How a Mixer Changed My Outlook

By: Azure Stilwell

This month I celebrated a milestone birthday. I turned the big 4-0h! It was a great birthday complete with 40 e-cards sent from my husband. My extended family chipped in to get me a Kitchen Aid mixer. I’ve wanted it for years but I could never justify spending that much money on a mixer, so it was a wonderful surprise.

It actually got me to thinking about why I was so afraid to purchase something that I obviously wanted for a very long time? Why should I feel the need to justify a purchase to anyone outside of my immediate family? I think I worry too much about what others think. So, for my next 40 years I am going to try and not worry so much what others think of me and focus more on my wants and needs. I might even learn how to make my own pasta with my brand new Kitchen Aid mixer! The point is, I don’t want to spend years wishing I had something but being too embarrassed to buy it because of its cost – especially when I know I will get tons of use out of it. It’s funny how wisdom really does come with age. 🙂

A Shocking Experience

By: Azure Stilwell

Sun will come out tomorrow

I have debated with myself about whether or not I should blog about my newest treatment against Bipolar Depression. After much thought I have decided to go ahead and share my experience with ECT, also known as electro-current therapy.

Unlike the treatments given 50 years ago, today’s ECT treatments are quite civilized. I haven’t had to shave my head or scurry into hospital backrooms for my treatments. I walk into outpatient services like anyone else having an outpatient procedure done. I am given an i.v. and then some anesthesia. A box is placed over my head while I am under, and a seizure is caused using electro-current. I have been doing this 3 times a week for the last 3 weeks and though the results have been slow, I have had some improvement. I am feeling less sad with each treatment.

The thing I am struggling with is not being able to drive. My family has had to rely on extended family to help me get to and from my treatments, which has been more difficult since we have no family in the Columbia area. We have had to ask family to come from the coast, Georgia, and Florida. They have all come without hesitation and it has truly been a blessing seeing how much our family cares about us.

My hope is that ECT will help me get back to the person I used to be or at least close to her. Bipolar depression has robbed me of so much of myself. I am tired of feeling sad and tired all the time. I take so much medication with little results that it would be nice to finally find a fix for what ails me. I want my life back and ECT may be the closest chance I have to a cure. Surprisingly, I am not alone in my search because the waiting room is always full with people going through the same or similar ailments as me. We have all decided to try ECT, in spite of its stigma, as a way to get back to ourselves.

Disclaimer: It is essential that you seek professional advice for all issues concerning your physical and mental health. Talk with your doctor before beginning any new health treatments. 

Love Is in the Air – or Is It in the Wallet?

By: Azure Stilwell

Valentine's Day

It’s that time of year, the time where couples celebrate being a couple and single people try to find ways to avoid the day altogether. Valentine’s Day is not a favorite holiday of mine. I find it to be very commercialized and overrated. My husband and I have a hard enough time remembering our anniversary, so forget about Vday. I know those who are in romantic, loving relationships just cringed at the thought of letting a chance to get flowers go by, but I have a funny story about that.

My husband and I had been married a couple of years when for the first time ever he decided to send me flowers for Valentine’s Day. He sent me beautiful roses, a complete surprise because we don’t buy into the holiday or flowers for that matter. I decided to call and thank him. He proceeded to tell me it was a complete spur-of-the-moment decision (which probably means his coworkers were discussing what they had bought and he felt bad) He then went on to let me know that he looked at his bank account and realized he didn’t have enough to cover the cost, so I had to transfer money to his account. It was probably one of the funniest and most “us” moments we have ever had. We still laugh about it every Valentine’s Day!

We decided long ago we are just not mushy romantic people. We are more practical, in the way I find it so attractive when he folds the laundry and he loves it when I cook him dinner. For us, those little things are as – if not more – romantic than the big things.

So for all of you single people out there dreading this holiday, just know that not all couples buy into the hype. And if that doesn’t make you feel better, then buy yourself some flowers and call it a day – but make sure you have the funds to cover it first! 🙂

January Blues

By: Azure Stilwell

This month has been difficult for me. I feel bad for feeling bad, but my posts are real so here it goes.

Sun will come out tomorrow

The high of Christmas and having my oldest home from college has passed and everyone has returned to a normal schedule. That is, everyone except me. My normal schedule has become a battle with depression and it is winning this month. Being Bipolar is difficult, especially during the lower times. My medications have been changed so many times I can’t even keep count anymore. I sit at home either giving into or fighting the urge to sleep my day away. I need a purpose, a reason to get up, and right now I just can’t find one, at least not until 3 p.m. – that’s when my youngest gets off the bus.

I have thought about volunteering somewhere but I don’t know where or how to begin to do something like that. I have a hard time with a set schedule. I never know when I will have a Bipolar episode, so having others depend on me causes anxiety within me. It’s really a catch 22. I need to get out to overcome my depression but I am too anxious to commit to any set volunteer time. I need a place that allows me to set my times or has short bursts of time available, say 1-3 hours, so I don’t get overwhelmed.

I have social anxiety which causes me to have a very small circle of people. Since I quit working, that circle in Columbia has gotten even smaller. I also want to feel needed and not just sitting around feeling like I am just there instead of at home.

I need suggestions on how and where to get started volunteering. Any ideas?

Easy Vacation Dinner After a Long Day of Hiking

By: Azure Stilwell

crack-chicken-recipe

This past weekend we took full advantage of the beautiful weather and went on a family mini-vacation to Helen, Georgia. The cabin we stayed in was absolutely beautiful, with breathtaking views of a lake in a little valley. Helen itself was cool but it was the winding back roads and color changing trees that made the trip for us.

During our trip, each family took turns cooking dinner. On my parent’s night my mom made “crack” chicken. This stuff was delicious. We used Hawaiian Sweet Bread Buns, lightly buttered and toasted in the oven as our base for the filling. A nice vinegar salad or coleslaw will balance out the richness of the chicken mixture very well. Below I will post the recipe for “crack” chicken but I also wanted to let you know that I hiked up almost a mile up to Anna Ruby Falls and it was absolutely gorgeous. (Though I nearly died from an asthma attack, the view was so worth the breathlessness). The hike was a not-so-friendly reminder that I have got to get into better shape, but eating “crack” chicken is not the way to that path. Just sayin’. 🙂

Crack Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts (4 or 5) or you can use chicken strips (but maybe change cook time to 4 hours)
  • 16 oz cream cheese
  • 1 packet of ranch seasoning mix (2 if you really like the ranch taste). We used Hidden Valley.

Instructions:

  1. Mix ranch and cream cheese together. Place chicken in crockpot and cover with cream cheese mixture. Set crockpot to low and cook 6 hours. Once this mixture is on, go have fun. Come back and move to step 2.
  2. Fry up 1 pack of bacon and break into tiny pieces (you want it to be kind of crunchy)
  3. Lightly butter and toast your buns of choice.
  4. Shred chicken mixture with two forks, place on toasted sweet bun, top with bacon bits, and enjoy the best chicken sandwich ever.

You’re welcome.

Show Me the Money

 

By: Azure Stilwell

Saving money

Anyone who knows me knows I love a great deal. I enjoy saving money whenever I can, so I rely on a few apps and websites to get me great savings.

Ibotta: An app that allows you to unlock various grocery or retail items by watching short videos, answering a multiple choice question or simply pressing unlock. It only takes a few seconds to unlock each item. Once they are unlocked you simply go grocery shopping, scan the items, and take a picture of your receipt. Money is then added to your account and can be taken out when you reach $20. My favorite ways are regal cinema gift cards and itunes. I have saved hundreds of dollars over the last year and half using this app.

Saving’s Catcher: A Walmart app that allows you to shop at your local Walmart and then upload your receipt. The app/website then compares all local stores (usually 50 to 90) for a better price. If one is found you get the difference back and can add it to a bluebird card that can be used at any Walmart or an e-gift card for Walmart.com. I used my savings from this site to pay for almost all of my son’s Christmas gifts two years ago. I have used it countless times to purchase birthday presents for others.

Saving Star: An app that allows you to upload store cards for automatic savings when an item is purchased. You simply add the available items that you want to your account and then shop. Upload your receipts for places that don’t have a card, like Walmart. With this app I have my funds added to PayPal.  For me this one takes a little longer to earn money because you sometimes have to buy in bulk but it has still been worth it.

Finally, the www.kelloggsfamilyrewards.com site allows me to upload a receipt via my cell phone whenever I purchase a Kellogg’s item. I have gotten tons of iTunes cards, movie tickets to AMC, and free kids books. This is the easiest site for me to use and I rack up lots of points with all of their bonuses.

I hope these resources help you save some money, too!

A Fall Treat

By: Azure Stilwell

pumpkin-muffins

This is my favorite month of the year! I love the cool weather, the festivals, the fair, and Halloween. It’s all about yummy foods and fun.

One of my favorite muffins to make during the Fall is so simple I didn’t think it would actually work when I found the recipe on Pinterest. All you need to make these pumpkin spice muffins is one can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling, but real pumpkin) and one box of spice cake mix. You mix both ingredients together, bake, and enjoy. They look like rustic muffins because they come out all lumpy on top, but they taste fantastic. My boys love it when I make cinnamon cream cheese icing to go on top but they taste great with or without the icing. If you want to dress them up then pipe on the icing and top with a candy corn pumpkin. So cute!

To make the muffins:

  • 1 can of Libby Pumpkin
  • 1 box of spice cake mix

Combine ingredients with a large wooden spoon. (Your mixer will thank you for not using it.) Spoon the mixture into greased muffin cups.Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

To make the icing (optional):

  • 1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium-high speed until fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low. Add sugar, 1 cup at a time, and then cinnamon and vanilla; mix until smooth.