Monday, September 20, 2010

Umbrella Strollers: A Thorough Review

Posted by Ask Chavi at 4:41 PM 0 comments
I am sure many of you have read my thread about how I decided on the Bumbleride Indie, but today I wanted to write about an entirely different class of stroller.  My Indie is great.  I keep it in my house (in my dining room during the week) and use it for taking walks (I walk about an hour each week day).  It works great for walking and handling bumpy sidewalks, grass, gravel etc.  However, it is rather bulky and inconvenient for the car.  When folded, it takes up much of the trunk space in my Pontiac Vibe, and it is heavy and awkward to lift in and out.  Additionally, it takes a little too long to fold and open when trying to get errands done and requires two hands to fold.

As I started to plan my Sukkot vacation, I realized that I would be flying with baby, and therefore wanted a more convenient stroller for travel.  I read a number of air travel horror stories about expensive strollers breaking from gate checking and how the airlines will not replace your broken stroller.  Therefore, I wanted to find a stroller for under $100, that had some basic features, was light enough to travel with and that I wouldn't be devastated about if it happened to get damaged during travel. Additionally, I happen to have a really tall baby who grew out of her Graco Snugride car seat before she was even 5 months old, hence I was not able to use my snap and go anymore.

$60 and Under:
The problem with the strollers under $60 is that they do not recline, they do not have canopies that remotely shade ones child and the handles are much too short to be comfortable for tall parents.  If you just need a cheap stroller to get through an airport and are not planning on using it outside at all, then I suppose this could be sufficient.  Since it does not recline, do not plan on depending on it as a place where your child could fall asleep.  The First Years Strollers below do recline, but they lack some other essential features.  You can also find a cheap no whistles umbrella stroller for under $30 much like the Cosco Umbrella stroller.

 












Over $150: The Luxury Umbrella
In this class of umbrella, the strollers really shouldn't be called umbrellas except that they have the easy compact fold and lightweight design.  Maclaren is known for their easy hands free fold, good maneuverability and sleek design.  The Maclaren strollers have a much better canopy than the bargain umbrellas, but the strollers weigh more.  The Maclaren Triumph comes in at a pricey $170, where as their Techno XT comes in over $300.  (To be fair the Techno XT functions as a complete travel system with car seat adapter, reclining seat, larger basket, larger canopy, better quality wheels etc.)  Many people swear by their Maclarens and say they are well worth the money.  The Triumph handles were taller than most, but still a little too short than I would prefer in order to be comfortable for me at 5'8''.  I was hesitant to spend over $150 on a second stroller (third if you count my snap and go) considering I paid over $450 for my Bumbleride. 

Another stroller I tried in this price range was the UppaBaby G-Luxe.  Its most striking features were its extremely low weight at 11 pounds, carry strap, reclining seat back and extremely large canopy.  When I tried it out in stores, I was disappointed that the stroller quality seemed cheap and it did not look very durable.  The colors are very vibrant and attractive, but it wasn't enough to justify me paying $160 for an umbrella.  Additionally, the strap that controlled the recline was poorly made and did not even function properly on the sales floor.

The Peg Perego Aria (not an umbrella style, but lightweight) took me by surprise when I saw how compactly it folded with one hand.  It is the only stroller I'm reviewing in this section that has a snack tray which is a must for some moms.  It was extremely light and easy to fold, but I did not like the plasticy appearance of the stroller.  If its appearance does not bother you, and you want to have a snack tray, then it could be a great stroller for you.














Around $100: The Sweet Spot

The Chicco Liteway was recommended to me by a friend.  It has an amazing recline feature that can be done with one hand (instead of a strap method).  It folds quickly and compactly.  It weighs a little more than other umbrella strollers, coming in at a whopping 17 pounds but handles extremely well.  It has a carry handle, but no carry strap, adjustable leg rest.  I tried it in the store and liked it, but really wanted something lighter and something that had a carry strap.

The UppaBaby G-Lite looks extremely similar to the G-Luxe except it is lighter at only 9 pounds, has a tiny canopy comparable to the size of the under $60 category strollers and does not recline.  It did not fulfill any of my desired criteria except for being extremely light weight. 

The Maclaren Volo is extremely popular and weighs 9 pounds.  However it does not recline, hence not suitable for children under 6 months old, the seat back is thin mesh and does not provide great back support, so if your child likes to sit forward in the stroller this is not the umbrella for you.  It apparently holds up very well, but does not have many features except that its canopy is larger than other strollers in its weight class.

 











 
Britax Blink Lightweight Stroller, CowmooflageI ended up purchasing the Britax Blink which was only $99 on Amazon and included the travel bag (a $20 value).  The Britax Blink has all the bells and whistles that the Maclaren Triump has, but is at least $70 cheaper and included the bag!  It has a strap recline, that reclines near flat (about 30 degrees) which my baby can comfortably fall asleep in.  It has a basket that is easily accessible when the seat is up, or can be accessed from the side if the seat is reclined.  It has a one touch break that breaks both back wheels, and the front swivel wheels can be locked into place with ones foot.  The canopy is much larger than many of the other umbrellas and even has a little extra lip for sun protection and also has a peek-a-boo window.  It has a 5-point harness which I imagine will be extremely difficult for an older toddler to open.  It has a 55 pound passenger weight limit which is excellent.  The seat back is very tall and will accommodate a tall child.  The handles were also tall and are very comfortable for me to push.  Its folding system is almost identical to Maclaren (pull up on carry strap, step on side latch and stroller collapses).  To open you just release side lock and press down on a lever with your foot (Hands free!).  It takes up much less space in my car than my Snugrider Snap and Go and even though it is 16 pounds I can easily lift it in and out of my car with one hand holding on to the carry strap which will also allow me to carry it through the airport on my shoulder if need be.


The stroller originally retailed for $149 and I think the reason it was reduced in price was to make way for the Britax B-Nimble which looks even better than the Blink.  It will be only 14 pounds and will actually have a car seat adapter to make it compatible as a complete travel system from birth to early childhood!  It isn't coming out until the end of October 2010 and it is retailing at $200 (Take THAT Maclaren XT!!!).  I am excited for Britax's further entry into the stroller market, and I hope they bring the same value, quality and safety to their future strollers that their car seats are known for!

Please leave comments or email me if you have any questions,
Chavi

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Experience at Buy Buy Baby

Posted by Ask Chavi at 10:10 PM 0 comments
So today I decided to check out Buy Buy Baby (yes they spell it obnoxiously like that).  I had to drive for about 30 minutes to get there, but I was curious to see what it was all about.  It was next to a Bed Bath and Beyond (their parent company), there was a large parking lot so I was able to park easily.

Okay so first impressions.  I walk in, the signs and displays look almost identical to BB&B.  The really tall ceilings, the shelving filled up all the way to the tall ceilings, the strategically placed "impulse buys" placed on section endings etc.  Same layout, where one has to walk around the whole store to get back to the front.  Everything is organized into sections like Toys, Bath, Feeding, Clothing, etc.

Inglesina 2010 Swift Stroller, InkMy main reason I went there was to try out umbrella strollers, as I had recently tried some at a Babies R' Us but wanted to try some additional options.  They carried Bugaboo, Baby Jogger, Bumbleride, UppaBaby, Maclaren, Graco, Combi, Inglesina, Peg Perego and some others I am probably forgetting.  They did not have the full lines of each brand.  For example, they had the Bumbleride Indie but not the Flyer or Flite.  They had the UppaBaby Vista but not the G-Lite or G-Luxe.  I was disappointed because I really wanted to try out the G-Luxe and they did not have a display model.  The employees pretended to know what they were doing, but some didn't really know how to fold the strollers and I actually knew more about the specs then they did!  The only upside to this was that I got to try the Inglesina Swift, which I had never tried before.  I decided its a pretty solid umbrella, but it is $119... I still really want the UppaBaby G-Luxe as my travel umbrella (to be decided soon).

BBB had a very large selection of car seats, bouncers, walkers, jumpers toys etc.  Their furniture section was comparable to Babies R' Us and their clothing section was smaller than Babies R' Us.  Their formula selection was really lacking, as they did not carry a good selection of specialty formula. In the same section was diapers, and it seemed like Pampers must have made some kind of deal to have their diapers receive the most shelf space in the store.

Prices:  I spend a lot of time online shopping and I noticed a lot of the prices at BBB were inflated from what you can get online with NO TAX and free shipping.  The strollers and car seats were priced at standard retail, but other things were inflated a few dollars. BB&B has a similar model where nothing ever goes on sale, but they get people to come to the store by sending them these alluring 20% off coupons.  About the coupons, BBB has their own coupon system which they do send out if you can manage to get on their mailing list.  They will accept BB&B coupons, but ONLY if they are not expired.  And another thing on BBB coupons: there are EXCEPTIONS on basically anything you would want to buy: diapers, wipes, or formula... Additionally, most of the "name brand" Strollers, carseats, and highchair brands are excluded and listed at the bottom of the coupon in small print. 

Also annoying, the chatty lady who tried to strike a common chord over the fact that I was using my snap-and-go stroller frame by discussing how she couldn't believe the price of some of these strollers.  I had to politely nod and didn't want to tell her that I had a Bumbleride Indie folded up in my car and that I was planning on spending over $100 on an umbrella stroller.  She was explaining how she traveled all around Europe with one of those $20 umbrella strollers.  These big box stores are put in places far from city centers where land is cheaper, and people are friendlier *sigh*. 

So basically, if you live close by and have a coupon and are planning on buying something like a toy or swing, it may be worth it to go.  However, if you can wait a few days I would recommend just ordering online, where you will probably will get a better price and not have to deal with the hassle of crowds, lines and obnoxious names that wreak of the consumerism culture such as Buy Buy Baby.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Wig Review: Shuly - Dark Brown and Wavy

Posted by Ask Chavi at 7:07 AM 0 comments
What made you decide to purchase a Shuly?  Where did you hear of the brand?
My friend worked for Shuly and a bunch of other wig companies and she told me that of all the wigs she’s sold, Shuly is one of the best.  She took me to the store and I saw firsthand what amazing quality they are.

How many other sheitels did you try before deciding on it?
Probably around 10

What color is your Shuly?
Dark Brown

Was it custom made or pre-made?
Pre-made

How would you describe the texture of hair?
Loose natural waves

Did you have a specialized wig cap size?
They had to do some work to the cap to make it fit my apparently oddly shaped head.

Did you purchase it from the Shuly salon or from a sheitel macher?
I bought it through my friend who is a sheitel macher but we went to the Shuly salon when I tried on sheitels. 

If from a sheitel macher, how did their involvement in the sale help your overall kallah experience?
It helped me tremendously to narrow down from the vast choices to find a sheitel that was perfect for me.  As a kallah, I needed someone to guide me since buying a first sheitel can be a daunting and overwhelming task. 

What is your favorite aspect of the sheitel?
How natural it looks and feels, and how good it looks all the time, whether I’ve just washed & set it or not.    

What is your least favorite aspect ( or what could you change if you could)?
Nothing

What was the hardest thing about finding a sheitel as a kallah?
Finding a sheitel that looked as good on me as it did on the sheitel head in the store.  It's one thing to see a sheitel all styled and perfect looking on the shelf but each person has a different shaped face and coloring and it can be a whole different story when you try it on. 

Does the cap fit you well, is it comfortable? 
Yea it fits well and it comfortable

Does it give you headaches? 
No

Does the hair knot? 
Not in general, but at the end of a long day there might be a few tangles near the neck which are easily brushed out.


Have you ever washed it yourself?  If so, did the hair knot when wet?
No way, I would never attempt to wash it myself unless I was 100% confident that I knew what I was doing (which I’m not- I’d rather pay a professional to wash it then risk damaging it myself).

What quality hair was advertised to you and do you feel the hair was the same as advertised?
Great quality and I am very satisfied with it. 

How much did the Shuly wig cost?? 
The retail price was $2600. 

How was the Shuly/sheitel macher customer service? 
It was a good experience.

Would you buy a Shuly again?
Yes absolutely, they are definitely pricey but if you can afford it, it’s totally worth the money.  
 
Are you happy with your sheitel cut?  Would you get a different style next time?
I’m happy with the cut. 

How would you rate it on the following scale? A-F

RATING:
Weight/comfort:  A
Hair Quality: A
Skin top:  B
Durability:  A
Appearance:  A
Cap Construction:  A

and Overall: A
 

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