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Monthly Archive:: May 2012

Crazy Woman With Carseats (& large blond doll) Invades Serious Automotive Event!

Last week I had a date with some guy that I met on the internet. It was pretty awesome as far as first dates go. We met at Bear Mountain State Park, took a few nice rides together and got all sweaty in the backseat of a vehicle!  Then we had lunch, hung out in a $400,000 Rolls-Royce and had some fun with my BubbleBum. Seriously, how can you top that?

Okay, since we’re both married I guess I should elaborate before someone winds up served with divorce papers. The guy is new CPS Tech “Nopanegain” (aka Brett) and we met online at car-seat.org. Since we’re both New Yorkers, we struck up a little conversation and found out that we share many of the same interests.  Brett has been a serious automotive journalist for more years than I’ve been alive (haha – just kidding, Brett!) and he’s got a lot of connections. He gets invited to cool automotive events that I don’t even realize exist.  Since this particular event (where they allow the select group of invited journalists to drive all the vehicles present) was going on in my neck of the woods, he invited me to join him.  I was lured by the eloquence of this one particular line in his invitation:  “If you are a car person, you’ll basically crap your pants.”  ROFL!  I’m sold, dude!!

Here’s a peek at how we spent our grueling day at the International Motor Press “Spring Brake”. I hope all our readers will appreciate the sacrifices that we made and the hardships that we endured to bring you this very important information. Unlike the rest of the attendees, we were more interested in exploring the backseat than we were in zipping around on the park’s back roads. I know that sounds so lame but that’s how true CPS geeks roll!

2012 Jaguar XK Coupe in Crystal Blue: Beautiful luxury vehicle. Not sure why they bothered to make it a 4-seater, though. I guess the backseat is really meant for your briefcase/handbag/miniature purebred in a puppy tote. My head hit the roof back there! But we were determined to find a functional cps solution for that seating position. BubbleBum and Huggable Images to the rescue!  

            

 

2012 Fiat 500 Arbarth: Considerably less luxurious but cool nonetheless. Rear seat only accommodates two but is surprisingly roomy for a vehicle so compact. Rear-facing seats will be a very big challenge. We installed a Chicco KeyFit30 and rear-facing Britax Roundabout 55 but that left no room for anyone taller than 5′ in the front seat. I’m 5’4″ and my knees were crammed painfully into the door of the glovebox with the RA55 installed behind me. On the flip side, due to the contour of the back of the front seats – I had enough leg room to sit comfortably in back so forward-facing carseats and kids in boosters may not be a problem.  

          

 

2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II saloon: Hands-down the most awesome vehicle I’ve ever sat in. I’m totally sold. Now I just need to come up with about $420, 000 plus taxes, title and fees. The optional $4k sheepskin floor mats are not optional at all. Those are a necessity – trust me. I have no desire to actually drive the vehicle myself. I just want to sit in the back seat, drink Champagne in excess and eat Grey Poupon straight from the jar. As for kids and carseats – even though the backseat is wide enough to easily fit any combination of CRs, I wouldn’t dream of allowing children or carseats in this vehicle. Not even a Foonf (sorry, Clek). Hey, that’s what the Au Pair’s Mercedes E63 AMG Wagon is for!  Hence the lack of carseat pictures in the Rolls-Royce. Even *I* would not defame and disrespect this vehicle in that way.

              

 

2012 Bentley Supersports Convertible: Another outrageous luxury convertible that costs more than many average American homes. I would have loved to try some real installs in this vehicle but we only had a few minutes with it. Just enough time to grab the BubbleBum and the 6 year old Huggable Images doll again! The looks we got walking around with these things were priceless!  

      

 

It was a fun and fantastic day and I’m greatly indebted to my new friend Brett for the experience!  I do have more to share but it’s boring stuff that might actually be useful to our readers so that’s going to wait for another day. Stay tuned!

 

Gave Blood!

I’ve tried a couple times before.  It didn’t go so well.  Back in college, they couldn’t find the vein after numerous punctures and moving the needle around.  I ended up with a sore, bruised arm for a week.  I tried again maybe 5-10 years ago.  I warned them what had happened the previous time.  No problem, they assured me, they’ve never had the same thing happen and my veins look fine.  Of course, a similar thing happened.  Ultimately, they did find a vein, but they only got a half a bag, so it had to be discarded.

Today, my wife helped organize a community giving day at her place of worship.  My kids helped prepare meals for a local food pantry.  There were various other opportunities to make a donation of time or supplies as well.  One of the opportunities was the local blood bank mobile giving center.    While my main job was actually to shuttle our kids around this morning so my wife could attend the event, I did sign up to give blood at the last minute because the sign up sheet was mostly empty.  Turns out, it was fairly crowded from people who had signed up in advance.  I gave the phlebotomist the same warning.  Of course, she also said she would have no problem because the vein was easy to find.

This time, she was right!  One painless prick and I was done in a hair over 6 minutes.  Supposedly a record for the day.  Thank you to Linda at the Aurora, IL Heartland Blood Center for making it so easy!

We all know motor vehicle crashes are the leading killer of  many age groups of children and young adults and among the top killers for most others.  According to blood donation fact sheets, an automobile crash victim might need 50 units of blood or more.  For all those kids who aren’t properly restrained in the back seat or are riding with an impaired or distracted driver, please consider donating blood.  Even if you’ve had a bad experience in the past!

I make styrofoam. What’s your superpower?

A few months ago, I wrote about Ecovative, a company that uses mushroom roots and plant waste to make a styrofoam-like material that is 100% biodegradable. (I won’t rehash all the cool properties and benefits of the products here, but go read my original post if you haven’t already–it’s really a fascinating concept.)

Since then, I have been following Ecovative, and I recently learned that they were beta-testing a “grow it yourself” kit so you can make your own mushroom-foam-like objects. I, of course, jumped at the chance to try out the product.

When I ordered the kit, I was instructed to start thinking about what I wanted to make. Because the mushroom product arrives “alive,” you need to use it within a couple days or refrigerate it. We don’t have a lot of extra fridge space, plus I’m really impatient as it is, so I tried thinking up some easily-implemented ideas. As it turns out, it’s really hard to come up with styrofoam-type things to make. Finally I decided on a small bowl and a couple Christmas ornaments. Then I waited impatiently for my mushroom kit to arrive.

On the day my package came in the mail, I was giddy. My husband, on the other hand, didn’t share my enthusiasm. “Remind me again why I should be excited about this,” he grumbled.

I explained that the whole thing was amazing. You could make useful or, at the very least, decorative, objects out of stuff that would ordinarily be thrown away. I could, with my very two hands and some stuff that looks like small wet wood chips, create something that is ordinarily created with petroleum and specialized machinery. It was like having a superpower. (Call me Super FunGal!)

I brushed aside my husband’s ambivalence, grabbed my 7-year-old, and got to work.

I was amazed by how much of the live mushroom product we received. I thought we’d get enough to make a couple tiny objects, but the kit arrived with enough matter to line a Regent in EPS-like foam. Sadly, I had no Regent shells or else I might have tried it.

As I said, the mushroom material looked and felt like tiny moist wood chips…and that’s probably what it was. There are no actual mushrooms in the mix, just the mycelia, which are like the roots of a mushroom. No spores or anything either, so people with allergies don’t need to worry. The material had a bit of an earthy odor to it, but not unpleasant.

I’ll admit that I was a bit hesitant about sinking my hands into the stuff at first, and the hypochondriac in me was certain that I was inhaling toxic spores into my lungs. But I survived with no ill effects, and the mixture was kinda fun to play with.

The instructions said you could press the material into molds as-is, or you could mix it with some of the included plant-based powder and water to make a pliable product (think chunky-style Play-Doh) that could be shaped into whatever you like. We wound up using it both ways.

My son and I molded some Christmas ornaments using cookie cutters. Then we rolled some balls. Then we used the teddy-bear mold that came with the kit. Then I pulled out various containers from the kitchen to make some bowls. Then I sculpted a little mushroom. Then I still had some material left over, but I was running out of vessels and counter space, so I composted the rest.

Once you’re done creating stuff, you place the objects in the included “incubation bags,” seal the bags with clothespins (also included), cut some holes for ventilation, and let the objects sit for a few days. I had to wipe up some condensation and air the bag out a couple times, but the products came along nicely.

Eventually they turn white, and after that happens, you let them keep sitting for a few days. At first I thought I had done something wrong because at the end of the week, my objects didn’t feel like foam. They felt much heavier and rather rubbery. No need to worry, though. The next step, baking the items to stop the growth process, would take care of that.

We were instructed to use the lowest oven setting and bake for 45 minutes, then let them sit in the turned-off oven a while longer. The instructions said we might smell a mushroom-odor while they cooked. As someone who is vehemently repulsed by the taste of mushrooms, I worried about that, but the aroma was actually quite pleasant. It smelled like a combination of baking mushrooms and baking dough–sort of like pizza!

Finally, the objects were finished. After they emerged from the oven, we discovered they did indeed have a feel and consistency very similar to styrofoam. If I didn’t know better, I’d think that’s what they were, other than a few little brown seed-like orbs here and there. (I’m not exactly sure what those are. I’m guessing some of the plant matter. A company representative assured me it was fine, though, so I don’t think anything will sprout from them.)

We did have a couple casualties. The ornaments we crafted in the cookie cutters didn’t turn white as nicely as the others. They turned white on the top and bottom, but the sides stayed brown. I suspect that if I had removed them from the molds sooner, they probably would have whitened up nicely. Alas, no one will be receiving mushroom-foam Christmas ornaments this year. I’m sure friends and family are devastated.

Anyway, this project was a lot of fun, and also educational. If you’re looking for a neat science project, or you want your kid to be the first in school to use mushroom-foam in an egg-dropping competition, or you need to create custom packing material for some reason, definitely look into getting your own kit if/when they make them available for purchase through their online store.

I’m still hoping to see this technology in car seats someday. In the meantime, I’ll have to be satisfied playing catch with our mushroom balls. I just have to make sure the dog doesn’t slobber on them too much, lest they start biodegrading.

Summer Summer Summer!

Yep, it’s that time of year again! My favorite time of year! Summer! Yippee! Jump for joy! The hot weather is here, or at least where I live it is. We’re in the 90s already, the air conditioning has been on for a couple of weeks and I’m predicting a HOT summer this year compared to last year’s mild one. Oh well, I’d rather have a hot summer than a brrrrrrr freezing winter. But that’s why I live in the desert, right?

With the mild weather comes hot kids in hot cars. We warn about this every year and every year someone leaves a kid to bake in the car like a chicken in an oven. We’ve had 2 deaths so far this year in the U.S.

It’s not always on purpose; in fact, most of the time it’s because a child is forgotten. And I feel so bad for the parents who have forgotten their children in their cars because they have to live with that for the rest of their lives. It’s the break in routine, the one day they have to take Sophie to daycare instead of their dh or the one day they’re tasked to bring the donuts to work for the going-away party. So let’s brainstorm and come up with some ideas so we don’t forget our little ones in the backseat when they fall asleep and quiet their non-stop chattering for a bit. We also don’t want to forget about elderly folks either. Sometimes grandma or grandpa want to run errands with us, but want to sit in the car and wait while we’re in the store. Heatstroke is insidious and sneaks up, even when the windows are rolled down.

So for the young-uns, I suggest tossing the cellphone in the backseat next to the carseat. You know you won’t go very far without the cellphone ;). And how about demanding that the daycare call the parents of absent kids? It wouldn’t take long for them to make a quick call each morning and could catch a forgetful parent before it’s too late. What other ideas do you have?

 

NOTE: Less than 15 minutes after I wrote this blog, I turned on the 10pm news and saw that a woman had left her 5 and 6 year old children in the SUV with rolled up windows on an 86° day while she went into a casino. The girls were OK, but very hot; however, mom was arrested on the spot. Wow. Just wow.