Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Walk Through Leu Gardens and A Nice Lunch ~ Thursday 4/28/16

Greg left for North Carolina this morning. He will be spending a couple of days meeting his first grandson.  He's planning on camping unless it rains a lot over there today, in which case he'll try to find a hotel since his daughter is still living with friends at this point.

I cooked him breakfast before he left, and then he stopped by RaceTrac before leaving town to get his free Sodapalooza soda refill for the road.  There is a RaceTrac in Ocala, 45 minutes away from here, but then nothing for a long time as, for some reason, there aren't any RaceTrac in most of North Florida.  I packed him a leftover cheeseburger from last night for his dinner.

Sodapalooza refill in Ocala!  I know that he also refilled in Atlanta, GA :)
Good news: the $5 Amazon gift card is once again available from Bing Rewards, although it is no longer suggested as a reward.  Mine still showed as my goal so I was able to click on that to redeem it. Finally!

I completed my daily Bing Rewards credits too, which are definitely down to just 27 a day.

For Swagbucks I did the daily poll, NOSO path (which awarded me the Capcha code without nary an offer having been displayed, yay!) and there are short videos to play in my SB inbox that will earn me about 15 SB, so I'm working on that now.

Thursday morning is the day when I get the extra Orlando Sentinel.  I will peruse it since I feel obligated to do so, although there is never anything interesting because I've already read most of the news that they print online the previous day.  Are newspapers becoming obsolete?  I guess not if you'd rather read your news in print and don't mind if they're a day late :)  However, I was happy to find a sheet of Hardee's coupons in there.  For some reason Hardee's only features a couple of coupons on their own site and you have to earn coupons with their Rewards app, which is kind of lame.

Today won't be "productive" as far as chores are concerned: I'm planning on leaving mid-morning so I can enjoy Leu Botanical Gardens in Orlando, then go to the UCF area to have lunch with my oldest son (yay!). I think I'll give him his graduation present today since I won't see him next week. I was thinking about riding my bike on the West Orange Trail on my way home, but now I'm thinking I probably won't. I also have to stop by the vet's to pick up the cat food and RaceTrac to get a refill on my Sodapalooza cup. Oh!  And I want to stop by Panera to get my free bagel!

Dinner tonight is supposed to be Breakfast for Dinner so nothing to defrost or make in advance and the kids will be happy with my choice :)

Girls Who Code sent me an email to promote their YouTube channel and on it I found a very interesting video about their Summer Immersion Program that I thought I'd share here.  Remember, if your teen girl is selected for it, the camp itself is completely free and they also feed them lunch. However, you have to arrange for your own transportation to the camp (and every day) and also your own lodging.  It's difficult if you don't live in or near one of the cities where they offer the camps. However they do have a need-based scholarship program that you can apply for to help defray these costs.  They have selected all the participants for Summer 2016 but you might know a girl who'd like to participate in Summer 2017!

CVS sent me one of those 25% off your in-store purchase coupons (only valid on non-sale, non-milk products) so I sent it to my ExtraCare card.

I took a shower and collected more water to use to flush the toilet later on and left on my half day of adventures.

First, I stopped by RaceTrac to get a caffeine free Diet Coke with my Sodapalooza cup for the road and I also redeemed a survey reward code for a free giant chocolate chip cookie.

Those of you who know that I pick up bottles on the side of the road for the MyCokeRewards codes won't be surprised to learn that when I saw the guy in front of me, outside of the store, throw away his empty Coke bottle in the trashcan and that I saw another one sitting there with its cap still on too, I was THIS CLOSE to reaching in and grabbing both bottles.  But I was too self-conscious and I left them there.  There were a lot of people hanging around the store. If not, I think I would have grabbed them.  Would you have grabbed them?  The trash can was full so they were just sitting on top, it's not like I would have had to pick through trash to get to them.

On my drive to Harry P. Leu Botanical Gardens in Orlando, I called my middle son to chat a little and was surprised that he actually picked up the phone!  So we caught up and he asked if he could come spend the night tonight in between two shifts at Universal Studios.  I probably won't see him much at all since he'll come in late and probably sleep until it's time to leave for his next shift.

I got to the Leu Gardens at about 10:30 a.m. As planned, I bought the annual pass for myself at $40. I was glad I got there when I did because the parking lot was still mostly empty and I got to park in the shade.  When I left 45 minutes later, the parking lot was much fuller.  The temperature was still quite nice (about 82F) and since there's a lot of shade on the paths of the gardens, it was very enjoyable.  The gardens have 3 miles of paved trails that you can walk and of course there are lots of different flowers, trees and plants to observe.  I didn't know what to photograph, there were so many interesting sights!  However, my digital camera decided not to cooperate today, and I'm not sure why. Maybe the Diet Coke wasn't so caffeine free because I kept on getting the icon that indicated that my camera was "jittery" so most of the pictures ended up being not as good as I would have hoped.  I'll have to go back after my photography class, although by then it will be very hot and humid and the flowers won't be blooming anymore, I don't think. Here are a few of the photos that did turn out.

My time there was limited today since I had to meet my oldest son on the east side of town at noon.  So I visited the bromeliad area, the vegetable garden, butterfly garden and the rose garden.  I like that most plants were labeled so I could learn about them.  Of course, a lot of the pictures that did turn out OK are of plants that were either not labeled or for which I didn't photograph the sign.

A view across the lawn to the lake bordering the gardens.

This is a Dwarf Powderpuff (calliandra tergamina)

"Blue Tango" spear mromeliad

"Surprise" spear bromeliad

"Fantasia" spear bromeliad

Clustering Sugar Palm (arecaceae)

This is a squirrel for Bless.

Angel Trumpet. The sign with the exact name was obscured.

"Cherub" Angel Trumpet

The vegetable garden.  Their veggies were HUGE!  I asked someone who was talking to a group of old ladies how they water it.  They use pop up sprinklers, 20 minutes every other day. That's IT!?!?!  Oh come on!

Purple pole beans. I forgot to take a picture of the sign showing the exact variety.

Artichokes.  The plant was about waist-high and very wide across, at least 3 feet.

I like how they grow they cucumbers. I need to try to make a net like this.  On the far end (not pictured), they were growing lima beans.  They use straw to keep the weeds down and the ground moist.

There was a very large raised bed (raised a couple of feet off the ground) that mostly contained various kinds of beets.

I thought those huge plants were cabbages...

But they were collard greens.  Arrgh. Look at how HUGE they are! They reached my waist!  Variety: Georgia, from Bonnie's plants.  Planted October 2015.

This massive bush was a bunch of celery! They were as tall as the collard greens.  Variety is called "Giant Red" and they bought the seeds from Territorial Seeds (planted in August 2015)

I didn't see a sign identifying this tree but it was covered in bumble bees (do you see the black bumble bee's butt?) and bees.

Banyan tree

Fig Laurel

Shady paths

Small bridge over the brook. It was all very charming.

I was going to use this picture as my header instead of the one I ended up posting.  I never did see the alligator, though.
I regretfully left the gardens, thinking that I was going to have to try to come once a month at least.  Then I went to meet my oldest son for lunch.

We had arranged to meet at Olive Garden.  I hadn't eaten there in almost 2 years! He told me that he wanted to buy me lunch as an early Mother's Day present, but I had thought about it on the way to the restaurant and predicted that he might do that so I thanked him and told him to keep his money because he was going to need it very soon and also because the best Mother's Day present he could give me was to spend some time with me.  So we agreed that I would pay. He was relieved, to tell yo the truth and I told him to go ahead and order what he wanted since it was his graduation lunch. The menu sounded delicious and the food looked good although it didn't taste great. But that's OK, I didn't really pay attention since I was busy chatting with my him about his future plans and helping him analyze whether he should go to grad school or not.  I just hope that he doesn't let too many people convince him to do something that might sound good but not make much financial sense.  I advised to decide what he wanted to do in life and make a plan to get there. It it is to teach, then yes, a Master's would be very helpful. But if his goal is to be a jazz musician playing gigs, then, personally, I don't see why he should burden himself with even more debt, especially since he doesn't have any jobs lined up right now. It seemed to make sense to him but he has a lot of thinking to do.

My lunch.  Rosemary Chicken with garlic mashed potatoes. It was actually very bland.
Too soon, it was time to him to go back to UCF for his afternoon class, so I drove back to Clermont.  Before we left the restaurant, I grabbed the last 3 breadsticks that were on our table and my son was laughing at me. I offered them to him but he turned me down. I think he was embarrassed.  Why?  I paid for the breadsticks, didn't it?

I'm glad I had decided against taking a bike ride this afternoon as my cramps aren't lessening and the temperature was up to 91F.  I called the vet's office to see if the delivery truck had brought my cats' food but it didn't seem like it had so I told them I'd stop by next week.

I stopped by Panera to get my free bagel.  The lady in front of me was buying something and the cashier said "You have a free bagel in April reward, do you want to get a bagel today?" and the lady said "no".  I almost said "I'll take your bagel if you don't want it!". Who refuses a bready freebie?!  That is insane. There are people who didn't get the freebie and would love it!  I picked the chocolate chip bagel when it was my turn.

Before I got home, I stopped by RaceTrac to get another refill of caffeine free Diet Coke and I also got a frozen drink for my youngest son with his own Sodapalooza cup that I had brought along. I stuck it in the freezer when I got home since he wasn't coming home for a couple of hours. He was happy to find it after walking home from school!

He left almost right away to go to the library. Tonight it the first official Dungeons and Dragons Club meeting, although I doubt anyone will show up since they didn't actively promote it beyond adding it to the calendar of activities they post in the library itself.  My son said no other teens showed up yesterday for the Teen Scene Club, so I'm not very optimistic about anyone showing up tonight. But I hope they do!

I printed some coupons that Betty Crocker emailed me.

At 5:30 p.m., I set up my own sprinkler on a stick in the middle of the garden and turned it on for 20 minutes. If it works for Leu Gardens, I guess it'll have to work for me.  The squirrels took advantage that I wasn't outside this morning to dig into everything.  They cut one of my eggplants down and started chewing on another.  They dug in all the bins, all the pots, all the in-ground plots.  I HATE them.  The sprinkler worked fine.  If I turn the water on full blast, I'm able to water the whole vegetable garden and half the herbs.  I'll water the others and the roses/hibiscus by hand tomorrow at  the same time as the fruit trees.  But my water bill is going to be higher, of course. I wish it would start raining so I can use the rain barrel.

I put the multi-tiered planter that I bought at Aldi together.  Tomorrow I'll fill it with potting soil and transplant the strawberries in it.

Walmart emailed me that their SavingsCatcher is going to refund me... $0.01!  The Banquet breakfast sausages were $1.24 at Winn Dixie but I paid $1.25 for them at Walmart.Woohoo!  Big money :)

I made pancakes, scrambled eggs and maple turkey breakfast sausages for dinner tonight, and the kids went to town with the whipped cream on top of the pancakes :)

My 14 year-old will be taking AP Human Geography in 9th grade and received the summer assignment that he has to work on. It is very involved. The first map is having to memorize the names and location of all the countries in the world, major rivers, mountains, etc, as well as capitals.  Now, back when I was in school, we actually had a geography class throughout elementary and middle school so we already knew most of this (if not all) by the time high school started.  But not here. My son had some geography when we were homeschooling and in elementary school, but it was mostly US geography. So he needs to learn all of this on his own this summer.  At the same time, he has to read a book from a long list of suggested books that deal with environmental and/or cultural issues that have a global impact, and write a very specific essay about the book, also creating a map illustrating what is discussed in the book. My son is a very good student, but it's going to be a very tough assignment, as it should be since the class would give him college credit.

Several things had me howling, though. First of, the teacher mentioned that the student shouldn't worry about spelling for this assignment.  What?!?! Again, this is a college-credit class.  WHY wouldn't spelling be important? It's like telling a kid not to worry about not getting the equations exactly right when taking an algebra class, IMO.  This continuous lowering of the standards and accepting of mediocrity is crippling our country.  Secondly, and this is probably why she told the kids not to worry about spelling, the handout is riddled with typos.  Names of countries and capitals have juxtaposed letters, titles of books are misspelled, some of them aren't even underlined properly. It's a disgrace that a teacher and especially a teacher that is supposed to teach a more rigorous class, would be as careless as this. I'm not the most diplomatic person in the world. As a matter of fact, I'm not diplomatic at all.  And when I'm angry, I become very sarcastic.  But I don't want to alienate the teacher only because I don't want my son to suffer repercussions.  So I'm not sure how I should handle this. For now, I made corrections in the handout. I know that my son will know that "Egypi" was meant to be "Egypt" but at the same time, I don't want him to waste his time trying to locate  a place called "Egypi" on a map because he trusts that the teacher knows that such a place indeed exists.  But I am seething about this.

I made sure that the spare room was ready for my middle son tonight and put a clean bath towel on his bed for his shower tomorrow morning. I know, I had said that I would move in to that room but I still haven't. I did warn my oldest son today that if he did end up working at his former high school with the band camp this summer, that he wouldn't be able to stay here overnight as I was planning on moving to that room. He was fine with it, he can always commute.

My daughter told me that her dad went ahead and booked her flights to and from CA.  He got her direct flights between Orlando and San Francisco and her uncle and aunt will pick her up (and drop her off) at the airport so she won't have to worry about any flight connections.  I'm happy about that.

I offered her my Sodapalooza cup to use tomorrow. She will stop by RaceTrac on her way home from school to get herself a drink and she will bring her brother's cup to get him another frozen drink that we'll stick in the freezer as well.

Greg called from NC. None of the campgrounds were good options because of various reasons so he ended up in a motel from the 60s that is charging him $60 for the night, yikes. But he doesn't have much choice unless he wants to spend at least double that amount. His daughter lives in a very ritzy area so everything is priced accordingly.  I got the credit card alert for the cost of dinner since he took her and her husband out tonight and double yikes.

I turned the AC back down to 74F for my daughter earlier tonight.  I had turned it back up to 75F when she went to school.


  1. I squealed, "Squirrel!" when I first saw that picture, before I read the caption! :D But I am truly sorry they dug up your vegetable garden. Bad squirrels!

    What a beautiful garden tour! Everything looks so green and lush! Look at that veggie garden! Maybe we, too, should try using straw as a mulch?

    Olive Garden is one of our favorite places to go to. Their food is usually pretty good.

    That is horrible about the misspelled country names, etc.! Of course spelling matters, especially when it comes to geography! Especially for an AP class! Have your son tell the teacher he just couldn't find Egypi on the map! Although he probably won't say anything like that, will he?

    Hope your eldest son figures out what he wants to do after graduation. There are so many things to take into consideration, isn't there?

    And I am glad your daughter has a direct flight to SF and will be met at the other end. It will all work out fine, I'm sure.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed "your" squirrel picture, Bless! Do you not have the scourge of squirrels in your neighborhood? I'm guessing not. The straw was a good idea, wasn't it? I've just been using regular mulch or oak leaves.

      No, my son won't mention anything to his teacher about the misspells. His spelling isn't very good either but I believe it's because teachers rarely correct it these days AND I find that it's not that they "have better things to do." Handouts are routinely handed out with mistakes and errors, including those from Administration. When I worked at the local elementary school, the kindergarden classroom next to my son's 3rd grade class had a large sign posted on one of its wall that listed "SITE WORDS". Indeed. I wasn't sure how to tell the teacher that it was "SIGHT WORDS" and yet inside of me I wanted to scream that someone who couldn't even use the proper word was the person who had passed countless qualification exams in order to be able to have her own classroom. In the end, I talked about it to my boss, who was in charge of the curriculum for the school. I'm not sure how she handled it. I also make spelling mistakes on my blog (and some that I never used to make, I was always excellent at spelling) and you get to see them because I don't take the time to proofread my posts. A personal failing, but I don't get a paycheck to teach others. When I did derive income from a job where I was in charge of the school's website and newsletter, I triple checked everything!

      OK, enough belly-aching, I have a long list of productive things that I should be doing instead, lol. Have a great day, Bless!

  2. I used to have more squirrels in the garden but these days, they keep away because of the stray cats, I think.

    I tend to cringe when I see spelling and grammar mistakes, especially in professional writing! I don't always proof-read my own blog postings, so there are some typos, but I always double check my work-related stuff.

    Hope you had a productive day - you are usually quite productive!


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