Photic Sneeze Reflex

The photic sneeze reflex, or ‘sun sneeze’, is still not very well documented these days. My favorite explanation of it comes from ScienceAlert:

 

“…these Sun-related sneezes might occur thanks to ‘parasympathetic generalisation’: a process that occurs when one part of the parasympathetic nervous system – such as the pupil of the eye – is excited by a stimulus and happens to activate other parts of the system as well – such as the membranes in the nose.”

 

Since it hasn’t been linked to anything potentially dangerous or life-threatening, no one has bothered putting tons of money into studying it, yet. It’s really more of an annoyance, for those of us who ‘suffer’ from it. My dad and brother both get it from certain things, but it seems to vary in sensitivity, and the specific triggers. For instance, my brother used to sneeze every time he walked into sunlight, whereas I’d only sneeze for super bright sunlight. I used to tease that he must be allergic to sunlight. Both of us sneeze from strong peppermint. My brother sneezes from hoppy beer (I don’t drink beer, so I’m not sure if I get that too). I forget what my dad sneezes from, I think he only sneezes from peppermint. But me? Oh boy. Add dark chocolate and red wine to the list.

For some reason, I love to ‘explain’ these sneezes to friends and family by simply stating what the trigger was. Especially the ones who don’t have the reflex. They just can’t even imagine what it feels like to eat dark chocolate, get that tickling sensation, and have to give yourself a moment to recover (or to sneeze, depending on how much was eaten). And then you’re free of the sneeze reflex — until a few minutes have passed since the last bit of dark chocolate. At least, that’s my experience.

Here’s the list of my ‘photic sneeze reflex’ triggers:

  • bright sunlight
  • strong peppermint
  • dark chocolate
  • red wine

What’s your trigger?

The Ultimate (Dairy) Sacrifice

If you’re a parent, you already know that parenting requires a lot of sacrifices. Usually, that means money, sleep, a clean house, gym time, whatever. Sometimes it means moving to a safer neighborhood, eating healthier, quitting your job and becoming a stay-at-home-parent. And sometimes, it requires the ultimate sacrifice — elimination diets.

Ok, yes, I’m being facetious. But seriously, it’s hard! I’m so thankful that (so far) it seems to just be dairy, and not nuts or wheat or anything else, because it’s hard enough to eliminate dairy from your diet, especially when pizza is was a weekly indulgence. I tried a dairy-free pizza last weekend and, while it wasn’t terrible, I wasn’t a big fan. The vegan cheese was super sticky, and I’m not sure how often I’ll bother eating pizza if all vegan cheeses are like that.

And why am I giving up dairy, you ask? Oh, because we finally determined what may have been causing our daughter’s eczema. She’s almost 11 months old now, and has been getting solids for a few months now, slowly in case of reactions. She’d had a few contact rashes after certain foods, but we couldn’t find the common denominator. Two weeks ago, she had another contact rash, so I called my mom to find out what she’d eaten last. Turned out, she had eaten a few tiny bits of my dad’s ice cream shortly before I showed up. Sure enough, I looked back at all the other foods she’d had reactions to, and all of them had dairy. And since some of the dairy proteins make their way into breastmilk, that was probably the cause of her eczema.

It’s now been almost 2 weeks, which means my milk should be completely dairy-free soon, and now it’ll be about 2 weeks until it gets cleared out of my baby’s system. I haven’t noticed any eczema recently, so we’ll just have to keep watching to see if there’s anything else we should be eliminating. And if we’re lucky, she’ll outgrow this allergy in time, and she won’t have to live her life without experiencing the amazingness of non-vegan-cheese pizza. Although, if she has to not ever eat normal pizza again, at least she doesn’t already know how wonderful it is.

New House — New Garden — New Life

My husband and I bought a house last month. We were lucky enough to find a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house that we could afford, with a 3-car garage and a quarter acre lot (with a fenced backyard!). It’s a bit of a drive to get to work, but worth it. Gives me an excuse to get an audiobooks subscription. Currently listening to The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss (first time listening to it, but I’ve read the book before already). I have to say, the narration by Nick Podehl is amazing. I’m currently doing the free trial with audiobooks.com, but I might switch to Audible since it’s compatible with my Amazon Echo.

But enough about audiobooks. I want to talk about my new house!

We haven’t finished unpacking, so a lot of our stuff is still in our garage, but we’re both to the point where we just want to throw things away. So that might be my project this weekend. The first week was dedicated to painting, second and third weeks were dedicated to moving and buying things, fourth and fifth weeks were gardening.

Our garden looks pretty good so far, except that I desperately need to get the weed whacker in there. Unfortunately, the dogs have been trying to help with the gardening by digging around the a/c unit and the shed.. We have a burrower, so I’m sure their intentions are just to catch the animal, but they’re destroying the ground. Of course, the dogs can’t take all the blame now that I know for a fact that there’s a burrower there, but the dogs certainly aren’t helping matters.

Other than the gardening and unpacking, and just plain getting used to living on our own with a baby (as opposed to living with my parents for the last year and a half), I’ve also started to work on setting up the gallery wall. I know I’m missing some picture frames, so I’m hesitant to put the final nails in, but I’ve got everything hanging on pushpins in the meantime. If you ever need to hang things temporarily to figure out where to place them, pushpins are amazing for that. If not for the fact that the pushpins stick out too far, I’d just leave everything hanging on pushpins instead of bothering with nails or screws.

Anyways, that’s my update for today. If you have any audiobook suggestions, or tips for the garden or the digging dogs, please feel free to comment!

Rebating — The ‘Couponing’ of the App World

I’m sure by now we’ve all heard about how amazing couponing can be if you put in a little time and effort, scouring the internet and your newspaper ads, clipping coupons and buying only during major sales and whatnot. I know some people who have bought hundreds of dollars worth of groceries, and only paid $10-20. I have the utmost respect for those people; price matching, coupon clipping, sales, and whatnot, take a lot of time and patience.

But — I just don’t have that kind of time OR patience. Maybe in a few years, but at that point I think I’d rather use my free time reading. That’s where rebating comes in. I don’t even know if this is an actual term or not, but I’ll go ahead and use it anyways. To me, it’s the junior version of couponing. It won’t cut my grocery bill as much as couponing could, but it helps. And yes, this post does contain a couple referral links that I would love for you to use, but I promise I’m only referring them because I actually like to use them!

1. ibotta(earned $87.95 as of 10/02/17)

ibotta has been great for me so far. You choose the type of shopping you’re doing, and which store, and it shows the possible rebates you can redeem. They all require some sort of advertising to unlock the rebate, but they’re pretty simple. Sometimes it just shows a video ad, sometimes you take a simple quiz or poll, once in a while they give you a recipe that uses the product you’re trying to unlock the rebate for. Not difficult, and other than the unlocking, there are no other ads that I’ve seen. Nothing randomly pops up right as you’re about to click on something else, so no worries there. And once in a while, they have rebates that involve teamwork — so if you have a friend who is active, you can potentially earn even more money when you redeem.

Click here to sign up for ibotta (referral link)

2. ebates.com(earned $78.20 as of 10/02/17)

I’m still pretty new at this one, but I love being able to earn money by shopping online as normal. This one uses sessions and/or cookies to track when you order something through a certain site. You need to use the specific links and windows (so be careful with opening new tabs). I installed the ebates extension for Chrome so I can click the button anytime before checkout, then there’s no confusion with it. Plus, it shows you if there are any coupons available, which is helpful for saving even more money. I haven’t earned enough to cash out yet, and haven’t gotten my $10 gift card in the mail yet, but I’ve read that that can take a while. Regardless, I’ve been happy with the process so far, haven’t had any issues yet.

Update: The gift card took a while, but it did come as promised. And I’ve cashed out numerous times now, though I’ve also forgotten to activate the ebates cookie many times as well!

Click here to sign up for ebates (referral link)

3. Wal-Mart Savings Catcher(earned $60.06 as of 10/02/17)

This one is a hit-or-miss, and only applicable if you shop at Wal-Mart. It’s basically just a rewards program, but it still counts in my mind. So the premise for this one is: you shop at Wal-Mart, then scan your receipts (within 7 days) and the app will compare purchase prices to competitors advertised prices, and rebate you the difference. Except in this case, your rebate is in the form of store credit (or ‘bluebird’, which I’ve never looked into, so I can’t say anything about it). It’s slow-going, but I think it’s still worth checking out. It’s integrated into the Wal-Mart app, though you can enter your receipt number on the web site if you don’t want to use the app on your phone.

Click here to sign up for Savings Catcher

4. Target Cartwheel(saved $383.04 as of 10/02/17)

This one is the second easiest way to save money that I’ve found, though it’s the one that most people already use. With this app, you simply look through the available offers, and select the ones you think you might use. You have a limited number of spots available at a time, but you can unlock more spots as you go. You can also deselect any of them to make room for new ones anytime you want to. There will usually be a couple 50% off offers available, but most of them will be 20% off or less, so just be sure to check back once in a while. You can search for specific brands or types of offers, or just scroll through the whole list of all offers (I sort them by discount, with 50% offers at the top).

The best thing about Cartwheel? It’s instantaneous, and discounts directly at checkout, not through rebates. So it doesn’t technically belong on my list here, but it’s still great for saving money without getting too crazy.

Click here to sign up for Cartwheel

Review: Seeker

Seeker SeekerArwen Elys Dayton; Delacorte Press 2015AmazonGoodreadsGoogle Books 
Disclaimer: I received an advance reader’s copy (ARC) of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own, and no monetary compensation was received for this review.

This book had me hooked almost immediately. Magical powers, a love triangle, a secret ritual after completing training… I had no idea what a seeker was, and I needed to find out. Turns out, not even the main character knew, and when she found out, she knew she couldn’t go on doing things the way they’d been done for centuries. So she fought back.

This story has a lot of black & white, but doesn’t skip on the grey areas in between, which I like. The decisions made by the main characters were believable, and I liked that even some of the antagonists had good intentions (or at least good reasons for going along with it).

I don’t want to go into too much detail, so I’ll leave it there, and add that I’m very much looking forward to book 2 when it comes out.

Review: Dark Places

Dark Places Dark PlacesGillian Flynn; Broadway Books 2010AmazonGoodreadsGoogle Books 
I’ve been wanting to read this book for some time, ever since reading Gone Girl and falling in love with this author’s writing style. It’s dark, and the characters are the kind of characters who are easy to both like and dislike at the same time. She reveals important pieces of the protagonist very slowly, leaving a sort of bread trail to the great big epiphany about that character, hinting at something dark and dangerous and then skipping to the next thing. Leading the reader on, forcing the cogs to turn in our heads a little bit at a time… Spinning up new theories, trying to understand the connections as each new piece is presented.

The book starts out with an introduction to the protagonist, Libby Day, but she warns you ahead of time that she’s not much of a protagonist; she’s been a selfish bitch most of her life, living off the pity and money that people have sent her since her mother and two sisters were brutally murdered in her own home when she was seven years old. She’s used to taking advantage of people, and lashing out when people don’t treat her the way she wants to be treated. Given what she’s been through, it’s understandable, and she thrives off that exact conclusion.

The rest of this review contains spoilers, in case you’re curious.

In the first chapter, she’s told that her pity bank is finally about to run dry, and she needs to find a steady source of income. Twenty-five years of living off the charity of others is finally coming to an end, and she’s gonna need to get a job, or something. Her account manager hands her a few ‘fan’ letters, and in one of those letters is a request to attend a mysterious group meeting, with the promise of payment. Desperate for money, she calls him up and accepts his offer. An offer which, of course, provokes her to actually think about what happened that night. The group is called the Kill Club, which sounds more sinister than they actually are once you meet them. They’re mostly fans of trying to solve real crimes, and they all believe that her brother Ben, who was found guilty of the murders, is innocent. She gets defensive when accused of perjury by someone in the group, and storms off, adamant that she saw him kill her family.

Every other chapter tells a story from the point of view of a different character in the family, on the day leading up to the murders. The first ‘flashback’ is in the point of view of the mother, Patty Day. She’s worried about her son, because he’s been moodier than usual, and she has trouble connecting with him. Knowing, from the first chapter, that he is later accused of murdering his family later that day, the fact that he had been acting weird is a point against him. But of course, like every other story that starts off with the knowledge that someone’s already in prison for a crime, it’s not likely that this accusation is true. But knowing how Gone Girl and Sharp Objects ended, there’s definitely some sort of twist that should become more apparent soon. At this point, I’m not quite sure that he’s entirely innocent, but something’s not right.

So back to the present, Libby has started seriously thinking about what she heard at the Kill Club, and decides to prove them wrong. She calls up the author of the book detailing her brother’s guilt, and is immediately bombarded with apologies for jumping on the Satanic Panic bandwagon, which apparently was all the rage in the 80s, blaming Satanism for everything troubled teens did, and he certainly was a troubled teen. Libby’s confidence falters at this, and she starts to think that maybe her brother really was innocent. She decides to visit her brother for the first time, and in an effort to understand more about what happened, she reads the court transcripts, finally realizing that maybe she really was fed some false testimony. However, her takeaway from it all was that it wasn’t all her fault that he was found guilty; everything about the case went wrong, evidence ignored, crime scene tampered with, and of course Ben treating the trial like it was a joke.

And then: Ben kissed a 5th grader. Oh, boy..

So, without going into any more spoilers (since this is a review, not a synopsis), the rest of the story is full of coincidences and misunderstandings. Oh, and devil worship. By the middle of the book, Libby’s become more motivated to find out more about the murders, and not just for the cash anymore. By the end of the book, she seems to have overcome her depression, she’s made up with Diane, and she’s reconnected with her brother. All in all, a good ending, practically wrapped in a bow, like Sharp Objects.

I definitely recommend this book. Five stars.