Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Easy on the Eyes

It will give you the power of beauty
As I have repeatedly stated, this is not a makeup blog. I will, however, make an exception if I find a product that's really effective and gift worthy. Makeup, believe it or not, can make a wonderful gift (my sister gave me a smokey eye kit a couple years ago that was pure genius, and really delivered that messed up rocker persona. Or maybe that was due to the insomnia. I digress).

Anyway, one of the best ways to do easy holiday season makeup is to stick with the eyes, because, let's face it, gooey red lipstick and foamy eggnog are one gross combo. If you do a great eye with just a bit of sparkle and drama (an eyelash curler doesn't hurt here), you could just go with moisturizer and Chapstick everywhere else. And that's where this Trish McEvoy 24 Hour Shadow and Liner stick comes into play. This beautifully packaged golden wand contains a rather broad stick of soft, shimmery shadow that glides on like a dream, but stays on the whole night. It's like evening in a tube. I actually like to wear this during the day and just go for that Winter Lemur look.

One stick goes for $32, which isn't cheap. Still, it's basically all you need, besides the Chapstick, and you know that's cheap. At Trish McEvoy. Buy one for yourself (I like the dark charcoally one) and one for a makeup junkie friend.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Toad's BEST Holiday Giveaway EVER!

A golden ring and a silken purse could be yours.
Ok, so it's also the first Toad Holiday Giveaway ever, but this is still excellent. How often can you win something for simply leaving a comment on this blog?

First off, the goods! This fantastic holiday giveaway features items I already love and have featured. Yes, you read plural here: items. The first item is a BAO makeup or jewelry bag, handmade of vintage kimonos (that means silk, people), that's the perfect size for purse stashing or traveling. Given its subtle and elegant print, you could even use it as a lilliputian night time clutch bag. The second item is a fabulous party ready ring from the ladies at Noni on Larchmont Blvd. This golden and crystal ring has that great retro cocktail vibe everyone's digging on right now, plus it's fully adjustable to fit any finger. That's pretty brilliant (and comfy, too).
It sparkles and fits everyone!

Now, you could keep these goodies for yourself, or divide the spoils and have instant holiday gifts at the ready. Totally up to you. The combined retail value of this items is somewhere north of $120, so this is one big giveaway from one small amphibian.

Here's the "rules": simply leave a comment on this blog, remembering to include your email of choice so that I might reach you if you're the lucky winner. The winner will be chosen Saturday, December 10, so that the winnings can be shipped out immediately come Monday morning.

 Good luck and happy shopping to you from The Toad. And a big thank you to Carole Yu from BAO and Meghan and Elaine from Noni.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Take a Gifter BAO

A one-of-a-kind BAO bag
Sometimes you have an arty, offbeat someone on your list. You know you need something ethnic, yet classy, something luxurious yet useful. And the one thing you know for sure is that you don't have the time to go search for that one special item.

That's why you read Find A Toad, isn't it? Here's a slightly ethnic, classy, luxurious yet useful item, all ready for your mom or your arty Aunt Sally. Bags large and small by little company BAO really fit the bill. Created out of vintage kimono pieces by artist Carole Yu, each BAO creation is handpicked and handmade. Take this lovely little bag at right: it's ideal for storing jewelry for travel, or transporting cosmetics neatly inside a purse. It's silk outside and in, and includes a little pocket inside plus a leather and bead zipper pull. Such a nice, nice gift!

On top of that, a portion of each purchase goes to the Lung Cancer Foundation of America, giving this gift a philanthropic edge. Find the BAO bags at BAO Style and please the arty ladies in your life. Then, take a bow, you savvy little gifter, you.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Chanukah Dating Aid

Wouldn't you like to find HIM in the stacks?
I know I always go on about "the holidays" every year, but then seem to give Chanukah such short shrift. Well, no more!

Just check out this Nice Jewish Guys 2012 Calendar. It's ideal for just about any Jewish girl, young or old (I bet your grandmother would love one). Each month features, you guessed it, a nice Jewish guy in the environment of his choice. Check out Derek on his mountain bike (is Derek even a Jewish name?). Watch Jordan frolic on the beach in casual whites. Or, enjoy Dan as he cooks up dinner (looks like cutlets to me). These guys are great; there's something here for everyone, from your dateless little sister to your Aunt Naomi to your Cousin Stephen. Trust me on this.

At just $16, you get one whole Chanukah present crossed off your list. What a deal! At Fred Flare.

Monday, November 21, 2011

You Want Black Friday? Make it Local!

Every year it's the same tired b.s. about Black Friday, and every year it seems that thousands of shoppers fall for it. They wait in line in front of big box stores, rampage like wild buffaloes and run over security guards, fight over cheap imported goods. This is not for The Toad.

Honestly, if you have to shop on Black Friday, why not have it benefit the little guys? You know: the local stores with interesting stuff. It might cost you a little more (although that's debatable), but the quality of the gifts is just so much higher. And the shopping experience (not to mention lunch opportunities) is so much better.

Here's just a few Los Angeles based stores to satisfy the Black Friday itch. Many have web sites, so you don't even have to leave the house and try to park.
Animal keychains at Tortoise.

This store has a wonderful, dark victorian vibe with modernist touches. You'll find vintage jewelry, one of a kind animal ceramics, wooden boxes, John Derian decoupage pieces and much more.
7382 Beverly Blvd.

Noni's owners, Noni girls Megan and Elaine, are extraordinary stylists who handpick their merchandise. You'll find tons of truly wearable tops, dresses, pants and more, many by local designers. Plus, the store features affordable jewelry and stylish accessories.
225 North Larchmont Blvd.

The New English Anatomica plate, Inheritance
Both locations of this super hip L.A. store feature owner Larry Shaffer's excellent modern curation skills. From fantastic art and architecture books to pricey (but stunning) jewelry and glassware, OK has something for everyone. And around the holidays, they really stock up on the good stuff; they even pre wrap it!
8303 West Third St. and 1716 Silverlake Blvd.

The store itself, located on prime shopping street Abbot Kinney, is a minimalist museum of useful modernist goods. It's a great place to scout for toys for your favorite techie. Plus, they carry a huge assortment of Pantone items, always a welcome gift for anyone who's ever been near publishing. Its web site is perfect, too.
1121-1 Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Lost and Found
John's Phone at A+R
This entire row of shops is devoted to the interesting, the slightly ethnic, the casually luxurious, and the majorly expensive. From absolutely perfect scarves to real Missoni towels and blankets, everything in the store is filtered first through owner Jamie Rosenthal's discriminating tastes. You literally can't go wrong here, although your wallet's going to take a beating. Just try to leave here without coveting something for yourself. Just try.
6314 Yucca St.

This new addition to Abbot Kinney features all things Scandinavian. That translates as minimalist, yet earthy and colorful (but never gaudy or tasteless). Huset hosts everything from textiles to toys to lighting and rugs. A great source for unusual gifts.
1316 1/2 Abbot Kinney Blvd.

Kelly Green 
This store is like an emporium for green and biodegradable products, but without the annoying crunchiness of political correctness. Kelly Green offers green products you want to buy because they're great, not just because they're green. And you can find tons of water bottles, which make perfect stocking stuffers. Plus, they have an east side AND a west side location.
2149 West Sunset Blvd. and 2525 Main St., Santa Monica

This is one of those wonderfully idiosyncratic little stores. It has a fascinating mix of offbeat, funky, yet sophisticated household items, plus a carefully chosen collection of vintage pieces (the old glass book ends are pricey, but lovely.
8055 Beverly Blvd.

G Gibson
Designer Gary Gibson collects fabulous stuff. At any given time, you might find antique pencil sharpeners, old mallets, a cow bell, original art, old globes, and new pieces which mix and match seamlessly.
7350 Beverly Blvd.

Tortoise offers all things Japanese, but not in a Kid Robot kind of way. This is the quieter, more contemplative brand of Japanese products, perfect for home use and impeccably designed. And the aesthetic melds well with styles old and new.
Tree swing at Reform School
1342 1/2 Abbot Kinney

Reform School
Oh, such fun! Reform School has a funky mix of home products and arty prints and pillows, plus some wonderfully old fashioned kid toys. Browse and amuse yourself.
3902 Sunset Blvd.

Slap down your plastic at Plastica, because this is one awesome stop for kid's toys, office accessories, and anything else that involves plastic. Don't feel bad, though, since much of it is recycled and reused.
8405 W. Third St.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Some Really Good Eggs

Molds pre-egg
Sometimes you need a really fantastic gift, and sometimes it just comes down to making really good eggs. This is particularly true when trying to feed children, who are often fussy and superficial about their food.

These Japanese egg molds, designed for use in Bento Boxes (the highly superior Japanese version of the lunchbox) deliver both nutrition and fun. Simple hard boil some eggs, peel while still very warm, and close up inside these molds. Put the molds into the fridge overnight, and voila, your egg has been transformed into something fun, like a fish, or a truck, or a bunny, or even Hello Kitty. It makes high protein extra special fun. And, it should satisfy the pickiest of eaters, both young and old.
Egg as Truck

At a super cheap $4 per pair, these molds are a total bargain. Buy a bunch and give them to your favorite mother of toddlers. She'll thank you when snack time becomes blissful. At Amazon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pants for the Fitness Princess

These will stay on through a hurricane.
As a devotee of aerial arts, I believe I know something about fitness pants. They need to stay on, but not bind. They need to not boast extraneous material. They need to wear like iron. And, finally, they need to flatter, not flatten.

Lululemon's Wunder Under Pant (in long and cropped versions) checks every one of those boxes. They stay on even when dangling upside down with the ropes dragging down my back; I feel I've put these pants through its paces. If they're tough enough to last two years of trapeze, a couple years of yoga or running is a cakewalk. And the other pant models, more designed for yoga with more room, are also very nice and fit beautifully. Somehow, the butt is always lifted in Lululemons. I highly recommend, then, that you either purchase pants or give a gift card to the fitness princess on your holiday list. What I don't recommend is going into a Lululemon store to buy the goods. Stick to online.

You know why? Because never in my life have I encountered such dim sales help. When the very thin and hot salesgirl (she was a girl, people, not a woman) asked me what sort of fitness I did, and I replied, "Aerial," she was very confused. Then, the sales guy (yes, he was a guy, not a boy or a man), asked if it was "Like what they do at the Santa Monica Pier." "No, it's the same as Cirque du Soleil," I replied.

His response? "Oh, I'd rather go skydiving." Ok, then. Because heaving oneself out of a plane takes so much athletic prowess. Wow. Just wow.

So please: order online at Lululemon. It's so much easier, they have all the pants, and the site won't leave you speechless.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Little Blu Friends

Often a gift is something a person might desire, but would never purchase for themselves. And sometimes that sort of gift is a useless yet charming keepsake to keep on display.

These Bitossi Rimini Blu miniatures fall into that category. These are limited edition miniature replicas of larger versions ceramicist Aldo Londi created during the 1950's-mid 60's. Created in a very special shade of deep blue, these fanciful little friends would look smashing on a mantel, or a side table, or even a nightstand. They'll get along just fine with other useless yet interesting items. Plus, they're winsome and modernist, and there's only going to be 1000 each of them produced, so eventually they'll be a limited commodity. It's always nice to give a giftee something which stands a chance of appreciation, you know?

These are available only through Design Within Reach, and they run a very reasonable $55-65 per animal. I'm quite partial to both the cat and the porcupine; both prickly and standoffish for me!

Mobiles for the Immobile

Finally, one of my favorite stores in Los Angeles has a site with actual product on it! I'm so excited.

Ige is an odd little store on Beverly Blvd. It has a sort of modernist Victorian sensibility, which makes no sense in writing but does when you actually enter the store. It's full of carefully curated merchandise, from a large selection of John Derian decoupage plates and plaques to hand carved boxes to vintage jewelry and china animal figurines. All of this stuff is highly individual; you really have to spend time in there and handpick the gifts. Owner and designer Helene, however, is currently selling some of her own products online. The mobiles are all silhouettes of birds, or monkeys, or the merry go round pictured here (it's so The Night Circus! A book I highly recommend). Again, they look Victorian in spirit but modernist in concept. They would look awesome just about anywhere, but especially in a non-pastel nursery, in which the baby is an immobile, captive audience.

This grown up version of a kiddie toy is at Ige for $65. And by all means, if you're in Los Angeles, do stop in and check out all the other amazing products Helene offers.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For The Powerful Man On the Go

I just read a really funny post about Gadget Gift Guides for Men. A man basically said that many of the gifts in this one guide were either of shoddy quality, or useless, or the right idea, but the wrong model. Indeed, the term "gadget" seems to imply something of lesser value, more entertaining than useful.

So, I'm not calling this Man Gift a "gadget," I'm just going to call it a bag that does useful things. This Power Bag contains a rechargeable battery that delivers up to 4 recharges of a smartphone. Thus, this bag can not only carry the assorted computer related gear in a somewhat fashionable way, it also charges them in case of an emergency. Yes, I understand that we're supposed to charge these devices, but there's nothing wrong with a little redundancy, is there? Especially when on a plane, or stranded without a charger.

While I'm a fan of the messenger bag model, there's also a backpack and a smaller model for iPads, etc. And yes, this gift could also be for a woman. Although frankly, since I think men are harder to shop for and there's no shortage of great women's gifts, using this as a Man Gift is the way to go. Check the specs at My Powerbag.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Softest Christmas Cheer

I wasn't kidding when I said I'm skipping Thanksgiving. But, I'm keeping the stuffing with this Christmas gift, perfect for hostesses or anyone in need of decor.

If you celebrate Christmas (as a confused hybrid, I do, but I also fry latkes for Chanukah), a wreath is an indispensable holiday decor item. But those "real" wreaths you purchase at the market don't quite cut it:  the delicious piney smell soon turns to forest fire haze as the thing dries out on your door, liberally sprinkling the threshold every time someone enters the house. They're good in theory, but less than satisfactory in practice. But this gorgeous handmade yarn and felt wreath by ItzFitz is not only festive and beautiful, it will last for years and never soil the foyer. Just look at those beautiful felt flowers in Christmasy colors!

You can find ItzFitz on Etsy, where there are many, many more wreaths to choose from, from super holiday to far more neutral. This year, when it comes to decor, get stuffed and stay tidy.

Bibliophilic Minimalism

In these days of Nooks, Kindles, and iPads, it would seem that the real book has gone the way of the dinosaur. But, as a voracious reader, I say "not so." Electronic books are like popcorn, while real books are like caviar.

So, for the bibliophile in your life, give them not just books, but useful accessories for organizing those books. The Toad is a huge fan of bookends for this purpose; bookcases can look as lovely and artistic as anything else. These Umbra "Lena" bookends really fit the bill. Spare, white, and both literal and minimalist, the bookends do the job in style. They'd look fabulous in all types of decor, although I'd avoid gifting these to a wood paneled library traditionalist.

The most awesome way to gift these bookends would be to include some really great books from an independent bookstore. Check out the "Lena" (at about $80) at Velocity Art and Design.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Crayola Opposite

No stuffed cheeks here.
Yes, it's November again, and time for The Toad to begin her annual holiday gift guide. I'm skipping over Thanksgiving entirely this year, as you already know where to buy a big bird, and the only item I could come up with was a gag inflatable turkey, which was kind of gross.

Such glinty colors!
Anyway, what better way to begin the gift guide than with a kid gift? And what kid doesn't like real drawing implements? I'm not talking Crayola here. Crayola is crude and ubiquitous; kids dismember them and grind them into your carpet because they know there's more where that came from. But these Japanese pencils, metallic pens, and erasers are special. They're instant school status and have major trade potential. Plus, have you ever seen such a cute hamster? Hamsters, in real life, eat their young and smell funny, but are just about the cutest things ever as inanimate objects. Buy more than one and keep one to cheer you up.

Find all these riches and much more at Tokyo Pen Shop. Give Hammy a home and banish the crayons.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Non-Smelly Thanksgiving Centerpiece

Normally, I don't peddle table setting concepts, just gift ideas and products. But I got inspired by these candles.

The problem with many candles, these days, is that they're smelly. Smelly might be fine when you're trying to extinguish dog stench from the den, or add a little ambiance to the bedroom (although I'd urge caution there; one person's glorious patchouli scent is another's nauseating skunk reek). But, smelly isn't fine at table. Pretty much ever. It interferes with the food.

That's why these old fashioned mason and antique jar candles from Pollen Arts are so ideal for Thanksgiving. They're the perfect glowing Fall color, they stand on their own in a charming way, and, best of all, they're beeswax and don't stink. So all you'll see is lovely candlelight reflecting off your best china and silver, and all you'll smell is the food. Perfect!

While Anthropologie sells these, you're far better off going to Pollen Arts on Etsy. For $95, you get an enormous amount of candle power (16 candles!), plus a pine cone.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Give Your Toddler a Relic From Your Past

Fisher Price definitely knows its market: parents who grew up on its toys. Now the company has re-released a bevy of toys from our childhoods. No, not the garage (you can search for that on Ebay). But just about every other toy, from the Xylophone to the Milk Wagon, is ready to be purchased for your eager child.

My personal favorite, Toy Story 3 aside, is this Chatter Phone. With its happy face and cheerful demeanor, the phone can be pulled from room to room, creating that classic child tripping hazard we've all come to expect from beloved toys. The weirdest thing about the Chatter Phone, though, is while we recognize this as telephone (and always will), it's doubtful that our kids will recognize as anything except some strange multi-colored creature that makes strange ringing sounds. I mean, when's the last time you used a dial up phone? Or even a phone with a cord? Does your phone make a brriinngg noise? I think not. Your phone is a tiny computer that live in your purse and plays Lady Gaga. And that's what your child thinks a phone is.

I write about this object disconnect for the wonderful blog, LA Moms Dig, so you can read about this further. In the meantime, even though you and your child won't see eye to eye on what this Chatter Phone is really supposed to signify, no matter. It's still a great toy, noisy and tactile and good for motor skill development. Find it at Vermont Country Store.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Animal Abuse?

For Foxy's sake, I hope those are fresh socks.
I always hit this gift wall around this time every year. There's this lull between Halloween (not a very gift heavy holiday) and November (when the Christmas/Hanukah craziness begins in earnest). It's this time of year when I like to focus on a horribly misguided gift idea, a product that never should have seen the light of day, but packs some comic relief.

The Toad is an animal lover. There's a dog and many cats roaming her abode. But somehow, she just can't stomach the questionable charms of this Furry Red Fox Footrest. First off, its body shape is completely wrong, truncated and thickened for the slave labor of holding dirty feet up off the carpet. His expression is imploring, telling you every minute that he was meant for better things than this, and indeed would rather be chased through some forest by a bunch of dogs and red coated twits on horseback than be part of your living room decor. But the final indignity of the entire scenario? What the dog does to him when you're not at home.

Ironically, animal fan Martha Steward is the designer responsible for this much maligned beast. We all knew she had a sadistic streak, but I thought it was reserved for employees and family members, not innocent stuffed animals. For shame. At Grandin Road for $179.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Very Pretty Art by a Very Pretty Person

Normally, I steer clear of art recommendations as gifts. Art is just such a subjective thing. While there's art I very much like and appreciate, it might not be the art I'd like to live with every day. And what I like, others may loathe. For instance, over my fireplace, I have a four foot long blow up of a photograph of the Hollywood Hills (complete with sign) on fire. I think it's a fantastic shot and sort of witty to boot, but one of my friends hates it and says it gives her massive anxiety. Fair enough.

This art, however, is very pretty and thoughtful. Created by the very lovely all around person Emily Cline (an artist, actress and model creating out of Larchmont, New York), these prints and collages are misty and melancholy, full of flower imagery, yet not at all frilly. Some of them include words (usually about self knowledge or transformation), and all have just glorious color combinations. Emily calls her print line Ruby Shea, and one of her prints, especially framed, would make a lovely gift. Because, if you're good enough friends, you have an inkling of the type of art your giftee gravitates toward.

Here's the best part: every print is around $30! That's really reasonable for original art prints made on excellent paper. Check out Ruby Shea on Etsy and buy some very pretty art from a very pretty person.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

This Halloween, Get the Gopher

It's an official Bushwood shirt!
You know, parents spend a lot of time worrying about and planning the kid's costume, but they never consider their own. Here's where the Toad can help those hapless Dads who need a costume, stat, before they end up sweating buckets all night in a muscled Batman uniform.

Ask any Dad of a certain vintage to recite a list of favorite movies (and I mean favorite, not highbrow), and he's pretty sure to have Caddyshack somewhere on that list. While women like the movie, men are obsessed with it, reciting lines, remembering paltry details, and for some reason worshiping Chevy Chase's hapless and moonfaced country club member. My boyfriend even named one of his cars the Flying Wasp, for god's sake. But the movie's true memorable character (apart from the wily gopher) was Bill Murray's sinister groundskeeper Carl Spackler. Carl was a pervert. Carl was a moron. Carl ate a soggy Baby Ruth posing as a turd, for god's sake. But Carl was a total original; the character stands out in cinematic history, and was probably the model for many idiotic characters to come (Beavis and Butthead springs to mind). Now the Dad of your choice can choose to dress like Carl, complete with goofy hat, and relive his glory days.

Find Carl at 80s Tees. You'll have to buy the Baby Ruth and the garden hose separately.

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Real Beauty of a Blog

This woman has done her research, and thus can relax!
This post is more of a recommendation than a gift idea, since it's free and all. As a blogger, I'm always on the look out for credible and entertaining blogs. And if I can find a blog that actually offers useful information and is credible, I'm all over it.

Take, for instance, the blog The Beauty Brains. I'm as gullible as anyone else when it comes to beauty products; I could probably spend a small fortune inside any beauty supply, which is why I steer way clear of Sephora. But, I'm smart enough to know that most of the beauty products out there are total bullshit; the publicity juggernaut drives coverage, not real results. But on this blog, real scientists answer beauty questions about specific products (and they mention the products by name). The authorities here pull no punches in crying foul regarding much touted miracle ingredients or insanely good "breakthroughs" which turn out to only breakthrough your credit limit. It's refreshing, I tell you. Plus, when the Beauty Brains do receive products for free, they only explain what they are rather than "reviewing" them (after all, how can you truly trust a review when you know the reviewer gets the goods gratis?).

Anyway, I find The Beauty Brains amusing, and it just might help you order beauty products for a giftee with complete confidence. Because nothing's more aging than the rage you experience when you realize you've been ripped off.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Built a Better Earbud

I'm going to admit that perhaps this is my own problem: Apple earbuds don't fit in my ears. They chafe and fall out. They drive me crazy. And, this ear problem has impeded my ability to speak without holding a possibly cancer causing iPhone up to my head the majority of the day.

Still, I figure if I have this ear problem, other people must have it too. That's why I'm featuring these super stylish, definitely better built earbuds from Urbanista. Called the "London," these buds will actually stay inside the ear without wounds. They come with a little speaker, and work with virtually any phone or device (but especially iPhones). Plus, they're so cute. Besides this color, called "Red Snapper," they come in bright green or black for particularly colorful conversations.

At $69, they're pricey compared to the free ones delivered with the iPhone. But that seems like a small price to pay for comfort, convenience, and a whole lot less radiation next to your giftee's noggin. At Urbanista.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Halloween: Raw and Delicious

I have great nostalgia for the costumes I used to make as a child. Perhaps the most memorable one was an entire box of Kleenex I created for my little sister; she won first prize at school masquerading as a pile of disposable hankies. It was a fine moment.

But, my teenage artistry cannot compare with the store bought costumes available for kids now. Let's face it: they're perfect. Every detail, every bell and whistle, has been considered from head to toe. All you have to do is have your kid point to the image of her choice and pay with a credit card for an instantly perfect costume. And since I am no longer crafty or sew at all (you DO NOT want to arm me with a hot glue gun; the cursing is unbelievable), I'm usually more than willing to order it and forget it.

These nigiri sushi costumes, however, by Not The Kitchen Sink, sort of seem like the best of both worlds. Yes, they are adorable and absolutely representative of pieces of fish, rice, and seaweed. And yet, these felt tidbits still have a delightfully home made look about them. I can almost picture my own mother (if my own mother had eaten sushi in the 1970s) creating one of these costumes for her kids. I'm tempted to order one for my niece to be, due around Christmas, so that she can be a sweet shrimp next year.

Each sushi piece will run you about $60, which is close to other store bought costume prices, but these costumes have a bit more charm. Not The Kitchen Sink also sells a Kikkoman Soy Sauce bottle costume, for those looking for an entire meal to escort down the street. At Etsy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Nails In Your Coffin?

Maybe I'm just too old for this shit, but nail polish trends seem  stupid to me. They're too hard to pull off. One of my more arty friends tried that "shattered" nail polish look recently, and was pretty non plussed; it didn't look so much shattered as simply a polish mistake.

So, enter what the beauty industry is calling the hottest nail trend: magnetic nail polish. The London based polish company Nails Inc. invented polish with tiny magnetic particles in it, and a special magnet in the removable top. The idea is that you apply the polish, and then hold the magnet top over the second coat to create a "3D" wavy effect. Thus far, there's only three colors: chrome, gold, and a metallic purple shade. It's oh so very Katy Perry, if Katy Perry weren't already shilling that "shattered" crap.

The big problem with this "revolutionary" "3D'" effect is that it kind of makes your now darkly metallic nails look like they have ridges in them. And, as anyone knows, ridges in the nails are not exactly a sign of glorious good health (then again, neither are corpse-like polish shades, like all the swamp greens and odd grays I've seen in the salons, but I digress). In fact, horizontal ridges on the nail beds, as pictured on this hand model, are a sign of major stress.

As I feel I already display my stress quite adequately on my face, in my belly fat and in my overly aggressive driving style, I don't really see the benefit to having it show on my nails, too. I'm going to leave this nail trend to the ten year olds who have the time and inclination to fart around with silly shades and magnet tops. Find it for your favorite pre-teen at Sephora. It might be perfect for Halloween!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Wild Photos

Now that summer's ending, you probably have photos all over the place, documenting your travels, holidays, or just plain lazy torpor. But not all those photos are framable keepers. What about the ones you just want to display for a brief time?

While there's always the fridge (although not even then; my stainless finish repels magnets like teflon), I think there has to be a better venue. Enter Animags! These cute little magnetic picture stands from Japan (that means they're quality and hard to find) are available in four different animals: bear, deer, a cow and a hammerhead shark out of water. They conveniently hold these temporary pics on your desk or window sill or whatever, until you're ready to change them up. Did I mention they're really cute?

Buy all four at Photo Jojo for $30 and give them to a grandparent with an envelope full of shots. It's a terrific low cost family gift.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Brown Bag Masquerade

Finally, all the kids are back at school. Besides the totally crappy early mornings, back to school is a real blessing: the house is quiet and the parents heave a sigh of relief. Still, there's always the pressing issue of lunch.

I must say, I rarely have the school lunch dilemma, mostly because my kid buys fancy lunch at school, which is about fifty million times better than anything I could stuff in a bag for her. But not everyone has the school lunch option, and thus, the transport conundrum. Brown paper bags are out. Old fashioned lunch boxes appear to be something to collect, not something to tote. And while I've written about fancy plastic bento box like arrangements, I've now road tested them and concluded they're way more trouble than they're worth. So how does your kid carry the lunch? How about in these colorful, cool insulated bags by Built? The bag is pretty simple, but fairly indestructible (read: easy to clean neoprene). Your child may choose from a variety of patterns. Plus, it squishes down and takes up less space in those already crammed backpacks.

You can find these permo bags ($18 for the mini size) at Built. Of course, you won't find lunch there. That, sadly, you must still create and pack yourself; brace for the onslaught of complaints.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Great Pop Culture Costume

Yes, I know it's not even October yet, but I figured I'd start now on the Halloween costumes, sprinkling my finds throughout the next couple of weeks. While we only see Halloween as a chance to steal our kid's candy (fun-sized Snickers, yum), the choice of costume is a big deal for kids.

What's also been a big deal for a long time is the trend of women dressing like, ahem, sluts on Halloween. Yes, I agree it's all in good fun, and I even used to occasionally indulge myself (Pris from Blade Runner, anyone?), but I'm seeing it trickle down into little girl costumes. That's where I draw the line; my daughter has her whole life to sleaze it up, but it's not going to be on my watch, or on my dime.

That's why this Sue Sylvester outfit from the show "Glee" is so funny. It's simply the antithesis of slut night. Covered up, almost unisex, bad hair, loud whistle, and it's a character played by Jane Lynch, one of the funniest actresses in recent years. Alternatively, you could buy this outfit, stick a man's wig on the kid, and say she's channeling "The Royal Tennenbaums." Up to you.

This costume is also on sale, for about $45. While this sounds steep, at least it's a track suit instead of two strings and some coconut shells. At Costume Supercenter. Whistle or megaphone is extra.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Old Bat Phone

Mobile phones have pretty much taken over the universe. One decent mobile phone has the computer power probably capable of sending people to the moon, yet we use them for mundane activities, like scheduling, texting, emailing, and sometimes just old fashioned conversation.

However, everyone has that Luddite in their life who either refuses to get a mobile phone, or insists the one they have is too complicated. And even though we roll our eyes at them, try to give them technology assistance, and eventually even holler at them in frustration, they are stubborn mules. What to do? How about the gift of a John's Phone? Made by Dutch designer John Doe Amsterdam, this phone is whittled down to the simplest of tasks: phone calls. It will make and take calls. It will not text, email, or engage in late '90s techno ringtones. The John's Phone works with any SIM card, has a talking time of six hours, and a standby time of 3 weeks. It requires no contract and includes an earpiece for safe conversing while driving. Plus, its larger keyboard is easy to use, and it boasts a pad of paper and a pen for taking messages (how much more Luddite can you get?).

Although I think this phone is ideal for the recalcitrant yet needy older parent in your life, its lack of text and email abilities lend itself well to kids and teens. Hey, if the option's not there, they can't abuse it! Find the Old Bat... oops, John's Phone at A+R for $160.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Leather Bagging it This Fall

Finding a good bag is always an infuriating task. Sure, you can read all about the alligator bags you'll never own on Bag Snob, and browse the trend sites (there's some real dogs on those, all junked up with chains and animal prints), but there's so much more to a good bag than a high price point and trend appeal.

I'm talking good design here. Something that can hold all your stuff, but not much more, so that you don't end up looking like a sherpa. Something that might actually hold up through all the tossing around, setting on restaurant floors (yes, gross, but unavoidable), and various coffee drips. This season there's a bunch of very plain, "classic" looking bags, all of which I'm enthusiastic about, except that many of them are just too ladylike for the likes of me, or too small. So, when I found this JW Hulme Legacy bag at Barney's Co Op, I was thrilled. It looks like a cross between a saddlebag and a Coach bag, but it's more stylish than the former and less recognizable than the latter. The brand has been around since 1905, and it's an American made product (they'll even monogram it for you for free, but I thought that was too preppy for me). Plus, for such a quality bag (it boasts good compartments inside for glasses and phone), it's at a great price point: about $410.

Yes, at $410 this is way over The Toad's $200 limit. But this is probably a gift for you. And there's a mini version which is less (I couldn't fit my mega-sized wallet into it, which is the reason I got the regular size). Plus, this is a bag that simply won't go out of style, ever. Check it out at Barney's. If you know your giftee well, and love them a lot, you could even gift it to them, monogrammed and everything.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Give a Bronx Cheer for Target and Missoni

Poor Ms. Missoni better be a good sprinter.
It seems as though Target's been pushing its Missoni collaboration for like a year now, rolling out a publicity juggernaut in every magazine and blog in the known universe. The predictable result: a bunch of heaving shoppers sweating in their anticipation of cheap China made goods dressed up to look like heirloom quality Italian goods. If only Target could have followed through on its promise.

You see the picture of that glamourous woman, dressed head to toe in Missoni for Target? She's pulling down her glasses and staring in disbelief at the raging crowd running at her to tear those bargain basement Missoni togs from her fleeing body. In a minute, she'll be ducking into the nearest Venetian canal and sliming her poly blend knits just to escape the madness. Seriously, I heard the scene at most Targets was one of total chaos, as amateur and professional shoppers alike stormed the place, scooping up every chevron stripe they could find. After it all disappeared from the Target shelves, it magically reappeared, at brand new magically elevated prices, on Ebay. What a crock.

Don't believe me? Go to the Target online store and check out what's left. It's one sad little assortment. That cute cut rate Missoni flower rug I was thinking of getting for my daughter's room is long gone, now being sold on Ebay for the price of a silk Tibetan magic carpet. I say "boo" to this. And an extra long Bronx cheer for Target, for creating this nonsense in the first place. Go buy real Missoni and skip this b.s..

And that's what The Toad has to say on this subject. The End.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bless the Baby (and Aunt Sheri)

There's nothing quite like a new baby in the family. It usually brings out the greatest expansion of joy, as friends and relatives gather to "shower" the new mom and baby with gifts. And nothing beats the gift of a hand knit, handmade baby blanket.

Take, for instance, this unbelievably hip and vibrant blanket, made by my Aunt Sheri, for my sister's daughter. There's no question that Aunt Sheri has created a family heirloom. She purposely didn't use pastels, a design choice I wholeheartedly support. I can't even imagine the time, creativity, and work that went into the creation of this blanket (and I didn't even include the little purple knit hat, with flower, that accompanied it. At that point, Aunt Sheri was radically, and righteously, showing off her goods). Now, not everyone is lucky enough to have a talented and generous Aunt Sheri. That's why you might have to give the gift made by an outsider, like this other blanket found on Etsy. Yes, it's not as spectacular, but Aunt Sheri has a very demanding full time profession (NOT knitting), and can't make blankets for everyone.

So, go to this link on Etsy and check out this blanket for the new baby in the family. And, before you do, give props to Aunt Sheri, knitter and Aunt extraordinaire.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vintage Potter

I'm totally fussy about kid room decor. I hate themes, eschew Disney, and think infantile furniture shouldn't even be for infants.

Yet, this vintage style Harry Potter poster, by artist Caroline Hadilaksano, is totally intriguing. Reminiscent of old Olympic posters, this Quidditch 2014 poster capitalizes on the (basically done) Harry Potter phenomenon to great effect; it almost looks like a real event poster. Stylized, done in sports appropriate (yet somehow wizardly) colors, this poster expresses the power of the actual books rather than the movies, a trend I wholeheartedly condone. Yes, I read all the Harry Potter books, dork that I am, and I loved them infinitely more than the movies.

There are two more Potter posters: Travel with the Hogwarts Express, and Experience Hogwarts at Night. Both are fairly fabulous. These are good quality posters, priced at $50 each, which isn't cheap, but isn't terrible for a poster with real art staying power. Find them at Gallery Nucleus.

Monday, September 5, 2011

A Snowglobe for All Seasons

I know, I know: you're wondering if The Toad has finally given in to the holiday pressure. It is totally ridiculous, seeing Halloween stuff on display in July, and Christmas in residence by September.

I admit that I could have waited to post this piece, but I just loved it too much. Besides, this might be a snowglobe, but it has nothing to do with any holiday I know of.  LigoranoReese has created a line of these blizzarding spheres based upon the Seven Deadly Sins. These hilariously useless objects proclaim your sin of choice in blissful good cheer. I would strategically place Gluttony in the kitchen, reserve Lust for (where else) the bedroom, and give Greed away to my richest friends. These globes, besides being funny, are beautifully made (no el cheapo souvenir store crap here) and should be treated as art objects, not toys.

 At $125 each, these globes are a bit of an investment. Find all seven sins (thus the sins of your choice) at Artware Editions.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Ring My Bell

As an L.A. native, I confess little to no experience with the bicycle as an official mode of transportation. The urban cyclists here are taking their lives in their hands the moment they roll onto the road, since this has to be one of the worst biking cities in the nation. Children and bikes, however, are a different story entirely.

I'm all for kids riding bikes and scooters and what have you around here, even though it's on the sidewalk and thus annoying (kids need exercise, after all). What every child needs in her two wheeled arsenal is an adequate warning system, which is why Dring Dring bicycle bells are such an awesome gift. Hand painted with animals, or sports equipment, or flowers, or whatever, Dring Dring bells add a touch of whimsy to a bike or scooter. Plus, they give a decent warning to innocent pedestrians. But don't just limit these to bikes, how about sticking one on your stroller? Seriously, the stroller brigades around here could use some bells (they're already loaded down with drink holders and bag hooks and what have you).

Anyway, at $24 a pop, Dring Dring bells are an affordable and fun gift. And the tinkly, old fashioned sound they make is far preferable to "hey you, get out of my way." At Dring Dring.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Edgy Riff on a Classic Bangle

While I'm a great admirer of jewelry, I'll admit to being lazy about it. If it's not something I can just put on every day, I won't wear it. I wear the same necklaces and rings all the time. But I never wear bracelets.

Part of the bracelet hesitation is that they always seemed like a pain in the arm. You have to take them on and off. And, I'll admit to a certain snob factor: I have a thing for the Cartier Love bracelet, the one that locks on. Not only is it classic and simple, but since the thing locks on, I don't need to remove it. How lazy is that? Unfortunately, Cartier is way out of Toad's reach.

Enter Miansai, a jewelry company that makes a bracelet that looks like what you'd get if you mated a Gucci horsebit with a Cartier Love bracelet. I love it! It manages to look edgy, but in a classic way. You can totally dress it up or down. And the thing locks on, for the laziness factor I so prize in my bangles. Plus, there's the price: this bronze version is $165. There's also a gold version for much more money, although it's still a hell of a lot less than our friend Cartier.

Find this wonderful trinket at Saturdays Surf NYC, for either yourself or a classy and snotty friend.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Best Faux Food Ever

One of the baby toy items that's a perennial favorite is the fake food set. You know: plastic food that looks real in a miniaturized, slightly creepy way. Kids love to play with it (which is excellent) and then love to forget to put it away so that you step on some fake wiener on your way to the bathroom (which is not excellent).

This felt food set solves the foot injury problem. Each fake food set by Tomomo Handmade is beautifully rendered. I mean, look at this totally realistic tempura set! Doesn't it make you crave Katsu Don like immediately? And this fabulous fake food felter offers many other sets, ranging from the formation of a mighty fuzzy strawberry shortcake to a high fiber BBQ feast. These are genius. The kids can throw them without injury. Plus, if you're having a cat emergency, I think one of these shrimp would make a great kitty toy in a pinch.

Prices on Tomomo Handmade range from around $25-$100 per set. Check them out at Etsy. It's fake food you could sink your teeth into, although it probably wouldn't be very pleasant (no calories, though).

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dorky Flash Drives for Back to School

Yes, it's time for back to school shopping again. I remember when back to school supplies consisted of a Trapper Keeper and an artificial denim 3-ring notebook (yes, I'm horribly dating myself).

Now it's more likely your kid will still need folders and pencils and erasers, but there's new stuff too. Like flash drives. This year, my daughter requires two flash drives. And while, sure, you can go and get an ordinary one at Staples, these 8GB flash drives from Kid Robot really get their dork on. I mean, check out this information hogging Ewok. Doesn't he look smug? This is really one of the only uses for an Ewok that I can come up with. They have Storm Troopers, Yoda, and C-3PO as well. Plus, if you're not psyched on the Star Wars theme, there's sort of twisted Hello Kitty ones too.

Get one for your reluctant student. It might make back to school more bearable for everyone. At Kid Robot.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Nails of a Different Color

Even though it still feels like summer, fall is rapidly approaching. One of the easiest ways to make the transition is through nails, as your fashionista friends surely know.

This fall the trend is either toward dark blues and greens (colors which, frankly, only work on 12 year olds and the truly artsy set) or neutral. While I like the concept of neutral nails, it's really difficult to pull off. Go too far in the pink direction and you're headed for My Pretty Princess; go too far in the camel and you might look like a corpse. The concept behind the Hipp RGB collection is that you can find the perfect neutral. Touted more as a foundation for nails (like foundation for faces), RGB gives a palette that might actually work with different skin tones. RGB also offers a fabulous color selection too, all in the sort of glossy colors that manage to avoid sparkle and crayola tones. Of course, RGB is almost impossible to find.

Go to the Ten Over Six site, though, and there's a whole selection. Even online, the colors seem pretty true.  A couple of bottles of this polish (free of all the cancer causing nasties everyone's so worried about) would make a fun gift for someone's digits, for teens and matrons alike.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Totally High on New High Mart

This funky leather necklace evokes
Marni's pricier offerings
It's unusual for me to sing the praises of an entire store web site, but I just have to make an exception for the L.A. store New High Mart.

This is an awesome gift site. I've cherry picked a couple of items here: a leather triangle necklace (a very in look for the fall and beyond), and a totally practical utilitarian Jansport bag that many a cool girl would love to have for travel or even just around town. Both these items are under $75, and both of them look pricier than that. But that's not all New High Mart offers. This former Chinatown pop up store has a bizarrely wonderful panoply of goodies, from $16 leather keychains to $400 mongolian sweaters. It absolutely manages to hit the best of both high and low price points. For instance, it boasts totally quirky, fun striped socks (a perfect stocking stuffer), moroccan straw tote bags, excellent watermelon soap, and affordable (under $100) scarves. You can do a lot of quality shopping here.

So go see the goods for yourself at New High Mart. You won't be sorry.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Perfect Fall Dress That's WAY Out of Range

I know I'm supposed to stick to a $200 price point here. And normally, I really practice major discipline on this front, ignoring fantastic items too pricey to print here. But today, I fell down on the job.

It's this damn Donna Karan dress. Donna Karan isn't even a brand I like very much, she of the bodysuits (always wondered about major panty lines) and overly draped fabric that might look great on a 6 foot tall giraffe of a model, but will look like a pile of yesterday's dirty laundry on me. Besides, I can't afford Donna, and her dopey yoga esthetic always annoyed me.

But take a look at this dress (and ignore the stick figure wearing it. Some hips would make this dress even better). It's a t-shirt, but a cowl-necked, perfectly draped t-shirt with all these sort of equestrian, sort of bondage straps. It's edgy but not unclassy, could work for a lovely dinner out or for tromping around town in a pair of biker boots. You could soften it up with a cashmere piece on top, or go for totally tough with a tiny leather jacket. In short, this dress fits all my criteria for a perfect Fall item of clothing.  I would wear this, I swear. I know other women who would love it, too.

I guess these other women better be far richer than I, since this dress is a cool $1,200. I know, I'm such a tease. At Shopbop.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Useful Beach Monkey

Awareness of the dangers of UV radiation is definitely on the rise; in L.A., I see more and more of fake bake and less and less of real tans. The problem, of course, in sun protection is knowing when the UV radiation is at its highest and most damaging. Sure, you can look in the paper, but it's unlikely you're going to do that for every beach day.

But here's a solution you can keep on your key chain: the UV Monkey! This disc (not very monkey like, if you ask me) looks a bit like a lavender tinted Simon game, but it operates like your own personal radiation detector. Just keep it visible on the beach, and the Monkey will let you know through its Easter egg colors whether you need to slather on more SPF 50.

At just $9.99, the Monkey makes a great bon voyage gift for your loved ones heading off to tropical climes. At Think Geek.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For the Spoiled Survivalist

This is definitely the season for camping. Personally, the Toad has little use for sleeping out of doors, preferring a climate controlled terrarium, but she can see the general appeal.

The biggest problem with camping is being prepared. There are fewer and fewer boy and girl scouts these days who are familiar with the skills for tracking trails and making fire. That's why a newfangled and updated gadget like this Eton Raptor is such an ideal gift for the weekend outdoor warrior on your gift list. This handy orange unit (easy to find in a crammed backpack) has the tools necessary for a modern world, like a solar powered cell phone charger, a solar powered radio, NOAA weather alert, compass, altimeter, barometer, bottle opener, digital clock and rechargeable battery. This little machine could literally change your life, although it won't dig you a privy.

Seriously, purchase the Raptor for the guy with dreams of climbing McKinley, and watch his eyes light up. He'll thank you profusely, and you'll bask in the knowledge that you might have contributed to the guy's actual survival. Excellent. At Eton for $130.