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.





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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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Great Gluten Free Maize Free Site

1 in 25 Americans has food allergyImage by Marcin Wichary via Flickr

In my never ending search for more information on cooking for someone with allergies, I came across this Gluten and Corn-Free Getting Started Guide.

I found the information very helpful and if you cook for or live with someone with food allergies, or have food allergies yourself, it's a great place to start.

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Friday, January 1, 2010

Goodbye 2009

Phineas FlynnImage via Wikipedia

2009 was a FANTASTIC year for us. Alex is growing by leaps and bounds and never fails to amaze me with his questions, insights and imagination. He loves Phineas and Ferb, a cartoon funny enough to entertain Eric and I too, and of course Cars, the movie. He's constantly quoting his favorite characters and starting to make up his own songs. All in all a joy to be around...now if only we could FINALLY teach him to sleep!

Eric and I are still plugging away. We've installed new doors, upgraded a few appliances and generally just kept pace this year. I hope 2010 will be the year for us to get some gorgeous landscaping done, finally paint the guest room and get some finishing touches done on our decor.

Our Hoppin Johns are in the crockpot and we look forward to the luck they'll bring in 2010. Eric's a stick in the mud and refuses to "have" a new year's resolution, but I'm determined that we'll do more as a couple.

From our family to yours we hope 2010 brings health, wealth and happiness and sees you surrounded by family and friends.