Five USA-Made Treats to Keep You Sane ‘Til Spring

This has been a nasty, never-ending winter and most of us are more than ready for the spring thaw. While you’re waiting and longing for warmer weather, here are five ideas that will lift your spirits.

Buy a new outfit for spring:

High Socie-tea Dress, Pull Up a Cherry Dress
and Traveling Cupcake Truck Dress at 
Shirts from Hucklebury

Toss some bright pillows on the furniture:

USA-made pillows from Zazzle.

Get ready for spring with some fun backyard furniture:

Recycled designs from Loll Furniture

Throw on a colorful scarf or tie:

Takuyo Silk Scarves
Bentley Cravat’s Silk Critter Ties

Get ready for gardening season:

Sloggers boots from Garden Shoes Online
Mullers Utility Carts



Riding a Bike Made Easy With Rollicoaster

When we were getting ready to teach our daughter to ride a bike, we got some advice that was totally new to us. First, we were told, find a grass-covered, slightly sloping area. Second: Lower the bicycle seat so your daughter’s feet touch the ground. Third: Tell her to lift her feet off the ground and let the bike roll ever-so-slowly forward until she starts to feel unbalanced, then she should put their her back down. Repeat.

This worked wonders compared to the way I learned; on concrete, first with training wheels, then swerving and falling until I finally got the feel of it.

Now, though, there’s something even better. It’s called the Rollicoaster. Not only is it an absolutely beautiful piece of design work, it’s specially-created for the coasting phase of learning to ride. The idea was first pitched on Kickstarter and, in only twelve days, the venture was completely funded, plus an additional 78% of the goal!

Here’s what the makers have to say:

“Do you remember your training wheels or notice how slowly kids pedal on a bike with training wheels? A balance bike does what training wheels cannot – it teaches kids how to balance. As early as two years old, a kid on a balance bike can learn the most important skill of riding a bike – BALANCE. You’ll be a believer when you see your three year old carving turns like an expert skier. Balance brings confidence, and a confident child is a precious lifetime gift. You’ll be glad to know that we are also customers. Our kids are learning or have learned to ride using a balance bike.”

The company expresses on its web site its hope that, for your child, the Rollicoaster could be, “the beginning of a lifelong experience that values American-made products.”


Axes and Mauls and Wedges – Oh My: Part One

Council Tool Velvicut Felling axe.

We’ve had a wood burning stove for years and up until last year we bought all of our wood. Then came Hurricane Sandy and a nasty ice storm, and we had about ten trees come down in our yard. With well over three hundred rounds (the barrel-shaped sections left on the ground after the tree comes down) it was time to get to work.

Enter my new found love for splitting wood.

Like every other job, chopping wood comes down to having the right tools. My weapons of choice weren’t the best: a felling axe that I borrowed from a friend and an imported splitting maul I bought on the cheap. I used the felling axe to split the small stuff and it did an okay job, but the head eventually worked itself loose and I had to replace the handle. The maul was a piece of junk and it was replaced by other pieces of junk until now. I am now the proud owner of a Council Tool Velvicut Felling Axe. This thing is pretty much a work of art as well as an amazing axe. What I really like about it besides the sharpness and durability of the blade is its heft, which has allowed me to split, in a single stroke, logs that I never could manage before.
Check out the full line of Council Tool products and check out the very interesting video on how the axe was forged.

Best Made Felling Axes with custom paint..

Best Made Company out of New York City offers both a Hudson Bay axe and a Felling Axe. They’re very sharp-looking (pardon the pun) with their custom paint jobs. Best Made doesn’t disappear once they sell you the axe, though – they offer courses in taking care of it as well. Best Made also offers a line of made-in-America products ranging from clothing to camping supplies.

Vaughn – making tools since 1869

Another manufacturer. is Vaughan out of Michigan, which offers a 3.5 pound Sub-Zero Single Bit Axe.

I do recommend buying or making an over-strike protector for your ax or maul handle because even the best of us will occasionally overstrike the wood and the handle really can take a beating. I am talking to a company called Deepwoods Leather in Alaska that is making a leather handle protector that will be available soon. Meanwhile, check out this video:


Coming up in Part Two on Monday:
Axes from Trustco, Yellowood Design Studio and more.

10 Places to Find Woolens on Sale: Made in USA

This is a great time to score some deals on warm winter goodies. Wool items can be very pricey in the fall, but we’ve discovered some wonderful bargains now that everyone’s minds are on the spring thaw.

Ramblers Way Farm, founded by the owners of Tom’s of Maine, has a large selection of Made in USA wool clothing on sale, for men and women. Grab ’em while they’re still available.

The Fairbault Woolen Mill in Faribault, Minnesota has lovely Mid-Stripe Scarves.

The Braided Rug Store has a big sale going on.

Woolrich, a well-known American brand, still produces some products in its 180 year-old mill.

The beautiful HELMSMAN sweater from Osmium, in 100% Merino wool, has gone on sale from $250 to $140.

Hats in the Belfry has a selection of Made in USA hats for sale. The Bessie swinger hat is made of 100% wool felt with a Murino finish. $119 to $94. (update: The Harris Tweed Griffin Newsboy Cap is no longer available.)

One couple's search for a Made-in-USA lifestyle