Archive for the ‘Hazelnut’ Category

The Last Storytime

In Books, Hazelnut, Peanut on May 22, 2017 at 2:42 pm

So it seems quite anti-climactic to follow up my last blog post with anything other than a reaction to the election, but right now I don’t have the time to quite do that topic justice. Suffice to say, a terrible thing happened, and we need to be praying — and working — for the disenfranchised whose suffering has increased, and for the millions of people who don’t seem to care.

In the meantime, though, as hard as it has sometimes been to believe, life goes on. Winter came and went as always. Work continued for Tolkien and I. School proceeded along for Peanut, who’s now finishing the second grade. (Cue shock and awe.) And Hazelnut is now almost three and a half. Over the past few months, it’s been easy to mourn the sometimes disheartening world in which these two will be growing up, so I’ve been making a concerted effort to focus on the positives.

One of those positives is the fact that, since residency ended (which was around the same time we became parents), I have always worked part-time. For almost 8 years, I have had Mondays off, which I spent solely with Peanut until she went to school and which I now spend with Hazelnut. This is a huge blessing for our family, and not a day goes by that I’m not grateful for it. One of my favourite things to do on these Mondays is go to toddler library storytime. (That is, it’s one of MY favourite things to do. The kids, they could take it or leave it.)

I don’t know if I’ve gone into this before, but I love libraries.  Part of it is simply that I love reading, and part of it is that I grew up in a town with an incredible public library. (The first time I took Tolkien there to visit he was openmouthed at the five-floor glass building on top of a hill with a sweeping view of surrounding towns and an in-house coffee bar built long before such things were ubiquitous.) But my love also stems from the fact that I think it’s amazing that society considers it important to provide this service to its citizens. Free books, free classes, free events for children, free computer access … especially now that we’re in a time in this country when everyone seems to want to deny privileges to their neighbours, I realize that even things we’ve always had could be taken away, so I don’t want to take them for granted. Since I was a very young kid, I’ve just been moved by the idea that stepping into a library gives you access to thousands of free books.

So it’s probably no surprise that one of my very favourite things about being a parent has been picking out books for my kids. It’s a huge treat for me to go to the library once every couple of months and spend an hour curating two new stacks of books to enthrall a seven-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy respectively. (Obviously said seven-year-old and three-year-old can’t actually accompany me on this trip or none of this would get done.) I especially love finding books that I read as a child and attempting to brainwash my kids into adoring them too. I’m already sad about the day when both of them are old enough to pick out their own books. Apparently then it’ll creepy if I keep hanging out in the children’s section.

In any case, storytime (which in our system has the politically correct name of “children’s educational programming”) is also part of the library experience for me. I think it’s just lovely that a librarian selects several books to go along with a theme, some titles of which I may not have heard of either. It’s so sweet to see a bunch of babies and toddlers lisping along to the songs that go with that theme. It’s fun to see Hazelnut interact with other kiddos his age, as Peanut did. And I most love snuggling with Hazelnut while he’s still small enough to fit in my lap, as I did with Peanut before she grew like a weed. It’s not like we don’t snuggle at home, but in public he’s maybe 1/8 less rambunctious than he usually is, which if my math is correct translates into 2 more minutes of lap snuggling than I’d get at home, where the temptation to leap off a bed while hollering “To infinity and beyond!” is too great to resist for long. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just like every other parent, and the actual listening to books meant for a toddler comprehension level gets boring pretty fast. But the overall idea still makes me warm and fuzzy.


However, I realized recently that Hazelnut is starting preschool this fall. He’ll be gone on Mondays. And Peanut is about to finish school for the summer, which means we won’t be going to toddler storytime (I’m sorry, CHILDREN’S EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMMING) for the next couple of months because we’ll need to find a Monday activity that engages both of them. So today was my last library storytime. Oh sure, there might be one or two more in the future if there’s a Monday when Hazelnut’s school is cancelled or what have you, but for all intents and purposes, an era is ending here. Eight years of library storytime. Eight years of having a child at home full time. Eight years of raising a baby or toddler. Gone like that.

Someone told me once that every stage of raising kids has its pros and its cons, so Tolkien and I have been trying to enjoy the positives of each stage rather than dread the upcoming negatives or long for the departed good stuff. There are certainly a lot of things that I think will be great about having older and adult children. I will never miss potty training, for example. And if I ever miss being woken up all night long, you can be confident that I’ve suffered a severe head injury. But for today, I’m going to let myself be a little nostalgic about the precious Monday mornings I used to spend listening to picture books and songs with one of my chubby little ones. And I may or may not be making a mental list of story time locations for the grandkids. 🙂

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Trunk Club Review (my Maiden Voyage) – UPDATED!

In Hazelnut, Miscellaneous on March 14, 2016 at 3:09 pm

I swear, I have a good reason for going 2.5 years between blog posts. It’s not that this blog is dead. It’s that I’m trying not to let myself post here until I finish the project that is my other blog, as a way of spurring myself to get the darn thing done. But at 9 months since my last post there, well … it’s gonna take awhile. And in the meantime, Peanut is nearing the end of first grade, the baby whose prenatal ultrasound was in my last post is now a toddler (we shall call him Hazelnut), Tolkien and I are both finally done training and are in grown-up jobs, and life is spinning on as usual. It’s that frenetic pace of life that actually prompted me to enter the universe that is the topic of this post: the magical world of subscription boxes.

As a working mom with two small kids, clothes-shopping for myself is a chore akin to spreading tar on my driveway. In August. It’s no fun at all, dragging both of them into a fitting room and begging one to stop screaming and the other to stop sticking a head into other people’s stalls while I try to shimmy in and out of multiple pieces of clothing in under five minutes because snacktime is rapidly approaching. So at some point last year I realized that I had not purchased clothes for myself since before my last pregnancy and therefore no longer had very much that fit. And who wants to go out in public looking like a weirdo? Enter subscription boxes.

Subscription boxes are boxes of items (clothes, jewelry, workout attire, home goods, depending on the company) that are shipped to your home at your request and save you the hassle of shopping (or of searching endlessly online) while letting you know of new products or trends you might not have heard of otherwise. Every box has its own rules regarding returns and pricing, but the general concept is brilliant. Save me time and the hassle of going to brick-and-mortar stores? I’m on board.

The first box I tried was Stitch Fix. I may do a post on my Stitch Fix purchases at some point, only because I know a lot of people really like to see the items in others’ boxes so they can request them for themselves, but my goal is not to become a fashion blogger (shocking I know) so we’ll see whether I get around to it. With Stitch Fix, you fill out an online style profile, create a Pinterest board to illustrate your personal style, and pay a $20 styling fee per box. The boxes can be scheduled or can be ordered on a one-time basis whenever you want. Each box is put together by a stylist using your pins, your profile and your measurements. Each box contains 5 items and you keep as many or as few as you like. If you keep any, the styling fee is applied towards your purchase. If you keep all 5, you get 25% off the entire box. Whatever you don’t want goes into a prepaid envelope that you drop back in the mail. You give detailed feedback on the pieces you liked and didn’t like and why, with the idea being that each box should get better and better as your stylist gets to know you. I really enjoyed the convenience of Stitch Fix coming to my door and I also appreciate their excellent customer service (they’ve been known on multiple occasions to send free boxes or flowers or gift cards to clients with illnesses or recent tragedies). And you cannot beat being able to try on clothes in the comfort of your own home, at your convenience, with your own closet right there so you can see whether a new piece goes with something you already own.

I also tried Sparkle Box, a jewelry subscription service, which was easy and fun. They don’t allow returns, but their prices are much lower, so one box wasn’t the end of the world, and the pieces they sent were pretty as well as high-quality.

After a couple of Stitch Fix boxes, I started wondering whether they were really my style, however. At the same time, I realized that we have a lot of wedding and wedding-related events coming up this year, I don’t have many dresses that still fit me, and there is no way I’ll have the time to go out and buy multiple outfits. So I started looking around online, and ultimately decided to try Trunk Club. During my virtual exploration, I found looking at other people’s Trunks really helpful, so I’m sharing mine in case others want to decide whether or not to take the plunge. (Disclaimer: This is not by any means a sponsored post — none of these companies know who I am — but there are referral links in this post. That means if you click on one of the links in this post and join the service, I’ll get a credit and you’ll get a code to pass on for your own credits.)

Trunk Club is a personal styling service run by Nordstrom. Similarly to Stitch Fix, you fill out a style questionnaire online, but you then communicate directly with your stylist by phone or e-mail. They then put together a trunk of around 15 items, and send you a preview. You have a chance to nix any items you don’t like, they add in more, and then they send it to you. You have 10 days to try on the pieces at home, and you just schedule a UPS pickup at your home for everything you want to return. Plus, there’s no styling fee. The downside is that the pieces are from Nordstrom (and not the clearance rack) so they’re definitely pricey. However, if your Trunk pieces go on sale in the store, you automatically get the lower sale price when you check out.

Since there was no styling fee, I could send back everything I didn’t like, I know Nordstrom is more my style, and I know their items are decent in terms of quality, I figured it was worth a shot to see if they could do the hard work of wedding-season shopping for me. I told them I wanted bright dresses, some LBDs, and maybe some shoes, and to keep each item less than $100 (still pricey for me, but definitely low-end for this service — I’ve seen bloggers online get items costing $400 or more.) My goal was absolutely not to keep the whole trunk (that would put me out nearly $2,000!) but to painlessly find one or two dresses.

So here was my first Trunk:


This thing was a beast!


First look upon opening:


This trunk contained 15 items. During my preview, I had declined 8 items (including an Ivanka Trump dress that I otherwise liked because #boycottTrump) and my stylist Megan had added more that would be surprises. Here was my invoice:

Trunk Club invoice.jpg

And here are the items (and remember, I am no model and Tolkien is no fashion photog):

Maggy London Illusion Yoke Crepe Sheath Dress – RETURN


I was not a fan of this. I don’t really like dresses with sheer yokes to begin with; they just seem kind of old to me. Plus the length was really unflattering for a short person, and the fit wasn’t great anyway. I’ve been looking for an LBD with some eye-catching detail for several months, ever since mine unceremoniously fell apart, but … this isn’t it.

Ali & Jay Ponte Sheath Dress – RETURN


This was the second LBD possibility in this trunk. It didn’t have anything unique about it, and the fit was terrible — too clingy in the stomach and shoulder straps that were so long a linebacker could have slid under there with me. An easy no.

Ellen Tracy Belted Stretch Sheath Dress (black) – RETURN


This was the final LBD option in this trunk. It was nice, and fit well, but it’s not really what I had in mind. The belt, detailing and pockets make it more of a day or office dress, and what I’m looking for is a black event dress. So this went back.

Ellen Tracy Belted Stretch Sheath Dress (blue) – RETURN


This is the exact same dress as the one above in a different colour. Which is a little disappointing because I’d rather have more options to try on, but it was certainly a nice dress. The fit was good and I like the bright shade, but again this is more of a professional day outfit, when what I’m looking for is party dresses.

Love, Fire Love Dress – KEEP


I absolutely love this dress. The colour is vivid enough for me, the silhouette is fun instead of frumpy, and the lace detailing is beautiful. In addition, the price point was totally reasonable. The only problem is that the fit isn’t perfect. But it’s close … so I was on the fence. I eventually decided to keep it, partly so I could show my stylist that I will buy pieces that are bright and affordable.

Eliza J Sheath Dress – RETURN

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Red is my favourite colour, so this dress was already doing well in that department, and the fit wasn’t bad. It would be a great dress to have on hand for professional events. However,  I have enough of those at the moment, so this is going back.

Tahari Floral Jacquard Sheath Dress – KEEP

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This was the item in my preview I was most excited to try, and the one item that I said yes to immediately. I like the bright floral print and I like that the print circles only one part of the garment. The fit is nearly perfect; the shoulders are a little too big, but this dress wouldn’t need too much altering. I wish the background wasn’t black, but that’s a minor quibble.

Adrianna Papell Pleated Stretch Crepe Sheath Dress – RETURN


The colour and fit were both fine, but this just seemed sort of “mother-of-the-bride” to me. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, and I will totally embrace it when my time for that comes, but that time is not now.

Eliza J Floral Scuba Fit and Flare Dress – RETURN


This dress fit like a dream. For that reason alone I was super-tempted to keep it, since that’s kind of a rare occurrence for me. But navy is one of my least favourite shades, so I wasn’t excited about the colour scheme on this. Plus the floral print made it seem too similar to the Tahari dress I’m definitely keeping. I would love to see this dress again in a brighter, happy shade or print.

BaubleBar Bold Multistrand Beaded Statement Necklace – RETURN


And now we enter the accessory portion of the evening (some of these are also pictured in the photos above). I love this necklace — I like pink, and I like the striking design — but I just don’t need much jewelry right now, and I think this is a little overpriced.

Nordstrom Link Choker – RETURN


This is quite possibly the most boring piece of jewelry I have ever encountered. Literally, it’s a chain. Around my neck. And that’s it. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen infants wearing more interesting pieces than this. I couldn’t take it off fast enough.

Alexis Bittar Miss Havisham Ear Chains – RETURN

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OK, at these I had to laugh. They’re pretty and all, but there is no way I would spend $115 on a pair of earrings. I am not into expensive jewelry at all, and if I did need any I would ask my family overseas to buy it at more reasonable prices there. I’m sure sad, wealthy Miss Havisham would appreciate these earrings and their cost, however.

Spanx – RETURN


These also made me laugh. My stylist Megan must have thrown these in because I asked her to find dresses that were forgiving of my post-baby belly. However, I don’t need these, because I already have a Spanx collection 🙂

Topshop Giselle Buckle Sandal – RETURN

Having Indian skin, I don’t love nude-coloured footwear. Since it doesn’t match my skin tone, it just looks odd. Plus these shoes felt low-quality and weren’t comfortable. Another easy no.

Sam Edelman Aisha Fringe Sandal – RETURN

This was a tough one. I love these shoes, and I do happen to need dressy black sandals. So I wavered for awhile, but ultimately they’re too expensive for the amount of use I would likely get out of them. I feel like I could find something similar for half the price and put the money I save towards a more worthy object, like the poor. Know what I mean? So bye-bye, cute shoes. Sniff!

And that was my first Trunk. Overall, I was really happy with the experience. I think my stylist did a fairly good job picking out pieces for me as a total stranger, I did end up keeping two dresses, and I got to try on things at home that I might never have come across in a store. My feeling is that I would never use Trunk Club to provide me with a whole wardrobe, because it’s difficult to justify spending at their price point when you can easily get everyday clothes for less (and probably should, when there are suffering people everywhere to whom we need to be donating.) But for a targeted need for which you would probably have to spend more money anyway, such as special-occasion outfits or suits or leather jackets, ordering a Trunk just for that purpose could save you a lot of time, energy and trips to the mall. If you’re considering trying it out, I hope this post was helpful. And if you do pull the trigger, please share your Trunks (or Fixes, or whatever you order) with me! Seeing others’ loot is half the fun. If you already have ordered one of these, what did you keep? And what other subscription boxes do you like? Tell me your finds!


In case anyone reads this entry and considers trying Trunk Club, I feel the need to state that, two months later, I have canceled my Trunk Club account. Why?

For starters, I was hearing multiple stories of people whose stylists were pressuring them to spend more. That would be bad enough, but these same people were also reporting stylists making passive-aggressive comments about their low budgets, stylists going AWOL if they felt you weren’t a worthy enough customer, and stylists who were actually suggesting that clients should try Stitch Fix if they weren’t financially ready for Trunk Club. Ugh.

Then, this e-mail was posted to a Trunk Club Facebook group by a TC client. This is an internal message about her that was accidentally cc:’d to her:

Displaying image.pngDisplaying image.pngLeaked Trunk Club e-mail

Apparently, this client had “only” purchased 4-5 items from her last 4 trunks, and the company was viewing her as a “time suck.” In addition, this e-mail seems to imply that, contrary to their public statements that there is no minimum purchase, TC actually does have an internal minimum purchase expectation, after which a paying customer can apparently be blacklisted. Obviously, this was highly off-putting to me (and scores of others.)

The final straw was when I e-mailed my own stylist, asking her about this situation. She ignored my message completely. A few days later, I closed my Trunk Club account.

I did send an e-mail to one of the co-founders, also the VP of Member Experience, letting him know why I was leaving. I received a nice message back, apologizing for what happened. But I thought it was interesting that, rather than assuring me that what they say is true and there really is no minimum purchase, he instead said that it’s up to them to “clearly set expectations with customers” and that “moving forward, you can expect to see us make changes to our publicly-stated policies that more clearly outline how the service works.” So there IS an internal expectation of a minimum purchase! I just think that’s disrespectful. A company can run itself however it pleases, but to not communicate their protocol to their customers and then snark on those customers in private (or worse, “blacklist” them) is just unacceptable. Apparently, TC is aiming for the high-end portion of the market, and treating all non-wealthy clients like peons is something they don’t mind doing in the process. But the problem with that, aside from the fact that it’s really jerky, is that in Internet retail, you actually have no idea who your customers truly are. The person who buys “only” one or two items might be a millionaire that you just turned off with your behaviour. I’m willing to bet that’s happened here, as I know of many people who also cancelled their accounts.

So in all, I can no longer recommend Trunk Club. I will say that Stitch Fix has excellent customer service (there are tons of stories online of them sending gifts to clients who have lost loved ones or are going through medical treatment, and I’ve had good experiences with them as well.) And I plan to try other subscription boxes in the future, so we’ll see how they measure up. So if anyone has any personal recommendations, share away!








Healthcare Hot Potato

In Hazelnut, My thyroid, Peanut, Tolkien on September 24, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Oh you poor neglected blog you! I’m glad you’re not a baby human, and I’m sure Child Protective Services is too.

So how’ve you guys been? Things at Casa Much are trucking along. Update, you ask? Oh, you didn’t? Well, since I’ve already started …

On the thyroid front, when I went for my 1-year follow-up in February, my endocrinologist told me I would need to go through treatment again. For a variety of reasons (not even including the utter hassle it would be) this was concerning to us:

a) because of repeat radioactive iodine’s potential effects on fertility or implications for a future secondary malignancy

b) because of the fact that this recommendation did not follow published American Thyroid Association treatment guidelines, and

c) because of the inability to get a clear explanation from my endocrinologist about why he was recommending this. We seemed to have a tough time understanding each other in person (English was not his first language), and he totally ignored an e-mail I sent with my questions.

This latter issue was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. I know just how chaotic a physician’s day in clinical practice can be, but I have never failed to respond in some way to a patient’s e-mail or phone call. I would have absolutely understood if he didn’t have the time to write out a four-page reply and if he had instead asked me to come in to discuss it — no problem at all there. But to pretend a patient has not communicated with you is unacceptable. So that was when I decided it was time to try to find another endocrinologist. But to pinpoint someone who takes our insurance, is located within 50 miles of us, has expertise in thyroid cancer, and has an opening within the next few months is a daunting task. Eventually, however, I did find someone, a doc who actually graduated in Tolkien’s and my medical school class, although he joined towards the end of our time at school so we didn’t know each other. As well, Dr. Med School Classmate (Dr. MSC) and I have a very close mutual friend who I’ll call Dallas Cowboy (these nicknames are cracking me, if nobody else, up) who also vouched for him. Dr. MSC turned out to be awesome. Really kind and helpful, even after I tortured him with endless questions, and he felt we could do some testing first rather than going right into a repeat round of treatment (which was what Tolkien and I also thought was the best plan.)

So there I was, friends, blissfully skipping along in the care of a new, sane endocrinologist, my long search over. It just so happened that Dallas Cowboy and his wife came to Easter services with Tolkien and I later that month. When we were leaving brunch together in the same car, Dallas Cowboy’s cell phone rang. “Look,” he said, “it’s Dr. MSC!”

“Oh!” I said. “Tell him I said hi!”

And why do you think Dr. MSC was calling Dallas Cowboy? Why, to tell his good friend some exciting news, of course: that he was moving. To join another practice. Out of state.

What are the odds I’d be present to actually hear that phone call sending me back to square one? You can’t make this stuff up! Of course I didn’t blame him at all and I was happy for his opportunity, but I needed a nap just thinking about starting my search anew.

So there I was back at the aforementioned square one: needing to find a new endocrinologist. (For those of you keeping track at home, this would be Endo #4 in the course of one year.) I was out of options as far as covered providers under my insurance, so I had no choice but to go back to [prominent academic hospital.] However, I wanted to see a different physician there since I’d had a less than satisfactory experience with the one prior to Dr. MSC. But roadblock! The endocrinology department at this hospital has an unusual policy — they do not allow you to switch providers without express consent from the first one. What? I’d have to ask my original, less-than-awesome doctor for permission to switch like a meek child, explain to his face why I was uncomfortable with his care, and then abide by his final judgment over whether I could stay or go? It’s not even like we have socialized healthcare in this country — I’m paying my own money for insurance and for these appointments, and it’s clear that the payor system treats patients as as consumers. And as one of those consumers, I still have no choice?

Luckily Dr. MSC trained at said hospital and very kindly offered to intercede on my behalf. (He also told me that he’d had multiple patients switch from Less-Than-Awesome Doctor to him over the course of his time there, which may be why the hospital has this policy in place to begin with, to ensure that Less-Than-Awesome Doctor doesn’t end up with no patients at all.) One endocrinologist did agree to see me, but his office still insisted that I had to write a letter to my original guy. Which I did, simply being grateful that I didn’t actually have to have an awkward conversation with him. (Never heard back from him.)

Several months later, I finally saw Endo #4, who seems very nice. He, too, felt that a second round of treatment was not warranted without some other testing first. In fact, he felt that another round of treatment was so far out of the bounds of standard practice that I must have misunderstood Less-Than-Awesome Doctor, since LTAD has an accent. I was not thrilled by this suggestion. Although I fully admit, as stated above, that he was not easy to understand, I am the child of immigrants — I’m not exactly scared away by accents. And I know what he recommended because I asked him a million incredulous questions about it. Anyway, it’s all water under the bridge now. More important is that Endo #4 then casually mentioned, after some varied comments about the weather, that he was moving … to Rome.

People, IS IT ME???? Should I start showering? Am I singlehandedly, one by one, driving all endocrinologists out of my state? Can they sense my unhealthy obsession with L. M. Montgomery? Should I instead start carrying around a copy of, I don’t know, The Art of War or some other universally “cool” tome as a talisman against loss of healthcare providers?

All is not lost, however, for two reasons. One is that Endo #4 is just taking a temporary professorship and should be back in the States next spring. The second is that all testing and treatment for me is on hold for now anyway, because of this:

Peanut #2

Yes, I currently have a uterine buddy. We are super-excited for this new addition (especially Peanut, who wants to know when her baby is finally going to exit my stomach into her smothering care) and are praying hard for a safe delivery and healthy baby. Baby Boy (I’m currently taking suggestions for his blog nickname … anyone?) is due in early December, and I’m trying to ignore all the people who have told us that going from 1 to 2 children actually increases your work by more than 100%. We’re concentrating on less important things at the moment, such as name selection. Boys’ names are hard! Forget blog nickname suggestions, anyone have real-life name suggestions? What did you guys name your sons? We are not above theft.

So no more news on the thyroid front for awhile (I hope), for a very welcome reason. I can’t believe that, after 4 years, we are re-entering the baby phase. It’s time to stop procrastinating, get out all that baby gear, and re-learn how to use it. You know, tomorrow.