10 posts categorized "Product Reviews"

In which I drive a hybrid Ford for a weekend

June 16, 2009

Most of you know my family is fully car-free (we finally got rid of our three-years-lying-fallow car last month). And at least one of you expressed shock to hear I was test-driving a Ford Escape hybrid this past weekend. Was the world coming to an end? No, the people in Ford's social media group are working to create buzz about their hybrids by offering 'em to mama bloggers for test drives, and I was an eager participant. So was my husband, who, though he was weaned from his mother's chauffeur services on his 10-speed, and actually spent some time in the early '90s as a bike messenger, is a bit of a car addict.

One of the reasons I was eager to forgo our car was his nasty habit of driving to Trader Joe's... three blocks away. But when we found out he'd be going to Iraq this summer; changing our financial situation from just north of "desperate" to a few ticks shy of "flush," he began to sneak this phrase into conversation: "I've been thinking when I come back, we could use some of my money to get a hybrid..." Or this one: "If I get that job as a cop I could drive to work in a hybrid..."

"No!" I'd say, firmly. "No cars!" I love the money we save, $200-300 per month just in gas, insurance and tags; I love that we have to think carefully about all our bike trips, keeping us closer to home; I love my conscience, clean as the air around me as I bike. I've made a significant reduction in my workload so I can spend more time with the kids, in the garden, cooking food; we don't have room in that budget for even the barest car expense. I don't want that to change.

But. I'm all for a test drive. Just to see. Thursday morning, some nice people from Ford delivered us the sparkliest Escape Hybrid you've ever seen. I immediately hopped in with Truman and Monroe to pick up some film on the way to preschool (an impossible task on the bike; my fave film store is Citizen's Photo, about 4 miles from home). They leave us with a rundown on our car... $33,725 including "destination and delivery" for the model in our driveway. But "THIS VEHICLE NOT FOR SALE," said the page. At least there's that...

Continue reading "In which I drive a hybrid Ford for a weekend" »

the zrecs guide: is it the answer?

October 04, 2008

Zrecsguide_promo_large2_3 The good folks at ZRecs have been reviewing kid products for awhile now, but they've really done it now.  Check out their new searchable guide to children's products: 960 of them for starters.  It's called the zrecs guide.  The tool grew out of their reporting on potentially harmful chemicals used in children's products on stheir conumer advocacy blog Z Recommends.  Sort of like Safe Mama but searchable. 

Curious what you think: Does it work well for you?  Contain the kind of safety assessment you care about??  Do tell.  'Cause I'm looking for just such a tool to cut my product research at least in half.  Now if only the good folks in our nation's capital would tighten up our chemicals law... dreaming, I know.

Safe & Convenient Lunchboxes: What do you use?

August 14, 2008


As back-to-school quickly approaches, I've been spending (potentially) unhealthy amounts of time thinking about lunch boxes.  We've discussed plastics aplenty over on Activistas, but other than health concerns, which may or not be relevant to tupperware (anyone?), they tend to have shorter lives in our kitchens and long ones in the land fill.  Any suggestions out there for a mama trying to avoid plastic bags and tupperware for packing lunches?

I've heard good things about To-Go Ware, but wonder if it's too complicated (and heavy) for really young kids.  These laptop lunch boxes, which are plastic, but definitely the safe kind, seem to be all the rage (and are sold at the Oregon Center for Environmental Health).  They have lots of little compartments, which I've heard leads to very creative (and balanced) lunches, what with a mama's need to fill them all with something different.  I'm inclined towards the very cute, lightweight, reusable bags like those made by Crocodile Creek and others, but that still leaves the need for tupperware/bags for actual food-packing.  What do you do?  Any suggestions?

Toxic Chemicals in Car Seats (and cars): Check yours

August 01, 2008

The good folks who brought us the excellent database HealthyToys.org just came out with their 2nd annual toxic car seat and car analysis.  Get the scoop and and find the tools to pick a good one over on Activistas.  You can even get their product info from the store aisles via SMS text messaging.  Pretty convenient since once I'm there, staring at the item I want, the idea of going home to do research isn't exactly appealing, you know?

Finding Kid Safe Products: Where to Turn??

July 14, 2008

We need sippy cups at our house.  Bad.  We have at least four kinds, none with the same lid, and most of the ones we used to own are chez grandma (so we don't have to fill our increasingly expensive luggage space with them on our next flight).  So the drawer is pretty bare and the mini jam jars  - while hard to break and pretty high on the eco-friendly scale - definitely don't have lids.  So.  This afternoon I am off to buy new, all matching sippy cups.  But where?  I never manage to get more creative than Babies R Us (ugh) for a serious selection of baby and kid gear. 

So I was pretty excited to learn that Safe Mama not only has a list of BPA-free sippy cups (my latest toxin worry), she now has an online store.  Huge selection in one place.  Have you visited?  Ordered?  Or, for the part of me that'd like to go local, can you recommend a Portland store with a wide selection of BPA-free sippy cups?  And I mean the ones that don't cost $15/pop.  I need the ones that we can hand out to the six kids over for a BBQ  and lose without going bankrupt.  Yup, the cheap ones.

Sunscreen Safety & Effectiveness

July 07, 2008

I thought it was enough that I actually get sunscreen (aka sunscream to my 2 YO daughter) on the kids these days.  But apparently there's sunscreen and then there's sunscreen.  Like many products these days, some are safer than others - and in this case, more effective, too.  Read more about sunscreen safety and effectiveness and how to pick a good one over on Activistas

Toys: What to (and not to) buy from mamas who've been there

December 10, 2007

Everett_with_computerEverett's developmental pediatrician has recommended, among other things, that we organize his toys better; and part of that has been purging lots of the precious whats-its and doo-dads garnered from the Bins, or from a random assortment of relatives and friends. We've been talking a lot about the concept of "quality" here at chez cafemama. And all last week while I had my nose to the corporate grindstone, launching a new personal finance blog called WalletPop, I was thinking about what things I wish I hadn't bought -- instead putting the money into college savings, or a therapy fund.

Today I couldn't help but fall in love with this post about toys you shouldn't -- and should -- buy your kids for Christmas. It's written by the mother of one of the lead bloggers at WalletPop (a financially-savvy 19-year-old). And to her list I'd add:

  • Don't buy: Anything remote-controlled
  • Do buy: Die-cast trains
  • Don't buy: So-called "educational" toys, which nearly always have batteries and only teach your kids how to push buttons.
  • Do buy: Books in quantity
  • Don't buy: Toys linked to Disney movie / Cartoon Network show / video game; why further that vicious cycle of feeding your children to the marketing machine?
  • Do buy: An easel, quality crayons and colored pencils, a big roll of paper.
  • Don't buy: Excessive stuffed toys, especially those with voice boxes; they'll take over your playroom.
  • Do buy: Dress-up clothes (or make them!)

What's on your list?

Finally: Water & Juice in a box

August 08, 2007

Thank you so much Leah for passing on this most excellent info!

"I have looked for 4 years for a juice box I can live with.  The average juiceMotts_tots box for kids has as much sugar and as many calories as a soda.  I bought the smaller size which helped.  I bought the refillable tupperware containers that are shaped like juice boxes, but I still wished for the simple answer. And, today, I found it.   At Target.  Tthere is now "Motts for Tots"....it is juice plus purified water, which is what our pediatrician had always reccomended: cutting the juice in half with water.  Anyway, I bought 4 cases of it.  It's finally here.  Cheers!"

Not Recalled - Melissa & Doug

August 03, 2007

Thank you to urbanMamas reader, Melissa, for this post:

As many of you know there was a recent major recall of Fisher Price toys made in China due to the discovery of potentially harmful doses of lead paint.  As a family not fond of plastics in general, we felt pretty safe with our wide selection of wooden and cloth toys for our one year old daughter.  Then, I read somewhere that the popular wooden toy manufacturer, Melissa & Doug also produced their toys in China and that the issue of lead paint might still be a concern.

Today, I wrote to the company (both their service department and the owners, who list their email address on their website) to express my concern. Within about an hour I received this reply from Doug himself and I thought I would pass it along.

"Thanks Melissa:

Yes, we definitely appreciate and understand your concern. Please be assured, we test for lead VERY frequently.

It's quite possible to make great quality children's items in China, which meet all safety regulations, but the key point is that you have to test and inspect very frequently to be sure that your factories are always following your instructions explicitly. I assure you that's exactly what we do.

From our experience, the key to doing this correctly is not simply to insist that your factories follow your instructions, but then to go one step further and to AUDIT, INSPECT, AND TEST very frequently. That is the most important part of the process, and it's something our company has always taken VERY seriously.

Thanks again for asking.  And thanks for your support also.


So if you have any Melissa & Doug toys rest assured that they are safe in the hands of your teething baby or toddler.  If you don't have any of these toys then perhaps they can go on your wish list or suggestion list for your child's next birthday or gift receiving event.

What Website to use for Pictures??

July 03, 2007

All of must have byte upon byte of photos of our darlingest little bon-bons.  We have memorialized everything from the first bath to the day she lost her first tooth.  What to do with all of these pictures?  How to best share them with family and friends across lands and oceans?  Something like an urbanMamas flickr pool?  Sarah emails:

I have just under 15 bazillion pictures of my 1 1/2-year-old daughter trapped on my computer and on memory cards. I would like her to actually SEE some of these pictures one day but just can't seem to get myself down to the drug store, with toddler in tow, to scroll through all of them on a touch screen and print them out while someone taps their foot impatiently behind me. Plus, I've been disappointed with the quality at those do-it-yourself photo kiosks.

I am ready to enter the world of online photo uploading and processing but don't know where to start.  SnapfishShutterfly? I have no idea.  Are they all about the same? Are there some Web sites that have definite advantages or disadvantages?  Where have other mamas been particularly happy with photo quality, security concerns, and price? Or is there a local digital photo processing place that is even better? More organized mamas, please show me the way...