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.