Monday, December 28, 2009

A Word About the 2009 Sales

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 21, 2009

Last Minute: Going Nuts for the Holidays

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

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

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

The Toad's Mom's Cinnamon Nuts

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

Line a cookie sheet or jellyroll pan with wax paper.

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Just Local L.A. Desserts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 14, 2009

Local Grub

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

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

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

Friday, December 11, 2009

Certifiable: Local LA Gift Certificates

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

Some Really Wonderful Local Gift Certificate Locales

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Dead Trees

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

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

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

Accessorize With the Best of Them

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Deck Their House: Shop Local LA, Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 4, 2009

Chocolate Break

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

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

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Oh Gorgeous Day: Local LA Beauty

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

My Tiny Beauty Selection:

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Child's Play: The Shop Local LA Guide

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

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

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

1810 N. Vermont Ave.Los Angeles, CA 90027

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

7523 West Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90046


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

204 N. Larchmont Blvd.

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

219 N. Larchmont Blvd.

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

6413 Yucca St.

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

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

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

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

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

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