Tag Archives: VitaEarth

The Canadian Tulip Festival, plus “super-boring” Ottawa

First, an update from last post: I’ve heard back from VitaEarth and can now inform you that the built-in insert is made from bamboo, not cotton, and that the diapers are indeed designed to be a cross between an all-in-one and a pocket diaper. Also, it looks like the VitaEarth site is more or less up and running for those curious about other prints of theirs. Oh, and I’ve been informed that they will be trying out other styles/designs coming up.

In other news, it seems that Ottawa has completely skipped spring and gone straight into summer, just in time for the annual tulip festival. I used to live within an easy walk of Dow’s Lake (or is it Dows Lake?) and so had a nice look at all the tulips last year. I haven’t done anything this year so far as I’m a little further east and OCTranspo (ie the bus) makes it difficult to get around Ottawa’s core–having been mostly designed to get people in and out of the suburbs, apparently, but that is a rant for another day. Plus I’m not that up to walking these days. I did see some of the tulips in front of parliament this morning, from the bus window, and they looked nice enough. I know not everyone is into flowers, but it is pretty impressive to see so many variations of the same basic type. Aside from the variety of colours, there are other delightful nuances as well. Some petals look feathery, some stems are long, some blooms are tiny. A delight! Anyway, it is pretty much Ottawa’s claim to fame, so it is worth seeing at least once. I like all the flowers. They class up the place.

Speaking of classing up the place, I came across the most unintentionally dismissive quote about Ottawa the other day while (who knows why?) reading the National Post. It is so dismissive, it wasn’t even really about Ottawa, just using it as a filler for “lame place no one cool would want to be.” This particular piece (“Be cool, Toronto: Ontario’s capital having a moment as world’s latest ‘It’ city — which even Montrealers admit”) is a sort-of review of a recent guide to Toronto by a Montrealer. It is also a sort-of meditation on how Montrealers are suddenly realizing that hey, Toronto is a pretty fun place to be (no blame–I used to live in Montreal and had the same vague impressions of Toronto as a stodgy polluted culture-less wasteland before moving there for grad school). In the course of the article, the author recounts a random meeting with another Montrealer he knows:

“In Montreal people always compare Toronto to Ottawa. You know, super-boring, everything closes at 9 p.m. When I got here I was shocked. It’s not like that at all — it’s totally great. I think in Montreal the past 10 years people have been really depressed, with all the corruption and bridges collapsing. They lost their pride. Toronto doesn’t have that problem. It’s full of pride.” (Maripier Isabelle, PhD candidate at UofT)

As you can see, Ottawa’s boringness is taken for granted in the same way Toronto’s once was. To be fair, this impression is not limited to Montrealers. I had never really even considered Ottawa’s existence while I was in Montreal (sorry!), and when I moved to Toronto I picked up the habit of dismissing the place in much the way Montrealers dismiss(ed) Toronto.

To be even more fair, I myself go through bouts of despair where I believe, whole-heartedly, that Ottawa is the biggest waste of potential in Canada; is boring, bureaucratic, and short-sighted; and that if I don’t somehow make it back to Toronto, I will waste away and die a lonely death. I exaggerate only slightly. So who am I to judge someone else’s casual assumption that Ottawa = limp, boring, and lifeless? Well, I live here now and will for at least the next two years, so I don’t really have a choice but to seek out the pleasant aspects of the city. Perhaps it is Stockholm syndrome. Perhaps it is that I have become steadily more boring myself (a very important factor that should not be dismissed out of hand). Perhaps it is that Ottawa really does have some nice things, they just aren’t immediately obvious to the casual visitor.

Here is what Ottawa thinks people should do:

  • Tour parliament
  • Visit the Museum of [History/Civilization]
  • Visit the National Gallery
  • Arrive in February and do Winterlude stuff (skating on the canal, etc)
  • Arrive in May and do Tulip Festival stuff (walk along the canal, etc)
  • Visit Byward Market and Sparks Street

The problem with most of those activities is that having done them once, there isn’t really any compelling reason to do them again–or, from a tourist’s perspective, to return to the city. I’m sure many would disagree, but let’s think about it:

  • Once you do the free tour of parliament, you realize just how lacking in substance the tour is. Okay, nice architecture, but it isn’t like you can just walk in off the street and sit and enjoy the atmosphere; the only way to gain access is to be shuffled along in a group. The grounds are nice, I’ll give you that, but you have to like that kind of thing. Fortunately, I do, but not everyone does.
  • When it was the Museum of Civilization, the newly-renamed Museum of History was one of the most appallingly disappointing museums I’d ever visited. I would recommend it to no one. Reworking it might actually have been a good thing, though I haven’t had the guts to check it out yet.
  • I can’t really complain about the National Gallery. I like that it exists and have an annual membership. Some of the exhibits could be better curated, but then what couldn’t? My biggest complaint is that is closes far too early. It would be so nice to wander around there after sunset, seeing the city, parliament, and the river all lit up. Closing so early is such a waste of all that nice glass.
  • Maybe it’s because I lived in Quebec City as a child. Maybe it’s because I am neither a child nor have a child that is not currently ensconced inside me. But I don’t enjoy Winterlude. I don’t enjoy February as a whole, so I appreciate the effort to make it bearable, but all the interesting “grown-up” activities are, for the most part, too expensive for me to bother leaving the house during the dark and cold.
  • As I mentioned, the tulips are nice. But you have to like tulips. And they don’t, as far as I know, scream hipster fun. Though they should. Absolutely.
  • If you like hippie (not hipster!) sweaters, overpriced restaurants, frou-frou boutiques, and ugly parking complexes, I guess Byward Market has something to offer. If you like perpetual construction zones and stuff that closes at 5 pm, Sparks Street is okay. Both have a lot of potential; neither offer much at the moment.

So…

What is the alternative? Or, rather, what non-boring things do I like about Ottawa? I will be a tease and leave that for another post as this one is already over 1200 words. In the meantime, enjoy wondering what possible fun there could be in “super-boring” Ottawa. Also, to my husband: happy anniversary!

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Ottawa Baby Show and VitaEarth cloth diapers

Last Saturday, May 3, I decided that in some kind of defiance of both the miserable weather (weather that only really took a turn for the pleasant yesterday) and my natural tendency to remain indoors all the time I would head out to the Ottawa Baby Show, held that day and the next at the Ottawa Convention Centre downtown (a very nice building, by the way–I vastly preferred it to Montreal’s). I thought, too, that I might find some deals on baby stuff, as I had on wedding stuff (e.g. my dress) at one of the million or so wedding shows in Toronto. In particular, I went looking for receiving blankets with whales on them. And what do you know! I found that very exact thing from Lulu Bedding and Design. One of the other things that happened while I was there, which was kind of weird, was that several people–complete strangers of course as anyone I meet in Ottawa mysteriously moves overseas a short time later–commented that I looked like I was, and I quote, “about to pop.” Not the most pleasant of images, but I suppose no harm was meant. I suppose, too, that I really am about to “pop” with less than a month to go.

Now, it may be because I only got to the convention centre at around 3 pm, but it seemed like as with many Ottawa events there just weren’t that many people there. Doors opened at 9 am, so it is possible that I meandered in just as all the keeners were leaving. One vendor did mention that all of a particular item had sold out in about ten minutes. Ottawa, too, has a much smaller population than Toronto. Plus this is just a guess, but I suspect that far fewer people have the time and energy to visit a baby show than a wedding show. Still, I’d seen the posters everywhere so was expecting a bit more of a crowd. On the pleasant side, there was far less pressure from the vendors to buy stuff than I had been expecting. I did buy stuff, but it was almost more of an indulgence on my part than succumbing to any pressure. So that was nice. Even the private RESP representative didn’t push too much and was content to leave me with a pamphlet. Perhaps Ottawa vendors are just generally hands-off; perhaps they were tired after a hypothetical morning rush; perhaps I just didn’t look like I was actually going to buy anything from them. Maybe it was some nefarious scheme. I did end up buying more than I might have otherwise simply because people left me alone, unlike the time I went into a certain Ottawa store and had someone follow me around incessantly, telling me her whole life story and pointing out items she liked and generally not letting me, you know, shop. The store literally closed on me before I could look at the stuff I had come in to look at.

Anyway, an unexpected thing about the Ottawa Baby Show: when I returned home and reflected on the experience, I realized that despite the great variety of vendors (including about five chiropractors and a teeth-whitening service), one item was conspicuously missing from the various little storefronts. Disposable diapers. I didn’t even see any “eco” diapers available.

Nearly every vendor representing a baby store did have at least one cloth diaper for sale, however.

I’m not sure if this was due to everyone savvily predicting the type of person to show up at the Baby Show, if it just isn’t practical to sell disposables at that kind of venue, or if Ottawa is in midst of a cloth diaper movement of which I have been clueless. I myself am interested in giving it a try and have been slowly collecting them as I find deals. Until last weekend, the most I’d paid for a single diaper was $4.50, which from what I’ve gathered from online research is quite a steal as the average price per diaper is $20. $20! I know that in the end it is still cheaper than disposables, but it is hard to hand over that kind of money for a single item, you know? (For those out there who care, I have a mixture of used Fuzzibunz from kijiji and new Kawaiis from an online sale.) I am sure that for most “normal” i.e. non-pregnant, non-parent, non-cheap-or-hippie-type readers out there this means nothing. But what if Ottawa really is in the middle of some kind of cloth diaper revival/movement? It would be silly not to cover it. So to anyone “normal” out there, feel free to stop reading (if you haven’t already) and enjoy the sunshine. For anyone left who is interested for whatever reason, I’d like to write a bit about a new Ottawa business I discovered at the Baby Show–a business so new that when I checked out their website when I got home it still had a generic “welcome to your new storefront” message on the front page.

That business is VitaEarth, from what I could tell started by a local husband-and-wife team and selling diapers designed by the wife-and-mother half of the team. I bought one of their diapers, partially because they were the only people at the show selling pocket diapers designed for newborns, partially because I thought it would be nice to support a new business, and partially because they seemed to be by far the most affordable around. I also liked that all their diapers are the same price (12.99 each, so more expensive than the most affordable Kawaiis but still far more affordable than the typical diaper). Plus they just seemed like nice people, and I’m a sucker I guess. I don’t believe they are selling online yet at vitaearth.ca, but I think they are worth keeping an eye on if you are at all interested in this type of thing. You can find them on Facebook, too.

I thought it might be nice for those who were not at the show and thus could not see the diapers in person to have some random person on the Internet (me!) describe them. Keep in mind that I am “about to pop” and have not yet “popped” so I haven’t actually used this on a small human. I have never ever in my life used any cloth diaper so forgive my lack of proper, uh, lingo.

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A tiny newborn diaper.

See how tiny? And anyone who knows me knows I have tiny hands:

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The largest setting:

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As you can see, there are a lot of buttons (snaps?). It seems to me that it is adjustable at the waist, at the legs, and at the belly button (the middle snaps down so as not to irritate the umbilical cord).

A pocket! I’ve “artistically” half-inserted the insert:

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I asked what said insert is made of (answer: hemp). I haven’t done anything to it yet so I imagine that it will be much puffier when actually being used. Also, I don’t know if it is visible in the photo, but the pocket has a little flap to stop the insert from coming out, much like the Kawaiis but notably unlike the Fuzzibunz. I like that; it seems a useful feature.

In addition to the hemp insert, there is a built-in insert under the pocket! I have never ever seen that before (but I’m no expert). Foolishly, I didn’t think to ask what it was made of, but it is not hemp. Perhaps cotton?

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The only potential problem I can see it the placement of the pocket opening, which is at the front. As you can see, when the front is snapped down, there is a bit of a gap:

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I suppose this placement could actually be a good thing when it comes to baby poop (something I’m not looking forward to) as it means that the insert won’t get soiled. But what of pee? Or maybe at that age it isn’t necessary to have the hemp in yet (there is that built-in part) and thus it doesn’t stick out as much?

In conclusion, though, I’m pretty excited about having a local diaper company (as excited as one can be about items designed to catch human waste). They have package deals and larger diapers as well (one-size I believe is the term–the ones with all the buttons designed to go from infant to potty training), but I didn’t look at them too closely to be honest as I have some Kawaiis already and can’t afford to invest in something with which, realistically, I haven’t had hands-on experience. I might end up running to disposables in complete and utter surrender. I did impulsively buy an AMP all-in-one small/newborn from one of the other vendors, but I already kind of regret it and wish I’d done the whole tour of the show first. If I had, I’d have bought another one of the VitaEarth diapers, to be perfectly frank. They are far less puffy/bulky, seem more adjustable, don’t use velcro, don’t cost as much, and seem like they will dry in a fifth of the time. If I do take to cloth diapering like some kind of graceful earth mother, I will definitely try to get my hands on another VitaEarth and let you know how it goes. I don’t particularly want this be a “mommy blog,” but I have the feeling my life will be pretty baby-centric for the next little while, so I guess it is a little bit inevitable. I’ll try to balance things out by writing about museums and such, but much of that depends on me actually leaving the house…

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