Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A 30,000 Foot View

Right now I'm flying from Austin to San Jose, CA, for my very first trip to Apple headquarters. I'm getting to attend what's called an Executive Briefing with one of my education customers, who is considering a large 1:1 deployment for their middle schools. I can't tell you how excited I am to get to do this! I'm sure I'll have some fun pictures and stories to tell when I get back. 

I feel like these past few weeks I've had the chance to step back and view our fertility situation from a broader perspective. Starting over with a new doctor meant new testing, results, and having to accept that we need to wait for a bit. The whole point of changing doctors was to get a different set of eyes on our situation, and hopefully some tangible answers on why I can't seem to get pregnant, despite there being nothing wrong with either of us. Thankfully yesterday, I finally got a possible reason. Better yet- it's something that we think can be easily fixed- a thyroid issue that can be regulated with a very low dose of medication. 

Instead of letting our first doctor rush us into the IVF process (that likely wouldn't have worked given what we know now), I feel like we have a shot at trying to correct this, and just maybe being able to achieve pregnancy without having to go through the IVF process. Since the rest of my recent testing came back with all positive findings, I feel like at the very least it's worth waiting a few months to see what happens. 

Infertility is a beast, and the whirlwind of emotions really got the best of me. There was such a sense of urgency, coupled with monthly disappointment, that really put me in a bad place. Having stepped back just a bit, I feel like I can finally breathe again! The OCD/impatient side of me has totally accepted that for Jan and Feb, we get to just relax, and focus on having fun as a couple. No pressure, no daily temperature taking, no logging info in an app. Just me and Hank (and our four furry babies), and our life as usual. In fact, as a result of delaying IVF, we even get to take a fun trip to celebrate Hank's 40th birthday. So, bonus!

We're heading into the holiday season with a huge sense of relief right now, and I'm really looking forward to spending quality time with our families over the next week. Can you believe Christmas is just a week away?! 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Sweet Elise: Baking Lately

As much as I keep saying I'm going to take little breaks from baking, there are always projects that come up that I just can't say no to. I have certainly limited my number of baking jobs recently, and I think the result is that I have enjoyed working on these even more.


First up is this adorable little Pumpkin Smash Cake for a 1 year old birthday boy. He hasn't eaten much sugar in his first year, and his mom didn't want to overload him with his very own sugary cake. So I made a healthier version that turned out extremely moist and tasty. Made mostly with bananas, whole wheat flour and maple syrup for extra flavor, I was really happy with how this simple cake turned out. I topped it with a cream cheese icing that I only put in-between the layers. The finished product was a delicious and simple cake that any 1 year old would gladly sink his hands into.

The Holland House: Pumpkin Smash Cake

It only makes sense that a "healthy" cake be followed up by the mother of all unhealthy cakes- and there's none better than this Snickers Cake. The recipe is from Brown Eyed Baker, and it really is sinfully delicious (assuming you like salted caramel, peanut nougat filling and chocolate cake.) A lot of work went into this cake, as there are 5 different components. I made one cake for a customer, and a second to take to a party, and it was a huge hit for both. I will gladly make this one again!

The Holland House: Snickers Cake


I feel like it's been awhile since I worked on a really fun cookie order, so it was extra fun to work on two different baby shower orders. The first was for twin boys, both with names that start with H. I have made the "Cute as a button" cookie before from Bake at 350, but I thought it went perfectly with the monogram onesies.

The Holland House: Baby Boy Onesies

The second set is for a friend who I used to run with, due with her boy any week now. The party invitations were adorable, reading "Kasey and Roger's little man is on the way. Lace up your Chuck's or this very special day". Of course, there was the cutest pair of baby Chuck Taylors on the invite, so I had to incorporate those into the set. I was thrilled with how they turned out.

The Holland House: Chuck Taylor Baby Shower Cookies

I have some work travel coming up, along with the usual crazy holiday schedule, but I will be making a few orders of Christmas cookies. Hopefully I'm able to snap some decent pictures to share.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Counting my blessings

So I'm a little late on the "I'm thankful for" post, but I won't let that stop me from doing so.

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, filled with baking, family time, yard work, and just enough relaxation. My mom cooked an amazing meal, and it's always nice to have the whole family together for holidays. As the extended family grows, we're having to find ways to be more flexible so that we can continue celebrating together. That's not always easy, but I couldn't be more thankful for a family who really puts the FUN in dysfunctional. Below is an outtake from our many attempts at getting good family photo (the real ones were taken in front of the fireplace). The look on Georgia's face is hysterical!

The Holland House: Awkward Family Photo

The Holland House: Thanksgiving Desserts

Besides the obvious friends and family, I'm beyond thankful for an insurance plan that is making our lives so much easier right now. Hank and I made the decision to switch fertility doctors, and we couldn't be more thrilled with our new one. We had a thorough meeting with her this past Tuesday, and are now in the middle of new rounds of blood work and testing to make sure we aren't missing anything. The new Dr. already caught an issue with my thyroid, and I'm feeling confident that we're in really good hands. I'm almost afraid to add up the cost of all the testing we've had to date, as I know it's already a large number that will just continue to grow. So when I only have to make a $30 co-pay for office visits, I say thank you to my amazing employer every.single.time.

There really aren't words to describe how thankful I am for my husband, and the fun and crazy household we've created otherwise known as The Holland House. We almost added a new fur baby to the mix a few days ago. He barely blinked an eye when I shoved a picture of a puppy in his face and started planning how we were going to make it work. In the midst of the fertility issues we're dealing with, he has been patient, kind and beyond compassionate to me. It seems like that should be a given, but I know about relationships that don't include these things. There have been days when I have taken out my frustrations on him, and he shows nothing but love in return (and a hug if I want it). It sounds so cheesy to say these things, but he is the best partner I could have asked for.

December is flying by already, and I'm hoping we can find a few ways to enjoy it before Christmas gets here. I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday, and found ways to be thankful for the great things in your lives!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Out and About: We Olive & Wine Bar

My parents treated us to a Sunday Funday at Austin's newest wine bar, We Olive & Wine. It's not local to Austin, as it's a franchise, but the Hill Country Galleria location is amazing! They had a 3 piece band playing from 4-6 (Andrea Marie and the Magnolia Band) who were surprisingly talented. Their website dubs them as a country band, but they played everything from The Eagles to Stevie Nicks to a Katy Perry "Roar" cover. It was the perfect background music for sipping on wine and eating delicious food.

Their wine menu allows you to order a taste, a glass, or a bottle, and I loved having the chance to try a few wines before committing to a whole glass. Mitch (the manager) even brought me another taste or two that he insisted I try before making a decision. His best suggestion was a 2012 Selby Merlot (a red I almost never drink), and it was so good, I ended up ordering 2 glasses. The wine menu had some really great, reasonably priced options. 

Mitch also gave us a brief tour of the retail space, and made suggestions on wine and olive oil pairings. We Olive makes their own olive oil and vinegars, and they line the back wall allowing you to taste as much as you like. I hadn't thought to mix any flavors, until Mitch pointed out the Blackberry Vinegar and the Basil Olive Oil made for a fantastic combination. It was so good, that I had him immediately fill two bottles to take home. At $22 each, I thought the price was a tad steep. But he told me at checkout that if you bring back your empty bottle, they take $6 off the refill. I have cooked with really crappy olive oil, and am certainly willing to pay $16 for a really good quality one. They also have an incredible assortment of gourmet foods that make perfect gifts (hello, Espresso Caramel Sauce!!)

The Holland House: We Olive & Wine Bar
Olive Oil and Vinegar Bar

The Holland House: We Olive & Wine Gourmet Food
Gourmet condiments for tasting

At our table, we ordered several rounds of food to share. We started off with a duo of Chipotle Pumpin and Black Olive with Blood Orange Olive Oil hummus, and also Stuffed Peppadews with Salami, drizzled with aged balsamic vinegar. I loved that they served the hummus with local carrots. It was pretty hard to narrow down which flatbread we wanted- so we ordered two. The Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions and Blue Cheese, and the Parmesan Asiago and Prosciutto. Both were delish!

The Holland House: Hummus Duo
Hummus Duo

The Holland House: Stuffed Peppadews
Cream Cheese Stuffed Peppadews with Salami and Aged Balsamic Drizzle

The Holland House: Parmesan Asiago and Prosciutto Flatbread
Parmesan Asiago and Prosciutto Flatbread

If you are ever in the Hill Country Galleria area, I highly recommend stopping by We Olive & Wine. Not only is it franchised by a local father/son, but the people working there truly love what they do, and do their best to make you feel welcome.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Calm before the storm

Life lately has been somewhat blissful. And by blissful, I mean so relaxing and unexciting that there really isn't much to report. We've intentionally laid low- enjoying time at home, and casual get togethers with friends. It's helped get over the sadness of our first fertility treatment by leaning on friends and family, and finding plenty to laugh about.

My sister planned a very last minute GNO (girl's night out) recently, and 4 of us were able to get together for some girl talk at a new restaurant on Burnet Rd. Taco Flats was once a smoky bar on a not-so-popular stretch of Austin road that closed almost 30 years ago. The new owners asked the original if they could use the same name, and gave it a complete makeover. The space is great- it's definitely more bar than restaurant, but we were really impressed with the tacos we ordered. The corn tortillas were a little bit of heaven, and the pricing was just right to enjoy 2-3. I always love being able to taste different options. There were plenty of laughs (and plenty of conversation to never leave our little table), and it was just good for the soul.

The Holland House: GNO
Girls being silly at GNO

We also got together with a group of running friends last weekend for a serious game of Cards Against Humanity. If you've never played it, you're missing out. Dubbed "a party game for horrible people", you definitely have to check political correctness at the door. It's funny the things you can learn about someone while playing this game. It also helps if alcohol is involved. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life.

The Holland House: Cards Against Humanity

Finally, this past Saturday we went over to a friend's house for a little football and fajitas from Lupe Tortilla (yum!!). Even though the weather was crummy, we still had fun catching up and wrangling a bunch of kids. Between all of our friends, there were kids ranging from 1 month old to 10 years old. There was A LOT going on in the house, but it's the kind of craziness that you love to be surrounded by. The girls took 5 minutes to run outside and snap a picture. It's so rare that we're all together, and so fun to see the pictures of us throughout the years. They are friendships spanning almost 18 years, and it's been such a blast to witness all of life's changes with these girls.

The Holland House: The Girls
Could my sister and I look anymore like twins in this picture?!

This week I'm headed out to Bastrop for our annual Education Sales Meeting for work. It will be 5 long painful days, with lots and lots of learning. I'll probably log close to 70 hours of work between now and Friday, and am dreaming of Saturday morning when I get to sleep in and do absolutely nothing. From then on- it will be holiday craziness, and I can't wait!

Has anyone started decorating for Christmas yet? Which holiday traditions are you looking forward to the most?

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Next Steps

Monday morning was our scheduled blood test to see if our first round of assisted fertility treatment worked. I knew on Sunday afternoon that it had not, and it's been a tough couple of days. We knew that the chances of this working (especially on the first try) were really slim. But you still go into something like this with a lot of hope. What's the point in doing it otherwise?

I'll spare you all of the details, but the way that my doctor's office handled the results of the blood test left me less than impressed. As Hank said, there wasn't a whole lot of "warm and fuzzy". Infertility is a very emotional thing, as I learn more and more each day. It's important to have a doctor that can provide the right amount of "this is the way it is" paired with the warm and fuzzies that you want (and need) when things don't turn out ok.

A co-worker of mine who did IVF several years ago encouraged me to reach out to her doctor. It's a woman (big plus in my book), and my co-worker could not say enough amazing things about her. I feel like I owe it to myself to at least get a second opinion before moving forward with what we believe to be our next step- IVF. That type of procedure (and the weeks that lead up to it) is no walk in the park. I want to make sure that we aren't missing anything before making such a big commitment, so we have a consult scheduled with her the first of December. From there we'll make a new plan.

Until then, my plan is to take care of my body, continue with acupuncture treatments, and just enjoy being with my husband over the holiday season without having to worry about all of this crap. Maybe what they say is true....that if we stop thinking about it for a bit, it will happen. For this Type-A, totally OCD person, that is no easy feat. But I'm willing to give anything a try right now.

The Holland House: Hope

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Weekend in Nashville, take 2

Around this time last year, we headed to Nashville to visit our good friends Aline and Steve. Aline and I went to high school together, and I love that we have been able to maintain a great friendship over the years. The stories she could tell about me....

We had so much fun on our last trip that we made a point to go back again this year. Last year we planned out almost the entire trip, but this go around we took a much more relaxed approach. Other than plans to see the Titans/Jaguars game, we decided to just make up as we went. To make this trip even more fun, another of my friends had recently moved to Nashville over the summer. I connected Sarah and Aline through email, and they had already met up on multiple occasions and hit it off! So it was even more fun that all of us could hang out together for the weekend.

Instead of forcing you through a day to day recap of our trip, I thought I would break the post up into categories of things that are a must for Nashville: food, music, and sights. I consider most of these as "can't miss" if you're ever planning a trip here.


I wouldn't call Nashville a culinary hub, but it does have it's share of delicious restaurants. We had lunch at the adorable Adele in the Gulch neighborhood. It was raining, so we stayed inside. On a nice night, it would be an awesome spot to eat on the patio. It's location is in a former tire store with big garage doors that open from the bar to the patio, and they did a beautiful job with the space. From the long bar with light blue chairs, to the recycled wood tables and mid-century chairs, I think they paid a stylish homage to its former life. The menu consisted of a lot of local ingredients, and everything was fantastic.

The Holland House: Adele's Nashville
We also enjoyed a good ole' comfort food (with a twist) meal at Acme Feed & Seed on Lower Broadway. This is a good spot for kicking off a night out, and there was definitely some great people watching. The restaurant consists of three levels: restaurant on the bottom, a bar/lounge area on the second floor, and a rooftop bar on the third. The cocktail menu looked fantastic, and I was impressed with the extensive beer selection too. The food was amazing! I was impressed with the variety, and loved that there were plenty of vegetarian options, even though I chose the Rule the Roost chicken sandwich. There was a band playing downstairs, so it was a little loud and hard to talk to friends, but overall I really loved the atmosphere.

Our last favorite food stop was Burger Republic, again- in the Gulch neighborhood (we really loved this area!) It was the last day of the trip, and of course we wanted to go out in style. The restaurant is locally owned, the service was fantastic, and I don't think you could go wrong with anything on the menu. They really pride themselves on quality ingredients, and it made a difference in taste for sure. Whatever you do though, do NOT skip the milkshakes!  I had the Nutella shake, and Hank had the spiked Reese's Malt shake. They were both to die for.

The Holland House: Burger Republic


You can't go to Nashville without listening to Live Music. It's really similar to Austin in that you can pretty much go anywhere and hear someone playing. That doesn't always mean they are good, but you never know what you might stumble upon. We tossed around the idea of pressing our luck in line at the Bluebird, but we didn't really feel like wasting an hour or two literally just standing around. So after some Google searching, we stumbled across 2 options. We decided on a show at High Watt, a small lounge within a larger music complex called The Cannery Ballroom. After being subjected to two questionably talented opening acts, the band Matrimony took the stage. They played a great show, and I loved stumbling across a fun new band.

The Holland House: High Watt Nashville


There are so many things to do in Nashville, that it's nearly impossible to fit it all in one long weekend. At the top of our list was heading back to LP Field to watch the Titans beat the Jaguars. The weather was pretty crummy for most of our trip, but we lucked out with really nice weather for the game. Funny story- Steve (Aline's husband and a coach for the Titans) left his playbook at home, so Hank got to carry it into the stadium. He jokes that he made an adjustment to the final play- the one that resulted in the Titans pulling off a much needed win.

The Holland House: Titans v Jaguars
Sideline Shenanigans (including the hottest player on the team- George Wilson, and Michael Oher from the movie "Blind Side")

The Holland House: Game Day

We also made the short trip to Arrington Vineyards, a winery owned by one half of the Brooks and Dunn country duo. I wish the weather had been nicer so that we could have taken advantage of the gorgeous outdoor area, but that didn't stop us from doing a fun tasting and snacking on cheese and crackers on their large covered balcony. They also have live music on the weekends, and availability for hosting special events. It's not Napa wine, but that didn't stop us from shipping home a couple of bottles.

The Holland House: Arrington Vineyards
Me, Sarah and Aline

The Holland House: Arrington Vineyards

I mentioned eating at two restaurants in the Gulch neighborhood, and it ended up being one of our favorite spots to walk around. There were several shops, Yazoo Brewing Company, and even a cute little chocolate shop called Colt's Chocolates. If you are planning a trip to Nashville and can find a Home Away/vacation rental in this area, I think it would be such a prime spot. It's so close to music row, and there is plenty to do within walking distance.

The Holland House: Yazoo Brewing Company

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