Monday, February 19, 2018

New Plants' Day ~ Monday 2/19/18

Yesterday the date was bugging me all day and I couldn't figure out why, and then it hit me last night that it used to be my wedding anniversary with my ex. Weird how a date that used to mean so much then becomes meaningless and you scratch your head trying to figure out what's nagging at you.

So today is Presidents' Day and I want to wish George Washington and Abraham Lincoln a happy one.

I stayed up way too late last night, rationalizing that I could sleep in this morning and still make sure that I got my 8 hours of sleep. Well, yeah, but that neglected to take into account that if I went to bed at midnight, like I did, I would be exhausted and neglect to brush my teeth, etc.  So that wasn't a good feeling when I woke up this morning, especially when I realized that, once again, I forgot my mouthguard. Arrrgh. A week until I get my implants and I HAVE to wear the mouthguard or I could damage my jaw pretty bad, considering that I had to have bone grafts on the jaw and I clench and grind my teeth badly at night.

So I need to make a pact with myself that I will be in bed with the lights turned off and at the very least my mouthguard in and teeth brushed (I can always floss and use the Waterpik in the morning) no later than 10:30 p.m.

  • I slept 8 hours, although I was kind of restless at times.

  • I weighed myself and had lost another 3 lbs for a total of 19.6 lbs lost since 1/1. WOOHOO!

  • Greg got a paid holiday today, which is nice because not only can he stay home, but also because it saves us a bundle in tolls and gas :)

  • I had thought that I'd go sit on the patio with my mug of coffee right away, but then I came downstairs and realized... that I had a shitload of dirty dishes to do!  Arrrgh. Well, I didn't feel like doing them right that minute so I didn't. I went to drink my coffee in the living room.

  • I did remember to drink my 2 cups of water when I first got up, and I refilled the cats' water bowl as well. YS had woken up early to feed them.

  • I caught up on emails and the news and then started earning rewards. Greg got up so I went to brew him some coffee, and then I cooked us our respective breakfasts and we ate together. It was lovely (despite the mountain of dirty dishes!).

  • I used up my 2 egg yolks to make his omelet (no food waste!).

  • Then Greg called the eye doctor's office to see if he could swing by in the afternoon to pick up his new eye glasses.  They gave him a 1 p.m. appointment.

  • I continued earning rewards. Swagbucks must have heard me complain because I tried a 10 minute survey and after two minutes it said "thank you" and all my answers were obviously going to disqualify me, but it actually gave me 50 SB!  And then right after that I won a Search award for 18 SB.

  • Paypal confirmed that had credited my account with the $2.38 for the potatoes. I checked the app to see if a new coupon for produce was in my line-up for this week but I don't see anything.

  • Our son got up and I told him we have to leave at about 12:50 p.m. to go to the eye doctor, then we'd all go to Michael's (he wanted to look at some stuff since we had that 20% off your whole purchase coupon and I wanted to see if they had a 4" round cookie cutter to make new larger English muffins), and then to Lowe's (because I wanted more flowers) and then to the library so I could return a few books.

  • He said he hadn't slept well because it was hot in his room. It never gets hot in his room because his window faces North and there's a big tree over his window and the shades stay closed all the time, and the temperature was set for 74F, which is the usual temperature.  Anyhoo, he has a platform bed that Greg built him so a pedestal fan wouldn't really work and the ceiling fan in his room is too close to his bed, so I unearthed a clip-on fan for him to put on his bed. One of his older brothers used to use that upstairs.  He was thankful.

  • I researched a new recipe for "Low Fat Whole Wheat English Muffins" and found two recipes that aren't particularly low-fat, but both recipes use a mixture of whole wheat and AP flour and the pictures for the one recipe look wonderful.  So I'm going to try that the next time.  One of the commenters said that if you use bread flour instead of AP flour, the texture is much fluffier so I might try that as well.

  • Then I realized that I didn't have any flatbreads for lunch, so I went to cook some. I'd made the no-knead dough last week and it was supposed to last 5 days in the fridge. Well, when I opened the container, the dough was super wet.  I ended up adding another cup of whole wheat flour to it and it still was too wet!  What the what?!

  • It had made 16 oz of dough and the Aldi flatbreads are 2 oz each, so I weighed balls of 2 oz, pressed them (with still more flour) in my tortilla press, which didn't really work because it's only a 6" tortilla press so the dough was still too thick but also it was sticky anyway so it was hard to get it off. Arrgh.  I was very frustrated. I cooked them in my cast iron pan heated up on medium heat for 30 seconds on each side, but I ended up with 8 rather thick and small "flatbreads" that I suspected would be raw in the middle. Sigh. Plus an even larger mess in my already messy kitchen. I wasn't pleased.
What a freaking mess! But the rest of my tiny counter was covered in dirty dishes so I didn't have room anywhere else to put the tortilla press.  And even with all that extra flour, the flatbreads were wet and stuck to the press. Ugh.

The very unappealing result, lol. But it's edible. I don't think I'll make them again, though.
  • I don't want to use whole wheat tortillas because the exchanges aren't too great, i.e. I'd have to sacrifice something else that I eat on a daily basis in order to use whole wheat tortillas instead of flatbreads. Might as well continue to pay $2.49 and buy the flatbreads.  But then I thought that maybe I ought to try savory crepes, maybe that would work. I have to look up a recipe (because, once again, I used to have a crepes cookbook that I decluttered last year, UGH) and then calculate the exchanges. In the meantime, I'll eat the 8 flatbreads that I made.

  • Then I put my annoyance and bad mood to good use and did 90% of the dishes. I ran out of room to let them dry so I'll do the rest tonight with the dinner dishes.

  • It was past noon at that point but I didn't want to eat lunch yet so I made my strawberry milk shake and drank that.

  • I threw 3 cardboard boxes that I keep in my SUV trunk for carrying the groceries into the bed of Greg's truck so they could hold the plants I wanted to buy without them tipping over in the turns.

  • Greg and YS ate lunch before we left, which made me feel relieved because I was afraid they'd want to go out for lunch :)

  • So we drove to the eye doctor's. YS and I stayed in the truck and Greg was back in 5 minutes. He loves his new glasses, which he says feel better than the Dollar Store glasses. I should hope so!

  • At Michael's, I saw several things that I liked in the baking section but I didn't buy anything because they didn't have what I wanted. I decided I'd look on Amazon.  
Should I make fancy shaped English muffins?

Or cat-shaped ones?

My daughter would love those as she likes baking apparatus and "mini" things.
  • I did find a large floppy straw hat that I decided to buy because my cap just doesn't cover enough of my face and none of my nape when we walk and the sun is out.  I'll need to sew a big ribbon so I can tie if if it's windy.

  • YS found some miniatures that he wanted. He used a 40% off coupon that we got last week for one of them that wasn't on sale and paid for it on his own.  Then I took the other and paid for it, along with my hat, with the 20% off coupon (the hat was on sale so the 40% off coupon wouldn't have worked).  My OOP was $11.11 and I charged it to Amex for 1% back in Rewards.

  • Then we drove to Lowe's. It was busy, of course, it being a holiday weekend and everyone feeling like gardening because the weather has been so lovely.  I ended up buying mostly blue and purple plants!  I got:
    • 2 more lavender pots
    • 2 12-packs of red salvia (hooray!)
    • 2 pots of purple Mexican bush sage
    • 2 pots of blue SallyFun salvia
    • 2 big bags of organic potting soil
    • and 3 large pots
    • We received the 10% military discount and my OOP was $96.96, charged to Amex for 1% back in Rewards.
    • It was nice to have 2 men at my beck and call to pull my carts and load everything in the truck for me :)
    • They were out of milkweeds, by the way :(  I knew I should have grabbed more when I spotted them that last time!  I wonder why you can't readily find milkweed seeds at the store?
Sigh, $100 doesn't go far when you buy flowers.
  • Then we headed home, stopping by the library on the way so I could return my books. That'll save me a trip tomorrow!

  • When we parked in our driveway, we were greeted by a chorus of bird calls. I'm sure all of them meant "Nathalie, come sit on the patio and watch us!". Greg said "enjoy yourself, I'm going to read my book in my recliner" and I went to make my lunch.

  • I ate on the patio, of course. So lovely to be able to do this, although it's a tad hot.  The homemade flatbread made for a small sandwich. It was... OK.  At least it was edible!

  • I used some rainwater from a cat litter jug to water the new plants. I'll try to put them in their new pots later on when the sun has come down because right now it's too hot.

  • The birds are still singing but I don't see many of them. Oh well.  I know they're there!

  • Earlier today I defrosted some more reduced fat shredded cheese and string cheese. It was nice to have those available (albeit in frozen form) so I didn't have to run back to the store before Wednesday! I'm going to make sure I always have an extra pack of those in the freezer, although the reduced fat shredded cheese is rarely available at Aldi for some reason.

  • I was going to make Calypso chicken for dinner but there's no reason to defrost chicken thighs when I still have several fresh chicken breasts in the fridge. So I'll look for another recipe for the chicken and I'll cook a box of Caribbean Rice to go with it. Greg won't want any, I'm sure, so I have to think of some vegetables to cook for him... Maybe tonight is when he can have raw cauliflower with his chicken. Or make a salad and he can throw in the chicken.  YS and I like rice and pasta so it annoys me that Greg is refusing to eat any of it right now because I have that on the menu at almost every meal. The key is just to eat a little of it.

  • I entered a bonus code on Kellogg's Family Rewards worth 100 KFR points: PRES-IDEN-TSDA-YPTS (exp 2/25).

  • I found a recipe for Savory Whole Wheat Crêpes on!  They actually sound delicious and I think I'll make those for dinner one night the next time I write a menu, but for my own flatbread replacement purpose, I created a recipe into MyFitnessPal for just the crêpes (the recipe makes 8 crêpes) and then took the nutritional info per crêpe and entered it into my homemade Diabetic Exchange calculator and it's great!!! I think that's going to be what I end up using for my lunch sandwiches. Crêpes are super easy to make and cheap and tasty :) I'm excited! But first I need to eat 7 more "chapitas".

  • So I looked on Amazon for a 4" round cutter but they're sold in sets of 4 and I don't need 4, I just need one.  The price is comparable to what I would have paid at Michael's for a set of round cookie cutters and I could use the 40% off coupon to get them cheaper (they weren't on sale), so I think I'll stop by on Wednesday and get those for just $3.59 after the coupon and then I'll give the extras to my daughter.

  • Then I searched for milkweed seeds appropriate for Florida for sale online and found the LiveMonarch website, where, for a $3 donation plus $0.49 shipping, they will send me 150 seeds of a southern type of milkweed. Hooray!  I paid with Paypal so the money that I made getting free food from Walmart is going to help feed the butterflies (well I hope!). Woohoo!  I need to figure out where I'll plant the seeds now. My track record with the native Florida plant seeds that I bought last year was abysmal, so hopefully these will fare better.

  • It's now 5 p.m. and the sun is going down. My backyard is mostly in the shade now. I was going to go biking early, but I think I'll put the new plants in their pots instead.

  • In the end,  I repotted all the new plants. Hooray!  I only used 2 of the pots that I bought today, and reused several other pots that I already had on the berm or that I moved there. A couple of them had had basil seedlings in them but I guess I forgot to water them and since it's been dry for 3 weeks now, they died. So I put new plants in them and if other basil seeds germinate in the middle of that, great!

  • My 2 bags of organic potting soil weren't enough for my needs though. Poop. I HATE it when I have to stop in the middle of a project!  Thankfully, I remembered to check the small plastic shed that I have on the side of the house and where I store my soil materials and I had a bag and a half of potting soil left from either last year or the year before AND the ants hadn't gotten into them at all. Woohoo!  So I was able to finish my project.  

  • I did buy too much salvia but I found space for all of them, including the one "cell" that ended up not having a plant in it but I saw a tiny little seedling and I'm hoping it's a salvia seedling. 

  • Then I used several cat litter jugs' worth of rainwater to water all the new plants and also the others.  Earlier today I had also refilled the bird baths.

  • I'm quite pleased with my berm now, I like the blues/purples and reds and I'm hoping they'll attract not only pollinators but also hummingbirds.

  • However, tomorrow I need to sort out this mess of pots.  Some I'll keep, others I found out I can recycle at Lowe's.

  • Then I went to order the 2nd rain barrel that I've been saying I was going to order for over a year, lol. I wanted the same kind as the one I have now, so I ordered it from Home Depot instead of Lowe's despite our 10% off discount at Lowe's.  I went through Swagbucks (2% back on orders right now). I first checked Ebates and Discover Deals but neither offered anything with Home Depot.  The terra cotta colored version (the one I have) was $111!  What?!  I had paid $79 for it a couple of years back.  But then I saw that the black version was on sale for $79 with free shipping, so I ordered that one. I don't care about the color, quite frankly.  I used Paypal because I had a $5.01 account balance and the rest got charged to my Discover card.

  • For dinner I cooked one box of Caribbean Rice in the microwave and pan-fried 2 chicken breasts that I had cut into thinner cuts and sprinkled with cumin and kosher salt. I had about 1 cup of steamed broccoli leftover from last night so I gave it to Greg.  We ate while chatting.

  • Then I shooed the men out of the kitchen so I could do the dishes.

  • And then I baked a loaf of chocolate chip banana bread since YS was out of it for breakfast and I had 3 ripe bananas to use up :)

  • While it was baking, I rode my recumbent bike. I fought with my Kindle's browser to access the Overdrive website so I could try to borrow an ebook from my library. It's so much easier to do all of this on the laptop and then simply read on the Kindle Fire!  Anyhoo, I couldn't find anything that I wanted to read so I ended up downloading a Patricia Cornwell book that I suspect I might have already read, though...

  • I have 15 minutes to finish what I need to do and go get ready for bed!  Yikes!

  • $11.11 at Michael's (hat for myself, miniature for YS)
  • $96.96 at Lowe's (plants, soil, pots)
  • $79.52 at Home Depot (rain barrel)

  • Nada today. Redbox and Zaxby sent me BOGO codes & coupons  but  I didn't use them.

  • Slept: 8 hours
  • Drank:  2 cups of water upon getting up
  • Breakfast: egg white omelet with onions, zucchini, mushrooms and spinach, homemade whole wheat English muffin, orange, multivitamin. I drank coffee.
  • Snack: strawberry milk shake
  • Lunch: turkey, avocado and spinach sandwich on homemade whole wheat "flatbread", salad with light balsamic dressing, 1 cup papaya. I drank decaf.
  • Afternoon Snack: light string cheese
  • Dinner: Caribbean rice, 3 oz chicken breast
  • Evening Snack: fat free yogurt
  • Exercise: 30 min on my recumbent bike (5.6 miles)

  • For paid federal holidays
  • For Greg being home today
  • For a fun errands trip with my men
  • For pretty flowers and the money to buy them
  • For YS getting up early to feed the cats so Greg and I could sleep

New Kitty was loving Greg this morning!


Day Book: Monday 2/19/18

Outside my window... it's 10:40 a..m. I see big puffy clouds floating by and the tops of the trees are moving so there's a breeze going on. It's sunny. The azaleas across the street are gorgeous.

I am thinking... that I might spend a few more hours on my patio later on today!  No Domestic Monday as it's a federal holiday today (Presidents' Day) and I'm taking the day off.

I am thankful for... another day with my family.

From the learning rooms... YS is still prepping and studying for the P.E.R.T. test next month.

From the kitchen... loads and loads of dirty dishes.  Sigh.  I HAVE to wash them today before dinner.  I don't feel like it because there is so much.  I did unload the dishwasher while my coffee brewed this morning so it's something.  I also ought to freeze that sour cream and chicken breasts that I said I would freeze, and bake more banana bread.

I am wearing... the usual attire: walking/yoga capris (so comfy, I love them!), an emerald green walking shirts, socks and walking shoes. My hair is in a messy bun (not the trendy kind, the "I don't give a crap how my hair looks" kind).

I am creating... a mess in the kitchen by refusing to face the music and washing my dishes!  It's a holiday, why do homemakers never get to take the day off entirely?!

I am going... to run errands with Greg and YS this afternoon. And then: sit on the patio (after doing the dishes...)

I am reading... still slogging through "The Puzzle Palace" but I've also started "The Millionaire Teacher" and I finished my Michael Connelly library book this past week. I brought my Kindle downstairs today because I'm thinking about possibly downloading a thriller from the library to enjoy on the patio, but my laptop and blogs always win, lol!

I am hoping... that I get the energy to do the dishes.  Bleh. And that I find nice flowers to buy at Lowe's!

I am hearing... YS in the shower, the automatic cat laser toy that I just turned on.

Around the house... Greg is reading his book in his recliner with Male Cat on his lap.  YS just got up and is taking a shower.  Tabby Kitty and Explorer are enjoying stalking the laser beam across the living room floor. The other cats are all napping elsewhere in the house.

One of my favorite things... the key cap I bought a couple of weeks ago for my house key. It's the most satisfaction I've ever gotten out of something that cost me either 15 or 29 cents, I can't recall the price.  You can't believe how annoyed I got each time I had to unlock my front door and I couldn't find my house key immediately!  It's really the little things, sometimes!

A few things on my schedule for the rest of the week... errands today, making reservations for Spring Break, hopefully filing our taxes, paying credit cards, catching up with housework, shopping on Wednesday, taking YS to the lab for bloodwork on Thursday, the AC guy is coming to give us an estimate on duct replacement on Friday.  D&D here on Saturday again and hopefully we'll go to Bass Pro Shops and orienteering on Sunday! 

My goals for this week...  is to have no goals.  I'm going to do what I feel needs to be done but also make sure I get to enjoy the backyard a lot!

Here's the picture I'm sharing...

Tabby Kitty grooming Greg this morning :) He's never gonna shave that darn beard now, sigh.

Have a good week!

Weekly Goals - Recap: February 12 through 17, 2018

Time for me to recap how I did on my goals this past week!

Well, I didn't do great at all but it's all good, people. Goals are just that "goals". It doesn't mean that I have to hit it out of the ballpark every single time and I'm actually OK with not meeting them last week. Apart from those related to my health, though, because I am taking my health seriously this year and I do want to continue on that track and not fall back into bad habits.

Here are my overall goals for 2018:
  • Be healthier.  This will include: continue improving my dental health, lose 10% of my body weight and maintain it through the end of the year (so that should be about 23 lbs), use my recumbent bike during the week, and follow a healthier diet.
    • How I did this week:
      • Dental HealthThere were 2 nights when I went to bed too late and then didn't do my dental routine. Plus 1 of those nights was a complete failure because I also forgot to wear my mouthguard.  Sigh. Proof, once again, that I really need to stick to a set bedtime and not stay up late just because it's the weekend. It just doesn't work for me.
      • Weight Loss: I lost 3 lbs!!!!!  I'm down 19.6 lbs since 1/1.  So, so happy about that.
      • Recumbent bike: I rode my bike 6 days out of 7 and all but one day for at least 30 minutes. The one day that I didn't, I rode it for 29 minutes, lol.  
      • Hiking: On the 7th day, I hiked for 6.52 miles with Greg.  I'm very VERY happy with how I'm keeping up with my exercise every day.
      • Diet: Well I must be doing something right since I lost 3 lbs!  So I'm not going to beat myself up for the fact that I didn't plan my food intake for 2 days out of 5 (but respected my exchange plan anyway, at least in my mind) and that I didn't track my intake in MyFitnessPal at all this week. Listen, I know my exchanges equal roughly 1400 calories, which is the number that MFP wants me to use, so I saved myself some time by not entering them and I still ate about 1400 calories anyway.

  • Be a good wife, mother, and friend.  This will include: making sure that I am not projecting negativity unnecessarily, being supportive without being overwhelming, take time to listen without talking over others, continue to or start showing interest in my family's interests and making sure to spend time one on one with Greg, my kids and my IRL friends.
    • How I did this week:
      • Not projecting negativity unnecessarily: There were 2 days when things happened and I was cranky. Otherwise, I made strides and was overall positive. Yay!
      • Being supportive without being overwhelming: Yes! I supported my BFF and her daughter via texts, checked in on my Daughter's wellbeing via text but didn't press her for answers when she didn't reply right away, asked Middle Son about his plans for getting a puppy and agreed to go on walks with them but didn't set conditions or anything like that. I also offered suggestions but didn't dwell on them.
      • Taking time to listen without talking over others: I think so.
      • Showing interest in my family's interests: Yes!  I supported YS when he wanted to have his D&D club meeting here, bought snacks and drinks, met his friends, checked in on them and made sure they were OK and didn't need anything... I asked Middle Son about his photography gigs and commented on my Daughter's photo about her plants.
      • Spending time 1:1 with Greg: We hiked yesterday for over 2 hours and watched the Amazing Race together on Saturday night.
      • Spending time 1:1 with my kids: YS and I ran some errands together on several occasions, Middle Son came to visit and we chatted together on the patio for a while.
      • Spending time 1:1 with my IRL friendsI didn't see them this week but I kept in touch via texts and emails.
  • Be a good daughter, sister, aunt and grandniece.  Keep in touch with my French family regularly and pay special and sustained attention to my elderly relatives.
    • How I did this week:
      • Be a good daughter I called my mom on Saturday and we chatted for 90 minutes.
      • Be a good sister: I emailed pictures to all my siblings and commented/replied on Instagram posts.
      • Be a good aunt: Nope but that's OK.
      • Be a good grandniece: No, I still haven't written a new card to her.
  • Be a good steward of our resources. Both at home and in the world at large. Some of the things I want to do at home are to simplify and streamline our possessions, the way I do some things, and try to have a routine that I can stick to consistently.
    • Simplify and streamline our possessions I donated a couple of books to Middle Son.
    • Simplify the way I do things: I did by not using MFP at all this week, lol. It also worked a little too well this week as I didn't do nearly as much housework as I should have.
    • Try to have a routine that is consistent: I wasn't good with that this week as I went to bed too late a couple of nights and that doesn't work well for me, sadly, even if I do end up getting enough sleep.
  • Be a better homemaker and pet mommy :)  I haven't a clue of how I'm going to accomplish that but it'll probably start with my getting off my duff a little more :)
    • Be a better homemaker: Oh no, this week I wasn't a good homemaker at all. But I enjoyed my backyard a lot!
    • Be a better pet mommy: No. I was gone a lot (errands or sitting on the patio) so I wasn't available to cuddle or play.  I need to brush the cats but I keep on postponing that task too.
Finally, here were the goals that I had specified for this past week:
  • Print a new To Do List every day and cross as much off as I can: HAHAHAHAHA. I printed a To Do List on Monday, looked at it once during the week, and crossed things off  (so I wasn't a complete failure) but didn't endeavor to make sure that things were indeed getting crossed off. But you know what? I'm not going to feel guilty about it. The house is in reasonably good shape, and the weather outside has been too nice to resist. Soon it'll be hotter than hell and humid and I'll be stuck indoors.
  • Make new self-watering bins and plant my seeds: NOPE.

      Sunday, February 18, 2018

      A Walk in the Fog ~ Sunday 2/18/18

      I gave myself a break from the book about the NSA last night and started reading "The Millionaire Teacher", which Bonnie had recommended to me as a good book to learn how to diversify your investments.  My library system didn't have it so I had bought a copy.

      So far, I really like it and I'm thinking that my Daughter and Middle Son might find a copy of it in their Christmas presents this year.  I'm still at the beginning when he's discussing things that I already got covered (stay or get out of debt, and how compounding interest works) but I look forward to reading the rest.  Thanks, Bonnie!

      I put the book down at 10:30 p.m. since I was planning on getting up at 6:30 a.m. and wanted to get my 8 hours of sleep. Only an hour into my sleep, I woke up with my legs hurting.  When I checked them out, I saw that my lower legs were red with white spots. Hmm, guess who forgot to put sunscreen on her legs yesterday?!  The burns weren't all that bad but having a blanket on top of my legs was a little uncomfortable so I slathered them in moisturizing lotion (from a free sample I had received of a Jergens cream for "aging skin"!) and then just drapped the blanket on my upper body, leaving my legs exposed. Then I slept for another 5 hours. But at 4:30 a.m. I was wide awake again, and my mind kept on racing about my mom and other things and I couldn't get back to sleep!  I earned the mobile Microsoft Rewards on my phone, uploaded the coupons to my CVS and Publix apps, and then decided to try my Forensic Files trick again. But I knew that I was too awake for it to work and, sure enough, I was awake for most of the episode. But eventually I did go back to sleep, only for my alarm to ring seemingly right away!

      • I had vetoed going out to breakfast so I got up before Greg so I could cook us up a good hearty breakfast since we were going walking early to avoid the heat.

      • First I fed the cats. I didn't drink my 2 cups of water because I wasn't sure of the bathroom situation at the trailhead. The map didn't show a restroom there (but it ended up having port-o-potties).  I brewed myself a single cup of decaf, thinking that Greg might want to brew himself some "real" coffee, and I made my usual breakfast for myself.  

      • Greg got up while I was cooking and ordered a ham and cheese omelet, which I made with the 2 yolks saved from yesterday and the other 2 saved from my own breakfast. I also cooked him 2 breakfast turkey sausages in the microwave. I offered again to make him a Belgian waffle since that's what he likes at Flapjack Johnny's, but he demured.

      • So we sat together and ate breakfast at home. Time spent cooking? 7 or 8 minutes tops.  Money saved? About $30.  Woohoo!

      • Then  gathered my stuff (I always bring my coupon organizer along, just in case), refilled my water bottle, and we were off.  I found the maps from the last time we visited the area we picked for today, so we didn't need to get new ones. However we did visit a new trailhead so I ended up getting the map from that trailhead as well. Our map collection is growing :)

      • We had decided to go back to the Lake Apopka Loop Trail but this time to start at the Clay Island Trailhead and walk aside Lake Apopka, before heading back North, the way we had sent that family with the grandmother who could no longer walk, the last time we were on that trail.  It's not that far from our house (maybe 30 minutes tops? I forgot to time it) and there is no admission.

      • Right before we left, I had looked across the street beyond our neighbors' house and remarked to Greg that it looked like the fog was back (it hadn't been foggy at 4:30 a.m. when I was awake!). He said "What fog?!"  That old foggy.

      • When we started driving, this is the view we had.... 

      • And it kept on getting worse and worse, we really couldn't see very far ahead of us!  I joked that it'd be the most boring post ever because all my pictures would be just white.  An asshole passed us, going very fast, on a solid line, in a curve, without his lights on, and sure enough, almost plowed into the truck coming the other way. Guess who else needs a dash cam?!  Greg.  Arrgh.  I'll have pictures of our walk at the end of the post, as usual.

      • We ended up walking for... 6.52 miles (which surprised us as we had both guessed we had walked between 5.2 and 5.4 miles!) which included 2 hours and 5 minutes of actual walk time.  Let me tell you, at the end, we were absolutely bushed even though it wasn't a arduous hike at all (all flat).  I guess we're old, or, as Greg says "It's hard to walk in the fog!".

      • Halfway through the hike, I started talking about food again.  I was a little hungry (eating breakfast at 7 a.m. instead of (9:30 or even 10 a.m. means that I'm ready for lunch at 10:30!), and since Greg had been a good egg about not going out for breakfast even though he really wanted to, I wanted him to know that I wasn't opposed to stopping somewhere for lunch if he wanted to.  After we were done with the hike, we did our usual bickering about "where should we go or should we just go home?" and we took turns saying "OK, we'll do what you want to do!", and then we finally agreed that we'd just go home and eat there. Woohoo, another $40 expense averted!

      • You guys, I can tell that I've lost weight, which is so exciting!  Greg and I took a selfie during our walk and I don't look like a fat turtle! Maybe he's just better at taking selfies than I am, but for once I even sent the picture to my mom.  Also I can tell my belly is less bloated.  This is giving me encouragement for staying on track!

      • I was craving one of those new Ginger Lime Diet Cokes, though, and Greg mentioned that he had a BOGO coupon for those in his RaceTrac app. I checked but his had disappeared from his line-up. However, one had appeared in mine!  So we stopped by RaceTrac on the way home and he treated me to TWO Ginger Lime Diet Cokes since he doesn't really care for those and has all that Diet Dr. Pepper to drink at home anyway. Woohoo and that was only $1.07 after tax. He charged it to Discover so hopefully we should also get 5% back in bonus Rewards, and I earned 4 loyalty points on my app.

      • We got home at about 11:30 a.m.  YS was up but still in his PJs, relaxing on his computer. He's never concerned about us being gone for hours, but I do make sure to always let him know where we are.

      • I made my usual lunch. I used up the last of the Aldi flatbreads so I'll need to cook some for myself tomorrow morning. I made the dough on Thursday and it's in the fridge.  I think I might use my tortilla press to make sure they're nice and thin.

      • Greg made himself a tuna salad which he used to top some lettuce and tomatoes. He decided to eat that while he read his book from the comfort of his recliner and the air conditioning, while I headed straight back to the patio, where I plan on spending the rest of the day. I've got to grab those days when the temperature is only in the low 80s and it's not freakishly humid!

      • I didn't feel like starting my blog post just yet or even doing anything productive, so I pulled up the latest edition of "Grit" magazine on Zinio via my library system and perused it while I ate my lunch and enjoyed my Diet Coke :) The backyard is definitely not as quiet as it is during the week: people are using tools, some people are racing remote controls motorboats on the lake (and it's making a damn racket!), dogs are barking, the toddler next door was having some kind of a tantrum a short while ago. But I still love our backyard and it relaxes me. The heat is making me a little sleepy though!

      • Then I read the March issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance, although I mostly just perused it, so I might need to go back. I did print some worksheet to figure out if we're saving enough for retirement. I'll have to see what the calculations are saying...

      • I earned the rest of my Microsoft Rewards, some Swagbucks, Walgreens Balance Rewards, and AARP points.  I entered a sweepstake.

      • I also printed some coupons from Swagbucks.  I got the Sunday paper from the driveway this morning but I don't think there are any coupon inserts in it. This reminds me that I should peruse the paper. I'll go do that now.

      • I have a pile of dirty dishes to do since I didn't do them last night (The Amazing Race ended up taking twice as long as I thought it would!) and I'm tired and my feet hurt so I'm thinking I won't do them tonight either. It's OK, tomorrow is another day off and since I got my fill of the Lake Apopka surroundings this morning and it's super foggy in the mornings anyway, I'll skip that and hopefully sleep in and then do the dishes.  So that's my plan.

      • Dinner tonight is going to be grilled chicken breast (on a bun or not, depending on the person) and seasoned fries that I'll probably cook in the air fryer. I'm thinking that Greg won't want any so I'll cut up some cauliflower for him instead and he can use ranch dip or not.

      • I'm feeling sleepy despite the Diet Cokes so I'm brewing Caramel Macchiato coffee (from Aldi) at 2:20 pm.  I can sleep in tomorrow so I'm not concerned about staying up late tonight.

      • Yesterday I had texted my BFF to ask her if this had been her last week on the Whole30 cleanse and what she was planning on doing after that. She reported that she completed it, indeed, weighed herself... and had lost 12 lbs!!! She really likes how she's eating now, so she's thinking about only trying to add some honey to her coffee to see how she likes it, but keep on eating the same way for at least a few more days.  That sounds like a good plan to me! I'm stoked for her that she did so well on it!

      • LOL, every time I go back inside to pick up something (extra camera battery, the newspaper, my charging cable for the laptop), Greg looks at me sleepily and says "Are you coming back inside?" Awww I think he misses me!  But my reply is always "No. I told you, I'm planning on sitting outside the rest of the day!".  He could come outside too if he wanted, but he's enjoying the cuddles that Tabby Kitty is showering him with.  Youngest Son is going some homework.

      • I pulled the Bass Pro Shops ad from the paper to give to Greg because they're having some big fishing sale. It's quite far away from our house but it could be a fun trip (and we could stop by TJ on the way home if he wanted to go!).  I also spotted a coupon for Michael's that's for 20% off your entire purchase today and tomorrow (including sale items). I told YS about it, who loves Michael's, so we're thinking about going there tomorrow. I also texted my Daughter about it and asked her if she needed anything.

      • Aww, I just realized that I missed a call from Middle Son, probably when I went to get my coffee inside and left my phone out on the patio. I almost never get calls but somehow people I do want to talk to always call either when I don't have my phone with me, (which is extremely rare), or when I have to pee really badly!  I tried calling him back but he didn't pick up and he hasn't replied to my text either so I think he might be at work. 

      • Youngest Son took a walk to the lake last night and just went for another one this afternoon. I'm glad he's getting some exercise!  He was very good about doing that every day last year and then stopped for a long time. But we're visiting his pediatrician in a week or so for his annual check-up and we know he's going to ask "so what kind of physical activity are you doing these days?"  He can't very well reply "Well, I jump around the Cat Room and pretend that I'm in a video game every night when my mom goes to bed" (even though that IS what he does because I can hear the thump thump thump all the way through the floorboards!)" so now at least he can say "I take a daily walk!".

      • Greg is going to have to go to Romania probably in early April (grrr) and this morning we were wondering when the Winter Garden "Spring Fever in the Garden" festival is because we've attended the last couple of years, by parking in Oakland and walking the West Orange Trail all the way to the festival and back.  I usually only buy the cool wooden signs from the sign guy but last year I bought 2 of them so this year I'm going to try to abstain!  I'd love for us to pull our garden wagon so I can actually buy plants (or Greg can pull me on it if I'm tired, LOL!).  Anyhoo, I just researched it and it'll be April 7 and 8. Poop, he might be in Europe!  Either way, we'd (or I'd) need to go on the Sunday because that Saturday is the AARP "FL Planning Ahead Session" workshop that I signed up to attend...

      • You know, as beautiful  and peaceful as nature can be, it can also be so violent!  I was just reminded of that when, within seconds, I witnessed a fight between 2 lizards and then a wasp attacking (and taking a big chunk of the wings of) a butterfly or moth that was trying to get nectar from my a lavender flower! 
      The robin was minding his own business...

      Then I saw him running away...

      Here was the culprit. This is a new-to-the-neighborhood cat, which I think is way too fat to be a stray cat so it's someone's pet. Grrr. People, keep your darn cats indoors. They kill the birds!  I chased him out of the yard.  Tonight, after dark, YS came to report that he was startled to find him pressed against our sliding door. YS had never seen that cat before and he was freaking out about how absolutely huge it is!

      The one lizard had the other in its mouth!

      Look at that poor butterfly. I actually saw the wasp attacking it and ripping a chunk out of its wings!

      The culprit. Nasty thing.
      • Once again not many birds in the garden today but butterflies and wasps (and some bees) that are living the nectar from the hummingbird feeders (which I need to refill) and the very few flowers that are in my garden. They don't go to the red flowers in the tiered planter at all, though, which surprises me.  I really want to go to Lowe's and get more flowers right now!  I wonder if Greg needs anything from Lowe's...

      • Well, he didn't but suggested we go there tomorrow. So maybe the three of us will go to Michael's and Lowe's. Woohoo!  My Daughter texted back that she didn't need anything from Michael's.

      • Greg and I also discussed the Bass Pro Shops event and he was interested in going, maybe next weekend.  So I looked up parks and preserves in the Orlando area and I'm thinking I'm going to propose we go to Moss Park down in the Lake Nona area.  We went orienteering there with the Florida Orienteering Association back when YS was a toddler but haven't been back since.  It's a beautiful park and they have a permanent Orienteering course that I'd like to try, although I wonder how much the map has been altered from when it was produced several years ago to what it's like nowadays because of the hurricane...we'll have to ask the rangers.

      • I was thinking about stopping by TJ on the way home that day but my grocery budget for next week is already kind of low (last week of February for me) and I'll be driving to Gainesville for Spring Break so I'm thinking I'll just hit TJ in Gainesville on the last day of Spring Break, right before coming home, and that can come out of the March budget.

      • I replied to blog comments and then  Middle Son called to ask if he could come over and get the cat toy so I said yes but obviously it was a plot to keep me away from the kitten :(  So he came pretty soon and we chatted outside. He is still planning on getting a dog, some labrador mix pup from a rescue and asked if I'd be willing to go walk the dog with him in state parks during the week so I said sure.

      • I invited him to stay for dinner and raid my pantry so he did both, although he really didn't take much food because he's pretty picky, lol.

      • I also gave him his vaccination records since babyhood since I still had them, and then the 2 Monty Python books that I was looking to purge out of my house that he wanted.  Decluttering for today: done!

      • For dinner I cooked 2 large chicken breasts in the frying pan with a little bit of butter, salt and pepper, cooked seasoned fries for the 2 sons and myself in the air fryer, and made more skillet Parmesan zucchini for Greg because by then I had totally forgotten about the cauliflower!

      • We chatted for a bit and I showed Middle Son some of my pictures and he said they were "pretty good", which coming from him is high praise, so I'm happy with that!

      • After he left, Greg confessed he was still hungry and wanted pie. So that got YS started on wanting something sweet too and he was trying to talk his dad into going to Publix with him, which is dangerous because Greg never looks at prices there and also he's been good on his diet, so I offered to go with YS instead and told Greg I'd get him either a pint of diet ice cream or a tiny serving of regular ice cream, whichever had the least calories. He agreed. Then I realized that I needed to get more spinach anyway so it was a good thing that I was going.

      • YS drove us to Publix in the Focus.  I bought:
        • 2 boxes of Red Lobster cheddar biscuit mix (on BOGO) for my Daughter as a treat when I got visit her, so that won't come out of my grocery budget.
        • 2 bags of Fresh Express spinach, on BOGO @ $2.99
        • 1 pint of Ben & Jerry's @$4.99 but there was a blinkie for $1.00 off so I redeemed that (a store coupon that said "ONE PER HOUSEHOLD PER DAY", which is new wording for Publix store coupons as far as I know...)
        • A tiny cup of Edy's ice cream @ $1.00
        • My OOP was $10.89 after tax and I charged it to Amex for 3% back in Rewards.
        • I checked my lottery ticket but hadn't won anything. I was going to buy another advance ticket for 20 drawings but the line at Customer Service was too long so I gave up.

      • So despite having to use paper plates for dinner tonight since all my regular plates were waiting to be washed, I have even more dishes to wash now. My feet hurt pretty badly so I'll definitely wait until tomorrow morning to wash them.

      • $1.07 for 2 Ginger Lime Diet Cokes from RaceTrac
      • $10.89 at Publix for groceries and a gift.

      • Well technically 1 Diet Coke, 1 bag of spinach and 1 box of Red Lobster biscuit mix were free today since they were all on BOGO or I used a BOGO coupon to get them...
      • I got to read a couple of magazines for free via my library.

      • Slept: 7 hours
      • Drank:  0 cups of water upon getting up
      • Breakfast:  egg white omelet with onion, zucchini, mushrooms and spinach, homemade whole wheat English muffins with sugar free raspberry preserves, blueberries, and a multivitamin. I drank decaf.
      • Lunch: ham, avocado and spinach wrap, salad with light balsamic dressing, orange, strawberry milk shake. I drank Ginger Lime Diet Dr. Pepper (x2).
      • Afternoon Snack: 16 reduced fat thin wheat crackers
      • Dinner: Grilled chicken,  seasoned fries
      • Evening Snack: fat free yogurt
      • Exercise: hiked for 2 hours and 5 minutes (6.52 miles)

      • For a visit with Middle Son
      • For a long walk with Greg
      • For the temperature being so nice since it was foggy (low to mid 60s)
      • For another lovely afternoon on my patio!

      I did remember to take cat pictures today plus I have a new one of Middle Son's roommates' kitten!

      Explorer taking a nap atop my coupon organizer this afternoon, with a paw touching my purse's handle, both poor
      substitutes for me as I was spending the afternoon on the patio.

      Mean Kitty looking quite... saintly?

      Princess sleeping quite daintily with her paws crossed in front of her.

      Kitten!  Middle Son says he loves that chair and playing with it. I don't think the chair will last
      very long!

      North Lake Apopka Shore

      We drove through the fog all the way to the Clay Island trailhead, off Ranch Road in Astatula.  The map made you think Ranch Rd was straight down and since it was paved at the beginning for a mile or two, we thought it would be super easy to find the trailhead. But soon the signage ended and we had to figure out which way to go (it wasn't straight). Greg picked the dirt road but I was convinced he was wrong!  Thankfully, he reminded me that I had Google Maps on my phone so I used that to make sure we were going the right way and we were. Phew!

      A couple more turns on side roads and we found the trailhead. We were the only ones there and relieved to find that there were a couple of port-o-potties right off the parking lot. We walked all the way from the truck through this field of very wet grass to go use them... and that's when I realized that I had forgotten to wear my hiking boots but was wearing my old walking shoes (the ones with holes over the big toes and the sole that needs to be reglued back on!), Well, they were already soaked through!

      I grabbed a new map since we didn't have that one

      Part of what we walked was the Lake Apopka Loop Trail but half of it was another trail... I don't think it had a name and the signage was... haphazard. Plus the fog was disorienting!

      Well actually when we got there, it looked like the fog had started to lift so it wasn't bad at all. Greg said he was FREEZING and was wearing his plaid shirt over his T-shirt and worrying that I would be cold. Me?  My ancestors were from Poland and Eastern France, baby. It was 61F. SIXTY ONE DEGREES. I told him it was like summertime in Canada!  It wasn't cold at all and I enjoyed the cool weather very much.

      Going straight meant using part the trail that we had already used back in January, so we decided to turn left, and we'd come back the other way, walking on that part we had partly visited, last.

      So the first stretch was a couple of miles on this road... not super scenic at all and very straight. But the calls of the birds from the swamps on each side were lively and kept us guessing.

      The terrain, however, had me worried because it was hard with pretty large rocks. I was worried I'd twist my knees if I didn't look down to see where I was putting my feet, and also worried about how my feet would feel at the end of the walk. Well, I didn't twist my knee but my feet really hurt, even tonight!

      Those weeds were covered in dew and really shimmered in the filtered sunlight (the sun was sheltered behind some fog so the light was odd).

      We didn't see any snakes at all. We actually had one of those around our house a couple of years back. It hisses and pretends to be a rattlesnake when it's threatened. It hissed at me and I thought it was some kind of rattlesnake and it scared me, LOL. But thankfully I had read an article about those and how protected they are in my area just a couple of months prior to that so I let it be and then did my research to confirm it.  They also play dead when you try to pick them up, apparently.

      Redwing Blackbird, the first of the year!

      The fog in the distance

      Lots of birds all around!

      And a LOT of spider webs, everywhere!  Greg said they looked like someone had forgotten to take down their Halloween decorations!

      Clouds and fog in the distance. We thought it was burning off... how silly we were!

      A couple of herons flying in the distance

      We were approaching an observation tower protected by a couple of turkey vultures.

      Common Moorhen

      Getting closer and climbing the stairs...

      The vultures didn't like that and flew off by the road...

      where they gave us "the wing"?! Greg said they looked like they were making gang signs.

      Down below we spotted a couple of gators in the water

      Is that fog getting closer?!

      I just love those. Plus one of our favorite restaurants is called "Redwing Restaurant".

      We started walking down the road again and I could see a dark shape up ahead and the background looked very FOGGY. I zoomed as far as I could to see what the dark shape was. It was a duck!

      And then, turning back toward the tower area we had just left, the vulture was still throwing attitude!

      Another duck

      This recording station of some kind had a tall antennae and I thought a small bird had built a nest on top of it...

      But I realized once home that it was some kind of steel wool, probably added by the engineers so the birds would NOT build nests!  So much for my glasses.

      Those weeds were so pretty, shimmering in the light!

      These pictures look a little foggy to you?! Well... suddenly, I turned back toward the road and this is what I saw...

      Lots of vultures and deep, thick fog!!!  Oh no, did they conjure it to attack us? I had to remind myself that vultures eat animals who are already dead and we were still very much alive :)

      Those were actually black vultures. A different species from the ones that had watched us leave the observation tower down the road. Greg and I imagined they were rival gangs and would break off in a West Side Story kind of fight scene while we snapped our fingers... But no, they just sat there.

      There was a filtering station of some kind so obviously, they get their food from there.

      There wasn't any signage, but we realized that we were supposed to turn right (South) at that point so we did.  So.... gator infested swampy canals on each side of the "trail" and lots and lots of fog.  Well, at least we could see the trail, right?

      I did enhance the previous 2 photos because the fog made them so... bland!

      I spotted this in the distance so we went to see what it was.  I told Greg it was a turtle shell but he thought it was someone's kneepad.  A freakishly large kneepad if you ask me!

      I asked him to turn it over with his boot...

      Nope, I was right, it was a turtle shell!  

      We started seeing quite a few cyclist groups at that point, and even a runner. It's a popular place for people to come ride their bicycles, but those weren't people enjoying nature, really, they were serious riders putting in some distance.

      He finally conceded that it wasn't "freezing".

      Another observation tower, this one right on the shores of Lake Apopka.

      Yep, quite a view!  Total sarcasm, we couldn't see anything because the lake was covered by fog!

      I doubt the cormorants could see anything either!

      Under the cover of the trees, though, the fog had lifted in parts.

      Whimsical! I did saturate some colors a bit to make the photo pop a little better. Did I mention that it was still foggy?

      Water Hemlock, I think.

      As we took this slight turn, I was looking at the algae-covered water to our left and spotted a pattern of three shapes that were strangely identical. I was wondering what they were and brought them to Greg's attention...

      And then we both exclaimed at the same time: BABY GATORS!

      Cute, no?  No?  OK. 

      This little Downy Woodpecker was tiny but LOUD!  I was looking for a Pileated Woodpecker and laughed when I finally spotted him! It took Greg a while to spot him at all.

      Looks like the fog is lifting...

      Hey, this is the little bridge where we ended up before making our way back the last time we were there (but walking a different trail), back on January 7!

      As Greg said: "Finally, a little piece of blue sky!"

      Crossing the bridge, there were a lot of fish jumping out of the water and making "bloops".  We wondered if they were kwi kwis.

      We climbed this tower too, There was hog damage all around it. But we didn't see any hogs. Phew!


      The last mile and a half stretch. It was also the hardest. We were so tired!  But the fog had totally burned off by then and the sun was out.

      This tree was SO green!

      OK, the sun was higher up so the colors didn't come out right on my picture so I did saturate it (and the next one too) so you could see what I was actually seeing.  I loved the green of the new grass, the brown of the old ones, the shades of the various trees against the blue sky background. I thought it was pretty pretty.

      An osprey building a nest. I'm thankful for my comfy matttress, quite honestly!

      The last gator of the day...

      A last look at the canals. We had a good time...

      But man, we were absolutely exhausted when we got to the truck. I had to pee but once I climbed in the truck, I told Greg to just drive home because I couldn't have dragged myself out of it to use the Port-O-Potty!

      And once we got home... Greg couldn't move either, LOL!