Thursday, December 30, 2010

Holiday Recap-Recipes, Pictures and More

It took me getting sick and camping out on the couch to find time to write this. Two kiddos, work, hobbies there's just not enough time in the day is there.

This year we hosted a dessert party, did a day trip to Houston and back on Christmas Eve, and managed 4 Christmas celebrations in 42 hours. Talk about controlled chaos. The new van came in super handy, the kids were fabulous and I enjoyed every minute. of course I kept thinking to myself on the road...if I had an IPad I'd be writing right now hehehe! Thanks to all the family and friends who showered me with gift cards I think there's an IPad in my near future.

The natives are restless so I'll keep this short and sweet!

My favorite holiday recipe...hands down it was the Crockpot Chocolate Pudding Cake I made for our dessert party. It was quick to prep, cooked while we were out and about and combined with the timer on our coffee pot, allowed me to arrive home minutes before our guests and have everything ready to roll!

Crock-pot Chocolate Pudding Cake (dairy free, gluten free, corn free, soy free options)
  • 1 pkg (3.9oz) Jell-O Chocolate Instant Pudding Mix (or check out www.allrecipes.com for an allergy free recipe sub)
  • 3 cups milk (regular, almond, coconut)
  • 1 pkg (2 layer size) chocolate fudge cake mix (I use Cherrybrook Kitchen Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix)
  • 2 squares Baker's Semi-Sweet Chocolate chopped (sprinkle Enjoy Life chocolate chips for dairy/soy free)
  • 2 cups thawed cool whip or whip cream (Soy whipped cream if soy tolerant, or omit, I didn't mind the omission :))
To Make It:
  • Spray your crock-pot with cooking spray, or lightly coat with shortening. (Some Pam sprays have soy so check labels). Beat pudding mix and milk in your crock-pot with a wire whisk for 2 minutes. The recipe calls for a 3 1/2 quart but I have the larger oval and it worked fine.
  • In another bowl prepare the cake batter according to the boxes instructions. Slowly pour it over the pudding mixture. DO NOT STIR. Cover the crock-pot with the lid.
  • Cook on low 2 1/2 - 3 hours (or on high 1 1/2 - 2 hours) until toothpick inserted comes out of cake clean. Top with chopped chocolate or chips. Turn off the cooker and let stand covered 30 minutes to allow the pudding to thicken. Serve with cool whip and dusted with cocoa powder or chocolate shavings.
My Must Have Kitchen Gadget for the holidays: Hands down it was my new Beka sauce pan. I whipped up quick quesidillas, chocolate sauces, you name it in there and was able to wash and reuse in minutes. The non-stick coating is amazing and a few more of these will be on my Christmas list for next year. And even better...this company has an environmental record that puts most other companies to shame. I just love them! Check them out here.

My 'Couldn't get dinner on the table without it' recipe sites: I have two favorites without question are Dinner Tool and All Recipes. Dinner Tool lets me meal plan, add my own recipes, create shopping lists and have a quick printout of my weeks plan. Allrecipes.com lets me search by ingredients so I can plug in something I'm trying to get out of the pantry or fridge and up pops a slew of choices. LOVE IT!

My favorite photo sharing site: With all the IPads, E-readers, and smartphones out there we've become a society of digital sharing. In most cases I'm right on that bandwagon but some vestiges of society are being lost in the cyber rush. I firmly believe it teaches real values for kids to recognize the generosity of Christmas and respond with a heartfelt thank you note. However I've found that over the last few years it is tough to interest my oldest in writing them. This year I stepped up my game and we used Smilebox to create digital thank you cards we could send to family. Normally this would have gone against my edict that thank you notes are personal and it's hard to get that touch with a digital card, but Smilebox allows you to add video clips to your card. So we sat down and recorded a bunch of 10-30 second clips on our Flip with my son thanking friends and family for their gifts. Each person got an individual thank you card with a video clip of Alex thanking them. Better than forcing him to sit at the table and write his name on cards he couldn't read, this worked great. He could relate to this and I loved the message he got from working with me to put it together.

Last but not least to catch me up over the last few weeks...Livi turned 6 months. It's been an amazing time with her and we are truly blessed to have such an angel living with us.

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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Egg Free, Corn Free Pumpkin Cookies

I was seriously upset about the lack of pumpkin pie in my holiday future, so I tweaked some recipes and came up with these. They're delicious and have added benefits for nursing moms. I also made a quick icing glaze for about half of them and it was the perfect touch!

Ingredients:
2 cups gluten free flour (I used 2/3 cup each: Sorghum, Brown Rice and White Rice)
1 1/3 Gluten free rolled oats
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp guar gum
2 Tbsp Brewers yeast
1 2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup canola oil (for corn free use grapeseed oil)
2 Tbsp molasses
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
1/2 cup cranberries or raisins (I used cranberries)
1 cup walnuts finely chopped (optional, take out for nut free)

How to make:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease your baking sheets. Combine flour, oats, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, guar gum, and brewers yeast in a mixing bowl.

In another bowl mix sugar, oil, molasses, pumpkin, vanilla, and flax seeds. Add contents from the first bowl to this one and fold. Fold in nuts if using, and cranberries.

Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to fill your cookie sheet. (I made one sheet and then filled the next one and froze it. once the cookies were frozen I put them in an airtight container and they were ready to bake anytime I needed them...plus they lasted more than 24 hours :)). These don't spread a lot so you can flatten them if you want crispier cookies.

Bake for about 15 minutes. This recipe makes about 4 dz cookies.

NOTE: If you are not gluten free, use all purpose flour, and omit the guar gum.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gluten Free Fake Out Take Out Beef Stir Fry

Q: What do you get when you add a teething baby, a tired mommy, and hours of work still to do?
A: Take Out, well it would be take out if take out didn't have gluten, dairy, corn syrup and a host of other things our family can't have.

So instead it's Take out fake out night! :)

Adapted from Dianne's Dishes

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon of grapeseed or sesame oil
1/4 cup of low sodium gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup of rice vinegar
1 scallion, chopped (green and white section)
1 clove of garlic, chopped fine
1 pound of steak, cut into cubes and all visible fat trimmed
1-3 Tbsp olive oil
1 large carrot shredded
1/2 onion cut into large strips
2-3 stalks celery, cut thinly
1 cup of cooked sticky brown rice per person (Note: Remember that most brown rice takes about 50 minutes to an hour to cook. The stir fry itself takes about 20-30 minutes.)

In a bowl or a canning jar mix together oil, gluten-free soy sauce and rice vinegar until incorporated. Stir or shake in scallions and garlic to mix. Add steak and toss or shake to coat. Marinate for at least 1 hour to overnight covered tightly in the fridge. The canning jar works fabulously for this.

In your skillet or work, heat 1-3 tbsp olive oil and sautee the carrots, onion and celery until tender. Dump the contents of your bowl or jar into a large skillet or wok and over medium heat bring to a boil. Cook the beef until the liquid evaporates, the mixture thickens slightly and the beef is tender. Serve over rice with steamed broccoli.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Pumpkin Creme Brulee

All I can say is it smells delicious and I'm having a very hard time not taste testing it before dinner tonight! :) I'll post pictures after it's been "brulee-d" tonight! :)

Adapted from Emeril's Version Ingredients

  • 1 Can Coconut Cream
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 4 teaspoons
  • 8 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure gluten free vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup mashed cooked pumpkin

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Arrange 8 (1/2-cup) ramekins or custard cups in a large metal baking pan.

In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut cream, brown sugar, and 1/4 cup granulated sugar. Bring to a bare simmer over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until frothy and lemon-colored. Slowly add 3/4 cup of the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly. Add the egg mixture to the remaining hot cream, and whisk. Add the vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pumpkin, and whisk until smooth. Strain through a fine mesh strainer into a large bowl. Divide among the prepared custard cups.

Add enough hot water to come halfway up the sides of the cups. Bake until the custards are just set in the center but not stiff, 45 minutes to 55 minutes. Remove from the oven and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 3 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle each custard with 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining sugar. Using a kitchen torch, caramelize the sugar. (Alternately, preheat the broiler, and broil until the sugar melts and caramelizes, watching closely to avoid burning and rotating the cups, about 1 to 2 minutes.) Place on small dessert plates and serve.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Turkey Day...Gluten free, dairy free recipes

Quinoa is not a grass, but its seeds have been...Image via WikipediaWhoops, time got away from me and now we're down to the wire, the night before Thanksgiving and I'm in random assembly mode instead of my usual organized, planned and plotted OCD-ness.

I tried to make the broccoli, rice and cheese (my mother's recipe...mmmmm good!) while I made the Chicken Pad Thai for dinner and that worked out okay until I threw in the gluten free Quinoa stuffing. Then I started to fret, the baby started to cry, the husband started to ask why I'm so crazy always taking on so much and I started to laugh hysterically cause in a perfect, non crying, non questioning world, I would have adored the time spent in the kitchen.

All's coming together nicely but man are the dishes piling up. Can someone send me a monkey that does dishes! I'd love him forever!

Time to hop off the computer, and go brine the turkey breast we're taking for dinner tomorrow so we "allergy infested" folks can enjoy the turkey too! :)

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, allergy free Thanksgiving!

Quinoa with Fresh Herbs, Pecans & Pomegranate Dressing (adapted from Gluten Free Foodie)
3 cups cooked and cooled Quinoa (I made mine in the rice cooker)
1/3 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, cilantro, etc.)
4 oz crumbled Feta cheese (I subbed pine nuts and 2 Tbsp of brewer's yeast)
1/4 cup pecan pieces
1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (if desired)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
2 tablespoons pomegranate concentrate
squeeze of lemon

Directions

Cook about 1 1/2 cups Quinoa to yield 3 cups cooked, cool.

In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, chopped herbs, pecans, feta cheese & pomegranate seeds (if desired.)

In a separate bowl, wisk together oil, pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour dressing over quinoa and mix. Serve.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Belly Dancing...For Fitness????


I’m not a big fan of working out. Well let me re-phrase I don’t mind working out so much as I mind the time needed to get ready, get my kids ready for someone else to take care of for a bit, get to the gym, get to actually workout and then get home, where inevitably I walk in the door to a chorus of “Mommy, What’s for dinner?” How is that any fun? So short of running away to the Biggest Loser Ranch where there's nothing to do but work out, I find myself getting frustrated daily trying to find time for those magical 30 mins of daily exercise that will make the sleepless nights (nope baby is still not sleeping through the night) all better. So bottom line...I rarely work out. I know I need to but the logistics escape me. Then I got a copy of Belly Dancing for Fitness in the mail to review for TTT’s Holiday gift guide.

All I can say is this was not a spectator sport! I waited until the house was empty, the baby sleeping, and then turned it on and tried it out. It was a blast. The video quality isn’t tip top, and the audio was a little wonky (either that or I messed up the receiver again…don’t tell hubby) but the belly dancing instruction was good and overall it was a ton of fun. I laughed myself silly trying to learn moves that the instructor did effortlessly. I finally decided she was born with double jointedness and as long as I was moving, then the laughing was giving me an ab work out if nothing else.

That’s the name of the game for me! If it’s not fun I can’t get into it, keep doing it, etc. So with all those New Year Resolutions ahead of us, check out some fun fitness for the friends and family on your list. I may even let my preschooler talk me into doing it with him. Actually that might be my evening entertainment...:)

Holiday Gift Guide



I've been blogging for a while now and frequently get asked to review items that are new on the market or going through a PR push. Lately I've been collecting items to review that I thought would make fabulous gifts for the holiday season. I'll be posting my reviews of many of these pieces over the next few weeks and you can find links to purchase many of them under the Holiday Gift Guide tab. I hope you find these items as, emmm, entertaining as I have! :)

Elimination Diet - Round 2

Warning - Allergy advice: contains milkImage by Danny McL via FlickrWhat would you not do for your kids...that's the question right? Three months ago I gave up dairy to help with Liv's tummy issues. I was resigned to no more cheese, milk, yogurt, milk chocolate, ice cream, you name it, for the duration of my nursing her. And then all the symptoms came creeping back.

Screaming fits. Arching. Doubling over. A fussy, unhappy baby all day long! Then came the lack of sleep, and now we're on to no sleep so I broke down, called my pediatrician with my special, VIP, have my own parking space I pay so many co-pays, dedicated number (just kidding, but I really should have one) and heard exactly what I expected. No fever, no rash, equals we can see her but it doesn't sound like there is anything wrong illness wise.

Now I love my pedi and her team of nurses so the snarky...wanna come watch the show tonight, it's an all=nighter, reply stayed in my head. And we started talking alternative ways to address this. We ended up on dropping known allergens and seeing if it made a difference. See the worst part about food allergies/intolerance is the best way to diagnose is through an elimination diet which means there are no instant answers or results. So the plan was to drop dairy and soy, give it ten days, then if needed drop Egg, Nuts and Peanuts (yeah I know but they seperated them too...I would have assumed Peanuts fell into nuts), give it ten days and then if needed drop corn and gluten.

So instead of the next month of trial and error today marks day one of my allergen elimination diet. I'm going to toss them all for the next ten days and if we see massive improvement I'll start adding them back slowly. We'll also do a round of blood testing to confirm for her records.

So the sad, sad story is that heading into the Holiday season with it's food, fun, and desserts, I'm heading into it able to eat anything made with no dairy, soy, eggs, nuts, peanuts, wheat or corn. Sounds like a lot of fresh food to me...sorry Stovetop!
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Delightful Dark Chocolate Allergy Friendly Brownies

It's been a long week, and it's only Wednesday! It's the kind of week when I head to the kitchen more often than I should. Baking relaxes me, cooking does too if it's not the 5 pm, kids screaming, "what's for dinner" rush. In the last week I've been called to make gluten free, dairy free pineapple upside down cake, my own special dairy free dark chocolate cake, dairy free dark chocolate mousse (which still needs work) and a homemade, almost as good as the original dairy free version of the Starbucks Toffee Mocha. Quite a week even for me! Sleepless nights and teething babies will do that to you!

Today I started thinking of all the great recipes I've experimented with but have been to much of a slacker to get put up here. One of my recent favorites was a dark chocolate gluten and egg free brownie recipe. This could easily be made dairy free by using an all purpose gluten free baking mix that doesn't contain dairy. Pamela's, the one I used, contains buttermilk solids.

Delightful Dark Chocolate Allergy Friendly Brownies
1/3 cup Pamela's Baking Mix
1 cup water
1/2 cup or 1 stick Flieschmans unsalted butter (only the unsalted is dairy free)
2/3 cup unsweetened dark chocolate cocoa powder
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp vanilla (gluten free)
2 cups Pamela's Baking Mix
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional...just omit if you are nut free)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.
2. In a heavy saucepan combine the 1/3 cup of baking mix and water with a whisk. Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until thick. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside to cool.
3. In a small saucepan, melt butter. When melted add cocoa and mix until smooth; set aside to cool.
4. Beat the sugar and vanilla into the cooled flour mixture.
5. Stir in the cocoa mixture until well blended.
6. Combine remaining baking mix, baking powder and salt, stir into the batter until just blended.
7. Fold in walnuts if you wish.
8. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes in the preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
10. Cool before cutting into bars.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An Allergy Free Cooking Makeover

There's a new look on the blog! With the addition of cutting dairy out of our diets (added to the gluten, corn and egg free diet) I've found little time to think or blog about anything else. With that in mind and with the goal of helping others find information and recipes on dealing with food allergy issues I have given my blog a makeover. I'll be indexing all the recipes over the next few days for easy access and adding in several new favorites. I also added a store to Traveling the Tightrope to make it easy to find the right ingredients and baking essentials. Family updates will still pop up now and then but with most the family on Facebook I am finding an outlet for my kitchen creativity here! Hope you enjoy the new look!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Alex is Four

What a year! Filled with attitude, funny faces and a fair share of time outs, it's flown by. Enjoy the laughs!

Time flies

Boy does it! Four years ago, right this minute I was trying to hold off asking for an epidural to dull the pain of my stubborn child who flipped backwards and didn't want to join the world. I didn't know if I was having a boy or a girl, I had no idea that the next nine months would hold NO sleep, or that there is no feeling in the world like having a child who holds your heart.

Over the years he's been a tyrant toddler, a precocious preschooler and now a little boy. He's growing fast and we are so very blessed to have been given this gift from God to raise and call our own.

Since I'm in a nostalgic mood, let's take a walk down memory lane! LOL

Birth to One Year


One to Two


Two to Three


and Three to Four is on it's way. Check back later for updates!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Reflux and Colic Elimination Diet

So Liv has awful reflux. You can hear it all day long, and the poor thing will be perfectly happy and then hiccup and scream. After a week and a half on the prevacid, gripe water and gas drops I decided my sanity and my poor little munchkin deserved more drastic action.

Dr. Sears has a reccomended elimination diet to help determine what is causing your infants reflux/colic so you can avoid it. Instead of dropping one food at a time to determine the trigger, you drop all but a few basic foods for two weeks and then add back foods slowly. This way generally shows faster improvement since the baby gets instant relief from whatever is causing their pain.

So I'm am eating a bland diet of turkey (breast, sausage and ground lean turkey), rice, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash and zuchinni and pears. For two weeks! I love food, I love cooking and my husband will back me up when I say I hate eating the same thing over and over. I don't even eat leftovers. So now I'm trying to find out how many ways/dishes I can prepare these limited ingredients with only salt and pepper for seasoning.

Day 1:
Breakfast-Turkey sausage and diced small red potatoes, sauteed in a skillet and seasoned with salt and pepper
Lunch- I ate the breakfast leftovers since we were having a crazy day and I didn't have time to cook.
Dinner- Red Himalayan rice and grilled turkey breast.

Day 2:
Breakfast-Turkey breast and rice
Lunch-Ground turkey sauteed with new potatoes
Dinner- Grilled Turkey breast with sauteed squash and roasted new and sweet potatoes

We're on to day 3 now. So far so good. I'm down 3 lbs and Liv slept 5 hours last night and only had minimal fussing. Here's hoping it keeps up since sleep and a happy baby will make the next 11 days much easier.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tonight's appetizer---Gluten Free Shrimp Bruschetta


Ingredients

* 4 slices GF bread
* 10 shrimp sauteed in olive oil, butter and lemon, tail removed and chopped
* 2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
* 2 TBSP basil pesto
* Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Slice the bread into 1/4-inch pieces on the diagonal. Put them onto a baking sheet and bake them, turning once, until they are golden brown on both sides, about 10 minutes.

In a bowl combine the shrimp, tomatoes, basil pesto, and salt and pepper, to taste. Put a tablespoon of the mixture onto each piece of bread and serve.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Yummy Monte Cristo Sandwiches...Gluten free to boot~

I came across this recipe from Pamela's Products past recipe competitions. It's delish!

Easy Monte Cristo Sandwiches

2 cups Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix (same as for the gluten free doughnuts) a BIG bag is $15 but lasts a while
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoon milk

2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
12 slices gluten-free thinly sliced ham
12 slices gluten-free thinly sliced turkey
2/3 cup strawberry fruit spread
powdered sugar for sprinkling on top

Yield: 6 servings

Instructions:
Heat oven to 375ยบ.

Lightly grease an 8-inch x 8-inch square baking dish. Mix the Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix and the butter with a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, add the milk, and stir with a fork. Put half the mixture in the bottom of your baking pan, then sprinkle on 1 cup mozzarella, 1/2 of the thinly sliced ham, then 1/2 of the thinly sliced turkey. Spread strawberry fruit spread on top spreading to within 1/2 inch of the edge, then layer the last half of the ham, then the last half of the turkey, then sprinkle on 1 cup mozzarella. Spread the rest of the baking mix on top, and bake for 30 minutes. When nicely browned remove from the oven and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and serving. Cut into wedges and enjoy.

I think this would make great lunches / cute tea party sandwiches if you made mini versions in a muffin tin.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gluten Free Donuts--Amazing!


It's official! We have a new family favorite recipe for breakfast. It's been years since we did a family donut run (although Alex and I have snuck off a few times). A few days ago I was playing on the Pioneer Woman's website and hopped over to www.TastyKitchen.com. They have a whole section of Gluten free recipes and this one caught my eye.

I have to admit, I've made them twice and they are FABULOUS! No eggs, no corn, no gluten and easy to substitute the dairy if you need to (I used Almond Milk this morning). These are baked, cake like donuts and are absolutely delicious.

Ingredients:

* 100 grams Cream Cheese
* 60 grams Sugar
* 4 Tablespoons Canola Oil
* 8 Tablespoons Milk
* 5 milliliters Vanilla
* ¼ teaspoons Salt
* 200 grams Gluten Free Baking Mix

To make:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease doughnut pan well with oil or butter or margarine. I didn't have a doughnut pan so I used my mini bundt pan and it worked perfectly.

Mix cream cheese, sugar, oil, milk, vanilla and salt together until well blended. Add baking mix and mix until well incorporated. I used Pamela's baking mix.

Place mixture into a ziptop bag and snip off one corner. Pipe into the doughnut molds. Bake in the middle section of your oven for approximately 25 minutes. When they are done, the doughnuts will pull away from sides of pan and spring back when touched, just like a cake.

Remove from pan and either frost, glaze, or sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve. I made a variety by melting a little left over chocolate frosting in the microwave and dipping the tops in that. I covered the chocolate in sprinkles for my kiddo. Eric prefers the ones dipped lightly in melted butter and then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and I love the with chocolate and a light dusting of powdered sugar. These were great warm, but they are just as good cold. Enjoy.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Unconditional Love

To all my parent friends! I read this yesterday and loved it and decided to share! Our kids grow up so fast these days we rarely just let them be kids. A general lack of sleep, the frustration of selling a house, having a new baby on the way...our house is filled with a whirlwind of mixed emotions. This hit me at just the right time to remind me how precious these childhood days are and how truly fast they fly by.

Please, Mom and Dad...
My hands are small. I don't mean to spill my milk,
My legs are short---please slow down so I can keep up.
Don't slap my hand when I touch something bright and pretty. I don't understand.
Please look at me when I talk to you. It lets me know you are really listening.
My feelings are tender--don't nag me all day. Let me make mistakes without feeling stupid.
Don't expect the bed I make or the picture I draw to be perfect. Just love me for trying.
Remember, I am a child, not a small adult. Sometimes I don't understand what you are saying.
I love you so much. Please love me just for being myself, not just for the things I can do.
Author Unknown

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Snow cones, Contractions & and Gifts

What a weekend!

I can't remember the last time we had a truly lazy, do what you want, nothing HAS to get done, spur of the moment weekend. I'll have to schedule more of these for sure! I had funny moments, fantastic last minute one on one activities with Alex and best of all a few quiet solo minutes to enjoy being pregnant and feeling the baby squirm. Since we're only 17 days out the kicks and hiccups are limited and it was lovely to slow down and enjoy everything.

Alex and I hit up a local snow cone stand! I've been craving snow cones for oh, 9 months now, but unlike where I grew up there aren't stands on every corner. I finally spent some time on Yelp, found the one snow cone stand within 20 miles of my house and Alex and I loaded up and hit the road. They were delicious and we'll be headed back soon!



A funny moment when I saw Princess and the Frog! LOL Around my house that's not a movie it's a random moment caught with a blurry camera.



Also on the schedule this last week, Alex started swim lessons. Other than one meltdown on a bad day, Alex has really enjoyed his lessons and is rapidly learning how to swim like a fishy!



We're 17 days out from July 1st, Baby's anticipated arrival date and the closer we get the more ready I am! The contractions have started, random, but enough to be the first warning signs that A Baby Is Coming SOON!!!! Bags are packed and waiting by the door, her bed is ready, and I know family and friends are just as ready we are to meet and greet our little Princess. I can't wait!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Working with children at home

I have to admit, 2 weeks ago as we approached the end of the school year I was very worried about how to keep my kiddo busy while I worked. Working from home is probably very tough for a toddler to understand. Mom is home, available and should be ready to play right?

Normally I would have arranged for a summer camp, but none will take a three year old, even a potty trained, articulate, just finished Pre K one. Too bad cause this little guy hums with energy and I would gladly hand over some green to find the soccer came that would wear him out! Since there were no takers on a short camp option over June, Camp at Home began.

Week One: Getting in routine. Learning the ropes took about a week. There were a few tantrums, not a lot of TV and a good bit of "but Mrs. Pack says" (his teacher and the end all authority figure in his book). Not a lot was accomplished other than my learning that Alex has a terrific memory and amazing talent and love for puzzles.

Week Two: Camp out week. We had mini sub sandwiches made from hot dog buns, turkey, cheese,and fixings. Spritzers with juice and sprite, set up a tent in the playroom and napped in it, and set up our earning system for TV and computer time. So far things are going great and without jinxing myself I find that I'm optimistically looking for additional things for him to do.

I checked out a great book called "When the Kids are Home from School" and it's filled with advice and ideas that have inspired me to plan a little ahead and ensure he has lots to do during the day.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan...An Italian Eviction

eggplant parmesanImage by stringparts via Flickr

Recently I've been offered funny, entertaining advice as I near the end of my pregnancy. It cracks me up sometimes how this advice, offered in earnest, well meaning tones has survived for so many years. A few quick minutes of google searches and you can read for hours on things that will start or stop labor, ways to have a quiet child (yeah right I missed that one with Alex!), birthing quickly, you name it!

My favorite of the last few weeks has been the labor inducing Eggplant Parmesan. I told my husband about it, joked about making it as we got closer to our date, even sent him the link to this "baby making dish".

Then today my mother in law called and invited us out for Italian. Now eating out for Italian food is a big treat around this gluten free, corn free, egg free household! Lucky for us the new kid on the block Maggianos offers a great gluten free menu I've been dying to try. I got a huge chuckle too out of glancing over the menu and Eggplant Parmesan being the first thing to catch my eye! We're almost 37 weeks, have 25 days to go, so I'm not planning an Italian eviction just yet, but if it comes down to Pitocin vs Italian I know where I'm setting up shop!

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Adventures in Telecomuting ...Day 2

So yesterday was the first day my son was out of school and home with me. He's on summer vacation, ready for the pool, playtime and never ending fun, and I've got work to do! I've adjusted my hours, am working hard and fast and spending time in the evenings plotting out things to keep him busy. It's just to bad his attention span is so short.

I have to admit though, so far so good! I'm able to work a steady 7-3 with minimal interruptions that I like to think of as "Smoke Breaks" since I don't smoke by my old office mates do. I know they take those every few hours so I don't beat myself up about mine!

With 29 days to go before Liv's due date, my maternity leave and a whole summer of fun with two kiddos before me I'm working to clear the decks and it is taking organization like I've never had to have before!

Shout if you have any suggestions for self-entertaining, not wrecking the house kind of activities for little ones! I'm looking for anything I can get my hands on!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Delightful Gluten free dinner

a slow cooker Oval Crock PotImage via Wikipedia

YUMMMMMM!

A wonderful neighbor brought me a recipe for an Italian Pork Loin cooked in the crock-pot and I paired it with Parmesan risotto and green beans sauteed with bacon and almond slivers. It's been a long time since I enjoyed a dinner as much! Thank you Kathy for the wonderful inspiration.

Even better, thank you Rice cooker and crockpot for giving me dinner with only about 30 minutes of prep work put into everything!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Work Life Balance Words of Wisdom

I started this blog as my journey into a comfortable balance of work, family and fun, but throw pregnancy into the mix and everything else goes out the door. We're nearing the end of this pregnancy and have hit the sleepless nights, can't get comfy, crazy dreams stage. I can't wait to meet my little girl and at this rate I'll probably get more rest when she gets here...maybe!

It's amazing how many people I've talked to lately have issues with work-life balance. A college roommate working up north, my Mother in law, my husband (although he would like a little more work in his balance)have all complained recently about the balance they have. It makes me wonder what about today's culture is driving us to make work our life instead of a means to support our life.

Don't get me wrong I love my job, but it is a job. J. O. B. Something that I do to support my family, pay my bills, and contribute to society. However none of those reasons are good enough to ignore my growing family, miss an important event or lose my personal time with the ones I love.

Working at home was a tough transition with this since I was suddenly in the "office" 24 hours a day. But whether you physically shut an office door at 5 pm or close and lock away the computer (pregnant women work from the couch around here!), you have to set limits and establish a quitting time when you shift from working bee, to your at home self.

My top 5 rules for working from home:
1. Set your schedule and STICK TO IT...If you have trouble with this, physically lock the computer away, turn it completely off and schedule an activity for yourself right at quitting time. Just a walk around the block will get you out of the house and back in a personal mind frame.
2. Get up, get dressed, and pretend you are going to the office. Your commute may have shrunk to 15 seconds, but you are still going to work. It will be much less tempting to turn on the TV and channel surf while you work if you are up dressed and at your desk at a normal working time.
3. Establish office space in your house. Having a place for your office supplies, computer, to work, will all make you more productive and give you somewhere to "leave" at the end of the work day.
4. Don't work weekends. Unless it's an emergency and you would be going into the office to handle it, don't work after hours and on weekends from home. If you do, co-workers will get used to having you available at all hours and will not hesitate to call. A polite but firm, "I'll handle that when I get to the office tomorrow", should let them know that you are offline and no longer working if they manage to catch you.
5. Work hard, but recognize that you are working...A lot of new telecommuters have trouble rationalizing not working crazy hours since they are at home. They take a break to throw in laundry or set a crock=pot for dinner and see it as a reason to need to work overtime. However in an office co-workers would take a coffee or smoke break, visit over cube walls, in other words, use the same amount of time in office social niceties that you are using in productive non work related matters. Cut yourself some slack, take a normal amount of break time and then get back to work so you can confidently call it quits at the end of the day.

Words of Wisdom from a Veteran Telecommuter! :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Happy Mother's Day and Austin Sweet Songs Benefit

Mothers Day Gift.Image by pixiepic's via Flickr

This weekend is Mother's day and I can't wait. Not only will I get to spend it with my son, my husband and extended family, I'll get to spend it surrounded by Moms and their families! I'm helping out at the Austin Sweet Song's CD release benefit party and the event has grown quite close to my heart! Not only is this great group of signer songwriters producing great children's music, but all proceeds are going to benefit the Austin Mother's Milk Bank. With several friends who are parents of early preemies, I know the important job the milk bank does and am very proud to do my part in helping their group out.

Earlier today I overheard a discussion at a coffee shop I frequent. The theme seemed to be what the ladies wanted in gift form for Mother's day. Although presents are always nice, I've never associated Mother's day with a major shopping holiday, mostly because gifts from the heart rarely seem found in stores. Shortly after the "what I want" discussion, a few friends of mine arrived and my confidence was restored as one of the ladies in my group pulled out a letter written by her son on plain, lined school notebook paper. The three short lines were simple and to the point...Thank You Mom...I loved it...It meant so much to me...Love your son. She teared up just reading it to us, then carefully folded it back up and put it away to read another day.

So all the flower shop ads and cell phone commercials aside, be sure to take a few minutes this weekend and recognize the mother's in your life with more than just a token gesture. A few thoughtful words, recognition of the round the clock job motherhood really is...it goes a long way to warming our hearts!

Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies in my life! I salute you and know that no other job can be as hard or as rewarding!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Olivia was showered with lots of love!

We had a wonderful time at our Sprinkle on Saturday. Our friends and family were so generous and it couldn't have been a better way to kick off the homestretch of this pregnancy.

Hope you enjoy the pictures! :)

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Art of Balance

Tightrope Walker, Palolem, Goa, IndiaImage by racoles via Flickr

This week has flown by, largely because I've been so blasted busy. There's a great conference here in Austin that I've been attending and it's crazy how much more time attending a conference in your home town takes, rather than attending one out of town.

I'm still making dinner each day, only now I do it at 6 am in the crockpot so the guys have something to eat!

I'm still driving home after the conference and networking sessions but that means not getting home until around 9 each night.

I have had little to no time with family except to shout instructions on what's for dinner as I'm dashing out the door.

It's amazing how much less energy an almost 8 month pregnant lady has! I'm doing some work helping the Austin Sweet Songs group pull their CD Release Party and benefit together, have my baby sprinkle next weekend, and still need to find time to sit and relax before this new little one decides to join us. That doesn't even start to take into account the regular work that must get done, house cleaning, or anything resembling fun like reading a book or studying up on the Hypnobirthing I want to do this time around. More than anything I need to revisit my own goals for balance.

This whole blog started out of my attempt to balance telecommuting, charitable work, my family, and fun. Just like New Year's resolutions, goals to be more balanced need to be revisited occasionally to keep us on track. I personally find that it takes more commitment than a new gym regimen to focus on myself and ensure some personal downtime is built into our schedule.

So I guess it's back to basics and re-evaluating how to travel the tightrope as I get closer and closer to an even busier schedule in just under 10 weeks. The count down is on!
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Monday, April 12, 2010

Hill Country Beauty

Oh I love spring in the Hill Country. Every year we sneak out and find a time to take bluebonnet pictures. I love this time of year and those are some of my favorite photos to look back on.

Starting with this year's, join me for a quick walk down memory lane!






2009






2008

2007


It is such a gorgeous time of year here in the Hill Country and makes me so very glad to live here.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Great Google Takes A Tumble...

Image representing Google Apps as depicted in ...Image via CrunchBase

at least with me! I'm a huge google fan and generally use just about all their services. I mean they are free, usually right on the money with what consumers want and work well.

Or did until today. Late yesterday I got an email from my Mother in Law telling me my blog wasn't working. I went to check and sure enough it wasn't. Apparently Google Apps, the entity I purchased my domain name through, didn't bother to email me that it was up for renewal. Now there is nothing to be done except pay a good chunk more than the yearly renewal fee to pull it out of redemption status, or wait a few days and try to beat anyone else to it on the open market. Grrr all the way around.

I've reverted back to the blogger provided, free url for the time being, but have to say Google Apps has definitely achieved Buyer Beware status for me after a little research showed this was an EXTREMELY common issue.

My advice to Google, STEP IT UP! How hard is it to set up auto emails to go out on this kind of thing!

On a slightly better note the Gluten Free Asian Shredded Beef that's been slow cooking in my kitchen all day smells delightful and I can't wait for dinner!
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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pregnancy Brain Strikes...

Ok we all do stupid things at times...when pregnant with Alex I put the milk in the pantry and my cell phone in the fridge, and blamed pregnancy for my absentmindedness. Thank goodness Eric wasn't far behind me and fixed everything :). So far this pregnancy I have yet to do anything truly blog worthy until today.

I met our Realtor, the wonderful Kristin Castillo, at the house for sale for a quick meeting, to snap a few updated pictures of all the new features and to put out two air fresheners. Sounds easy right...well it should have been.

Instead after we had dropped all our stuff off in the kitchen, I assembled the air freshener (one of those nifty new ones that sprays every half hour or so) and walked out to the garage to set it up. As I walked through the door I jiggled the handle and it felt locked, so I flipped the lock, to make sure we could get back in and then shut the door and set up the air freshner...surely you see where this is going. Instead of unlocking the door, I locked it.

So we opened the garage and walked to the front door which Kristin had left unlocked when she went in like all good Realtors do. Well I'm so well trained to lock doors behind me that I had locked that one as I followed her in. So now we're standing outside the house with no purses, no cell phones, no house keys trying to figure out what to do. Luckily she had her car keys and with the gas light on empty in her car we drove to our current house which is luckily close by. We could have driven to my inlaws to get a key but with no wallets there was no way to get enough gas for the car to leave the neighborhood. Even I realized that stranded by the side of the road was worse that stranded at a house with air conditioning.

Once at our current house (thank goodness the garage door panel let me in) I dialed the only number I know by heart anymore, my husbands (since all other numbers are handily stored in my cellphone which was inaccessible) and asked him to help me out. He made a few calls to my Father in law, which went to voice-mail (he has the only other key) and finally with time running short to pick Alex up from school, Eric had to leave work to come home and let me into the house.

I do believe this tops the phone in the fridge and milk in the pantry...

27 weeks tomorrow

This pregnancy is flying by! I'm so excited about the upcoming "sprinkle" (a mini shower...get it! :)), getting ready for our little girl and getting Eric in pink mode after 3 years of blue.

A quick pregnancy update for those who've been asking. I'm doing pretty good, but have had a few high blood pressure readings so they are watching that closely (next appt tomorrow). I'm still having all day long, never ending, yeah right first trimester only my rear end sickness. This has led to a few unfortunate episodes in public, once again making more thankful than I can ever say that I telecommute! I recently adopted Eric's gluten free diet and am happy to say that has kept the pregnancy weight gain to a minimum, safe level since it was out of control with Alex. Alex is super excited, wants to know when Olivia is going to be here and if she is going to arrive ready to go ride bikes with him.

Alex is doing great, although we are having daily meltdowns over next to nothing. Today has been a great day with no volcano like eruptions so I was not surprised at all to find that he actually napped today. Although as I type this he's going into whiny toddler who needs a nap mode. It really stinks that by the time his neighborhood friends are home to play he's not in any condition to be a good friend since 5-7 is the witching hour in our house. On a good note though he is sleeping through the night much better. So good in fact that when we wake him up at 10 to go potty he generally falls back asleep on the toilet. One of these days I'm going to get a good video of his "sleep talking" during this. :)

I am really looking forward this upcoming weekend. It's hard to believe it will be our 5 year anniversary. :) Now if only I knew what to get Eric to celebrate!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Life Happens

Ever wonder where the time goes? It has been chaos central around here.

We are currently dealing with:

  • The ongoing drama of a Tyrant Toddler (I'm waiting for a publisher to offer me a life of easy with a huge advance to chronicle my journey trying to parent this crazy tyrant :))
  • The exhaustion that hasn't quite gone away this whole pregnancy
  • The morning sickness that made an uninvited return after only a month on vacation
  • The daily drama of meal planning and keeping our household running...why oh why does that take so much work???
  • Scheduling showings and keeping our other house ready for a buyer to swoop in any minute and take it off our hands
Add that to a full time job, a husband that travels and the general day to day stuff that comes out of nowhere and time just flies right by.

I can hardly believe that we're already 6 and a half months along with baby number 2. We can't wait to meet our baby girl and I'm so glad I can take a few solid months off to spend some time with her and Alex. These moments are so precious and they fly by so quickly!

It's a gorgeous day outside and Alex is "helping" aka telling Eric how to clean out the garage. I've had more laughs from him lately. We are really clear on the kind of language he should use and "Oh my God" is not something you hear in our household. Alex, however, doesn't hesitate to correct anyone who crosses his path if he hears those forbidden words. Add that to some gender confusion over boys with long hair, his general "by the book" attitude towards all rules and my kiddo is kind at heart but bossy to the core. It's going to be an interesting few years ahead.

Now off to figure out something yummy to make with Beef Cubed Steaks and then some fun in the sun...Thank you very much Daylight Savings Time!! :)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Catching Up

So it's been a crazy whirlwind for weeks and I have sorely neglected my blog and journaling. :( I have about 10 minutes before we have to dash off to my 25 week appointment so let's see what all I can catch up on.

Baby Watch: For those that haven't heard (so sorry Nicole, I forget sometimes the whole world isn't on Facebook) we're having a Girl! Her name will be Olivia Faith and my sister has already nicknamed her Little Liv which seems to be sticking. :) Alex is so cute about the baby and is asking the funniest questions like how the baby will get here, if she can see him and why she kicks me. I would have loved to have kids closer in age but I wouldn't trade these precious moments for anything. :)

Gluten Free: In an effort to streamline our grocery shopping and make cooking easier :) I've decided to try gluten free with Eric. So far so good although I have to admit I'm not above a cheat day for a really good Chocolate cake.

Speaking of chocolate cake, check this baby out! I had a blast recently at two cousins baby showers and had fun making all kinds of cakes, decorations, favors, etc. Probably my favorite piece of the bunch was the bumblebee chocolate cake I made for my new Cuz in law's shower! :)



There's lots more to come, the gorgeous corsages my sister made for the shower (Love having a floral designer in the family!), crazy telecommuting work stuff and updates on my tyrant toddler but my ten minutes are up and we're out the door! :)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pink or Blue...You Can Find Out Too!


Join us tonight, Friday the 19th, at 8:00 pm CST for Cupcakes and Answers!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Hoping the New HomeBuyer's Tax Credit Works for Me!

Nope we're not moving again...we're selling! Today was our first day on the market and we had two showings regardless of the miserable weather!!!

Come on baby... Sell this house!  $8000 new homebuyer tax credit, a carpet allowance, possible repainting of the great room...what's not to love!

Here's a link to the listing...pass it on to anyone looking for a great home!

In order to qualify for the credit there must be a contract before April 30th!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Guess Baby Synatschk's Gender

So this time around Eric's talked me into finding out what we're having.  And there's not much longer to wait! :) Next Friday, the 19th we'll find out the gender.  A few family members are coming over for the big announcement and everyone else can tune in right here on my blog for a live announcement at 8pm.

For now, what's your best guess?



PollPub.com VoteGuess Baby Synatschk's Gender
Boy
Girl



View Results

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Telecommuting, Toddlers and Pregnancy

Did you know that U.S. workers actually spend more time commuting to work than vacationing each year...how depressing is that!

If I still lived in Dallas and commuted just 25 miles round trip into the office, Commuter Challenge estimates my commuting costs me $3821.04 per year. I could do a lot of things with $3800 dollars! Makes me glad I work from home, have my son at a school right down the street and only need to fill my small SUV up once every three weeks or so.

Having an overactive toddler, a husband who travels and a new baby on the way makes me one grateful momma that I work from home. Yes it's a challenge and I hear time and time again...I couldn't do that, I would be to distracted. Well not to revert back to toddler hood but "can't never could." It takes effort, but so does leaving the office group chit chatting around the copy machine to go meet a deadline in an office. As a very social person I actually get more done at home with out the social distractions of visiting with peers.

I have also, over the last 20 weeks had multiple opportunities to be grateful that as a soon to be new mommy I could clock my hours in a flexible fashion. Some days the baby just demanded a nap at lunch time, and others I was too sick to work first thing in the morning. Working from home allowed me to work when I was best able to and not be held to a 9-5 mentality.

I have become friends with several telecommuters over the last three years, many virtual friends from Twitter and Facebook. For anyone working from home or considering it I just started the Work From Home Handbook by Diana Fitzpatrick and Stephen Fishman and am really impressed. Unlike many books that tout the benefits from an anecdotal point of view, this book has the statistics and information to wow your boss when you pitch telecommuting. From job satisfaction ranking higher among telecommuters to a cost benefit analysis of working from the office vs home, it's a must read.

As a mom, a career woman and a loyal employee I find telecommuting to be a perfect fit!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Stumble Upon how I love thee...

StumbleUpon ToolbarImage via Wikipedia
I love Stumble Upon. Basically it's a toolbar that lets you set preferences and then surfs the web for you pulling up sites that it thinks you will enjoy.

A few of my favorite finds today:

Presented by Online Education
Christmas time of wasting


Wall Tatoos...


Must Have Web Apps for the Hi-Tech College Student...


AMAZING Cupcakes (perfect for anyone like me who loves to entertain!)...


Cool online photo editing...


I love Stumble and the random neat things it brings to my attention!


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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A bit of this and a bit of that

So I've been pretty MIA here on TTT lately unless you count my HVAC rant and a couple of random latte postings :).  Life's been crazy. Between the early pregnancy symptoms, my favorite little tyrant toddler and general daily life there just hasn't been the time I want to escape into cyberspace.

So to catch up a little here we go!

I'm roughly 17 weeks pregnant and finally starting to feel good instead of sick constantly! Thank the good Lord for small mercies!

I've rediscovered my love of the crockpot! :) There is nothing like complete five o'clock exhaustion to make you so proud and happy that you made dinner at 8am. (Tonight was Pork chops and potatoes with a side of broccoli-delish and took all of 15 minutes to put together!)

I've fallen in love with a few new blogs that do both gluten and corn free baking, discovered a great GF/Corn Free pound cake recipe that seems to be on the menu every week, and am still experimenting to try and find that perfect bread recipe.

When I have time I like to take my favorite new Christmas present (an external flash for my Olympus E 410) out for a test drive. Here's a few of my favorite pictures from today's impromtu photo shoot of Alex.




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Enjoy!!! More to come soon! I promise.

Friday, January 15, 2010

You've Heard of Angie's List... This is Traci's List of The Worst HVAC Contractors in Austin

Angie's ListImage via Wikipedia
I love my house, I love my house, I love my house...I have to keep telling myself that because recently I haven't liked my house very much. We've had ongoing drama with HVAC issues, no heat, a short evacuation due to safety concerns and more than our share of inept HVAC contractors. Oh and not to be forgotten frozen pipes once we finally got heat back.

Angie's List is a database of contractors with high approval ratings from customers, great track records and successful jobs. Traci's List is the exact opposite. With the exception of Bluebonnet HVAC, this list reads like a Who's Who of the Worst contractors in Austin.

Let's see if I can summarize quickly:
So for a few weeks we've had colder weather. That doesn't generally hit Austin to any real degree until the middle of December. From the moment we switched our energy-efficient programmable thermostats to heat it was Game On. We would sit downstairs bundled up (ok just me) in a snuggie, while upstairs would quickly reach sauna levels. I'm talk 83 or 84 degrees upstairs and 67 downstairs. We have a warranty company who takes our money, sends crappy contractors and doesn't believe a word we say so we hesitated to throw more service call fees their way until it truly got unbearable. Then I placed my call to Allied Home Warranty and the games began. I'm not sure what their screening process is for contractors but it needs to be re-evaluated. I won't even get into the 6 visits in two months we had back in the summer on this post but suffice it to say they would send one group out to install something and another to fix the problems that one caused, over and over and over. But back to our current dilemna...it all started when the temperatures dropped, a pregnant wife put her foot down and refused to be cold anymore, and we began to fight over the one and only snuggie in the house.

12/29/09: All Texas Air Conditioning's first visit. They spent over an hour trying to find the issue, determined nothing was wrong and bailed when it started to rain hard since he needed to get his company truck out of the dangerous weather. Not sure if he's from the desert but rain isn't generally considered worth hazard pay here in central Texas. Funny enough I continued to have a 15 degree temperature difference between upstairs and down, a weird clicking in my furnace and needed my snuggie at all times downstairs.

12/31/09: All Texas Air Conditioning---where do I even start. The contractor arrived with his son and grandson in tow. I'm not sure if either one is in the business (especially since the grandson was all of 10), but since they spent several hours here and all they managed to do is replace a thermostat that was working fine, break a suction valve on my outdoor unit while replacing 2 lbs of freon, get stuck in my attic for 1/2 an hour (still not sure how that happened but he was starting to sound panicky), and then left telling me everything was fine, I'm just going to chalk them up to incompetence and recommend that you NEVER call them!

1/2/10: We have roaring heat upstairs, no heat downstairs and our HVAC is literally running 24/7 shutting off every 10 mins for about 30 seconds. So I call our not so beloved warranty company again. They tell me to call Texas Heating and Air. I do but get a "there's nothing more we can do for you, everything works fine" response. They call the warranty company and ask that I (probably as a troublesome client making crap up) get assigned to a different contractor. The warranty company sets me up with Dave's Heating and Air. I call them to confirm they can come out, but upon mentioning my warranty company, am told that my warranty company sucks, they don't pay their bills and Dave's Heating and Air really doesn't like to deal with them. But since I'm in a pickle they connect me to Dave himself, who reassures me he'll have a guy who's very familiar with my type of systems out first thing Monday. Monday arrives but no contractor and when I call to verify what time they'll be here I'm told that they no longer work with my warranty company. GREAT! Based on that unprofessional bit alone, I'm no longer recommending Dave's Heating and Air, even if I can sympathize with the fact that Allied Home Warranty sucks.  Back to the warranty company, who is surprised when I inform them that they've been fired by a contractor and finally by fate, luck of the draw or God watching over my shivering self, they set me up with a decent contractor - Bluebonnet, who is onsite within a few hours.

1/4/10: Bluebonnet HVAC discovers several disturbing things. One-a suction valve on the outdoor unit has been tightened so far it busted allowing all the freon in my entire system, along with a good bit of oil, to leak out. Hmmm that must be the same valve son or grandson tightened when adding my 2 lbs of freon. (No wonder my heat pump wasn't working at all). Then when I called him inside to check out the click click click we kept hearing for the last month, he spent all of 10 minutes upstairs before coming down and telling me the furnace circuit board is bad and the safety cut off for the gas is not working. He had to shut the entire system down since gas blowing but not igniting is a MAJOR safety concern.  Can you imagine how happy I was that my family was sleeping in a house that could have concievably blown up anytime in the last few weeks.  Nope mama was not happy at all!  Best yet, during Austin's first freak freezing cold 12 degree spell in years, we're not going to have any heat. Better prepare to invade the in-laws again.

1/7/10: Bluebonnet HVAC puts my original downstairs thermostat back on the wall since the new thermostat ( installed in October by an inept, rude, cursing, blame the client for everything contractor -- Southern Comfort H.V.A.C. Inc --another who makes Traci's Worst List but is recommended by Allied Home Warranty) was continually calling for the Heater to come on. They replaced the suction valve on my outdoor unit which, for those of us who steer clear of HVAC training and education, apparently keeps all your freon from leaking out causing your unit to not work. We lost 10 lbs of freon after the former inept contractor added 2 lbs and then tightened the valve to the point it busted and fell apart...and then they just left it.  Seriously thank goodness for Bluebonnet. Jeremy Cook knew what he was doing, was responsive and didn't ever bail in the middle of a job due to the big bad rain storm or a tricky problem. And finally after weeks of wondering if it would be easier to sell our home and move into an apartment...we have decent, normal, safe heat!



  • Austin Air Rescue:  Undecided. They seemed good and identified the problem but then refused to fix it since an incompetent contractor had messed it up. Allied ended up sending in Bluebonnet to save the day. (anyone seeing a pattern here...)

  • All Texas Air Conditioning: THUMBS DOWN!!!  DO NOT CALL.
  • Southern Comfort H.V.A.C. Inc: THUMBS DOWN...ridiculous, even cursed me, called me a liar, slammed my door and lied to the warranty company...too bad I take a crap load of pictures and had proof they were wrong. Not to mention they made three visits here and fixed nothing, broke a fan motor, fried a defrost board and eventually Allied Home Warranty sent in Bluebonnet (yep same Bluebonnet) to fix things.
  • Dave's Heating and Air: THUMBS DOWN...these guys are good, but they make my do not call list do to the unprofessional approach of dropping a client in need after promising service. That's just bad business in my book.


Ok that was no where near as short as I intended but it was seriously two weeks in chaos and that's kind of hard to summarize....LOL.  







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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Make your own latte!


Who needs Starbucks...yummy hazelnut iced coffee coming right up!
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Someone please invent this

UPC-A barcodeImage via Wikipedia

Traci's Solution to Meal Planning Annoyances:

I'm working on meal planning for this coming week and realized how much easier my life would be right now if someone would invent a hand held barcode scanner with USB cable. Then I could scan everything I have in my pantry, download it into my computer. If this hypothetical device came with a menu planning program it would analyze all my potential ingredients and tell me what I could make with what I had available. How nice would that be!!! Well if there are any inventing geniuses out there who are interested I'd be happy to provide a layman perspective on what it would need! LOL
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