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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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Mini Review: Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons” at the Ottawa Little Theatre

This is a mini review because I can't remember where I put my keyboard and I'm pecking away at my ipad instead.

In short, what I noticed/remember from Saturday, Jan. 12's show: great play, Ibsenesque (say, +10 for that alone); great performances by Cheryl Jackson (Kate) and Anne van Leeuwen (Ann); decent performance by Patrick McIntyre (Chris); spirited (but maybe nervous? Quite a few flubbed lines and 'off' reactions) performance by Mike Kennedy (Joe); excellent lighting; absolutely lovely set; weird, unnecessary and distracting music during monologues.

Especially impressive for community theatre; better than some “non-community” theatre I've seen, but far from perfect — I never forgot I was watching a play.

Random note about the theatre itself: I was very charmed by them having everyone stand and sing “O Canada” at the beginning.

Worth seeing! Here's their site.

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Handel’s “Messiah” at the National Arts Centre

The ceiling at the National Arts Centre

Last night I attended my third Messiah, although my first in Ottawa. The first two were put on by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall. One year it was advertised as Toronto's favourite Messiah, and the other as Toronto's biggest. Take that how you will; but I will tell you this: Toronto loves Handel's Messiah more than any other city in the world, probably. You can't go anywhere around the holidays without seeing advertisements from all sorts of musical groups inviting you to their rendition. So it was a little disappointing to learn that there would only be two shows put on by the NAC Orchestra in Ottawa–especially as the performance was such a good one.

I was a little sceptical at first–the choir was maybe a fifth the size of the one I remembered seeing in Toronto, and although I know pretty much nothing about music, I could see that the orchestra was quite a bit smaller as well. But then I remembered that I hadn't been overwhelmingly pleased by some of the elements of the second Toronto performance I'd seen (2010, I think), which had included sleigh bells. The audience here gave be a bit of worry, too, as they seemed like they might not really be into the whole thing. Indeed, the people sitting in front of us clearly weren't because they were glued to their phones the entire evening and left right after the Hallelujah chorus (by accident, I thought, assuming they assumed that because everyone stood up that meant it was the end of it, but my husband thinks they planned their “escape” deliberately). Their loss. They missed the best part, the “Worthy is the Lamb” and “Amen” at the end.

Let me be clear: I know pretty much nothing about music. But maybe that's why I like Messiahs so much. I know that I like it, and I like that the music follows the emotion of the text, and I'm familiar with it and thus can enjoy that fulfilling of the anticipated moment that comes with listening to live performances of pieces with which you are familiar. I'm sure there's some kind of music theory term to explain that experience, but I'm afraid that's the best I have. I also dearly love the trumpet music (performed here by Karen Donnelly). Partly it makes me happy simply because I notice that it delights me. “Ah!” I think. “I, too, can appreciate music!” But also it just really is delightful. And this performance was delightful! There were moments when I wished for the vocal power of a massive TSO-esque choir, but then I realised that this was the first Messiah I'd attended where I really found myself paying intent attention to the orchestra and not just the choir (and trumpet). I was able to really appreciate all the strings, for instance, and I think that with a larger, louder choir they might have been lost, or at least overwhelmed. The choir was made up of the Cantata Singers of Ottawa (Michael Zaugg) and Seventeen Voyces (Kevin Reeves). I was obedient and didn't take any pictures during the performance, but this should give you a sense of the size of the thing:

So! It was delightful and subtle where it should be and loud and brash where it should be even though their were far fewer people performing. I was impressed by all the soloists (is that the right term?) but especially so by Diana Moore (who is a mezzo-soprano and sang alto? I told you I know nothing about music), who stood out to me for reasons I could not articulate but did. This should not be taken to mean that I was disappointed in the others (Jacqueline Woodley, Colin Balzer, and Alexander Dobson), of course. As sidenote, I should mention that Jaqueline Woodley was performing in place of Hélène Guilmette, who was out sick.

Also, I'm not sure if you can see that little star in the picture beside “soprano,” but they are attached to each name because apparently singers count as actors and belong to the Canadian Actors' Equity Association:

Who knew? I sure didn't.

Anyway! Paul Goodwin was the conductor, and as my handy programme let me know, he's a bit of a traditionalist, a man after my own heart. He seemed to get more and more excited as the night went on, gathering up energy from the performance rather than expending it, and by the end of it he was literally leaping into the air. It was fascinating to watch: at certain points (such as during the Amen at the end) he seemed to be throwing music into the air, like a magician: not pulling it out of the performers, but casting it on them. And that is the most special thing for someone like me who knows nothing about music: the absurdity that bits of wood and string and metal and people can be guided into making such a coherent thing. Ah! You musicians go ahead and laugh at me; I don't mind.

But not all is good in this story. The fact is that there were only two performances and that even with that there was a visible area of empty seats. This should not be! Why aren't people going to see these things? The National Arts Centre hosts not only the orchestra, but travelling Broadway-type shows, pop concerts, the ballet, and what have you. Are people really so uninterested in the arts here that they can manage to fit it all in one building? That is a real shame.

 

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