Sunday, December 4, 2016

I'm Back - Sunday 12/4/16

And I can't argue with that...

After an almost month-long absence and wondering if I was even going to keep on blogging publicly or not, I'm back. I still don't feel up to talking to people more directly, though, so I'm not commenting on blogs and I'm keeping the comments turned off for now.  It's going to help me transition back slowly and also now you can read the posts without feeling any pressure to comment since you can't anyway :)  You're welcome.  Everybody is probably super busy with their own lives and maybe preparing for the holidays too so I'm thinking it might be a relief for some of you to not be able to comment anyway, ha.

I'd love to say that I took a month off to recharge my batteries and that after this long break, I'm back, full of energy and enthusiasm, but that would be a lie.

The truth is that for a month I didn't care about anything.  I'm still struggling with that, but I decided to come back to blogging because NOT blogging didn't help. Instead of using up all the freed-up time to catch up on chores or finishing projects or even doing something that I enjoyed, I watched crappy shows on Netflix and read the news wayyyy too much.  And I was miserable. And nothing got done.

The result was that I haven't been frugal and we spent way too much (again!) on eating out, I'm way behind on all my chores, my garden is pretty much dead, there is nothing left to watch on Netflix save another 100 episodes or so of Bob's Burgers (my new favorite), I put on weight, my health has gotten worse, I wasted food and didn't compost.  Also I'm a year older.  Sigh.

The kittens are also a month older. They're big now (we keep on exclaiming about how big they are!) and they don't cuddle quite as much.  They do still follow me a lot so they're behind the bathroom door when I emerge from my shower and stare at me while I change my clothes, and they're back to spending part of the nights with me on the futon (going to sleep in my bedroom would be futile as they still fit under the doors and the draft stoppers that I made no longer stop them), or with Greg in his bed since they've realized there's another bedroom they had never explored.  It makes for uncomfortable nights but how can I get angry when I end up with 3 purring (and hot!) kittens laying on top of me at 3 a.m.?

Princess, a few days ago.

Tabby Kitty being all cuter and all

And here too.  I don't have a good recent picture of Explorer but
he looks the same as the others :)

They also still chew on everything.  They've managed to ruin 2 or 3 pairs of earbuds that Greg was using (but left laying around) and sneaked into our son's bedroom and chewed on his phone charger.  They've destroyed several of the catnip toys and when they're in a running and chasing mood, it sounds like a herd of caribou.  They eat the big cats' diet food on top of eating their kitten food. We have 5 litter boxes but bigger kittens mean bigger bladders and larger poops so my house always smells like cat pee even though we change the litter boxes daily.  I now buy 4 jugs of cat litter a week. Their last monthly check-up/vaccine appointment set us back by $260 and there's another one next week.  They are very expensive pets. But so so cute :)

Greg is doing well. He and our son went to Ohio for a week for Thanksgiving and for the service organized in memory of his dad.  A lot of his dad's family came for that so they got to visit.  I believe it was nice closure for everyone.  Greg came back with a bunch of stuff that he wanted to keep and our son inherited his grandfather's leather jacket and his great-great-great's grandfather's pocket watch, which his grandmother is getting repaired as we speak.  On the work front, he should be getting a cell phone through his work again if the VP approves it so we'll be saving the cost of his monthly fees and also won't have to worry about his international fees when he travels to Canada anymore. Yay!  He should be getting an iPhone 7 and our plan is to pass down his personal iPhone 5S to our son for his birthday in January.  He's also getting 3 more contractors who will be reporting to him as his latest trip to Canada resulted in an increased workload for his team.  Hopefully that's job security for him.

The kids are doing well. they're getting excellent grades in school. My daughter is working 3 days a week at the Grand Floridian and getting used to it.  According to her, she is putting 70% of her income into savings.  She has her end of semester exams next week and then will have a month-long break from state college.  She was accepted at UCF and is waiting to hear from UF (won't know until February).  She had pretty much decided to go to UCF and then started doubting herself and now is back to thinking UCF.  I think she just wants to make the decision now but I'm advising her to take her time to decide. Middle Son entered a photography contest and hopes to win the $1,000 grand prize. His apartment lease ends at the end of the month and he will be moving back with his dad and stepmom for at least 2 semesters so he can save to buy himself a camera and lenses to replace those that was stolen from his car and also put money aside for living expenses and travel.  Oldest Son moved into an apartment with his GF.  We're still not talking. His GF emailed me a Happy Birthday wish from herself, but I didn't hear from him. Oh well, it is what it is.  Youngest Son still volunteers at the library and is getting involved with the Future Business Leaders of America chapter at his school. He's attended a couple of meetings and preparing for some type of Computer Science competition on his own because no one else in his chapter is interested in that.  He's also studying for end of semester exams

My friend who has started her own real estate business asked me recently if would work a few hours for her starting in the new year, just inputting data into an online program.  I accepted. I have no idea of what she'll pay but it won't be much. I'm not doing it for the money, honestly, just to do something to feel useful and to help her so we'll see what happens. She asked if I felt up to making phone calls but I turned her down for that. We'll see how it goes.

In the past month, I have taken almost no pictures.  I've left freebies expire without redeeming them. I haven't felt like going anywhere or up to doing anything.  I need to get back into the groove!

Health-wise, I've put on weight, my left elbow is hurting, my left knee is starting to hurt again, my left heel still doesn't feel any better even though I spent the whole month on the couch, pretty much. I'm a mess.  I need to get back to using my exercise bike. I won't pretend to go on a diet until after Christmas since I'm addicted to those Aldi cookies and cheese right now.

Alright, back in the saddle, which means that I'm back to using my old categories:

Successes
  • The weather has been mostly cool this past month so I've had the AC turned off on most days with the windows open.  However today it a little warmer so I just (at 2 p.m.) closed the windows and turned the AC back on.

  • I baked a loaf of homemade bread this morning.  I've realized that I probably didn't need to use unbleached flour if all I had was regular AP flour, in my "Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes A Day" recipe so the batch of dough that I made yesterday was made with regular AP flour.  As cautioned by the authors of the book, it resulted in a softer crust (as a matter of fact, the bottom of the loaf doesn't really have a crust at all).  It's still delicious, especially with some $2.99 brie from Aldi :)
We ate most of the loaf before I remembered to take a picture.
  • The Sunday paper had 2 coupon inserts.  My 1-penny subscription will end in early March.

  • I printed about 17 coupons via Swagbucks and uploaded some digital coupons to my CVS app. I also unlocked new offers from SavingStar.

  • I earned the daily Bing Rewards credits (double search points every weekend in December) and a couple of Swagbucks.

  • I had to replace my toothbrush and my bath poof, but I had replacements at the ready that I had purchased from the Dollar Tree.  I also had a spot on my inner thigh that was all chaffed (because I used the wrong shorts when Greg and I went on a long walk yesterday) so I used medicated body powder from Dollar Tree on that spot and slept without putting on pants, and that did the trick nicely.

  • I used a free sample of Gold Bond Ultimate lotion on my hands and feet because they've been much drier than usual.

  • I unloaded the dishwasher and reloaded it from the dishes from last night. I didn't start it, though, since it was only about half-full. I'll start it tonight after dinner.  I washed the pots and pans by hand.

  • I finally emptied the countertop composting bin into the large composting bin outside.  I hadn't done in in over a week, consequently, I have been throwing away food that I should have been composting for a week. But not today!

  • I have a few tomatoes, an eggplant and some lettuce growing in the garden.  Also the pole beans are growing a little and the kale is giving me more greens since I harvested the greens last month but left the stems in ground.

  • We needed bread for sandwiches for the coming week and more cat litter so I persuaded Greg to go to Aldi with me today. On a Sunday.  I know! There wasn't any reason for him to come with me, but I wouldn't have gone if he hadn't come along and he actually helped me by being impatient and wanting to come home as soon as possible, so we were only gone about 90 minutes!  We ate lunch at home first.  He had leftovers and I had a small cheese sandwich (followed by chicken nuggets when we got home!).

  • We took my SUV because I wanted to gas it up and also because it's easier for me to organize my groceries in the trunk (with my free cardboard boxes that I use as trunk organizer) than in the bed of his truck.  So we went to RaceTrac in Clermont where I gassed up at $2.09/gallon.  Gas was down to $1.99 for several weeks but went back up right after Thanksgiving. I earned loyalty points on my app, and a new receipt with which I'll get a freebie once I take the survey.  I will also earn 2% back from American Express.  I haven't taken any RaceTrac surveys recently so I didn't get a freebie today. I need to take the surveys again.

  • At Aldi, I did my weekly shopping so I won't go on Wednesday this week.  It was busy, but not too bad, and we didn't even wait in line at the register since all registers were open.  I'm not going to start posting my grocery trips again, that took way too much time for me to put together, sorry. I'm still keeping track of my totals in my spreadsheets, though, so I'll post those at some point.  I did spend too much, but that's because I went to only one store and bought cat litter, dish detergent, toilet paper and way too many German Christmas cookies :)  We also wanted salmon for dinner so I splurged on that and I also got a seasoned turkey tenderloin for later on this week because I'm bored with what we have at home. I have got to go back to putting menus together.  I don't even know what I have in my freezer anymore because I haven't been keeping track.  I paid for the $128 OOP with one of the gift cards that I had bought back from my daughter earlier in the year, so the money was spent several months ago.

  • We stopped at Wawa so I could redeem the freebie of the day. They're doing a 12 Days of Christmas freebie promo this month with a new freebie every day. Today was the first one that I got since I've been staying home. It was a 32 oz Powerade, which made Greg happy since he was thirsty.  I kept the cap and I'll enter the code into MyCokeRewards later on.

  • Then we stopped by the Winn Dixie Liquor Store, where we stocked up on Greg's whiskey. We always buy it 4 bottles at a time so we qualify for the 10% discount with the Winn Dixie Rewards card.  This time we also grabbed a bottle of rum and one of cheap vodka.  The rum is meant for baking but Greg's been drinking it too, apparently, and the vodka is to make more vanilla extract. I need to get new vanilla beans, though.  Which reminds me that the new Bulk Nation store was supposed to open in Clermont this past Fall but apparently is still not open?  I sent them a tweet to ask when it would. Anyhoo, we spent a bunch of money on booze but got 10% off the whole thing and should earn 3% back from American Express since Winn Dixie qualifies as a grocery store (I hope that the liquor store falls under the same umbrella!).

  • I found a penny in the Winn Dixie parking lot ;)
  • Our last stop was the local tent manned by the FFA Alumni association to sell Christmas tree and wreathes to benefit our high school's FFA chapter.  As we do every year, we purchased a fresh wreath for our front door. It smells so good and is totally worth the $15 that it cost us :)
I will dress it up with ornaments later on.
  • Of course, I've been using my reusable grocery bags so we came home without any plastic bags.  I did find a plastic bag that had flown into my backyard and I added it to the stash that I'll either be recycling at Publix, or reusing when I clean out the litter boxes.

  • Greg and I have been reading library books and listening to classical music on Pandora when we're home.

  • He unpacked the items that he brought back from his mom's place: in addition to our son getting a free leather jacket and pocket watch, he will be reusing his grandfather's hiking boots and his track suit.  Greg also got new packs of underwear and socks that his dad never got to use.

  • I realized that my driver's license will expire in 2018 so I'm putting a reminder in my Google Calendar to renew it online (hopefully I won't have to go in person) about a month before it expires.

  • Dinner was coriander-crusted salmon and rice. I packed the leftovers for Greg's lunch tomorrow and there is another serving of rice for my lunch.

  • For my birthday, Greg told me to get myself a new laptop. I did find one that I think I would like on Amazon, but I really don't want Windows 10 so I haven't ordered it yet. Today Greg insisted on my getting it so when mine breaks down, I won't have to wait for it to ship (or have to rush to a B&M store to get a new one the same day and possible pay more).  The only thing really wrong with my current laptop is the power cable that doesn't charge all the time. The problem is with the internal power supply, not the charging cable itself.  Yesterday, Lifehacker posted a link to a Youtube video that explains a possible cheap and easy fix. It's basically gluing a small magnet to the side of the power port and a metallic washer to the power cable itself to hold the cable in place in the "charging" position.  Right now I'm doing that with electric tape, but at any moment the "charging" icon switches to battery power (some feast, since my battery no longer holds a charge for more than a minute!) and every time my heart skips a beat. I usually can jiggle back a little so it starts charging again, but I suppose that having a back-up laptop already at my disposal would be smart.  Then again, I should just erase all my confidential stuff and take the darn thing to be fixed, already!  So I still haven't ordered the new laptop. I really, REALLY don't want Windows 10.

  • The only rebate I qualify for today is $0.10 back on the dish soap that I got at Aldi, but I'll take it.  

  • I checked the mail since I had forgotten to do that yesterday and found a donation request from St Jude's Hospital (I'll definitely send them a check, this is one of my favorite charities) that included a small note pad, and the latest issue of Kiplinger's Magazine (I have a free subscription to it).



Splurges


  • I bought too many snacks, as usual.

  • Gas for my daughter to drive to her job and back. I haven't figured out how to make her pay for her own gas yet, since I still pay for her gas when she goes to classes.  I might just keep on paying for it...


Failures

  • Well it wasn't a No Drive Day, but I'm glad the shopping is done because if I don't feel like going anywhere else this week, I don't have to.

  • I could have gotten the eggs for free at CVS with my CVS gift card but neither Greg nor I felt like doing a lot of stops.  For the same reason, we didn't go to Panera for me to redeem my freebies. (I got the Free Bagel A Day freebie for the whole month and it's 12/4 and I still haven't redeemed it, plus I have a free pastry freebie for my birthday).

  • Since it hasn't rained for weeks (we got a little bit of rain on Wednesday but barely any so it doesn't really count), and I haven't watered the garden in about a month, my potted roses bushes, hibiscus, peace lily and the potted vincas are pretty much dead.  Also a stray cat has been terrorizing the neighborhood birds so no birds have been spotted in months now.  I need to get into the garden tonight and water the potted plants. We're under water restrictions, which means that at our house we can only water on Sundays but not between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  Since it's 4:02 p.m. now, I guess I should go water the plants now...

  • 4:40 p.m: so I spent 30 minutes watering the plants and refilling the self-watering bins. One of the ones containing lettuce completely fell apart so I'll need to try and replace it.  A nest of very large red ants is under it so they're hating all the water right now and probably trying to move to drier grounds. 

  • Since it hasn't rained in several weeks, my rain barrel is pretty much empty and so are most of my cat litter jugs.
Those are the empty jugs. We need rain so badly!
  • I hadn't planned on stopping by the Winn Dixie liquor store today so I grabbed the cheapest vodka in store, without accounting for the 2 rebates for Smirnoff vodka that are available on Checkout 51 and Ibotta.  Grrrr.

  • Since Greg was with me when I went shopping (and throwing everything willy nilly in my bags, arrgh), I completely forgot to check my receipt before I left, and just realized tonight that I was charged for a round of brie that I didn't buy (I bought 2 but got charged for 3), aargh.  $2.99 down the drain!

Freebies Received Today
  • A 32 oz bottle of Powerade from Wawa
  • A penny found in the Winn Dixie parking lot
  • A small note pad from St Jude's Hospital (will probably send a donation)
  • The latest issue of Kiplinger's Magazine (free subscription, I had forgotten to check the mail yesterday so I checked it today)

Chores & Accomplishments
  • Fed the kittens (3 times)
  • Unloaded the dishwasher
  • Reloaded the dishwasher
  • Washed pots and pans by hand
  • Swept the kitchen
  • Baked bread
  • Ran errands
  • Put the groceries away
  • Printed coupons
  • Clipped coupons
  • Uploaded digital coupons and unlocked app offers
  • Watered the garden
  • Submitted a rebate
  • Entered all receipts into my spreadsheets
  • Prepped all spreadsheets for 2017 and also prepped generic templates so it'll be easier to prep them for future years moving forward
  • Cooked dinner
  • Loaded the dishwasher
  • Ran the dishwasher
  • Packed leftovers and put them away
  • Watched a few episodes of "Bob's Burgers" with Greg

Garden - The Good
Amazingly, the cone flowers have done very well, despite being in a pot that hasn't been watered in several weeks

The pole beans plants didn't die and have grown a little

The ones that are on the Eastern side of the plot are larger and have grabbed onto the support poles. Yay!

I had forgotten that I had planted some seeds about a month ago and refilled the watering bins at that time too.  The lettuce has grown, yay!  But the weeds have too. I removed a lot of them tonight.

In this bin a lone stray lettuce has started to bolt but the kale has also regrown a little. Yay!  I do need to plant more of it.  You can't really tell but if you look closely, all the brown stuff isn't the soil... it's actually covered with brown weeds that are camouflaging themselves!  I pulled most of them out and I need to plant the kale seeds next.

The few tomato plants that I have are flowering

More lettuce, mixed with weeds.  I pulled most of the weeds tonight.

An eggplant (and there is another flower on the plant)

Supersweet 100 tomatoes


The basil is thirsty but it has survived!

The vincas that reseeded themselves on the patio are still doing pretty well.

The strawberry plants have died but a couple of them have survived and are even flowering (you can't see the flowers, though)

The sweet potato vine has been flowering a lot now that the weather is cooler, but it's also dying down. I plan on pulling it before Christmas because it makes the patio look even messier.  Not sure if I'll harvest any potatoes, it's mostly growing over pavers and mulch. I read recently that you have to let the sweet potato cure for a few weeks before actually eating them. I'm glad I've procrastinated and still haven't cooked the ones I had harvested this summer!

Garden - The Bad
No birds because of the damn stray cats. Not only that, but one has been using one of my gardening plot as his litter box, I think. Since the birds have disappeared, I've lost any desire to be outside on the patio. So even though we've had a very pleasant month, temperature-wise, I haven't been outside at all.

Consequently...

The roselle bushes that had born a second harvest and started to flower again... succumbed to the lack of water and
also to the squirrels, who fell on them and ate every last darn calyx.

The potted vincas all died.

The peace lily (kept outside because it's poisonous to cats and I'd rather our cats don't die from eating it!) is burn and all dried up.

The potted rose bushes have dried up. I guess I'll be cutting them back in December instead of waiting until January. The little rose bush that I had started as a cutling from one of my bushes has died.

The hibiscus looks the worst that it's ever looked. I'm hoping that it might perk up a little but I'm thinking I might
cut it back as well and see if it grows back next year.

Our oak trees typically don't lose their leaves until February.  However, it's been so dry that all the trees are
unloading their leaves now.  The patio, front yard, driveway and my SUV are covered in oak leaves!

I don't know if I'll go back to posting every day or not, we'll see.  I also did keep some track of a few things that I did during my "break" (so maybe I lied. I felt like I spent a month watching TV and certainly there were days like that, but I did manage to blog privately a little bit so I'll have to go back and re-read the posts to see what I did!), so I may publish those posts too if I can make myself re-read them and find some graphics to make them a little more interesting because I really didn't take any pictures.

I hope you all had a good weekend.

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