Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Shopping Day ~ Tuesday, May 31, 2016



I was tired last night so I actually slept well and didn't like my alarm ringing at 6:45... for once I could have slept in!

Greg and I watched the latest episode of Game of Thrones last night via HBONow, the first episode now that we're paying for it ($14.99 a month). We didn't like it but of course we'll keep on watching, hahaha.

My laptop crashed again on my last night so I had to do the Hard Reset maneuver again. It's getting old.  Also our internet went down and rebooting the modem and router didn't do anything so I called Brighthouse and a tech remotely rebooted our modem and that did the trick.  No idea what happened. They claimed there weren't any outages in our area although there were storms passing nearby and we lost our connection during one of those (and no, it didn't rain here!). I was relieved that we were able to re-establish the connection, though. It's pretty horrible not to have the internet nowadays if you're not the one deciding you're going to go screen-free for a while!

So far this morning (it's 9:18 a.m.), I've pretty much only been communicating with my BFF (Jodie) and then my son's BFF's mom (Leslie, the lady who is moving to France with her family for a year) to coordinate some networking for Jodie.  The 2 ladies used to know each other in passing several years ago although they don't really remember each other right now.  Leslie mom will keep her eyes and ears open for positions in her organization at Disney (HR), where Jodie used to work.  I proofread Jodie's résumé and forwarded it on to Leslie, and then worked on trying to find job listings of interest at local large employers and city governments in our area.  Jodie is kind of in a daze, still, and I know exactly how she feels so I'm just trying to help in my own way. Ideally? She'd get a job where she needs a secretary and she hires me, LOL.  I don't want a job but I'd love to work with Jodie again. I used to be the secretary of the department where she worked several years ago (shoot, almost 20 years ago, I think!), that's how we .  She's awesome.

But I also need to get dressed and get going because I want to go grocery shopping today.  No adventures for me today, just... chores.  Yuck.

I also saw a posting for a band teacher at our middle school so I texted my oldest son to see if he would be interested in applying but he hasn't replied and, in truth, I don't think he's qualified since he doesn't have a teaching certificate anyway. At least I don't think he does. But since you never know, I figured I would tell him about it.  It would be weird for him to teach band at the school where his own musical career started, hahaha.

Oh and Leslie? She found an awesome apartment in a gorgeous building in Paris, within view of the Eiffel Tower (and I mean close to the Eiffel Tower, not miles and miles away).  The kids and I actually walked very close to her street last year when we were visiting, it feels weird to think that my son's BFF will be LIVING there for a year.  And yes it's still very hard not to be jealous. Or think "damn it, I should have tried to remain with Disney after my layoff, it could have been me, maybe?!" but it wouldn't have because I would have been a secretary anyway, not an HR professional :)  But I'm still jealous, lol.  I'm happy for them, they're very excited.

FRUGAL SUCCESSES

  • I packed leftovers for Greg's lunch.

  • Redeemed 2,550 KFR points for three $1.00/1 coupons for Kellogg's bars so I can stock up on Kellogg's Special K with Berries cereal bars for my daughter at CVS this morning.

  • I did 1 super and 1 large load of laundry on cold/cold. I think everything should be able to be dried outdoors today. I want to get going with my shopping, though, so I think I'll hang it this afternoon.

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

  • I almost forgot to use the code for a free 8 x 10 reprint at Walgreens!  I ordered a b&w portrait of my oldest son taken by my middle son recently.  I hate how Walgreens photos wants us to crop the original images. It's going to print all off-centered now and I can't even get his whole trumpet in :(  But hey, free, right?

  • I also found a coupon for a freebie cup of yogurt that expires today, yikes!  So now I need to go to Publix too.

  • I washed my sneakers with my 2nd load of laundry (undies, exercise clothes, nothing too important) because they smelled swampy.  I'll dry them outside.  In the meantime, I unearthed the pair of Nike Air that I had bought last year at Kohl's and hated. I thought that maybe I hadn't loosened the laces enough so I did that today but nope, they still pinch my feet very badly, it's going to be an uncomfortable shopping trip today. I think Nike mislabeled a pair of narrow fit shoes.
please ignore my cankles!
  • My daughter wanted me to buy her a hook so she would hang her robe from the back side of her closet door. I looked in my stash and found some Command hooks that I had bought on 75% clearance at CVS some months ago. Yay!

  • I threw away a portion of wooden railing that had come with my sons' bunk beds 14 years ago. I already got rid of one of the bed frames so the railing was useless. I collected the hardware, though.  I also threw away a lamp that I had bought at Goodwill last year for what is now my room.  It worked fine but the feet were broken and it wobbled dangerously. I couldn't fix it satisfactorily and I didn't want to trick anybody else into buying it from a thrift store either so I pitched it. I collected the CFL that was still in there and added it to my stash to donate to my kids once they have apartments, and also kept the glass shelves, maybe we can use them for a project of some sort.

  • I packed an apple to bring as a snack on my shopping trip.  On second thought, it was getting late so I packed a sandwich and some pretzel sticks too.

  • I dropped off recyclables such as plastic bags and foam trays/egg cartons that aren't collected by my town's recycling department, for free, at Publix.

  • I stopped by RaceTrac and got a CF Diet Coke refill for free with my Sodapalooza.  I was going to get a free 16 oz coffee with a survey reward code but the cups were only labeled small, medium or large, so I asked a nearby attendant which I should get. Oh my, guess what he told me?!  He said that I could actually get any size coffee I wanted AND that actually, I didn't have to get coffee, even though the receipt specified 16 oz coffee... he said that the survey reward codes are always good for either an any size coffee, a bakery item or a hot grill roller item!  Why didn't anybody ever tell me this?!?  So I got a chocolate doughnut for my son.  I felt weird bringing it to the cash register but the cashier took my code without batting an eye.  I texted my daughter about this but she said she would feel weird doing this...

  • Then I went to Habitat for Humanity ReStore to drop off my donations. I wasn't sure if they would take the spray paint and containers of cleaning products that we didn't want anymore, but the attendant accepted them. Then I went inside to find a replacement for my tea pitcher, found one for just $0.99, as well as a pasta dryer for just $2.99, a replacement mop for $2.99 and a very cool brand new Nordic Ware castle cakelettes baking pan for $9.99. I just couldn't resist it... my sons might be a little too old for those but Greg has a grandson now! I just love baking supplies.  When I got home, my daughter wanted to make castle cakes right away but we decided to wait until the weekend.  I went on Amazon and hold on to your seats, it will cost you $99 if you want to buy it new. WHAT?!?!  Woohoo!  A used one is $49.99 so I should be able to make a nice profit if I wanted to resell it.



  • I then drove to Save A Lot, where I was very lucky to find several items on 50% off clearance on top of the items I wanted to buy. The items I got on clearance were a cherry pie ($2.00), a caramel nut coffee cake ($1.50), a 2-lb bag of collard greens ($2.00), 2 quarts of 2% milk ($0.65 each), a gallon of skim milk ($1.25).  They also had Jennie-O turkey patties on clearance for $1.95 but I wasn't sure if my $1.50/2 ground turkey coupons would be applicable and then I remembered that the last time I had bought those patties, we hadn't liked them at all. So I didn't buy them.  I paid with Discover because I'll get 2% back in Bonus Rewards.


  • At the RaceTrac station in Clermont, I refilled my gas tank for $2.09/gallon (6 cents/gallon cheaper than at the station near my house) and asked the station manager if the deal with the survey reward codes was the same at his station and he said yes. Woohoo!  So I got a free blueberry muffin for my daughter. I earned 17 Reward points on my app.

  • My next stop was CVS.  I bought one gallon of milk (on sale for $2.79), 3 boxes of Special K Red Berries cereal bars (for my daughter).  I could get 2 for on sale $3.00 each, and if I bought a 3rd one at full price ($3.79), I would receive a $2.00 ECB.  So I got three and redeemed the three $1.00/1 coupons that I ordered this morning from KFR.  I also bought a Snickers bar with "Grouchy" printed on it for my youngest son. It was on sale for $0.99 and I got a $0.75 ECB back on it. So my OOP was $8.53 but it was free to me since I paid with the CVS gift card earned from our American Express Rewards, and I got $2.75 back.

  • The bulk of my shopping was done, as usually at Aldi.  I was able to return my 2 bird feeding stations so I was refunded a little over $21.  I'm very relieved!  I also lucked out by finding whole chickens with $2 off stickers on them placed to $1.00 off stickers. I only bought one since I have no freezer space. I thought the chicken would then be $2.71 because it had been discounted by $1.00 first and then by another $1.00 to make it $2.00, but the cashier deducted both stickers so I paid $1.71 for the almost 5 lb chicken!  I so wish I had had more room in the freezer!  I also found a family pack of 3 huge bone-in chicken breasts originally priced at $1.79/lb so $8.11 for the pack, but it had a $4.00 off sticker on it. However, the cashier deducted $4.11 so I paid just $4.00 for 4.53 lbs of chicken breasts. I didn't buy a lot of fruit this week (apples, bananas, strawberries), but I did buy veggies (potatoes, zucchini, broccoli, Romaine hearts, sweet corn).  Aside from food, I also bought 2 jugs of cat litter, a set of salad plates for my daughter (for when she has an apartment), and 2 sets of freezer boxes.  My OOP was $76.57 and I paid with Amex (3% Rewards).


  • I stopped by Winn Dixie Liquor Store to get the whiskey that they didn't have last week... but they were still out :(  So I didn't get anything.

  • At Publix, I got a cup of Yoplait Greek yogurt for free after coupon, some roach traps (I had a $2.00 off store coupon), and 3 bottles of Old Spice body spray for Greg (they were cheaper than at CVS or Walgreens and  I used three $1.10/1 off printable coupons as well).  I also bought 2 pints of Ben & Jerry's ice cream on BOGO for Greg (I had a $1.00 off 2 insert coupon for those but I didn't have the store coupons that apparently had been in the paper last month.. I think I might have already used them?!).  My OOP was $20.65 and I paid with Amex (3% Rewards).


  • Then at Walgreens I picked up my free 8 x 10 reprint.  I was hoping to get a bag of organic Black Forest gummy bears on sale at $1.50 for which I would have redeemed a $1.00 coupon and gotten a $1.50 Register Reward, but they were completely out. I asked my favorite cashier if a raincheck would produce the RR (since CVS will issue ECBs with a raincheck even after the ECB deal has expired) but she said no.  So I was going to leave but she said she didn't want me to leave empty handed and that she has larger bags of non organic Black Forest gummy bears on clearance for $0.75. I told her that I had a $1.00 coupon so I wasn't going to work but then she changed the price to $1.00 so she could accept the $1.00 coupon. So I paid $0.07 (the sales tax) for the bag. That was nice of her but... paying $0.50 and getting $1.50 back would have been a better deal!  I might be able to do it on Thursday since a truck is supposed to come in then.  I do have another $1.00 coupon. We'll see.

  • I stopped by RaceTrac by my house again to get my 2nd free CF Diet Coke refill and a free frozen drink refill for my youngest son.

  • Back at home, my daughter helped me unload the car, and I documented my trip and put everything away.

  • I submitted my receipts for the following rebates:
    • Publix: $0.10 off ice cream (MobiSave), $0.10 off deodorant (MobiSave)
    • Aldi: $0.10 off apples (MobiSave), $0.10 off bread (MobiSave), $0.10 off bananas (MobiSave), $0.25 off potatoes (Checkout 51)
    • CVS: $0.10 off milk (MobiSave)



  • I will earn KFR points automatically with my ExtraCare card for my Special K cereal bar purchase at CVS.


  • Greg got a small hourly raise, and a pretty sizeable bonus (cash and stock options. I hate stock options, they make my life miserable at tax time!), so woohoo!

  • Dunkin' Donuts sent me an email with an offer for me to get $2.00 back on my prepaid card if I just make just 1 purchase by June 7th.  So if I just get a doughnut, it's basically a freebie.

  • I received a coupon for a free bag of M&M's in the mail.


  • I harvested 2 lovely Roma tomatoes.


  • For dinner I roasted the chicken breasts that I bought today and the kids demanded pasta.  I heated up the Brussel sprouts and cheese ravioli that were left over from a few nights ago for myself and also served the leftover salad from two night ago.


  • I reused the water from the hardboiled eggs this morning to top off the indoor plants and a rose bush.


  • I froze the chicken bones from the breasts I roasted tonight so I can make chicken stock at a later time.


  • I earned the daily Bing Rewards credits and a few Swagbucks.


  • I put a book on hold at the library that won't even come out until early August. I'm #12 in line for "A Time of Torment" by John Connolly.


SPLURGES

  • The kids bought lunch from school today.

  • I watered the vegetable garden with the sprinkler for an hour this morning. I meant to do it only for 30 minutes but I forgot to set a timer. I still need to refill the self-watering bins too and to water the potted plants that weren't in reach of the sprinkler.

  • Tonight I refilled several self-watering bins as well as watered the potted plants with the hose.

FAILURES
  • This afternoon, the sky looked like it might storm so I decided to just throw all the laundry in the dryer instead of hanging it to dry. However... it never did rain.  Arrgh.

  • I thought I could get the $0.25 ice cream rebate on Ibotta for my Publix purchase of Ben & Jerry's ice cream, but it was only for containers 1.5 quarts and up.

CHORES
  • Packed Greg's lunch
  • Cooked Greg's breakfast
  • Set the breakfast table for the kids
  • Boiled eggs for snacks
  • Watered the garden
  • Ordered Kellogg's coupons
  • Corresponded with 2 friends to help one of them network
  • Proofread her résumé
  • Forwarded a job posting to my oldest son
  • Researched and forwarded job postings to my BFF
  • Did laundry
  • Collected trash and took it down the curb for collection
  • Made my and Greg's beds
  • Clipped and sorted coupons
  • Worked on shopping list
  • Washed sneakers
  • Dropped off donations @ thrift store
  • Did the grocery shopping
  • Documented and put everything away
  • Submitted rebates
  • Recorded receipts into spreadsheets
  • Called the dentist to confirm my son's appointment
  • Put laundry in the dryer
  • Cooked dinner
  • Made a dinner menu for the rest of the week
  • Updated several apps on my phone
  • Watered the potted plants and refilled some self-watering bins
  • Watered indoor plants
  • Deadheaded the roses
  • Did the dishes
  • Put the recycling out to the curb for collection early tomorrow morning
  • Posted my weekly grocery shopping post
HEALTH

  • I weighed myself this morning and I put on a little weight although only 0.6 lb. WTH!?

  • For breakfast I had a cup of generic honey nut Cheerios, half a cup of ~2% milk and some sliced strawberries. I also added the last few blackberries that I had picked a week ago.

  • My lunch was a turkey sandwich and some pretzel sticks.  

  • I had the apple as a mid-afternoon snack, along with a Wasa cracker spread with a wedge of garlic herb spreadable cheese.

  • For dinner I had 1/2 a roasted chicken breast, half a cup of mini cheese ravioli and about a half cup of Brussels sprouts.  Then I had a navel orange and a yogurt.

Grocery Shopping This Week



Wednesday is my main shopping day. My official 2016 weekly grocery budget is $100/wk for 4 people (2 adults, 2 teens) but I really aim to spend $50 or less. However, since I have stopped participating in Swagbucks so intensively, I find myself with fewer gift cards to apply to my groceries so think I might need to up that number to $75.

Let's see how I did!

Budget for the week: $100.00
Total OOP: $75.68
Rebates expected: $0.00
Total spent after rebates: $75.68
Money left in budget: $24.32


Baking Supplies: $1.98 OOP



  1. I didn't plan on buying cake mix this week but I bought a new baking pan to make castle-shaped cakes so I figured I needed cake mix!
  • 2 boxes cake mix (Aldi) @ $0.99 each = $1.98

Beverages: $0.00 OOP

  • None needed

Breads/Baked Goods: $2.29 OOP
  1. I shouldn't have bought the buns, I didn't realize that I had 4 buns left at home :(
  • 2 loaves white bread (Aldi) @ $0.85 each = $1.70
  • 1 package 8-ct hamburger buns (Aldi) @ $0.69


 Cereals: $0.00 OOP
  • None needed

Dairy: $15.90 OOP
  1. The powdered milk is part of our stocking up for hurricane season (I use it when I bake bread, too)
  2. I froze the 2 quarts of 2% milk as back-up
  • 2 quarts 2% milk (Save A Lot), on 50% clearance @ $0.65 each = $1.30
  • 1 gallon skim milk (Save A Lot), on 50% clearance @ $1.25
  • 1 box powdered milk (Save A Lot) @ $7.99
  • 1 Yoplait Plenti Greek yogurt (Publix), on sale @ $1.00 minus $1.00 manufacturer coupon = FREE
  • 1 gallon whole milk (CVS), on sale @ $2.79 but FREE thanks to CVS gift card earned via American Express Rewards and received $0.10 back from MobiSave so MONEY MAKER.
  • 14 cups yogurt (Aldi) @ $0.39 each = $5.46

Dry/Pantry/Freezer Goods: $4.86 OOP 
  1. I thought we were out of syrup but, wouldn't you know it, I found another unopened bottle in my pantry as soon as I got home from the stores!
  2. The instant mashed potatoes are for hurricane supply stock.  I will use them to make potato rolls after hurricane season.
  • 1 lb brown rice (Save A Lot) @ $0.99
  • 1 box instant mashed potatoes (Save A Lot) @ $1.39
  • 1 bottle ketchup (Aldi) @ $0.89
  • 1 bottle light syrup (Aldi) @ $1.59
Produce/Juice: $19.07
  1. I couldn't resist an orange sticker on produce, but I'm really wondering how I'm going to use up 2 lbs of collard greens before they go bad!  I'll make Zuppa Toscana tomorrow and lasagna and stir fries the rest of the week, I suppose.
  • 2 lbs green collards (Save A Lot), on 50% clearance @ $2.00
  • 1 bottle organic apple juice (Aldi), @ $2.69
  • 1 lb broccoli crowns (Aldi) @ $1.69
  • 4 ears sweet corn (Aldi), on sale @ $1.29
  • 1 package 3-ct Romaine hearts (Aldi) @ $1.99
  • 24 oz zucchini (Aldi) @ $1.49
  • 2.49 lbs bananas (Aldi) @ $0.44/lb = $1.10 and received $0.10 back from MobiSave so $1.00
  • 3 lbs Red Delicious apples (Aldi) @ $2.99 and received $0.10 back from MobiSave so $2.89
  • 1 lb strawberries (Aldi), on sale @ $1.49
  • 5 lbs yellow potatoes (Aldi), @ $2.79 and received $0.25 back from Checkout 51 so $2.54


Proteins: $17.08 OOP
  1. I wasn't planning on getting any chicken this week but those deals were too good!
  2. I had forgotten that I had a package of Black Forest ham in the freezer already. Arrgh.
  • 1 lb Black Forest turkey (Aldi) @ $3.49
  • 1 lb Black Forest ham (Aldi) @ $3.49
  • 4.96-lb chicken (Aldi) @ $4.71, minus $3.00 in store coupons = $1.71
  • 4.53 lbs chicken breasts (Aldi) @ $8.11, minus $4.11 in store coupons = $4.00
  • 64 oz bag Italian meatballs (Aldi) @ $4.39

Snacks: $14.50 OOP and received $2.75 back in ECBs
  1. Again, I couldn't resist those dumb orange clearance stickers on baked goods, even though I won't be eating them!
  2. The ice cream was pricey compared to just buying a half gallon of ice cream at Aldi, but it would have melted before I got home. It was a special treat for Greg.
  • 1 cherry pie (Save A Lot), on 50% clearance = $2.00
  • 1 caramel nut coffee cake (Save A Lot), on 50% clearance = $1.50
  • 1 bag gummy bears (not pictured) (Walgreens), on special @ $1.00 minus $1.00 insert coupon = $0.07 (tax)
  • 2 pints Ben & Jerry's ice cream (Publix), on BOGO @ $4.79, minus $1.00/2 insert coupon = $3.79 and received $0.10 back from MobiSave so $3.69
  • 2 boxes Special K Red Berries cereal bars (CVS), on sale at 2 for $6.00, minus (2) $1.00/1 manufacturer coupons = $4.00 but FREE thanks to CVS gift card earned with American Express Rewards.
  • 1 box Special K Red Berries cereal bars (CVS), on sale @ $3.69, minus $1.00/1 manufacturer coupon = $2.69 but FREE thanks to CVS gift card earned with American Express Rewards and received $2.00 back in ECBs.
  • 1 Snickers bar (CVS) on sale @ $0.99 but FREE thanks to CVS gift card earned with American Express Rewards, and received $0.75 in ECBs.
  • 2 packages peanut butter crackers (Aldi) @ $0.89 each = $1.78
  • 1 bag pretzel sticks (Aldi) @ $1.29
  • 1 box protein bars (Aldi) @ $1.99
  • 1 box Swiss rolls (Aldi) @ $1.29
  • 1 package 4-ct chocolate pudding cups (Aldi) @ $0.89

Did you get any great deals at the grocery store this week?  Please link up or share your finds in the comments :)

Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day ~ Monday, May 30, 2016



Today we honor fallen soldiers from past wars... with barbecues and lots of sales everywhere?! It's kind of the unofficial kick-off of the summer, truth be told.

However, I'd like to take a moment and think of all of those who gave their lives so we can continue to enjoy our very indulgent and democratic way of life, in all past conflicts. And I wish that no more soldiers would ever need to lose their lives, but that's not the way the world goes.

I got up early today since I had forgotten to turn off my daily wake-up alarm. Doh. But it's supposed to rain later on today and I so enjoy starting my day early on the patio with the birds and the squirrels and the bull frogs! It's lovely before the sun rays reach the patio and this morning, particularly, there is a nice cool breeze going on.  It's 9 a.m. and the cicadas just woke up, apparently.

Late last night I decided to go take a walk.  I walked through my neighborhood for about 45 minutes.  The temperature was much cooler, there was a breeze as well, and as I walked by the lake I could see fireflies!  I heard several kinds of frogs that I had never heard before, it really was lovely.  The benefit of walking when it is dark out, aside from the fact that it's not so darn hot, is that it's harder to judge distances so I actually walked for longer than I might have during the day.  I went around the same blocks a few times. We live in a small town that was ranked one of the top safest cities in the state and I did see the police patrol the area so I felt safe. I was pretty much the only one out and about anyway and I stuck to areas that were lit, mostly. My daughter knew I had gone out and offered to come with me but I needed the time alone. If I walk with someone else, I feel like I have to talk.  She was getting worried by the time I got home and called me right as I was getting in the door. I felt bad that she had gotten scared. It was good exercise, although I realized this morning that I had worn my sneakers without my plantar fasciitis insoles and hadn't even realized it!  Oops. My foot doesn't seem to hurt this morning and it wasn't hurting as I was walking around.

Then I took a very long shower. It was very wasteful as I have never taken such a long shower, but it was also very relaxing and that, with the walk, helped me clear my head.  I needed it. I had been in such a dark place.  So I feel much better today, pretty much back to normal, I think. On with frugal successes and failures of the day!

I don't think I'll work on many chores today but you never know. If I do, I'll relist my to-do list here so I can keep track of them.  End of day update: nope, I didn't do anything "chory" today.


I texted my BFF to ask if she wanted to get together this week so she could fill me in on her job situation and we agreed to meet on Friday night. I'll probably take her out to dinner to cheer her up. Coincidentally she was actually feeling like I was feeling yesterday: horribly bad and she couldn't stand being at home anymore so she grabbed one of her kids and headed to the Magic Kingdom (her husband works at Disney so she gets in for free). I told her I completely understood where she was "at" since I had gone through very similar emotions just yesterday.  I wish that her stress would just magically disappear as mine did... right now I can listen to her and try to support her the best I can.  Unfortunately I don't know anybody that she could network with.  The only person I might have known is working in France for a year and in the process of moving her family there so it's not a good time.


FRUGAL SUCCESSES

  • I researched how to keep ants from my hummingbird feeder and found this site that lists good ideas. I think I'll try the Vaseline first, and if it doesn't work, I'll do the moat. Someone in one of the comments listed a good reason why the moat isn't my first choice: I'd have to remember to refill it every day since it's so hot here and the water would evaporate very fast. Plus... it's more work to make it :)

  • I defrosted turkey franks (for me) and Jumbo franks (for everybody else) for dinner tonight.

  • I checked MobiSave for new offers and got a ton of generic ones, yay! .... but they're all for just 10 cents off.  Booh!  Still, as usual, better than nothing, right?  I'll be buying several of those items anyway.


  • I also uploaded new offers to Ibotta. Those can't be used unless I shop at Walmart, Target, Publix, Walgreens or CVS and I don't buy things just because there is an Ibotta offer on them anymore, so I haven't really been earning anything with that app recently.

  • I earned the daily Bing Rewards credits and a few Swagbucks. Inching my way to 2,200 SB although I'm only at 1,723 as of right now!

  • The local paper is reporting that our county's home valuations went up by 7%. I checked Zillow.com and our house is valued at $174K right now.  Hmmm, the last time our property valued went up like this, it was right before the 2007-2008 real estate crash.  There is NO reason why our home should be valued that high.  Our town hasn't increased the amenities for residents, it's grown in size but really nothing much has changed.  This isn't a good sign, I don't think. I think it shows that once again homes are being over-valued and I think we're headed for another real estate crash.  There is a beautiful home just a block over valued at $287K that has been on the market for 228 days. If the market was really so hot right now, it would have sold.  You know what really burns me, every time? The lousy house next to us (the one that belongs to the neighbors we don't talk to) is valued at a higher price than ours. It has no yard at all, what little property they have isn't maintained too well.  They have a screened-in porch with the screens ripped and hanging out of their frame (and it has been like this for several months) but that house is valued at $182K. I just saw that they bought it on 4/22 for $150K, though.  The sale was never advertised so it must have been sold in the same family. They're been pretty quiet, so far, so good :)  Speaking of houses, I read an article about 19 homes that had to be "rezoned" from being in SC to being in NC because of the new and much more accurate techniques for assessing the borders using GPS now.  Can you imagine buying in a house in a low tax state only to realize one day that you're now part of a higher tax state? And you're on a fixed income?  That would stink.  Years ago my grandmother, while driving us to Belgium for the weekend's shopping (she lived just a couple of miles away from where France, Belgium and Luxembourg all come together), used to point out a house that used to belong to someone in our family and said that after the borders between France and Belgium were redrawn, at some point, our relatives found themselves living in a house that was divided in half between Belgium and France. So the living room was in France, and the kitchen was in Belgium, or something like that.  I don't remember anything else about the story, just thinking that it was lucky for them that French is the official language in both Belgium (well, that part of Belgium at least) and France or our relatives would have had to learn Flemish!  I was very young, back then. Still, I wonder how they handled whatever taxes they had, back in the day... and I wonder if that house still sits on the border nowadays, not that there is a border anymore because of the Schengen Zone and the United States of Europe.

  • I saw that there is a free "Herp Hike" organized by our county's Parks & Trails office in mid-June at a nearby preserve and I'm thinking about signing up... I put a reminder on my calendar so I can think about it some more.  Greg doesn't want to go, he doesn't like snakes. I don't either but I think it might be interesting. Plus I'd like to be able to learn to spot frogs!

  • Right after I typed up the previous paragraph, Greg asked if I wanted to go fishing so off we went. I haven't fished since I was little and he's tried a couple of times without any luck. Basically neither of us really know what we're doing, although he and our son attended a free fishing clinic for kids & dads several years ago for which I had signed them up.  They had come back with a free fishing pole and we also had another one but both were for kids.  Once we were fishing and realized that the poles weren't really large enough for us to be able to cast very far, I reminded Greg that he had brought back his grandfather's fishing poles and tackle box from his parents' a couple of years back so he will bring those next time.


  • We stopped by RaceTrac on the way to the fishing area and got free refills of sodas with our Sodapalooza cups. Since we were going to be gone for a few hours and I noticed we were low on bread (and forgot all about the extra hamburger buns that I had!), I brought along 2 RaceTrac coupons that had come with the Sodapalooza cups which allowed us to get a free "fresh" sandwich with the purchase of a 20 oz Coke product.  Since there was no RaceTrac where we were going, I figured the Coke bottles would be our extra drink (it was hot out there) to hold us off until we came back in town.  So we paid a little less than $4 total and got two 20-ounce Coke products and two free sandwiches.  We ate half of our sandwiches on the way and half while we were fishing. Next time, though, I hope to have a little more head time so I can pack us a proper picnic in a cooler so the drinks remain cold.  Let's cut to the chase: we didn't catch any fish. But we had a good time. The kids wanted to stay home. My daughter had studying to do and she cleaned her room and did her laundry while our son played on his computer and did some studying as well.
  • Greg found a fishing bobber in the water so he retrieved it: freebie!  We needed one anyway :)

Source: Yahoo! Images
  • There was no fee to fish (aside from having to have a fishing license).

  • On the way home, we stopped at RaceTrac once again to get another free soda refill with our Sodapalooza cups.

  • I collected the 2 caps from the Coke bottles we had bought and saved the codes to enter in MyCokeRewards.

  • My youngest son and I really wanted to see Zootopia when it came out but neither of us wanted to spend the money to go see it in a theater but neither of us actually enjoys watching movies at the theater. I just looked it up and not only will Redbox have it on June 7th (that's soon!) but also it should be on Netflix (which just announced an exclusive partnership with Disney) on July 5th.  My daughter really wants us to rent it on June 7th even if we have to pay for it, because she wants to see it with us (she's already seen it and loved it but she'll be in CA starting on June 11th), so I might splurge for it then if I can get it.  I used to work with the director, Byron Howard, back when he was a story artist.  It's great to see him so successful, that movie made almost a billion dollars!


  • For dinner I grilled Jumbo Dogs and zucchini and baked a whole bag of Aldi's Fit & Active Healthy Fries.  I grilled two turkey dogs for myself.  We didn't have yellow mustard in the pantry and Greg likes it on his hot dogs so I found some free packets of yellow mustard that I had gotten from RaceTrac back when the freebie with the survey reward codes was a free roller grill item.  I also served the last 2 ears of corn from last night. Greg ate one and I packed the other with the last hamburger patty and a hot dog for his lunch tomorrow.

  • My daughter wanted me to buy her more face wash but she wasn't sure which brand because she'd been using an expensive brand from Target (my oldest son had gotten her some free samples back when he worked at Target) and then I had bought her a bottle back when we were in France.  I told her to go to Walgreens tomorrow and find the one she wanted but not buy it.... I'll look for a coupon for it and then go buy it for her.

  • Walgreens released another code for a free 8 x 10 reprint with store pick-up. The code expires on June 1st and is FREEPIC4U.

SPLURGES
  • Gas to drive to the fishing ponds and a little less than $4.00 for lunch altogether.

  • $17 for a 1-year fresh fishing license for Greg.  I wanted to get one as well but he said probably no one would be out checking licenses today so we didn't bother.  I hope that doesn't mean that he doesn't want to bring me along anymore because I had a really good time, actually, even though I did all of 30 seconds of fishing.

FAILURES
  • One of our fishing reels failed so only 1 pole was functional. We don't think it can be fixed.

  • I dropped by Rubbermaid "pitcher" that I was using to make my refrigerator tea and it fell on one of its corners that broke.  I was able to save about 3/4 of the tea that I was rebrewing for the 2nd time with the peach tea bags, but the pitcher itself is a loss. I'll look for a new one at the thriftstore. I am keeping the lid since it's perfectly fine. You never know... I might find the same pitcher without a lid.

CHORES
  • Not much of anything today. It's a holiday, after all.

HEALTH

  • For breakfast, I had my 1 cup of generic honey nut cheerios with 0.5 cup of ~2% milk and a few sliced strawberries in it. My appetite is coming back so I ate at 9 a.m.

  • For lunch I had an Italian sandwich from RaceTrac. I should have looked at the sell-by date because today was the last day on the shelf so it wasn't very fresh. The bread was stale.

  • When we came back from fishing, I had a cup of fresh pineapple and then a rice cake.

  • I entered all my food intake into MyFitness Pal.

  • My foot isn't hurting at all today, despite my late night walk (without insoles!). I think that perhaps losing the extra weight did the trick?  I hope so.  I still have a long way to go, though.


NATURE
Our Backyard
I couldn't find my camera this morning and I thought I had left it upstairs but our stairs make a lot of creaking noises so I went outside without it. Of course, I saw 2 male cardinals taking turns at the bird feeder, while a Carolina wren was enjoying the bird bath, a dove flew in and landed in the grass not too far away, the squirrels were jumping from branch to branch in the nearby trees, the Red Bellied woodpecker mama was surveying the neighbor's yard from the top of the power pole before deciding which tree to go peck on today... all familiar sights but that I enjoy capturing in photographs. Well, not today. My phone's zoom isn't good enough.

I posted this picture in the Day Book earlier today but here it is again: a snake skin shed in the grass overnight, just off the patio.  We have an Eastern Indigo snake living nearby, I saw it a couple of years ago during the summer and followed it around the corner of the house when it suddenly came out of the bushes in front of the house and was hissing and rattling at me!  It was the darndest sight and it really startled me!  Our neighbor was out at the same time with his new chihuahua puppy so I was worried the snake would get it. I'm glad we didn't kill it, though, because come to find out it is a threatened species in Florida due to the loss of habitat.  I told you too many damn people were moving here!  They eat other snakes, notably one of the venomous ones, so they're good snakes to keep around even though they can be frightening.  The snake skin's diameter is pretty large, compared to the last one I found a couple of weeks ago near my roses, so it's grown a lot (if it's the same one!). I wonder if they eat squirrels.


Fishing "Expedition"
Greg had done some reconnaissance and found 2 areas where we could fish.  Both were in the Withlacoochee State Forest, off SR 471 in Sumter County, about 20 minutes away from home.

The first area we went to was the Revels Pond Day Use Recreation Area.  It was kind of secluded, at the end of a short dirt road that had very large potholes that a smaller car would have had a hard time avoiding.  Luckily the road was dry because we don't have 4-wheel drive so that would have been a problem.  At the end of the short road, there is a picnic area with a couple of tables under a pavilion, and a short dock.  The pond is very large but it's also just off SR 471 so you hear all the traffic.  The setting was beautiful and no one was there, but there was also very little wildlife. I saw maybe 2 birds, total, which was puzzling after seeing all the birds at the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive yesterday.  We tried two spots.


Picnic area and the small dock on the pond

First Spot:

We walked the small trail on the edge of the pond and found a spot favored by other fishermen, in the shade.

Looking back at the picnic area/parking area.

The view was lovely but you could hear the traffic from the nearby road and the water was murky and filled with decaying grass.  So you couldn't see if there were any fishes, and if there were, they couldn't see our hooks, I'll bet!

Our "juvenile" equipment. We had bought it for the kids several years ago.  I had suggested to Greg that we bring a cooler, in case we actually caught a fish,but he's not that self-delusional and just laughed at my suggestion.

Great Blue Skimmer. They're so pretty.

Don't you hate it when your camera doesn't focus but the display seems to show that the picture will be good?  And then you go home and upload it to your laptop and it looks like... THIS?!?  Arrrgh. I had quite a few of those today. So I don't know what this is. Some yellow flower that was growing in the pond. No leaves that I could see.

We didn't stay there long because within 5 minutes, I entangled my line in a tree, and then, as Greg was working on freeing it, he handed me his fishing pole and I don't know what happened but the reel on that one stopped working and we couldn't figure out how to make it work again.  It was a little frustrating but we weren't taking ourselves very seriously anyway so we made the best of it. Greg used the fishing pole that still worked and I just sat in the shade, observed nature, and took a walk around. Here is a wild blueberry bush that we passed on the way back to the picnic area. Another unfocused picture, sigh.

Scrub Palmetto. Those are ONLY found in Florida, apparently. They're everywhere, here. I even have a couple of them growing in our front yard.

Water Hyacinth. So pretty but a bad nuisance, apparently!

Second Spot:

Not a bird in sight!  You'd think there'd be a heron, an egret... an osprey?! Nothing.

Clear on the other side, though, someone had installed a bird nesting box over the pond so obviously
there are birds there at some point. Just none today!

Greg caught a couple of tiny fishes with the net and used them as bait. I texted the picture
to our son telling him that was the catch of the day. He wasn't surprised!


It's hard to see but I asked Greg if I could try catching small fishes with the net too and he told me OK but they're fast so it's hard to catch them... I caught 6 of them on my first try, LOL. I felt bad about them flopping there so I put the net back into the water and most of them escaped. And then I released the rest.


Eastern Milkpea

This might be Pipewort.

Not sure what this is...

Long-Stalked Seedbox

More Water Hyacinth

Its peculiar leaves.

I think this is Buttonbush.

Uh... yellow flower.  I'm getting tired of flipping through my Audubon guide!

I can't find those in my guide right now. I'll have to come back at another time and update the caption if I ever find them listed! I think this is lance-leaved arrowhead.

Pale Meadow Beauty

Pickerelweeds

I took a picture of this tree trunk but left really fast because I didn't want some critter coming out at me... you never know what nests into those things!

I kept on seeing those red trumpet-like blooms on the decaying floor of the swampy forest but there was no clue as to where the blooms had come from...

I kept on looking up but this was all I could see!

Then suddenly, I spied one... a Trumpet Vine.

My hubby, hooking a tiny fish that he just caught on his line to bait a larger fish... that never materialized.

You can't tell from the picture but the dragonfly was green, so I'm calling this a Great Pondhawk... or an Eastern Pondhawk.

Black Swallowtail on a Buttonbush.

The beginning of life. This will grow into an awesomely tall tree.

This tree looked like it had a bushy moustache but it was an Air Plant.

Air Plant Flower

I love the different colors of the bottom of this large puddle of water in the middle of the forest. The ripples were made by bugs skimming the top of the water. Those pieces of wood sticking out are cypress knees.

Another Trumpet Vine. I love those!  Why can't we have those in our trees? Maybe that's the red object I saw in a neighboring tree a couple of weeks ago, through my camera's zoom...

After more than an hour there, we drove to the Florida Bass Conservation Center & Richloam State Fish Hatchery.  There was a much smaller pond right there at the entrance, that they stock with bass and where fishing is allowed.  They had a couple of benches there and trashcans.  We did see fish, and even a large one as soon as we parked the truck, but had no luck catching any.  We just didn't have the right poles or lures.


This pond was much smaller but full of fish... that were laughing at us!  The grasses grew thick at the edge of the water so it was hard to cast the line very far.

They provided a bench or two but they were in the full sun. I took this picture from a shady spot where I had set up my chair.

Small bass and a slightly larger bass, Not sure what type of bass.

More toddler basses. We tried catching a few with our net but they were too skittish. I even went into the pond up to my knees but the bottom was very "gooey" and I didn't want to completely fall into it.

We walked to the other side and went as far as we could before the vegetation got too dense but the horseflies were out and biting!

Southern Fleabane

Pale Meadow Beauties


Common Tickseed.

I don't know what they are... they're not spurs.  They were soft and looked like round teddy bear ears.


Common Primrose Willow

I can't find this lizard in my guide either. I have never seen one with a white stripe on its back like this!

Will have to come back and update this caption because I'm tired :)


Florida Bellflower

This tree trunk was riddled with holes left by woodpeckers.  But it was at the level of my waist,
which was unusual, I thought. I'm used to seeing our woodpeckers much higher up in the trees around
our yard.