Author: Ashley

Stocking Stuffer Realness

Ok, these stocking stuffer posts are insane. You know the ones. They suggest stuffing your stockings with cameras, watches, shaving brushes (have you seen how expensive those are?), or iPods, for heaven’s sake. Look, I do nine stockings and not one of them is getting filled with even a disposable camera or a plastic razor.

What I need in my life are stocking stuffers that won’t kill my bank account while maintaining stockings as my favorite part of Christmas morning. Hence this year’s challenge: no stocking item will be over $5.00 while still being awesome. Here’s what I’ve come up with.

Stationery 

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 We’re gonna read this like a book (mainly ’cause I forgot to put numbers in and I’m too lazy to fix it.) So ….

  1. Parking Citation pad $5.00 Got this for my husband who lives for road rage.
  2. Is This Your Best Work stickies $3.99 My brother-in-law’s a teacher. Perfect?
  3. Sorry not Sorry stickies $3.99 My BIL’s partner is a bit .. entitled. At least he knows it!
  4.  Music Notebook $3.25 My mother, a lifelong musician, will love this! Here’s more:music-notebook-inside
  5. Frog sticky notes $2.99
  6. Mental Note stickies $3.99 Remember? Contemplate? Eventually Forget?
  7. Screw It  stickies $2.99 (sale) Not for everyone, but for my husband ….
  8. Matryoshka Doll sticky flags $3.99 Mama loves all things Russian. And they’re cute!!
  9. Captain’s Log notebook $3.25 For any Star Trek fan. Just as cool as the Music Notes.
  10. Computer error stickies $3.99 Pick a computer lover, hater, fixer ….
  11. We Need to Talk stickies $2.99 (sale) I’m putting one in each kids’ stocking. we-need-to-talk-notes
  12. Paper Voodoo pad $3.00 Again, for someone I know who holds a grudge.

 

Remaining Stationery and Office Supplies

stocking-stuffers-office-supplies-numbered

  1. Metallic Crayola colored pencils $3.99
  2. The Unemployed Philosophers Guild notebook $3.25 All the geekery ….uepg
  3. Dr. Seuss Green Eggs and Ham notepad $3.25
  4. Mini Masterpieces notebook  $3.25 Y’all, clearly I love these things. My daughter gets this one. mini-masterpieces
  5. Eiffel Tower pens These are $8.49/dozen. With nine stocking, that’s a great buy.
  6. Popcorn scratch ‘n stiff stickers $2.49 My son loves popcorn!
  7. Dr. Seuss pencils $3.99 Seven come in this pack. That’s $0.57/pencil and I spread them around.
  8. White polymer erasers $2.49 My husband loves these things. 3/pack
  9. Stargazing notebook $3.25 This is the last one. I promise. But they’re SO COOL. And many, many more designs available at The Unemployed Philosophers Guild.
  10. XL Christmas Pencils $2.48 for three 15″ pencils. Son, BIL, Step Dad.
  11. Magic 8 Ball Pens $7.49/dozen This may be my favorite silly thing for Christmas morning. Ask a question, click the pen, and get your Magic 8 ball answer. Everyone gets one!

 

Toys

toys-blog-numbered

  1. Peg Game $3.99 Ah, Cracker Barrel memories. Both kids get this one!
  2. Banana Slugfest $2.99 Slimy, sticky … a boy’s dream.
  3. Revenge Cards $1.99 50 suggestions for getting your revenge. Goes well with that voodoo pad!
  4. Twirl Time Glitter Wand $2.99 So much fun.
  5. Black Cat Ears Headband  $2.50 Every cat lover ever.
  6. Octopus Tentacle Fingers $6.99 My son BEGGED for these. Sigh.
  7. Blinking Reindeer Nose $1.99 This goes to my very serious, mid-50’s, professor brother. Everyone needs some silliness sometimes.
  8. Reindeer Antler Glasses $4.99 The company has the nerve to call these “tacky.”
  9. Glow in the Dark Spit Balls $2.99 Why do I do this to myself?
  10. Green Snotty Slime Kit $2.99 Can you tell I have a boy in the house?
  11. Space Plant $2.99 My son is obsessed with space.
  12. Solar System Stress Balls  $11.99 / 9 Everyone gets their favorite planet!
  13. 1040 Toilet Paper $3.00 Perfect for my step-father who despises doing his taxes!
  14. Giant Aspirin $4.99 Another silly item for my step-father.
  15. Money tissues $1.99 Yep, step-father again.
  16. And rounding out the bottom row for my step-father is this Credit Card Lightbulb. Normally $4.99, but on sale as I write this for $0.99!

 

Beauty Products

beauty-stocking

  1. L’Occitane hand creams $14.00 / set of 4 I’m never far from a tube of this stuff, which I hate myself for since they still test on animals. Anyway, break this set up and it’s $3.50/tube, which is a great deal for this usually expensive product. Even the boys get some! The shea butter feels great and has no discernible scent.
  2. Lavender Foot Mask $5.00 For both mom and mom-in-law. Also available in almond.
  3. Rosie the Riveter Lip Balm $3.99 How cute is she?
  4. Van Gogh’s Sunflower Soap $3.00 My daughter loves sunflowers. As with their notebooks, The Unemployed Philosophers Guild has a lot of these adorable little soaps. Folks in my fam are also getting:tiny-soaps
  5. Clinique Lip and Eye Pencil Sharpener $4.00 All the girls get one!
  6. Charcoal Swabs $3.00 Like Q-tips, but better. Check ’em out.
  7. Sisal Cotton Sponge $2.99 You wash my back ….
  8. Nail Polish Remover Wipes $5.00 / 10 Perfect for travel.
  9. Ice Cream Nail Files $3.99 Fun and useful
  10. Hello Kitty Lip Gloss $4.99 I have a serious Hello Kitty addict in my house!
  11. Anal Traveler Hand Sanitizer $3.99 Yes, we have someone who hates, hates, hates germs.
  12. Marvis Travel Toothpaste set $15.00 / 3 tubes … Classic Strong Mint, Whitening Mint, and Ginger Mint. All for the boys.

I have many, many more beauty and toiletry items. Most are travel size things like Listerine, dental floss, Shout wipes, Tide pens, Crest toothpaste, lip balm, Vaseline, Kleenex, mini lint rollers, etc. Many of these things I picked up very cheap via Amazon Prime Pantry. I also have a nice stash of samples from Sephora that will get divvied up.

 

Candy and Food

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  1. Downton Abbey Orange Marmalade $4.99 No one loves Downton Abbey more than my Mom. Oh, she likes orange marmalade, too.
  2. Star Wars Jelly Bellies $3.27 / 3
  3. Bar Humbug! $4.95 Here we go again with my love affair for The Unemployed Philosophers Guild and their products, in this case, their fruit and nut bars with awesome packaging (including puzzles!). Here are the ones we’re doling out:uepg-bars-ssBar Humbug!, Einstein, Freud, The Last Supper, Sherlock Holmes. Isn’t it weird how that angle throws everything off? Geesh. So, check the bars out here. And no, I don’t work for these people.
  4. Chocolate Animal Coins $11.94 / 6 Little mesh bags filled with goodness.
  5. Rudolph tin filled with candy $3.99 I got two of these cute things!
  6. Umbrella Chocolates $9.95 / 5 These are SO CUTE.
  7. Hot Cocoa Spoons $4.98 / 2 Each kiddo gets one of these. Always good on snow days!
  8. BAWLS Caffeinated Mints $3.99 for 1 or a 4 pack for $9.99. I’m awake already!!
  9. Classic Batman Mints $2.99 My son loves mints and Batman. Win!
  10. Your Future Called gum $1.99 For my girl.
  11. Toblerone $14.95 / 5 small bars. Who doesn’t love Toblerone?
  12. More funny gum …. $1.99 Now be quiet .
  13. Falksalt Natural Sea Salt Flakes $3.49 (sale)  For my gourmand brother
  14. Herbes de Provence $2.49 (sale) I bought a couple for a couple family members who like to cook.
  15. Absinthe toothpicks $2.99 Great fun. I also picked up Bacon Toothpicks.
  16. Cute, but Psycho gum $1.99 We’re a little weird.
  17. Mister Rogers’ Encouragemints $3.00 Again with The Unemployed Philosophers! They’re just so clever. Here are the rest Santa’s bringing to our house:uepg-mints-ss

 

Household Fun-ness

*Magnetsss-magnets

1., 3., 4., and 6. are sets that can be broken up. Check out ThinkGeek.com for more.

2  and 5 are each $1.59 on sale from Knock Knock, a perennial stocking stuffer favorite.

7 is our lone Dr. Who representative this year. $3.99 at Stupid.com.

*And the rest ….misc-household-ss

  1. Santa Tumblers $3.98 set of 2 Melamine. One in my brother in law’s and one in his partner’s stockings.
  2. Stainless Steel Bar Spoon $2.99 For my brother, the at-home barkeep.
  3. Lucky Cat Figurine $7.98 set of 2
  4. UNC beverage napkins $1.97 Several schools available.
  5. Red Villa Striped Kitchen Tea Towel $2.99 (on sale) Great in any kitchen.
  6. and 7. Gray Silicone Spoon and Spoonula with Wooden Handles $3.99 each. Again, great in any kitchen and they’ll think you spent a whole lot more.

So that’s the round up for today. Good luck with your own stuffing! And if you find something cool for less than $5.00, please let me know!

What Vegans Really Eat

I saw a post with this title floating around Pinterest, so I clicked on it out of curiosity. I’m (practically) a vegan, not by choice, but because my body won’t process (most) animal proteins. When I eat meat, dairy, or eggs, I’m left in pain and with … digestive repercussions. So my diet is plant based with some occasional fish which, strangely, my body can handle.

I’m always interested in what other vegans eat, usually finding that their diets are full of things I’m not interested in, like meat substitutes and scrambled tofu. This sample diet was, unfortunately, no exception. Her breakfasts were scrambled tofu with spinach and garlic or breakfast burritos with scrambled tofu. Lunch and supper featured seitan. Those just aren’t my things.

So for all the vegans who might eat simpler diets, I thought I’d post what I ate last week. It’s not very exciting, but not challenging to make and approved by the omnivores in my house. Enjoy.

Breakfast (each day with a small glass of orange juice, one cup black coffee, and water)

Monday: Chocolate Overnight Oatmeal Smoothie (I used this vegan Nibmore Drinking Chocolate for the cocoa powder.)

Tuesday: Grits (Quaker instant, plain), with whole wheat toast with Earth Balance (vegan) Buttery Spread (Note: many of Quaker’s instant flavors, including bacon, are vegetarian, if not vegan.)

Wednesday: Two slices of whole wheat toast, one with Earth Balance spread, one with peanut butter

Thursday: I was on the go, so I had pita chips and a banana in the car with a grande Starbucks soy latte and a handful of mixed nuts (I keep a canister in the car)

Friday: Grits and toast (I really like grits)

Saturday: Toast and peanut butter

Lunch – I won’t go day by day here. This week, I ate either leftovers or hummus with pita chips every day. I’m on a hummus kick lately and these are the two I ate this week:

Everything Bagel Hummus and Spinach Artichoke Hummus

I did not eat lunch on Thursday, when I got shot up with Toradol and went to bed!

Supper

Monday: Vegetable soup, crusty bread (I recently started making homemade vegetable stock, which is so much easier than it sounds. As I cut veggies all the time, I throw the ends of the onions, peppers, garlic, celery, etc., the carrot peelings, the mushroom stems into a gallon freezer bag which I keep in the freezer. Once it’s full, I put it in a large stock pot with about 9 cups water and salt and pepper it, throw in a bay leaf, and let boil. Then I reduce the heat, cover it, and let it cook for about an hour. Finally, I strain it through a fine mesh strainer and I have a ton of broth, which I freeze until I need it. Easy, healthy, and a good reuse for those veggies.)

Tuesday: Broccoli Curry Udon (This girl wrote my first vegan cookbook, Veganomicon, and I still use it. Her blog is awesome.)

Wednesday: Roasted broccoli and carrots, smashed potatoes, crusty bread

Thursday: Leftovers

Friday: A handful of Five Guys fries (ordered in for the fam from GrubSouth), hummus and pita chips. Not my healthiest night!

Snacks

Lately, I’ve been snacking on that hummus a lot. I’ve admittedly been eating too many pita chips! It would be healthier to eat it with veggies, but …. I almost always have a handful or two of nuts during the day sometime. I’ll pick up a banana or some celery and peanut butter.

So … nothing hard. And each day, combining nuts and beans and milks, I get that pesky protein folks are always worried about. I didn’t go into this week expecting to write about it, so I didn’t make a big stir fry with fried tofu (which I do love and make often) or lots of other healthy, veggie and legume filled meals. So a simple week, not really paying attention, and still fulfilling what I need and not getting bored. Being vegan just isn’t as hard and complicated as folks make it seem.

Migraines, pt. 2

So yesterday I ended a four day migraine. Over the last couple of years, I’ve mainly gotten away with one day migraines that I could sleep off overnight. This last one, though, was a doozy that clung to me from day to day to day to day.

Yesterday, I wandered into my neurologist’s office, just a floor up from my psychiatrist’s office where I had an already scheduled appointment. I expected to leave a message for the nurse, further expecting that she would return my call and then order up a steroid pack for me. I had exhausted my other options: Fioricet, Cataflam, Midrin, and Lortab.

To my great delight, I discovered that my neuro has opened a migraine clinic! Within ten minutes, I was in a dark room talking to a nurse practitioner and ten minutes after that, I had my hip out getting an injection of Toradol and steroids. Had I had someone to drive me home, they would have given me some nice fat sedating meds, too. Alas, that wasn’t the case. But with the Toradol, I got to come home with an eased head and room to sleep off the migraine. Last night, I was pain free for the first time in days.

The next issue to address is why I have a constant low grade headache. As soon as the drugstore can get it filled, I’ll go on a med we haven’t tried yet, Calan. I’ve also determined I need to be more intentional with my diet. I’m not drinking enough water and too much booze when dehydration is killer for migraines. Chocolate is out, including the oatmeal chocolate smoothie I had for breakfast, as nourishing as it was. I eat a plant based diet, which is good, but I need to eat more constantly, making sure that I keep my blood sugar steady. I also need to make sure I’m getting enough sleep, a constant challenge for bipolar me.

So mainly good news: new migraine clinic, new med, a refocusing on lifestyle. First world solutions I’m lucky to have.

Migraines

There are some things I’ve inherited from my Mom that I so appreciate. Socially, she instilled in me her social graces, her sense of gratitude, her kindness (which I execute when my bipolar doesn’t make me a bitch), and her tolerance. Intellectually, she instilled her love for reading and learning. And genetically, I scored her beautiful blue eyes and the widow’s peak I love.

On the flip, I got her migraines. I’ve had many recently, I think due to weather and I have one as I type this. I heard a migraineur, as we’re called, on the radio once say that we can experience pain no one else can imagine and still function. I’m not sure that isn’t some hyperbole as I think sufferers of back pain could be right there, but I get her meaning. Right now, my face is burning, I feel like someone is driving daggers into the back of my head, and the front of my head feels as if there’s an open wound and someone is rubbing gravel into it. At least that’s the best way I can describe the pain to you.

I’m on daily medication, Topamax, to try and manage my migraines. My doctor recently tried to put me on an extended release version of this med, called Qudexy, but my insurance company, TriCare, declined to cooperate. When I get a migraine, I have several options to manage it. A medication called Fioricet, which I took first thing this morning, normally dulls the pain so I can function. If I need a stronger medication, I take an old school med, which is almost impossible to find anymore, called Midrin. Imitrex is a more popular option, but it makes me feel like I can’t breathe so I obviously stay clear and another popular option, Maxalt, doesn’t work for me.

When the migraine is unmanageable; when it makes me crawl to bathroom throwing up; when it takes my sight, actually blinding me; I go to the ER. ER docs are used to migraineurs. I get a good combo of Toradol, a pain med, and Compazine, a nausea med, some IV fluids, and sleep it off. I have both Toradol and Compazine at home, but the IV administration is better.

I’ve had MRIs to try and find out why I have frequent and tenacious migraines and the answer, as it is for so many migraineurs is, “no idea.” There is some evidence that bipolar folks have migraine disease. Why? Your guess is a good as mine.

When my Mom was about my age, she had terrible migraines. She even went to Duke University to participate in a study. Nothing came of it. I remember riding with her in the back of the car, taking her to the ER while she threw up. After menopause, her migraines virtually went away and now, in her 70’s, she has none. I can only hope that I’ll inherit that tendency, as well.

Avocado Boy

There’s a boy who’s stolen my heart. They (We) call him “Avocado Boy.” Here he is:

I love this kid. When have you seen something sweeter? My kids are pretty good at pretending they like the weird thing their Lola gave them for Christmas. But this kid … this kid … he’s awesome.

Because I love him so much, my beautiful, wonderful, creative children gave me the best Christmas present ever: an avocado. I laughed until I cried. Sometimes, this life brings me more joy than I can stand.

Nobody Brings Casseroles

Recently, another friend got in touch because she heard of Mom’s diagnosis. She was telling me that a friend of her Mother’s recently died with Alzheimer’s, but that no one really knew what was going on until the woman was too lost within herself to visit effectively.

When my Aunt Jane was diagnosed, I didn’t stay away on purpose, at least not at first. Her disease progressed rapidly, though, and she was dead three and half years after a diagnosis of frontal lobe dementia. My Dad kept me abreast of her decline and I realized fairly early on that the chances that she wouldn’t recognize me were pretty high and that wasn’t a reality I was prepared for. Not visiting her was a shitty thing to do, to her and myself and, especially, her family. But as we’ve learned, I don’t always make the right decisions, more frequently the selfish ones.

I think I’m learning, though, that dementia and, especially, Alzheimer’s (the word seeming to make all things worse) make selfish normal. People hear of Mom’s diagnosis and call me, not Mom, because it’s easier and they’re afraid of how they might find her. Mom doesn’t want anyone to know because of pride, which is a selfish emotion. So in the end, she is more alone. No one visits, no one offers help, no one brings casseroles.

Slowly, people will, of course, find out. Alzheimer’s is too big a secret to contain. But I suspect by that point, she will be past the need for casseroles and into the need for Mom-sitting. She will need less conversation and more listening, more simple companionship. And that’s a shame. Because now is the time when people could wring out their last memories of her. Now is the time for coffee and shopping, for singing with her at church, for a glass of wine in the afternoon, even if a little guidance is required. Now is the time to say, “Hey, I know your mind isn’t what it used to be, but that’s ok, I’m here and I’ll continue to be.” She won’t remember that for long, not when you’re bringing casseroles to her husband for a little respite care. I just wish that everyone, perhaps Mom especially, could put aside selfish long enough to make room for gratitude and love and friendship and all the good we could be doing now to give us things to hold onto later.

Loss

I was watching a Sports Center Special this morning and heard this question: “What would you do in the last hour of your life?”

I’ve been thinking a lot about death recently. One might think my focus would be my Mom as Alzheimer’s very slowly takes her. But it’s much more mundane than that. I’ve been thinking about our cat, Cas, and how my daughter, who is in loving obsession with her, will handle it when Cas inevitably dies.

I know, I know: don’t borrow trouble. I’m a worrier, a condition would could via psychology be traced back to events in my life, but which is more likely a property of personality. I was reticent to get a pet. I remember how painful the death of my childhood pet was and wanted to protect my kids, my overly sensitive Sweet Girl especially, from that eventuality. But here we are, in a place where she is so completely attached that I fear Cas’ death will overwhelm her.

At this point, I think my Mom might die before Cas. Strangely, this doesn’t worry me as much, perhaps because we have time to prepare. Perhaps because she will go so slowly and in such a painful way, for us anyway, that we will be relieved when she goes.

Or perhaps it’s because Cas’ death is smaller, more manageable. Her death will happen, be managed, and pass. Whereas Mom’s death will linger, for the rest of our lives. I remember where I was when my Father told me that our cat died, but the aftermath is lost. The aftermath of my Grandmother’s loss still lingers. And that’s the difference.

The question this morning struck me: “What would you do in the last hour of your life?” If given a choice, I’d be with my kids, doing anything they wanted. Unfortunately, we usually don’t get to know that it’s the last hour of our lives. We may know with Cas, but we may not with Mom. In either case, I’m not sure it will matter. Their losses will be deeply felt, possibly with relief, in both the short term and the long. And whether in the longest hours or the last of my life, I will be there for my children, helping them through.