Saturday, April 2, 2016

April Showers! (4/2/16)

I was playing with a new app and the result didn't turn out too good but oh well!
The circles are supposed to symbolize the rain, you see...  LOL.

Happy weekend, ya'll!

I went to bed last night at 1 a.m. and set my alarm for 8 a.m. so I would have time to read the news and drink my coffee prior to leaving on my outing for the day. However, New Kitty and Greg both made noise at about 6 a.m. and that woke me up, and then just a few minutes later the upstairs weather radio siren came on!  Greg turned it off and I went to check on the downstairs one: it had come on too but it's old and wonky so the volume level turns itself to very very low off and on.  It was a severe thunderstorm watch until 1 p.m.  Great, just great!  Of course now it's almost 9 a..m. and it's severely overcast and dark but not a drop has fallen.  I never did go back to sleep, I was tossing and turning and thinking of my kids.  So I finally grabbed my phone to read the news in the dark and New Kitty jumped on me and starting purring because she was hungry, the little dear.

I finally fed the cats at 8 a.m. and made my coffee. Today I used the Café Bustelo K-cup, which was the last one in the free sampler from Walmart.  I drank only one cup since I'll be out and about today and I don't want to have to pee all the time :) Ah the indignity of being a middle-age woman who bore 4 children!

I reused water collected in the drippy shower to flush the toilet.

Greg and the kids don't have any plans for the day and with the weather forecast, I guess they'll just stay indoors. I had charmed Greg with my feminine viles into agreeing to install the edging around my vegetable garden this weekend since I had tried earlier in the week but had been unable to get the shovel to go into the ground (that's how out of shape I am... our ground is almost 100% sand!) but I'm assuming he won't be able to do it today.

The good news is that my garden should get another good soaking today!  The bad news is... my plan revolved around mostly outdoor activities!  My BFF should be calling me in about 15 minutes to tell me that she is leaving her house. I'll leave shortly after and grab a free soda from RaceTrac (redeeming one of my free drink coupons from the new Rewards app) and a free bakery item with a survey code coupon, and then we're meeting at Panera's where I plan on getting my free bagel with the awesome reward they sent me yesterday. If my BFF doesn't have that reward, she can have either my free pastry or my free bagel.

I still want to go to Mount Dora and then decide what we're doing depending on whether it's raining yet or not. Mount Dora is a little town that has a tiny downtown that's reminiscent of a northern or European downtown with lots of small shops like antique stores and restaurants.  It's very popular with retirees and indeed it's one of the main places where retirees live here in Central Florida so there are lots of activities always going on. Many cities, including Clermont, try to replicate what Mount Dora has done with their downtown but it hasn't been as successful for some reason.  The main reason why I wanted to go to downtown Mount Dora is to visit The Windsor Rose Tea Room.  I read an article about it this week that made me want to go have High Tea there. It would usually be very crowded but with the weather forecast for today, I'm hoping a lot of visitors will just stay home. So it might work in our favor. I was going to dress up in a skirt today, which is as dressed up as I get, so I could play at being feminine and have tea with my BFF, but since it's going to be rainy I changed my mind and put on capris (yes, I did find a pair that still fits!) and I'll wear sneakers.  So I won't look as "sophisticated" as I had planned :(  But... practicality and comfort have got to be a priority!

My pictures probably won't turn out very good if it stays dark and rainy all day, I just realized. Poop.

My BFF (Jodie, say hi to Jodie everyone, she said she was going to read my blog post!) texted me that she was leaving her house at 9:30 a.m. so I left as well. Greg was in the backyard in his PJs, in the drizzle, air gun in hand, trying to get a squirrel that had been digging near my garden.  It's good to have my own Garden Defense Squad!  Unfortunately (or fortunately if you like the little buggers), he didn't get it.

On my way I stopped by RaceTrac and redeemed a survey reward code for a free blueberry muffin and redeemed a free drink coupon from my RaceTrac Rewards app for a free 32 oz caffeine free Diet Coke. I didn't put any ice in it so it wouldn't get watered down, and that worked because it's 5:20 p.m. now and I'm still drinking it and it's still bubbly.  Yay!  The app and their register had some hiccup. The app had been telling me all morning that it couldn't connect with the internet (although my phone was indeed connected) and when the cashier scanned my Rewards bar code, the only rewards that showed up on his register was a free hot dog (oh boy, I get a free hot dog too?!?! I kept that for another day). He called his manager over and by the time she came over, the reward for the free drink had appeared on the register, but by then there were something like 10 people in line behind me!  Oops.

Free blueberry muffin that I'll have for breakfast tomorrow!
Jodie got to Panera before me. We were so happy to see each other! I think the last time we met was in early February.  I explained to her that I had a free muffin in the car and that I would redeem my reward for a free bagel so she could get either.  She chose the bagel but wanted to buy a drink.  She asked the cashier to check her account to see if she also got the free bagel every day in April Reward and she did!  So she also ordered a bagel. Woohoo, we love our freebies. I picked a chocolate chip bagel and she picked an asiago cheese bagel. We took them to go. They were delicious!

Free chocolate chip bagel for my breakfast this morning :)

We left her car at Panera's and drove to Mount Dora. I had brought our family car since it's easier to park in smaller parking spaces and get much better gas mileage than my huge SUV, and also doesn't have that annoying non-stop electronic beep that has returned in my SUV (ugh).  By now it was raining although not all that hard and the sky was pretty grey.

The drive to Mount Dora took us about 45 minutes but it went in a flash since we caught up on each other's lives and what our kids are doing. Her son is about a week younger than my daughter so they're in the same grade, although he attends the private school where Jodie works.  Both our kids are dual-enrolled this year and, come to find out, her son (who shares the same first name as my oldest son) wants to study Computer Engineering or Computer Science as well!  So a lot of our day was spent discussing college plans, college visits, SAT tests and all that good stuff. It's nice to talk to someone who's going through the same things.

The sky when we got to Renninger's. It was very windy and it was raining too although
you can't tell from this picture!
We drove to Renninger's where the Vintage Gardening Show was advertised with a big sign on the side of SR 441, but... there really wasn't anything set up.  It was raining harder and very windy. We were still happily chatting away so we just parked near the indoor flea market. I found a Coke bottle cap ground into the sand right outside the market so I picked it up, tapped it against a trash can and stashed it into my purse under Jodie's incredulous look. lol.

I really need to take some time to start inputting
all my MCR codes!

We spent our time there just browsing the booths, although we were more focused on chatting than actually looking at anything. Nothing was very interesting anyway, although I did see some plants that were pretty nice. There was a vegetable stall that was selling radishes for $1 a bunch and those were the most enormous radishes that I had ever seen. They were the size of a golf ball!  But I can grow my own radishes (and I don't really like them anyway) so I didn't buy any. I did buy Greg some local honey though.  I asked the lady questions about the various kinds of honey she was selling and she offered for me to taste the orange blossom honey. It was very good but I didn't think Greg would like it so I asked to try the Lake County Wildflower honey and decided to get him some of that.  Only, once again, I'm terrible at math, and in my head I was buying a large jar when I asked for a pint, which was priced at $8.  I thought I was getting a nice bargain... when she handed me a smaller jar because, of course, the large jars are quarts, not pints. I knew that!

By then it was noon, so we hopped back into the car and drove to downtown Mount Dora through a residential area.  When suddenly, right in front of the car, do you know what crossed the road?  A turkey! Once again it was a female but I tried to take a picture of it to show it to Greg. I always seem to encounter "unusual" wildlife when I'm driving without him (coyote, black bear, wild boar, turkeys... did I tell you the story of when I ran over an alligator?! It's true!). So I pulled over while Jodie was trying to figure out how to roll down the window and I had to fumble with my phone.  Of course, by the time I managed to take the picture, the turkey was too far away!

We made our way to Mount Dora and parked.  The rainy weather definitely scared people away as it wasn't crowded at all for a Spring weekend.  We headed to the Windsor Rose Tea Room.

Such a nice place!  It's cozy without being uncomfortable and the service is awesome.

This is my "Take On Me" version of my photo, to protect the identity of the "innocent".  Doesn't the tea room look relaxing?  It was!

Look at all those pictures of the Royals.  People here are obsessed with them, I don't get it. (Says the woman who, several years ago,  watched countless PBS documentaries on them and who cried her eyes out watching the princes at their mother's funeral. But I'm over it now.)

We had the best waitress. I don't think that she ever told us her name though. She was an older lady who was very funny and warm.  I left her a very good tip.  I had thought we'd have High Tea but Jodie was tempted by a "real meal" so she ordered soup and salad.  Her soup was cream of mushroom and beef, I believe, and she said it was delicious.  I wanted to order something British like bangers & mash, which they did have on the menu (I was thinking about my friend Tara the whole time, wondering what she would have advised me to order!) but I was distracted by the mention of a Reuben Sandwich on the menu. I adore Reuben sandwiches so that's what I ordered. It came with a side of homemade coleslaw. Oh my, everything was so delicious!  We had to order tea, of course, being in a tea room and all. The list of teas available was pretty long so I'm glad Jodie suggested Green Ginger Peach tea because we'd still be sitting over there, deciding what to drink if I had had to choose!  It was an excellent choice because that tea was very tasty and flavorful.

We didn't think we would order dessert but when our awesome waitress asked if we wanted to look at the dessert menu, we both got this look on our face that made her laugh so she brought it to us.  Again... what to choose, what to choose?!  Jodie suggested we split something but since we rarely see each other and were celebrating the completion of the Year Book she'd been working on for months, I suggested we pick 2 desserts and share that.  So we decided on Chocolate Raspberry Cake and Lemon Blueberry Mascarpone Cake.  The slices were huge!  And it was decadent and so, so good.  At some point the waitress asked if we were done when we still had some cake on both plates and Jodie indicated that we were but I was still thinking about it and decided that we weren't so I grabbed the plate back from the waitress and we all had a good laugh. What?! We had to walk at least 1/4 mile back to the car, I needed my strength!

I would definitely love to go back there for High Tea.  My daughter doesn't drink tea.  But Greg does!  Maybe I'll ask him to take me there next time there is a rainy Saturday :)

Going back to the car, we stopped at several stores to do some window and shelf shopping. In French it's called window licking.  We passed a bakery that had a sign advertising their goodies, including French macaroons, but they didn't display anything in the window... everything was in the very back of a long and narrow store, in a display case.  I guess this is why you don't call it "window licking" here in the States!  I don't get that. I think bakeries should always advertise their goods in their window. Food is very visual! In France, the pastry shops have window displays. (wait, I'm thinking back to our trip to France last summer and maybe I'm lying... but the shops are much smaller there so the display case is pretty much right by the front door.

In one store, I spotted this little plaque that would fit right at home in my house...I might buy it next time I see it :)

Another store we visited had a very cool display of hand-painted wild bird-themed ceramic bowls and mugs and other kitchen items. I particularly liked the Cardinals but at $16 a mug, it was way too expensive for me.

Outside of another store, I spotted this squirrel bench that I would love for my garden, come to think of it. I showed the picture to Greg when I got home and he laughed and asked how much it had been, but it wasn't for sale, just a bench that the owners had placed for the patrons.

They don't have squirrel tails... maybe they're not squirrels after all? Chipmunks?
One store that I wanted to visit was The Spice and Tea Exchange.  I wanted to see if they might have that Green Peach Ginger tea that we had just had.  That store was awesome.  It's a good thing that it's not in Clermont because I would be spending lots of money there.

They had an array of teas, most of them flavors that you wouldn't find in tea bags sold in supermarkets. But they also sold spices and seasonings, various sugars (oh my, THE SUGARS!), various salts and probably other things too that I missed.  I wish I were a more imaginative cook so I could whip up my own recipes using some of the seasonings and spices that they sold!  And the sugars!  I wish I had written down the names of some of them, I can't even think of what we looked at but everything looked so...whimsical and interesting. I wanted to try them all!

Bacon Smoked Sea Salt, anyone?
Unfortunately, they didn't sell the Green Peach Ginger tea, but they did sell Green Peach tea so I bought myself a little bag of that. (and then when I got home and looked at all the tea that we already have and thought of the fact that I mostly drink tea when I brew myself a cup of black tea to reuse the tea bag from Greg's breakfast, I felt kind of dumb!)

I thought it might just be green tea and peach, I didn't think to look at the list of ingredients before I bought it (I smelled it and it smelled very good!), but when I got home, I saw that it contains green roibos, orange peels, marigold flowers, strawberries, and natural peach, strawberry and orange flavorings.  Sounds delicious.  It's herbal tea so I should be able to have some even though it's now 10 p.m. so I'm going to put some water on.
I also bought a 1-oz bag of sweet smoked paprika since I'm almost out of smoked paprika at home and it's one of the ingredients in the delicious Ten Things Farm Chicken Seasoning that we love.  I wasn't sure if I should choose "sweet" or "hot" smoked paprika but the saleslady said the generic "smoked paprika" was closer to the "sweet" version. I hope she was right!

All in all, though, I was disappointed in Mount Dora itself, although Jodie and I had a great time with one another.  Where this little town used to be quaint and replete with antique stores and odd little shops tucked here and there, nowadays it's all restaurants and stores selling clothing and novelty merchandise. I didn't see one antique store!  Admittedly, we didn't visit every single street, but still. All the street corners now feature corny and tacky signs that are colorful and aim at advertising where all the stores are located, but the effect is more of an outdoor mall than charming, in my opinion.

Our favorite bookstore closed years ago but I took Jodie by it to show her the façade.   There is another bookstore just a block away but I guess they couldn't move into the old bookstore location since it looks like the inside was redone to look like offices, although the building sits empty.

I think I would go back for the tea room and the tea and spice store, but not for any "window licking".  Sigh.

So we drove home since Jodie had to be back to pick her her daughter from dance.  After dropping her off at Panera's, I drove straight home. It wasn't until I was almost home that I realized that I should have taken the car in for its oil change, darn it!

I called my daughter from the car (it's legal in Florida!) to ask her to move my SUV out of its prime spot in front of our front door so I could park the family car there and vacuum it.  Yep, I don't vacuum my own SUV (or the living room for that matter!) but I vacuumed the family car. It was filthy!  I used the shopvac and also used some Lysol wipes to clean the middle console.  If I have energy tomorrow I'll vacuum mine too.

Greg wasn't feeling good. I think it might be the stress he's experiencing at work right now. He's droopy and feeling "meh". He said it poured it while I was gone so he and the kids stayed home and my garden got a good soaking. My son did venture to the park once I got home for his usual swinging session. My daughter watched "New Girl" on Netflix. It's a rare weekend when she's not having to do a lot of studying or homework.

For dinner I made Spicy Black Bean Soup and Cheese Quesadillas. Greg had 3 bowls of soup and we have plenty left for tomorrow's lunch.

Maybe one day I will be able to take dinner photos as pretty as Laura's!
Well, I finally had to throw away my homemade mesh-bag pot scrubber because a wasp got into the house and I sprayed it with hornet killer while it was sitting on my pot scrubber. So I made myself a new one with a couple of the bags that I had been saving.

I remembered to earn my Bing Rewards credits for the day, phew!

So I made myself a cup of that Green Peach Tea that I bought. Not nearly as good as the one from the tea room, I'm sorry to say.

Did you all have a nice Saturday?  Did it rain where you are?


  1. Sounds like you had a lovely day out with your friend. That tea room sounds nice and those cakes look delicious.

    Glad your garden got a good soaking. No such luck, here. I had to water the front garden today as all my roses were drooping.

    1. Do you water your roses by hand or do you have an automatic sprinkler system? I hope you get some rain soon!

    2. I water them by hand, at least the ones in the front garden. I get lazy with the ones in the back, and turn on the sprinklers (they are not automatic).

  2. Loved hearing about your Tea Room experience! I love a good High Tea, so I'm keeping that place in mind. Everything looked amazing, especially the desserts!!!!! :)

    There is a similar spice and tea store in St. Augustine and we have always been really pleased with what we buy there; I hope you like your purchases. The best paprika I have was a gift from a friend who visited the Czech Republic. I am not sure how I am going to replace that one my package is gone. I have a ginger and peach tea that I love, although it is a black tea base. Also a pineapple green tea that I really enjoy as well. But I am mostly a coffee drinker, so I try not to buy too much tea, no matter how good it smells in the store (I'm such a sucker for things like that -- I have...A LOT...of tea in a cupboard that just doesn't get used!).

    Your black bean soup looks delicious! That is one of my favorite soups and your picture has me thinking I should make some more soon. <3

    1. I'm laughing at your stash of mostly unused tea because I have the same problem, hahaha.

  3. The tea shop probably caters to a lot of Canadian retirees, hence the obsession with the royals. I am Canadian and can tell you that many women in their late 60's and 70's absolutely adore the royals. When the first baby was born to Prince William, it was the biggest deal!! I am 41, after Princess Diana died I could care less about the royals. The tea room looked lovely and the food looked yummy!

    I have been reading back through your blog and am really enjoying it.

    1. That's a good thought, Theresa, we do have a lot of Canadians who come spend the winter here. Americans are quite taken with the Royals as well, I couldn't believe all the coverage of Prince William's wedding and the birth of the baby as I was in France for Princess Diana and Prince Charles wedding (and I watched it live) but over there we had our own monarchy and they're close neighbors so I thought it was normal to be so interested. As you, I totally lost interest after Princess Di's death and I couldn't even tell you the name of the new baby.

      Thanks for letting me know you enjoy the blog! Even though I primarily write it for myself, I feel giddy when I get a compliment, lol.

    2. Oh, I also forgot to explain that the tea shop had originally been opened by actual British people who operated it for several years and then sold it to the current owners who are Americans but who kept everything the same (although I'm wondering if things such as the Reuben sandwiches weren't just added for the American palate, but I'm not complaining because it truly was one of the best Reubens I have ever had!)

  4. Hi Jodie, (waving). I'm glad you are allowing us to come along with you on this Saturday fun adventure.

    Mount Dora sounds like an awesome little town to explore. I love going to tea houses and enjoy rooting around in little gift shops and specialty boutiques like the Tea and Spice Exchange and the bakeries. I thank my lucky stars that they are not in my town, or I would be browsing for treasures all the time. I love the facade of the old book store. What a shame there is no longer a book store there.

    The raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized honey is very healthy for you. If you sweeten your tea, maybe you could put a drizzle of that in your green tea and ginger.

    1. Ha, that's a good tip, thanks! I actually was talking with Jodie yesterday and saying that it's odd that I can't drink my coffee without sweetener and milk in it but that I only like my tea plain. I'm really enjoying my Green Peach tree tonight, I brewed a whole teapot of it just for myself :)


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