Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wishing All a Safe & Happy Holiday!

As we head out to our various holiday destinations (H Barry Boo included), I just wanted to send a small reminder to please drive safely and wear your seat belts -- every occupant, even pets! 

In case of a crash, your seat belt will help:
  • Keep you from getting banged around the car's interior
  • Keep you from getting ejected
  • Keep you from colliding with another passenger
  • Keep your body in optimum position if the airbag deploys
Also, take off your coats (and baby's too, obviously) and position the belts correctly:  across the hips (not the belly), and across the middle of the shoulder (NEVER behind the back). 

Thanks to everyone for their holiday greetings and treats!  Take care out there and enjoy.  'See you in a few...!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Space Bags Illustrate Puffy Coat Risk

Some people just do not believe that a puffy coat could really matter that much.  I think I have a way to illustrate the point:  Space Bags.

You know the commercial.  You know you really want one.  Put sweaters, blankets, or coats in the special zip loc bag.  Suck the air out of it with a vacuum hose.  Watch it shrink down and resemble a crumpled leaf.  Slide it under the bed and voila, no more puff.  Here's a thirty-second demonstration.

After the holidays I swear I'm going to get some at Bed Bath & Beyond and record my own demonstration.  If anyone else gets to it first, please let me know and link it to my Facebook or to the comments section!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Welcome South Dakota!

For three years I have been staring at a map of the continental US and chanting, "Idaho, South Dakota, Montana..." because these were the only three states in the union where I had NOT YET sold a Car Seat Poncho.  People from Alaska and Maine have bought Car Seat Ponchos, as well as people in California, Louisiana and Florida (which surprised me, but what the heck).  But year after year, nary a peep from that upper swath of the mountain region.

After today, my chant will be a shorter chant because the lovely Diana from Brandon SD called and ordered a Small Denim Camo Reversible, a matching hat and a blanket for her grandson.  And tonight as I pack and ship her order, I whisper, "Forty eight down... two to go.  Take heed, Idahoans and Montanans, take heed!"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

What's your favorite holiday song?

For me, its' definitely "All I Want For Christmas," by Mariah Carey.  I love the melody, backing vocals, arrangement and, of course, her charismatic performance.  I hope this song is making her a rich woman (or "an even richer woman"), because every time I hear it, I just get joy.  What's your fave?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I Am Now A Certified CPS Tech!

After much encouragement from CPS techs and instructors around the country, I attended the NHTSA Child Passenger Safety Training Program this week.  Today, I was officially certified as a technician!

The program consisted of three days of classroom work, hands-on training activities and tests, then one day of installs.  We were given different "dummy" children and asked to choose and install the appropriate seat for their height, weight and age.  We were given different child/restraint scenarios and asked to identify installation errors and misuse.  Finally, we conducted installations for the general public while being observed and evaluated by CPS instructors. 

During one of my installs, I advised a mom against using the Bundle Me in her infant's car seat.  In another, I advised a mom to take off her son's puffy jacket.  When she looked at it, she was aghast at the puffiness in the back AND the front, and how much slack that would generate under a harness.  Both of these things I knew before going into certification, but now, since we had discussed it in class, I had relevant authority in my advice.

Whew! It was a grueling week -- but totally, absolutely worth it.  Along the way, I met some really great people -- police officers and emergency responders from all over the state.  We got to know each other pretty well, had some good laughs over lunch, during breaks.  And now we're certified!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

2-Month Old Ejected From SUV (Alaska)

Found this story via Google Alerts. The child was not seriously injured (miraculously):

Tsk, tsk, though: The mom interviewed in the story (not the crash mom) says she does everything she can to keep her 5 month old safe and secure in his car seat, but when they show him, the harness straps seem absolutely un-tightened. Am I seeing this right?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rear-Facing Advocate Is a Fan of the Car Seat Poncho!

Jim Peralta, aka "Grandpa Jim" is a fan of the Car Seat Poncho.  He purchased several for his grandchildren, and posted a link to our store on his website.

Jim is also a vocal advocate of extended rear-facing, because his grandson, Joel, was critically injured in a car crash.  The impact of the collision threw his body forward, and his car seat did its job of restraining him. But at 18 months, his skeleton was not mature or strong enough to keep his head from being thrown toward the front of the car.  Joel's neck was broken.

As Jim posted on Car-Seat.Org, "Some of the doctors put it in very simple terms...his skull, internally, became detached from his body... and was basically held on with his skin."

Babies and toddlers are not protected from neck and spinal cord injuries in the forward-facing position. The head is the heaviest part of the body at that age, and even at "low" speeds like 30 mph, a child's head would be thrown forward and pull the rest of the spinal cord with it. It's a very graphic term, but it's technically known as internal decapitation.  The American Association of Pediatrics recommends at least 2 years rear-facing, even better would be to rear-face to the height and weight limits set by your car seat's manufacturer.

Watch the news video:
Keep up with Joel's progress:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Coupon extended!

Due to popular demand, the Black Friday Weekend Sale has been extended!

Coupon code BLACK takes $5.25 off your total purchase and is now valid until midnight, Monday 11/30.

Why $5.25 instead of $5?  Don't question the savings, just save!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

BLACK FRIDAY WKEND: $5.25 Coupon Code

Shake off that turkey day daze and start saving!

Enter coupon code BLACK during checkout and save $5.25 off your purchase of regularly priced Car Seat Ponchos, from Friday 11/26 to Sunday 11/27.
(This will be the LAST coupon code until Spring 2010.)

Offer applies to new, online purchases of regularly priced merchandise only. Unfortunately, coupons cannot be used on clearance merchandise. One coupon per household. Purchaser is responsible for cost of shipping and handling. User name and password required. Pending purchases initiated during sale but completed 11/30 or later will receive check rebate in the amount of $5.25 with order shipment. For customer service, call 917-881-9044 between 9:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Voicemail only on Thanksgiving Day, 11/26/09.

Best wishes for a happy & safe Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Ask a lawyer what JJ Cole says about Bundle Me and car seats!

Regarding my post this week on the Bundle Me, one of my FaceBook friends asked, "Is there any pressure by parents or advocates to the Bundle Me makers?"

Answer:  Yes.  So much so, in fact, that JJ Cole, the manufacturer of Bundle Me, has a set response to these concerns. In 2007, there was a thread on this topic on, and o_mom, a CPST, posted this:

"Here is what they say (wording is very important):
"Tests performed on infant car seats with the Bundle Me® installed found that the car seats complied with the Restraint System Integrity and Occupant Excursion portions of the FMVSS 213 requirements. They are NOT saying that the Bundle Me passes FMVSS 213. They are claiming that they tested at least two seats with the Bundle Me installed and that those seats pass FMVSS 213 when used with the Bundle Me. Now, we have no idea what seats were tested and how many ways they were tested (every strap position, etc.) and so on, so it is still an unknown what will happen in your carseat the way you install it. "

Another point raised on the thread is that while their descriptions of the Bundle Me include "use with car seats," none of the car seats in which they PICTURE their product are ever actually IN CARS. They're on benches, on the ground, etc.  So are they actually saying their product can be safely used in car seats that are INSTALLED and IN MOTION? That would be a juicy point for lawyers' feasting if any litigation arose.

So clever are those lawyers, no?

Here's the thread for your bookmarks.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Is the Bundle Me Bad in a Car Seat?

This questions comes up several times a year on parenting and safety boards across the internet:  Why do safety people tell you NOT to use the Bundle Me in a car seat?

The answer is that the portion that goes behind the child's back is too fluffy and thick, and does not allow you to properly secure your child in the car seat.  Fluff and bulk in FRONT of a baby and under the harness would compress in a collision, but fluff between the BACK of a baby and the car seat prevents the harness from being sufficiently tightened. 

While a Bundle Me does allow the harness to be directly on the child's chest, it provides only the illusion of security because of the extra "air space" in the back. In order for the harness to completely compress away that air space, it would have to squish down on all the baby fat, flesh and bone to an obviously ridiculous level.  No one would ever do that to her baby, so the extra space remains.  And THAT'S why the Bundle Me is bad for car seats.

To really illustrate the point, I want to highlight the excellent Bundle Me thread on BabyCenter's "Car Seat Questions" board that was posted early in 2009, by lullabymama.  She tested a real Bundle Me, a real car seat and a real baby to see if the fluffy back panel really made a difference, and took photos to document each step:
  • Step 1: Put Bundle Me on car seat, seat child and fasten harness to appropriate tension.
  • Step 2: Remove child, remove Bundle Me, re-seat and re-fasten child.
  • Step 3: Test harness tension by pinching harness straps above chest clip, near shoulder.  If more than 1" of strap can be pinched, the harness would be too loose to safely restrain a child in a collision.
Even I was surprised that the amount of slack!  I am going to bookmark that thread and refer to it whenever the question arises.  A picture is worth a thousand words, as well as the safety of your child.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Are you thinking of making a poncho to use in the car seat?

I just got another email from a mom who tried:
I tried to make my own, but I really can't sew so I tried a no sew option, using fleece. It worked, it was fast & easy, but it's not the greatest. It's only one layer and has no hood or zipper. It's working fine for now, as the weather hasn't gotten too cold here yet, but I'm going to need something better for winter! Keeping my baby safe and warm is the most important thing!
I promptly sent this mom a coupon code to save $10 off the price of a Car Seat Poncho.  Since it's two warm layers of 400-weight cozy fleece, it's like having TWO blankets snuggled over your little one.  Very warm, very safe, very convenient -- and very cute.

So if you made a poncho and wished it were warmer, cuter or more convenient, post to this thread and receive a $10 coupon code!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Maclaren Stroller Recall

On Monday, Maclaren recalled every stroller it has ever sold in the US, because of a mutilation hazard presented in the hinges.  Fingers on or near the hinge flex points can be severely pinched or even mutilated.

From what I've seen, one of the major places this can happen is on the main frame of the stroller, perhaps referred to as the "side bars".  Others refer to it as the "elbow hinge."  When the stroller is folded, the top and bottom bars of the frames "V" open.  When they are almost in line with each other, they snap into the elbow hinge with a clear click.  I'm not sure if there is a spring coil and that snaps the bars into the hinge, but when the stroller is opened, there is a noticable snapping sound.  This is the moment when a little finger (or a carrot) can be crushed (as demonstrated by a British news segment).

Here is a feature on ABC news, showing the area of hazard and potential injury.  Owners of Maclarens can contact the company for hinge covers.  They are made of black nylon and attach to the frame with velcro loops.

There are a lot of comments out there about how silly this recall is, e.g., "Who lets their kid stand so close to the stroller anyway?"  I can see exactly how and why.  While a mom is trying to keep a bag from falling off her shoulder, close the trunk, and unfold a stroller, she also has to make sure her toddler does not wander away.  Since she can't hold the child's hand AND do all of the above, she'll say something like "keep your hand on the stroller, sweetie."  That's also something moms say to their older children when they are putting a younger baby into a stroller, basically, "anchor yourself to something tangible until I can take your hand again."  Also, moms and kids do the in/out stroller routine so often, I could see how the child might be halfway seated in the stroller, or lowering him or herself into it, just before that final "SNAP."  So quit snickering, you know who you are, it could happen.

Personal anecdote vindicating purchase decision:  About 6 years ago, when my husband and I were shopping for strollers, we were pointed to the Maclaren, which was, at the time, the premium brand.  (This was before Bugaboo mania.) 

My top criterion was that the stroller be one-hand foldable, and Maclaren did not fit the bill.  When the salesperson demonstrated the whole "kick it with your foot, fold it forward, then collapse it to the ground" maneuver, I gave it a big thumbs-down.  I guess all that manipulation is required because of all the hinges, which allow the stroller to fold up so compactly.  Much more than I knew I'd be able to handle -- not to mention I'm somewhat of a tightwad, and would never spend that much on a stroller anyway.  We ended up with a Graco Citilite (since discontinued), which I could fold and lift into the trunk with one hand, in less than five seconds, while holding my baby in the other arm.  Used the heck out of that thing for five years, and it was under $100.

More links:
The official announcements by Maclaren USA and the CPSC PSA
A British news segment, featuring buggy as veggie snapper

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Can car seats be any safer?

I posted the following to the Car Seat Questions board on Babycenter, and am interested to know what you think:
On a recent Babycenter thread, I cheekily suggested a seat that fills with foam upon impact (which might not be all that safe, I know), but what else could there be?
With higher rf weight limits, higher weight FF seats, and SIP becoming the standard for new car seat models, what other safety features could manufacturers consider adding to car seats?

One thing that I could see is emergency locking retractor belts in car seats -- the kind that are sensitive to rapid deceleration, and have an inertial mechanism device that pulls the seat belt taut upon impact? I think the Safeguard seats had them (correct me if I'm wrong), but that seat was so expensive, and I believe Safeguard is no longer making that model.
Other ideas?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Safety Peeps Love the Car Seat Poncho!

The Car Seat Poncho gets the thumbs up from the Kyle David Miller Foundation, in their recent blog entry, "Dressing for Winter and Safety:"

... [The Car Seat Poncho] is wonderful, purpose designed poncho that keeps children both safe and cozy in your vehicle. The double zip function makes it easy to push aside the material in the front while you secure their harness underneath. The poncho then sits over the harness putting nothing bulky between your child, their seat and the harness. I love this product and it is my #1 child christmas/birthday gift.
I'm thrilled to be mentioned in their post, because keeping children safe is the super-duper, primo numero uno mission of the Kyle David Miller Foundation.  KDMF is a wonderful non-profit organization which seeks to increase awareness high-weight harnessing and donates high weight capacity 5 point harness car seats to low income families across North America.  It was founded in in December 2006 after the Miller family lost their 3 year old son Kyle in a motor vehicle crash on May 2005. The seat belt holding his booster seat failed and he was ejected from the vehicle and killed.

To support the goals of the foundation, H Barry Boo LLC donates $3 from the proceeds of every Pink Camo and Gadget poncho sale.  We call these Kyle's Ponchos.  When parents purchase either of these styles, they are not only keeping their children safer, they are helping an important cause and honoring the short life of a sweet little boy who was taken much too soon.
And while we're at it, why not throw in a BLOG SPECIAL:  From now until midnight Sunday, November 8, 2009, purchase either of Kyles's Ponchos and get a FREE MATCHING HAT.  Quantities are limited, so don't miss this chance to score a fetching, car seat safe winter ensemble for your little one.  Feel free to pass this info around to birth boards and Facebook friends!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More Stories of Attempted Poncho Sewing

This week we got some more emails from moms who tried to make their own ponchos.  One Nebraska mom with three kids sent us a picture and told us her story:

It's not near as good as a real Car Seat Poncho since mine doesn't have a hood. I made it w/ a hood and it ate my child's head so it had to come off, lol. Then I had to tighten up the hole for the head so it stayed on, it was quite the comical sewing day! It's just 2 layers of fleece I got sewed together in every which way. It's definitely NOT reversible either. It's a better option than a coat for small babies, but mine isn't so good b/c it has no hat and Olivia will not keep hats on right now!
Another mom sent this:
I made DD a few last year and only one that turned out halfway decent. It was "okay" but it was only one layer and the hat was separate and no zipper (I can't do zippers). She outgrew it and I was going to make another this year, but I'm seriously reconsidering because I still have not perfected it and by the time I buy all the fabric....sheesh... Making just one took about an hour...2 hours counting the hat. It wasn't warm enough. And I don't want to mess with it this year.
Thanks to all the moms who came clean about their home sewing experiences.  If you have one you'd like to share (and get a $10 coupon as consolation), post with a picture to this thread. Thanks!

Monday, October 12, 2009

WARNING: No drawstrings at the neck!!!

I often get emails from customers, telling me about home-sewers who market "car seat safe" ponchos.  I was alarmed, though, by recent posts on popular parenting boards featuring ponchos with drawstrings around the hood and neck.  That is a tremendous, tremendous safety NO-NO.  Drawstrings are extremely dangerous on children's clothing because they can get caught and snag very easily, resulting in strangulation, dragging, and/or serious injury.

In 1996 the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a warning to all parents to remove drawstrings of all types from children's clothing 2T-12, and prohibited the sale of children's clothing with drawstrings around the head, neck, and waist (just to be extra cautious, I suppose).

I absolutely shudder to think about the child I saw in one thread whose poncho had a drawstring AROUND HIS NECK.  Could you imagine this child being carried to and from the car, in and out of the car seat, walking around, riding in a shopping cart, drawstrings flapping and dangling the whole time...!  How ironic that he's wearing something his mother made to keep him safe, but is now at risk to a whole new set of dangers when he wears it.

I am proud to say that the Car Seat Poncho has been scrutinized up and down and every which way by CPST's and safety professionals all across the country, and given the thumbs up.  When the product was exhibited at LifeSavers in 2008, techs gathered around my booth and exchanged "what-if's" and "what about's" regarding the design, the parts, the materials, etc., over the course of three whole days.  It got a very thorough inspection and, I'm proud to say, emerged with glowing reviews!

If you made your own poncho (with or without a drawstring), and wish you had a Car Seat Poncho, post to this thread.  Tell your story, and receive a $10 coupon for the purchase of a bona fide Car Seat Poncho!

The New Boys Are Here!

Thanks to your fabulous input, I created three new color combinations for boys and THEY ARE HERE, freshly stocked at the Car Seat Poncho store!

The new colors reflect your desire for more classic (collegiate-looking) combinations, a more subdued shade of blue, and a combination that included earth tones like brown, tan and moss.  The sketches don't do them justice, obviously.  As soon as the sun, the temperature and the models can be coordinated, new photos will be on the way.

And for little girls, Light Pink/White SMALL is BACK IN STOCK! To all the patient moms who wanted their little girls in the quintessential, classic girl color, thank you for waiting.
You, my dear blog subscribers and Facebook friends, are getting the news first, before regular searchers and shoppers.  As I've said before, friendship and subscription does have its privileges.  Feel free to forward this post to your friends and birth boards so they can also get advance notice of sales, coupons and new colors.  But for today, you might want to do a little private shopping for your own lil' man -- or one you know.  ;-)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

TRUE-LIFE TALE: Turning A Bad Poncho Into A Good Poncho

Angela posted to one of our threads on Car-Seat.Org, about trying to make a Car Seat Poncho for her son:
I attempted to make my own car seat poncho and it was a huge disaster. I bought a bunch of fleece fabric and went to town. I thought I could make a lined poncho but there was so much fabric that my sewing machine needle wouldn't even go through it all. It took me hours to complete and it looked a mess. I didn't even attempt a zipper! I wasn't sure how to finish the neckline so it looks pretty bad..and the hood is falling off. Then when I put it on my son, it just hung really weird. I'd like to get a REAL Car Seat Poncho because I know it will be made much better!
We sent Angela a $10 coupon to make up for the cost of the wasted fabric (although we couldn't compensate her for the wasted time!).  This way she can purchase the Car Seat Poncho for her son and put the whole home-sewing experience behind her.

Believe me, I've been in Angela's shoes!  It's easy enough to make a basic poncho: cut a hole in a blanket or piece of fleece.  I tried that, but when it came time to fasten the harness, I had to move the front of the poncho out of the way -- up to his neck, across his shoulder, or over his head.  Around that age, he wasn't crazy about being strapped in anyway, so that annoyed him even more.  A basic poncho was still not solving the problem of warmth, safety AND convenience for both mommy and baby.

I hacked and stitched my way through half a dozen prototypes before I hit upon the patent-pending design that's easy for moms to use without hassling the baby.  And the Car Seat Poncho is made by professional seamstresses, whose work is supervised and inspected by the same people who make clothes for Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity.  Moms send emails all the time raving about the beautiful workmanship, saying, "It is worth every penny and so much nicer than anything I could have made myself!"

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Sample Sale (Finally!)

The samples are finally out in the Car Seat Poncho store!  Blog subscribers and Face Book friends will be the only ones getting this notice.  ("Regular" shoppers, I love you, but subscription and Face Book friendship have to have their privileges!)

The samples available are Royal Blue/White and Navy/Yellow (both SMALL), and Lavender/Pink  (MED/LARGE).  The blue styles were made when I was picking colors for the final collection (I love using Project Runway lingo).  The lavender style was one of the most popular color combinations from 2007, but has since been retired.  Let me know if you think these combos might deserve their own place in future collections, and feel free to suggest more.

(By the way, I decided not to do the auction because I have no idea how to set up an EBay auction!)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Car Seat Poncho vs "The Coat Trick"

Next on my to-do list: a demonstration video.  I want people to see how fast they can get their children into the car seat, buckled and be on their way with the Car Seat Poncho. 

There is an excellent, and popular video by Madeline410 demonstrating what's known in some CPS circles as "the coat trick". 

Basically, the trick is to:
  1. Before you go out, slip one of your child's arms through one sleeve
  2. Slip the child's other arm through the other sleeve
  3. Zip up the coat
  4. Go out to the car and put your child in the seat
  5. Put his or her arms through the straps
  6. The bottom of the coat out from under the straps on one side
  7. Pull the bottom out on the other side
  8. The collar and top of the coat out from the straps on one side
  9. Pull the collar and top of the coat out from the straps on the other side
  10. Buckle the crotch and chest clips
  11. Tighten the harness
  12. Zip the coat
... and then you can be on your way (unless you have more children to coat-trick).

Now, I think the coat trick is a great trick, and a great way to keep kids safe and warm in the winter.  But the Car Seat Poncho is much easier. 

Here's what you do with the poncho:
  1. Before you go out, slip the poncho over your child's head
  2. Go out to the car and put your child in the seat
  3. Spread the poncho around the top and sides of the car seat
  4. Open the zipper from the bottom
  5. Buckle the crotch and chest clips
  6. Tighten the harness
  7. Pull down the zipper to close
Much easier, much quicker, right?  The video is about one minute long, and I'm pretty sure the poncho takes less than half that.  And if you have more than one child, that's a lot of time saved and a lot of hassle avoided.  Maybe I can get two moms and two kids, and do a split-screen comparison...

When I get it done, I'll debut it here first.  Blog readers deserve some perks and exclusives, right?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

1,800 Job Openings in LA

American Apparel, in downtown Los Angeles, is firing about 1,800 immigrant employees -- more than a quarter of its workforce -- after a federal investigation turned up irregularities in the identity documents they had presented at hiring (i.e., Social Security and/or immigration documents) — probably because the documents were fake.

So will American Apparel be able to replace those workers?  Are American citizens interested in working for a company that "has been lauded by city officials and business leaders for paying well above the garment industry standard, offering health benefits and not long ago giving $18 million in stock to its workers"?  The company also has masseuses and massage chairs on the factory floor, dispensing 20-minute massages to sewing staff who needed them.

The pay is decent, there are benefits and bonuses, and occasional perks.  But one soon-to-be-terminated employee -- a top supervisor, said, “I think the Americans think that garment sewing is demeaning work.”

Geez, I don't!  If it weren't 3,000 miles away, I'd definitely take a job there over one at Wal-Mart, Old Navy or Starbucks. Wouldn't you?  If Americans (born here or born elsewhere but citizens now) need work, and a good company needs workers, will they apply for work in a garment factory?  What would that be like?

It might go like this:  American company offers decent, skilled labor jobs, with training, to Americans.  More Americans work, more Americans experience the satisfaction of making, more Americans respect the skills, craftsmanship and time that go into making, more Americans are willing to pay a little more for well-made goods (American, hopefully), and more American factories are created.  More American jobs.  And perhaps a new, respectful era begins for American industry.

Toyota/Lexus Recalls: Floor Mats & Accelerator Pedals

Important news for drivers of Toyota and Lexus vehicles:  Toyota is recalling 3.8 million vehicles because the driver's side floor mat could cause the accelerator pedal to become stuck, and lead to unexpected high speeds and dangerous crashes. The automaker and federal officials are urging owners to remove their driver’s side mat while Toyota works out a solution.

Specific models and model years are:  2007 to 2010 Camry; 2005 to 2010 Avalon; 2004 to 2009 Prius; 2005 to 2010 Tacoma; 2007 to 2010 Tundra; 2007 to 2010 ES 350; and 2006 to 2010 IS 250 and 2006 to 2010 IS 350.

For detailed information from the manufacturer:

Toyota press release
Lexus press release

And please pass this information on to anyone else you know who might own or drive these vehicles!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Poland Spring's Triple Evil Water

I'm back to packing daily lunches and snacks for my son, and bought two 12-packs of little 8-ounce Poland Spring bottles. I know that bottled water is hideously expensive, marketed with dubious pretenses, and bad bad bad for the environment, but I rationalized that I'd re-use each bottle a couple of times, and mitigate each aspect somewhat.

Silly, silly me. Turns out that THESE TOPS DON'T UNSCREW. I tried every day the first week, figuring this is some child-safety design and I just need to focus and apply a little squeeze to some secret spot. Nope -- they are one-time-use only! In the fine, fine print, they tell you that the cap is non-removable by design, to protect children from choking hazards. But wouldn't flip-tops protect just as well?

So I figured I'd just use suction and pressure through the twist-open nozzle, and then empty and re-fill the bottles. Wrong-o, yet again. They are made of thin-walled plastic that does not snap back into shape. Once crushed, crushed forever. "Better for the environment," they say, where it "takes up less space in landfills" -- where they will stay, FOREVER, and never degrade.

Plus, the water is flouridated, which is not necessarily beneficial for people who already have flouridated water, as our town does.

Frankly, I suspect that Nestle (owner of the Poland Spring brand) didn't like losing sales to themselves when people would re-fill and re-use their bottles. I do know that chemicals from the plastics can leach into the drinking water, but I would doubt that that is a significant risk for bottles that are re-used a few times (often over the course of a single afternoon).

It really, really bothers me that they are touting this bottle as a way to keep our children "safe" with 1.) the permanent cap, 2.) perma-crush bottle, and 3.) superfluous flouride, when ultimately, it will contribute to the waste and pollution that will diminish quality of life around the planet. Hypocritical, and in my opinion, evil.

And now I'm stuck with 20 of the little stinkers.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

A Risk Worth Taking?

In today's New York Times, there was an article discussing the dilemma many parents face as the school year begins: to escort your kids to school or not. In an unattended moment, a child could fall, or be careless when crossing the street, but what everybody's really fearing is that some d-mned child predator will whisk him or her away without a trace. While I do want to foster independence and autonomy in my son, I know I would literally die if he were to disappear. I think I have at least 3 or 4 years to brook the issue, and in the meantime, I feel like squirming away from the issue because he's too young to walk by himself now anyway.

I do want to take issue with one point in the article, though: "Critics say fears that children will be abducted by strangers are at a level unjustified by reality. About 115 children are kidnapped by strangers each year, according to federal statistics; 250,000 are injured in auto accidents." The author has quotes from media and crime experts who say TV shows and news media sensationalize child abductions, and implies by that factoid, I think, that parents should worry more about auto accidents and stop hovering at the bus stop.

While I am, obviously, passionate about passenger safety, I don't like the implication that kidnapping is a trivial issue. Yes, there are more auto accidents than stranger abductions, but a child can be injured in an auto accident and survive. Their parents can see and touch their child and have an idea of what will happen, for better or worse. And there are also some children who, tragically, do not survive. Still, their parents know what happened to them.

But to have your child just disappear without a trace is beyond terrifying, beyond heartbreak. To have no closure, no resolution, to not know if your child is in pain, is in danger, is dead. Like Jaycee Dugard's mom, or Etan Patz's mom. I just don't know how I could bear it.

Even if it's "just" 115 children a year, I just can't risk my child being one of them.

... so yeah, I'm gonna walk with him for a good long freakin' time.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The first cold morning in your town will be...?

If you live in Piqua OH, your first chilly morning will arrive October 1st.

To pinpoint the first cold morning in your town, visit and click on Forecast, Typical Weather. Enter your city and state, click GO to see average monthly highs and lows, then click on each month to see average daily temperatures.

I usually start reaching for my son's and my jackets at around the 50-degree mark. Even if the day's supposed to top out in the high 60's, the mornings are usually quite chilly and we can see our breath as we head out to the car. Fall is my favorite season and I love to be ready with a cozy fleece or poncho on the coat rack!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

E-Bay Sample Sale: September

I have several garments that were produced for color-test and design purposes, but never went into factory production for one reason or another. There is one print that I especially adored (as did my sales rep, who thought it would be a best seller), and when I found out it was discontinued I literally curled up into the fetal position. The one poncho that was made from it is the only one in the world!

Although I would love to archive every single one of them (for the Car Seat Poncho Museum someday, or perhaps the coffee table book), I don't need them ALL, so they will go up on E-Bay some time next month.

Blog subscribers will get an exclusive look at the colors and one-of-a-kind patterns.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sewing in America (Part 5) - RIP NYC Fashion Capital?

There is an incredibly relevant article in today's New York Times, regarding the decline of the garment industry in NYC.

New York’s garment center, once the heart of an industry that employed hundreds of thousands of workers and produced most of the clothing in the United States, is in danger of extinction.

For decades, cheaper foreign competitors and rising rents forced many of the sewing and cutting rooms and the button and zipper shops that once thrived on the side streets south of Times Square to close, shrink or move as mass production shifted to China, India and Latin America.

Owners say they are caught in a vise between declining retail sales and landlords eager to find better-paying tenants.

Some city officials and industry leaders worry that if manufacturing is wiped out, many of the designers who bring so much luster to New York will leave, along with the city’s claim to be a fashion capital rivaling Paris and Milan. The damage would be undeniable, given that the industry’s two big annual events — Fashion Week in September and February — attract enormous numbers of visitors and generate hundreds of millions of dollars in economic activity.

“If you don’t have production in the garment center, there would be no reason for designers and suppliers to cluster in the district,” said Barbara Blair Randall, executive director of the Fashion Center Business Improvement District. “We’re down to 9,000 jobs.”

But city officials say the industry has shrunk to a point where it could be reasonably consolidated in a few buildings, rather than several blocks. “It’s not mass production,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey said of the garment center. “Clearly, what’s occurring is much smaller and more high-end compared with the actual production that used to exist..."

It's a Catch-22: the factories are smaller, so the output capacity is smaller, so the orders are smaller. The work in these Garment District shops tends to be more high-end, intricate upscale designer clothing requiring finer craftsmanship. It's hard to say whether that's a cause or a symptom of the district's decline.

"Orders are more likely to be 3,000 or 4,000 pieces, not the production runs of 100,000 pairs of jeans that are now typically sent to..."

(Want to guess?)


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sewing in America (Part 4) - Lindsey T, Patriot

Blogger Lindsey T thinks people who sew are really smart, and might even be better Americans:

"Sewing is excellent brain exercise because you’re constantly solving problems, researching techniques, testing theories and brainstorming design ideas. People who sew can make something out of nothing."

If you couldn't already tell, Lindsey T is an avid sewer. I discovered her blog on a Google search of "percentage of Americans who sew." I also found this article on Salon, which cites increases in sewing machine imports and the growing popularity of sewing studios, salons and schools: "...(T)hose drawn to sewing today aren't just attracted to its utilitarian side. Now it's considered an art form."

Bia Bernum has one such sewing school in upstate NY, Sew You Can. She and I have been emailing back and forth with ideas for blog articles and surveys, and hopefully one day I can interview her.

So while survival sewing skills might be on the wane, creative sewing skills are increasing in various pockets across the country. And while I find this exciting and personally interesting, I realize it has nothing to do with the Car Seat Poncho.

I don't think the increase in creative sewing acumen will get more apparel factories up and running in the US. Hints as to why lie in the "not necessarily" answers to these questions: Can a brilliant cook run a restaurant? Can a worker on an assembly line build a truck from scratch?

Hate to be a tease, but elaboration will come in the next post. Thanks for reading, sorry it's taking so long to make a point (I'd make a terrible journalist).

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sewing in America -- 2 Major Ideas (Part 3)

It's taken me a while to post again because I realize there are two separate ideas here:

A.) Sewing as a lost art (even mending stymies most people)
B.) Limited apparel manufacturing resources in the US

On the Subject of A (let's call it "Lost Arts"):
This Sunday's New York Times Magazine presented an interesting article about our nation's dwindling cooking abilities, and how women's lib, cooking/food lifestyle shows and the packaged food industry have turned eating into theater, cooking into sport, and diminished the daily activity of food preparation. "Weekday meals are hum drum, a drag to shop and prepare for after a long day, so let's nuke/order something and make a REAL meal on the weekend."

I think the same thing has happened to sewing:

The Women's Lib Effect:
I think for girls growing up in the 70's, sewing was old-fashioned, house-wifey, uncool, unliberated. It was a big deal when our district decided that boys AND girls would take Home Economics AND Wood Shop. Having the boys in Home Ec made the subjects at hand into comedy. The boys would goof around (egg tosses, anyone?) and when we were doing sewing projects, the boys would instigate "races" where they would floor the pedals and rev up the machines. The boys aren't completely to blame, though, because the girls happily joined in -- at least the girls who cared about being cool to the boys (which was most of us). Looking back, I feel so sorry for the Home Ec teachers. What they taught was being stigmatized right before their eyes.

I remember in the 90s, when I worked in an office, and a button popped off my jacket. I asked the other women (mostly in their 20s) if any of them had a needle and thread. They furrowed their brows and said they'd never even used a needle or thread. They'd never even sewed on a button. So what do you do when a button falls off? They told me they put it back in their closet and figure they'll get around to it (then throw it out in a few months), or wear it anyway. I described the idea of a Home Ec class and they giggled. I get the sense that when people profess their ignorance to threading a needle, it's a badge of honor that they are not Suzy Homemaker.

Cheap Clothes, Sold Cheap
Why make when you can buy? Why mend when you can buy? Clothing is cheap and disposable. In fairness, it would be a real drag to have to make every single thing you needed to wear, and to mend the heels of your socks when they wore thin, but if replacements were not so inexpensive easily available, wouldn't we do a LITTLE more? Of course the relative inexpensive price of the goods has a lot to do with Subject B (Limited US apparel manufacturing).

Creative Outlet versus Life Skill
Whereas the elevation of cooking to an art form bows to Julia Child and the Mario Batali, sewing has Project Runway and Etsy. Have you checked out the sewn goods on Etsy? They're amazing. Amazing and intimidating. Etsy and Project Runway celebrate the art of design and the craft of sewing, and elevate them to a point where all we want (or can, for that matter) do is admire.

So where should I go with this? Do I have a point of view on how or why to bring sewing back into the American mainstream? Not really. The Times article quotes Harry Balzer, a food-marketing research expert, who comes off as an amusing, crusty curmudgeon, on why peole need to get off their high horses about the Lost Arts. Just substitute "cooking a chicken" with "making a dress" (and the attendant preparations):

“Do you miss sewing or darning socks? I don’t think so... Here’s an analogy,” Balzer said. “A hundred years ago, chicken for dinner meant going out and catching, killing, plucking and gutting a chicken. Do you know anybody who still does that? It would be considered crazy! Well, that’s exactly how cooking will seem to your grandchildren: something people used to do when they had no other choice. Get over it.”

So yes, we do have more choices now. To sew and create. To mend or replace. And that's great; I like having choices. But I guess I would be less indignant if more people would just sew a button back on once in a while.

What do you think? Do you guys sew? Can you thread a needle and sew on a button? How important a skill is it?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Day After (Plus One)

Well, the one-day sale to celebrate the blog was a smashing success! Thanks to everyone who subscribed, and congratulations to everyone who scored big bargains. The "Sewing in America" series will continue next week. Just need a day or so to catch up.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sewing in America (Part 2): That's Sew China

This is the second in a 5-part series on the state of sewing and manufacturing in America:

An incredible proportion of our goods (be they sewn, molded, assembled, etc.) are made in China. If you TRIED to avoid buying "Made in China" merchandise, you would have a very hard time indeed. Sara Bongiorni, a journalist in Baton Rouge, lived for a year avoiding the purchase of any products made in China. She wrote a book about it, "A Year Without Made in China: One Family's True Life Adventure in the Global Economy," where, according to Publisher's Weekly, she tells "often funny, occasionally humiliating stories centering around her difficulty procuring sneakers, sunglasses, DVD players and toys for two young children and a skeptical husband."

To get a sense of how these kabillion products are produced, take a look at these truly awesome photoscapes by Canadian artist Edward Burtynsky. I've been rendered speechless by natural sights like the Grand Canyon and man-made architectural wonders in Europe, but when I saw Burtynsky's "Manufactured Landscapes," my mind was truly, truly boggled. I could not even imagine, or believe how big these factories are.

The output from just ONE day or work would probably fill every shelf of your local big box store. Imagine hundreds of megafactory complexes, operating 365 days a year.

What does this have to do with sewing?

That'll be covered in the next post. Have a great weekend, everybody.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Sewing in America (a 5-part series)

This is the first in an ongoing series of observations about the state of sewing in America. As many of you know, the Car Seat Poncho is manufactured right here in the USA, and I hope that I will always be able to say that. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that will still be possible 5, 10 or 20 years from now.

Fifty years ago, there were millions of factory jobs in this country -- skilled labor that built the middle class. And thirty years ago, middle and high school kids were learning how to make things, in wood shop or in home ec. Those classes were terrific laboratories for math, geometry, and creativity. Where are they now -- those jobs, those classes? Is it even possible to bring them back? And what will we do when/if they're gone?

PART 1: Keeping An American Brand in America

I breathed a big sigh of relief when I read that Hartmarx had received approval to sell itself to two American and British investor groups (link).

Britain's Emerisque Brands and SKNL North America have vowed to keep the company intact as a leading manufacturer of men's and women's suits. Hartmarx, the 120-year-old maker of Hickey Freeman and Hart Schaffner Marx brands, has outfitted generations of men in their "first day of work" suits, wedding tuxedos and retirement dinner jackets. Based in Illinois, they have made several suits for President Obama, including the one he wore at his inauguration.

This vow means that over 4,000 employees in Illinois, New York and Alabama get to keep their jobs, their homes, their healthcare (hopefully), their security. It also means that the art and craft of apparel manufacturing stays alive a little while longer in this country.

(Wells Fargo, HM's creditor, had wanted to liquidate its assets, dismiss its employees, and license the esteemed brand name to offshore manufacturers. Hmmm. That's not a very nice "thank you" to the American people for shelling out the $25 billion in federal aid that kept the bank afloat, is it? Quite arrogant, I'd say.)

What do you think?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Brandy, is that you?

I've heard from about half of my dear followers, with the email addresses they'd like me to use for their 50% coupon (remember the July 9th post?). I'm still hoping to hear from seven of you, before Sunday, 7/26 (for some, I've taken a guess from the store customer list):
  1. brandy calhoun (perhaps aka "brandylynn01"?)
  2. Alan
  3. Megan
  4. Karen ("karenc"?)
  5. Jen Smith
  6. Muriel ("melgroff"?)
  7. Amber ("raisingkain"?)

Send to me at DONNA at HBARRYBOOLLC dotty com. Thanks again for your time.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Comments welcome!

Thanks, Christine Bondi, for letting me know that my Comments settings were out of whack. I fixed them, so now registered users can leave feedback after each post. I'd love to know what you guys think, and welcome any suggestions for what you'd like to read about here -- mompreneur life, safety obsessions, anecdotes about the garment industry? No promises, but I'll do the best I can!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Ponchos for boys?

I get a lot of moms wishing there were more of a selection of prints and colors for boys. Honestly, it's tough to find the right balance of fun, cute, and boyish. I've had hits over the past 3 years, but honestly, some combos were a lot less popular.
So before I commit to any new production, I want to make sure that new colors have sales traction. Let me know what you think of these:
  • Brown with Light Blue
  • Denim with Gold
  • Footballs with Black (Reversible)
I'd also be interested in reasons why they are liked or not, as well as any other suggestions you might have. Thanks!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"When I was a kid..." doesn't cut it with car seat safety.

I was pleased to read this post on the Kyle David Miller Foundation Blog recently, about how practices that seemed safe a long time ago are now known to be unsafe. Think about how much more we know today, about cigarettes, asbestos, pre-natal healthcare, bisphenol A! I wrote a similar piece as a press release last year, and posted it on the website. Same idea, with data and footnotes. Here it is, in case you missed it: July 8, 2008 "Back in the day..." is no excuse for slacking on safety.

Many people dismiss car seat safety, saying, “When I was a kid, we didn’t ride in car seats, and we turned out fine.” They go on: "We sat five across on a bench seat, no belts... My parents took me home in a laundry basket on the floor of the back seat... I used to ride in the front seat between my mother and father..." (Of course, the voices of those who were not so lucky to have "turned out fine" are not being considered!) While skeptics may use their own childhood experiences as references, they should remember that it’s not just the type or number of products that's different: The nature of driving itself has changed significantly in the past 30 years:

1. There are 300% MORE CARS on US roads now than when we were kids.

According the Federal Highway Authority, the number of passenger vehicles has steadily risen, from 74 million in 1960 to over 231 million in 2004.(1) That means more traffic, more congestion, less parking, and more road rage. And drivers' attention is more divided than ever, with cell phones, DVD players, GPS systems -- not to mention non-technical distractions like eating, putting on makeup, or settling arguments between backseat passengers. Every one of these can be a factor in a collision.

2. The average US motor vehicle is nearly 20% HEAVIER than the ones we used to ride in.

According to the Center for Auto Safety, the weight of the average passenger car increased from 3,227 pounds in 1980 to 3,868 pounds in 2000. (2) Even at relatively low speeds like 30 miles per hour, the 600+ pound increase in one or more of the cars’ weight could dramatically increase the damage of a crash. Add to that the wider range of weights in the vehicles on today’s roads (from the Honda Civic DX at 2,628 pounds (3), to the AWD Cadillac Escalade at 5,708 pounds (4)), and the possibilities for injuries and fatalities are even greater.

3. The average American child spends MORE TIME in the car than ever.

The National Household Travel Study, released in 2003, found that three fourths of children aged 5 and younger rode in private cars daily, averaging 65 minutes per day. In reporting the study, the Washington Post wrote that younger children, not yet in school, probably spend significantly more time in the car than that. (5) Those with stay at home parents go wherever (and whenever) Mom or Dad goes, and those with working parents often drive with them to day care near the workplace. Suburban sprawl also makes a difference: "Fetching a carton of milk used to mean toting children along to the corner store. Now it means strapping them in for a 20-minute drive to K-Mart." (6) The more time spent in the car, the more risk of being in a collision. That's why most car crashes tend to happen close to home, not on the highway -- we spend more time close to home!

Safety improvements like seat belts, air bags and car seats have helped decreased the number of deaths over the past 30 years, but motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. (7) They still cause about 25% of injury deaths among children 12 and younger. (8) We all have anecdotes about how our childhoods were simpler. Some may argue that the old days were better, and in many ways, they were. But there is no question that advancements in technology and communications have also enhanced (and prolonged) our lives. So resist the temptation to disregard today’s safety advice. Make sure your kids stay safe whenever they are in a car, so that in years to come (when their world is unrecognizable to us!), they, too, will be talking about "back in the day."

SOURCES: 1 US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, number of motor vehicles since 1960. 2 Statements of Clarence M. Ditlow, Director, Center for Auto Safety, to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, December 6, 2001. 3 US News & World Report, Automotive Rankings & Reviews, 2008. 4, 2008 AWD Escalade, Vehicle Information, Curb Weight 5, “The Road Too Much Traveled: For Many Children, Drive Time Just Keeps Going,” January 27, 2003 6, January 27, 2003 7 CDC. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System [online]. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (producer). Available from URL: [2008 May 5].8 National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2003. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System. Atlanta, GA. Available:

(This article was originally published on About Donna Eng: Donna Eng is the inventor of the Car Seat Poncho, and the CEO of H Barry Boo LLC. She invented the Car Seat Poncho at her dining room table, after searching in vain for a product that would keep her son both safe and warm in his convertible car seat. Prior to founding H Barry Boo, Eng had a 15-year career in advertising and market research. About the Car Seat Poncho: The Car Seat Poncho is the safe alternative to a coat for children who ride in a convertible car seat. Regular winter coats are often too thick to allow the safety harness to fasten properly, which could lead to the ejection in a crash. The Car Seat Poncho is the easy way to keep a child safe and warm in the car seat, and is more convenient than a coat because it can be worn outside of the car as well. The Car Seat Poncho is available online at, and is patent pending.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

OK... A Small Glitch

Dear, Dear Followers: Thank you so much for signing on so quickly! I assumed, though, that when members subscribed their emails would be listed from my blog dashboard, and that I could then email each of you individually with your coupon codes. I was wrong. No email addresses listed, and in retrospect it makes perfect sense. That sound you hear is that of my palm slapping my forehead. So I need you, dear subscribers, to do me one more solid and email me with the email address where you would like to receive your coupon. I'm so sorry for the inconvenience, and I promise I will study the mechanics of this thing more closely. Thanks so much, Donna

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blog Day Kick-Off: 50% OFF SALE!

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009 will be the official launch date of the Car Seat Poncho Blog. In this blog, I plan to share what's going on "behind the scenes," like:
  • Factory visits
  • Photo shoots
  • Important safety news
  • New styles and color/fabric choices
  • Safety-community events, like KIDZ or LifeSavers.
  • And of course, upcoming sales and coupons!

To start things off, I'm having a Crazy One-Day Sale on Tuesday, July 28th. Become a subscriber to the Car Seat Poncho Blog BEFORE midnight, Sunday, July 26th and receive a unique, one-time use coupon code for 50% off your purchases on the 28th.

Let's get started! Sign up today, by clicking on "SUBSCRIBE TO" at the end of this post or on the FOLLOWERS icon immediately to your right (in the light green area). Be sure to forward this to other safety-minded friends and colleagues (see the little ENVELOPE with an arrow?). Feel free to post about this to your birth boards and other forums, too. Heck, do you think we can hit 100 subscribers by the 28th?