Friday, April 1, 2016

So She Said She Was Going to Go on A Diet in April... (4/1/16)

Easier said than done!

No, it's not an April Fool's Day (or "Poisson d'Avril" as we say in French which translates as "April Fish!").  After a dismal February and March on the health front, I had told myself that I would go back on a diet and exercise regimen in April.  And that's today... sigh.

However, fate (and the "Let's Set Up Nathalie to Fail" fate, not the "Oh Look, Let's be Nice to Nathalie and Give Her Lots of Motivation!" fate) intervened and it looks like it might not be happening.

"Why?!" you ask, befuddled.  "What could possibly have happened that caused the usually motivated (bwa ha ha!) Nathalie to stray off the straight and narrow path of the Quest to Being Thinner Healthier?!"

I'm glad you asked because ooh boy, do I have frugal news for you!  This is what I woke up to:

YES!  I almost jumped up my chair and did a fist pumping motion.  Actually, I did the first pumping motion and I screamed "YES!" and scared Greg and the cats.  I totally didn't get that reward the last time it was around and when the free coffee deal was around and I got it, I was in France for half the month and then I had free coffees from RaceTrac and from Dunkin' Donuts so I never redeemed it.  I love, love, love breads of all kind and Panera bagels are the bombs.  I asked my daughter to check if she got it on her account too but she's in school and can't check just right now. I love, love, love breads of all kind and Panera bagels are the bombs.  So it looks like I might have to drive to Clermont every day. No joke. Maybe I can go walk on the trail and then reward myself with a bagel?

And then I could quench my thirst at RaceTrac because....

Oh yeah, 7 free drink coupons and then I get one free drink a month for being a Princess of Pastry (their levels are sexist, they all have men titles!) thanks to the RaceTrac Insider promo code with is 1018. It's the same for all the RaceTrac Insider members so try it.  I think they might be checking your account against their list of RaceTrac Insider members first though, since it takes 24 hours to be upgraded to that level apparently, but you never know. I don't know if it means that you can still sign up for RaceTrac Insider or if that's going away but you can try here.

So... as long as I go walk on the trail every day to negate the free drinks and bagels, I'll be OK, right?  Sigh, sigh, sigh.  Have I mentioned how hot and humid it is in Central Florida already?!

Segueing into this, the grass was wet with dew this morning so I didn't water the plants but I think I might need to go back outside this afternoon and water the in-ground plants.  I'll post a short garden update post separately.

I fell asleep late again last night because I was engrossed in another blog, but I turned everything off at 12:30 so I did get 6 hours of sleep. Not enough but I didn't feel too tired this morning.

I had told myself that today was going to be "Domestic Friday" because I do have a lot of chores left on my To Do List, but now it's 10:15 a.m. and I'm still on the laptop at the kitchen table... but at least I'm showered, my hair has been washed, the bed has been made, I cooked breakfast for Greg and packed his lunch, saw the kids off to school, inspected the garden, and emailed Panera because the reward wasn't showing in my account yet when they sent me the email (it's there now).  I need to get going!

Tonight, my daughter and I are going on a date... to the award ceremony for Odyssey Magazine, the magazine of Lake Sumter State College.  You might remember that I had announced a couple of weeks ago that her dragon sculpture had won 2nd prize in a recent art contest they were holding and tonight is the award ceremony in Leesburg.  They'll be serving light refreshments and hors d'oeuvres and then we'll go out to dinner. It would have been a perfect opportunity to gnash on a free bagel from Panera but there isn't one in Leesburg (2 in The Villages but it's North of Leesburg so way out of our way) and we're not going anywhere near the Clermont one on our way either. So we'll probably end up at Steak'N Shake or Perkins.  I have coupons.

I redid my kitchen wall calendar for the month of April because (it's April 1st!) Greg and my daughter had been clamoring for it for a couple of days.

I guess they don't know what's going on until they look at that calendar as I am the Keeper of All Knowledge around here.  My, oh my, I'm going to be a social butterfly this week!  Every Saturday has an event that I'm going to be attending:

  • Vintage Gardening event at Renninger's tomorrow (it's supposed to rain, though)
  • my oldest son's senior recital at UCF on 4/9
  • his Flying Horse Big Band concert at UCF Celebrates the Arts at Dr. Philips Center for the Arts in Orlando on 4/16
  • My daughter will be participating in the Optimist Club's Regional Competition in Gainesville on 4/23
  • and the Historical Miniatures Gaming in the South (HMGS) Conference in Orlando with my youngest son on 4/30!
Other social events on my calendar this month?  Oh yes, a few more!
  • Odyssey Magazine Awards tonight
  • My younger brother's live streaming concert on 4/5 (I'm still pondering if I should call to see if there is space left for the Book Bingo event at the Tavares Library that morning!)
  • My Coloring for Adults date at the Clermont library with my daughter (and we'll go out to eat - again?! - after that, probably Panera's)
  • Blues at the Winery on 4/10
  • Dinner with my BFF on 4/12
  • Lunch with another friend on 4/21
  • My youngest son's induction ceremony into the Junior National Honors Society on 4/21
  • And probably other things that will come up... I haven't even included any of the park visits I wanted to do!  
I had a very frugal breakfast this morning because I used up free samples.  
  • My coffee was brewed using a free K-cup sample of Green Mountain Breakfast Blend coffee.  It should be "breakfast bland" though...  I did use a flavored creamer cup and tried it with sugar instead of sweetener and it wasn't as bitter so I'm guessing stevia sweetener + artificially-flavored coffee creamer = bitterness. Oh look, I did math!

  • I found this sample of Cinnamon Chex cereal tucked in behind the boxes of tea so I had it with a banana cut up in it. Yum!

  • And then I was still hungry because I was thinking about the darn Panera bagels so I toasted 3 heels of bread and had them with some Earth Balance spread. yummy, yummy. I'm still hungry.

I packed leftovers for Greg's lunch and the kids packed their lunches.

Greg and I let it mellow again last night. I flushed the upstairs toilet with water I had collected in the shower yesterday, showered with the bucket placed under me so as to catch more water, and reused that one to flush the toilet again for good measure.  Did I mention that I wash my hair once a week?  

I had to squeeze my tube of toothpaste pretty hard this morning to get some to come out. Next step will be to cut it open so I'm going to put a pair of scissors on the steps right now so I don't forget. Brb.

Speaking of scissors, I can't believe I forgot to mention this to Greg last night... so a couple of days ago I was sitting at the kitchen table with my 14 year-old son and mentioning that it might be time to go get a haircut because he looked a little bushy.  He said he was fine because "now (he) could see", which I didn't understand so he explained that he had cut his own bangs last week. I told him he should have just asked me to take him to Great Clips because I've already prepaid for a lot of haircuts (so I could pay just $9.99 for them instead of $14-$16!) but he said "but cutting my own bangs was FREE!".  Shades of my discussion with the dermatologist about the antibiotic Rx, no? Only this time I was on the other side, lol.  He's right, the haircut prepaid card doesn't expire so it's not like he wasted a haircut.  Yay for him!

Remember how I said that the IRS website's "Where's My Refund?" tool was not safe to use, according to Chrome and that I was going to wait to get something in the mail?  It occurred this morning that instead of a refund check, I had asked for a direct deposit. So I checked our Checking account this morning and lo and behold our refund had been transferred on 3/29 so we're $2,800 richer.  I need to go back through this blog to see what I said I was going to do with it.  Investing? Flying to France?  Buying more candles from Bath & Body Works?  Well $1,200 of it will pay for Greg's new gaming PC, I suppose.  It's been shipped and we should get it next week apparently. Yay... (notice the lack of enthusiasm in my voice. Jess is probably rolling her eyes at that!)

I checked our American Express accounts and uploaded a couple of new offers to our accounts.  We probably won't use them (they're for restaurants in Orlando and we never go out to eat in Orlando!) but you never know.

I activated a bunch of new offers on SavingStar.  There's a $0.75 rebate on Trix cereal and I have a $1.00/1 coupon too... the problem is that I never see it at Walgreens or CVS, which tend to have the best sales on individual boxes of cereal (Publix has BOGO sales but I only have 1 coupon and their regular prices are sky high so even with the BOGO discount, it's too expensive for me!).  I might have to venture into Walmart or Target soon.

I printed the new "cheat sheets" that I had designed for Greg and me.  What are they? Well, we have several credit cards, each with their own Reward Program and various percentages of rewards depending on where we use them.  We don't carry a balance of any of them so by judicious use of the cards, we can maximize our Rewards. But it's too much to remember for our middle age addled brains so I've created a cheat-sheet in Powerpoint that I print and laminate for our wallets.  Since Discover Rewards change every quarter, I update it at least every quarter.  Here is the new version:

So, by the way, don't forget to sign up for the Discover bonus rewards for April through June, which is 5% off Movies and Restaurants.  But you won't accrue the bonus rewards if you don't sign up (which is inane, IMO, why not make it an automatic feature on your card, darn it?!).

I only needed to laminate 2 wallet-size cards but the laminating sheets that I have are 8 x 10 so I cut the laminating sheet to size first. I will try using the unused cut-up pieces next time.

My male cat went nuts, pawing at the sliding door, so I looked on the back porch and saw that we had a little visitor...

There are several stray cats in the neighborhood. This is one of them. He's very skittish. They may be why I haven't seen many birds so far this year. I wish the cats would go after the squirrels instead.
A comment from Dawn about my Food Waste spurred me into action and I looked for a cake recipe to make with yogurt and strawberries.  I didn't find exactly what I wanted but I ended up with a recipe for Yogurt Coffee Cake from Prevention Magazine which uses yogurt (yay!) and also white wheat flour. Since I have 10 lbs to use up, that was a winner.  I did use the honey that they noted but I should have used sugar because honey is expensive!  Oh well. I used margarine instead of butter so that evened it out a little.  I only made the cake, not the topping, and then I topped with the strawberries that my daughter had brought back from her dad's house last weekend and that needed to be used up.  So that's a new version of the Strawberry Summer Cake.  We'll see if it's any good. Update: I liked it. Greg and our son LOVED it.  Yay!

I started feeling guilty about baking just one thing in the oven as soon as I put the cake in so I rushed to find another recipe that I could bake at the same time. I decided to make muffins since I would need time to make the batter and the cake was baking for 45 minutes.  I opened my Muffins binder where I keep tons of clipped recipes for muffins and it opened up at the page for Cocoa Muffins from AllYou magazine. Perfect!  Especially since the clipping shows a suggestion to use plain yogurt instead of buttermilk. Hooray!  So I made 12 of those and let me tell you, they smell very good!  I was able to make them under the 20 minutes needed so they could bake while the bake finished its baking so it all worked out perfectly... except for the many dirty dishes that have been added to the sink and countertop now.  Sigh... yeah, that diet isn't going to start today. Or tomorrow, probably.  I read an article about an English tea shop in Mount Dora and I'm so tempted to go.  I just texted my BFF to see if she would want to go to Renninger's and then Mount Dora with me tomorrow but I'm thinking she'll be busy with dance (her young daughter is heavily involved in dance so that takes up a lot of my friend's time). Update: she thinks she might be able to make it but she has to check on something.  If she can, we'll meet up in Clermont so we can go to Panera's for the free bagel (I told her to check her app to see if she got the Reward too) and leave her car there. It's shorter and faster for her to get to Clermont than to my house. Then I would drive us to Mount Dora. We could chat on the way up (45 minutes).  It's supposed to rain tomorrow though, maybe it'll just be cloudy.

No cupcakes for me, though, until after I've eaten my lunch!  Today it is the last of the beef stew leftovers with the leftover Spanish rice from last night, some Sweet & Tangy Pineapple Salad and some cubed cantaloupe.

My laptop is driving me nuts today. Some setting must have reset itself because it's very sensitive to the touch, I just have to hover over things and it selects them (a problem when the button I happen to hover over for just a second makes the computer "send" something!) or it keeps on dragging my Chrome tabs into another Chrome window, etc.  Arrgh.  Stop it! I need to figure out what the problem is!

I redeemed my 2,200 SB for a $25 Walmart gift card.  I only earned 1 GC in March but I'm up to $175 for the year.  I'll probably try to stick to one a month or maybe even every 2 months.

OK, I ate almost all my lunch before I had a chocolate cupcake.  I decided to keep the cantaloupe for an afternoon snack... healthy, no? Still warm from the oven, oh yum!  A little messy since the chocolate chips have melted, though...

By the way, I used my Wilton silicone muffin cups. I really like them because the cupcakes don't stick to them and my muffin pan doesn't need to be washed! I just throw the muffin cups in the dishwasher.

Oops I forgot that I had been brewing myself a cup of tea with Greg's breakfast tea bag. That's OK, I don't mind it steeping for... an hour!  Since it's the 2nd cup that it makes, it needs to steep a little longer anyway and now I won't scald my tongue either!

I have so much stuff that I forget what I have!  Yesterday when I was putting dishes away I found this great big bowl that I had forgotten about. It's perfect for a fruit bowl so I put away the smaller baskets that I was using and I'm using that for the apples, oranges and clementines. Hopefully it'll help me see what it's in danger of spoiling at a glance.

Hey, National Parks Week is April 16-24 and you can visit National Parks for free!  We don't have many National Parks in Florida and none are close to me so I guess I won't be partaking. I mean, I guess I could try going to Everglades National Park to photograph those wild pythons that the Everglades are teeming with nowadays but I think I have to do the dishes that week. Yeah, that's my excuse.

On a completely different subject, I had been wondering if I could just use a canner on my barbecue since I have a glass top electric cooker in the house but I had never actually done the research. I found this very in-depth article on that says "yes!". Yay! But even better, it reminded me that I have that Coleman camping stove that I had given to Greg for his camping trips so I could reclaim it when I want to can.

I printed a couple of new freebie offers from Murphy USA.

I completed my Bing Rewards activities. I need to make sure I don't forget to complete my 150 searches so I can remain qualified for the Gold level!  I'm up to 50 searches for today.

Swagbucks emailed me that I had saved $0.20 at Ace Hardware by shopping with them. Well, not really but that's 20 SB added to my total toward my next gift card.

No news from Kellogg's Family Rewards since I sent them my email via Twitter for them to fix the problem that prevented me from redeeming the 200 bonus point code they had emailed me, but I just checked my account and they input it from their end. Yay!

I never get the texts from Target anymore about the new mobile coupons, although I didn't unsubscribe or anything... so I'm glad that I follow TotallyTarget on Feedly because she posts alerts when there are new coupons available, along with the code words to text to Target for them to send us the coupons.  Check out her post if you want to get them too.

For my men's dinner tonight, I'm going to make them Cajun Tuna of the Dirt Helper.  What? You've never heard of Tuna of the Dirt?!  But it's a classic :) I wonder what Jessica Simpson is up to, these days. I can't believe that it's been 12 years since this skit. Gosh, I feel so ancient!

My daughter came home from school. I  guess she didn't pack a lunch since she brought home a Subway sandwich and a cookie as well as chips and drinks from Walgreens. She used a coupon that Subway had texted her for a $3 sandwich. I reminded her to take the survey on her receipt to get the free cookie next time.

We visited for a while and then I did the dishes and swept the kitchen.  I washed 2 freezer bags that I'm planning on reusing.

I also put the last 3 rolls from the Walmart clearance rack in the food processor to turn them into bread crumbs. I had been drying them in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I was able to transfer all the bread crumbs to a larger container, which freed the last Chinese take-out soup container that I in turn used to freeze that beef broth that I had saved after cooking the beef stew in the crockpot.

CVS sent me $3 in ExtraCare Bucks, that represent my reward for my "Winter" spending. Yay! I love free money :)

I took 2 RaceTrac surveys and earned 2 survey reward codes for free bakery items.

I swept the entrance room. We had a lot of dead leaves in it because we drag them in every time one of us goes outside!

My daughter and I drove to Leesburg to attend the Art Competition award ceremony. There was a lot more food than I thought there would be and I kind of filled up there!  I forgot to take a picture of the spread, but I had cheese, fried ravioli with marinara sauce, chicken meatballs and they had tiramisu for dessert but my daughter ate hers and mine, lol.  She won $60 for her 2nd place ribbon, woohoo!

Then we went to Steak'n Shake for dinner. We ended up not using any coupons since what we ordered off the menu was cheaper than the items featured on the coupons that I had. I really wasn't hungry though but I didn't want to just watch her eat!  I drank water and she ordered a lemonade and then she had a shake to go so I drove home (she drove up). The restaurant was kind of dingy and it took a long time for us to get our food but we had a good time chatting about our favorite shows of the moment (we watch different shows).  The bill came to $14 and some cents plus tip and I used one of the Visa gift cards from the Optimist Club contest.  I really wish I could just deposit those to my account so I can start earning rewards on my purchases again!

When we got home I called my BFF to see if she was going to be able to make it tomorrow and she is so we'll meet at Panera's (she hasn't checked to see if she gets the free bagel yet) and then decide what we're doing depending on the weather.

A poster on Slickdeals posted an alert that some Discover Card members once again have the $10/$30 coupon for Kohl's in their Discover Deals so I checked and we had it on both our cards. So for the 3rd time, I was able to scan the coupon UPC into my Kohl's app, which resulted in my getting credited with $20 in Kohl's cash, period.  No $30 purchase (or $60 for that matter) required!  So I will go to Kohl's next week to get more free merchandise. I need to think of something to buy! Woohoo!

Amazon shipped my bag of citric acid so I got the $1 digital credit for picking the No Rush Shipping option. As of now I have $5 in digital credits available.  I really need the citric acid because my glasses have such water marks on them. Btw, Jess, if you're reading, the Dollar Tree Rinse Aid is no better than colored water, since you had asked me.  That was a disappointment.

This afternoon my son found out that his best friend is moving to France in July for a year!  His mom works at WDW in HR (she and I used to be co-workers 20 years ago) and she got the opportunity to go work at Disneyland Paris for a year so the whole family is moving there. My son's BFF will attend the American High School in Paris.  We are so envious!  My son, who you will recall HATED our trip to France last summer, admitted that he was jealous and is all gun-ho about going to France now, lol, So I told him he and I might go back next June and I've been corresponding with his BFF's mom to put that idea in her ear. How fun would it be for the boys to meet in Paris, right?!  We'll see what happens.


  1. I was wondering about the rinse aid the other day! But my dishwasher is currently broken, so I guess that doesn't matter so much right now. Thanks for letting me know.

    And it's all good. I'm a console gamer. There's a rivalry between PC and console gamers you know :-) I really don't care. But gaming PCs get expensive and I couldn't imagine spending that much. I could go out and buy a brand new Xbox One, brand new PS4 and a lot of games for that price!

    1. I KNOW! Arrgh. Greg was exclusively a PC gamer until he got the Xbox One a couple of years ago but now he mostly uses the Xbox One. So the fact that he spends so much on a gaming PC really gets my goat but he makes a good living and it keeps it at home where I know where he is, lol.

      I'm sorry that your dishwasher is broken! We were thinking about replacing ours but (because I'm a lousy DIY-er) it would mean either ripping up the tiles or having to rip up the countertop, which then would mean we need to replace the cabinets, etc... which we all need to do because our kitchen is from the 60s or 70s and really REALLY awful and all of that would mean tons of money to sink in a kitchen reno. So we're not replacing the dishwasher.

  2. My friend in High school was French Canadian and we were always playing practical jokes on each other. My dad was the vice-principal of our high school and we would always catch a ride with him to school every morning. I was sick one year on April 1st (Poisson d'Avril), so I asked my dad to give her a letter for a list of books that I would need her to bring home for me from my locker. Of course, it wasn't a list at all. It was a "letter" filled with as many fish confetti as I could pack in without her suspicions. And it worked. There were fish all over the back seat of the car. I got her good that year.

    What a newsy post. You're back! And you are busy, busy. You're social calendar is filling up so quickly, there won't be any time left for us. You are like a magnet attracting all those wonderful freebies your way. Congrats on winning another $25 gift card despite your much pared down participation with Swag Bucks.

    Lovely looking cake and muffins. Have fun at the Tea shop with your BFF today, even if it rains. Things are happening in your life recently that seem to be pulling you towards another trip to France in the near future. (And I don't believe your son HATED his time in France last summer.....he just wasn't enthused)

    1. LOl, yeah you did "get her good"!! Was your dad upset that his car was covered in dish confetti?

    2. I don't quite recall the aftermath, but knowing my dad (despite his reputation of being the strict disciplinarian vice-principal) had a GREAT sense of humour. And knowing my friend, she would have spent the whole ride to school scooping up every single fish she could find. Ha.

  3. Thanks for posting that link to the summer cake and letting us know that you liked it. Now I know what I am gonna bake this weekend! :)

    1. I hope you guys like it! I couldn't believe how fast it disappeared at my house... my chocolate-loving son completely ignored the chocolate muffins and devoured the strawberry cake. It was like... Opposite Day or something!

  4. Hi Nathalie,
    Just wanted to tell you again how much I enjoy reading your blog. It's been a rough couple of months for us. My husbands Father passed away on Feb. 21 and his Mother passed away on March 23. 32 days later. They were married 57 years and I believe just still needed to be together. My husband is taking it pretty hard still. Mom's funeral is April 11th. So, I'm hoping things will get better after that. I so enjoy reading your blog, it distracts me from everything and also makes me laugh. I've also started reading the others you have in your favorites. Thank you.

    1. Oh Maria, I'm so so sorry for you and your husband's losses. How sad that you lost both of them in such a short amount of time... but yes, I can totally see where his mom just couldn't go on without her husband. 57 years is a lifetime together, I can't imagine adjusting to life without my better half at that point! (((HUGS))) to you both. I'm all teary-eyed. And I'm touched that you are enjoying my antics and taking the time to let me know about it. Thank you.

    2. Thank you. That means a lot.

    3. So sorry to hear of your great loss Maria.

    4. Thank you Susan

  5. Good luck with that diet! :D

  6. HAHA!! Love that the diet is thrown off by the might resemble my life :) I just don't try anymore. I would totally love daily bagels at Panera!! LOVE LOVE LOVE Cinnamon Crunch Bagels. Wishing you the best of luck with the bagel diet!!

    1. Cinnamon Crunch? Oh that sounds good. I might have to try that... tomorrow! LOL. I'll think of you. Have you checked your card to see if you have the reward? My friend didn't get the email but it was on her card.


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