Friday, November 20, 2009

building with imagination - Kapla

Kapla blocks

3 years ago, on a 1st grade field trip to the Lawrence Hall of Science (in Berkeley), we stumbled upon a room with millions of these amazing planks.  Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but really, there were tons of these pieces of wood.  They are 100% wood and machine made to be identical.  They are amazing for play from 1-100 years old.  No two buildings will ever be the same is their website.  They have some amazing photos of what their planks can build (a million times more complicated than my family's work above).  The website also has some fun information about the planks...
"This is an abbreviation of "Kabouter Plankjes" which means gnome planks in Dutch. With the KAPLA planks kids as well as adults can now build and create all kinds of different architectural constructions, animals, extraordinary creations..."

At my house, they are primarily used for building aircraft carriers, ships and roads.  Every now and again, we'll have a building or structure of some sort.  We have a box of 1,000 planks that were gifted to us for #4's 2nd birthday by her grandparents.  It was truly a gift for the whole family, a gift for a girl who needed nothing!  Her nickname became "Godzilla" because she liked to wreck everyone's buildings.  We instituted the rules that you cannot get mad at the baby for breaking your building, nor can you be upset when your building eventually collapses or tips over.

So, if you get a chance to visit the Lawrence Hall of Science, you can play in the Kapla room.  They also sell the blocks and have a 10% discount in their gift shop for members.  There are also tons of places to get them on line.  Get enough so you don't have to hamper imagination because you ran out of planks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A rolling we will go -Carry Cruiser market cart

Carry Cruiser by Reisenthel

A couple of years ago I was in Paris with some friends.  We noticed a trend of people shopping with stylish/rolling market carts.  Being that I'm a farmers' market shopper, I was wondering how this could translate for my shopping at home.  There really aren't a lot of stylish, yet functional market carts available.  Then I saw the Carry Cruiser.  I figured that since it is by Reisenthel, who many stores carry in the US, that I would be able to get one at home.  I was wrong.  I had to order from, the German distributor for Reisenthel.

Now you know, I'm stubborn.  Once I see a product that I know will work for me, I usually track it down.  In this instance, I had to order it from Germany.  Thank goodness the website had a British translation.  But, once again, I was paying import fees and crazy shipping because I could not find the product in the US.

What makes this cart special?  I got to pick from a nice selection of fabrics.  The cart has sturdy wheels to tote it around.  The handle telescopes, so I can put it easily into the car and store it at home.  The handle is also tall enough for me to cart it comfortably.  It also has a shoulder carry strap for helping carry the cart up stairs.  The cart itself is wide enough to load in my farmers' market treasures without smashing everything like those tall carts.  Lastly it has a fabric drawstring closure for the top, when I've bought so much it's overflowing.

Now, you don't have to go to Europe for one of these, or even order from Germany.  Finally they are distributing them in the US.  Just Google "Carry Cruiser Reisenthel" and pick from a number of sites.  You might think I'm bummed that I had to buy my cart from overseas.  It turns out to be a good thing I did.  After 2 solid years of use, my handle broke off.  It seemed to be an easy enough to replace, but there were no domestic places that had access to this part.  Luckily was as helpful as before and for a slight shipping fee, sent me 2 of the handles.

I paid 149 euros (including shipping).  Today I saw it for $159 +s/h online

Happy shopping!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

FR8 -my pretty orange bike

FR8 by Workcycles

This is my streamlined solution to transporting many kids and more stuff to school and around town.  I was previously using a 3 wheeled version for this task.  I found myself with more kids hanging on while riding on their ripsticks/skateboards than riding in my trike.  This led me to my beautiful orange bike.

FR8 stands for freight and this thing can haul.  It has the Massive Rack on the front (with a tub to hold book bags, lunches and more).  It's kickstand is an awesome drop down from the front stand (some people say it's has it's own bike rack).  It has dynamo lighting, an axl lock and an extended back rack.  The back rack has seating for 2 and there's one extra seat for a shorter rider in the front.  My bike has coaster and front hand brakes, a Brooks saddle and 7 gears for slight inclines.  Hills are not this bikes friend, but then it's a transport bike, not a mountain bike.

It took some getting used to, switching from 3 to 2 wheels.  I hadn't had to balance on a bike for 5 years. I've figured out that the back passengers need to get on after I do.  Otherwise it is too heavy and I have a hard time holding the bike up and getting on at the same time.  Someone with more coordination, or forearm strength could probably do better. is working with to bring these bikes and more to the Bay Area.  This makes getting a quality utility bike so much easier.  For my trike, I had to import it, with Henry's (of Workcycles) help.  Now, My Dutch Bike can help you customize your bike to suit your style.  It can come in almost any color and has a variety of configurations.  A smaller front rack with a little middle kickstand is available, as well as opting out of the additional seating.

I love my Dutch Post Office Orange FR8, Oscar and Soraya of My Dutch Bike and Henry of Workcycles.  I thought I'd miss my trike, but it's found a lovely home on the peninsula with a mom of 3. This isn't a cheap solution to getting around, but to me, it's worth every penny.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

iPhone transport - the Danglet

Danglet by Collins America

This is an amazing item that enables me to carry my iPhone with me without using a purse or pockets.  Yes, it holds the phone.  It plugs into the charger/dock port on the bottom of the phone.  I've used it on a 3G and 3Gs and it is sturdy.  I'm really surprised the Apple stores aren't selling this.  It's the only simple solution to pocket-free toting of your phone without bulky clips and covers.

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that I have had a couple of problems.  Once, the Danglet detached due to a flaw.  It was in the car and my phone fell in my lap.  Collins America replaced it with no problem and many apologies.  My second issue is that the neck strap clip failed after a few months of use.  This is not a big deal since I've put a sturdier and slightly more fashionable one on.  These problems have not detracted me from using it.  I truly believe it was a randomly defective piece and have had no problems since. is where you can find it.  $14.99 + s/h

Prior to the Danglet, I used the hangman.  It is no longer available and I prefer the Danglet anyway.