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. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blair's First Birthday Fiesta

A couple of weekends ago we celebrated my nephew Blair's first birthday. It's incredible to me that an entire year has gone by since the day he was born. I'll never forget how excited our family was to have a little baby boy. He most certainly has not disappointed, and is just so much fun to be around. He is a mover and a shaker, and BOY does he like to get around. He's walking on his own, and he LOVES to eat. Watching him gobble up his cake was so much fun!

The Holland House: Birthday Boy
Blair the Birthday Boy

My sister outdid herself with a super cute birthday party. From succulents potted in salsa cans, to fresh churros- no detail was missed. We went down to San Marcos early to help set up, and there was quite a bit to do. I made Hank promise that if we ever have a baby, that I will be just fine with a pizza and beer first birthday party. I don't ever want to work that hard again.

The Holland House: Sombrero Showdown
Sombrero Showdown- Who wore it best?  

Here are a few of my favorite details from the party:

*Flowers handpicked from the garden, casually displayed in Topo Chico bottles and metal containers.
*Agua Fresca, lemonade, Topo Chico and bottles of Coke for drinks.
*Taco bar with plenty of salsas and fixings.
*Homemade praline party favors.
*Piñata and pin the tail on the donkey for games.

The Holland House: Fiesta Party Details

Of course, no family birthday party is complete without a Sweet Elise cake. I made a Papel Picado smash cake to match the party invitations, and Churro Cupcakes for everyone else. Blair had a blast going to town on his cookie and cake.

The Holland House: Fiesta Smash Cake

Family fun:

The Holland House: Birthday Family
Sister's Family

The Holland House: Siblings
Siblings (sorry Blake- there's no tool to fix closed eyes)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Baking Lately- Summer Edition

If you don't follow my Sweet Elise Facebook Page, then you're missing out on some of the fun baking projects I've worked on lately.  Holidays, birthday parties, and showers- OH MY! It's been a busy summer, and I'm looking forward to a much needed break in the month of September so that we can get our kitchen remodel finished. I promised Hank I would not take on any jobs for the whole month. We'll see how that goes.

First up- cakes. I'm always hesitant to take on character cakes, mainly because they often involve the use of fondant. That is my least favorite medium, as I much prefer buttercream. But I did manage to pull off a super cute panda and a lamb, so at least I know I can do them if asked. My  most favorite cake of all was the Papel Picado cake that I made for my nephew's first birthday. I'll post more details this week as my sister really outdid herself for the fiesta.

The Holland House: Baking Lately-  Cakes

The Holland House: Baking Lately-  Cakes

I don't mind making cakes, but I really love working on cookies. These really are my favorite things to make, and I feel like I haven't been able to do as many as I would like lately. I'm working on two orders over the next two weeks though, and before you know it, it will be time for holiday cookies. I can't wait!

The Holland House: Baking Lately-  Cookies

Finally, I have made a few fun cupcakes. The Churro cupcakes for Blair's fiesta were delicious! I'm also working on a batch of floral cupcakes for a bridal shower this weekend. I'm making wafer paper flowers for the first time, and I can't wait to share the project with you. I have high hopes for how it turns out.

The Holland House: Baking Lately- Cupcakes

Monday, August 4, 2014

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Last weekend my sister and I drove up to Dallas/Ft. Worth for our friend Jackie's shower and bachelorette party. Holly and I both worked/lived with Jackie, and are super excited to be in her wedding next month. It's rare that we get a chance to have some girly time, so we left husbands at home and hit the road for a fun girl's weekend.

Jackie's sister hosted a shower on Friday night, and we had such a great time getting to know some of the other wedding guests and friends. There were delicious appetizers and amazing pizzas (cooked right outside on a Big Green Egg). There was also an endless flow of wine (more on that later). We spent half the time telling funny stories, and the rest eating and opening gifts. Jackie and Rob got some great things for their new house. Of course, there was also cake. A gorgeous, sparkly gold cake!!

The Holland House: Wedding Shower

The next morning came way too early (remember the endless wine), and I was feeling less than stellar. But we had things to do and places to go, including the spa at our hotel in Ft. Worth. After having coffee and kolaches while catching up with Jackie's mom, it was time to hit the road.

We checked into the hotel and immediately hit the spa for facial and massage appointments. It's been way too long since I had a facial, and the esthetician could tell. She used Eminence products, and the whole hour was so luxurious. The products smell incredible, and my skin felt so soft and hydrated when it was done. We hung out in the spa lounge for a bit, and then changed to hit the pool for a few hours.

When we were finally able to check into the room, I finished the "Bachelorette Survival Kits" that Holly and I had worked on. They included a small bottle of champagne, Emergen-C, Tylenol, mints, water, Tums, chocolate, a bag of popcorn mix, and some special cookies that I made for Jackie. We even had a sticker made to match the invitations that were sent out. The bags were a big hit, and ended up coming in super handy after a night of partying.

The Holland House: Bachelorette Survival Kit

After showers, we threw on some clothes and headed to Blow Dry Bar to get our hair did. If you have one of these (or something similar) where you live, I highly recommend it for a special night out. It was the best $35 I've spent in a long time. My hair is notoriously straight, and almost never holds a curl. (Nor do I know how to curl it myself.) I loved the look I got, and couldn't believe that it lasted the entire night in Texas heat and humidity.

The Holland House: Blow Dry Bar

After getting all fancied up, we met the rest of the crew for a lingerie shower for Jackie, and then headed to dinner at Reata. We had a group of 14, and luckily were able to reserve their private room. We had a great meal (I couldn't pass up the Chicken Fried Steak). I figured if there was going to be drinking, I should at least have a decent sized meal before hand.

The Holland House: Wedding Party

After dinner we headed down the street to Pete's Piano Bar, and then to Cowtown and the Cadillac Bar to close the night. I can't remember the last time I closed a bar down at 2 am, but I was proud of myself for making it through the night. We got an Uber ride back to the hotel, and called it a night with our bags of popcorn. It was such a fun night, and most importantly- I think Jackie had a great time!

The Holland House: Bachelorette Party

The Holland House: Bachelorette Party
Best photo bomb- the two guys on the left in our group pictures. No. Clue.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Not Quite Mexico

Hank and I have been wanting to take a vacation, but between home improvement projects, fall trips, and other assorted things, it just wasn't in our budget to take the kind of trip that we really wanted (like to the beach in Mexico). Instead, we decided to make it easy on ourselves and booked a long weekend at the Éilan Hotel in San Antonio. Not quite Mexico, but super easy to get to (and affordable with our Marriott points).

The Holland House: Éilan Hotel

The hotel was beautiful, we lucked out by getting one of the few rooms with a balcony, and the amenities were really nice. However, the service left much to be desired. Long story short, almost everyone who worked there didn't seem to give a flip about providing any type of enjoyable experience. If we had paid full price for our room, I would have been much more vocal about our disappointment. It did not ruin our trip by any means, but it did ensure that we will not return the hotel again. With options like La Cantera and the JW Marriott right around the corner, I'm surprised they don't up their game.

Our room wasn't ready when we checked in, so we walked down the steps toward the residential area. The hotel is part of a larger development with condos, a few office buildings and shops. There is also a Farmer's Market on Sunday mornings that was really fun to visit too. On our way down the steps we noticed a sign that said cocktails (and nothing more). With an hour or so to spare, we made a beeline for the door. We were thrilled to walk into this tucked away little Speakeasy-type bar called George's Keep. It was cool, empty (they had just opened), and had an amazing craft cocktail and beer menu. We kept cool and hydrated until our room was ready.

The Holland House: George's Keep

After getting settled, we cleaned up a bit for dinner at Piatti's. It was also located right down the stairs from the hotel, which was very convenient. I didn't get any pictures at dinner (I was trying hard not to be on my phone much during vacation), but the restaurant was really pretty inside and we had a fantastic dinner! One of my favorite things about their menu was that they offered small and large portions for both salads and pasta dishes. I hate wasting really big portions, so this was a perfect way to get both without feeling super stuffed. Hank ordered a Caeser and I ordered the Bibb salad with preserved lemon dressing- yum!! We had a really tough time choosing our entrees- they had so many great options. Hank ended up getting the pasta special with shrimp and peas (two of his favorite things that I never fix at home), and I got the rigatoni with fennel sausage, roasted tomatoes and goat cheese. Needless to say, neither of us had much leftover, and the "small" portion was just right.

My parents had a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries sent to our room at check-in, so we ordered a piece of chocolate lava cake to go (because....duh!), and headed up to enjoy our balcony. After drinks in the afternoon, a bottle of wine at dinner, and champagne- we were both well on the other side of tipsy. But we had so much fun sitting on the balcony, talking, people watching, and maybe having a strawberry stem throwing competition. (Hank totally won).

The Holland House: Champagne and Dessert

Day 2 we slept in just a bit, went down for Sunday brunch at the hotel restaurant, and then got ready to hit the pool for the day. I had reserved a poolside cabana when I booked our room, and we were looking forward to a full day of relaxation and sun. After a little snafu with getting our cabana (remember that service issue I talked about?), and waiting an hour for towels, we were all settled for the day. The cabana was perfect because I can't be in the sun for extended time, and it allowed me to cool off in the pool and then retreat to the shade as needed. Our comfy lounge bed was also perfect for an afternoon nap. Life is rough, I tell you!

The Holland House: Éilan Hotel Pool

The Holland House: Poolside Cabana

After our previous late night, and a day of doing absolutely nothing, we were too exhausted to get dressed and go out for dinner. Hank ended up picking up dinner from the restaurant downstairs and we stayed in bed, watched a movie, and ate dinner. It was absolutely perfect.

Day 3 we decided to be a little more active, and started the morning with a run around the property and a visit to the hotel gym for some medicine ball drills. Hank and I don't often work out together (he's a much faster runner than I am), so this was a fun treat. We grabbed breakfast afterwards, and then got dressed to head out for a bit. Being from Oklahoma, Hank had never been to visit The Alamo before. He loves history, so we made our way to downtown San Antonio to see it. If you don't know anything about it- it's home to a famous battle in the Texas Revolution, and included legends Davy Crocket and Jim Bowie. It's also way smaller than people imagine it, and it's fairly easy to miss if you happen to drive by it. He loved getting to visit, and I didn't get bored because it took all of 5 minutes to walk through it.

The Holland House: The Alamo

After the Alamo we stopped by a restaurant that a friend of ours is associated with. We had been dying to try it, so I'm glad we were able to make it happen. Stella Public House is located in the Blue Star complex in downtown San Antonio, and it's a must! Their menu is farm to table, and I love that they list the farms where their ingredients come from. Their specialty is wood-fired pizzas, and their beer menu is out of this world. (Seriously- I really want a job that allows me to taste beer for a living.) We started off with an order of brussels sprouts. On the menu it's just listed as Brussels Sprouts- roasted with crispy pancetta. But it was SO.MUCH.MORE. It was roasted in a blueberry soy reduction sauce that I swear I could have drank straight from the pan. In fact, I saved the pan so that I could dip my bread crust because I wanted every last drop.

We ate at the bar, and the bartender was super nice and very helpful. Plus, he was just fun to talk to. He sampled a few beers for us and we stuffed our faces with the Sausage and Kale Pizza.  We were probably there for nearly two hours, and really loved having a leisurely daytime lunch. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend it.

The Holland House: Stella Public House

The afternoon was spent by the pool, and then we made one last trip for dinner at La Fogata (another must for San Antonio, in my opinion.) The patio is just amazing, they have terrific margaritas, and so many classic dishes that it's nearly impossible to choose what you want. It was just a tad warm, but nothing a frozen drink couldn't fix.

The Holland House: La Fogata

It's always sad when vacation is over, but we were missing our animals by day 4 and were ready to pick the pups up from Mud Puppies. The trip was everything we wanted it to be- relaxing, fun, and easy.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dining Area Remodel

I know I've mentioned this before, but since moving in with Hank, I've been on a mission to remove as much "brown" from the house as possible. My most recent victim: the dining table.

The Holland House: Dining Table- Before
Dining Table- Before

It was bar-height, heavy, and just didn't fit in the space. Not to mention that it was brown all over. We wanted something lower that would allow better visibility from the kitchen into the living area. We had been leaning towards a farmhouse table, and even toyed with the idea of Hank building one. Our budget did not include the $1000 (or more) tables that we liked the most, so we decided to be patient.

Hank has been so good about perusing Craigslist and our neighborhood Facebook "garage sale" page, and his persistence paid off two weeks ago. He found the most gorgeous antique table for one heck of a deal- $250!! (After selling our old table, we ended up only paying $100.) It's a drop-leaf, scalloped edge table circa 1950's (we think), and it's just beautiful. I can't believe we own such a unique piece of furniture.

The Holland House: Scalloped Edge Dining Table
Our pretty new dining table

After removing the old table and getting the new one in place, I immediately got to work creating a Pinterest board for our new dining area. We needed chairs, a rug, and new lighting. I could see the dollar signs adding up, and knew it would take awhile for this transformation to happen. We only buy things when we have money in the bank, so there was no way I was going to rack up credit card debt just to make it happen.

I had last Friday off and made a quick stop at HomeGoods just to see what they had in stock, and I hit the jackpot. I found two beautiful upholstered chairs for $129 each (usually $300 or more in catalogs like Ballard), and the most perfect 8x10 rug I've ever seen. ON CLEARANCE. Most of the rugs I have looked at were $600 and up, and I was staring to think we would never be able to get one. And then I found this rug on sale for $249. It was meant to be.

The Holland House: HomeGoods Finds

We still need 4 more chairs, and we've picked out a lighting fixture that we both really like, but we'll have to wait another month before we make those happen. So for now, we dine like King and Queen sitting at the head of our new (to us) table. We love the softer, lighter look of our new dining area, and I can't wait to get it all finished. Room by room we're slowly making progress.

The Holland House: Dining Area- After
Dining Table- After

Monday, July 14, 2014

We bought a dining table

I'm not sure if I should be embarrassed or proud that this is the most exciting thing to happen to us in weeks. Truth be told, it's been a brilliantly relaxing summer, with a few more fun weekends on the horizon. But none have really been blog worthy unless you want to hear about us sitting by the pool all weekend long.

When we're not sitting by the pool, we're dreaming up how in the world we're going to renovate our kitchen to make a big impact, without spending big dollars. And buying a dining table really has nothing to do with that, but I just thought I'd tell you what else we've doing lately.

So on to the new dining table. It's really, really pretty! I thought about holding off on a picture because we don't have chairs for it yet. But what's a blog post without a picture, right?

The Holland House: Scalloped Dining Table
Our table, but not our house.

It has a beautiful scalloped edge, and a grayish finish. It's also a drop leaf table, which makes it pretty practical long term. Hank has found comparable tables on eBay for anywhere from $700-$1200. We paid $250 for this!!! Have I told you how much I love my resourceful husband? He's the one who found it on craigslist and insisted we look at it.

Originally we were thinking we wanted a farmhouse table, but just weren't thrilled with anything we found in our budget. We weren't even sure about this one until we saw it in person. It truly is a special piece of furniture, and I'm so glad we lucked out with such an amazing deal. I'm sure we'll end up paying for it in the long run as we begin our hunt for the perfect chairs. But I think it will really change our dining/living area once it's all complete.

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