Thursday, 22 July 2010

Traveling with Cloth Diapers

I use cloth diapers whenever I can.  I'm even using them during our one-month vacation in Paris.  But here's the thing: I just don't think I can travel with cloth diapers - not exclusively anyway.   Jennifer Margulis has written a blog entry on traveling with cloth diapers and has described how to make it work but I'm not wholly convinced.  For one thing, I fear the diapers may take up too much space - they're much bulkier than disposable diapers. Margulis suggests bringing prefolds but 20 prefolds take up a lot of space in a suitcase and here's the thing: that number is not going down so you are not going to gain more space in your luggage as the days go by.  Then there's the fact that you have to carry around the smelly, dirty diapers, at least until you have access to laundry facilities.  Ick.  And then you have to use of an afternoon or more of your trip doing laundry.  Plus I don't use the dryer to dry my cloth diapers so I would also need a rack or line to hang the wet diapers out to dry and ideally some clothes pins, too.

On the other hand, having used cloth for more than a year now, I cringe at the sight of disposables.  I hate their feel and their smell.  And they are so NOT cute on baby (it's IMPORTANT!).

So I have been looking for a compromise.  As G-diapers contain Super Absorbent Polymer (SAP), I don't consider them a compromise.  I might as well buy Pampers as far as I'm concerned.   Same goes for Gro-Via - their eco-friendly disposable inserts contained SAP the last time I checked.

I have recently discovered the Hamac.  It's a French-made hybrid diaper.  On the outside is super thin, impermeable microfiber.  On the inside, you choose either (1) an absorbent hemp and cotton washable insert or (2) a disposable insert.  The disposable insert is made of paper - no plastic and NO SAP.  It's basically like a giant maxi-pad.  The bambino went through two of the disposable inserts on an outing today and they worked okay - no leaks and they seemed to fit well.  I need to use the Hamac more on the Bambino to see if it really will work for a two week vacation in the south of France, though.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Starbucks is Going Downhill

We're in Paris for the Northern hemisphere summer and enjoying the sights, sounds and tastes of Europe once again.

Now, we love the cafés and fine cuisine in France but once in a while, we also love grabbing a sofa at the world's ultimate globetrotter coffeeshop: Starbucks.

I'm not a huge fan of Starbucks' filter coffee.   Actually, I'm not a huge fan of any filter coffee but the burnt taste of Starbucks' filter coffee is even worse.  However, I do (usually) love Starbucks' gourmet coffee drinks made with espresso coffee.  And I love their mugs.  And the wooden stir sticks.  And the Very Expensive chocolate chip cookies.  And the sofas.  And the Ella Fitzgerald playing in the background.  And that it's no smoking.  So yes, I generally really love Starbucks.

But not today.  In fact, I think the coffee shop for globetrotters is starting to fail us.  It started when I walked into the Starbucks on boulevard des Capucines in the 9th district in Paris this morning.  I joined the line, only for the cashier to let me know that they could not accept debit cards that morning.  Fine with me but the friend whom I was meeting was not there precisely because she had waited in line for ten minutes before they told her that she couldn't use her debit card and then she had to leave to go find a bank machine and get some cash.

Then I placed my order.  I asked for a tall decaf cappuccino with caramel syrop on top, "sur place" ("for here") and in a mug.

"We don't have any mugs, only the paper cups," the cashier said.

Now keep in mind that, as we were talking, I was looking at a big Starbucks poster just behind the cashier which said the following about the company's commitment to the environment:
C’est notre engagement à exercer notre activité de manière pérenne dans le respect de la planète et de ses habitants : De l’achat du café à l'investissement dans les communautés locales en passant par la réduction de notre empreinte sur l’environnement. C’est agir comme nous l’avons toujours fait, en nous efforçant de faire encore plus. C’est se servir de notre envergure de manière utile.
I pointed this irony out to the cashier, who shrugged his shoulders and said something to the effect of, "I know.  You're right.  But what do you want me to do?  I'm just a peon employee."

Then I headed to get a seat and while I was waiting for my friend to show up from the bank machine, I pulled out my iphone and tried to get wifi so that I could update my Facebook status.  Only I needed a login userid and password.  So I went to the cashier to ask for the user id and password.

"You have to pay for it," she says.  "And anyway, it's not working today."

This really took the cake for me.  Starbucks is a North American outfit.  They are supposed to know about customer comforts.  They are supposed to know about good service.  WIFI NOT WORKING?  WIFI THAT YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR????  WTF???

And then, just when I thought that things couldn't get worse, I took a sip of my cappuccino.  Only it wasn't really a cappuccino, as the barista had filled the mug (they finally found one) with milk to the very top.  So it was a latte.  With too much milk in it.  Sigh.  Screw it.  Tomorrow, I'm heading to the closest brasserie.