Thursday, February 21, 2013

Pillow Talk

It's a rainbow of comfy back support options!
Ever since an unfortunate cat pee incident, we've had a shortage of pillows on our couch. It's not that we don't want new pillows, it's just that I'm notoriously fussy about such decorating details. Plus, we had to wait and see if the felines would calm the hell down and stop trying to redecorate the living room.

And then I spotted them: the perfect pillows for my living room. At first, I just put them on Pinterest, but after a bunch of people liked and shared them, I realized these Brick cushions were a natural Toad post. I mean, just look at them! They're not silly and floral, they're not overly trendy and ethnic (how many fake suzani prints do you need in a room, anyway), and they're definitely not boring. With all the graphic colorways offered, you're sure to find one to match you or your giftee's decor. And they're made of wool, which is sturdy and washable (although no, it probably can't stand up to cat pee. Stainless steel cushions couldn't stand up to cat pee).

The only downside is the price: $98 clams apiece. That's an investment of sorts. Cheaper than Jonathan Adler, way pricier than West Elm. So choose carefully. At A+R, of course.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Put on a New Face for Spring

Grit, grime, oil and insect legs: this brush conquers them all.
It's not often that the low version of a high end beauty product really delivers, but I just found one: the Pro-X Olay facial brush.

Apparently, we all walk around with about twenty pounds of nasty dirt, old sunscreen, makeup, and possibly even dead bugs all over our faces. And yes, even though we all wash our faces every day (right? You do wash it every day, don't you, you filthy thing?), our average water splash and rubbing of cleanser for ten seconds doesn't do the job. Not even close. Thus, the twenty pounds of facial gunk.

Obviously, this is gross, and no way to live. Plus, it makes your complexion look less than fresh. Naturally, fancy company Clarisonic came out with high end motorized brushes years ago. For just two hundred bucks, you could scrub that dirt away in an efficient manner. The company even promised your fancy creams and potions would work better because they wouldn't have to burrow under layers of dead skin. I once had one of these expensive brushes, and it did work. But, alas, it was lost in our terrible moving process, a casualty of relocation rage. I wasn't about to spend another 200 clams, so I decided to try the $25 Olay version instead.

I'm pleased to say that it works. After just two uses, my skin is already tons smoother and softer. Which, admittedly, is a bit horrifying because it means that the brush performed some sort of archaeological dig on my facial epidermis to uncover the treasure beneath. All in all, I'm beyond pleased. And this brush is an ideal little gift for your best friend with that filthy face.

I've even searched for the cheapest price: $24.99 at (spend another buck on something and you'll even get free shipping).  Order one and help a friend face the future looking shiny and new.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bake Through The February Doldrums

Start out with the basic white loaves and work your way up to ciabatta.
I don't know what it is about February. The relative "excitement" of Valentine's Day aside, February is a slog of a month. Mostly, the weather sucks, and will continue to suck for a while longer, and it's still dark a lot of the time. Not a pretty picture.

I think this is why I've started baking bread this month. Lots of bread. And The Toad is no baker. I'm a sloppy cook, the kind who throws in extra ingredients and eyeballs measurements. That might be fine for a stew or a soup, where improvisation doesn't ruin anything major, but baking is chemistry, with exact ingredients and procedures. So what could go wrong?

If you're using Rose Levy Birenbaum's book The Bread Bible, absolutely nothing. This baking legend has written the easiest to follow bread baking book I've ever seen. Sure, the recipes look intimidating at first. They're long, with separate ingredients lists for sponge and dough, and very specific steps. But there's a wonderful rhythm to them, and if you make more than one recipe, you discover the innate simplicity of the process. Plus, there's actually not that much work involved; mostly, bread baking involves unsupervised rising time, which is very easy to do on a rainy Sunday.

And then there's the bread. Wow. Mr. Crab was rhapsodic about the white loaves I made. The cheese version was even better. I'm planning to branch out to hearth breads soon (a little whole wheat is good for the body), and might even attempt sourdough. Plus, there's something magical about producing this dough that's alive and growing. I'm always tempted to name the thing as it's rising, since it usually has more personality than a lot of people I've met over the years.

Give The Bread Bible to a good friend (preferably one who has a Kitchen Aid mixer to help with the heavy kneading). It's the ideal gift to get her through the slowest month. At Amazon.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Green Valentine

Feeling romantic? Add a bottle of bubbly, or a french macaron assortment.
While I understand that Valentine's Day gifts are supposed to be frivolous and fattening, there's a case to be made for the practical, too. If you happen to have a green minded sweetheart, a green, rather than red or pink, gift might be preferable.

In Los Angeles, plastic grocery bags are being banned. I will not weep for their demise. However, paper bags (which I often reuse for kitchen trash) will soon have a surcharge. This forces grocery store customers into hauling bags and carriers on shopping trips. Naturally, I see this as a sourcing and gifting opportunity: find the perfect reusable grocery bag.

In the Reisenthal Market Basket, I found way more than I bargained for. This fully collapsable basket is sturdy and roomy; indeed, it's the same size as the carry baskets at the store. They fit perfectly into a shopping cart, so you can simply load, check it through, and reload effortlessly. They're ideal for farmer's market outings, or even carrying a picnic. And, they come in 12 different designs (yes, I'm partial to basic black, but feel free to indulge in polka dots, flowers, or V-Day scarlet).

Ranging in price from about $43-$48, these baskets aren't bargain priced, but they'll outlast us all. Find the entire assortment at Reuseit, and go green for Valentine's Day.