Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Adult Toys

Now, don't get the wrong idea; the Toad hasn't veered into the adult toy category you might find inside a brown paper wrapped catalog. No, I'm talking about real toys to play with, preferably displayed within easy reach (think coffee table).

Adult toys offer both a distraction and a focus for guests. Take these Zen blocks, for instance. At first, they look very arty, almost like sculpture. But they're just blocks for big people to play with, especially during family living room gatherings or before dinner cocktail hours. And if the guests bring kids, well, these toys work just fine for them, too, but without the garishly bright plastic garbage. These Zen blocks would make a great hostess gift. They'd even be appropriate for a friend stuck in a corporate cubicle. Plus, the $28 price tag is pretty impressive for a display worthy toy.

Check out these elements of adult construction at They might not be the MOST adult fun you can have, but at least you can play in public.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Guitar for the Softest Rock Ever!

Kids playing music is fine, in theory. The latest offering at Find a Tadpole helps kids practice music in the "land of make believe," aka the music playing in their little heads. Check it out here.

Vanquish Smelly Business

Americans are, admittedly, obsessed with smells. Television advertising is rife with ads for "intelligent" gadgets that periodically poop out wisps of air freshener; our detergent aisles are stuffed with scents that don't exist in nature. And while it's silly and neurotic to have this cacophony of scents in our homes, sometimes it's necessary to chase a bad odor away.

This Chikuno Cubes seem to do the chasing in a more "natural" fashion. This darkly mysterious object freshens the environment using bamboo as a filter, rather than masking the stinkies with other scents dreamed up in a lab somewhere. Its small profile means you can tuck one anywhere, from the bathroom to the fridge (that means you can dump the fourteen opened baking soda boxes lining the back row of your refrigerator). They seem like an ideal alternative to the other popular "air freshener," the scented candle, which ironically pollutes your air as it scents it.

Now, for the price. This ain't Glade. Each cube sets you back around 28 bucks. But they do last a good long time, and for the "greenie" on your gift list, it's a thoughtful gesture that just might wipe out their home's perennial patchouli stench. Check it out at

Monday, April 26, 2010

Avoid That "Not So Fresh" Feeling

Not so fresh is pretty much a negative for just about anything (ladies, any arguments here?). But for the venerable coffee bean, it's the kiss of death. And that, first thing on a foggy morning, is a tragedy of mammoth proportions.

Now you can avoid that "not so fresh feeling," at least when it comes to your coffee quality. Oxygen, you see, is very bad for coffee beans. It turns them nasty, leading to that cigarette butt coffee I've had to quaff at many an established coffee house. Since the air is, indeed, everywhere, what's the grand solution? This vacuum pack canister can save your beans! It keeps oxygen out and freshness in, so your little beans of caffeinated goodness are at their peak, every damn morning. Yay. And what a great gift for your favorite coffee junkie.

This gadget has been dutifully tested and approved by those dorks at Think Geek, so you know it works. And it's only forty bucks, leaving some moola left over for that extra bonus of a great bag of beans. Check it out at Summer's Eve, oops, I mean

Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Element Added to Toad! Annoying Poll!

Keeping up this country's obsession with all things poll-like, The Toad has designed one for this blog. Lucky for you, this particular poll doesn't ask you for overly simplistic answers regarding overly complex issues like health care, financial reform, immigration or your hair washing habits. No, this poll simply wants to know: who receives your gifts most often?

You'll find this tiny poll in the upper right. It will take you, oh, about two seconds to answer. And your precious time translates into a bounty of information for the Toad, helping her determine just which gift categories fans find useful. Imagine: a poll that will make things MORE efficient. Will miracles ever cease?

Thank you for participating.

The Toad

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Break Apart Palace

As weather warms (not that you'd know that in Los Angeles today), entertaining comes to the forefront. Serving pieces, bowls and other food presentation pieces take on new appeal. But, storing this new gear isn't so appealing.

These porcelain pieces solve part of that problem. Each of these elegant black and white "palaces" contains serving pieces, plates, bowls and other crockery in a stackable form. And it's such an original form, too, both modern and retro, like actually useful dollhouse miniatures. Such breakable architecture looks like sculpture set up on the table or counter, but breaks down into actual service. From building to buffet in mere seconds! The one risk: someone's kid thinking these things would make great toys or props for a train set.

Running around eighty bucks per set, these, again, aren't super cheap. They would, however, make a rather nifty and reasonable wedding gift. These are brand spanking new. To pre-order, check out

Monday, April 19, 2010

Plates for the Pig-Out Prone

Word of warning: this is a gift for someone you either love a lot, or can't stand. There's absolutely no in between, no wiggle room here. So choose your giftee with care.

These are the Intervention-ware plates, designed for those with less, well, appetite control. Yes, these are plates for pigs. The platter simply says: "Big Mistake." But the plate, well, the plate is just loaded with commentary, ranging from the relatively innocuous "Do you really need that second helping?" to the out and out insulting "For the love of god stop eating." Obviously, if your best friend's a member of OA, this might not be the most tactful gift. But for a best friend suffering from a dessert crisis or a work enemy with a multiple Hot Pocket addiction, this quality dinnerware might fit the bill.

A particularly evil way to present this present to someone is to pair it with a Mo's Bacon Bar. Just a thought. Find Intervention-ware at And remember: you might want to duck after they open it.

NEW item on Find A Tadpole!

Even little girls have stuff to haul around. Sometimes they need bags. And some bags are better (and cooler than others). Check out inexpensive metallic bags at Find A Tadpole!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Playing with Fire

As warmer days become the status quo, our natural predilection is to hang outside at night, too. Night time, however, at least in L.A., is never as warm as you think it should be. But there's a bright side to this: presenting manageable fire.

This tiny (7" diameter) firepit delivers campsite ambiance without undue pollution and brush fire risk (nothing spoils your outdoor dinner party more than a wildfire wiping out your hillside; nothing will earn you your neighbor's ire faster). Just plop it in the center of your table (um, if your table's wood, you might want to rethink that plan), light it up and enjoy the intimate warmth. It's even great for the kids, since it's ideal for marshmallow roasting.

It runs on flammable gel, so there's no fumes or mess to worry about. And it includes a snuffer just to keep the flames in line. At around $93, it's not very cheap, but still considerably less than wood firepits or super expensive propane heaters. This would be an excellent hostess gift if you've been invited somewhere for a rustic weekend, and well worth the expense. Check it out at

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Lemons Preserve Us

If you've been paying attention, you'd know that the blog entry before this one involved Moroccan tagine, and requires preserved lemons. But what are preserved lemons, and where can one find such an ingredient?

Preserved lemons are simply the citrus fruit preserved in salt. They break down, and the peel in particular acquires a salty, tangy taste that's VERY distinctive, and VERY necessary for a proper tagine (they're also excellent in a score of other recipes, but I'm getting ahead of myself). If you happen to have a lemon tree or a source for excellent organic Meyer lemons, you could preserve them yourself. Or not (I say not). Enter Saveurs, a company devoted to excellent ready to heat and serve French cuisine. Saveurs does the citrus hunting, gathering, packing and preserving for you, so all you have to do is eat them.

An added bonus for L.A. dwellers: Saveurs comes to a farmer's market near you every week (Brentwood, Larchmont Village, Glendale), so you can pick up a whopping quart of these golden globes of preserved glory for just $14. Just one jar will see you through many a tagine adventure. Alternatively, you can visit and order some. They make a sunny gift along with the previously mentioned traditional tagine.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Not Your Mother's Tagine

Oops. I meant not your mother's cuisine (unless she happens to be Moroccan, that is). For many, the term tagine musters up mystery, desert dunes, endless blue skies, and exotic spices in some souk. And yes, it's exotic to most American palates, but it's also about the easiest dinner party dish ever.

Now, while you can use any heavy deep skillet with a lid to made a simply fabulous tagine, there's something pretty magical about using the actual instrument of stewing perfection. This tagine, for instance, is made by the venerable Emile Henry. It's a super heavy earthen ware cooking vessel that can handle stovetop or oven with equal aplomb (and the wonderful conical shape allows for ideal moisture circulation, because a dry tagine is a crime). Plus, it's such a fashionable saffron yellow hue. Make a little pilaf or couscous, and you're ready to serve. Easy!

This would make a great wedding gift. Find it at They'll all scream for tagine.

For sure fire tagineing, try my non-controversial recipe below.

Toad Tagine

Feeds four

3 large boneless skinless chicken breast halves, each cut in half
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
5 teaspoons olive oil
2 chopped garlic cloves
Juice of two lemons
plenty of salt

Combine all of these things in a large zip lock bag to marinate overnight, or for at least 8 hours.

The next day...
3 medium onions, sliced
1/2 cup pitted green olives
1 preserved lemon, skin only, rinsed and chopped finely
1/2 cup chicken broth
Chicken in the bag
reserved marinade from chicken in the bag
Olive oil

Over high heat, brown the chicken in the tagine. Set aside. Heat olive oil and add onions, cook until translucent. Add marinade, olives, broth and chicken to tagine. Cover, turn to heat to low, and cook for one hour. After the hour has passed, add chopped preserved lemon. Cook another 20 minutes or so (enough to prepare your pilaf or couscous), and serve.

You probably won't need salt, since the olives and preserved lemon are both salty.

How Now, Kitchen Cow

As weather warms and larger gatherings begin, the need to create a stash of suitable "hostess" gifts increases. Hostess gifts are good practice, and far better than showing up at a party with a bunch of flowers (the cutting, vase-procuring, and arranging of which inspires the "hostess curse" heard round the kitchen).

The key to this gift category is simplicity; there's no reason to go bonkers and show up with an espresso machine. Something smaller will always suffice, particularly if it displays usefulness and wit. Enter these cow tea towels, made by the venerable classic company Marimekko. First off, who doesn't need another tea towel, particularly in this age of the "don't buy paper towels, they destroy the world" mentality. Second, these cows look, well, concerned, as they should unless they dwell in a vegetarian's kitchen. Perhaps they're skeptical about their future, perhaps it's the quality of the cook's cuisine.

At $19 each, these towels aren't inexpensive, but they boast high quality. High enough, in fact, that you might want to snag one of these bovine beauties for yourself. Order at And give it a moo.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Puzzling Lunch

It's reaching the time of year when parents everywhere wonder: why do I have to make lunch again? I just did this yesterday. Add in the ungrateful childish complaints from the peanut gallery and you have an unhappy culinary situation indeed.

These gadgets might bring a temporary stay to the whining. Each of these extra wide sandwich cutters divides the ordinary lunch into extraordinary shapes. Lunch becomes a puzzle, thus rendering it more palatable for picky eaters. It creatively partitions everything from pb&j to grilled cheese, although I wouldn't recommend attempting it on a ciabatta. Then again, if your child is interested in ciabatta themed sandwiches, you probably don't need to transform the brown bag into a game, anyway.

And don't limit it to lunch! I foresee fascinating french toast in your future. Find these cutters at It's the reinvention of the sandwich, if the Earl of Sandwich had been a Mensa member.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Don't Fear the Romper! Explore it at Find A Tadpole!

Introducing the romper, a clothing item that would make you look like an ass, but might turn out to be your daughter's summer staple. Check it out at Find A Tadpole.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Find A Tadpole Features Hard to Get Tegu Blocks!

Building blocks for success? The Toad's not sure. But, Tegu blocks are definitely a great toy. See them at Find A Tadpole.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Flashlight Installation

Recent earthquakes give me pause, at least in terms of household preparedness. After all, how does one turn off the gas to avoid blowing up? Should I always keep a pair of shoes close to the bed for glass shard avoidance? And, if the catastrophe occurs at night, where is the goddamn flashlight?

This latest item actually won't help you at all if the power goes out during a natural disaster, but its very presence in one's home might be a handy reminder to prepare, prepare, prepare. These are pure white porcelain facsimiles of flashlights, wired just like hanging lamps. They dangle handily from your ceiling (really, they'd be very witty inside a closet), shining non-emergency light whenever the switch is flipped. I like them hanging in a group, perhaps in a boy's room or a crafting area. So pretty, so elegant, so streamlined, and so beside the point of a flashlight, since you can't carry the thing anyway and it's wired up to the grid. Makes me giggle.

Each of these suckers is reasonably priced at around $45, which is quite a bargain for original lighting. Order them from And maybe, in the next entry, I'll offer you a real flashlight instead of the performance art variety.

Bigger is Better

Sometimes, bigger really is better. For example, when you're squinting over some ancient proof sheet of your past, going blind staring at miniscule images. Wow, I thought, a magnifying glass would sure come in handy.

Of course, the only magnifying glass I might have had on hand would've been some flimsy plastic thing from my daughter's bug catching kit. Hardly suitable. So the Toad went on a magnification search. Check these babies out: two magnifiers that mimic placid water droplets. They'd look elegant lying around a coffee table atop an important coffee table book. One could imagine them filling out a spring themed table setting in some creative capacity. They would make a lovely gift for some giftee with a penchant for decorative, yet useful objects. Just don't hand these over as a birthday gift; the implication of failing eyesight with age will not delight.

These magnificent magnifiers are $42 for a set of two. Available at Warning: don't let your kids get a hold on these, or there will be singed bug life all over your driveway (in that case, bigger is deader).