck getting help retrieving that necklace from the case. Do check out the shoes, as they have an interesting assortment, especially for men (you can buy shoes for men; they're less fussy and generally only care about fit).
150 S. La Brea

Kitson: I mention this with severe reservations. Kitson has nothing but accessories for everyone, but it's the most obnoxious example of celebrity pandering nonsense on the planet. I think the store encourages the paparazzi to hang in front and stalk away. It is a local institution, however, and many of their goods are fun and hard to find. Go during an off hour (earlier morning, for instance), and get in and out fast.
115 S. Robertson Blvd.

Kid Robot: I love this store. My kid loves this store. Kids collect Kid Robot's strange, anime inspired keychains to hang from backpacks and bags. My child prefers "Yummy Breakfast," but there's a whole host of themes available. A word of warning: some themes are not appropriate for kids under 12 or so, so use your judgment. Most of these fanciful objects make terrific stocking stuffers.
7972 Melrose Ave.

Lost & Found: Tired of hearing me flog this horse repeatedly? Yes, it's Lost & Found again! I'd really like to not have to mention it once more, but I have no choice. You see, the accessories here are wonderful. Tons of interesting jewelry, scarves from around the world (Epice and Missoni abound), leather and paper goods, hats, and other fun stuff. I found wonderful beaded bags for just $15 each (so great to give to little girls). Yes, some of the goods aren't cheap, but most of it you simply won't find anywhere else.
6314 Yucca St.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Deck Their House: Shop Local LA, Part III

There's nothing like receiving great house ware gifts. And LA has some of the greatest house ware stores on earth, crammed full of stuff for anyone on your list, from a strict modernist to a francophile. So rejoice, and enjoy decking someone else's halls.

Ige: This airy store is home to a sort of twisted Victorian aesthetic as reinterpreted by designer and owner Helene. Her window displays are always compelling yet offbeat. Her carefully curated selection of John Derian goods (ranging from classically pretty to fairly risque) somehow mesh seamlessly with smart ass paper goods, delicate jewelry, and her own luxurious silk screened velvet pillows. Added to this is the incredible hand-picked selection of vintage china animals and objects, ranging from dogs to dinosaurs (I give a different one to a friend every holiday and birthday; she has quite a motley crew by now). Whether you need a more formal gift or a funny stocking stuffer, this store is a standout.
7382 Beverly Blvd.

G. Gibson: I've written about this store before. Owner Gary Gibson has so many fascinating things in his loft-like space that it's hard to keep track of them all. The taste can best be described as idiosyncratically cool. You never know what you're going to find, from a collection of antique mallets to original artwork. Although some of the goods aren't vintage and are mass produced, it all looks uniquely wonderful and slightly edgy. Gary's goods might not be great for pure modernist spaces, but for anyplace else this is the perfect store. Go in and get lost. Plus, he's so nice and happy to chat it up, which is refreshing in Los Angeles.
7352 Beverly Blvd.

OK: Into classic modern? Then you'll fall in love with OK. Devoted to classic, though not cold, modernism, the goods at OK range from Ittala glasses to limited edition books to some of the most gorgeous non-frilly jewelry around. And OK particularly shines during the holidays, because they source and pre-wrap gift items for sale that are actually excellent picks (this saves lots of time, trust me). For the big spender, there's an equally big selection of venerable Comme les Garcons wallets and accessories (a fab gift for someone you like a whole lot). Plus, owner Larry (who walks the modernist talk and lives in a real Neutra), is always willing to explain and extrapolate about his wares.
8303 W. Third St.

Heath Ceramics: Technically, Heath Ceramics was born in Northern California. But, their huge storefront on Beverly Blvd. also hosts plenty of works from local ceramicists, so I think it counts as a locally owned store. Besides, the dishes, serving pieces and vases are just so casually cool in such a quintessentially LA way. They fit beautifully in any Craftsman home, but I have a whole set of dishes that look great in my Spanish abode. The store also sells a good range of seconds, so if you're on a tight gift budget you can save a lot and the giftee will never be the wiser. Do check out the vases; they look great even without flowers.
7525 Beverly Blvd.

Plastica: Have a problem with plastic? Get over yourself! You might as well use it, since plastic molecules never break down and are never going away. Besides, Plastica offers green products and wonderful home accessories for everyone. Floppy storage baskets, felt coasters, tons of kids' toys (check out the multi-colored wood cubes, for instance) make great gifts and stuffers. Plus, there's something so exuberant about the bright, acid colors everywhere.
8405 W. Third St.

Lost & Found: I warned you that Lost & Found would make a repeat appearance. This row of stores along Yucca in Hollywood has lovely, upscale things for the home that doesn't want to look too upscale, if you get my drift. To that end, there's a rather impressive assortment of Missoni throws and blankets, mixed with organic looking wooden cutting boards, useless yet precious items like old-fashioned keys, plus vintage stuff. It's all put together with owner Jamie's distinctive insouciance; nothing here is left to chance, yet nothing looks like it's trying too hard. This is a great gift stop for that difficult person on your list who has exacting taste.
6314 Yucca St.

A+R: There used to be two A+R outposts. Recently, the Silverlake branch closed, so now you're relegated to either online or heading out to Venice's Abbey Kinney (luckily, that's no hardship). If you're on the hunt for innovative, new modern items for the home, you probably can't do better than A+R. Ranging from the useless to the well-designed and useful (most notably their selection of kitchen items), the products here are the ones that get featured in every magazine's gift guide. A+R's owners Andy and Rose have a definite knack for forecasting the next home stuff trend, making a gift from here sure to please anyone who demands the latest and greatest before it hits the madding crowd.
1121-1 Abbot Kinney Blvd.

TableArt: Oh, god, the good taste featured here. Seriously, TableArt's unparalleled flatware, china and accessories make Barney's housewares department look like Walmart after a markdown sale. Everything here is perfect. If you're at all enraptured by table settings, this store will make you drool and desire. Fortunately, not everything here costs a nightmarish fortune; some items are quite reasonable and will make you look like one fabulous gifter. Plus, they gift wrap their wares in an assortment of colored fabric and ribbon, which is just beyond elegant. This place makes you want to throw a dinner party, just so you could justify dressing your table in all TableArt's glories.
7977 Melrose Ave.

Fitsu: Looking for modern tableware? Fitsu is the right place. There's nothing frilly or silly here, nothing earthy or hippy or dippy. Fitsu deals in the plain modern table done right. When you're buying for a minimalist, this is the store to hit. There's tons of Alessi, plenty of humorous ashtrays and home accessories. I'll admit that there's some overlap with the goods from A+R, but Fitsu seems a bit more in line with corporate gifts; this a great place to buy something for your boss, business partner, or important client (in fact, they do a brisk business in corporate gift baskets that are a far cry from a crummy basket of mini-muffins).
7970 Melrose Ave.

Maison Midi: This is Parisian cool central. This lovely store (connected to American Rag and boasting its own very nice little cafe) features china, linens and accessories in line with a casual cafe vibe. There are exotic African and Moroccan touches along with classic French chairs and cookware. Be sure to check out the napkins and glassware, too; the prices are pretty reasonable and it makes for an impressive gift. After you're done, plant yourself down for a civilized lunch and coffee.
150 S. La Brea

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chocolate Break

I just spotted a product I felt the need to write about, but have no fear: the LA local gift guide is continuing on (I just know you're waiting on pins and needles for the remainder of it).

Hot chocolate is such a pleasure, and this new delivery system is pretty cool. The Chocolate Company, based in the Netherlands, has produced a rich, perfect "instant" hot chocolate that actually tastes extraordinary. Each wooden spoon has a flavored chocolate chunk stuck to it. Just heat milk, pour into your mug of choice, and stir the chunk of chocolaty goodness until it's perfect. There's even tiny vials of alcoholic accompaniment for a "grown up" version. Yum.

Admittedly, all this innovation and quality doesn't come cheap. It comes to over three bucks a cup for a box of 20 spoons. But it would be so fun, and such a great gift for a party. Give it a shot, or at least a stir, at

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oh Gorgeous Day: Local LA Beauty

It's true that there's a glut of beauty sites out there, selling every product under the sun with free shipping besides. So why shop local? Because it's the right thing to do, numbskull! It won't cost you anything extra to shop at independent stores instead of online (most products are pretty price-controlled), and some places will even gift wrap the stuff for free. Besides, it's the perfect excuse to pick up some extra sparkle for you.

My Tiny Beauty Selection:

Larchmont Beauty Supply: Yes, this is it: the holy grail of beauty supply stores. It's small, yet overflows with every type of high end product you can think of (including natural and cult brands). In one spot, you can attain Bliss, get Fresh, and Stila yourself for the holidays (ok, the brand name puns are blessedly over for a while; I've gotten it out of my system). There's tons of smelly candles, and some of them even smell good. The hair accessory department runs the gamut from clips to scarves to pretty flowers. And there are salespeople literally begging to help you. A word of warning: if you like products at all, this place will make you crazy. You may lose all sense of control. Remember that you're shopping for other people too.
208 N. Larchmont Blvd.

Santa Maria Novella: Few people have ever heard of Santa Maria Novella, since all the stuff's made by nuns in Florence, Italy. The soaps are exquisite, delicately scented and gentle on the skin, not to mention elegantly packaged. If Maria from The Sound of Music had been Italian instead of Austrian, she would have washed with this stuff. It's truly lovely. And one of the few outposts for Santa Maria Novella products is this tiny little storefront on snooty snoot snoot Melrose Place. Luckily, the lone salesperson will usually give you the time of day (unlike the cretins in the Marc Jacobs store across the street). They have a product that is called "weekend" soap that's very nice. I suppose they mean it's for travel, although perhaps it's for a dirty weekend (you never know with those Italian nuns). Try these products as a gift for an aunt or your grandmother. And while I know it's actually based in Florence, this store is such a rarity that I think it counts as a local find.
8411 Melrose Place

Scent Bar: This is, bar none, the best source for cult perfumes in the U.S. You can find all these brands online at their website, Lucky Scent, but at the store you can actually smell them. I find this essential, because I hate perfume. Really hate it. The wrong scent can give me a headache and ruin my day. But I found the one I can stand on myself, Eau de Menthe, at Scent Bar. It's a very simple Heeley fragrance that smells like mint, tea, and tiny bit of citrus. Scent Bar has a smell to fit everyone, from the stinkiest, skunkiest musk to pure carnations to chocolate and caramel. Go there and browse. Many people are (unlike me) very flexible when it comes to scent, and would appreciate a new perfume. And this is the only place to buy one. If you can't make it to the store, the website sells samples so you can try before you buy.
8727 Beverly Blvd.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Child's Play: The Shop Local LA Guide

In the end, the holidays is really about pleasing the kids (unless you don't have any, in which case you still must know some and must still buy presents for them all or be labeled that Singleton Scrooge). This is a short list, mostly because there's a paucity of good toy stores in Los Angeles, and because I have listings on my other blog, Find A Tadpole (yes, shameless self-promotion).

Bodies and Environment: Clothing and Accessories, Supposedly for Children but Oh So Pleasing to Adults

La La Ling: This charming store is on Vermont, smack dab in the middle of what used to be Los Feliz funk. There's plenty of cuteness to be had, from t-shirts to ethnic party dresses, although you might have to dig a bit (did I mention that it's a bit cramped?). What's especially satisfying is to stop by Fred 62 right up the street first, maybe for a breakfast burrito, before shopping for the kinder. And Skylight Books is right there, too (to be discussed in another entry, although it boasts a pretty good children's section to round out your gifting).

1810 N. Vermont Ave.Los Angeles, CA 90027

Sugarbaby: The sign outside says "Rocker Moms, Not Soccer Moms," and the location, a decidedly unkiddie city block on Sunset Blvd., certainly reinforces the credo. The owners, two very very cool LA mothers, have filled the airy space with fabulous clothing. My child went to preschool with co-owner Christina's daughter, and I can attest to her extreme good taste; the kid always looked great while still looking like a kid. That's an achievement in a town where I've seen four year olds with shirts boasting "Porn Star" on them. Sugarbaby sells stuffed animals and other various and sundry items too.

7523 West Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046


Flicka: One of the most established stores on the ever changing landscape of Larchmont Blvd., Flicka has lovely window displays and lovely goods to match. The girl's clothing selection for ages 2-6 is particularly great in a fairly classic little girl way. They also sell accessories aplenty, again mostly for girls, although the puppet assortment is unisex (big hairy tarantula, anyone?). While I sometimes find the service a bit on the absent side, they're very quick with the distinctive Flicka gift wrapping, which comes in handy around the holidays.

204 N. Larchmont Blvd.

The Little Seed: I'm alternately annoyed and enchanted by The Little Seed. Annoyed because its entire "organic baby" vibe is fear-based and elitist, but enchanted because the goods are often so adorable. This is mostly stuff for little ones, which means it's more for the new parents intent on decking out their new dolls. The bedding is so tasteful (not a nasty Disney character in sight), the toys special and perfect. It all comes with a special and perfect price tag to match, but if your wallet's up to it, they can put together one hell of a new baby basket.

219 N. Larchmont Blvd.

Lost & Found: This isn't the only place where I'm going to mention this store. Owner Jamie has amassed a good half a block of Hollywood real estate devoted to her Lost & Found dynasty. Here, it's the kid's stores that are relevant. There are two: one devoted to clothing and one for toys and decor. Both are incredible, stuffed with items I really haven't seen anywhere else. The decor store is particularly inspiring in a fairy forestland sort of way; it almost has a European vibe to it. Again, the goods here are lovely and precious, perhaps best appreciated by parents rather than the kids themselves. You might have to ask sales staff to open up the stores for you, but don't hesitate to ask. It's a real treasure trove.

6413 Yucca St.

A Rant: The LA Local Shopping Category I WON'T Feature

Let me begin by stating that I love my animals. I have many. But I do not treat them as I would my child. Case in point: I don't give them holiday gifts.

It's not just that the economy is bad and that, if I'm going to spend money, it's going to be on other people. It's also that, as much as obsessive animal owners refuse to believe it, pets just don't care about the holidays. Think about it: the holidays is a completely human construct, created as a way to celebrate religion (another human construct) and the change in season (yet ANOTHER human construct). Animals don't practice religion. Your dog doesn't want to wear a yamulke to celebrate the Festival of Lights. He also doesn't know from Santa, Jesus, or the Three Wise Men. And odds are, your cat cares even LESS about these things.

In fact, I would argue that giving the animals stuff during the holidays could be cruel. Case in point? My father had this wonderful dog. He decided on a date for the dog's "birthday," and every year, on that day, he would hand the dog a steak. There's no doubt that the dog loved the sirloin. But the giving of it made no sense to him at all. I mean, here he was, minding his own business on a day just like (to the dog, anyway) any other day, and suddenly he was handed a steak. Not for good behavior, but just (to the dog) out of the blue. I used to wonder if the dog was puzzled the rest of the year, trying to figure out what in the hell he did to earn that steak. Then again, perhaps I'm over thinking this.

Anyway, there will be no animals dressed for dinner at my house this year. No antlers tied to their heads, no random pieces of meat distributed. And since pets could care less about new bowls or collars or leashes, I'm not handing those out, either.

So, there will be no local pet gift recommendations. Sorry. Stay tuned for kids stuff and major accessories.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Shop Local Los Angeles, Part I: For the Clotheshorse

Normally at this time of year, the Toad does her usual pitching for individual items on a daily basis. But this isn't a normal year. Instead, I'm (yes, I changed from second to first person; I can do that since it's my blog) advocating shopping locally; in this case Los Angeles since most of my readers seem to be LA-based.

So here it goes, category by category, day by day, store by store. Shop local boutiques and independently owned stores this year and support your own economy! These places need you and your money, plus they feature wonderful goods at generally good prices.

Part I: For the Clotheshorse (in no particular order)

Noni: This Larchmont clothes boutique is owned by the excessively cool duo Megan and Elaine, and features local designers aplenty. Featuring clothing and accessories for both men and women, it's a great spot for picking up nicer items like sweaters, scarves and purses. Check out all the Black Halo, Smoke and Mirrors, Mike and Chris and Anna Sui for the younger, harder bodied type on your list. These women will also style you for free, and they have excellent taste and fashion instincts.
225 N. Larchmont Blvd., 323-469-3249,

Milk: This is one of the famed Third St. boutiques with pretty high end merchandise. But there's always a sale section. I find the help here a bit negligent in that LA way, but not unkind.
8209 W. Third St., 323-951-0330,

Satine: Yet another Third St. special. Satine has supremo goods, like Isabel Marant t-shirts and sweaters, Lanvin shoes, and other goods probably out of the price range. They also have Japanese designer Tsumori Chisato's arty clothing, which is often on sale and thus within financial reach (at full price, forget about it).
8134 W. Third St., 323-655-2142,

Creatures of Comfort: I think this store has the most cutting edge fashion in LA. Featuring a ton of European and niche designers, it's the perfect place to find one edgy piece for a fashionista. It often has some steep prices, but again has sale stuff frequently (I believe there's a sale currently in progress). If you go to the website first, pay no notice to the fact that the clothing seems universally unflattering; there's something wrong with the way it's shot. Again, lots of hard to find Isabel Marant, Zero Maria Cornejo, Rachel Comey and much more. Help is rather lazy unless you really press for assistance.
7971 Melrose Ave., 323-655-7855,

American Apparel: Yeah, right. But no, really. This chain might say American, but it's actually about as Angeleno as it gets. These leggings, t-shirts, and anything and everything else are designed and made right here in Downtown LA, by fairly paid workers. It's hard to beat that, plus the prices are excellent. Ok, the advertising verges on porn, but you should get over your fussy sensibilities already and embrace these domestic products. Many of these items make great stocking stuffers! Just don't count on getting any sales assistance here, since the average age/average IQ of the help is about 20.
Look up the locale nearest you at

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Much for That Birdie in the Window?

Many people live in climes not able to support avian life during the winter, thus migration. But, for those of us living in a so-called Mediterranean climate, birds are with us year round. And, boy, are they hungry.

Enter this fabulous bird feeder. This clear globe attaches easily to any of your windows, giving you up close and personal looks at birds pigging out on your dime. It's a wonderful way to familiarize you and yours with the many species frequenting our skies and gardens, making it a wonderful educational gift for the whole family. I'm not sure if it's squirrel proof, especially against our ultra-bad urban meanies, but at least it's an opportunity to watch the mockingbirds and the rodents fight it out.
A word of warning: do not post this feeder over any surface you care about, as it will soon be covered with poop (while the feeder itself is dishwasher safe, your patio pavers aren't). Find it at Bird seed is extra.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Hairy Holiday Present

If you're a neatnik, you might want to skip this post: it'll give you anxiety willies for weeks to come. But for those who embrace the chaos and the slob inside us all, this could be the perfect holiday gift.

It's a hairball. Not, fortunately, the sort of hairball Kittykins coughs up at midnight, but the type of hairball most of us might find lurking under our furniture (like I said, the anal compulsive need not apply). This particular hairball cooperates as a decorative piece that'll pretty much affix to anything. Pin it to a blouse, stab it onto a cloche, dangle it off a keychain. This hairy masterpiece looks like it might've just hitched a ride. And casual insouciance is a look four out of five slobs prefer. It's particularly appropriate for the teenager with questionable housekeeping habits.

So yeah, it's gross. But funny. Just don't use it as a stocking stuffer. It looks a little too much like lint leftovers from the dryer instead of a gift. At

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Carbon Copy Femme

There's usually someone on your holiday list who's political. By that, I don't mean that they vote, but that they really do live their beliefs. And while that can be admirable, it can make for some rough gift buying indeed.

For instance, I have quite a few very leftist, very old-school feminist relatives. I greatly respect their stance, but it's often difficult to find gifts that will delight. But this necklace could really work. Allie Pohl's "Ideal Woman" necklace looks like a crayola colored take on the eponymous Maternal Goddess form. Sort of. Except that it's just the bottom half, and that bottom looks a bit more Barbie than child-bearing. This necklace is a statement on the current state of the ideal woman in media and beyond: girlie hipped and mouthless. What could be better than for a loudly opinionated woman of a certain age to wear it? I know younger women who would wear its irony proudly as well.

You can find this Ideal Woman at Order her, she's really hip.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Taking the Wrap

Consider this: sometimes how the gift is presented is as important as the present itself. For some giftees, you could cover it in newsprint and secure it (possibly forever) with duct tape, and they wouldn't care. The other giftees want to see some blood, sweat and tears in their wrapping job.

This never bodes well for me, since I'm an excellent gift giver who's wrap-challenged. It just never turns out right, and I end up covered in double stick tape and dog hair. And my ribbons and bows, don't ask. They look like an elephant sat on them. That's why this pretty Japanese masking tape is so ideal. It hides the paper bulges and patchwork associated with poor spatial relations and bad fine motor skills. It also lets me skip the damn bows altogether, and just go for an artsy plaid vibe. It's cool. It's easy. It's for the lazy wrapper in all of us. Plus, the colors are equally inappropriate for both Christmas and Hanukkah, so you just can't go wrong.

Buy a bunch of this tape for all your giftees at And then call it a wrap.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


In case you hadn't noticed, here come the holidays. And with them is that table setting nightmare. You (or your hostess) doesn't have enough napkins or tablecloths. Paper is NOT an option. What to do?

Take a gander at these Mydrap napkins and placemats. Notice something different? They come in a roll, like wrapping paper, but with perforated edges for just yanking apart. They're available in all different colors and sizes, from petite cocktail to mondo dinner. And, best of all, they're actual cloth and washable! That means you can keep rolls of real cloth napkins on hand, wrinkle free and ready for action. The price is pretty impressive, too: try about $25 for 25 napkins. That's unbelievable. Sure, it's not the best linen available, and you probably wouldn't break out the Mydrap for a formal dinner soiree, but for a family Christmas buffet gathering, why not?

Check out all the sizes and colors at It'll help you wipe one item off the holiday slate.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bake Me a Cake

There are some people in the world to whom you can say that phrase, thank goodness. The delicious response to such a request might come enrobed in chocolate or slathered with buttercream.

What would be a better gift for those gifted bakers in your life than a most useful tool? I'm talking about this digital scale measuring cup. You see, unlike the sloppiness of other cooking, baking is chemistry, and is heavily reliant upon exact measures. Exact, in baking terms anyway, means by weight, not by volume. Luckily, this ultra fancy cup calculates both wet and dry ingredients according to weight and volume. The little LCD screen on the handle displays measurements in ounces, pounds and grams, and automatically converts into volume measurements as well. The baker can even layer ingredients in the cup, measuring all the way up to four cups or 6.6 pounds of ingredients. It's genius, and is a real multi-tasker too.

Just don't throw it in the dishwasher, or the lithium battery will go kaput. And please excuse the dubious liquid being measured in the picture (I have no idea what that is, nor do I care to hazard a guess). Find this most excellent cup at

Manly Cashmere

It's no secret that even The Toad has trouble finding gifts for certain men. Guys are often tougher to shop for, since they profess to need nothing and pretend to have no preferences (it's all a ruse, but whatever).

This cashmere sweater, however, might be perfect for a special male. Some cashmere sweaters for men are so done up in style and fancy colors, they feel a bit twee for the manly man. Not so with this one. You see, it's made by Patagonia, the same company that popularized outdoor gear for everyday wear. While not being as very very macho as, perhaps, a parka designed for sub-degree conditions, this ultra-thin, ultra-light, pared down cashmere sweater offers style and substance; the cashmere is recyclable. Does this mean that no goats were harassed in the making of this product? Not sure. But then, most guys just like the instant credibility of the Patagonia brand, and don't spend much time thinking about goats' rights.

Did I mention this yummy cashmere sweater is $200? While that's at the top of this blog's price point, it's a pretty decent price for a lovely sweater. Especially for that difficult male. Explore it at

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fit for a Goddess

Jewelry is sometimes a tough sell. That's probably because it's extremely personal and often expensive. But every once in a while, I find a piece that could fit the bill for the goddess in your life.

The moon goddess, that is. This Kalevala necklace hails from Finland, and is based on Viking designs of moon goddess jewelry (the exact name of this moon goddess isn't mentioned, but my guess is that it's probably virtually unpronounceable). It has a heavy richness that's ethnic without being overly crunchy, and is a welcome change from all those run-of-the-mill Hamsas and peace signs. And it's fashioned of brass, which gives some of the warmth of gold without the golden price tag. This necklace is perfect for many women, particularly older ones who wear larger jewelry. An added plus: it's obscure enough that no one else within a 500 mile radius will sport one.

Shoot for the moon at And if this necklace isn't quite right, check out all the other jewelry options.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Foot on Table, Not in Mouth

As the prospect of perhaps feeding many ungrateful relatives looms, the equally dismal prospect of table decor looms larger. Face it: none of us are Martha Stewart. Hell, even Martha Stewart isn't Martha Stewart (can't you just see her, lurking over the stove and gobbling leftovers like a solitary freak. Silver place card holders? I don't think so).

Anyway, I think this is a great gift to buy as a hostess gifty for a relative you're not so crazy about, but who's cooking for you. It purports to add to decor, but it's a shoe. Like the kind of shoe hurled at ex-president Bush by an irate Iraqi. Or a shoe that's been out hitting the pavement for a long, long time. Perhaps even the shoe you'd like to insert in your uncle's mouth once he's had a few. This shoe, though, is fashioned of porcelain and holds a lovely candle, illuminating all those shiny happy faces gathered around that holiday table. And, finally, the shoe could be made for walking, which is what you'll do, right out the front door.

Is this not your story? Lucky you. The shoe candleholder's still pretty nifty. And, at just $28, is the sort of bargain that could leave you footloose and fancy free. Find it at

Introducing the Silliest Xmas Decor EVER

Yeah, I know this is supposed to be a gift blog, meaning gifts you might actually wish to purchase for a giftee. But sometimes I find something so absurd, so over the top silly, that I have to write about it just to satisfy my own crabbiness. Bear with me.

Literally, bear with me. Take a look at this Christmas Butler Bear. He's huge and furry and dressed like Santa (just what every one of your guests wants to see when they enter your home). Apparently, he's also supposed to be the butler, although it's always been my impression that butlers wander about, serving people and cleaning up, not standing in a stationary position blocking human traffic. He is serving drinks, although he's incapable of making them (thank goodness the "Happy Holidays" tray he proffers is removable, so you can refill it while he just stands there, mute and useless). And he's a bear, an animal always closely associated with the holidays (?). Why not a reindeer bearing a tray on its back, or a friendly elf?

The capper on this "gift" is the price: $729.00. Here's the link just in case you have money to burn and know someone who really really needs Old Smokey here: Thanks for reading, grinning, and bearing it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Roll the Salt

The holidays approacheth. This prospect might have you quivering with anticipation (particularly if you're not stuck cooking). Alternatively, you might be quaking with fear.

Here's a holiday hostess gift to lighten up the holiday mood. This salt and pepper shaker set does what every other salt and pepper set does, which is to sprinkle salt and pepper. The difference is, they do it on wheels. This makes for exciting times at the holiday table, as passing the salt becomes a fabulous obstacle course involving a sharp right at the turkey cul-du-sac and a quick u-turn around Aunt Fanny's fancy French 77 cocktail. In other words, it's perfect for kids and grow-up kids alike to share in some table games. It beats video games at the table (a truly rude activity). And their modern design makes this set perfect for tables way beyond the holidays.

So give them a spin at It's the hostess gift with forward momentum.

Friday, October 30, 2009

China Syn-Gnome

It's no great secret that I feature a fair amount of gnomish (gnomic?) merchandise on this blog. You see, whether it's in the garden (I have a garden gnome holding, incongruously, a fish) or in your living room (Starck Gnome table, anyone?), I think a gnome delivers humor, irony and funk in one winsome package.

So here's a new gnome. If you haven't figured it out by now, he hails from China. Yeah, I know, gnomes are from Norway or some such Nordic place. China is for dragons and crouching tigers. But this guy is so... bizarre. He's not exactly plump. He's not exactly welcoming, although he is holding a magic mushroom. And he's dressed up like Chairman Mao. He's also a stuffed shirt, so I wouldn't place him in the garden. Perhaps on the couch as a throw pillow. If you think he'd tolerate that sort of treatment. Don't be surprised if you find the house pets gathered around him one fine morning for a session of healthy self-criticism.

Order this guy for the gnome fan in your life. He'll add something new and different to the decor. At

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Public Transit T

At first, this item looks like a gag gift, but it isn't really. It's just specific to the public transit commuter (like my sister, who rides the NYC subway every day).

Every devotee of public transportation has some interesting, often traumatic, often very funny story to tell about her crowded journey. Flashers, muggers, the unwashed, the insensitive, and the extremely noisy (and sometimes insane) all make an appearance on a daily public commute. And this t-shirt reminds public commuters to (in Japanese, no less) "Beware of Perverts." Such good advice, particularly for the ladies. Send this top to any hardcore commuting woman, and she will laugh and thank you (and maybe even wear it on the subway, scaring off Japanese tourists by the tour bus-full).

This reminder of the commuter's plight is available at Order them as gifts and spread the awareness far and wide.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

You Are The Cheese?

Maybe it's that I just finished Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but I really do feel that people are examining the origins of their food more carefully. And while this sort of foodie paranoia can grow tiresome, it can also spur someone to create good stuff to share.

Take cheese, for instance. Fresh mozzarella cheese, more specifically. Sure, your foodie friends could pick it up at the market anytime, but where's the control? If you gift them this home cheesemaking kit from Zingerman's Holiday Food Catalog, they can control all the means of production. Time and place, milk quality, quantities and cost efficiency all come into play as they create their very own curds and whey. This simple kit delivers 48 batches of cheese with fairly minimal effort. That's a whole lotta caprese! That means that you, the gifter, get to enjoy the "fruits" of the giftee's labor.

And this extravagance of dairy is available for just $35 (not including the cost of some high quality, non-ultra-pasturized milk). Order through It's one cheesy gift they'll celebrate.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Photo DIno

Often technology, which starts out as a miracle, ends up going the way of the dinosaur. So be it with Polaroid camera technology. Once the party fave for quick candids, it's been replaced by the uploadable, retouchable, totally accessible and distributable digital camera (aka, your phone).

That's why this ceramic ware Polaroid camera is so ideal. It's like a fossil record of film technology. Because, let's face it: the only thing a Polaroid camera is good for anymore is as a paperweight. So give this facsimile to your favorite camera buff for display purposes only. It can sit as evidence of progress, a concrete memory of past parties, and a reminder that, eventually, all good things gather dust (some far more attractively than others).

Find this photo dino at And then take a good, hard look at your iPhone. It might, someday, end up atop a mantel too.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Da Bird

It's true that decor is a very personal affair. One person's fabulous industrial age find might be another's Hummel figurine hideousness. But, (in this crowd, anyway), most of us are into the unusual, the quirky, and often the one-of-a-kind.

Thus, first I show you this parrot (Da Bird) that kind of goes everywhere precisely because he doesn't really match up with anything. Seriously. He's sort of crabby and fishy-eyed, and yet he has a sort of jungle-worn dignity. Presently, I can think of at least three people on my gift list who might appreciate Da Bird, all for different reasons (and I'm sure they'd all display his brilliant plumage in different places in the house). And the best thing is, he looks like a one-off, but he's actually a multiple, from Gary Gibson in Los Angeles.

Now, normally, I just discuss a particular item, but in this design studio/shop's case I'm making an exception. This store is just brimming with fabulous random stuff. I'm talking about antique pencil sharpeners, fabulous lamps, interesting art, and tons of other items that help make a home a home. There's countless opportunities for a truly personal gift here, or you can give them Da Bird and they'll be tickled too.

Go immediately to

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cozy Comfy Texting

We don't suffer from this affliction in sunny Los Angeles (where the mercury rarely descends below 65 degrees), but in NYC, Philly, Seattle, and virtually everywhere else, digits get COLD. And what do cold digits lead to (besides possible frostbite)? They lead to lousy and inaccurate texting (possibly WORSE than possible frostbite).

Enter Freehands gloves. They masquerade as ordinary, indeed utilitarian gloves (no ultra-soft deerskin here with cashmere lining), but the index fingertip lifts off for instant phone operation. It's such an elegant solution to such a 2009 problem. Now, your commuting friend can brave the frigid east coast streets in comfort, knowing that they can text, tweet, and otherwise communicatively annoy others in a flash.

Plus, Freehands are a great gift because they're not pricey, simply innovative. Sometimes you don't have to pay a load for great design. Check out all the finger tapping options at

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

So NOT Barbie

Sure, politics march on (erratically and annoyingly), but there are plenty of the Obama faithful out there, with shirts and bumper stickers and bobble heads, too.

But they've been missing someone, and so has their Obama figurine. I'm talking Michelle, people. And now you can order Michelle in mini form. Choose from three different versions of the powerhouse First Lady. I'm particularly partial to the red and black Thakoon dress she wore on Election Night (yes, she did, and gave fashion a big boost to boot). Make sure she's right by his side at all times, since you know he's been lonely hanging out on their desk or dash or whatever.

The three faces of Michelle are waiting for your order at You could even have her infiltrate the Barbie house in your kid's room and get them all to register as Democrats.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Be Prepared

While I'm sure that you are prepared for every disaster, power outage, and eventuality, I'm sure you know people who are not. You know who they are. And this gift's for them.

Every area of the country and beyond has its own disaster scenarios. Here, the biggest threat is earthquakes, but many other areas handle ice storms, blizzards, hurricanes and other phenomena, all of which wipes out power. Without power, you're gonna need light, and that's where this Giga-Power camping lantern comes into play. The one I've shown has a simple push button ignition for a big 90 watts of power. That's more than enough to illuminate a room, and makes flashlights look like the toys they really are. Because this thing is NOT a toy; it's a survival tool.

Find the Giga-Power (and other tools for the apocalypse) at And make them be as prepared as you to face the lions of winter and beyond.

Friday, October 9, 2009

All Strain, Major Gain

As the weather turns colder, we start to crave the heartier entrees. A bowl of comforting, steaming hot pasta comes to mind. And while nothing is easier than preparing pasta, it does require some larger equipment: a big pot, a big strainer, and a big bowl.

With today's tighter kitchen quarters, any size reduction is a good plan. So meet the Fold-Away Colander, a shining example of excellent design. This full-sized strainer comes in a flat package and puts away just like a cutting board, thus taking up little of precious storage space. But, when it's time to drain the pound of pasta, it turns 3-D in a jiffy for fast operation. Very clever. It's just perfect for the college student or NYC apartment dweller who's pressed for space. Now, if they'd only invent a reliable collapsible stock pot, all storage dilemmas would be a thing of the past.

At only around $23, this colander is one useful gift purchase. Check it out at And hey, if the recipient is lucky enough to have a dishwasher, this item's dishwasher safe, too.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

October Gems

Normally, I think birthstone type jewelry is an abomination. Some low rent, low quality ring or pendant, stuffed with some reject stone and pawned off as being of birthday-specific importance. Yuck. Who wears those things, anyway?

Well, perhaps with this latest find I stand corrected. October's birthstone is the very pretty and dainty pink tourmaline, a glittery semi-precious gem. It could look like something only Barbie could love. But check out this lotus necklace by jewelry artist Margaret Solow. Crafted of five petal like pink tourmalines and 23 karat gold beads, this little flower looks more sculptural than silly. The pink verges into a more sophisticated purple shade (so fashionable this fall). And, at under $200, it's a fabulous present for your favorite Libra or Scorpio. Lovely, really.

Find this October surprise at And if the lotus doesn't strike your fancy, OK has loads of other beautiful choices.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Tiny Tropical Paradise

How short our memories are. First, we hate the summer heat. Then, it suddenly turns fall-like and we're nostalgic for summer. But here's a clue: it's not the steamy summer we crave, it's the tropical paradise we'd like to experience.

Unless you're a really great (and really rich) friend, the odds of sending another on a Hawaiian vacation are slim to none. But this gift really evokes the spirit of Hawaii and lazy days in a tropical garden. The Hawaiian Volcano plant is a real flowering tropical plant (this one's an anthurium, but there's a variety to choose from) growing out of a real chunk of volcanic material. It does so quite happily, as volcano rock soaks up all the water the plant needs to thrive. Apparently, these plants have even been blessed by a genuine Hawaiian Kahuna for maximum plant (and spiritual) growth. Hard to beat that.

Plus, I'm placing bets that these plants are difficult to destroy, making them ideal for even your plant-loving friends with the blackest of thumbs. Check out the tropical assortment at If you just add a great Mai Tai recipe to the mix, the perfect home paradise might be complete.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Hide The Leftovers

There's a little known secret to household (especially new household) harmony: hide the leftovers. And I mean any kind of "leftovers," from the dirty dishes left over from dinner (hide in dishwasher), to the filthy clothes left over from the day (deposit in, preferably hermetically sealed, laundry bin).

Here, though, I'm referring to real leftovers, like the kind produced after cooking for a new spouse and realizing there's enough casserole left over to feed a small nation. It's important to get that left over food out of sight, stat. And what better way to do it than with these glass Pyrex containers? They're not plastic, so you can reheat in them without fear of contaminants. They're not disposable, so you're helping the earth (for what to do once you've eaten the leftovers and are left with the container, see paragraph above). Plus, they even look nice all stacked up so neatly in the fridge, unlike that motley assortment of mismatched, stained Tupperware you've had for years. Ok, sure, this Pyrex isn't nearly as cool as the fab colored stuff your grandmother had, but its functionality and practicality is exactly the same.

This is an excellent wedding or housewarming gift, and it's so reasonably priced for a large set: 12 pieces for under 30 bucks. At those prices, you can afford to play hide the leftovers for many years to come. Find the set at

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Buttons for Smart People

Remember the early 1980's, when you (may) have worn those rainbow suspenders covered with buttons as actual fashion? If only these buttons had been around then; you may have looked like a supersmart academic librarian instead of an escapee from Ork.

I'm speaking of these witty, pithy, completely original pin-
them-anywhere buttons by Beanforest. Rather than
outdated campaign slogans or "I'm With Stupid," these buttons expound on literary terms, scientific jargon, and the graphic arts world. And, as all "buttons" do, they pin onto virtually anything, making them ideal for decorating bulletin boards and cubicle walls at work, embellishing a beloved jeans jacket, or (since Beanforest will make 'em magnetized) sticking all over the front of the fridge. Brilliant. Plus, at about a buck each, a handful makes a cute and cheap gift.

What you see here is, of course, a tiny percentage of the vast plethora of button choices available at Order in bulk and distribute to smart people everywhere.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Food For Thought

As we enter Fall, indoor entertaining becomes necessary once more, and inventive, engaging table decor is important. Consider this hostess gift as an answer to the fun table dilemma.

Called "Chat" plates, these white porcelain pieces are shaped just like speech and thought bubbles from comic strips. Imagine "brain food" like blueberries scattered across one. Or, bring the term "meathead" to life with a "Chat" plate festooned with carpaccio. How about taking "Think Green" literally with green crudites arranged on every plate? Oh, the fun is endless and the food puns so compelling. It'll really encourage your favorite hostess to play with her food.

Let the food groups speak for themselves and order a set today from It'll leave the guests speechless with delight.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Izod, Eat My Shorts

One of the things that's hardest to find in fashion is a piece that is ironic, yet not tiresomely derivative. Especially when you're on the hunt for a cool piece for a painfully stylish friend. You know, a friend who makes edgy look natural.

This necklace, by NYC jewelry designer, is one of those pieces. This "See You Later, Alligator" brass necklace is worn close to the heart, just like the iconic (and sooo tired) Izod mascot. But its sinuous dangle is all its own, unlike the preppy rigidity of Mr. Izod. In fact, this alligator looks like he might make a break for the world at large at any moment. Very cool. Very unexpected. And at $100, very affordable. All of Verameat's pieces have this quality: an octopus devouring a ship, a crabby craggy T-Rex bumbling around. One of these necklaces is the perfect birthday present for someone who views humor and irony as a lifestyle.

Check out the acrobatic alligator and all the other wonderful pieces at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

College Repair

Yes, it says "College Repair," not "Collagen Repair." Why would your favorite coed need help with her skin, silly?

College is a time for major growth. Not just academically, but in terms of life skills. And life skills include sewing up holes, reattaching buttons, and repairing seams. There simply is no on-campus tailor. That's where this "Sew Many Projects" kit comes into play. The super-cute lunchbox style sewing box is jam-packed full of supplies for every fabric-based emergency and then some. Plus, some young people really like to sew and create, so this kit is perfect for them as well (and don't forget the guys; some guys are wickedly good with a needle and thread). It's also an ideal little extra to send to campus, since it's around this time that clothing begins to rebel.

Locate this "Sew Many Projects" kit at It's tailored to fit just about everyone. And one more word about the prices are incredible and the clothing looks like Anthropologie stuff, only at a far better price point. Take a look for yourself, too.

Monday, September 21, 2009

For The Teeny Yogini

Yoga. Something that's been around so many years is no longer a fad, but a fact. It's hit that critical mass in our popular culture; the hundredth monkey is doing downward dog, and so is everyone else. So you might as well gift your favorite yogini the best bottoms to display while that bottom's up in the air.

I'm talking Be Present Mobility Pants. They're the best solution to what can be a crushing situation. Many yoga and exercise pants (these pants are for yoga, but there's no reason not to branch out) bind and cling in embarrassing and uncomfortable ways. They're only flattering if you look like an extra on Entourage. But not these fabulous pants. The drawstring fits flat and comfortably on the hips. The material stretches without pulling. The side slits allow for lots of movement. And they come in many pretty colors. Not to mention that they'll hold up through many sweaty sessions and numerous washings. It's enough to make that yoga buddy of yours utter an entirely grateful "namaste."

So size your friend up and order her a pair at Maybe she'll do a Sun Salutation just for you.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy Ripper

Have you ever gotten married? If so, you know the endless delivery of wedding registry booty that keeps arriving at your door. Box after box, getting unloaded, broken down, and somehow disposed of in your trashcan and all the other trashcans on the block. It's fun to get the presents, but the trash is hell.

That's why this present is the greatest ever for the couple-to-be. They'll get so much use out of it up 'til the wedding, and then over the years as they move. I'm talking about this really gorgeous box ripper. This queen of all cutters is shiny, solid, cuts through every box with ease, and is engraved with: "Another notion of possibility." There's something very upbeat and optimistic about that; just perfect for the happy couple. It could even be useful for fights. And it sure beats a fish poacher, that drag-out-once-a-year china pattern, and the highly breakable crystal on their registry.

Find this slicer and dicer of paper products at It's simply a cut above other gifts.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fall Back Into New Bedding

So it's Fall, not that you would really know it in Los Angeles, with triple digits threatened way into October, tiny children sweating in Halloween costumes. But perhaps it's Fall, truly Fall, somewhere else. And for those people, a bedroom reorg is in order.

The easiest way to change up a bedroom is bedding. New sheets or a duvet in a more somber tone for autumnal and winter months is a great way to go. And this Marimekko pattern really fits the bill. Called "Unikko," the festive yet restrained black, green and white pattern is classic cheer, yet it keeps a modernist undertone going. I wouldn't recommend this pattern in, say, a Frenchy chintz filled room or a love den of Laura Ashley (one shudders to think), but you're not friends with people like that, anyway. Also, it's pretty reasonably priced for sheeting; I would even purchase it for a newly acquired dorm room situation (if your college coed of choice has choice taste, anyway).

Find this Marimekko treasure at And fall back not only into clean sheets, but into the spirit of Fall itself.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Livable Plaid

It's Fall, and, right on schedule, it's time for the fashion industry to ram plaid everything down our throats. Every year I'm resistant, mostly because I believe plaid is either for ultra casual flannels or schoolgirl pleated skirts, neither of which is exactly flattering on women over, say, 25.

But I stand corrected now. Check out this ultra-hip grey and black plaid small Field Bag from the classic hunting store, Filson. Filson has always produced excellent quality, utilitarian bags (I purchased one of their leather and twill bags to use as a briefcase, and I swear it will survive just about anything, including a nuclear blast or baby vomit). The difference with this bag, though, is that it looks right in line for this Fall fashion trend without being any sort of underaged, inappropriate statement. Crafted of Filson's 24 oz Yukon Wool and sturdy Bridle Leather, complete with a snap flap, this perfectly proportioned purse will carry any woman through her day in style without breaking the bank.

At $170.00, it's not super duper cheap. But, if you've been just about anywhere looking for something with style and quality, you know you could easily spend hundreds more. Why wait? Order at