Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Awardapalooza! Wednesday 4/27/16

Don't the little black dots on the milkweeds' center make them look like they have eyes and they're all looking at us?

My daughter told me yesterday that even with the AC down to 75F and the pedestal fan blowing, she was still hot at night up in her room and not sleeping well.  Her side of the house is an addition that was built in the 70s and they didn't put in ANY insulation, nor is there any room to add any.  The ceiling is directly under the roof without any clearing space. Same with the walls, which were built of solid wood panels.  We have no recourse to make the room more comfortable unless we ran the AC in half the house at a much lower temperature, thus incurring lots of electrical costs and freezing the rooms downstairs.  Keep in mind it's only April so summer in that room in unbearable.  However, I did lower the temperature to 74F for her last night and this morning she reported that she had been comfortable and slept well.  Yay! I turned the AC back to 75 when she got up.  I would usually turn it up to 76F but since it's getting hotter during the day, I have to watch out or it will be a steam bath for her at night.

Greg and I also slept very well.  He decided to work from home today so that's saving us money on gas and tolls.  He is leaving for an out of state trip tomorrow so he'll need to be packing his truck tonight. He was planning on camping because he doesn't want to spend $120+ per night for a hotel, but I'm worried about the possibility of violent weather.

He got dressed and wanted to go to RaceTrac to use one of his free drink coupons but the soda fountain had been out for a couple of days so he was hoping it would be working.  In order to save him a trip if it wasn't, I called the station and inquired: it was working. Hooray!  I checked my app and saw that it was working again and that I had three different $2 off a Sodapalooza cup coupons so I asked him to pick up 2 cups for us while he was there but when I started explaining how to get them, he concluded that it sounded "complicated" and that he'd probably screw it up... and I agreed. So I'll go this afternoon after my son's award ceremony.

Oh yes, Award Ceremony Season is starting. Between now and the end of the school year I will have 3 award ceremonies just for him.  I remember the days when we had 6 kids at home and 5 of them had quarterly award ceremonies, band concert, band banquet, band award ceremony, ROTC award ceremony, volleyball banquet, FFA banquet, etc, etc.  May would sometimes find us at a ceremony or some kind of event every weeknight for a couple of weeks at least.  While it's fun to celebrate your child's success when you have just one, it becomes a logistical nightmare when you have several children.  Add to that that a lot of the academic award ceremonies are held in the middle of the day (today's is at 1:30 p.m.).  If you're a parent working in an hourly capacity, you have to try to take half a day off to go see your kid get a piece of paper and a handshake (and not get paid, probably).  If you have more than one kid and they're all in different grades and at different schools.... what do you do?  It was one of the problems I had when I was still working and between that, the required volunteer hours we had to put in at the elementary school, and all the doctor/dentist appointments (during school hours, of course, why would pediatricians have office hours outside of school, right?), I got close to getting fired one day because my boss, herself a woman, felt that I was abusing the time off requests.  So it wasn't so hard to decide that I would stay home once our whole studio was laid off.  This is one of the reasons why I'm not fond of quarterly award ceremonies.  You're trying to bolster the kids' self image but what does it do to the kids whose parents can't come? Or don't give a hoot and don't show up? Isn't that detrimental to their self-esteem, especially when they see their friend's parents there?

Anyway, I'll be going this afternoon. My son used to tell me he didn't "care" whether or not I went, since he gets an award every quarter (usually A-B Honor Roll but this time he's on the all A Honor roll) so I skipped once or twice. However, I attended last quarter's and I could tell that he was pleased that I was there because he agreed to a selfie with me afterwards and even smiled. So I'm going this afternoon.

Since Greg is conducting conference calls in the living room, and the weather is nice and cool in the mornings (70s), I once again set up shop on the patio, where I am observing Myrtle the female woodpecker flying back and forth to her (what I think is her) nest to feed her young(s) and watching other birds fly by.

I had a bowl of the chocolate hazelnut granola that I bought at Aldi yesterday ($1.69 a bag, I bought three of them since it's not an item they usually carry) and it was good but not as mind-blowingly good as I was expecting it to be.  Oh well.

I took the recycling bin down to the curb this morning since it's collection day, and cooked Greg's breakfast while he was going to get his soda.

I ran the dehumidifier in the downstairs bathroom.  After 30 minutes, the readout was HIGHER than when I started it (?!) so I emptied the reservoir into the bucket that we keep in the shower and ran it again and this time the humidity level did go down.  Weird.

My daughter isn't coming home after her high school classes today. She'll go directly to the library that the state college shares with the county and study there since she has her final Trig test tonight. I hope she does well!  She will use my Panera Reward for a free bagel.

The friend with whom I was supposed to have lunch last week (but I cancelled since I was sick) texted me to see if we could have lunch on Monday. However, it's the first Monday of the month and Leu Botanical Gardens in Orlando offer free admission during part of the year on the first Monday of the month and I'd like to try and go on Monday. I used to take my youngest there when we were homeschooling. If you can go in the Spring when all the flowers are in bloom, it's gorgeous.  The problem is that the free admission days are very popular and the parking is extremely limited so I'm going to need to leave early (i.e. with the commuters, yikes!) but it's one of the outings that I told myself I wanted to take on my own this year so I'm going to try. I'll bring my bike too so I can stop and take a bike ride on the West Orange Trail on the way home.  So my friend and I agreed on a different day for our lunch. Woohoo!

Why is it that all the interesting events always happen at the same time but miles apart?!  There is the 3rd annual Dragonboat Festival at the Clermont Waterfront Park on Saturday, but it's also the day when I want to take my youngest son to the Historical Miniatures in the South convention down in Orlando. I checked their schedule and there is a specific game going on from 9-1 p.m. that I think he would be interested in observing for a bit since he owns it himself. Also, I'm excited that, although it seems to only be for adults, the people organizing the game are from Ocala, which is "only" 45 minutes away. I'd love for him to find people to play with.  He did warn me, though, that he had "no interest in playing on Saturday, I just want to watch." So I'm guessing he won't appreciate me nudging me to join in a game. Of course, I still don't know if we'll be able to get it as the website has no information whatsoever for non-members who would like to attend but not play and they never replied to my email. Grrr.

So I'm thinking that we'll go in the morning and then stop by the Dragonboat Festival on the way home to check it out.

Oh, my newest little friend the Tufted Titmouse (I chuckle every time I type this, yes, I am juvenile!) just came to visit the bird feeder for a quick little snack. Hello, friend!

The Tufted Titmouse stayed only a second before flying off so my camera didn't have time to focus properly.

This Carolina Wren was singing from atop one of the power cables. This was taken with the 40x digital zoom.

Several of these large black birds were flying overhead.  It looks like they might have been black vultures.

Butterflies are starting to come out too.  Both yesterday and today I saw yellow and black striped butterflies fluttering by.  I need more flowers so they think to stop by!  Usually the pink lantanas on my berm attract them but today the way that flew by seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Probably some butterfly award ceremony. Heh.

I noticed that our American Express account doesn't seem to be accruing any new Rewards. We charged over $1,900 to our card last billing statement, yet our Rewards level hasn't budged.  There isn't an email option, I have to either call or do an online chat but  I'd much rather email so I can keep track of what is being said, so I reached out on Twitter to see if they can send me an email address.

SavingStar did credit me with the $0.89 for the Ortega taco seasoning.

Like yesterday, it's now 10:15 and the sun is hitting the berm so the lizards are coming out.  I'm hearing a lot of birds calling but not seeing them. It's the curse of having large trees with Spanish moss all around, it camouflages them well!

I checked the produce sales that are starting at Aldi and Save A Lot today and darn it, the blackberries are $0.99 at Aldi. Last year they went down as low as $0.79 for 6 oz.  There is no way my neighbor's family will be matching that price AND I'll have to pick my own, but I already told him I'd visit his family's blackberry farm so I can't buy any at Aldi :( I might stop by there on Sunday to see if they're open yet.

Save A Lot

I went to check on the garden and decided to take away the cages protecting the kale, bush beans, and herbs on my berm.   I left the ones protecting the peanuts and the strawberries on the side of the house.  I think I'll move those to my multi-tiered planter that I plant on keeping on the patio, to see if they produce anything.

The pepper plants are growing

And so are the Supersweet 100 tomato seedlings

Lots of flowers on my zucchini plants (2 plants) but only 1 zucchini growing so far

Something's been dining on my tomatoes

The kale is starting to grow a little taller

Critters are attacking my eggplants!

And strawberries

The bush beans aren't looking very strong... I would have thought they'd be bigger and bushier by now
My largest pineapple plant has started growing a little baby plant too?
It's getting hot and unlike yesterday, there's not much of a breeze. I'll check on Feedly and then go take a shower.  I had said I'd go on a bike ride today but I might do that after my son's award ceremony.  We'll see.  My daughter did the dishes last night since she still needed to earn money towards the paltry $30 I charge her for her share of the car insurance (less than a third of what she is actually costing us) so it's nice not to have to stress over having to do that chore. I was going to bake my meatloaf early so I could bake the zucchini right before dinner but I just remembered that I have 2 racks in the oven nowadays so yay!  I can cook everything at once!

I moved my patio cushions onto another chair that was in the shade. That sun very hot today.  I've been wanting to get rid of the fire pit that I had bought at Kohl's last year. We never used it as a fire pit, the bottom of it is all rusted and it's just in the way. But you know the second I'll want to get rid of it, I could probably use it for something... like a planter, maybe?  Say, that's an idea!

Incidentally, the ugly plastic umbrella stand, that I had kept all these years despite Greg urging me to throw it away, is working extremely well with my patio umbrella and my patio table!  It's gripping the umbrella hard enough that it doesn't twirl in the breeze and it wasn't blown off in stronger winds yet either.  So I still have the nicer looking metallic one that would need to be sprayed with lots of WD40 for the screws that hold the umbrella in place to actually work and I've been thinking about getting rid of it.  But my brain is telling me: you can fix it!  At least try!  But then what?  I have the plastic one that works great. It doesn't look great but... I don't care.  I just noticed though, while taking this picture, that the plastic tube part that holds the umbrella down is showing sun-related damage and crumbling... so I need to try to fix the metallic one, just in case, as my instincts were telling me :)  I have 5 or 6 cans of WD40 so I'm hoping it won't be too hard!

Oh my, the dogs started HOWLING. I mean, not barking, HOWLING. And then they stopped all of a sudden. What makes a dog howl like that?!  I always start thinking that perhaps their owner died!  A few years ago the small house across the street from us was occupied by an elderly lady. She and I had chatted a few times so we were on friendly terms.  One night, her dog, that was locked inside the house, was howling non-stop. NONSTOP, and I indeed became worried that something had happened to her because that had never happened before.  So I called the police and explained that I was worried that the elderly lady had fallen or had a heart attack or something. They came and knocked on the door but no answer.  They were debating whether to break into the house or not when our other neighbor came running in to say that the old lady had been taken to the Lake County Fair by her family for the evening so everything was fine.  Phew!  Apparently, the old lady was so embarrassed by the hoopla when she came home later on (the neighbor had called her to tell her the police was at her house!) that I never saw her again after that, and she actually passed away less than a year later.  It's always a fine line between breaching someone's privacy and ignoring a potential problem, isn't it?  Yesterday, as I was leaving my car to walk to the vet's office, I heard a lady scolding a kid pretty harshly and when I walked around my SUV, I saw that it was a grandma-type scolding a little boy of maybe 3 years old.  She wasn't being abusive but she was noticeably upset, and I wondered what I would have done if she had been abusive.  I mean, "abusive" means different things to different people. I was/am a very strict parent and I do believe that a smack on the bottom is fine if the offense warrants it. My mom spanked me and despite the headline that I read today that claims that a new study found that kids who are spanked grow up to have worse manners than those who aren't, my manners are just fine.  And what a load of bullshit that "study" is, IMO.  The result of kids not being disciplined at all is the total lack of respect for everything that I see in most of today's youth and the degradation of society that is ensuing. I am a middle aged curmudgeon, yes., Anyway, I think I might have stopped and asked the lady if she needed help, which might have earned me some bright ears, but it never came to it, thankfully for everyone.

I stayed outside until about noon and then retreated indoors to have lunch and get ready for the award ceremony.  My lunch was the leftover chili with cheese and I ate it as a dip by scooping it up with the largest "crumbs" of the pumpkin seed tortilla chips that I had bought for Greg last Fall but that he had never finished.  Then I had a banana.

I collected water in the shower that will be reused to flush the toilet later on.

The underwire in my bra has slipped halfway out but thankfully hadn't pocked out of the fabric yet, so I tucked it back into place.  I'll need to watch it because once it pocks out, it's a lost cause.  It wouldn't be funny to be at some event with one boob dropping down to my knees while the other remains still somewhat "perky", would it?  lol.

I've changed my mind about going to Leu Botanical Gardens on Monday.  The gardens will be free, true, but it will cost me much in gas and tolls to get there.  I'm driving to UCF to meet my oldest for lunch tomorrow, so I think I'll just leave early, pay the $10 admission fee and enjoy a couple of hours in the gardens before heading out to UCF.  Sometimes "free" isn't quite free, right?  And actually, I'm changing my mind again: I just looked at the price of the annual membership and it's $40 for an individual, however it comes with 2 free adult day passes (so I could bring a friend, Greg, or one of my kids twice) and also reciprocal agreements with other gardens that are more than 90 miles away. Chances are I won't visit gardens that are 90 miles away in the next 12 months, but it's a plus.  Bok Tower Gardens is 89 miles away from my house and the site says that they do not enforce the 90 mile exclusion. Awesome! There are a couple of gardens in Jacksonville that are 91 and 92 miles away from my house. Really? I would have thought Jacksonville was further away.

I drove to the award ceremony because I wanted to go to RaceTrac afterwards and, quite honestly, I didn't feel like walking in the heat. Plus Aunt Flo came to visit today and I'm all crampy.  They gave awards to over 100 kids today, all 8th graders. I'm thinking they might have found an excuse to give an award to every single 8th grader because aside from Honor Roll students, some kids got an award for "most improved in Show Choir", etc.  There were quite noticeably fewer parents attending than when they held those ceremonies in the morning.  My son got his All-A Honor Roll certificate and then the award ceremony went on for another hour or so since he was in the first 20 called to the stage.  At the end, the assistant principal came up to announce the top 3 8th grade GPA's for the quarter.  In the past, I would tape the announcements, always expecting him to be one of the three, but he never got it, and this past year it seemed that the same 3 girls got top 3 GPAs in the first couple of quarters.  So I resigned myself to have to wait even longer to leave... and put my camera away.

Yep, you guessed it... when the 3rd highest GPA award was announced, it was my son!  Wow!  I think both he and I were equally as surprised!  He received a $15 Target gift card from the PTA, too. After the ceremony I was able to meet him for a minute and give him a couple of hugs and tell him his dad was very proud of him too (Greg had a conference call scheduled at the exact same time as the ceremony so he couldn't attend but I texted him as soon as our son's name was announced and he was able to text back), collect his certificates and gift card to take them home for him and give him a big kiss.  As I left the auditorium, I ran into his best friends' mom, my former co-worker from years ago who was just transferred to Disneyland Paris for a year.  I was surprised to see her there since I thought she was in France for a few more weeks before coming back to move her family, but she had flown back for the week.  We chatted for a bit, got a little more details about what her job entails over there and where she'll be living (close to the Eiffel Tower),  and made plans to get together in June before the big move and then definitely get together next June in Paris if my son and I go over there.

Then I drove to RaceTrac. Greg had told me that I should get a Sodapalooza cup for myself but I had demurred, thinking I would just share one with my son and we would take turns over the summer getting our free refills.  However, once I got there, I decided to just get one for me too.  At $9.99 a cup after the $2 off coupon, it comes out to $3.33 per month, per person, since with that cup we get unlimited free refills on fountain or frozen drinks through the end of July.  Also, in 2015, they gave us another week for free in October if we had kept our cups.  I plan on going on a lot of "field" trips before Fall, so I decided to get one for myself as well. I think I might let my daughter use it most days until she goes to California, and then I'll have it for the rest of the summer.  Each cup came with a sheet of coupons, including one for a free ice cream cone, BOGO 12 pack of Coke products, free hot roller item, etc.  So it's actually a pretty darn good deal :)

Back home, I had 2 email alerts from Discover about my charge at RaceTrac so I logged into my Discover account to make sure that I hadn't been double charged. Well, I had but either RaceTrac or Discover had immediately retracted the 2nd charge. Phew. However, while I was logged in to my account, I realized that the 2% Bonus Rewards on groceries that I have enrolled in through the end of September isn't as useless as I thought it was... I was under the mistaken assumption that I earned 2% in Rewards when I charged my Save A Lot groceries to my Amazon Visa card. but that card actually only gives 2% in Rewards when you shop at drugstores, not grocery stores.  Since Save A Lot doesn't accept American Express (mine offers 3% back on groceries), then Discover is my best choice for Save A Lot.  Arrgh, I had been using the Amazon Visa!  So I made the change on our cheat-sheets and my shopping list so I don't forget.

To complicate matters, USAA recently emailed me confirmation that they are switching our Mastercard cards to Visa cards and that as a special offer, we can earn a 10% bonus on all reward points for several months.  So if we buy something and earn 100 points, we'd actually earn 110 points.  I guess I'd need to figure out if that would be more advantageous than using Amex or Amazon Visa or even Discover for a variety of scenarios.  Poor me, having to choose between all those reward programs that are free to us, right?  I'll tell you what I could never do, though, is "churn" credit cards.  People who "churn" have many many credit cards and use many tricks to earn a lot of airline miles, usually.  I'm far too lazy to do this and I don't fly all that often anyway.

I fixed Greg and myself a piece of peach pie with whipped cream for our mid-afternoon snack :)

Greg told me he was going to drive his truck to the backyard so he could load it up for his trip tomorrow and that he'd be taking "a short detour" to RaceTrac to get a refill with his Sodapalooza cup, LOL.  I shook my head because this is going to end up costing us quite a bit of money in gas, apparently. But since he was going, I gave him my Sodapalooza cup to refill as well.  Caffeine-free Diet Coke, no ice. Thanks, honey :)

Bless suggested I might want to sign up for a digital photography class since I had been complaining about how the "dSRL for Dummies" book was too smart for me (!) and I told her that I was waiting for a local library to schedule a class. Well, I just saw on my library system's website that the Mount Dora library (45 minutes away) will be offering a 2-day beginners' class in May so I went ahead and registered for it.  Woohoo!  It gives me an excuse to drive to Mount Dora and get some green peach tea at the tea and spices store.  I'm excited about it :)

Our son came home, enjoyed his cherry frozen drink that I had gotten for him with his own Sodapalooza cup and stuck in the freezer, and then went to our library to attend the Teen Scene Club. I think they're still working on their videos for the county-wide Teen Video Challenge. He's also picking up a book that he put on hold.  I'm so happy that he is enjoying going there and participating in those activities and getting books to read!  I keep many fond memories of going to the library to borrow books and albums when I was a teen and whenever I moved somewhere as an adult, the library was always the first building that I looked for.

As Greg loaded his truck, I watered the garden and the fruit trees (finally!). I had to refill all the self-watering bins too so I was in the garden for 45 minutes at the hottest moment of the day. Oof.

I added a metal lattice that wasn't being used near the zucchini bin, in hopes that it might climb it. Have I mentioned that I don't know anything about growing zucchini?

I harvested a few tomatoes that I threw into our salad. A couple of them had started to burst but they were fine.
I changed my mind about dinner, I didn't feel like turning on the oven, so I grilled burgers again and made another salad.

I finally remembered that I had a hamburger press, although I misjudged how much meat to add each time.
My daughter had a really hard time with her trig exam tonight and thinks she flunked it :(  She had picked up the free bagel with my Panera Rewards card beforehand and then she ordered herself a half salad with the Reward that I had donated to her and a cup of soup and picked those up after her exam, and that's what she had for dinner.  She also brought me back 5 MyCokeRewards codes that she had clipped from the 12-packs that her NHS chapter bought for the Teacher Appreciation Event that they were having today.  Woohoo!

I went to check the mail: it figures, I get coupons for Great Clips the week AFTER both my son and husband get their hair cut there.  Grrr.

After dinner I had to fill out some forms for my daughter's coding camp this summer.  The forms were online and I had to sign them (she has a touch screen laptop) online and then we had to submit them online. For some reason their site was very very VERY slow so it took a very long time.  Finally we were done and then Greg and I watched a few episodes of Arrested Development together.


  1. Congratulations to your son on his award and getting the 3rd highest GPA! How great is that?!

    Hope your daughter did better than she thinks she did on her Trig test!

    Oh, and you had to post a picture of your peach pie with whipped cream, didn't you? It looks so good and now I am craving peach pie with whipped cream, or even better, ice cream!

    I'm glad you were able to register for photography classes at the library.

    Yes, you'll get new plants on the sides of the main pineapple stem, once the main fruit has formed. You can remove them and plant them or leave them on the main stem to grow. You'll soon have a pineapple plantation in your garden!

    Sorry to see that critters have been eating your produce! Birds, perhaps, or the lizards? Maybe you need to put netting around all your plants.

    1. Thank you! I was so happy for him because he's a very quiet kid who doesn't call attention to himself but a very hard worker and his teachers all love him. I feel bad that I didn't expect him to get called up at all, not because of any inability on his part, but because the same 3 students, it seemed, had been called up every quarter through middle school for his grade. So I don't know what happened to those students this quarter.

      Hey, if my picture of the peach pie will help you get an appetite, I'll take it. Call it my good deed of the day. I would bring you one if I lived closer. Just leave it on your doorstep, ring the bell, and let you discover it!

      Oh, I didn't think about removing the baby pineapple plant and growing it it own! I'm afraid I'll kill the main plant and it's bearing my largest pineapple right one so I think i'll leave it on and see how it does.

      Yes, the birds and insects (and probably lizards with the strawberries) have been hard at work. Bugs are usually very bad this season, it's ramping up right now. I just removed the netting from the plants that still had them (save for the peanuts and some of the strawberries) because they need more room to grow. I don't think that my eggplants had ever been attacked by any bugs or birds before (it's the 3rd year these plants are growing fruit) before so I'm not sure what is happening this year! Oh well. The bugs annoy me more because they're hard to get rid of since I don't want to use pesticides and the natural remedies don't seem to work for me. I need to review my arsenal, speaking of which.

  2. Congrats to your son. I think these days they do make sure to give every child an award. Kids today are raised with an 'everybody is a winner' attitude and taking care of their feelings is one of the most important things. I think it just does a disservice to them. The world does not work that way.

    1. I agree. I think this ultimately creates in kids the expectation of getting a reward or recognition for every little thing that they do and that's a problem as they are growing up and realizing that, as you said, the world doesn't work that way.


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