Saturday, November 24, 2007

Toys Not Made in China, Making Finding Them Easier

The Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide is a toddler mom's toy fantasy land. It boasts the best finds of the season for moms who are fed up with toy recalls. Sellers offer gifts in almost every price range, from the $6 set of four colorful German-made balls at Oompa Toys to the $249 rocking dory hand-crafted by artisanal Maine wood-workers at Nova Naturals Toys and Crafts.

While major retailers are slower to respond to demand for toys not made in China, some toys made in the USA and in Germany can be found on the web sites of FAO Schwarz, Target and Toys R Us. These retailers don't make it easy though. Searching the sites is time consuming and often fruitless. Many, if not most, of the toys offered are made in China and, particularly in the case of Target and Toys R Us, often little or no manufacturing information is offered. (We found even if we called customer service to ask where a particular product was made, a Kiddi-O Tricycle by Kettler, neither Target nor Toys R Us could tell us. They suggested calling a local store, not exactly an efficient use of time.)

Even "The FAO Schwarz Toy Buying Guide," includes a statement from CEO Ed Schmults saying, "All toys sold in the US must meet certain US government safety standards concerning safety (choking hazards, toxic substances, etc.). However, the recent recalls suggest that it is possible for harmful substances to make it into toys." Perhaps an understatement?

Schmults also says, "There are many quality-oriented factories in China that don’t cut corners, but if you are uncomfortable with China production, then seek out alternative toys made with quality design and quality raw materials." While Scmults acknowledges that some people may be uncomfortable with China production, to continue defending Chinese manufacturers seems almost counterproductive. At this point, parents are more concerned with finding alternatives to toys made in China than trying to find a quality-oriented factory in China that can be trusted with the health of their children.

Schmults does go on to offer some helpful advice about selecting quality toys in general saying, "Look at how the product was designed : Does every part have a purpose? Toys with excessive moving parts can be prone to breakage and factories may use cheaper materials to reduce the cost of manufacturing a complex item." Notably, FAO Schwarz does stay ahead of Target, Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us by offering the capability to search for toys by country of origin. Then again, based on price and reputation, it seems FAO Schwarz should be offering more non-China products than they are.

All-in-all, mainstream American retailers are still missing the mark in responding to the recent toy recalls, leading former customers to smart solutions like The Cool Mom Picks Safer Toy Guide and new relationships with the toy sellers found there.

Two Great Toy Sellers

Oompa Toys


Both feature a broad selection of European toys.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Just in Time for Flu Season, Flu Drugs May Cause Psychiatric Events

Based upon FDA staff recommendations for new warnings on two flu drugs, the cure may sometimes be worse than illness. Psychiatric events, including hallucinations, delirium and abnormal behavior may be linked to the drugs Relenza and Tamiflu. Some events in patients taking Tamiflu have resulted in serious injury or death, although there is conflicting evidence regarding whether the events are medication-related.

Click here to read the Reuters story on Yahoo! News.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

French Toast Casserole with Easy Cranberry Sauce

Lazy me. I like French Toast, but who has time for all the endless dipping, frying and flipping on holiday mornings? This easy recipe provides a simple alternative. It can be adjusted to feed few or many. It even works well refrigerated, reheated and served the next day.

The simplicity with which it is prepared belies the complexity of texture and taste it delivers. There's no need to mix to perfection before putting it in the oven. The varied textures help deliver its rustic charm.


4 slices thick-cut raisin bread
4 large eggs
4 Tablespoons sour cream
3 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
Real butter

Grease 8 inch x 8 inch glass pan with real butter. Toast raisin bread under oven broiler until golden brown, and set aside. Mix eggs, sour cream, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ground cloves in large mixing bowl. Tear toast into small pieces, varying in size from about 1/2 inch to 1 1/2 inches, adding to egg mixture as you go. (This allows different levels of saturation, adding to the complexity of the dish.) Pour into pan, and cook at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Less time for a more pudding-like consistency. More time for consistency nearer French Toast.

Serve with alone, topped with whipped cream or topped with Easy Cranberry Sauce as seen above.


Is It Too Late to Return the Turkey?

Best Thanksgiving Help Sites:

Visit for the full Thanksgiving survival guide.

Better Homes and Gardens offers a step-by-step guide from buying and thawing to roasting and carving.

Hot lines and online help links abound at, links for everything from Butterball to OceanSpray.

"Last Minute Turkey Day Salvation," from, features tips for the seemingly unsavable turkey.

Kids table conundrums are solved at, where you'll find creative ideas, complete with instructions and patterns.

Seriously short on time? For easy last-minute options, visit the Boar's Head DigiCatessen. Click on the turkey, and do a little last minute turkey salvation dance as their many options for pre-cooked turkey pop up.

The Last Straw -- No More Toys from China

(*Correction, the FAO Schwarz site does not identify country of origin for individual toys. It allows visitors to search by country of origin. Not a quick process, but still better than the information many other sites offer.)

According to a CNN report today, 80% of US sold toys are made in China. There are alternatives though. FAO Schwartz and the Cool Mom Pick Safer Toy Guide identify toys made in the USA, Germany, and other countries with higher production standards.

I'm cleaning out the toy box and starting over, with no toys from China. The best way to lose a mom's business is to sell her something unsafe for her child. Pretty obvious, at least I would have thought so before 25 million toys were recalled.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

How Now Green Cow

Baby Z loves cows. This week we talked with Papa on speakerphone. She was amazed when I told her he had cows we could go visit. Even more exciting was the brilliant array of colors in which she must have pictured them.

Me: Do you like cows?

Baby Z: I like cows!

Me: Did you know Papa has cows at his house we could go visit? Would you like to go see the cows where Papa lives?

Baby Z: (stunned)

Papa: I have a black and white cow.

Baby Z: Black and white COW!

Papa: And I have a red cow.

Baby Z: Red COW!

Papa: And I have a cow that's white all over.

Baby Z: White cow!

Papa: And I have a yellow cow.


Me: Wow, a black and white cow, a red cow, a white cow and a yellow cow. What other color cows do you think Papa might have?


Well, yes, why not a green cow? They do seem to come in every color of the rainbow after all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Southwestern Diet Deviled Eggs

This is a fresh recipe with a little New Mexican flare. Egg whites are substituted for yolk, and green chili sauce adds a yummy kick. Low-fat or nonfat sour cream, instead of mayo, allows a little guilt-free indulgence.

The recipe below is for a single serving and can be easily doubled, tripled, etc. as needed.


--2 hard-boiled eggs
--1 teaspoon yellow mustard
--1 Tablespoon low-fat or nonfat sour cream
--1 Tablespoon "505 Southwestern Green Chile Sauce" (ideal because of it's smooth, rich consistency)
--1 olive
--1 small cherry tomato

Remove shell from eggs. Cut eggs in half lengthwise. Remove yolks and store for later use. To make filling, puree one of the egg whites, mustard, sour cream and green chili sauce in hand chopper or small blender. Chill in refrigerator 10 to 15 minutes. Remove filling from fridge and spoon into center of remaining egg white. Garnish with sliced olive and halved cherry tomato.

Serve with Tabasco, red or green, and lots of water. : )

Monday, November 19, 2007

December Feature: Home for the Holidays

Blog posts here in December will feature recipes, decorating tips and a little dollop of holiday madness. After all, I'm still a mom of two toddlers.

Provence Calling

Talk a walk through Provence through the pictures here. Simply beautiful.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hair of the Dog -- Another Shot of Gas, Anyone?

For best and worst examples of responsible consumption, check out the LA Auto Show online. Vehicles range from the ultra environmentally conscious Volvo Recharge to the $400,000 Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe (Okay, we get it. You're rich.).