Sunday, December 18, 2016

Something To Celebrate ~ Sunday 12/18/16

My daughter worked until 9 p.m. last night, so she didn't get home until past 10 p.m. I had checked the mail after she left for her shift so she didn't know that she had a letter from the UCF Admissions Office waiting for her, and to tell you the truth, I had completely forgotten about it by 10 p.m. and also I thought it might just be written confirmation of her acceptance notification that I thought she had received electronically already.

So I was on my laptop checking out some blogs and Greg was playing video games, the kittens were chasing one another and we had the Christmas lights on on the mantlepiece.  Then suddenly she came into the living room and plopped herself on the futon next to me with an expression on her face like she was a cat herself who had swallowed a canary, and she passed me a paper, which ended up being the letter from UCF.  

And guess what?  It was a notification that due to her "exceptional" and "remarkable" work as a high school student, she was awarded a Provost scholarship for up to 8 semesters in the amount of $30,000!!!  We were so excited!  Quite honestly, I was floored. I just didn't imagine that she would be granted a scholarship since she had already gotten the acceptance notification but it hadn't mentioned anything about a scholarship. I didn't even know that she was in the running for it. Apparently, you don't apply for it, they just consider all freshman applicants automatically (even though she'll already have an A.S. by the time she graduates high school, she had to apply as a freshman).

So she won't get the full $30,000 because she will only need 4 semesters (possibly 6, actually) to get her bachelor's and the scholarship is doled out by semester. Also they're saying that she can't receive more than the FAFSA says she should pay and since we expect that the stupid "Expected Family Contribution" is going to be quite high, she might not get much at all (but we don't pay for college, we consider that to be the children's responsibility and try to ingrain in them, since elementary school, the importance of hard work, leadership responsibilities in free extracurricular activities at school, volunteering, applying for scholarships and maintaining a high GPA so they can earn Bright Futures Scholarships too, in exchange, we don't plan on asking the kids to support us in our old age!).  Still, it was extremely exciting news. Of course she'll need to maintain a 3.0 throughout college.

The kittens slept with Greg last night (they like the big queen-size bed) and Explorer only came to cuddle with me at about 6 a.m.  I had to get up to use the bathroom so I just fed all the cats at that time, hoping I'd be able to sleep a little longer.  My daughter had to work early and texted me at 8:20 a.m. that she'd gotten her work schedule for Christmas Day so we can try to synchronize when we will celebrate the holidays with her.  The kittens realized that I was awake so then it was a free for all of cuddles and running around!  Greg ended up getting up at 8:30 am. as well and confessed he'd been awake for an hour already.

The weather was warm (76F!) and gray this morning. We have rain in the forecast for today and tomorrow.  At 10:30 a.m. it's back to being sunny.  We're listening to Christmas music but it's hard to listen to songs about snow when it's warm and muggy here!

I did chores yesterday so today I'm definitely taking the day off and not posting the list!  I might just stay in my PJs and read a library book.  Possibly bake something since we're now out of my daughter's Christmas cookies. Maybe a cranberry clafoutis?

  • I won another 50 KFR points in the Spin and Win game but I realized that I had also failed at that (see "Failures").

  • My 1st daily goal for Swagbucks was just 30 SB so I earned that pretty fast. I decided to keep the videos running to try to earn a little more.

  • I woke up right after my daughter left for work so I was able to turn off the lights on the front porch right away. We have LED bulbs so it's not a huge deal, but it's also pointless to have the lights on for no reason, right? (says the woman who has night lights throughout the house).

  • I uploaded some digital coupons to my Publix wallet.

  • I realized that my daughter had made a double batch of sugar cookie dough last week and half the dough was still in the fridge, so I announced to my son that I'd be baking cookies this afternoon, but he asked "but when are we going to eat the cookie butter pie that you bought?".  I had forgotten that my daughter and I had picked up a frozen Speculoos cookie butter pie from Aldi last week and that the kids have been waiting and waiting for me to defrost it. So I told him to set it on the counter and they can have it for snacks over the next couple of days.  I should still bake the cookies because that dough won't keep forever before becoming rancid... maybe tomorrow?

  • Greg's Kindle charging cable was loose and not charging very well. He kept on telling me that it wasn't the cable but the Kindle itself, which I just got for him this year.  I'd had the same problem with mine so I knew it was the cable. I lent him my cable and he realized that I was right! I was about to order him a new one for $9.99 but when I saw it on the screen, I realized that the new one was black... and the one I had lent Greg was white. That made me remember that the cable I've been using (the one I lent him) is the one from my Kindle e-reader. So I went to look for the free replacement cable that Amazon had sent me for my Fire when I complained that the cable had died only a few months after purchasing the Kindle Fire, and gave it to Greg. He's happy and I didn't have to shell out another $9.99.  I suppose I could contact Amazon again about the cable since it's a problem with HIS Kindle now, but since it was all bought on my account, I don't want them thinking that I'm trying to get a lot of stuff for free fraudulently. I know it's silly and if they make a product that craps out that fast, we should call them out on it but today I'm not going to bother. Greg's Kindle is now happily charging with my spare cable and all is well in our home :)
  • I felt unmotivated to think about defrosting something for dinner tonight, but I found 2 boxes of Barber Cordon Bleu chicken in the freezer so I'll be baking that tonight, probably with... a salad? I really ought to make a salad.

  • I put together the presents for Oldest Son and his girlfriend and they all fit into a Christmas-themed box that I had bought from the post office several years ago and that I have reused several times already. My daughter will take it to them next weekend when she goes to her dad's.  I also threw in a $20 Amazon gift card that I had bought last year and that I found laying around.

  • I put 3 empty shipping boxes on the floor of the living room and the kittens have been in heaven and playing in and out of the boxes all afternoon!  Princess ended up falling asleep on the carpet because she was so tired after all her exertions that she didn't even want to jump up on the couch to cuddle next to me!

  • I found Christmas cards that I had bought the previous years so I wrote several Christmas cards to my French family and some friends.  I found some Christmas-themed forever stamps that I had bought to mail letters to France back in 2014. Since the postage rates have rolled back a little this year, the postage is actually still the same to send a letter to France, so I was able to use up those stamps.

  • In the afternoon, Greg and I decided to go on a walk so we put on our walking clothes and shoes and drove to the General Van Fleet Trailhead.  We walked for almost 1.5 hours, probably about 3 miles because we were walking slowly.  We saw tons of gopher tortoises, turtles as well, and squirrels.  On the way there we spotted a white egret, a group of 5 sandhill cranes crossing the road ahead of us, some cattle and horses, a donkey and goat.  On the way back, we saw baby cows playfully running together (they reminded me of the kittens because they were 3 of them) while the adult cows were walking placidly and slowly, much like Greg and I had just walked on the trail ;) I'll add some pictures that I took at the bottom of this post, although don't get excited, I didn't get any pictures of the baby cows :(

  • I found a very cool feather on the trail and brought it back for the cats. Explorer and Princess really enjoyed playing with it!

  • My daughter texted me while we were walking to ask if she could go out to dinner with her BFF and her family and said she would pay for her own dinner. So I said "OK".  They ended up buying her dinner!

  • Back home, Greg called his mom who asked if he had gotten the package that she had sent him and our son. He had, but he had completely missed the envelope in there with a couple of checks, one for our son and one pretty large one for Greg!  Good thing she asked if he had gotten the checks.  That was very generous of her.  He asked me to deposit both checks so I deposited them into the respective accounts with our bank's app.  It's so much easier than having to drive to an ATM!  We agreed that the money she gave Greg would be put into savings since he doesn't have any plans for it.

  • My son and I redeemed RaceTrac survey reward codes to get (2) free 32 oz fountain drinks.

  • I found a dime in the parking lot!

  • At McDonald's (see "Splurges"), I redeemed a BOGO coupon for Buttermilk Crispy chicken sandwiches.

  • Greg and I watched more episodes of "Bob's Burgers" on Netflix after dinner.

  • Somehow, I managed to reach my 2nd Daily Goal for Swagbucks!

  • Gas for my daughter to go to work and back.

  • I didn't have the exact amount of postage to put on a couple of Christmas cards to send to France. I was resigning myself to have to stand in line at the post office tomorrow but then I calculated that if I just used 3 regular stamps, I'd overpay postage by something like a quarter per card. Well you know what?  I hate standing in line so "wasting" 50 cents is actually a good deal in that case. So I used 3 stamps per envelope, and Merry Christmas to the Postal Service.

  • Gas for Greg and me to drive to the trail and back.

  • I didn't feel like cooking so I forgot to bake the Chicken Cordon Bleu in advance of dinner time. Ooops.  So I went to pick up dinner from McDonald's with my son. It wasn't too bad, a tad under $15.

  • As I won the 50 KFR points in the Spin and Win game this morning and took a screenshot for the blog, I realized that IN BIG LETTERS, it said to click to actually accrue the points. I'm pretty sure that yesterday, and possibly the day before, I didn't click after taking the screenshot, so I probably missed out on 50 to 100 KFR points. Knucklehead!

  • My Microsoft Rewards (i.e. the old Bing Rewards) account isn't accruing credits today. Grrr. I emailed their Customer Service but by the time they reply on Monday, I'll have missed out on Double Credit Day today :(  Update: they replied that they're having problems with Microsoft Rewards across the board. Ugh.

  • No manufacturer coupons in the paper today.  Nobody stole them, it's just that today is one of the weekends when they don't publish any. I don't like that. Merry Grinchmas, manufacturers!

  • Once again... it did NOT rain. Arrgh.  Also, we had to have the AC on the whole day.

  • Fed the cats
  • Texted with my daughter
  • Cuddled with kittens
  • Found my spare Kindle charging cable to give to Greg
  • Fed the kittens
  • Put the Christmas presents together for Oldest Son and girlfriend
  • Wrote Christmas cards and addressed them
  • Emailed my mom to ask for my sister's new address
  • Went on a walk with Greg
  • Deposited checks
  • Fed the kittens
  • Picked up drinks and dinner
  • Watched a TV show with Greg
  • Cuddled with kittens

  • that UCF awarded a scholarship to my awesome and hard-working daughter. It feels so good to see your child's hard work being recognized and rewarded
  • For Greg's mom's generosity
  • For my mom's moral support.  We usually don't communicate all that often but these past few weeks since I've told her that I was depressed, she's been very solicitous and checking up on me via email a lot (for her) and uncharacteristically chatty in her emails.  She's even emailed me pictures!

What we saw on the General Van Fleet Trail this afternoon...

It was warm and it's been so dry that right now you'd think we're actually having a Fall... there are leaves everywhere and most of the swampy areas are either bone dry or close to being dry.

However, there is still some water here and there so we saw several turtles sunning themselves on logs in the middle of the water...

We saw some people with their dogs and a couple of bikers, and at some point a park ranger drove by and wished us a good day. But otherwise, this is the way the trail was and the way we like it!
The trees have lost A LOT of leaves, mostly because of the drought.

Everything was quite brown, but there were pops of color here and there, like these berries there...

And this yellow flower of the pea variety. I can't look it up right now because I have 3 sleeping kittens
sprawled on me as I type this :)

These are the peapods from that plant... the ants seemed to like them.

My camera wouldn't focus and it's a constant problem so Greg insisted that he should get me a new and better
camera for Christmas. I resisted the idea though, because the problem doesn't lie with the camera so much as with
the photographer!  I just need to learn to orient myself better with the light... and to finally learn how to use a dSLR
in manual mode so I don't run into these problems!  I appreciated the intent of the gift idea, though :)

Usually gopher tortoises run away from us and into their burrows as soon as they hear us coming but this one just sat there, on the edge of the trail.  Greg made me laugh because he went right up to him and asked "Are you OK, buddy?!" and then paused as if to give the tortoise time to respond. LOL.  He was genuinely concerned about the tortoise! Awww.  It wasn't there when we came back a while later so maybe it was just taking a dump or something...

This citrus tree was growing in the forest, right at the edge of the trail, in a copse of pine trees. So weird!
They look like mandarins or clementines to me but maybe they're tiny oranges, not sure.

Another turtle. We saw a whole bunch today! As well a lot of squirrels but I didn't take any pictures of the squirrels.

This is the feather that I found, I thought it was quite unusual.

I wonder what type of feather it is (tail?) and which bird it belonged to...

I thought it was pretty!  The kittens thought it was tasty.