Sunday, January 24, 2010

No Wallflowers

Occasionally, The Toad comes across something totally fabulous which, while perhaps not making the perfect gift for just anyone, is just too stunning to not merit a mention on this illustrious blog.

This Branch wallpaper is one of those items. As a rule, Toad is not an enormous fan of wallpaper (perhaps because of the flocked, fuzzy variety in her grandparent's bathroom, which always seemed to attract lint and other undesirables). Wallpaper has just too much potential to be, well, a bit fusty. But this one is an exception. I see it on a single wall, in a small room (a bathroom, maybe? Or perhaps a foyer? Even the interior of a closet?). It's stark and elegant and really packs a decorating punch, meaning that after forking out $115 for a roll and the extra added cost of installation, you'll really be done with that room for a good, long time. And that's the kind of interior decorating The Toad advocates!

So is this a gift? I don't know. Maybe you know the perfect person who'd love a roll of fancy paper. Or maybe that person is yourself. Check it out at

A Driving Need for Self-Expression

It's true that I live in one of the most auto-centric cities on earth, so I'm willing to admit that not everyone sits stuck in traffic, amusing themselves by reading creative vanity plates. But probably a fair amount of you do. So here's even more of an outlet for auto self-expression: the license plate holder.

I thought of this while driving behind a truck the other day which boasted a holder reading: "I go where I'm Toad." Naturally, The Toad loved this. So what could you design for your funky friends? With way more space and less cost than a vanity plate, there are endless options to amuse both your friend and every lucky driver idling behind them. And it can definitely plunge into the world of the weird. One of my friends spotted a holder that said: "Mork and Mindy ain't got shit on me." We have no idea what this means, but to the driver, it's an essential message.

Design a fabulous personal license plate holder at It'll make your giftee the talk of the traffic town, for sure.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ready Compliment

Out of all the home gift categories, nothing seems shorter on wit than the bathroom category. Example? Once, The Toad was gifted a single roll (not even a 4-pack) of George Bush toilet paper. This is not witty. The Toad doesn't want to see W. anywhere in her house, particularly when she might be in a, say, vulnerable position. Yuck.

Occasionally, though, there's a bathroom object that not only evokes a smile, but enhances it, too. That object is this Vanity Mirror. Yes, it's a fully functional mirror, useful for checking makeup and food in one's teeth. But this mirror has words, endless compliments, written across every inch of it. Compliments like, "You look gorgeous! It's fantastic. You are so infinitely attractive!" It never gets old. Plus, it's available in English and French versions, perfect for that insecure Francophile in your life. Equal opportunity compliments. What could be better?

Find this looking and gushing glass at And give it with your compliments.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ode to a Pantone Mug

Back in 2008, when The Toad first began this blog, a new item was duly scouted, spotted and installed online. It was a line of mugs from Pantone Color, and they immediately enchanted me to no end. Looking at them in a hipster store in Silverlake, I thought to myself, "these are a hit."

It's proven true. After the mugs were posted on Toad (handily just in time for the holiday season), they suddenly appeared everywhere. In every magazine gift guide, in every stylish accessory store. At first, The Toad congratulated herself on her Faith Popcornish ability to so successfully trend spot. But then, I thought: nonsense. I must be part of a marketing herd on some level (although Toads don't usually run in herds). How does a product get plucked from oblivion and thrust into the retail spotlight? Who decides?

In this case, it's now obvious to me: The Toad (along with every other person or animal in journalism, design, or writing generally) has a publishing background. Thus, Pantone evokes warm, fuzzy, and familiar feelings when it's plastered onto a new everyday object like a mug. Pantone mugs resonate with a specific population which happens to be put in a position of relative power: what trend makers choose is what gets the most attention. As an experiment, I went to the Uncommon Goods site and looked at the consumer online reviews for the mugs. Sure enough, they were almost always purchased by graphic designers, or people in the publishing industry, or purchased as gifts for people in the industry. Just an endless loop of common experience driving the popularity of one item. And how many more items are just like the mugs; of particular interest to one particular class and background, foisted upon the rest of the world as an "it" product.

That being said, The Toad still loves those mugs. In fact, she keeps waiting for someone to give them to her as a gift. Alas, no one has the guts to buy The Toad gifts. Can't imagine why.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sleep Disturbance

The Toad always finds products she likes, and sometimes finds blogs she likes, but combining the two is very rare (as rare as Costa Rica's Golden Toad, which is very rare indeed).

The blog I found (along with about three thousand other followers) is Sleeptalkin' Man. The premise: a married Brit talks in his sleep, and his American insomniac wife records what he says and publishes it online. Needless to say, the quotes are howlingly funny. Bizarre conglomerations of dreamspeak, mixing British and American curses and slang. And if it's fake, who cares? It would be a truly creative feat to invent these quotes.

Anyway, the blog now has shirts available, featuring choice quotes on the front. It's a great gift for the woman (or man, for that matter) with a sleep talking (or sleep walking, like yours truly) significant other. Please, go check it out. Even if you don't order a shirt, the blog's content will make your day (today's pirate themed quotes are particularly good). Go to now, and start laughing.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Career Change

It seems like everyone is always in flux when it comes to career. Either friends and family aren't where they'd like to be in their respective careers, or they're bored, or they're simply unemployed. Perhaps it's time for a change, but without the feedback of career counselors or bossy life coaches putting in their two cents.

Here's a gift that offers a career alternative. Be a dowser! A dowser is a person who marches out with these funny wood and metal instruments and magically finds water. How does it work? I have no idea; no one has any idea how it works or whether it's for real. Sort of like working as a studio executive! All I know is that it's a career that offers travel and exploring the great outdoors, and there's nothing wrong with that.

One gift of dowsing rods could put your giftee on a new career path, and for just twenty-five bucks. Order at Natural dowsing ability not included.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Sultry in Winter

Winter is not my best season. I turn yellowish and wan, and since I'm not a fake bake person, the only decent makeup effect available to me is a smoky eye. And I find that hard to apply, because I'm a makeup slob with the small motor skills of a hoofed mammal.

But recently, I was gifted a smoky eye kit from Kimiko Beauty which I believe is idiot proof. Shown here in earthy tones (only because the coveted "Imperial Nights" set had no image), this extremely well designed eye shadow quad supplies everything anyone would need for lovely, sultry mid-winter eyes. Add one of the retractable eye liners and the effect gets even better. While giving makeup as a gift is usually tough to pull off, I think this is an excellent choice for just about any woman (or hey, any guy; The Toad is not going to judge). Since I'm sure you have a makeup diva on your gift list, you should give this an order. Plus, the shadow itself is finely textured and full of good ingredients, which makes application even easier.

Order this little bento box of many colors at It may be the only sultry thing around for months to come.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Rise of the Manbag

So, never in a million years did I think I would ever advocate men carrying bags. Sure, my literary agent grandfather did carry a man purse, but that was when he was in his sixties. The trend was that no self-respecting man under that age should consider a bag. Well, maybe he should.

Hear me out on this one. Women carry a lot of stuff around with them, and there's an entire culture devoted to women's bags, indeed a worship that verges on religion. But what about these poor guys? Think about it: on an average day, a typical guy is carrying a wallet, a cell, sunglasses, keys, and sometimes a money clip too. All this, with only pockets. Thus the boxy wallet butt phenomenon, the rattling chains to secure keys, and the endless leaving of expensive sunglasses all over town. Guys aren't good at tracking stuff to begin with (I always say that they'd lose their asses if they weren't attached), and this state of affairs puts them in constant jeopardy of losing important goods on a regular basis.

So do your man a favor and at least attempt to help them carry their precious belongings in an organized way. And start by checking out this smallish messenger bag, and all the other manbags, available at It's an idea whose time has come, and some guy has to get the message to the masses. Make it your man (my guy, he won't consider it. Maybe if someone goes first...).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Not Just For Kids

There are some toys that are solely for kids, and some that really do perform double duty. This is one of those toys.

Ordinarily, I would write about this item on my kid gift blog, Find A Tadpole. But this toy has such nostalgic value for a certain parental generation that I felt it would get better readership here. So, look closely: can you tell what this remote control car is? It's the ultimate remote control car, the fancy schmancy cheesemobile from the series Knight Rider. This voice activated car stole the show from star David Hasselhoff (admittedly not difficult, but this is a car we're discussing). The beauty of giving this toy to a child is that, while the kid's just happy to maintain complete control over a rolling object, the adults are having a lovely flashback to the '80s. Just don't get depressed because you're showing your age.

Find this sweet ride at And let the nostalgia trip begin. David Hasselhoff action figure sold separately, probably on ebay.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Public Transit in FantasyLand

Living in Los Angeles, I rarely, if ever, use public transportation. But I find it an absolute wonder in cities like D.C., New York, and Boston, where the subways and buses work efficiently and are actually used by a huge percentage of the population.

Still, those magnificent subway systems can't go everywhere. So here's where these posters of Highly Unlikely Subway Maps come into play. Each of these very realistic and convincing subway maps is a fictional graphic wish, offering routes that are both desirable and impossible. Just take a look at the Martha's Vineyard version, scooting happy Vineyard visitors and residents up one side, down the other... and then seemingly off the island, into the Atlantic, and headed either for the Massachusetts coast or Europe. Ha. Former and present New Yorkers will recognize many subway routes they wish existed, all available for purchase. Any of these twenty dollar posters makes a fabulous gift for an East Coast transplant.

Check out the entire collection at And then revel in the public transit of the imagination.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year's Cleanse

Yes, it's 2010 and time to get cracking on that healthy lifestyle! I'm sure you have friends o'plenty who revel in constant exercise, organic food, and even a cleansing experience to jump start the new year.

In theory, I'm in complete agreement with this philosophy. Everyone could do with a little housecleaning after the holiday snort fest. I've even considered the IZO Cleanse program, which consists of 12 juice drinks a day (delivered to your door in a cooler) for three to five days. People report glowing skin, increased energy, reduced bloat and a new attitude toward food. It all sounds well and good, except in order to do it, I'd have to have $450 bucks to spare and put up with no coffee for three to five days. That's not a cleanse, that's a crushingly foul caffeine withdrawal headache which will sap my will to live. And I assume that you have many friends in the same boat.

So start them off slowly. Instead of fresh, organic juices, order them the best fresh organic coffee available: Lamill. Lamill's coffee is literally the best I've ever tasted; when they say a coffee will have chocolate notes and a smooth finish, they're not blowing smoke. This is not Charbuck's, folks. Plus, they have organic varieties galore, for that healthy caffeine buzz. And what is a cup of coffee anyway, if not a "cleansing" experience? At around $16 a bag, it won't clean out your wallet, either.

Order from a vast store of coffee choices at Then, raise your mug and toast to your friend's newfound health for 2010.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Getting Lit for a Wedding

It might be true that this time of year is not as popular for nuptials as, say, June. But, January has its appeal for many brides and grooms. They might be forced to have an indoor event, but sometimes with constraints comes a certain creativity. Or not.

While you have no control over the choice of wedding date, venue or decor, you do get to decide on a gift. And why shouldn't it be a good one? Many couples these days are opting for less typical registries, some are going without one altogether (blasphemy, and only works if you have very very cool guests with great taste), and some even have you help fund the honeymoon (I always envision the hitched couple canceling the trip and sneaking out of town with a bundle of cash).

So, as I was saying: a cool wedding present. Like this "Leave the Light On" oil lamp. This is not your grandma's smelly old oil lamp sitting on a doily. This elegant, understated object looks like a box with a burnt match on its top; the match holds the hidden wick and looks lit all night long. It's super cool, very chic and very different. I've only seen it at one place: Table Art on Melrose (I've written about them before, and in the spirit of full disclosure, the owners sent me a small holiday gift. But have no fear, I cannot be bought. I'd write about Table Art no matter what).

At just under two hundred dollars, this light is right in line with the wedding gift limit (not to mention The Toad's). Find it at And help the happy couple get lit.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Garden Party

Well, no, not exactly. Yes, the tree has come down, the fake boughs shelved, the wreath unceremoniously discarded, and the house curiously bare. The holidays are over (as are most of the parties), and even if you live in a sunny clime, it's a curiously drab time of year.

The garden party, in other words, is a lifetime away. So, send a friend some green cheer with this small "garden." It comes complete with urns, paths and grass (ok, the grass needs to grow, but that won't take long, little grasshopper). It rests on a coffee or dining room table as a respite from the grim realities of 2010, something to gaze into and dream about whilst sipping hot tea on a cold night. It's NOT holiday cheer, it's springtime cheer, months early. And nothing's wrong with that.

Word of warning: keep rambunctious children and curious kittens away from this charming installation, unless you like vacuuming gravel off the rug. At