Monday, September 22, 2008

Kaboost Me Up Onto the Kabandwagon: Chair Booster

Earlier this year, I bought a Kaboost at the local Babies R Us so we could look at its construction and stability. Despite glowing reviews from favorite bloggers at Z Recommends and Chief Family Officer, I was sure the gizmo would have tipping problems.

Well, I was so wrong. The Kaboost is surprisingly stable and way more durable in its construction than I ever would have guessed from photos. All my attempts to destabilize the base were futile. Ranger, who was way past liking booster seats, waited impatiently while I desperately tried to tip the seat or rock it out of the base.

As soon as I climbed out of the Kaboosted chair, he gleefully climbed into it and requested food. Pretty surprising behavior for a booster seat resisting, rather indifferent eater.

I was sure this was the effect of novelty. Over 4 months later, he still loves "his chair." Jim and I regularly sit in it too without any fear of collapse. On vacation, I walked downstairs to find my engineer father perched on the Kaboosted seat attempting to rock it. As I toasted some bread, he pulled it off the chair and gave a more thorough examination. "Great design. Clever."

They're on clearance this week at our local Babies R Us for $20 if you want to give one a try.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Win Giggles Baby Nursery Rhymes Software

Happy Monday, folks!

Last January, I wrote about Giggles Software for Babies at Parent Hacks. We, especially Ranger, really like the software.

Since that time Giggles' maker Leveractive, has issued a great new Giggles offering: Nursery Rhymes.

Nursery Rhymes offers a Toddler setting for more advanced play. Ranger loves it so much that we bought a flexible USB keyboard so he could play on our laptops without handling the whole machine (thanks, Parent Hacks for this smart suggestion!).

Win Nursery Rhymes:
Leveractive generously provided us with a copy of Nursery Rhymes to give to one lucky reader! To enter, please send an email to babytoolkitcontests[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject Nursery Rhymes.

General rules: Entries will be accepted until 5 PM CDT, Friday, Sept. 19. One entry per household. US residents only. Winner will be determined by random number generation. Winner will be notified by email. We're cheap, so shipping will be through the US Postal Media Mail (which puts the snail in snail mail); we'll do our best, but if the software gets lost in the mail, we'll take it as a bad omen and will not provide a replacement. Baby Toolkit family members cannot enter (sorry, Mom).

Good luck!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Tipless Tools: Letting Toddlers Help

When we were assembling 400 pounds of IKEA bookshelves, Ranger desperately wanted to be in the action. He kept absconding with every unattended tool so he could imitate our actions. We weren't exactly thrilled to have a 2 year old running around with pointy tools or ramming them into our brand new furniture.

Eventually, we gave him a special screwdriver of his own (a screwdriver handle without any of the interchangeable magnetic tips). He loved it as it fit over the ends of the IKEA screws. We loved the fact that it couldn't easily gouge him or any of the furniture pieces nor could it actually loosen or tighten any fasteners.

Other posts about entertaining a young assistant:

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Avoid Flash Floods: Lidded Snack Bowl as Painting Water Cup

Ranger wanted to paint today, so I dug through the cabinets for a water container. His old lidded snack cup really minimized splashing and spilling.

Maybe snack traps have some useful purpose after all...

Related posts:

True Diaper Pail Confessions: A New Champ Enters the Arena

I guess we should confess; our friend recently spied this box in our entryway.Well, good readers, lest we deceive you any longer, while our DIY diaper pail succeeded in capturing the stink, it was summarily defeated by the squadrons of drain flies zooming through our house.

The metal lid was too flexible to maintain a perfect seal, so the drain flies had a heyday.

We broke down and bought the "New and Improved" Diaper Champ. It's wider throat and the absence of neoprene seals are more promising than the last version, but we remain rather suspect about its ability to resist odors in the long run.

We'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Not-Quite Homemade: Custom Decorating A Bakery Cake

We spent a lot of time last month deliberating about Ranger's birthday cake. It was a big issue because we were throwing his first friends and family birthday party ever, and (feeling inclusive) we invited over 40 families (most with toddlers and kids).

In an additional act of insanity, we didn't ask for RSVPs, so we knew we could expect anywhere from 3-100 attendees. That's potentially a lot of cake. While we love and advocate homemade cake, the thought of making and transporting 100 cupcakes or a giant sheet cake was overwhelming.

So we ordered a big sheet cake from a local warehouse club. Ranger chose blue for the trim color, and the bakery employee kind of blinked at me when I said I wanted a blank white top.

"And what words do you want on it?"

"No words. Just the flat white icing and the blue trim."


With a raise of the eyebrows, she accepted my request and filed the cake order away.

Jim, either in an act of diplomacy or trying to dissociate himself from the insanity attributed to me said "We're going to put our own robots on it!"

Her look said "I'm sure you will, honey," but her mouth said "That's great," as she BACKED into the employee only area of the store.

So, the Jones master plan was to make robots similar to those on our AWESOME Creative Commons robot invitations (thank you, Dot of Dabbled, for being so generous in sharing all your great original images and robot party ideas) to top Ranger's bakery cake.

Dot's beautiful 3D robot cake
had been our original inspiration for birthday dessert, but we couldn't envision the fleet of robots we would require successfully making the car trip from our house to the party location. It did however, inspire us to look into fondant.

A cake making friend describes fondant as inedible, so I wasn't in any rush to buy premade. Google offered good recipes and tutorials for marshmallow fondant (which is primarily marshmallow and powdered sugar), so Jim and I spent an evening making and kneading the fondant.

The first steps are much like rice crispy treats- melting marshmallows to hot goo. Then- on very greased surfaces and with downright slippery hands- you mix in colors, then knead in the powdered sugar. The mixture turns into a rather adhesive dough until you really saturate it with powdered sugar.

Ranger wandered into the kitchen soon after we started the kneading process. He found Jim with hands stuck in what looked like a giant yellow glob of chewed bubble gum and me with cerulean mitts closely resembling melting smurf hands.

"What happened?"

His only response is a wave of hysterical laughter. A wide-eyed Ranger BACKS out of the kitchen.

After letting the fondant set up in the fridge overnight, we rolled it out and Jim cut out the robot shapes. We had lots of fondant left, so I grabbed a cookie cutter and cut out a dozen or so stars. We even marbled the two colors together to get some multicolored stars.

The end product was well received (it was cake and sugar, after all).

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day Brats

German heritage is strong is our area. On holidays where the rest of the nation grills hot dogs and burgers, here you can find many a grill laden with bratwurst.

Our grill was not one of them. It's sitting in a box in our garage because no one wants to carry the very heavy object up our sloping backyard and assemble it (or assemble it then drag it through the yard).

Faced with the option of spending the holiday morning assembling a grill, I looked toward Google for an answer and found a smart way to cook bratwurst on the stove.

The results were simply amazing and we were able to prepare more than a dozen wursts in a few easy steps.

It gave us a lot of time to relax and enjoy lunch with great guests.