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.