Saturday, December 4, 2010

Behind the scenes at Baby Dipper

I thought it might be interesting to share what happens "behind the scenes" here at Baby Dipper, LLC when an order is placed through the Baby Dipper web site or when other bowls need to be packed for shipment for reviews or giveaways. Here is a glimpse of my little helpers at work.

Actually, first of all, the order, review request, or giveaway winner must be finalized and that part is all me. Then the shipping information is entered into the U.S. Postal Service's online Click-n-Ship program to print the labels for the packages. It's still all me through those things, too, but next come the parts where my two-year-old twin boys, Franklin and Carlton, get a chance to help out. Though they try to "help" with the computer part, especially with the printer, their net effect during that part actually detracts from my overall efficiency.



BUT, once the labels are printed and the handwritten notes are completed (by me, not the boys), the packages are ready to be assembled. We start by applying the shipping label to the appropriate USPS Priority Mail envelope or box. Next comes the preparation of the envelope or box to receive the Baby Dipper bowl(s) it must hold, sometimes involving the insertion of packing material (oh, what fun!).



Then Carlton and Franklin take turns placing the Baby Dipper bowls in the packages and removing the wax paper from the adhesive strip on the envelopes. This is followed by a trip to the front door to stage the packages for their final placement on the front porch for pick-up by our postal carrier.





I hope you have enjoyed this look behind the scenes at Baby Dipper. By the way, that's Franklin in the yellow-orange shirt and Carlton in the dark orange shirt with bugs on it. I'll try to post a bit more about what goes on around here when something fun or cute happens again.

Barbara

Thursday, December 2, 2010

New retailer in Australia for Baby Dipper bowls


Baby Dipper is excited to announce that starting next week Baby Dipper bowls will be available for purchase from Think Twins, located in Australia. From the owner of Think Twins: "Think Twins started in 2007, and our aim is to make life easier for parents with twins. So not only do we seek out products which really help streamline life in those early months, but we provide a range of free services, including tips and articles for twin parents, a free pram buying guide, and links to all the twins clubs in Australia. We support the Australian Multiple Birth Association and are delighted to be able to help fellow twin parents enjoy the early years with their beautiful babies."

The link for the Baby Dipper bowl at Think Twins is here and their Facebook page is here. Please join us in welcoming Think Twins to the Baby Dipper family and help get the word out to all of your friends Down Under. Thanks!

Monday, November 29, 2010

A little baby bowl makes a big difference (guest post)

This is the first guest post on the My Double Life blog. I'd like to introduce you all to my husband, Dr. Hans Schantz, father, scientist, engineer, entrepreneur, and author of the AetherCzar blog. AetherCzar's slogan is "All things antenna and electromagnetic (and more)…" but occasionally the Czar (I'm the Czarina!) strays onto only semi-scientific topics. This is one of those occasions. Hans and I decided to test the Baby Dipper bowl versus three of its competitors to see if the patented Baby Dipper bowl truly helps the children efficiently empty the contents of the bowl more quickly. The answer is that the Baby Dipper bowl does indeed facilitate more efficient scooping of the bowl's contents. Read below for the full post from AetherCzar's blog. Oh, and here's a photo of the Czar himself testing the bowls before the actual test with the kids started. :)







Guest post from the AetherCzar:







If you are new to ÆtherCzar, you may be wondering about the Amazon ad for the funky looking baby bowl in the right side bar. With the holiday season around the corner, it’s a good time to revisit the ideal gift for babies, toddlers, or new parents – the Baby Dipper bowl. Faced with feeding twin girls, the Czarina was appalled at how poorly conventional bowls worked. So she invented a bowl that would stay put without tricky suction cups, a bowl that would guide food to a collection point, a bowl that could be used one-handed – the perfect bowl for feeding babies or for young self-feeders trying to master feeding themselves. This two minute video shows how it works.

The Baby Dipper bowl is normally the number one result on Google for “baby bowl.” But how much better does the Baby Dipper bowl really work compared to conventional bowls? I helped set up an experiment to find out. The difference was really amazing.

To assess the ergonomics of baby bowls, we loaded each of four bowls with a quarter cup of navy beans and timed how long it took each of four girls to empty each bowl. Note how the sloped Baby Dipper bowl naturally collects beans in the spoon-shaped depression.

There doesn’t seem to be any standard experimental protocol for evaluating bowls, so the first step was to create one. We chose navy beans as a no-mess proxy for typical foods. Then we timed how long it took for our subjects to spoon out a quarter cup (about 125ml) of navy beans from a baby bowl to a standard bowl.

We used a 4 x 4 Latin Square experimental design to randomize any bias due to order. Four subjects tested each of four bowls – the 4 oz. Baby Dipper bowl and three leading competitive bowls in four successive trials. The subjects were six years old, one (Child #3) with a broken right arm using her (non-dominant) left hand. Both Child #2 and #3 had prior experience using the Baby Dipper bowl. We used the spoon that comes with the Baby Dipper feeding set for all four bowls to control for differences in spoon size.

Then we did four trials in which we timed the subjects emptying the bowls as quickly as they could without spilling.


The average time to empty the Baby Dipper bowl was just over one minute. None of the other bowls averaged less than two minutes. This factor of two improvement is really remarkable. Here’s the raw data (all times in seconds; smaller = faster = better):

Child #1 Child #2 Child #3 Child #4 Average
Bowl #1 152 76 144 183 138.8
Bowl #2 88 93 144 201 131.5
Bowl #3 107 79 179 126 122.8
Other Bowl Average 115.7 82.7 155.7 170.0 131.0
Baby Dipper Bowl 47 66 57 72 60.5

When I tried the experiment on myself, I found only a marginal improvement in time using the Baby Dipper bowl, probably because I’m able to compensate for deficiencies in the other bowls’ ergonomics with my better-developed adult motor skills. Less dexterous eaters need all the help they can get, and the Baby Dipper bowl makes meal time much easier for children and the parents who must either feed them or clean up after them. In fact, the last time I mentioned the Baby Dipper bowl, it was to pass on the story of a five-year-old girl with special needs whose mother had given up on her daughter spoon-feeding herself. When the girl used the Baby Dipper bowl, she was able to successfully spoon-feed herself for the very first time (here’s her story).

You can order Baby Dipper Feeding Sets (bowl, spoon, and fork) from Amazon – eligible for free “Super-Saver” shipping if your total order is over $25.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

BLACK FRIDAY to CYBER MONDAY DEAL!

Baby Dipper is pleased to announce that we are offering a special sale on Baby Dipper bowl/spoon/fork sets starting now and running through midnight on Monday. That's basically Black Friday to Cyber Monday including the weekend. So, what's the deal???

FREE SHIPPING on the purchase of 2(two) to 6(six) Baby Dipper sets for purchases made through the Buy Now page of Baby Dipper's web site. Take advantage of this limited-time offer to get a Baby Dipper set for yourself, for a friend, for a family member, and to stock up for future baby shower gifts. Please feel free to share this sale with your friends and family.

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and find some super deals this weekend!

Barbara

Sunday, November 7, 2010

*F*R*E*E* Shipping on BPA-Free Baby Dipper bowls!


Yes, the title is correct! As of last week, the BPA-free Baby Dipper bowl is eligible for Free Super Saver Shipping at Amazon.com. That means, as usual, if you purchase $25 or more of eligible merchandise, your shipping is free. This means that your order can be three Baby Dipper bowls or a combination of a Baby Dipper bowl or two and some other items that qualify for Free Super Saver Shipping.

If you are trying to come up with a unique gift for a baby, a toddler, or expectant parents, take advantage of this opportunity to get free shipping on the Baby Dipper bowl, invented by a mom of two sets of twins.

Thank you in advance for helping get the word out about this news. :o)

Barbara
www.babydipper.com
www.facebook.com/BabyDipper
http://twitter.com/BabyDipper

Friday, October 29, 2010

Is New Orleans good for kids? - Part 5

Day 5 – Train from New Orleans to Anniston


5:30 AM sure did come early the next morning. We got up, finished packing, and went downstairs to get a taxi to the train station, which was just a bit too far to walk with Cora and Greta. On the train, it was similar to the ride there and, in fact, seemed shorter, though it wasn’t actually. We arrived in Anniston at about 4:00 PM to find my father there filming our arrival. Our girls were excited to see him and then to see my mom and their little brothers when we arrived at my parents’ house.

So, what about the question of whether New Orleans is kid-appropriate? If you have read all of my meandering commentary about our trip, you probably have gathered that we had a fabulous time, seeing and doing many things we could not see at home. And did you notice that there were not any mentions of safety or security issues we encountered? That’s because there weren’t any. We knew enough about traveling safely, regardless of location, and took all of the necessary precautions to avoid putting ourselves in places we shouldn’t have been, like on Bourbon Street after dark. Hans and I discussed our trip afterwards and decided that Greta and Cora, at almost 6 years old, might actually be the perfect age to take a trip to New Orleans. They are old enough not to need a nap or a stroller, are able to walk pretty significant distances, yet are not old enough to really notice any of the risqué stuff in the French Quarter. Hans and I certainly saw some things that we wondered if they noticed, but when we asked them what they liked the most about our first walk through the French Quarter, they both immediately mentioned a window display of crystal animal figurines and vases. Ah, the eyes of innocent children! By the way, when we asked them what their favorite activity in New Orleans was (swamp tour, steamboat ride, children’s museum, aquarium, IMAX movie, zoo, Insectarium, beignets at Café du Monde), they both chose the Louisiana Children’s Museum. It certainly was the best children’s museum we’ve visited, though I’m not sure it’s better than the zoo or the swamp tour. I’d say that New Orleans certainly has enough activities to “Let the Good Times Roll” for people of any age and to keep the Crescent City in mind when you’re planning your next family vacation.

For planning purposes, I should point out that there is a VISITicket Power Pass you can purchase for admission into a myriad of activities in New Orleans and surrounding areas. I looked into the cost of the pass versus the cost of only paying for the places we wanted to visit with Greta and Cora. In our case, particularly since children age 5 and under are free on the steamboat ride and we have a reciprocal pass from the children’s museum in Huntsville, it was not worth it to purchase the pass for the city. There are various passes for the Audubon facilities, so we did purchase the one that included the zoo, aquarium, IMAX, and Insectarium. If you’re going to plan a trip to New Orleans (or any other city with a pass), do take the time to investigate which things you’d actually use the pass for and compare to actual prices of those things. Oh, and don’t forget to look online and/or in the lobby of your hotel for coupons. I found coupons for the swamp tour and the steamboat ride online before we left home.

Thanks to everyone who managed to read all of my notes about New Orleans. I hope that you find it helpful in some way and might consider taking a trip there, with or without kids, sometime in the future.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Is New Orleans good for kids? - Part 4

Day 4 – Audubon Zoo and Audubon Insectarium

Again, we started with breakfast at the hotel and then made our way to the streetcar line since the Audubon Zoo is in the Garden District, so is way too far to walk from the downtown area. We were waiting at a yellow Car Stop sign for a few minutes before a nice couple informed us that the streetcar was not currently serving that area (construction or something), so advised us to go to the bus connection, which we did and then boarded a streetcar. The ride through the Garden District took us past numerous (hundreds?) of stately historic homes, many in the Victorian styles. I kept reminding the girls to LOOK at those houses since they were so beautiful, though they were continuously distracted by things like, oh, the Mardi Gras beads they had on. The man sitting behind us on the streetcar, who was a local, advised us to stay on the car until the end and that the zoo would be near that last stop. We continued riding along past Loyola College and approached Tulane before chatting with some others on the streetcar (our “advisor” had gotten off the streetcar a couple of stops back) and finding out that we had already passed the stop for the bus to the zoo. Oh, and Hans realized that he forgot to grab our Audubon tickets, so after getting off and back onto the streetcar and catching the bus to the zoo, we had no choice but to purchase zoo tickets again.

The morning frustrations over, we headed into the Audubon Zoo on what was a practically perfect weather day. The sun was shining, but it was just the perfect temperature, at least at first, and only a bit warm by the time we were done. We were immediately impressed by the lush flora at the zoo and attractive displays of fountains and statuary. Even better was the close proximity visitors are allowed to almost all of the animals. We managed to get some fabulous photos of the lion, elephants, white tigers, and many other animals.


One other thing that Cora and Greta enjoyed about the zoo was the presence of Spanish moss they could readily find on the ground beneath several large live oak trees that were bedecked with quite a lot of the moss. They even brought home a chunk of Spanish moss to take to show and tell at school.


We spent quite a while at the zoo, not leaving until about 1:00 or so, returning via the gorgeous St. Charles Avenue in the Garden District aboard a streetcar until we got closer to downtown and had to get on the bus again for a few blocks. Having recently visited the zoos in Nashville, TN, and Atlanta, GA, I would easily rank the Audubon Zoo above both of those.

After a quick lunch and a trip back to our hotel to get the Audubon pass, we went to the Audubon Insectarium. Having never been to anything like this before, none of us had any idea what to expect, though we had read and heard good things about it, so were prepared for a fun museum-going experience. Even better was that the front desk clerk was able to refund the extra zoo tickets we had purchased earlier that morning when Hans gave her our pass tickets.

The Insectarium starts and continues throughout with a visually stimulating environment floor-to-ceiling. In the entry hallway, there are ceiling fans missing the blades, but with large insects “flying” around the center posts. There are quite a few live insects on display, many that are familiar (roaches) and many that were unfamiliar, at least to us. There were some bugs that looked just like green leaves and others that looked just like brown leaves. A separate section was off to the side for insects that live underground and even had an animatronic spider that Hans and I first spotted and then guided Cora and Greta into looking near the spot where we knew the spider was about to appear. Cora cried. Bad parenting there, but thankfully she didn’t have a bad dream about spiders that night. There was a typical pantry with a glass front showing cockroaches helping themselves to all of the wonderful food that had been left unsecured by the humans. The employee working in the main hallway pointed out to us that, for a good reason, the dung beetle display was right outside the public restroom.

Next was the Tiny Termite Café where we were offered the chance to taste chocolate-covered crickets and/or chocolate chirp cookies (chirp!). We girls decided that Hans should try one first and that we would decide after his sample whether we would partake or not. The look on his face while eating one little chocolate-covered cricket told us that we definitely did NOT want to try one ourselves. Even Hans, who eats most anything, didn’t want to try one of the cookies. We moved on to other exhibits at the Insectarium. I wonder how many people who visit try a cricket and then how many who try a cricket ask for seconds. Not many, probably.

We got to see termites in action and wood that had been damaged by termites. We watched the 6-minute film that included vibrating seats, spritzes of water, and other surprises. Greta got scared by that one. Next came the butterfly room, which was quite nice. They had many butterflies we had not seen before and one large butterfly from South America landed on Hans’s upper arm and stayed long enough for us to get several great photos. The employee told us that if we stood very still the butterflies were more likely to land on us, so we all froze in place for a few minutes. Only Cora had a butterfly land on her, though Greta and I were both flirted with a bit.

After the Insectarium, we headed over towards the French Quarter to find the restaurant that Hans’s friend Greg had recommended as a place we could meet him for dinner. Well, as we walked up Iberville Street, we saw some ladies in very questionable clothing, so we opted to head back towards the river and Decatur Street where things were not so risqué. We ended up meeting Greg and having dinner at a place called Primo’s. Each of us enjoyed our meals and the conversation, then Greg suggested that we head across the street to Café du Monde. So, Greta, Cora and I had beignets one last time while Hans and Greg enjoyed some coffee. Afterwards we walked with Greg back to the parking lot where his car was (he drove down from Baton Rouge) and then continued on toward our hotel to get ready for our early departure the next morning (train leaves New Orleans at 7 am!).

Check back tomorrow for the last post in this series: Day 5 - Train from New Orleans to Anniston

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Is New Orleans good for kids? - Part 3

Day 3 – Louisiana Children’s Museum, Audubon Aquarium and IMAX movie

Again, we started the day with breakfast at the hotel and then walked to the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Actually, Hans diverted to go to the National World War II Museum and then joined us at the Children’s Museum. Hans was disappointed that the WWII Museum's oral history archives and additional more detailed information about specific units were not available to guests.

Since we are current members of the children’s museum in Huntsville, we were able to visit this museum for free. In a nutshell, it is an awesome museum, but it is HARD to locate! Both Hans and I missed it when we first walked by it and the girls and I ended up walking an extra block before we finally found it. The main problems are that there is not an exterior sign for the museum and the building looks just about like all of the other buildings in that area of town. Many of them have windows only on the upper floor(s), but have painted wooden doors on the street level. The museum has several blue wooden doors at street level. The only indication from the outside that it is indeed the children’s museum is some text on two of their windows that says “Museum Store.” The giveaway for us was following another parent pushing a stroller to see if they knew where they were going (they did).

We checked in at the museum and after making a call to Early Works in Huntsville to verify our reciprocal membership, the lady at the front desk admitted us into the Louisiana Children’s Museum. Having now been to several different children’s museums, I feel like I have a pretty good idea what the “average” museum is like. The Louisiana Children’s Museum is by far the best one that we have been to yet. It is two stories and has the most interesting and well-designed exhibits that I’ve seen. We started out by going upstairs and found an area about the eye, complete with different types of eyes to look through (a fly’s eyes, a fish’s eyes, etc.) and optical illusions to boggle your mind and make you (me!) dizzy. Next we came to an area that was set up with drafting tables, including attached t-squares and triangles the kids could use to draw. I set up each girl with a sheet of paper taped to a drafting table and they each produced a work of drafted art.



Also in that area were some small magnetic buildings that you could decorate with magnets to make them into different types of buildings (schoolhouse, house, fire station, etc.). They even could be rotated for easy manipulation and application of the magnets. Nearby was a little neighborhood of kid-sized playhouses. They were similar to the plastic outdoor playhouses we’ve seen on playgrounds or in people’s yards, but were much more detailed and decorated, especially on the inside. Behind that area was a spot for playing with PVC pipes to make connections and turn corners.

Time for a new paragraph since the next exhibit was just spectacular. The children’s museum in Huntsville, Early Works, has a small grocery store area with a couple of plastic cash registers that the kids can easily pick up and the drawer on one of them is broken. The food available for pretend purchase at Early Works consists of a few bins of wooden vegetables and other groceries. WELL, the grocery store at the Louisiana Children’s Museum, which is sponsored by Winn-Dixie, is about the size of the entire toddler play area at Early Works. It has real cash registers that can actually print out receipts and make true cash register sounds. It has four aisles of pretend food products to select from, including loaves of bread, “live” lobsters or crabs, and a whole section of Cajun products. I think Cora and Greta could have spent all day in just this section of the museum. We probably stayed there about 30 minutes before moving on, but even I hated to leave that wonderful pretend grocery store. Check this out:


We moved over to the next area, which was a small-scale replica of Jackson Square in downtown New Orleans. It has a rug that looks sort of like the park in the square and has a horse statue that the kids can climb on to pretend to be Andrew Jackson. Along two sides are models of the St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, and the Presbytere. A museum employee went through an exercise with the girls, telling them about each building and its use. She then asked them to draw pictures of St. Louis Cathedral to put on the wall there, which they gladly did.

That was about it for the upstairs, other than the large toddler area and the restrooms. We were amused by the mural on the wall of the hall leading to the restroom. It had many different animals eating with the words “All animals eat, so…” followed by many animals defecating and “all animals poop!”



Downstairs was a Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood exhibit, which amused Hans and me much more than Greta and Cora, though they did enjoy King Friday XIII’s castle with its dress-up clothes and X the Owl’s treehouse. This area even had Mr. Rogers’ front porch, foyer, and den, including a pair of Mr. Rogers’ shoes! Also downstairs was a bubble room which offered the opportunity to get inside a bubble. Yes, inside a bubble. You stood inside a circular area that had a rope hanging in the center and then pulled on the rope to raise it out of the bubble solution in the ring surrounding the base, which made a huge bubble around you. At first we had trouble getting it to go any higher than about waist-high on Hans or me, but Greta kept trying and figured out that pulling the rope faster meant taller bubbles, eventually getting a few that were about 10 feet tall!



From there we walked to the Audubon Aquarium and IMAX theater by way of the Riverwalk and ended up having beignets at Café du Monde for lunch again at the one in the Riverwalk. We also bought my dad a bottle of muscadine wine at a place where Hans and I got to sample some of their fruity wines. We bought a pass to all of the Audubon museums we planned to visit and started out at the aquarium, though our IMAX movie about the Grand Canyon started about an hour after we got there, so we had to break the aquarium visit into two parts, but we did get to see it all before it closed for the day.

The aquarium was not anything particularly special, but did have its share of interesting animals to watch. We happened to get there in time to see them feed the sea lions, which was cute. They had an area where you could try to pet some sting-rays that were circling in a small, flat tank. We each got the chance to touch them a couple of times and feel how slimy they were. The IMAX movie provided Greta and Cora spectacular views of the Grand Canyon, which they’ll be visiting in January when Hans takes them with him to Phoenix for a conference for him and to see his mother, who lives there.

Dinner Tuesday night was in the courtyard in back of the Crescent City Brewhouse, another restaurant that Hans and I had visited previously, so we knew that the food (and the beer) was good there. I had a PoBoy, which was quite tasty, and everyone else also enjoyed their meals and drinks. We had a nice dinner and then left the French Quarter before dark again.

Check back tomorrow for Day 4 – Audubon Zoo and Audubon Insectarium

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Is New Orleans good for kids? - Part 2

Day 2 – Swamp Tour and Steamboat Cruise

This was a day full of boats. After breakfast at our hotel, we boarded the van to Dr. Wagner’s Honey Island Swamp Tours on the Pearl River, which is the border between Mississippi and Louisiana down by the Gulf Coast. The Pearl River is freshwater, so is not affected by the tides. We were on the van for about an hour and got to see and hear lots about what happened to East New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. The van driver was a man in his 70s who has lived in that area his entire life. He pointed out many abandoned buildings, including houses, apartment buildings, churches, and hospitals, even some houses that were covered with vines since they were abandoned after Hurricane Betsy in 1965. He told us a bit about how he had to live in his car for three weeks after being allowed to return post-Katrina before he received his FEMA trailer. The people who stayed in New Orleans certainly have a strength about them that is evident to visitors.

The swamp tour itself lasted about 2 hours and was fascinating. Our fellow tourists were two ladies from Sweden and two couples from Australia. The small covered boat was navigated by our very skilled and informative tour guide into spots that I didn’t expect the boat would fit, but he obviously knows his stuff. We were taught that a swamp is a flooded forest and that a marsh is flooded land without trees. Swamp equals flooded forest, he kept repeating.


He pointed out, and we all were very well aware, that it was quite cool that morning, about 40 degrees cooler than just a couple of days before. He told us that this meant that the alligator viewing would be better for the afternoon tour (not ours) since they wait for the warmth before emerging from the water. For the first part of the tour, then, we did not see any alligators, but we did see plenty of blue herons, egrets, and ibises, plus simply viewing the swamp habitat itself was intriguing. The water marks on the trees clearly showed how high the water had been, which was several feet higher than it was the day we were there. So that the alligators would have the maximum amount of time to emerge during our tour, he took us south on the Pearl River, under the I-10 bridge, to see some of the camps (fishing shacks, though some were far nicer than others) and houses along that stretch of the river. We came within 6 miles of the Gulf of Mexico before taking a detour to the side and managed to see a couple of small alligators and several turtles (sliders) basking in the sunlight.

Oh, and the bald eagles!!! He told us early in the tour that early October was usually when the bald eagles would show up for the winter, but that he hadn’t seen one yet this fall. Not too far south of the I-10 bridge, he spotted a bald eagle carrying a bundle of twigs across the river. When the eagle noticed we were there, it dropped the bundle and resorted to soaring above the treeline before landing atop one of the tallest trees. The tour guide pointed out that this particular bald eagle did not have the well-known white head since he was a youth, probably only about 2 years old, and that it wouldn’t get the white head until about 4 years of age. On the way back north through that same section of river, we were all on the lookout for that same bald eagle or any other bald eagle that happened to be around. Well, guess who spotted the only other bald eagle we saw??? That would be me! This one was an adult, complete with the white head, and was sitting in a tree in the same cluster of trees where the other eagle had been earlier. When this adult eagle noticed our boat, it took off and flew a ways upriver before settling into some trees and out of sight. How cool it was to see a bald eagle in the wild!

We then headed back into the part of the swamp we had visited earlier and managed to see two alligators that were out and about. One was quite large and was just sitting on the river bank with his tail still in the water. He didn’t move at all, so all of us tourists snapped plenty of photos of him. The other was much smaller and was interested when the tour guide got his attention. By interested, I mean hoping for a treat. The tour guide had a stick that he would use to slap the water while calling out to the alligator with a “buh buh buh” sound. The gator started swimming toward the boat and the guide stuck half of a hot dog on the end of the stick, which the alligator promptly nabbed and enjoyed, even returning for a second treat before swimming away.

After the van ride back to New Orleans from the swamp, we decided to have lunch before the 2:00 boarding for the Steamboat Natchez tour of the Mississippi River around New Orleans. Since Greta and Cora had never been to Café du Monde and Hans and I (of course) love their beignets, we decided to make a lunch out of beignets since we were still pretty full from our good breakfast at the hotel that morning. We had quite a bit of fun laughing at each other as we all got powdered sugar all over ourselves, the table, and the floor.

The Natchez steamboat has existed since the 1800s, though this particular boat was built in 1975. It is the only steamboat that operates daily tours on the Mississippi River. Before boarding the boat, there was a person playing the calliope atop the boat, which we passengers all enjoyed while waiting in line to board. Aboard the steamboat, our girls enjoyed multiple trips down to the engine room to watch the steam engine and its huge pistons generate the energy to rotate the huge red paddle wheel at the back of the boat. The tour itself was very informative about the things on each side of the river, including the National Park where Andrew Jackson won the battle for New Orleans, an oil refinery, a sugar plant, and plenty of other boats and barges. We passengers waved at plenty of folks on land during the boat ride, but there was one man on the top porch of a two–story house beside the river who waved enthusiastically, which seemed to prompt the boat captain to honk the boat’s horn at him. Surprisingly, the man at the house then honked back at us with an equally loud horn! Maybe this is something that happens on every steamboat cruise....

After the steamboat ride, we wandered around the French Quarter a bit since it was still daylight and were amazed that Cora and Greta seemed oblivious to the things you only see on Bourbon Street and surrounding streets. When we asked them later what they remembered about walking in the French Quarter, they both eagerly remembered the crystal figurines (birds, cats, and other animals) and vases that were displayed in a shop window. Just as well, we figured. We had dinner at Deanie’s that night, a place that Hans and I had been to on our last trip to New Orleans, before kids. Deanie’s is known for its gigantic serving sizes of delicious Cajun seafood. Knowing this beforehand, we decided to order a half-seafood platter and one appetizer, and it was all the four of us could do to eat it all. Just imagine a full-size seafood platter!!!

Check back tomorrow for Day 3 - Louisiana Children’s Museum, Audubon Aquarium and IMAX movie

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is New Orleans good for kids? - Part 1

After considering a few cities that are 5-10 hour drives from Huntsville, Alabama (more than day-trips), my husband and I settled on a trip to New Orleans by train. Amtrak’s Crescent line runs daily each direction from New York City to New Orleans, including a stop in Anniston, AL, which is about 30 minutes from my parents’ house (A.K.A. the babysitters for our 2-year-old twin boys). We wanted to take advantage of our almost 6-year-old twin girls’ fall break from school to take a trip with them alone, so thankfully my parents were willing and able to watch the boys for us.

New Orleans has a reputation of not being a great place to take kids, so we did quite a bit of research before making this decision. We searched online and also consulted with three of our friends who have lived in New Orleans. Two of the friends offered many fabulous ideas for things to do with kids in New Orleans and the other friend was cautious about the potential safety issues and adult content we might encounter there. Taking all of their advice into account, we made plans to take the train from Anniston to New Orleans on Sunday, October 3, spend Monday through Wednesday sightseeing, and take the return train on Thursday, October 7. I thought I would post my comments about each piece of our trip so that others who might be considering a trip to New Orleans might find some helpful tidbits here.

Day 1 – Train from Anniston, AL, to New Orleans, LA


It worked out well for us that the train stopped in Anniston at 10 am, so we had a nice breakfast with my parents and our whole family before my father drove the four of us to the train station. The station in Anniston is quite small, but is perfectly functional for the two passenger trains that pass through each day, as the Crescent line makes its 30-hour journey between New York and New Orleans.

The 10-hour train ride itself went pretty well overall. The coach seats were as wide as first class seats on an airplane, reclined much further, and had a leg rest, a foot rest, and AC power outlets. Cell phone coverage for our T-Mobile phones was surprisingly good, certainly near any of the cities where the train stopped (Birmingham and Tuscaloosa, AL; Meridian, Hattiesburg, and Laurel, MS; and Slidell and New Orleans, LA). I learned on the way home that the pillows you can get from the attendant fill the gap between your lower back and the train seat, so my back was a bit sore upon arrival, but felt fine when we returned home.

What about keeping the kids entertained on the train? We brought books to read, coloring books, card games, and our computers (mostly for games), plus there was the excitement of watching the scenery go by and trips to the bathroom, the snack car, and the dining car, so Greta and Cora were actually pretty well occupied most of the time. We arrived in New Orleans at about 8 pm, went to our hotel, and settled in for the night.

Check back tomorrow for Day 2 - Swamp Tour and Steamboat Ride.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Tablevogue brings style to folding tables

At the Atlanta Fall Gift Market in September, my booth for Baby Dipper happened to be across the aisle from the ladies of Tablevogue. At first it wasn't obvious to me what their product was, but I was quickly able to glance over their banners and other signage to figure out what was going on. Their booth was set up with three very nicely decorated tables complete with runners, candles, wine bottles and glasses, and even a burlap bow tied around one of the card tables. Each table had a beautiful table cover hiding underneath the glamorous stuff that was on top. Ah, the table cover! THAT is what Tablevogue is all about!

Made out of patented stain-release fabric from Milliken & Co., the patented design of Tablevogue table covers truly makes any folding table ready to serve at even the most high-style events. Tablevogue has pleated corners that enable the floor-length tablecloth to hang neatly and snugly on any standard size folding table. Tablevogue has covers for card tables, 6-foot, and 8-foot folding tables

In addition to looking fabulous while in use, Tablevogue can be washed and reused over and over again with very little effort needed to be ready to use. After drying, simply shake out Tablevogue while it is still warm and voila, a wrinkle-free table cover. No more cheap (cost-wise and looks-wise) paper or plastic tablecloths at parties, game nights, or other events where you might need a folding table for its convenience, but dread using it for its lack of style.

I took advantage of the opportunity to acquire a white Tablevogue for my card table that I use at various events to display the Baby Dipper bowl. As of now I have used it twice. First, I used it at a consignment sale that was going on here in Huntsville/Madison, AL, while I was at the show in Atlanta, so I immediately replaced my ugly green non-floor-length tablecloth with my lovely new Tablevogue table cover. Next, I used it at a fundraising event for my daughters' school that Baby Dipper co-sponsored. Each time, Tablevogue truly enhanced the presentation and was super easy to use. See how nice my display at the consignment sale looked?


For more information about Tablevogue, check them out at the following links:
Web site
Facebook
Twitter

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Parenting Seminar sponsored by Baby Dipper

Do you have a child who sometimes needs some behavioral adjustments? Well, do we have the thing for you! Baby Dipper is sponsoring a FREE webinar from Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, and you are welcome to attend and to invite your friends who might also have children with similar attitude problems.

What: The Art of Consequences webinar

When: Wednesday, October 13, 9:00-10:00 PM ET/6:00-7:00 PM PT

Who Should Attend: Frustrated parents of kids ages 2-16

What You’ll Learn: Amy McCready, Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, will present a strategy-packed, interactive, LIVE online webinar designed to teach you…

* Why kids really misbehave and what you may be doing to make it worse!
* Punishment vs. consequences and why it matters to your kids
* 5 R’s of Fair & Effective Consequences for toddlers to teens
* No-fail consequences to put an end to mealtime battles, backtalk, tantrums, whining and so much more

You can ask questions via text chat and Amy will make them part of the webinar.

Access: All you need is a computer with a speaker to hear the presentation. We’ll send you the log in instructions.

How It Works: Visit the link for the FREE webinar and click on the button with the date and time. You’ll receive an email confirmation with the link to access the webinar. When you “enter” the webinar, you’ll see the session slides and a live video box of Amy – but she won’t be able to see you! Use the chat box to type questions or make comments.

Cost:
No charge for participants at the live event!

I know I'll be tuning in to learn how to handle some things that happen at our house! I look forward to connecting with many of you that evening as we learn together.

Friday, October 1, 2010

PLEASE vote for me to win a trip to Jade Mountain!


I have entered a giveaway to win a trip to Jade Mountain in St. Lucia that is sponsored by Baby to Be TV. Since January 1 will mark ten years of marriage for my husband and me and we could REALLY use a break from the two sets of twins and our two start-up companies, I entered in hopes of possibly winning the trip as a 10-year anniversary trip for us.

So, the link you need to place your vote for me is HERE. You can vote DAILY until October 15 and they will announce the winners on October 18.

Thank you so much for your help! Please pass this along to anyone who might be sympathetic for a mom of two sets of twins who really needs a break. :o)

Positive Parenting Solutions webinar sponsored by Baby Dipper

Do you have a child who sometimes needs some behavioral adjustments? Well, do we have the thing for you! Baby Dipper is sponsoring a FREE webinar from Amy McCready, founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, and you are welcome to attend and to invite your friends who might also have children with similar attitude problems.

What: The Art of Consequences webinar

When: Wednesday, October 13, 9:00-10:00 PM ET/6:00-7:00 PM PT

Who Should Attend: Frustrated parents of kids ages 2-16

What You’ll Learn: Amy McCready, Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions, will present a strategy-packed, interactive, LIVE online webinar designed to teach you…

* Why kids really misbehave and what you may be doing to make it worse!
* Punishment vs. consequences and why it matters to your kids
* 5 R’s of Fair & Effective Consequences for toddlers to teens
* No-fail consequences to put an end to mealtime battles, backtalk, tantrums, whining and so much more

You can ask questions via text chat and Amy will make them part of the webinar.

Access: All you need is a computer with a speaker to hear the presentation. We’ll send you the log in instructions.

How It Works: Visit the link for the FREE webinar and click on the button with the date and time. You’ll receive an email confirmation with the link to access the webinar. When you “enter” the webinar, you’ll see the session slides and a live video box of Amy – but she won’t be able to see you! Use the chat box to type questions or make comments.

Cost:
No charge for participants at the live event!

I know I'll be tuning in to learn how to handle some things that happen at our house! I look forward to connecting with many of you that evening as we learn together.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Great customer service from University Kia

While the fact that I took my minivan in for service last week is completely unrelated to the children's product industry, customer service is oh-so-relevant in all industries. University Kia, the Huntsville, Alabama, retailer and service facility for Kia vehicles, took an incident that could have made a disgruntled customer and instead left me a very satisfied customer. Pay close attention to learn how good customer service can happen.

I dropped my van off last Wednesday and picked up a rental van (with 4 kids, there's no temporary sports car fix). After test-driving and inspecting my van, they told me they would order the necessary parts, which would be in on Friday morning, and that my van would be ready Friday afternoon.

WRONG! The Kia warehouse accidentally shipped one incorrect part, thus delaying the repair until Monday and necessitating three extra days of van rental. Since the Kia warehouse was at fault for the incorrect part being shipped, there was no question in my mind that Kia should pay for the extra three days on the rental contract. I mean KIA, as in the Kia retailer and the Kia warehouse needed to work out the details of which division actually paid for it, but it was NOT to come out of my pocket.

When I turned in the rental van today, I made sure to find out exactly how much the extra three days cost. The manager at Enterprise car rental told me that he could charge that half of the rental to University Kia, but only with manager approval. He gave me his business card and told me to give it to the service manager at the retailer. I did so and feared what sort of on-the-spot finagling I might have to do to cajole the service manager into picking up this almost $200 rental car tab.

What a welcome surprise it was when he readily agreed to call Enterprise and accept the charges for the three extra days! It turned out that all of my stressing over how things would go today was all for naught. THIS is how customer service should be handled. It is almost 100% true that the customer is always right. Poor word of mouth hurts much more than positive word of mouth helps. I was poised to grumble and complain if University Kia had treated me poorly, so I feel obliged to publicly laud their customer service.

Having worked in the auto industry (for Volvo Cars of North America) before having kids, I know what a tough world it is, so I have much respect for those retailers who know how to keep customers happy. Kudos to University Kia and their service department!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Breyers Sundae Scoop-Off Contest

Breyers® is in search of the next great sundae with the Sundae Scoop-Off Contest and you have a chance to win! From now through September 13, 2010, the Sundae Scoop-Off Contest is challenging America to create original, family-friendly ice cream sundae recipes including 10 or fewer ingredients. View complete contest requirements and enter the recipes at www.breyers.com for a chance to win $10,000, a trip to Chicago featuring a private cooking lesson with renowned pasty Chef Gale Gand and one year of FREE Breyers® ice cream. The sundae recipe entries will be judged on taste, creativity, use of Breyers® ice cream and presentation.

Please note that I am posting in the blogger promotion on behalf of Breyers and may receive product as a result of my post (hopefully!) :oP

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Baby Dipper bowl giveaway!

Wow! Baby Dipper has now made it to 500 fans (likers) on Facebook! As promised, here is the giveaway of a Baby Dipper bowl/spoon/fork set for one lucky Facebook fan. OH, and don't forget that Facebook fans get 10% off of purchases made through the Shop Now tab on the Baby Dipper Facebook page.

And, to add to the cuteness factor, I thought I'd share a video of my two-year-old twin boys using Baby Dipper bowls to feed themselves. They turned 2 in June and have gotten quite proficient at feeding themselves with Baby Dipper bowls. Almost so much so, I must say, that "normal" bowls tend to frustrate them when they have to use them. That being the case, I have chosen to occasionally withhold Baby Dipper bowls from them so that they can build the skills necessary to eat out of regular bowls, too. So, without further ado, here are Franklin and Carlton enjoying some blueberry applesauce:

video

And, most importantly, here are the details of potential entries in this giveaway (be sure to leave a way to contact you):

Since this giveaway came about because of Facebook, the required entry for the giveaway is to be a fan/liker of the Baby Dipper bowl Facebook page. You must post here that you are a fan/liker before completing the additional entries:

1. Follow Baby Dipper on Twitter @BabyDipper (1 entry).
2. Blog about this giveaway, including a link to this giveaway. This is worth 5 extra entries. You must leave 5 separate comments and include the link to your blog entry.
3. Put our button on your blog (in the sidebar to the right). This is worth 1 extra entry and you must leave the link to your blog to verify.
4. Follow this blog via Google Friend Connect. Leave me your name on GFC in the comment (1 entry).
5. Tweet daily - Up to 3 times a day, at least 2 hours apart! Include the link to this giveaway and @BabyDipper in your tweet. Post your Twitter status here (1 entry per tweet). Here's a sample tweet: "#Win a @BabyDipper bowl at #Baby Dipper's blog, My Double Life (ends 8/29)! http://bit.ly/9yHklf #giveaway #contest #toddler"
6. Subscribe to the Baby Dipper newsletter (1 entry).
7. Have a suggestion for a new retailer for the Baby Dipper bowl? Suggest a retailer, either brick-and-mortar or online that you think would be a good match for us (and that does NOT include the Big Box stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Buy Buy Baby, Babies 'R' Us, etc.). I'm looking for something that maybe I haven't heard of. :o) (1 entry per store, up to three stores).
8. Do you have a baby or a toddler you need to feed using a Baby Dipper bowl? Which food would you like to put in the Baby Dipper bowl first if you win? (1 entry)

This giveaway will end at midnight CST on Sunday, August 29. The winner will be notified by email (be sure to leave that for me!) and will have 48 hours to respond before a new winner is selected. Previous winners of Baby Dipper bowls are not eligible to win.

Thanks to all of you for being fans (likers) of the Baby Dipper Facebook page!

Barbara


CONGRATULATIONS TO ADALIA, COMMENT #70, FOR WINNING THE BABY DIPPER BOWL!