Thursday, December 18, 2008

Put Down That...High Chair...Before Someone Gets Hurt!!

Today Evenflo posted a recall bulletin on their website, entitled “Evenflo Recalls Majestic™ High Chairs Due to Fall and Choking Hazards”. The good news, I guess, is that the company and the Consumer Product Safety Commission are acting before any deaths occurred. The bad news is that protective plastic caps and metal screws were falling out of the high chairs, offering consumption opportunities that would keep me up at night, and causing--and I quote--
“the seatback to suddenly fall back or detach from the high chair. Children can fall out or collide with objects [like the floor?!] and suffer broken bones, abrasions, cuts and bruises.”

According to an article on MSNBC, the high chairs in question are made in China. The recall once again raises concerns about the quality control being exercised by American companies that have outsourced their production overseas, and whether the Consumer Product Safety Commission can be everywhere at once.

Shoppers will be hard-pressed to find high chairs still made in the United States, but here are a few suggestions:

--Little Colorado, which makes solid wood furniture for little people in Denver, CO
--Rochelle Furniture, which makes beautiful wooden high chairs in Ludington, MI

To find sources for baby furniture and baby gear made in USA, visit my Baby Gear page.

Stephanie, Webmaster

Sunday, September 21, 2008

MBeze Natural Skincare and Fragrances

It is always a pleasure to hear from young entrepreneurs with a good idea and an energetic spirit. In this case, the idea is fresh and lively fragrance products made in USA with natural and organic ingredients.

MBeze, a skincare and cosmetics company founded by Mary Beth Worzella, first caught my eye because of the visually stunning graphics on the website. I commented to Mary Beth that if the scents were anywhere near as wonderful as the graphic design, she had a winner!

MBeze Natural Skincare Products
Now that I have tested out a number of MBeze products, I am happy to report that they are every bit as lovely as I expected. The scents range from light and floral, to exotic, to bold. Packaging is elegantly simple. And, product ingredients read like a botanical directory rather than an organic laboratory textbook.

MBeze offers a number of scent collections, each of which comes in a natural oil perfume, body mist, body oil, and deodorant. Cruzee was an instant favorite of mine, with a light but intense floral scent. I also loved Once Bitten, with its soft and subtle blend of apple blossom and vanilla, and Koko with its traces of coconut.

MBeze Natural Skincare Products The perfume oils come in a handy roll-on applicator, small enough to tuck into an evening purse for a refresher. Another favorite product of mine was the little Deodorette, also a purse-sized product that is easy to take along for a day out or for travel. Used in combination with the Dabber Dust, a clay-based antiperspirant powder, the Deodorette kept me fresh and dry during a recent public speaking engagement. “Look Mom, no aluminum chlorohydrate!”

Check it out. I think you’ll love these products! All made in USA, of course.

Stephanie, Webmaster

Saturday, September 06, 2008

I'm Running For President ... Sort Of

After watching the two national political party conventions, many of you may be thinking..."I could do that!" Thanks to a tip from a friend, I have discovered how easy it is to launch an internet campaign for the highest office in the land.

If you would like to see a Buy-American, green energy lovin' webgoddess in the White House, join me!

America Needs a Change

Here is a summary of my qualifications:

  • Attended colleges (technically, still attending one!)
  • Mother of three boys
  • Working knowledge of English
  • Have a website AND a blog

    Let's work together to CHANGE AMERICA. (Campaign motto: "What we change is less important than the fact that we changed.")

    Stephanie, Webmaster
  • Thursday, September 04, 2008

    Vise-Grip Tool Factory Leaves Small Town for China

    Loyal users of Vise-Grip locking pliers were saddened to read that the Nebraska-bred tool line will soon be made in China. Most of the Internet chat I have seen expresses worry about a possible decline in the quality of the tools.

    However, looking beyond the common theme of manufacturing moving to cheaper countries, I see another example of a small town losing a part of its history and identity.

    DeWitt, Nebraska boasts on its town home page that it is “Home of Vise-Grip Tools.” In a town with only 650 residents, Irwin Industrial Tool, maker of Vice-Grip tools, was the key employer. But more than that, the town and the tool company’s history were intertwined from the early 1930’s when the Vise-Grip locking wrench was invented by a Danish immigrant to DeWitt named William Petersen.

    DeWitt Town Sign

    The town website describes the lifeblood of the community as agriculture and the tool manufacturer, saying “DeWitt, while a town of only 650 people, is a community that has a lot going for it. It has made its mark worldwide through its good people, the products of the factory, and the purebred breeding stock of its specialized agricultural ventures.” I guess now they’re down to just agriculture.

    Vise-Grip Locking Pliers

    The other oft-repeated story line is sale of the family-owned business in 1984, followed by a string of acquisitions and corporate ownerships, culminating in its current status as a subsidiary of Newell-Rubbermaid. Not surprising, really, that the folks at the corporate office can make the decision to take production to China, closing down the DeWitt factory and severing the long association between another little town and its home-grown manufacturing employer.

    Stephanie, Webmaster

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Back to School with Organic Cotton Towels, Made in USA

    I blanched at the length of the school’s “Required Items” list, but as I prepare to send my son off to boarding school for the summer I decided to turn this into a QUEST for American-made products!

    Here are my favorite product discoveries so far:

    US-made organic cotton towels by 1888 Mills in Griffin, GA: These soft and fluffy towels, white with subtle accent colors (I chose sesame), are dreamy and quite affordable. The 3-piece set, with bath towel, hand towel, and wash cloth, was just $14.88. The hard part for me was that they are only available from WalMart. (I know, I know! Egad.) 1888 Mills usually only sells in quantities to the hotel trade, and I was having a hard time finding a good source for their products. I guess this is an instance where I must give WalMart credit for making a wonderful American-made product available to the individual consumer. I did call 1888 Mills, and a kind gentleman indicated that there might be additional venues for their wonderful towels in the coming months. I will check back with the company and update my Bed & Bath listings when I learn more.

    Cotton Sheets from Mayfield Manufacturing in Thomson, GA: This was another great find, since I needed several sets of twin sheets. I chose the 300 thread-count set, and the feel and quality is very nice. I did notice, however, that the seams are 7 stitches per inch, as opposed to the 8 stitches per inch I was accustomed to with the Martha Stewart sheets by Westpoint Stevens (the latter are now all imported). I am an EXTREMELY infrequent mender, so I pay attention to these things because items that go onto my mending pile almost never return. I also give high marks to the family-owned business in Michigan,, who carries the Mayfield sheets. Their customer service was very friendly, and shipping was quick.

    Shower/pool shoes from Okabashi in Buford, GA: I had been looking for an excuse to try some Okabashi flip flops, and I was very impressed with their solid construction and extremely comfortable feel. These are not your dime-store flip flops, and they come with a 2-year guarantee! In addition to pairs for the kids, I finally got the brown and pink thongs I had been lusting after. I received free shipping, and our shoes came in just a few days. (My son slipped his on and said, “Wow, these are really comfortable!”)

    Athletic Shorts by Sovereign Manufacturing in Allentown, PA: these are very high quality shorts made from a heavy, silky polyester fabric in lots of great colors. My son likes his shorts long, so I was able to order the Tall sizes from Big and Tall World.

    Well, that’s the update from the shopping wars. I can’t vouch for his grades, but at least my son will be outfitted with nothing but the best!

    Stephanie, Webmaster

    Saturday, May 03, 2008

    Wind Energy (and Green Manufacturing Jobs) Made in USA

    As concern grows over the economic impact of imported oil, and the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels in general, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at alternative energy sources that are “made in USA.” Today’s installment is about Wind Power.

    The use of wind to do work is hardly new…think of sailing ships and wind mills. However, use of wind to generate electricity is just coming of age, with refined turbine technologies and advanced composite materials. To date, American consumers have had few opportunities to purchase wind-generated electricity. Although installed wind power rose 45% in 2007 over 2006, wind still accounts for just a few percent of total electricity generation in the U.S.

    Even where the winds are “made in USA,” the turbines are mostly made in Denmark or other European countries. Driven by their commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions associated with fossil fuel burning, European countries have pushed ahead on development of wind and other alternative energy technologies.

    The fun part of this story is that there are a few companies in the US that make small, residential-scale wind turbines that can be purchased and installed at reasonable prices. Skystream 3.7 Wind Turbine, Model# 44470

    Southwest Windpower (West Flagstaff, AZ): since 1987, this company has specialized in small wind-driven generators, including wind turbine assemblies suited for residential or farm use. The Skystream 3.7 is a 3-bladed turbine that comes complete with built-in alternator, inverter, and noise isolator. Optional remote monitoring system allows users to receive real-time data on power generation on a home computer. The Skystream is mounted on a pole or tower, purchased separately, and the company recommends that it be about 20 feet above surrounding objects (e.g., roofline or trees). The entire unit is designed to be maintenance-free for 20 years.

    The Skystream is connected to the house, via a 220 volt line with a safety disconnect switch, to a dedicated breaker on the main electrical panel. When the wind is blowing, electric power is generated, and used by the home. (Excess power flows into the electric grid, and depending on the utility’s policies, may generate a credit.). The Southwest Windpower website includes helpful information about working with your local utility and zoning officials when installing the wind turbine. (The Skystream also can be used for homes that use battery backup, as a complement to solar panels or other off-grid technology.)

    The turbine operates with wind speeds as low as 8 mph, and has a safety feature that shuts down the turbine at wind speeds of 56 mph. In order to generate electricity of appropriate frequency and voltage, the unit is designed to maintain 330 rpm blade revolution speed even at higher wind speeds. (That means that only a portion of wind energy can be captured at wind speeds greater than about 20 mph.)

    I noticed that Southwest Windpower products are available at NorthernTool, as well as from regional distributors that can also help with installation.

    Alternative Energy At Northern Tool

    To learn more about wind power, check out these links:
    Bergey WindPower Co. (Norman, OK) also manufactures small wind turbines for home or farm applications
    Green Pricing Programs, where utilities allow consumers to pay a premium (in cents per kWh) for electricity from renewables
    American Wind Energy Association gathers data on growth of wind power capacity in the U.s.
    Energy Information Agency provides data on renewables as a percentage of overall electricity generation in the U.S.
    The Danish Wind Industry Association runs a very nice, informative website on wind power

    Stephanie, Webmaster

    Saturday, April 26, 2008

    Fenton Art Glass Back From the Brink

    There was wailing among glass collectors when Fenton Art Glass announced last fall that it would soon be forced to close because of economic hard times. Far from the glory days of West Virginia glassmaking, there are now only a handful of companies keeping the tradition alive. As the word spread, apparently many fans of Fenton glass began placing orders, so much so that the company reconsidered its options and has managed to stay open for business after all.

    There is a “good news, bad news” aspect to the story, however. According to an April 7 article in the Charleston Daily Mail, the company will make some changes in how it does business, including development of a new division (Fenton International) that will sell glass products made in China. Still, the West Virginia factory will continue to turn out beautiful art glass, hopefully for many years to come. It will be up to consumers to determine whether this story is one of a fabled company surviving by importing product, or surviving because of a loyal customer base that appreciates the beauty of Fenton art glass.

    Although I always associated Fenton with those candy dishes that grandmothers have on their coffee tables, in fact the company has a rather astonishing range of designs and glass styles. Enjoy the renewed option to own something beautiful, made in West Virginia.

    Stephanie, Webmaster

    Sunday, April 13, 2008

    "Buy American" Feels Good, Looks Good

    My sister commented that the new “Why Care” page of my website was just bad news, followed by more bad news! It made me sit back and think. I’ve always wanted to be a nonpartisan, positive, upbeat place to buy American-made products. My site is not about “naming names” and chastising companies that outsource, much as I might be tempted. (That’s why I usually apply the rule, “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing.”)

    I think the “buy American” sites that focus on doing battle, doing without, or doing it to other countries (!) are tapping into our self-doubts rather than our self-confidence.

    Buy American is more than tee shirts and jeans, and grim-faced guys in union halls! It is a joyous endeavor that celebrates American creativity, quality and style. The layoffs and plant closures are real, and not just a statistical oddity, but we will solve nothing by giving in to despair.

    We still make some great products, so let’s get our chin off our chest, unwring our hands, and go shopping. (On the Internet, of course!).

    Here are a few of my recent favorites.

    Stephanie (aka, Pollyanna), Webmaster
    Cape Cod Weathervane

    Thorndike Mills


    Yvonne Totes
    Collars and More
    Melia Luxury Pet
    Thomas and Friends Bed

    Hoy Saltwater Sandals

    Little Colorado

     Tough Traveler Luggage

    Kitchen Cart - Marble

    Hartstone Pottery

    Hartstone Pottery

    Lodge Cast Iron Cookware
     Seasoned Cast Iron Serving Griddle LOS3  LODLOS3

    Friday, April 11, 2008

    Kid-Friendly Sheets Made in USA

    Today’s topic is bedsheets. I know, I know…”Boring!” you say. But wait, there’s more. You also get…

    As a parent I have observed the following: soccer-kicking, Halo-playing, skateboard-riding, Harry Potter-reading teens and tweens don’t have TIME to make their beds! Or so they say. (In fact, some days they seem hardly to have time to go to school. Hmm.)

    Last night I was “googling” for American-made sheets (scarce as hen’s teeth) and I came across a company that makes sheets for RVs, campers, bunk beds and other special situations. Humboldt Specialty, in Omaha, NE has come up with a great kid-friendly feature. Their sheet sets have the top sheet attached to the bottom sheet at the foot. They discuss the benefits of this for making beds in tight corners and keeping the sheets on the bed where they belong. I immediately saw the application to kids who can’t/won’t make their beds.

    Most mornings when I go to wake the kids, their top sheet is wadded in a ball at the base of the bed or totally off and on the floor. When they “make” their beds, they just pull the quilt over the sheets, wads and all. No “hospital corners” in our house! For all of us who are getting our kids ready to go off to boarding school or college in the fall, the Humboldt sheets seem like a godsend.

    I am ordering some to try out. Give it a look and let me know what you think!

    Stephanie, Webmaster

    Friday, January 04, 2008

    Another All-American Store

    Happy New Year to all!
    The holiday shopping season was fast and furious, especially for American-made toys. Perhaps there was a silver lining to the lead paint toy recalls?! Before I close the book on 2007, I want to thank the many thousands of shoppers who visited and especially those of you who wrote with suggestions, criticisms, or other feedback. Because of your emails, the site grew by several hundred listings just in the last few months! Every time I “discover” a great product or company, I remember why I spend so much time on this project.

    Resolutions for 2008
    Okay, we all have to do this. It serves a purpose if it helps us focus on things we want to accomplish or improve in the coming year.

    1) Get in shape. For me, this doesn’t mean eating only grapefruit or joining a gym (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but I resolve to move around more and eat less.

    2) Live within my means. When times were tight, I borrowed from my family but now I have paid everyone back.

    3) Stay in touch with friends and family. There is no excuse for being too busy to write or call or visit occasionally!

    4) Overhaul my website. This is long overdue, and the site is not as useful to visitors as it could be.

    5) Finish up my schoolwork. It’s just possible that I am wearing out my welcome at George Mason!

    All-American Store
    Perhaps in partial fulfillment of Resolution 4 (?!), I have posted a “beta-version” of an All-American Store, courtesy of I often receive email from shoppers who wish for a store that sold only American-made products. There are a few virtual stores that try to fill this niche, but they tend to have limited selection and look similar to each other because they are relying on drop shipping from the same handful of suppliers. One attraction of the Amazon Store is that it allows me to hand-pick products to feature, there is no inventory, and no customer service or shipping hassles. The downside, however, is that there is also no profit! (Alright, I’m exaggerating. They pay a 4 percent commission on sales.)

    So check out the latest entrant to the All-American Store genre, and tell me what you think. I will add products over time, focusing on those companies whose products are not readily available from other retailers.

    Stephanie, Webmaster