Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Curse of the Autumnal Pumpkin

Oh my god. What is this? And why is it ruining the meal?

For many communities, the start of the fall season is a lovely time, full of colorful leaves, crisp comfy temps, and seasonal activities. Here in Los Angeles, though, the beginning of Fall simply means brutal heat that can melt your car paint. It means smog and allergies. It means fires. And it makes the annual pushing of the autumnal pumpkin decor and food even more annoying.

I don't really understand the pumpkin's great appeal. While I do like the color orange, I prefer it to reside outside of the squash family. Pumpkins around here, once jack o' lanterned up, rot in about 48 hours. Even when I was a child, the stench emanating from a dissected pumpkin gave me the dry heaves. Cut open, raw pumpkins actually smell like bloated vegetable corpses, which might make them uncannily suited to the disgusting gory glory that is Halloween, but it doesn't mean I want one within 100 feet of my household.

So, fine: I hate real pumpkins. There are catalogs, crafting sites, and whole Target displays devoted to fake pumpkins and gourds that can be festooned throughout your household. The question is: why would you want that? Last year the Gump's catalog featured velvet pillows in pumpkin shapes with actual pumpkin stems atop them. They were like squash cudgels from Game of Thrones. And if you sat upon one wrong, well, let's just say it wouldn't be pretty. As my husband observed, "I would look like an autumnal baboon."

Here's the Pumpkin Spice Latte, the scourge of Fall drink menus everywhere.

And then there's the damn drinks. What is up with the Pumpkin Spice Latte? Who ever thought that anything, besides maybe chocolate and vanilla, would meld well with coffee? Those lattes are stinky. They're a strange color for an ingestible. Add to this the absurdity of the Food Babe going after Starbuck's for having artificial stuff (oh no, chemicals) in them and the drink becomes even more ridiculous. No one is forcing the public to drink these things, so who cares if they're chock full of garbage or not? The Pumpkin Spice Latte is already such a bad concept that I don't think all the organic milk or GMO free pumpkin puree (ugh, it makes me nauseated just thinking about mixing that thick crud into a coffee drink) is going to improve it much. I mean, if you love them, mazel tov and drink up, but for god's sake don't complain about the ingredients in what is essentially junk food.

So that's the Toad's take on pumpkin Fall decor. You won't see any autumnal offerings at my house; I keep Hawaiian leis out year round, just to remind me that there is a paradise out there, far away from the madding pumpkin splattered crowd.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Whole Shebang: Design Boom

Olfattorio has to do with scents, not fat, so stop laughing and start shopping.

It's rare that I want to feature an entire site, usually because I feel like I've seen everything, everywhere. It's so nice to be proved wrong, and Design Boom is the exception to the rule.

Design Boom is an online design mag that has an absolutely outstanding shopping section. Seriously, people, I haven't seen the majority of products on the site, not even the ones made in the U.S.! The olfattorio vase above (you've got to love that name) is an Italian product based on perfumery equipment; the shape allows access to a single, perfect bloom for both viewing and sniffing. Total genius and a reasonably priced gift ($59).

There's so much here at every price point! There's tea infusers shaped like submarines for $13, gorgeous rustic charred wood candlesticks from Japan for $130, and super expensive artsy skateboards for over two grand (if you're feeling profligate). The site is nicely arranged and easy to navigate. All in all, The Toad pronounces Design Boom an explosively good find.

Visit Design Boom here, and browse for hours. Don't blame me if you blast straight through your budget, though. You've been warned.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Here's to The Hemp Underfoot

This is a crappy photo, but you can see the charm and appeal, right?

The Toad has lots of opinions about floors and floor coverings. Basically, she's a snob who would rather have no rugs upon her floor than a cheap rug sullying it up. The result? Bare floors abound at the Toad's!

I also take umbrage with rugs that look stylish but feel terrible on the feet. Sisal is an example of a totally mean spirited floor dressing joke: it may look ok, but your bare feet will scream with the first step on the scratchy, gnarled, vicious surface. Sisal is for rooms which no one enjoys.

That's why I was so pleasantly surprised to encounter this coiled, almost tropical doilyesque hemp rug at fabulous L.A. store Garde. Made sustainably in India (hemp is used for more than just recreation, people), these rugs come in all sizes and designs, but I prefer the smaller 3' size and circular motif of this one. It's both beachy, tropical, and even preppy all at once. And did I mention that it's not scratchy and foul underfoot? This rug is a find, and it would be perfect in a vacation home close to the beach, if you have one. Otherwise, you can just buy the rug anyway and pretend.

At $225, this rug isn't inexpensive. I'm sure you could find one at Pier 1 that would look similar for a fraction of the cost. And then you could pick stabby needles of hell out of your feet forever. At Garde.

Monday, August 10, 2015

A Tiny Book with Teeth

Do you remember when Mt.St. Helen's erupted? You've never heard about it from this perspective.

As a writer and a former art major, the Toad is a fan of small, creative endeavors that combine the two. Tiny books make wonderful gifts for creative, edgy people (if you're reading this blog, let's assume that means someone like yourself.)

Introducing a wonderful new tiny book, Teeth, by Obelus Projects creator and writer Mikel Wadewitz. First off, the quality of this book is very high, with lovely thick paper and gold ink embellishments. The other illustrations, by artist Belle Iskowitz, are detailed black and white pen and ink drawings that capture the story perfectly. And what, exactly, is the story behind Teeth? It involves a Wadewitz childhood memory of living in Portland, Oregon, when Mt. St. Helen's blew its top, his fascination with Harry Truman, the literal old man on the mountain who refused to leave and died in the explosion, and a small act of theft. Teeth manages to capture a historic moment in a child's life without being cloying or annoyingly sentimental. Wadewitz relays his memories with authenticity, but sticks firmly to an adult perspective. The book is both a pleasure to read and to view.

Teeth is part of what is, hopefully, a larger series called The Little Deaths. When you order Teeth, for just $20, you buy a piece of limited edition art and help fund future endeavors. For just $5 more, Wadewitz includes a music playlist, too. Order here, and support the independent art world.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Instant Pegboard Organization for The Very Lazy

This person used it for photography, but you could use it for jewelry, keys, or other sundry collections.

One of the stand out things in the classic Julia Child kitchen was her pegboard: an entire wall section of board and hooks, with stenciled outlines of pans and equipment for easy storage and display. It was inspired, pleasing to the eye, and cheap.

Well, The Toad likes inspired and pleasing organization, but she's a bit shaky on cheap, since that often means she'll have to do it herself. For all you handy DIYers out there, that works out fine; you like nothing more than to lurk the hardware store aisles, losing yourself in building materials. Alas, The Toad's talents are quite limited in this arena, and installing her own pegboard station falls way outside her limits.

So it's perfect that the design company Block has created such lovely pegboards, all ready to set up and use anywhere, any time. Unlike standard pegboards, Block's inventions come in different sizes and colors, ranging from pale blue and natural to bright yellow and orange. There's a small freestanding size (perhaps ideal for a landing strip), and larger sizes for offices and even kitchens. Did I mention the pegs? They're nifty and wooden and have colorful heads, unlike the utilitarian metal hooks and such found at the hardware store. I just love these!

You can find them at Bezar, ranging in cost from $37-$49. Buy one or five of these suckers, hang it, and forget it.