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Looking for brilliant stocking stuffers? Love Swiss Miss‘s taste? Both? Great! Tattly is for you. Perfect little packets of temporary tattoos selected by Swiss Miss. Excellent designs from, “Mama,” to a bike made of font bits, and new ones every week. Most, a pair for $5, shipping included. Get ’em while they’re damp!

Tattly from Made by Hand on Vimeo.

Merry Christmas To Me

I found it. It’s my Christmas present AND the most ridiculous thing the Williams-Sonoma, Inc., family has offered for sale since the Electric Vacuum Marinator. It might even be more ridiculous than the marinator because it costs $5000. Five. Thousand. Dollars. For something made by Pottery Barn. I would hope that for five thousand dollars I would actually get a pottery barn. I’m not 100% sure if that’s a barn that stores my pottery (of which I have very little – possibly because I don’t have enough dedicated pottery storage space) or a barn made of pottery. I don’t care which it is: at San Francisco real estate prices, $5K is a bargain for either.

But back to my Christmas present: it’s a car. A Bugatti, to be precise. But not an actual one, a miniature one. With no engine. So even if I were two feet tall, I couldn’t drive it around my house, which is a theoretical crying shame.

If it were an actual one, five thousand dollars would be the bargain of the century. But I probably still wouldn’t be able to drive it since it’d be a hundred years old and wildly unsafe, so I guess Pottery Barn hit the nail on the head: why buy the un-driveable real thing for an exorbitant sum when you can spend a slightly less exorbitant sum on an equally un-driveable but much smaller fake thing?

My Christmas present features, “hand-polished aluminum wheels,” which I’m assuming, since they use the present tense, means the car comes with someone to continue the hand-polishing. I’m starting to see where the cost started climbing.

Also, it has a nickel-plated, cast bronze radiator which sounds expensive and like maybe that’s what kind of engagement ring I should’ve held out for. Or what my next stove should have.

(I hate our current stove by the way. Maybe when my tiny car has it’s inevitable catastrophic accident, I will weld the nickel-plated, cast bronze radiator onto my stove, thereby improving it immensely.)

The web site says “…this car isn’t meant to be driven, but that won’t stop it from making your heart race.” I can only imagine. Between the price tag and the frustration at being unable to either fit into it or drive it if I could, my heart is already racing and the car hasn’t even arrived yet. I can’t imagine what kind of stroke/heart attack I’m setting myself up for on Christmas morning. Don’t not get it for me though because of that: this is all I’m asking for this year. Really. I have to have this car, health be damned.

Send me the shipping confirmation when it leaves the miniature Bugatti factory, OK? I need to know when I should go stand by the front window with my nose pressed against the glass.

I Need This

OK, so even if I didn’t completely, totally, absolutely, without doubt need to have this, I would still have to buy one because it’s called the “Arsscoot.” I will be pronouncing this “Arse scoot” even if that is not the correct pronounciation.

I definitely need this. I know it’s raining today but my arse needs scooting, and so does A’s little arse and raincoats are readily available. Rain be damned. We’ll get cool leather helmets and matching goggles (because that never looks creepy on moms and kids, right?).

I have a whole plan. We’ll rent one of those little white dogs with short ears that droop at the tips and he’ll wear goggles too and sit with A. in the sidecar. (I can’t abide small dogs, hence the renting. I won’t be able to hear the yipping over the wind noise, right?)

Of course, the three of us won’t be able to go anywhere practical because a.) there will be no room to bring anything along or bring anything back, and b.) by all accounts, these things are super unsafe. We’ll just tool around the ‘hood looking fantastic. There’s a UPS store a few blocks from our place, so we’ll just head there first and buy enough bubble wrap to wrap up baby and puppy. Done.

Wave when you see us! I’m sure we won’t look crazy at all. At. All.

Money to Burn

transparent_toaster.jpgMy former employer is on a roll this year producing products that strain the boundaries of their Things No One Really Needs (…Except Maybe If You Have Too Much Time On Your Hands and Lots of Disposable Income) category. They’ve done well filling out that category in the past with their $500 margarita machine and the infamous Electric Vacuum Marinator, both genius ideas that I’m sure will someday achieve the success they deserve in the general marketplace. I’m totally holding my breath for that. I’m a little blue, but I’m hanging in there.

This season, Williams-Sonoma and their sibling, Pottery Barn, are in a dead heat for the top useless spot. WS blew into first place last month with a $300 see-through toaster.

Ever since I saw it, I can hardly imagine a kitchen without one. Why just this morning, a piece of priceless toast was burned to a crisp in my kitchen. Imagine: the tragedy might have been averted had I had the foresight to buy the Magimix Vision Toaster the instant the catalog arrived. Well, that and if someone had been paying attention to the toast in the first place. I think the market here is not really, “People Who Burn Toast,” but, “People Who Still Burn Toast While Standing Over the Toaster Waiting for The Aforementioned Toast,” since you really need to be hanging out right there watching your transparent toaster to avert a sooty conflagration. If you had that kind of loitering time, you probably would’ve been able to avoid burning your breakfast bread in your old toaster too because you could have smelled it going up in smoke, but who’s keeping track of those silly details, right? It’s a glass toaster for Pete’s sake! What’s not to love?

If you needed any other incentive than its obvious excellence and indispensability, the suggested retail on this wonder machine is $350, so you’re actually saving $50 if you buy it from WS instead of, um, well, traveling to Belgium to pick one up from the factory, since no one else in the States seems to carry them. So you’re actually saving, like, $1000 if you factor in the airfare.

giant_abacus.jpgAnyway, bravo Williams-Sonoma: you have definitively put to bed that old adage, “A watched toast never boils.” Apparently it does, my friends, apparently it does.

I was so ready to just hand over the blue ribbon to Williams-Sonoma not halfway through 2010 but then, lo and behold, WS’s sister company, Pottery Barn, upped the ante in their most recent catalog with the…wait for it… yes, it’s a giant abacus.
retailing for only $249!! Can you believe it? What luck. Just what I’ve always wanted.

If anything, this is catering to an even smaller market than the magic toaster: “People who need to do a lot of math but can’t. And who can’t work a calculator. And are blind.” Well, huzzah, Pottery Barn for finding a tiny need and filling it with a giant solution.

The abacus is an impressive two feet by four feet which means you’re going to have to do some serious rearranging of your Math Room to make it feel at home, but if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right. And on a bizarrely outsized scale. That’s all I’m saying.

So now the pressure’s on West Elm, the third brand arm of the Williams-Sonoma empire. What’s it going to be, West Elm? A collection of 1000 tiny egg-shaped figurines? A life-size map of Istanbul for your living room? A live elk? Your pals have set a high standard: for the low, low price of $600 I can see my toast and do basic addition and subtraction visible to a sizable audience. The gauntlet is down.

2010 is shaping up to be a big year in retail people. Hang onto your hats.



boo_boo_bandages_toy.JPGSomeone gave me, in my Christmas stocking, a box of Band-Aids – sorry: Boo Boo Kisses Adhesive Bandages. Fine. Good so far. Who doesn’t need sexy band-aids?

The package says, “FREE TOY INSIDE!”

OK, still with you. Everyone loves a toy, especially a free one, especially me.

Here’s where things get weird. Turns out the “toy” is a tiny plastic man in a black tie, grey dress pants, and heavy black-rimmed glasses which frame his catatonic zombie eyes. I can see that being stuck in a metal box of Boo Boo Kisses Adhesive Bandages for an extended period might make you catatonic. That I get. But is this guy really a “toy”? He has no moving parts and, more disturbingly for the category, he looks like a mental patient. And he would definitely get caught in my throat if I swallowed him, so not so much a toy for, say, a cat. Or a child under the age of…well, 38 apparently.

Why are they putting a tiny non-action figure from Mad Men in my box of naughty band-aids? That’s weird, right? Right?

The Boots Fixation

It’s my own personal winter tradition: every year I pick a pair of new boots and fixate on them. Mind you, I already have plenty of boots. It’s not need-based, it’s want-based and man have I wanted some of them badly.

Last year, I was on about these insulated Uma boots from Salomon (different pattern last year, but you get the idea). Toasty Christmas present for Emma.

This year, I set my sights on these Kenneth Coles. They fit with my pregnancy fashion plan: no mumus, no maternity-only clothes if I can possibly help it, lots of black, and cool footwear. My concession to schlepping another person (albeit a small one and internally) around with me all the time is that high heels may have to (mostly) take a back seat, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to wear trainers every day.

Welcome to this year’s boot pick.

Sadly and inexplicably, these are only available through Eileen Fisher and Garnet Hill, both of which companies were sold out for the last several weeks. But lo and behold, a Christmas miracle: earlier this week, more arrived on the Eileen Fisher site, so you too can have these super-comfortable mid-calf, buckled boots for gallivanting about in the winter. You’re welcome. Happy holidays!

Appy Days


In the spirit of the holidays, let’s start our Tuesday with a little shopping, shall we? Minor shopping. $1.99 App Store shopping to be exact.

Last week, my brother’s company released an excellent iPhone game called Categuru and you should run right over to your phone (or pull it out of your pocket or your purse or your dog’s mouth or whatever) and buy it. At the very least, you need to try the free lite version.

Here’s the deal, per their web site: “Categuru is a new original word and trivia game. You are given five words, and your goal is to figure out what category they belong to. The catch is that you get the words one letter at a time. The fewer letters you use, and the faster you solve, the more points you get.”

So if the screen displays “GHTMS” (vertically, not horizontally like that) and the next slide reveals “RAIAA”, you might guess “sharks” as the category. As in great white, hammerhead, tiger, mako and…I can’t remember that last one. Salmon?

It’s brilliant and addictive and you should try it. And I’m not just saying that ’cause he’s my brother. Really.

You know, for the kids


I came across this gorilla over the weekend and even though I have an inexplicable lack of enthusiasm for primates, I love him. I wish I’d had him when I was a kid and am seriously considering making up for that gap by buying him now.

Aside from his flexible limbs and hardwood solidity, my favorite thing about him is this candid photo of what he does when he’s alone with the housepets.

European Tour 2009: What Worked

The tour included business and theater in London (humid, grey), a wedding in Switzerland (formal), a couple of sweltering days in Milan, holiday with family in Venice, a little down time in Zurich, a lot of time in flight, a couple days on trains, and short trips on trams and boats. That’s a lot of different climates and even more transitions from flats to hotels and back and forth between countries.

Across all that, there were a few things that stood out as being incredibly handy to have and made the trip’s insane logistics so much easier to manage.

The Best Bag Ever (especially on the road): Marghera Convertible

I, like most of you, have spent an undisclosed portion of my adult life seeking the perfect bag. Luckily for both of us, I’ve found it. Aside from its excellent green-ness which works for day and night, the features I love the most are its ability to switch from a handled bag to a shoulder bag (it folds over) and to contain my laptop without betraying its presence.

To be fair, that laptop is a Mac Air (which, incidentally, I love like my unconceived children), so its weight doesn’t put a strain on the bag’s leather shoulder strap and its unusually slim form allows it to slide horizontally into a bag like this that wouldn’t accommodate either its Apple bretheren or any other standard size laptops. Don’t look at this as a draback though: this is your opportunity to justify both a new computer and a new bag.

When not housing your ‘puter, the capacity is generous enough to hold small purchases in addition to the usual wallet, iPhone, keys and assorted cousins. Two flat outside pockets are exactly the size of your airline ticket and one small one inside will hold your passport.

Where to get it: Sundance Catalog. Currently on sale for $250.


R talked me into an iPhone the day before we left the country, mainly so I could make international calls and send text messages in Europe without buying a just-for-international phone with a different phone number everybody then has to remember. I was ambivalent. Did I really want to get worked up about something so many people are already worked up about? Wouldn’t it be more fair to the coolness marketplace to get worked up about something more obscure? And wouldn’t I look cooler if I did that second one instead?

Also, I liked my little Blackberry Pearl and the consistency of Verizon. Why move to something bigger with AT&T’s terrible coverage?

Because it’s pocket-sized awesomeness, that’s why.

Really, though, the main thing was having a phone and text messaging which meant we could split up for the afternoon and still coordinate keys, dinner, and so on. I don’t know what we’d have done without it.

Where to get it: Apple.

iPhone App: Hi Converter

It converts things. Correction: it converts EVERYTHING. Do you want to know how many hectares are in a bunder? How many ngarns are in a square angstrom? Did you know there was such a thing as a square light year? The area converter can help. When you’re done there, the distance converter will turn your miles into gnat’s eyes (.00000007761). You can do electric current and digital image resolution conversions in your spare time.

Aside from its clear entertainment value, it will also convert your euros into dollars based on today’s exchange rate, your size at Bloomingdale’s into your size at Harrod’s, and 40 Celsius into a more comprehensibly crispy 104 Fahrenheit.

Where to get it: App Store.

iPhone App: Collins Italian-English Dictionary

Since I speak German and a chunk of Spanish and can get by in French, I’ve been arrogantly cruising around Europe for quite a while without having to feel like a complete tourist. Those days came to a jarring end at the Italian border. Enter the iPhone (again).

Of all the dictionaries I tried, the $25 Collins was the best. It covers a lot of ground: direct translations, peripheral usage, colloquialisms and common (or, in the best cases, not at all common) phrases.

$25 is a lot for an app and I know no one wants to pay more than 99 cents, but the frustration of looking up a word and finding no results repeatedly on other apps gets old fast. You spent $1200 to get to Italy, you can spare another $25 to pull up with, “L’ho gettato nel water,” to explain the whereabouts of your passport/hairbrush/traveler’s checks. (Translates to, “I threw it in the toilet,” by the way.)

Where to get it: App Store

Hideo Wakamatsu 20″ Viewer Trolley

The day after we got back from Barcelona in June, I biked over to the Hideo Wakamatsu store to check out superlight international carry-on sized luggage. I biked home with a silver 6.5 lb., 20″ Viewer Trolley hanging from my handlebars.

Why the post-trip rush? Because you have to seize the moment when your shoulder still hurts from schlepping a non-rolling bag and your ego still smarts from looking like a hands-full-of-stuff schmuck, and solve your problem.

My problem is that we have a bunch of stuff – some of it heavy – that I won’t check. R’s 35mm camera, my jewelry, things I’ll want on the plane (sweater, megaphone, another sweater, snacks) and essential clothing (an extra T-shirt and undies, plus whatever we would die without if they lost our luggage, like a swimsuit if we’re going to be beach or my dress for the wedding we’re attending). That pile of stuff always ends up being more than I want to carry in a shoulder bag, but I don’t want to drag around an actual suitcase with all the rest of my non-essential stuff too. (Besides, most American 22″ roll-on suitcases are too heavy, once packed, to meet international flight restrictions.) What to do? Until last month, I chose “suffer” rather than add another suitcase to the mix.

That was the wrong choice. The Viewer kicks ass. It’s super light for getting in and out of bins, and its four wheels allow you to roll it next to you with your computer bag on top. It’s like walking a very quiet, rectangular pet. Your hands are free, your shoulder is relaxed, and you look like the seasoned traveler you actually are.

Quick warning: the lovely matte finish on the bag will mark, so brace yourself for that before you check it (if you ever decide you need to, that is). I haven’t checked it yet myself, so I’ve no idea how well it holds up to airline abuse, but it’s done beautifully inside planes, trams, and trains.

Where to get it: Currently out of stock at the eponymous shop but available – albeit inaccurately described as having two wheels and not four – at Flight 001.

Business Class

Traveling in business class (or above) is the way to go. I know there is no one (except possibly this jerk) who is in favor of the turn that air travel has taken in the last ten years. These days, the coach cabin on a long-haul flight looks more and more like the back of a Central American chicken truck. Between the the addition of bad things (longer lines and delays, ineffective security, fees for everything) and the elimination of good things (space, food, customer service), there’s pretty much nothing positive to say about flying except that you will get where you’re going not dead (mostly).

R travels for work, which rots but has a significant up side: he accumulates crazy numbers of miles and little stacks of upgrade certificates. We use the former to get me where he’s already going and the latter to get us there, occasionally, in business class. I don’t need warmed nuts and real china, but the quiet and the space bring the airborne experience back from the brink of catatonia into the land of, “I might not maim someone first thing when I get off the plane.”

Where to get it: Get a job where you a.) travel a lot (our way), b.) make a lot of money or c.) can commit a lot of untraceable financial fraud.

Favorite T

Maybe this is the missing piece in all the protests and negotiations.

T-shirt available here.