It's been a tough week for the Picky Eater — my tastebuds took an unexpected vacation, rendering me absolutely useless as a taster of anything. For this reason, this week I will bypass the tasting reviews and share with you a few non-edibles that have crossed my path.

First up is the too-cool-to-imagine Capresso Water Kettle, a plug-in glass kettle that is a must-see water show every time you use it. The kettle is clear, with a chrome bulb in the center that does the heating. Within seconds of adding water and turning it on, the water turns into a column of furious bubbles dancing from the bottom to the top of the kettle. It's like performance art — every time you make a cup of tea.

The 11/2-quart kettle is sleek enough to sit on the counter and fast enough to out-boil any stovetop kettle I've ever used. The Capresso H2O PLUS Glass Water Kettle is $70 and can be found at Sur La Table stores or online an Amazon.com.

Invitation to party

When I opened Bibby Gignilliat's "The Sumptuous Small Plates Deck" (Parties That Cook, $17.95) I felt like I had been invited to not one, but dozens of hip, fun parties — the kind that serve only the best foods. My only question was, what time should I arrive?

As I read further, however, I realized that yes, this was all about parties, but I was to be the host, with lots of help from Bibby. The deck includes 30 illustrated recipe cards for 30 foods that I can and would cook for my guests — so long as I could get my hands on the ingredients.

As I flipped through the cards, I imagined how delighted my guests would be to dig into a mound of fava bean hummus, or to nibble on blue cheese and pecan puff pastries. I realize that great food isn't the only element of a great party — but it's definitely important.

Just think about it: We have five senses. Food grabs three of them in one delicious, memorable bite.

I love that Bibby also included lots of the tips on entertaining she has picked up through the years of hosting Parties That Cook, a Bay Area business she founded. Her parties turn the guests into chefs, which she says is guaranteed to multiply the fun at any party.

Imagine, you do the prep and clean the house; the guests do the cooking and serving. Talk about stress-free entertaining! You find the deck on Amazon.com or on at http://www.partiesthatcook.com.

Read the label

That's what I tell my family, my friends, even absolute strangers who wonder whether the food they are eating is good for them. Yes, you might have to put on reading glasses. But the answers are there, I tell them.

The problem is that while some things on labels are easily deciphered, like fat and calories, others are not. In particular are terms like "organic" and "certified organic." Accurately explaining what those terms mean is like chasing a dog that grabbed your cupcake. Just when you think you've got him — he gets away again.

Thankfully, there are plenty of watchdog groups who are doing their best to tackle the issue: To ensure that the term "organic" encompasses all that the public thinks that it does. This week, those groups won a major battle when they duked it out with the feds to make sure that nothing from or of cloned animals could carry the "organic" label.

The National Organic Standards Board voted this week to exclude cloned animals, their offspring, and any food products from cloned animals from the organic sector. This vote comes in response to an FDA announcement in December that they were ready to approve commercialization of cloning in livestock agriculture, and that said cloned meat, dairy and poultry would not require a label stating such.

The upshot? For now, if you buy organic, you will be sidestepping any possible risks as sociated with cloning.