Monday, August 30, 2010

Classic Carry All

Last year, my kid ripped through at least two different rolling backpacks. One of which lasted, I believe, a total of two months. What dreck.

That's why good mommies know to go with LL Bean for backpacks. Sometimes tried and true is simply the best, and even if Bean's retro "Rock Candy Mountain" doesn't resonate with you, the overall quality should. LL Bean backpacks are pretty much impervious to kicking, throwing, banging, overstuffing, and any other indignity your child might subject it to. There's a number of styles and colors to choose from (most kids like the rolling type, although I feel that defeats the purpose of a backpack).

Plus, LL Bean's backpacks are now 20% off. Go and browse, go and buy, and then rejoice, since you won't have to buy another for at least a year. Find them (and get the monogrammed too) at LL Bean.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Helping Hand

With school starting up soon, Fall entering the picture, and every major holiday rapidly approaching, who wouldn't want a helping hand? While a personal assistant might be more useful than this item to overextended friends and family, that's not a practical possibility.

But this Hand is doable. Created by Harry Allen (the artist of the famous pig bank and roller skate doorstop), this Hand is molded from his very own extremity. It mounts securely on the wall, and can perform (as good hands should) a trio of tasks: as hook, as bud vase, or as candleholder. Alternatively, it can just stick out of the wall somewhere and look delightfully creepy. If you install it in a doorway, it looks like it's trying to punch people going through it (install it in guest room doorway to send subtle hint to long staying visitors).

It could also be an interesting engagement present, depending upon the couple's taste. Check it out at Shop Horne. Because everyone could use a helping hand.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Reptile Skin Banishment

I'm supposed to be an amphibian, but after a summer in sun, pollution and air conditioning, I feel more like a reptile. You know the feeling: rough, dull, scaly and old.

My first recommendation is a Korean scrub at Olympic Spa to remove all that dead skin that's piled up. But, since it's not possible to get scrubbed within an inch of one's life every week, a little daily love is required. Now, this is not a beauty blog, but I'm a lotion and body cream junkie. One thing I've noticed is that you don't always have to spend a fortune to get good results. Take, for instance, this Bath and Body Works Lay It On Thick cream. It's formulated suspiciously like the Bliss Body Butter, but for about half the money. An added bonus is that it's available unscented, which is good since B&BW's scents are way too overpowering for me (they clash with perfume; you'll end up smelling like old fruit salad). And, although it's not specifically for hands, it works beautifully on my tired old mitts.

Pick up a tube for yourself (or a scaly friend) at Bath and Body Works for $15 a tube. I'm sure it'll work its magic all winter long, too.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Daily Tea for School Days

Not to blather on with platitudes, but can you believe summer's almost over? School, for some, has either already begun or is rapidly approaching. And as kids grumpily ready themselves for another academic year, parents brace themselves for the dressing wars that come with it.

You know, the "what am I going to wear today" dilemma. It's more common in girls than boys, but it does cross gender lines. And it's a grand pain in the neck at 7am. Short of a uniform (lucky, lucky, lucky), there's not much you can do, but these Daily Tea Sets might help you out. Each set through kid's clothing line Tea Collection contains a number of interchangeable pieces, all of which are age appropriate, arty, stylish, and durable. Take the Zora 5-piece set pictured at right: three tops, two bottoms, all coordinated, and no way to mess up and look like a clown. The sets range from between five and seven pieces, and between about $95-$145. Sound like a lot? It's not really. The Gap costs about as much, for poor quality stuff that's not nearly as cute. Plus, Tea takes all the guesswork out of dressing for school. I'd pay just about any price for that.

Check out all the Daily Tea Sets at Tea Collection. You'll be so at ease in the morning, and your kids will look so great, you'll want a congratulatory cup of tea for yourself.

Recycling for Trash Talkers

I just read that, in Cleveland, people are going to be fined for not recycling enough (this involves some Big Brotheresque device installed on the curbside recycling bin). While the Toad cries foul over this type of environmental bossiness, she acknowledges the value of recycling.

One way to make recycling easier, especially for those new homeowners on your gift list, is a decent recycling bin. Yes, it's true, you can use anything as a receptacle for cans and bottles, but this thing has to exist inside the home. It has to be compact, yet assertive enough to remind all the residents of its existence. And it has to last, so that it won't break (like so many flimsy plastic bins) and get recycled itself (or, gasp, unceremoniously tossed). These bins fit all the bills. Minimalist yet authoritative, they go with virtually any decor (except maybe country, but the site which has these bins has some countryesque ones too). They aren't cheap, totaling to over $150 each, but you really only need one (most recycling goes in the same bin, anyway).

As I said, these make a fabulous and practical housewarming gift. And they're perfect for the trash talker in your life who's about to get shamed for terrible recycling habits. Find them at Trashcans Unlimited.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Summer Groove on the Table

As usual, summer has decided to hit Los Angeles late, and with a vengeance. We'll be seeing temperatures into the 90s well into October, until we long for a little fog and a nip in the air.

But rest assured, there will reach a point when we won't even remember the heat, and we'll long for summer. We may not have control of the seasons, but we can provide little reminders of summer. Take, for instance, this lovely Heath Ceramics Summer bud vase. Not only is it by the venerable Heath, a classic studio whose wares look equally good in homes ranging from Spanish to Modernist, but it's such a delightful color way. It just seems to epitomize summer, even without a bud of your choice sticking out of it. It's classic yet fanciful, and it makes a perfect gift now for winter days later.

Heath isn't a bargain; this vase is $75. But it's such a keeper. And when you're bundled in boots and scarves and sweaters, it'll remind you that the summer season is just around the bend. Check out the entire line at Heath Ceramics.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Rocking That Restaurant Meal

I realized recently that I write a great deal about how to distract children so that parents can engage in adult activities (and no, I don't mean naughty adult activities). I think this is a fine practice, since children get far too much attention these days, while the adults sit, shriven and deprived, trying to recollect the last time they had an uninterrupted meal with a glass of their alcohol of choice.

In this spirit, I offer yet another restaurant meal distraction: Crayon Rocks. I dig on these crayons for a number of key reasons. First off, they fit in a cute velvet pouch, easily stashed in a purse or diaper bag. Second, these are shaped, well, like rocks, which sounds silly but actually helps little kids color (in or outside the lines) while strengthening important "tripod grip" skills (and, let me tell you, that tripod grip is better practiced with a funky crayon than gripping your hair while you're eating). Finally, they're totally non-toxic, harmless, and can't break in half the way normal crayons do (thus avoiding piercing screams of frustration at table).

Did I mention the price? 16 of these pretty things, plus bag, for just $8.98! What a great and pricey looking gift for a toddler. Check them out at Magic Cabin and let the scribbling begin.

No Litter Lunch

It's back to school time yet again! I don't know about you, but my girl's new school has the curious policy of no litter lunches. Anything that's carried in must be carried out, so the time honored brown bagging it is completely out of the question.

Thus, this Box Appetit lunch container caught my eye. It fits a small, reasonable lunch in one small footprint, so the kid can have two courses, a sauce pot containing dip (hummus, anyone) or salad dressing, and a reusable fork. Since my child is not a sandwich fan, those compartments are going to rapidly fill up with soba noodle salads and pieces of quiche (yes, she's a weird one). But for those pb & j sammie fans, the food compartment is removable for extra room. Plus, it looks all fresh and current in clean white and bright green (a reminder that you are, indeed, green yourself by using it. Now's the time to get carried away by your environmental virtue).

This set is dishwasher and microwave safe, plus contains none of the BPA beasties parents are so up in arms about these days. So rest easy and give the litter a break. Go to Momastore to find out more.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Enough Sugar to Fuel a Small Town

Or, enough sugar to fuel Savannah, Georgia. Yes sir, we're all about the pralines today, particularly the real pralines produced in the South.

Why pralines? Well, because there's candy and then there's candy, and these pralines, made by hand in Savannah, are unparalleled. Obviously, there's nothing like entering the River St. Sweets store on the town's seemingly ancient riverfront. The smell of sugar and caramelization is overwhelming, not to mention the fact that the store's Southern hospitality includes passing out pieces of warm praline to everyone walking through the door. After just one taste, everybody buys some. The outrageous disks of sugar, cream, butter, and enormous pecans simply melt in the mouth, delivering an initial hit of almost overwhelming sweetness, followed by the earthy soft give of the pecans, and ending with a whisper of richness down the throat. Dare you to take just one bite (or indeed just one praline, although these suckers are really big; more than two could induce a diabetic coma).

So, the Toad understands: after reading this shameless food porn, you're bemoaning the fact that you're not going to Savannah anytime soon. Don't despair, just order through River St. Sweets. And feel free to try some of their other confections (although to be honest, the pralines really are the ultimate sugar bomb).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Triple Axel Baby

There's a whole world of baby gifts out there, and the Toad's sure that your soon-to-burst friends have already registered for most of them. But I seriously doubt that she's registered for these.

I mean, are these cute, or what? Handcrafted, hand knit, perfect little baby booties in the shape of ice skates. They're so twee and adorable, they even make a cold amphibious heart like mine melt into a puddle of sentimental baby goo. I mean, just think how endearing a baby would be, all bundled up in some down onesie on a frigid midwestern winter morning, sporting these teeny toastie booties. Shown in the girl's model, they come in a very very macho blue color scheme for boys. And they're made to order, so be sure to put in your gift request about 3-4 weeks before the shower date or due date.

As far as price goes, these aren't socks. They're $40 a pair. But they'll definitely rate as one of the best and cutest gifts baby will receive. Check them out at Mahar Drygoods. And give all those shower registry items the boot.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Arachnophobia Cure

I may be a Toad, but I hate spiders. Really, I'd prefer to find snakes, rats, roaches, just about anything else wandering freely through my home. Spiders terrify me, and I want them as far away from me as possible. I think this is a fairly common phobia, so this gift item should have wide appeal.

This Spider Catcher is an ingenious bit of design. It's all extremely low tech: no batteries required, it telescopes out for reaching the wily arachnid, and it uses a unique brush design to actually trap the beast for quick removal. This seems far more efficient than balancing on a bed, holding a wad of toilet paper in one hand, and hoping to god the thing doesn't fall on you. How do I know it works? Well, it seems much beloved by Australians. Australians, you see, know their spiders. Australia has more poisonous spiders, on a larger scale, than anywhere else on earth. If one of Australia's Huntsman spiders entered your home, you'd have to just charge it rent and leave it be. So if these brave people say this Spider Catcher works, I believe them.

All this means that this Catcher should do an excellent job on the wimpy Los Angeles spiders. Buy it at Remo for about $25 and cure that arachnophobia for good.