Friday, October 17, 2014

Mama Fu's + a Giveaway

This giveaway is sponsored by Mama Fu's, but all opinions are my own.

A couple of weeks ago, I received the kind of email that everyone dreams of. It basically said "would you like a free dinner?" Why yes, I would. The email came right in the middle of our kitchen renovation, when we didn't have access to pretty much anything. We had been bumming dinner off friends/neighbors, and eating a fair amount of unhealthy take-out. The idea of picking up a reasonably healthy dinner on my way home from work sounded absolutely fantastic.

Mama Fu's recently overhauled their menu, and moved to a takeout/delivery only model. They have 13 locations in Texas, with 6 of those in Austin! We happen to live outside their delivery area, but there are two convenient locations for me to get take-out depending on which way I go home from work.

The menu includes a variety of Chinese, Japanese and Thai dishes, with plenty of vegetarian and gluten free offerings. If you are a Funatics Club member, you can access even more great dishes on their Black Market menu (and earn points by using their app). I love all of the options available, and had a really hard time picking out just a few dishes.

We started off with the Fresh Basil Spring Rolls with a peanut hoisin dipping sauce (yum!) It was small enough that it didn't ruin our meal, but satisfied my ridiculous hunger by the time I actually made it home <insert story about picking up 2 sick dogs at play care and making an emergency vet stop>.

The Holland House: Mama Fu's


For dinner, I picked up several entrees because we ended up taking dinner over to a friend's house. We got Mongolian Beef, Pad Thai with Chicken, and Lo Mein. We also picked up a kid's Teriyaki Chicken meal. There are multiple kid's choices that come with sides like rice, carrots and edamame. I'm a firm believer in kid's meals being more than chicken nuggets and fries, and I love the healthy options available at Mama Fu's. Everything was delicious and fresh, and the portions were very generous. An entree can certainly serve two people, especially if you share a yummy appetizer first.

The Holland House: Mama Fu's



Mama Fu's was kind enough to offer (5) $5 gift cards, and I'm happy to be able to share them with YOU. Check out the locations to see if there is one by you. If you'd like to enter to win, just leave a comment below, and tweet about the contest if you'd like. Winner will be randomly picked next Friday, and the gift cards will be mailed to you.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

IUI, Round 1

So much to write about, so little time. I have a wedding, a vacation, and a GIVEAWAY to post about (how fun!) But first I thought I would provide a little update on our fertility treatment.

We made the decision a couple months back to start out with IUI (Intrauterine Insemination). This seemed like a relatively "easy" first step in the process. We opted to wait a few months due to events and celebrations already on our calendar.

In short, this is the sequence of a typical IUI cycle.

1- start your period
2- go see the fertility specialist for a baseline vaginal ultrasound
3- start taking oral meds (in my case it was Femara)
4- a few days later, start injections of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone)
5- see the doctor again and again to monitor progress of follicle growth
6- administer trigger shot to cause eggs to drop
7- see doctor again for the insemination
8- wait, and wait some more (while inserting vaginal Progesterone suppositories- good times!)
9- pregnancy test


Last week, literally right before we were leaving on a trip to Nashville, I started my period with enough time to get in to see the fertility doctor for my initial exam. Everything looked great, and we mapped out the schedule for my cycle. The only bad thing to come out of this process so far is that my doctor will be at a conference in Hawaii on the exact days that my insemination should occur. So instead of doing that, we will be having "timed intercourse" within a specific time frame of the trigger shot being administered. If that isn't sexy, I don't know what is.

I won't lie and say that I didn't have a complete meltdown on Thursday night after picking up my meds. Ugly crying was totally involved. When we made the decision months ago to do this, it didn't seem all that real. In fact, I kind of hoped that the thought of it all would scare my uterus into getting pregnant. Obviously, that didn't happen. So I had myself a little pity party.

I cried and complained and was kind of a bitch to Hank on Thursday night. But when I woke up on Friday, I had a new attitude. It was one of gratitude. We're so thankful that we have the resources and good health to be able to attempt this route. Not everyone is so lucky.

Flying with my meds was a little bit of an adventure, but ended up being a non issue. The injectables have to be kept cool, so I packed my cute little Vera Bradley lunch bag with an ice pack, meds, and my prescription. TSA didn't even glance at it (which is actually a little alarming considering there were about 8 needles in there). So for anyone who might have to fly with their meds- it's really no big deal.

The main reason why I'm writing all of this is because everything that I read on line had me terrified that all of these horrible things would happen to my body during treatment. Yes, I still have a few days to go. But as of this  moment, I have yet to have any negative physical symptoms. No bloating, no headaches, no cramps, and certainly no weight gain (minus all of the crap that I ate while in Nashville). I have felt perfectly fine for the past week. I almost wish that I had not read anything at all, because I had such a high level of anxiety going into it all. Even giving myself a shot in my belly is no big deal. The needle is so thin- other than a really small prick, I don't feel a thing.

I met with the doctor yesterday, and the follicles in my left ovary appear to be the winners. I have 3 that are larger than the others, and are good candidates for reaching the 17-23 mm required size. I go back to see the doctor again tomorrow, and that should determine when the trigger shot gets administered. The shot basically tells my ovaries to release any mature eggs. Then 1 1/2 days later we have timed intercourse in order to guarantee best timing for sperm to meet eggs (but hopefully not too many eggs!!!)

There has been so much information that I have learned about my cycle throughout this process, and it's really pretty fascinating. It's still amazes me that some people can get pregnant by accident, when so many things have to fall into place for it to happen. Again- we're totally lucky because there are no big issues causing it to not happen for us. We're hoping that it's just a matter of needing a little help with timing. We'll see.

So say a few prayers and/or send positive thoughts our way. This next week or two will be an exciting time for us. I'm doing my best to find the right balance of hope and realism, but you know I have my fingers crossed that it works out for us. If not, we still have a chance to try another procedure, so regardless of what happens I know we'll be just fine.


Monday, October 6, 2014

"That's Amore" Couples Shower

On Saturday night, my parents hosted a wedding shower for the daughter of their good friends. Leave it to my mom to come up with a great theme, and pull off yet another amazing party. It's a gift, for sure! She chose "That's Amore" and planned a gorgeous Italian event around it.

Luckily some recent rain had the backyard all nice and green, but not too muddy. The weather was perfect, which made the outdoor event much more comfortable. From the entrance to the backyard, to the flower arrangements on the table, all of the details added a special touch.

The Holland House: That's Amore Party Entrance


The Holland House: Backyard Party
The Holland House: Sunflower Arrangement
For appetizers, she had a Bruschetta Bar with three different toppings, and a huge Antipasto platter with fancy cheeses from Whole Foods. There was also a table set up with wine and sparkling water, and Italian sodas and Peroni beer in galvanized containers.

The Holland House: Bruschetta Bar




The Holland House: Wine Bar
After drinks and apps, the couple opened their gifts before it got too dark (so not ready for the time change!) While they finished up, my mom and I worked to swap out the food table. The dinner menu included traditional lasagna, a vegetarian gnocchi caprese salad, and a tossed green salad. (Unfortunately it got too dark for pictures). We rounded out the meal with Italian Cream Cupcakes and "Amore" cookie favors, courtesy of Sweet Elise. I think everyone had a great time, and it was such a clever theme for a wedding shower.

The Holland House: Amore Cookie Favors


A few tips for planning/hosting a party:

1- Don't think you have to do ALL the cooking yourself. My mom took her lasagna trays to Pasta & Co and had them make a ready to cook lasagna in them, then made the Gnocchi Caprese salad herself. She also picked up the cheeses and used her skills to put together her own tray.

2- Music! What did we do before the days of Pandora or iTunes Radio? I just typed in "Rat Pack" in Pandora, and had an immediate playlist just perfect for the party.

3- Don't skip the small stuff. DIY is always a great way to add special (and inexpensive) touches to a party. The Amore banner at the party entrance was such a fun way to welcome guests, and a really easy thing to make yourself.

What party planning tips do you swear by?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Stellabration: A 4th Birthday Party

Yep- it's been awhile. We've been busy with kitchen and wedding and birthday celebrations. So I thought it only appropriate to share one of my most recent baking projects for a very special 4th birthday party. It was a real Stellabration!!

My friend Joy contacted me months ago (literally, like 6 months ago), to make sure she got on my baking calendar for her daughter Stella's 4th birthday party. She had been stalking the new Target "Oh Joy" collection, and stocked up on paper goods and decorations the day they were available. She sent me a picture for inspiration, and asked that I make a cake and coordinating cookies.


The Holland House: Oh Joy collection

Coming up with the designs was really pretty simple, and I kept the look and feel pretty simple too. Sometimes less is more! I loved the ombre cake in the inspiration picture, but needed a larger cake for the party. I never get tired of the petal technique, and knew it would fit perfectly with the ombre feel of the top tier. You can't have a Stellabration without a little sparkle, so I grabbed some turquoise sparkle letters at Michaels, added a thick layer of Mod Podge to keep them from shedding, and made a name cake topper. I was thrilled with how fun her cake turned out.


Sweet Elise: Stellabration Cake



Joy also wanted cookie favors to send home with the guests, and the dot paper lanterns jumped out at me immediately. Using gold luster dust, I was able to replicate them almost exactly. I added a
turquoise S to tie it all together, along with a fun custom tag.

Sweet Elise: Stellabration Cookies

Sweet Elise: Stellabration Cookies


It was a super hot day, and thankfully the staff at Kiddie Acres allowed us to keep the buttercream cake inside their air conditioned offices until it was time to cut it. Otherwise, it wouldn't have lasted more than 5 minutes. I think the kids had a great time riding rides and horses while the parents hung out in whatever shade they could find. Overall, it was the perfect Stellabration!

More fun pictures from the always talented Melanie Wright Photography:

The Holland House: Merry Go Round

The Holland House: Kiddie Acres

The Holland House: Oh Joy Collection



Monday, September 15, 2014

Progress

I'm not sure if I mentioned that while we're remodeling the kitchen, we're also installing new flooring in our master. Last weekend we had to clear out our bedroom (and closet), and move temporarily into the guest room so the floors could be done. There's nothing quite like sharing a queen size bed with 4 furry friends. Brees rarely sleeps with us, but for some reason this week decided that she wanted to cuddle too. Good times!

I think that all of the work in the house has been a little stressful for the pups. They got to go to Puppy PlayCare each day (to get them out of the way of the workers), but they both had upset stomachs Thursday and Friday, and haven't been eating like they usually do. Thankfully we're in the home stretch this week, and expect to have the majority of the work in the kitchen finished by Saturday. At least work that requires the help of professionals. We will still have a laundry list of finishing touches that could take us another month or so.

The new floors are gorgeous, but after seeing them installed I realized that our current bedding is not going to work. So now I'm on the hunt for a new duvet cover and pillows. I think we're going to stick with something very neutral, and then add some fun printed pillows.

Here is our bedroom BEFORE (with really ugly brown carpet):

The Holland House: Bedroom Before


Here is the bedroom AFTER (minus all of our furniture):

The Holland House: Bedroom After


It was nice being back in our bed last night, and not feeling quite so cramped. I think we're all getting used to the change, but I really love how it turned out. The new floor is pecan, laid in a herringbone patterned and finished with white rubio oil. It's pretty spectacular, and we feel really lucky to have it!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Putting the "Labor" in Labor Day Weekend

Three day weekends are supposed to be fun and relaxing, right? Well, we took advantage of the extra day so that we could finally complete the rest of the demo on our kitchen, install new cabinets, and make whatever progress we could before our beautiful new floors are installed next week.

This picture does not even begin to show how much crap is spread throughout the house. I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of it because my OCD was in overdrive. Everything that was in the old cabinets was scattered about the rest of house. Such a mess!

The Holland House: Kitchen Demo


After a few bumps (like not being able to salvage the sink and countertops to use temporarily), I felt like we got a whole lot finished. We were certainly lucky to have the tremendous help from our fur babies, too.

The Holland House: Cat in a drawer
Bailey sleeping on the job



So for the next two weeks we will be without a kitchen sink, and the second week we won't have access to the kitchen at all (bye bye refrigerator). It's not going to be easy, but with some careful planning and gracious invites from friends, we won't have to eat out for 2 weeks worth of meals. I just keep telling myself it will all be worth it in the end.


Done:

Old flooring removed
Old cabinets removed
Painting finished
New cabinets installed
Kitchen cleared out for new flooring installation


To be done:

Install new range hood
Cut and install filler panels for corner cabinets
Install new flooring (handled by professionals)
Install new countertops (handled by professionals)
New lighting (both canned and pendants)
Install hardware
Buy new furniture for seating area (this is waaaaayyyy down the road right now)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Unexplained Infertility

Unexplained infertility is the official diagnosis I received when I met with a reproductive endocrinologist last week. It was not exactly what I expected to hear, nor were the treatments that the recommended. But this is our story, like it or not.



After a year of trying to start a family (with no success, obviously), and a chemical pregnancy two months ago, I decided to seek help. My OB recommended Dr. Mo, and I was lucky to get a last minute cancellation at his practice. Hank happened to be out of town for work, so I went by myself. We had a very candid conversation, and he reviewed all of our previous testing at length. The good news? We are still both totally and completely healthy, with no obvious issues that would be preventing me from getting pregnant. After an ultrasound, he even confirmed that my reproductive system is functioning a few years younger than my actual age. So why isn't it working?!

Everyone's favorite response seems to be "just relax, and it will happen then." Easier said than done, especially when age 39 is knocking on the door. The truth is (at my age), that it doesn't always happen that easy. Obviously there is a certain time of the month that it's most likely to happen, so it takes some careful observation to make sure you know when that sweet spot is. I don't think taking a few steps to monitor your cycle is going overboard. I don't even really think I've stressed out about it that much, other than being disappointed each month when it doesn't happen.

Prior to meeting with Dr. Mo, I started seeing an acupuncturist to help with managing stress. After a rough few months at work, I figured it couldn't hurt. I've also read a ton of information on acupuncture helping with your reproductive system. Since we have an acupuncturist on staff at our office wellness center, and it only costs me $10 a visit- I knew I had to give it a try. I look forward to those appointments, and I have to believe that it's doing some kind-of good for my body and mind. 

I have never been much of a medicine person, and Hank and I have had strong feelings about the length we would go to to conceive a child. Those things combined made my appointment with the doctor a little overwhelming. Because of my diagnosis and good health, I'm not a candidate for any middle ground treatment like taking Clomid. I really didn't go into the appointment expecting to hear the recommendations that he gave. But I listened, took notes, and talked it all through with Hank over the weekend. We went back to the Dr. on Tuesday and formulated a plan. 

Mid October we will start a cycle of Intrauterine Insemination (IUI for short). We'll do two rounds of this if necessary. If neither of those work, we'll take a little break, and then discuss doing IVF early next year. I feel really good about this plan, and so does the doctor. Even better is the fact that my insurance will cover all 3 of these procedures, should we end up having to carry out the plan in full. If none of those work, then we will be done. 

Over the weekend I felt sad, disappointed and frustrated. Sad that we wouldn't be able to take a more natural approach, and disappointed that the day I find out I'm pregnant will be way more clinical than I ever imagined. I'm also frustrated that there isn't a tangible reason why it's not happening for us. Luckily I don't feel angry or jealous of all of the people I know who are pregnant, and I hope to never feel that way. Yes, I want it to happen for us. But there is no reason to be jealous.

Not knowing a ton of people who have gone through infertility issues has made it a somewhat difficult thing to talk about, and I hope to change that. There is no shame in what we're going through, and the more stories I hear, the better I feel. I'm not sure how much I'll actually write about our procedures, but this little blog is our family journal, and it has always felt like a safe place for sharing. If writing about it helps connect me to others, then all the better.

So now we get to chill out for the next 1 1/2 months, and continue to enjoy our happy little life. Our kitchen remodel is going full steam (well, after this weekend it will be), and we've got lots to do around the house. We have so much to be thankful for, and it's important to me that we just stay positive. 
 
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