Thursday, December 27, 2007

American Girl Dolls

My granddaughter received an American Girl doll for our Winter Solstice Present Day celebration (OK, what ya’ll call Christmas). I was a little worried when it arrived because a quick online check showed that American Girl dolls, by Mattel, are not made in the US but are manufactured in China.

And while an article by CBS 11 of Dallas/Fort Worth News, dtd Dec 10, 2007 admits that American Girl dolls are manufactured in China it says that CBS had an American Girl doll (and accessories) tested for lead. They state that “experts say the doll and its toys are perfectly safe.”

I don’t know what “experts” CBS used as they do not say in the article but according to, American Girls dolls are not completely safe. They rated as MEDIUM on the safety scale. While it is true the dolls are lead-free, the one American Girl doll they tested came up positive for the chemical Chlorine.

About Chlorine, HealthyToys states the following:
“Detection of chlorine in a toy component indicates the likely use of PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or vinyl, a widely used type of plastic that is of concern to the environment and public health during all phases of its life cycle.”

I won’t bore you with all the details about chlorine, PVC and vinyl but I will provide a few highlights. For example, vinyl contains phthalates [pronounced thal-ates] which are a group of industrial chemicals that add flexibility and resilience to many consumer products. Phthalates have been associated with disturbed hormonal processes, birth defects of the genitals, altered levels of reproductive hormones in male babies, an increased risk of breast cancer and asthma, among many other things. In short, PVC is NOT something you want kids playing with if you can help it.

And while the plastic and vinyl industry claim that phthalates and vinyl are “perfectly safe” (Jeeze, where have I heard that one before?)--others, lots of others, disagree. You can check out some additional scary details about vinyl on the EPA website. Eeesh!

So, yes, American Girl dolls probably don’t have high levels of lead but they are made out of vinyl which more than likely contains unhealthy and perhaps dangerous levels of phthalates.

And lastly, American Girls are not made in America, anymore.

Luckily, the doll my granddaughter received was an original version of the Kristin doll which was manufactured by the Pleasant Company in Middleton, Wisconsin in 1991. (Mattel bought out the Pleasant Company in 1998.)

My granddaughter’s other grandmother bought the doll for her on eBay. It came with clothes and accessories whose tags state they were made in Germany. So, at least the clothes are definitely safe.

I’m not really feeling too secure about the whole vinyl issue with this version of the doll but at least I’m not worrying about lead. I am hoping that perhaps the vinyl is stable now or has at least, off-gassed most of the toxins. Who knows? *sigh*

Anyway, if you’re looking for a safe American made doll check out the Stuffington Bear Factory. While they don’t have plastic dolls, they do have lots of very cute stuffed animals and outfits to dress them in. I purchased a green bunny and a couple of outfits. The little handmade clothes are so adorable and the bunny is well made. And most important of all, they are completely safe, made in the USA and my granddaughter loves them.

Stuffington Bear Factory is located in Arizona. It’s web site says they have been in business since 1959.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

DISHES & COOKWARE: Corelle, Pyrex and more

I like Corning, Pyrex and Corelle but I cannot give them a 100% Made In USA stamp of approval as some of the products under these name brands are imported from yes, China. I emailed World Kitchen, LLC asking where Corelle and other products were manufactured and this is the answer I received. (See email below.)

Shop wise. Shop USA.

Consumer Help Center Wed, Dec 19, 2007 at 12:29 PM

Thank you for contacting World Kitchen, LLC

Most of our Corelle dinnerware is made in the USA. All of the plates and bowls from the Livingware, Lifestyles, Impressions, Ultra and Corelle Square collections are made in the states. The mugs and glasses in our sets are made in China. Also, our Corelle Hearthstone dinnerware collection is made in China also. Pyrex glassware is made in the USA as well. Pyrex metal bakeware is manufactured abroad. Corningware, Revere, Bakers Secret, Chicago Cutlery, EKCO, Magnalite and Visions cookware lines are all manufactured outside of the USA. We hope this information is helpful.

For further assistance, please contact our Help Center at 800-999-3436. Representatives are available from 8am to 6pm, EST, Monday through Thursday and 8am to 5pm on Friday, and will be more than happy to assist you.


World Kitchen LLC
Consumer Help Center

Sunday, December 16, 2007


Wow, it seems even the Chinese won't buy crappy toys made in China.

Click on the following link to read the AP article entitled "Chinese parents favor foreign-brand toys" as published on the MSNBC website, dtd 12/14/2007. The article says educated and/or wealthy Chinese parents look for USA and European made toys for their kids. Makes ya go "Hmmm," don't it . . .

UPDATE: According to another article, this time on, UPS has released the results of a survey which says the Chinese version of the yuppie, called a "chuppie," prefers USA made products (instead of Chinese) also.


Thursday, December 6, 2007


The weather is finally getting colder here in Austin. So, one of the things I have been searching for is a portable space heater. Ideally, I would like one that is made in the USA.

I never thought it would be such an ordeal to locate such a simple thing as a heater manufactured in the US.

First, I called Home Depot and then, Lowes stores. I asked the salesperson(s) if they sold ANY space heaters made in the USA? The answer at both stores was the same: “NO.Where were they made, I asked? The answer: China, of course.

Next, I called Sears. I got the same answer. China.

Lastly, I called Breed & Co., a local hardware store here in Austin. It is well known for carrying quality products. The salesman told me to hold on and he would go check their stock of heaters. He came back and said, “Yes, Lakewood heaters are made in the US.” I was giddy. (A silly response, I know, but hey, I was freezing!)

My daughter-in-law was going out to run errands so I asked if she would stop and pick up a couple heaters. She did.

When she got home and we pulled the heaters out of their boxes, guess what was stamped on the bottom of each one? Made in China. ARRGH!!

So, we returned the heaters to Breed & Co. and I turned my attention to google. I searched and searched and finally found the Vornado line of heaters. The company had several models still made in the USA (I had to click on the FEATURE button to get this info).

Anyway, I ordered one for myself , the VH2 and also an AVH2, for my son and daughter-in-law (for a Solstice present).

The heaters arrived today. I wrapped and hid their heater but I am using mine now. It works great (so quiet and so powerful!). I am very happy with my purchase. Yay MADE IN USA heaters!!!

ps. If you decide to order a Vornado for yourself online, make sure you click on the FEATURE button for each heater and check the manufacture location before ordering. One or two of the more expensive models are made in China. (What a switch, huh?)

pps. They have some really cool (`xcuse the pun) "vintage" fans also on the Vornado web site, but I don't know if they are made in the US. I can't locate the info on their website. (I'll have to email the company again.) While I was looking over the fans, I noticed they have a cute little fan called the Zippi but it is manufactured guessed it -- China. sigh...
UPDATE: 12/22/07

I have been using my Vornado heater and it works great. I know this sounds like a gushing commercial but I can't help it. (And NO, I have no connection with this company or any company other than as a consumer.)

Over the years, I have bought probably 12 or more personal heaters but this heater is one of the best, if not the best one I've ever owned. It is very quiet, gets hot super fast, yet the case (plastic) stays cool to the touch. It quickly heats a whole room. I seldom have to set the dial higher than 2 (I think it goes up to 6). My only slight complaint is the size -- it is bigger (but oddly lite weight) than I thought it would be but, overall this is not a problem.

I highly recommend the Vornado heater btw. Highly.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

TOYS: Roy Toys Vs Lincoln Logs

On the Roy Toy web site the About Roy Toy history page is an interesting read.

According to the information on the site, the original owner/founder was Roy K. Dennison. The company began making it's wooden toy construction sets in Maine in the 1930's. It went out of business in the 1960's.

Fast forward thirty years and
grandson, Bruce Dennison, revives the company and brings it to the Internet. The company is still located in Maine.

I emailed the Roy Toy company. I asked if all their products were made in the USA? The customer service rep (?) reply is below: (btw, the answer is YES!) Sun, Dec 2, 2007 at 7:38 PM
To: LeadFree<

We do manufacture all of our products100% in Maine USA.

Thank you for supporting USA products,

Sue Dennison

Roy Toy Manufacturing
599 Jacksonville Road
East Machias, Maine 04630
Ph: (207) 255-0954 Fx: (207) 255-0955

On the other hand, a message on the K'NEX company website by President/COO, Michael Araten, says,

"K'NEX Brands manufactures and sells building sets under the KID K'NEX® and K'NEX® brand names and Lincoln Logs®.* We are also the exclusive distributor of BRIO® products in the U.S. and Canada. Lincoln Logs are manufactured in China by an ICTI certified factory. "

K'NEX bricks are made in the US however. But then, a lot of LEGO'S are too.

Lincoln Logs on the other hand are no longer manufactured in the US at all, they are now made in China.

So if you're looking for "Lincoln Log" type toys, buy Roy Toy. Besides being made right here in the USA, the Roy Toy log sets are less expensive and look cooler than Lincoln Logs.


UPDATE: Jan 23, 08

I bought the 250+ pc. Deluxe Building Set ($49.95) of Roy Toy logs for my granddaughter for a Solstice present. The set is huge! The logs fit together well and it is a good bit of construction style toyworks. My granddaughter and I have played with it several times, building the farm house, barn and fences. It was a lot of fun, once we finally figured out how to build them.

Overall, it is a great toy but I do have a couple minor complaints. One is the instructions that come with the set. They are rather sparse and unhelpful. I wish the company had included better instructions or at least offer some to download from their web site...maybe a PDF or two...that would be nice.

Also, the bag that the logs come in is pretty useless for storage. In order to play with the set you must dump all 250 pieces out and sort thru them (imagine a jigsaw puzzle of 250 logs) to build anything. This takes forever. To solve this problem, I fashioned an open top storage tote out of the shipping box. I cut the lid flaps off, put a couple slits in each and slide them together to make cubby holes -- one for each size/color of logs. A little pink duct tape for reinforcement and we now have a nice little organizer for the set.

If you have a little kid that enjoys building stuff, then get them a Roy Toy set. It's a sturdy, imagination inspiring, safe, USA made toy. But make sure you buy or better yet, make an organizer to keep the parts sorted and ready to put together. It makes playtime much easier and more fun for everyone.