Friday, September 28, 2012

Books: The eReader Bandwagon

I've been torn about eReaders. The thought of paper books being nudged out by digital editions made me wince, thinking of all the pages that wouldn't be turned, all the hefty tomes that wouldn't be held, the physicality of a book's contents erased with the advent of ePUB files. But eventually I had to admit that the convenience of books in digital format was appealing, particularly for students who might no longer have to lug around 10 pound hardcovers that cost hundreds of dollars each. And who wouldn't want a whole library at their fingertips when stuck in airports or waiting for kids to finish their soccer lessons.

So I cracked, and bought a Kindle Touch eReader. My main concern was that it would be less immersive than a paper book. I didn't think the eInk would convince my brain that real words were printed on the screen in front of me. I expected to find the reading experience less...well...less analogue, less tactile, less integrated. But I surprised myself by discovering that my brain thinks I'm reading an old fashioned paper book when I read my Kindle. I know this because of two ridiculous things I tried to do with my Kindle:

1. I actually tried to flip a physical page rather than using the touch screen feature while reading a book and was surprised when there was no paper to flip.
2. When I had to put my book down to go tend to something, I put it face down on a table with the cover flap open, as if attempting to hold my spot.

Okay, go ahead and laugh at me, but I think this is one of the greatest arguments for the Kindle yet. If a book lover like me can forget that there's a screen in front of me, I'm guessing lots of other technophobes will be convinced as well.

So bottom line: I love the Kindle Touch.

However, there are applications where a real book is far better, and these involve image intensive situations. For instance, a Photoshop manual I put on my Kindle is useless. The black and white, very tiny images can't show you the difference between pictures or how an image is progressing through processing, so I've started reading full colour online digital books instead. Kids' books would suffer the same fate. The pictures are so essential that the whole book would get lost on a Kindle. I suppose you could get the new Kindle Fire. But the Fire doesn't have eInk technology or a matte screen so it is really a tablet, not an eReader.

The Kindle isn't going to replace paper books for me, but it definitely has its place.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Home: Cloth Diapering Adventures

Tutorial and Photographs Copyright Andrea Paterson at Amaranth Road Studio. 2012

A recent thread on Facebook prompted me to write a post about cloth diapering. Cloth diapers have become a lot more popular recently and the planet is truly grateful. But there's a ton of debate out there about what diapers to use, which detergents are best, and how to deal with the inevitable mess. I suspect that there are a lot of systems that work, so I'm going to tell you what I'm doing and how I've made cloth diapering work for me, but it's definitely  not the only way to go. Please note that I have not been endorsed by any diaper companies to promote their products.

First, if you're considering cloth diapering your baby but have been put off by the rampant insistence that it's way more work than disposable, I urge you to reconsider. I was hesitant and prepared to spend a lot of time dealing with diapers for the sake of the environment, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it's not much hassle at all if you use an efficient diapering system.

After a ton of research I settled on G-Diapers , which consist of a cotton cover with velcro closures and a snap in plastic liner that holds your absorbent insert. The three piece system means that you do a LOT less laundry as compared to all in one systems which require you to wash a very thick diaper with a super long drying time every time it's dirty. With G-Diapers you can simply replace wet inserts without washing the whole diaper and since the inserts are quite thin before you fold them they dry relatively quickly. My covers frequently last 24 hours and the snap in liners last 12-24 before you need to put in a new one. I have 8 covers in my baby's current size, 24 liners, and 36 cotton pre-folds as the absorbent layer. I tried the hemp inserts made by G-Diapers, but I can't recommend them. They're way too thin and leak constantly. Unless you change them hourly you're going to have a wet baby. Instead I use Bummis Organic Cotton Prefolds . You simply fold them in three, stuff them into the plastic liner, and you're ready to go. I'm including a photo tutorial on how to use prefolds with G-diaper covers:

(Note that this tutorial uses the Medium sized diaper. If you're using the small size you'll need to fold the prefolds in three along the shorter edge so that they'll fit in the pouch).

I do diaper laundry every three days or so and have enough diapers left at that time allow my diapers to air dry. I'm using Rockin' Green Detergent which I find gets my diapers nice and clean without leaving any scent on them (we're a very scent sensitive family). None of my prefolds have stains after 6 months of use. Be sure to close the velcro laundry tabs on your diaper covers or the velcro may wreck other things in the washer. I always air dry the covers to preserve the velcro. It's still good as new after 4 months of use with the current size.

The next big issue is how to survive overnight with cloth diapers. I've found that using cotton prefolds isn't practical overnight. They just aren't absorbent enough to last a 12 hour stretch and changing my baby in the middle of the night is not a good option, since it makes him fussy and hard to get back to sleep. My solution has been to use G-diaper biodegradable inserts combined with the G-diaper hemp insert (the only good application I've found for these). You put the biodegradable insert in first and then the hemp insert, fleece side up, on top of that. The fleece wicks moisture away keeping the top layer soft and dry. The biodegradable insert is super absorbent and lasts all night most times. In the morning the biodegradable insert can be easily pulled apart and flushed down the toilet. These inserts are nice if you're out and about as well--though be warned, they're expensive and not the greatest for poop. Blow-outs are more likely with the biodegradable inserts than with prefolds. Here is a photo tutorial for using the biodegradable plus hemp insert system:

The last thing is dealing with your dirty diapers. I put my wet and soiled diapers in a plastic garbage pail lined with a waterproof diaper liner that can be thrown in the wash with my diapers. Wet pails are absolutely not necessary. Just throw everything in and close the lid. I tape a charcoal filled diaper pail deoderizer to the inside of the lid and it helps to keep the smell down.

When dealing with poopy diapers I can't rave enough about diaper sprayers. They easily attach to your toilet and allow you a high pressure spray that gets all the mess off the diaper and into your toilet without having to stick your hand in the bowl to swish everything around. The sprayer does such a good job of rinsing my diapers that they often look practically clean afterwards. This means way less mess in your washer and way less actual contact with poop, which I'm sure you'll agree is worth the $50 or so investment.

In general this system is highly economical. The diapers (when not on sale--and watch for sales at London Drugs as they sometimes have them on G-diapers) are $20 each including one liner each. You will need to buy three sizes eventually (small, medium, and large). I don't recommend the newborn size since your baby is likely to outgrow them in a matter of weeks. The small size fits well on an 8 pound baby and no one wants to be using cloth during the meconium phase anyway, so save yourself the  money and start cloth at 2 weeks-1 month. Prefolds are around $20 for a package of 6. Packages of 6 extra plastic liners (these are breathable by the way) are $23. I got 6 extra in each size.

So 24 diapers cost $480.
36 prefolds cost $100
18 extra liners cost $69

So the basic system is going to cost you $649.

You'll also spend money on detergent and maybe biodegradable liners as well, but you're going to come in well under the $3000 or so it costs to diaper a single child, especially since you can use these diapers for multiple kids! So if environmental arguments don't sway you, consider the financial one.

My last piece of advice is to do what works for you. Even if you cloth diaper part time and use disposable when it makes sense to you, you're putting a big dent in the amount of waste going to landfills. I tend to use disposable diapers when travelling. Cloth diapering on a 10 hour flight is not something I think is worth it. I sometimes use disposable if I know I'm going to be out for a very long time during the day, or at night if I'm out of biodegradable inserts. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have about issues in this post and I welcome other perspectives. Go to town in the comments section! And best of luck with your cloth diapering adventures. Next up in this segment will be a chat about Elimination Communication, which may turn out to be less crazy than you think!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A New Direction

I'm going to try a new thing. And that thing is an attempt to focus this blog in a more concrete way. I'm not going to limit myself to a single topic. I've been told time and time again that any successful blog must have a single topic and daily posts. But let's face it, that's not realistic because it's not who I am. However, I think it might be useful to at least touch on more specific topics in an organized way so that readers might have a better idea what to expect when they visit this website. I'm stating my intentions here so that I'll feel more accountable and stand some chance of fulfilling my blogging goals.

So here's the plan:

I intend to post about 3 times each week and each day will engage one of the following topics.

  1. Books: This feature will include reviews, discussion of literature and poetry, thought provoking quotations from the books I'm reading with commentary, philosophies of reading, and interviews with authors.
  2. Art/Crafts: This feature will include tutorials, my current projects, and artist spotlights.
  3. Photography: I initially intended to do a photography feature, but all image related stuff has now been moved to my dedicated photography site at
  4. Soul Care: A more fluid feature that revolves around the notion of a secular soul. It might include musings about how to nurture and develop a creative life, featured blogs, poetry, and some of my own creative writing and discussions of what Alain deBotton would call "Religion for Athiests."
  5. Home: This feature will include discussion of  parenting, food, recipes, projects for around the house, and personal reflection.
  6. World: Reflections on current events and things going on in the wider world. 
I think that a lot of my writing already falls into these categories, but my postings have tended to be scattered. I hope that by collecting my thoughts in a more focused way I might become a better writer, a better blogger, and a more engaged explorer. Please feel free to comment on the new format as things go along. I definitely want to know if you liked my haphazard ramblings better or are finding the more structured approach more accessible.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

95 Decibel Hell

Hayden Practise-11.jpg
7 Months Old. Copyright Amaranth Road Studio. Andrea Paterson. 2012

You can't tell by looking at this sweet face, but my little baby is subjecting me to a persistent, daily hell. Mostly he's a lovely baby--happy, inquisitive, and playful--but he has a character trait that is driving me to destruction: he has a deep love of screeching that he engages in almost constantly while he's awake. He doesn't do it for any apparent reason and he isn't distressed while he shrieks. It seems that he's just exercising his vocal cords, making a piercing sound just because he can. And while I don't like to discourage his personal expression, if he keeps it up I might lose my mind and end up undergoing electroshock therapy at some seedy institution.

The shrieking became so unbearable that my husband decided to apply some numbers to the torture, just for a sense of scale. So out came the decibel meter. It turns out that my bundle of joy shrieks at a peak of 95 decibels at a distance of 1 meter. At a 1/4 of a meter that translates to 107 decibels. To give you a sense of just how loud that really is 95 decibels is equivalent to a subway train at 200 feet or a jackhammer at 50 feet. 107 decibels is equivalent to a power mower at 3 feet. At 95 decibels sustained exposure can result in hearing loss.

Nothing I've tried has resulted in less shrieking. I've tried ignoring it entirely, screaming back at a low growl, shouting a harsh NO, and distracting him with toys that make other loud, but less annoying, noises. Nothing, nothing, nothing works. He thinks my yelling is funny and he shrieks while he's banging my pots and pans.

So that's my life. A piercing serenade preceding a slow decline into deafness. No one warned me that this was a hazard of motherhood. If anyone has any suggestions at all that don't involve duct taping his mouth shut or investing in a sound proof box please share in the comments section.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

...And We're Back!

I am not even going to try to express how ridiculously tricky switching to a custom domain was. It was supposed to be straightforward, but a major problem with Blogger's domain hosts made it the opposite of straightforward.  Let's just say that I, at times, felt like I was doing digital brain surgery. But after days of frustration, near meltdowns, a ton of research, and following instructions that might as well have been in Japanese, I have my very own website.

Welcome to Amaranth Road Studio! Be sure to check out the new photography link.

Follow the Purple Rabbit

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Under Construction

Vintage Fire Engine
Vintage Fire Truck. Copyright Amaranth Road Studio. 2012

This blog is currently under construction and you may not be able to access all functionality for the next few days. I am in the process of transferring this blog to a custom domain name. While this is very exciting it does mean a few days of confusion and frustration, so bear with me. Everything will be better and shinier soon and this blog will live at