Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lost & Found Now Found Online!

Finally, finally, finally Lost & Found ownerJamie Rosenthal put up a web site. For those not in the know, Lost & Found is a string of stores on Yucca in the middle of Hollywood. It's considered one of the most awesome places to shop, but the lack of online access was a negative. Until now.

Ranging from decorative arts and modernist tabletop offerings to some of the best children's clothing anywhere to hard to find accessories for both genders, Lost & Found is a kind of emporium for good taste. A gift from these shops, dressed in colorful tissue and grosgrain ribbon, is always a welcome sight (because the gift will always deliver the goods). Think about it: Lost & Found is crammed full of bags from Sissi Rossi and Il Bisonte (cult brands which are very difficult to find), scarves from wonderful Indian and European sources, jewelry made by local artisans, and a pretty kick ass selection of Missoni home products (these don't seem to be on the website, but you could always call and inquire). Not to mention the incredibly understated and classy clothing that's just so Eastside in its casual elegant sensibility.

Lost & Found isn't flashy, it's enduring. Check it out online here. Especially the kids section for age appropriate clothes for little people.

Monday, June 28, 2010

No Tipping Whilst Tipsy

Ah, the joys of summer outdoor relaxation. Sitting in a shady spot, quaffing some nice inexpensive fruity wine, enjoying the nothingness.

It's a joy, at least, until some drunken guest (or you) spills that Two Buck Chuck all over the new french print tablecloth, truly ruining the tranquility of the moment. But how does one avoid such incidents? Change out the wineglasses for something more stable. Take these Spanish wine glasses, for instance. Fine, they don't look like wine glasses, they look like truncated tumblers, but the Spanish use them for casual wine quaffing. And what is summer drinking if not casual? You don't need to snort and sniff and swirl that cheap ass summer wine around in some fancy glass; just serve it up in these squat buckets and call it a day.

Did I mention that these glasses are just six bucks each? True, that's a lot more than the Trader Joe's rose you'll be serving, but they'll last many times longer. Find these Spanish beauties at Spartan.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fan Dance

Sure, summer evokes lazy afternoons, congenial barbeques, swimming and sultry nights just made for dancing. But you'd better face it now: the only way you'll be able to dance in the summer heat to come is if you have a fan.

I'm not talking about anything new fangled or vintage or fancy. Forget about that Dyson thing that doesn't even have blades (it's a bloody fortune and interferes with natural selection. Think about it). And while one of those lovely vintage style fans looks ever so pretty in the corner of your bedroom, they're usually creaky and noisy. No, what you (and any giftee stuck in a steamy New York apartment; that would be you, Joanna) needs is a no nonsense metal fan that'll get the job done. Take this Patton metal fan pictured here. It's functional, pretty attractive in a utilitarian way, and actually moves the air without fuss. It's also about $65, which is the price range you want in order to own metal instead of plastic.

Plus, the brand is called Patton, which evokes military precision and excellence: a fan that will accomplish its mission. Find the stalwart Mr. Patton on Amazon, and get ready for swing dancing in the summer air.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Energy Efficient Valet Service

Every time I glance around the Toad Abode, I spot more and more electronic devices, all hungrily whining for power. I would never disparage the devices themselves; what would any of us do without texting, Facebook on the go and a rousing session of Angry Birds?

However, all the way along the environmentally inclined (if you're not one of these, you at least try to look perturbed and concerned when the subject arises) has raved about "vampire power" involved in feeding all these handy devices their daily wattage. Most charging devices don't really solve the problem of passive power suckage. Until now. Meet the Belkin Conserve Valet charger. This unassuming device fits up to four of your hungry toys for charging. Once satiated, the Valet turns everything off, including the dreaded "vampire power." A good idea, no?

Given that there's a spate of summer birthdays and many are gifted iPhones, iPads, and other intelligent time wasters, the Conserve Valet would be an excellent gift. And at just $40, it conserves the cash in your pocket, too. Find it at Belkin.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Matryoshkas Made to Measure

Cooking is absolutely an art, but let's not forget about the science, too. A measuring screw up can leave your dinner plans in a shambles. Good measuring tools are mandatory, but shouldn't they be stylish, too?

Meet these Matryoshkas. Maytryoshka dolls, for the non-Russian reader (most of us), are those funny wooden dolls that fit neatly inside one another (no, they are NOT Nutcrackers, those creepy uniformed gents that appear around the holidays and thankfully vanish afterward). These measuring cups feature a popular measure per doll, all of which stack neatly and tidily for safekeeping in a crowded kitchen. These cups look so cool, in fact, that you or your giftee could leave the set out on the kitchen counter and everyone would assume they were a minimalist take on an Old Country favorite.

These would make a lovely hostess gift (just $18), or a gift for the newly cooking person who needs good tools. Because, while the tools don't necessary make the cook, they certainly can't hurt the cuisine. Find the Mrs. Matryoshkas at Happy.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Whole Wedding

It's not often that the Toad extols about a cut flower, but this is different: peonies are here! Even though just about anything and everything can grow in Los Angeles, peonies are the exception. They crave a freeze, and thus don't just magically pop up in our gardens like lilies and roses.

But sometimes, waiting for something extraordinary makes it that much more satisfying. The season for the peony is upon us, and you should embrace it by buying them by the bunch and passing them out to every friend and relative you've got. Here's why: peonies are absurd. They're fluffy, unrefined, exuberant, explosive, old-fashioned, and the whole damn wedding in a single bloom. And the great thing is, you don't have to submit to wedding rigors to have them sit in your home. They'll work in any environment, mostly because they really don't match with anything at all. Right now, I have a bunch of fuchsia ones that have opened up so enormously, they look like one flower. Silly.

Trader Joe's or your local farmer's market are both ideal places for picking up peonies on the cheap (between $6-$10 for a bunch of 5). Just remember to buy them with tight, unopened blooms, then use hot water in the vase. They'll unfurl into gloriousness in a couple of hours, and should last almost a week. And they'll make you and yours smile with every viewing.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cheap Skin Trick

Summer is upon us, but that doesn't mean our skin is ready for it. Due to constantly shifting weather conditions, skin gets dry, scaly, flaky, and just dull overall. You could pay someone to strip that dead skin from your body, but who has that kind of money to spend? Not the Toad.

No, the Toad has turned to more affordable exfoliation measures. Take, for instance, this Alba Botanica Sugar Cane Body Polish. This tub of skin love seems uncannily similar to very pricey brands of scrubs that shall remain nameless (ok, twist my arm: Bliss Spa and Get Fresh come to mind), yet it performs an identical task. This sweet smelling but not overly cloying paste scrubs on nicely, uses sugar acids to slough off your dead skin, and then rinses away, leaving lovely moist epidermis behind. You probably don't need lotion after a shower session with this scrub. And did I mention the price? About 11 bucks! For that price, you can buy one for yourself and treat all your friends. It's a great deal; about 20-30 bucks less than the ritzy competition.

Find the Sugar Cane Scrub online at Alba Botanica. And keep in mind: while it smells lovely, it still tastes bad, so no shower snacking.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teach a Man to Fish

Well, not really. My old man dislikes fishing and would only do it under duress. He also might not appreciate the humor of this gift. But some of your more cheesy Dads will.

Meet the original Singing Big Mouth Trout. You've seen him dozens of times, probably on some random visit to Bed, Bath and Beyond, but never actually had the gumption to purchase him. Well, why not? He's cute, portable, has a motion sensor, and turns and sings to you (or Dad. Whoever's closest. He's not discriminating). This is the original fishie, not that new Tommy Trout thing that sings "Joy To the World." This old mounted mechanized beast sings "Take Me to The River," for obvious reasons, and "Angel of the Morning" (a pure mystery). This guy is a classic, just like Dad.

Mr. Aquatic Serenade is currently on sale at Cyberbrands for the ultra-low price of $19.99, plus S&H. Order and install him for at least five minutes of hilarity.

Monday, June 14, 2010

DIY Big Daddy Greenthumb

It's no secret that many dads appreciate a good DIY project. It makes them feel manly and relevant, useful and resourceful. And if your Dad likes to garden, this is a wonderful Father's Day gift.

I've waited to post this item because I wanted to try it out myself first. And the verdict is: success! This Flora Grubb vertical garden panel works like a dream (in fact, my panel looks far better than the one pictured here. A minor miracle considering the Toad's gardening aptitude). For a gardening Daddy, the vertical garden truly delivers. It's compact, efficient, beautiful and impressive, but actually requires very little work. Simply order as many panels as you think he'd like (I only did one). He picks the 45 tiny plants to insert in each cell (succulents work perfectly, but herbs would do as well for a fabulously chic kitchen garden). He plants them in each cell, and leaves it to root for roughly one month. Then, hang on the desired wall. That's it! Watering weekly works fine; there's no need for fancy irrigation systems here.

Each panel is about a hundred bucks, and plants are extra, so this isn't a super cheap gift. But who puts a price on a sense of accomplishment? Find this Big Daddy of DIY projects at Flora Grubb.

Daddy's Little Problem Solver

Father's Day is rapidly approaching. The Toad finds this Hallmark holiday to be one of the most frustrating. Men can be difficult to shop for, and Dads are no exception. And forget the tie.

Throw Dad a lifeline instead. Men, for the most part, like useful things which garner results. Take this Help, I Have Problems travel kit for instance, crammed full of solutions for life's little physical problems, like blisters, lack of sleep, headaches, and just about any other minor problem. The footprint for this kit is super small, so it'll fit easily into either his medicine cabinet or his travel dop kit. And it sort of solves the problem of Dad searching fruitlessly for the advil or the bandaids, since now it's all in one place (I suppose he could just search fruitlessly for the entire kit instead, but let's be optimistic about this).

Thus, Daddy's Little Girl or Boy can become Daddy's Little Problem Solver. Voila, years of therapy avoided with just one purchase! Find the kit at Design Within Reach.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pummel With The Pestle

If you've been to a nice restaurant, you've noticed: summer food is officially here. Good tomatoes are making an appearance, wonderful lettuce and lighter fare is front and center. Shouldn't the same be true of home cuisine?

One of the essential kitchen tools that even seasoned home cooks forget about is the old mortar and pestle. Ancient yet efficient, this bowl and hand grinder make short work of grinding spices for rubs and marinades, produces authentically rustic pestos and sauces, and makes perfect guacamole. Elbow grease, is of course, required. But maybe the work won't be quite so enervating using this nifty mortar and pestle set. The big plus? Besides its modernist shape and colors, it's two bowls in one. Use the smaller, lid side for little jobs like spices; the bigger bowl for quantity. And at under $40, it makes a perfect hostess gift.

So get into the grind and order one or four of these new sets today at A+R. One more reason to pestle: arm workouts for those summer tanks.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Palm Springs Haul

It's not like you really need one more reason to love weekends away, but here's one anyway: shopping and gifting finds you can't find at home.

Check out this recent haul from one hot (100+ degrees) yet brief shopping afternoon in Palm Springs. Palm Springs is pretty famous for its vintage mid-century goods, but the Toad discovered that it's beneficial to hop off the beaten path of Palm Canyon Drive if you really want to get the goods. From left to right: a pair of perfect Blenko (complete with tags) glass owl bookends; one snazzy '60s lucite Kleenex holder; a '70s plastic sugar bowl (so sweet); a '70s tangerine hued mini Thermos; and a highly unusual vintage Limoges box, shaped like a lemon, which opens from the bottom. The haul ranges from $22-$120, which is pretty good for such an eclectic assortment of goodies. And two of the items are destined for giftage (the Toad is being greedy and gifting herself).

These items were snagged, respectively, at Hedge; Dazzles; and The Little Shop of Treasures. Fabulous!!! Long term skin-destroying yet restorative tan? Free!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Cold Brewski

Summer is basically here (I can tell by the infernal "June Gloom" which has descended over the LA basin). Summer means a change in drinking habits, and I don't mean beer brands. I'm talking about coffee. Iced coffee, to be exact.

Making iced coffee used to be a drag. Make hot coffee, let it cool, pour it over ice, hope for the best. Until this new iced coffee maker came on the market. This thing is instant iced coffee at home, brewed fresh and lovely (instead of that rancid coffee extract many coffee houses use for their iced coffee preparations). An added bonus to this whole cold brew process is that it brews particularly low acid coffee, for all of us who want to keep our summer buzz on, but need to protect our finicky tummies from acid ravage.

This little at home item is under $40, and is a great gift with a pound of excellent beans (while the process is very important, if the beans suck, it's garbage in, garbage out). Find out more at the Toddy Cafe site. And enjoy a cold brewski anytime.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Foodie Foodie Sous Vide

Warning: this item is WAY out of the Toad's price points. Thus, it's super special, meant for a very specific person who is very special to you, plus is a complete and utter foodie fool.

I'm talking about sous vide cooking, at home, without having to assemble components and machinery. This is the first sous vide home cooker on the market, and it's apparently a great thing, if you're into that sort of thing. What's sous vide? If you have to ask, this probably isn't a gift you'll be interested in giving (but I'll tell you anyway). Sous vide is food packed into a vacuum pack and simmered gently in water at a very controlled temperature, which produces even cooking, amazing tenderness and texture, and exquisite flavors without lots of oil and fat. None other than the famed Thomas Keller is an enormous sous vide aficionado (his book on sous vide, Under Pressure, is probably the at home bible for the process). This miraculous little machine makes sous vide a possibility anytime. Here's the rub: it's expensive, like over 400 clams expensive.

But for the foodie fool in your life, it's such a fabulous gift! Just think of the months and years of wonderful gourmet food presented to you as a thank you gift. Makes my mouth water. The cooker is found only at Sur La Table; the vacuum sealer is extra and should be purchased by some other kind soul.

Avoid Those Death Rays

So far this year Los Angeles has seen precious little of the death rays the sun can provide. Indeed, the Toad would be up for some lethal ray exposure, despite the risks. Toads get warts if not provided with a bit of sunshine. Complaints aside, the sun is coming, and with it the subsequent golden tans, sunburns, wrinkles, spots and other assorted lovelies. On top of that, science has now concluded that most sunscreen can actually make the death rays worse. It's enough to make a Toad crawl into a burrow and sulk.

An entity called the Environmental Working Group has just released its list of sunscreens that are just marginally acceptable (in other words, they pretty much hate them all, but some less than others). This Anthelios SPF 40 cream made the "Best in a Line of Losers" cut. I've always found that Anthelios is great sunscreen. It works, it doesn't irritate, and it doesn't block pores too badly. It has no objectionable smell and has good coverage. For some odd reason, this was the only Anthelios product on the recommended list. I have no idea why. It's a good bon voyage gift for a vacationing friend, or for a friend deeply concerned about skin in general (Los Angeles is now chock full of these unnaturally pale women, so white they look like they've been snorting arsenic for years).

Just remember to really slather this stuff on, or apparently it doesn't deliver that SPF 40 punch. Find it at Amazon and defy the death rays.