Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Call It Macaroni!

There always reaches a point during the weekend when the kids start whining. You think, "What can I do with them?" And then you curse your sheer laziness of not looking through the paper, or searching online, for stuff to do with kids in Los Angeles.

Well, it's not your fault. You're busy. So you know what you do next time you're stuck with screaming, dissatisfied progeny (besides screaming back)? Look up Macaroni Kids Pasadena. This brilliant site has done the legwork for you. Publisher Lauren Albrecht finds the best events and activities in the east L.A. area (an area which, by the way, has the richest cultural events in the Basin, at least in this humble Toad's opinion), writes them up, and sends them out for you to peruse. You can set up your own list of events on the site, read through the well-written, well-researched write ups, or just click on the calendar (or This Week's Picks) for immediate info, fast. And holidays are given special attention: you'll find a guide to Halloween pumpkin patches and festivals, just an easy click away. Lauren even writes about projects you can do with your kids at home. Plus, the site delivers the latest museum free events. It's such an excellent resource.

So, there's a lot to love about Macaroni Kids Pasadena. Check it out here. And then plan a whine-free weekend (or vacation for visiting little people), absolutely effortlessly.

Monday, October 25, 2010

A Brush With Success

As I have repeatedly stated, this is not a beauty blog. But, if I run across a beauty product that's superior and is therefore gift-worthy, I write about it.

So, take a gander at this Denman brush. My kid has the thickest head of hair ever; when properly brushed she looks like a Breck girl, when tangled saying it's a rat's nest would be kind. We've tried all kinds of brushes. Many, including those super expensive Mason Pearson models with the boar bristles, get an epic fail. These brushes only reach the top layers of hair, smoothing them and disguising the nightmare underneath. By the time the tangles are discovered, the hair's been washed and the tangles are wet, creating a kicking and screaming situation (if you've ever tried to detangle your own hair, you're familiar with the pain). But this Denman brush with plastic bristles, a sturdy handle and a red rubber base, cuts through the static (literally, it's static fighting) and renders even the thickest hair gleaming and smooth, all the way through. No small feat. Another bonus: the base slides off for easy cleaning, because nothing's worse than finding a Sasquatch living in your fancy brush, with no easy way to evict it.

These brushes are under $20, making them an excellent stocking stuffer or part of a beauty basket gift. Find a wide assortment at Ball Beauty. And may you and yours be blessed with successful brushing.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pantone, The Toad Loves You

Around when I started this blog, I posted about the Pantone mugs (I believe I was one of the first to do so, although of course I cannot prove this, so you'll have to take my amphibious word of honor on it). Next thing I knew, the mugs were everywhere, the darlings of product media (and no wonder, since the media is surrounded by graphic design and anything Pantone makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside).

Pantone has, of course, extended its product line since, to include things like wallets, but they never really took off. These fabulously Pantone hued tin boxes, however, are a real winner. Can't you just see a stack of these on a desk, holding various supplies? How about using them as fabulous gift boxes for homemade cookies or candy (hell, just buy the candy and stuff it in the box, who cares?). They're soooo pretty. And if you know anyone with a graphics or publishing background, they're a surefire hit.

At $28 a pop, they're not super cheap, but as I said above you can put just about anything in one and it makes a jiffy quick gift. It took me forever to get gifted my own set of Pantone mugs (thanks, Jane), but I think this time I'm gonna gift myself a stack of nifty boxes. So there. At A+R.

Easy Herb

No, not Herb as in Uncle, but herb as in sage, parsley and mint. Herbs are always a perfect way to add kick to bland cooking, and the Toad is always looking for easy ways to prep them.

Sound lazy? Yeah, well, maybe. Toad has knife skills, but herb chopping is, frankly, a drag. Half the stuff sticks to the cutting board or ends up destroyed by my madly hacking blade. I'm always forgetting to chop them until the last minute, so I do a half-assed job, anyway. Although many would view this Microplane Herb Mill as a silly kitchen unitasker, I beg to differ. Just shove herbs of your choice into the mill, close and twist the top like a pepper mill, and out comes perfectly chopped, not bruised and wounded, herby goodness. Plus, it's made by Microplane, a brand that understands choppage and grateage for sure.

This would make an ideal housewarming or hostess gift. It's just $25 for an item friends and family might actually use and appreciate. Find it at Sur La Table.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Before I get started on this rant, let me just say that I fully understand the importance for children to emulate adults. But this has gone too far.

Lately, I've noticed some newer miniaturized toys (all of which are, of course, marketed to little girls), which seem to stress the housewifely arts. Just look at the pictures here! One is a tiny Dyson vacuum cleaner, which apparently works and picks up teeny tiny specks of carpet gunk. The other item is a "mini" donut maker (there's also a cupcake version). This kitchen uni-tasker creates lilliputian baked goods, which presumably little girls adore. Now, far be it from me to discourage neatness or cooking aptitude in children; as I stated above, I'm all for it. But, instead of spending bucks on these inferior child models, why not just teach your kid (notice I didn't just say "daughter") to vacuum using the real vacuum (easily done if you have a canister model), or make baked goods in the real oven. And don't give me the "safety" argument, either. I, a former sucker, bought my kid an Easy Bake oven. That thing got hotter than Hades. Burnt her arm. Made crappy cakes. Was one of the unsafest items in the house.

So, teach your kids to really bake. Or, teach them to really clean. It could be fun. It's free labor. And free is always better than spending $34.95 on a tower of ineffective plastic.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Hot Pocket

Yes, it's still toasty in some parts of the world, but the weather is turning more unpredictable. And, for cold-prone people you know, nothing's worse than getting caught in chilly weather without a heat source.

So, check out this totally ingenious down shawl. Sure, it's basic black (goes with everything, don't you know) and slightly more stylish than that Land's End down vest stuffed in my car trunk, but that's not what makes this accessory a standout. The brilliance is in the fact that it stuffs down into its own pocket, forming a tidy heart shaped package that easily fits in a glove compartment, purse, or carry all for instant use. You have to love the practicality.

For $98, this "shawl" isn't super cheap. But it is, literally and figuratively, HOT. Find it at Athleta.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Toad Gets Press!

Last week, the Larchmont Chronicle wrote a piece about Find A Toad. And, here it is!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

For Good Luck, Give Them the Bird!

In these times of uncertainty and hubris, who wouldn't want a little more good luck? Sure, you could give your giftee those chocolate covered fortune cookies, but they're mostly air and empty calories. You need another good luck option.

Take this Fortune Chicken, for instance. He's winsome and fanciful in a modernist, all white sort of way. He isn't edible. And he's meant to hang around for a while. In fact, this Fortune Chicken's directions read: "Smash this chicken in times of confusion or great despair," giving the giftee the latitude to choose the moment for good luck to emerge. The beauty of this is that that moment will be different for everyone. For one person, it might be if Republicans take over Congress, for another it could be a botched botox job. You just never know when confusion and great despair might strike, and you can count on this chicken before it's smashed.

Find this Netherlands born bird (just $16) at Gretel Home. Hammer sold separately.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Nature Can Be Scary Too

So you knew I'd have to get around to Halloween. Every parent I know is fairly resistant to Halloween decor, yet they all give in because the kids just love it. And no kid wants some anemic white ghosty flitting about in the front yard; they want out and out disgusting decorations.

Many of the terrifying props incorporate elements of violence: chainsaws, hacked limbs, death and dismemberment. I'm not a fan. To my mind, nature offers up some pretty elemental scares all on its own. A good example? Look at this truly revolting spider larvae ball. It hangs from your tree or front porch, festooned with spiders and presumably bursting with more. Yuck. Gross. There's no violence here, but it will cause the coveted aversion reaction kids crave.

Did I mention it's on sale? Down from $39.99 to $29.99, for guaranteed grossness year after Halloween year. Find these bundles of horror at Grandin Road.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Evel Knievel: Precursor to Jackass

Back in prehistoric times when the Toad was a child, you couldn't record kiddie shows and then fast forward through the commercials. Thus, the TV commercials became part of the Saturday morning entertainment! And no ad was more entertaining than the one for this toy.

I'm talking about the Evel Knievel Super Stunt Set. For those too tragically young to remember, Evel Knievel was the original Jackass, a guy with a penchant for jumping his motorcycle over buses and through rings of fire, while wearing a silly 70's bellbottomed suit. I believe he broke every bone in his body. This toy consisted of a wind-up crank to get Evel and his cycle all wound up, before sending it shooting up the ramp and through the rings, or into the walls, or whatever. The ad always had the little plastic guy doing wheelies and performing awesome feats, but since I didn't know anyone whose parents actually purchased the thing, I had no idea if it worked. Well, now's your chance. Buy this original Stunt Set for your child, take it away from him or her, and see if you can get the rockin' stunt action going. And don't worry about emergencies: this set comes complete with both a little gas can and a fire extinguisher.

Each of these classic toys is individually numbered. Hospital stays for Mr. Knievel are not included in the purchase price. Find the Stunt Set, for $49.99, at Back to Basics Toys.