Monday, January 31, 2011

A Little Prickly V-Day Present

When you're in a relationship on Valentine's Day, you know that if you buy either flowers or candy, you're pretty much off the hook. But what about single dwellers? How about giving a single friend a V-Day nod?

Take this prickly little cactus, for instance. It looks real, but it's actually knit from woolly yarn. The benefit to this is that you can give it to any black thumb and it will most likely survive. It also won't wilt and croak in a week like flowers do, or just add to the fat like candy might. Plus, this gift is funny. Especially for a single woman. Do I need to spell it out for you?

Each one of these pseudo desert dwellers is handmade and pretty inexpensive (the one pictured is just ten bucks). Find an assortment of crocheted cacti at Etsy.

Gourmet Sweets for Your Sweetie

Interestingly enough, everyone I know (including me) pretty much thinks Valentine's Day is a big joke, but everyone still participates in it at some level. It's a herd mentality, my friends, the idea that you might lose your love if you don't at least make a half-assed effort.

And how hard is it, really, to scribble a card and buy some chocolate? With this new fangled Internet thing, not hard at all! You can go crazy with the chocolate, especially if your love truly appreciates the good stuff. Take, for instance, this Cuaco dark chocolate bar with panko breadcrumbs and sea salt. Sounds weird? It's fantastic! Dark, almost savory rich chocolate with a gritty crunch and yummy salty aftertaste, almost like a reverse chocolate tempura. It's totally addictive. This brand has a ton of wonderful flavors; my other favorite is the Firecracker, stuffed with pop rocks sizzling candy. It literally explodes in your mouth, which could make for some fun adventures on V-Day.

Invest in a three pack of candy bars for your special person. It's a sensual chocolate adventure, and you can find it at Cuaco.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Getting All Squirrelly For Spring

You know spring is on its way in Los Angeles when the squirrels start raiding your citrus supply. I currently have a critter roughly the size of tractor trailer who steals whole Cara Cara pink oranges off my tree and eats them with gusto, while mocking the cat. He is bad news.

But hey, in the product world, squirrels are the new owls. Sparkly, energetic, and possessed of much fluff, squirrels are like uppity rabbits: cute, but with an edge. And this squirrel is definitely the best kind. It's inanimate, for one, so it's not going to destroy your winter fruit crop. Plus, it's cast iron and thus useful as a door stop, or as a garden mascot of sorts. Perhaps it would even scare the real squirrels away, although I highly doubt it. Buy it for a person longing for spring, and it gives them hope that the season will actually arrive.

This bushy tailed creature is just $15 at At West End. It's the first sign of going nuts for spring.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Bad Hat

No, this isn't about the badly behaved boy on the playground. It's about bad French fashion.

Just look at this hat. Look at it. Have you ever seen such an amazing example of an attractive person looking like a total twit? This, my friends, is what's being sold as some cutting edge French headwear statement. You're looking at the yellow model here, but they're available in a veritable rainbow of awfulness. Pick your favorite shade, and then get out there and do your best conehead imitation. I can't think of any weather condition to justify this sort of headgear, unless it's a total whiteout so no one has to see it.

But hey, it's French. Someone, somewhere, will think it's fabulous. You, on the other hand, will eye it and sigh with the satisfaction that you didn't pay over two hundred bucks to look like a tool. At

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Out, Damn Stink

It's mid January in Los Angeles, and it's a stinky time of year. I swear, the dog is itchy and stinking it up, my kid seems smelly and unwashed, and don't even get me started on the kitchen. And I clean up all the time, I swear it.

One thing I really can't tolerate are stinky hands. I cook a lot, and as all cooks know, scents like garlic and onion are lovely in food but foul on fingertips at 3 am. It occurred to me that if I have this problem, many others are suffering as well. This newish soap from Method really does the trick. I don't know what they put in there (although knowing the brand I'm sure it's at least somewhat non-toxic), but this liquid soap zaps the stink. It also leaves the kitchen smelling great, although still smelling like food. There's a lemongrass version, but I prefer the basil. It reminds me of summer, which is comforting in this pallid time of year.

The great thing about this soap is that it's only five bucks and lasts awhile, so you can stock up and even present it (along with other strategically chosen items) as a gift for the cook in your life. Then, say goodbye to disgusting digits. At Method, or a supermarket near you.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Helpful or Hostile Gift: Your Choice

Gentlemen, there is no need to read further, as this "gift" idea does not concern you. This is a lady problem. A problem involving a most delicate area. We're talking camel toe here, wenches.

Don't act like you don't know what the dreaded camel toe is. You do. You see it on your friends, and you'd like to mention it, but somehow it seems beyond the pale. Humiliating, exposing, and somehow just plain filthier than being all out naked, camel toe is one of the more horrible things to accompany going commando. Apparently, some marketing genius thought the same, and invented Cuchini, the stick on disposable smoother that is strategically placed and stuck over the lady parts in question. Problem solved!

The beauty of this gift, of course, is that you can send a packet to a friend as a big favor, or send one anonymously (through the site) to an enemy for the ultimate in paranoia inducing gifting. Plus, you get to go to the Cuchini site and see the celebrity pics of camel toe sufferers, which will give you roughly thirty seconds of hilarity. Enjoy, ladies! See Cuchini here.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Lure of Forbidden Food

Yes, I know the holidays are over and you might not want to think about food right now. But there's food you have to eat (like holiday food), and food you want to eat (like scrumptious stuff). Read on, because this food offering to the indefatigable foodie would make one hell of a Valentine's Day present.

It's no secret that I love Zingerman's. I just think they offer some of the best, more interesting food around. And its new Forbidden Foods Club is just another fabulous addition. Basically thumbing its nose at every food allergy and fussy preference, this monthly food delivery club sends the lucky recipient up to six months worth of truly sinful foods. Check it out:

Month One: Kosher Kastastrof, featuring bacon, sausage, and scones
Month Two: Anaphylactic Armageddon, with three different peanut offerings
Month Three: High Fat Holiday, featuring brownies, chocolate, and cream cheese.

You get the picture. It's $99 for three months of deliciousness. Send it to someone you really love, and are planning to visit soon (you know they'll need help efficiently devouring all this stuff). At Zingerman's. It may not be in good taste, but it'll definitely taste good.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dress Up

It's true that it's not even close to spring yet, but I can dream. And when I think spring, I think of little girls (I have one) in pretty dresses (even though my little girl refuses such things and only wears leggings, hoodies and Ugg boots).

The trick to finding pretty dresses for girls is locating some which are girly but not frilly and ridiculous. Some dresses are way too grown up (what little girl needs a DVF style wrap dress at age six). Some dresses make them look like brides (gross). And some dresses simply make them look like twits (deep psychic scarring and years of therapy await). Luckily, the site Chasing Fireflies has an array of lovely frocks. Sure, there's some ruffled twit uniforms in there, but many of these dresses are flowery without looking like an FTD bouquet. Plus, I've purchased dresses from Fireflies in the past, and they wear well.

Order a pretty dress for some favorite girl in your life and make her day. They are not cheap, but I think they're worth it. An assortment can be found at Chasing Fireflies.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Give Her New Lips

No, I'm not suddenly shilling for some plastic surgeon. One of the advantages of living near Beverly Hills is actually seeing those Goldfish Women in person. New lips gained through injectables is not desirable. You'll just have to trust me on this.

But what woman wouldn't want softer, smoother, slightly pinker lips? As I've repeatedly stated, this is not a beauty blog. However, if I test drive something for my own personal use and it's truly excellent, I'll post it. This Fresh Sugar Rose lip treatment is one of those special somethings. I am a lip gloss, not a lip stick, kind of person. I also like the idea of SPF in my lip treatments, but usually hate the reality: bad smells, worse tastes. This little wonder vial, though, defies it all. The light rose like smell isn't annoying at all, and quickly fades. It doesn't taste like much. It goes on smoothly with no glopage, more like a Chapstick gone premium than any gloss I've tried. Plus, there's just such a bare amount of color, which is perfect for simply enhancing what you already have going on.

This is a lovely thing to give a girlfriend, mostly because she might not think to buy it for herself. It's around $22 at Sephora. It's not totally new lips, but it's close.

A Seasonal Statement

It's really winter, finally, the Toad's least favorite time of year. It's colder and darker (even in LA), and there appears to be very little to look forward to except more of the same for a couple of months. Bleh.

That's why this Domo character appeals to me. He's so grouchy and growly and fed up. He looks like someone woke him up from an excellent nap to the sound of an off key accordion band. Yet, he's soft and squishy (not unlike how some of us feel following the holiday gluttony), so he's easy to cuddle. And he's pink! I'm assuming he's pink because of the upcoming Valentine's Day, but I just love the juxtaposition between the dainty and the irate. You could purchase him and hold onto him until February 14, but why not just give him to someone you love now, when they really need him?

Domo goes for just $14 at Fred Flare. He'll help share your seasonal pain.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Mount Your iPad Anywhere

No, it's not the latest tech porn title. After looking and searching for quite a while, I finally found what I think is a terrific iPad case and wall mount system.

After all, either you or your friends and family spent a lot on that iPad, so you might as well find as many ways to make it work for you as you can. The Wallee, an Australian import, is a colorful, durable iPad case with an opening at the back which snaps into a wall mount. You can purchase as many wall mounts as you wish (eight bucks a pop), and install them wherever you wish. My suggestions: the kitchen for easy recipe following, the bedroom wall for watching movies and shows, and even over the tub (hey, why not?). It swivels between portrait and landscape views easily for maximum viewing. And it makes your iPad truly hands free... and off the table, countertop, or nightstand.

This is a wonderful techie gift. The base price is $56, which really isn't bad considering how durable and practical it is. And you can find it at A+R.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Toad and a Blender

This sounds like the beginning of a bad, messy joke, doesn't it? But, seriously, The Toad, while suggesting fabulous gifts for everyone else, often intimidates those who would like to gift her. This year, my luck changed, though; I received a Vita Mix blender for Christmas.

You've probably seen the Vita Mix on food shows like Iron Chef, huge appliances making mincemeat out of whole steaks and reducing entire fields of greens to liquid in seconds. This is the mother of all blenders. There is nothing it can't pulverize. The thing can puree and cook soup in the blender itself. It can grind wheat berries into flour. It laughs at smoothies. I now make perfectly emulsified salad dressings of all kind in seconds (even a real Caesar dressing, with the, gasp, raw egg, because The Toad scoffs at salmonella). I'm trying to dream up new ways to incorporate Ms. Vita Mix into my everyday routine; more pesto seems to be in my family's future.

Here's the downside: the thing's expensive. Like, we're talking over five hundred bucks. It's an investment. Thus, if you're considering nuptials in your future, and are going to register for anything, put the Vita Mix at the top of your list. Perhaps five friends can buy it for you. Or perhaps a wealthy and generous benefactor who values good frappes. I would buy it over a Cuisinart in a hot minute (so much easier to clean and use). Check out the bells and whistles at And learn how to blend.