Tuesday, December 6, 2016

St Nicolas ~ Tuesday 12/6/16

Joyeux St Nicolas!  As I explained yesterday, this is a remnant of my childhood in Eastern France, where St. Nicolas is celebrated as the patron saint of children.  I have no idea if it's still a big deal, as the population has become more diverse and old traditions fall by the wayside, but I do my part to keep it alive, purely out of nostalgia:)

This is pretty much the only French tradition that I have kept for my kids and they look forward to it every year, as I did when I was a child, because who doesn't like to receive presents, especially a couple of weeks before Christmas when, as a child, it feels like Christmas is an eternity away?  As a parent, we know better as we're all stressing about the fact that Christmas is in 19 days and we still don't have any idea of what to get for those special people, haven't wrapped what we already bought, and have barely started decorating the house.  So, as a parent, I like St Nicolas these days because it helps put me "in the mood" and light a fire under my butt.

This morning, my alarm rang at 6 a.m. so I could assemble the kids' plates before my son got up.  I usually do it the night before but the darn kittens are everywhere at night and I didn't want them to get into the chocolate.

Daughter's plate

Youngest Son's plate
This is the last year I'm doing it for my daughter.  She's technically 18 but since she still lives at home, I'm considering her a child for St Nicolas' purposes.  I texted Middle Son to wish him a Happy St Nicolas and tell him that I wasn't going to get him anything (he lived at home last December so I had made him a plate last year), but since his website renewal, which is his Christmas present, somehow cost $50 more this year compared to last year, I'm counting the difference as his St Nicolas present.  His first name actually IS Nicolas so it's not like I can celebrate St Nicolas and ignore him, lol.

For Greg :)
I usually don't do anything for Greg but, several weeks ago, I got him a bottle of boozy eggnog at the liquor store that I was planning on giving him at Christmas.  The problem is he loves eggnog before Christmas so by the time I gave it to him on the 25th, he'd be kind of sick of it.  So he had a plate too this morning, along with 2 little chocolate Santas, and he was as excited as a little kid when he came down for breakfast, hahaha.

My daughter is still asleep so she hasn't seen her plate. I wished Youngest Son a Happy St Nicolas when he got up before he saw his and went back to sleep so I don't know if he liked it. I hope he did.  St Nicolas presents are usually small things here, I keep the good stuff for Christmas.

One of the presents that I give them on St Nicolas is a Christmas ornament that usually symbolizes something that was important to them this past year.  It's getting harder to find ornaments that comply to be honest.  But I persevere.  This year I gave my daughter a small orange cat ornament to remind her last last Christmas we gave her and Youngest Son New Kitty as a shared present since every time I asked what they wanted, they always asked me for another cat (funny that no one asked me for yet another cat this Christmas!). Youngest Son, like many teen boys (and even grown men) these days, is into My Little Pony so I got him a My Little Pony ornament kind of as a joke.

We usually put up the ornaments on our Christmas tree, along with the ones from the previous years, and my plan has always been that once a child had his/her own place, I'd give him/her his/her ornaments to decorate their first Christmas tree.  Well, Oldest Son just moved in his first adult apartment with his girlfriend but he and I aren't speaking so I wasn't sure what to do.  It'll be hard for me to part with his ornaments because I have so many memories attached to them, but I plan on giving the box to my daughter to give to him next time she goes to visit her dad since she typically sees her brother then.  I could mail them but it'd be expensive, the lines at the Post Office are very long, and I'm afraid they'll break or the package will get stolen if they're not home to receive it.

We don't have a tree this year due to the kittens, so I'll need to remember to collect the ornaments from the kids later on today and put them away with the others for next year.

Here are some of the few decorations that I put up yesterday before calling it "good enough!":

A few glass candy canes hanging over our kitchen table (because the nails are permanently into the ceiling
as I usually hang white lights from there)

Those always make me chuckle.  I put them in the Cat Room because I figured that if the kitten knock them over and chew on
them, it's OK (they're rubber duckies).

We no longer receive Christmas cards but I still hang our metallic Santa card collector at the entrance to
the kitchen. (sorry, the lighting was terrible).

I was afraid to have a horrible night as the kittens were rowdy right before I went to sleep and also my back was hurting a lot, but I actually had a really good night!  I had arranged the pillows just so and as soon as I turned off the lights, I fell into a deep sleep and didn't wake up until my bladder came a-knocking at 5:15 a.m.  The kittens left me alone but Greg mentioned, when he got up, that they had gone up to bug him and kept him up for a while because they were playing around in his room. When I woke up, I realized that one of them had been sleeping in the narrow gap between my back and the back of the futon, perched on the pillow that cradled my lower back. I guess it was warm and cozy and the extra heat of the kitten against my lower back probably helped soothe muscle soreness, a win-win!  Another was sleeping on the pillow next to my head and the 3rd one had started trying to wake up its siblings so maybe he's the one that woke up my bladder after all!

I went back to sleep until 6:00 a.m., fed the kittens and got St Nicolas plates ready, went back to sleep until 6:15 a.m.  I wished my son a Happy St Nicolas and went back to sleep until 6:30 a.m. when my alarm rang. I turned it off and went back to sleep until I heard my son leave for school. Then I went back to sleep (!) until Greg got up just 10 minutes later.  Ok, I'm up, I'm up!

I had planned on opening the windows again this morning but the AC was running at 7 a.m. so forget that. The weather is all gloomy. Our high is supposed to be 81F (27.2C) but we have 100% chance of rain today, YAY!  I hope it's a good, long rain, not one of those wimpy ones that only lasts 10 minutes or less.  I want thunder and lightning and pouring down rain, dang it!  So I'm supposed to do some gardening today but I still need to baby my back so I'll skip that for today.  I do have to go shower and get dressed so I can wash the last litter box before it rains.  I didn't wash it yesterday thinking it was OK but it was really stinky this morning and that's the one we keep in the kitchen so it really needs to get done.

In the St Nicolas flurry of activity, I completely forgot to pack a lunch for Greg and he didn't remind me to pack him one (or pack one himself!) before he left.  So I guess I'm having leftovers for lunch and I'm hoping there'll be a catered lunch at work since the Big Boss is in town.

As I was typing this, my peripheral vision registered movement in the tree across the street that faces my living room, and I saw... a cat!  So I stood outside the front door in my grandma pajamas with my camera, and made kissy noises to get its attention so it would look at me and I could take a good picture. This will have to do!  I think it's the kittens' mom.  Since our neighbor found Tabby Kitty in the tree between our houses (and the other two at the base of the same tree, we think they either fell or she got spooked as she was planning on bringing them up the tree), it makes sense that she would make her home in a tree as well.  And that would explain why we haven't seen any birds in months.  Anyhoo, after taking the picture, I came back indoors and reassured the kittens that they are MINE so she can spy on us from that big branch all she wants, she's not getting them back.

Can you see her?  This was taken with the 40X digital zoom.
I texted Greg to let him know about this unusual sighting.

He is evil. Of course we're NOT getting another cat.  This is the 2nd time, however, that he's mentioned that we should adopt the mom cat in 2 weeks, so I'm getting worried.  He thinks he's playing clever games but he should know by now that whenever he shows interest in anything, I get very excited.  But we're not getting a 7th cat and she runs away when she sees us anyway and another grown female cat in the house would spell disaster as Mean Kitty and New Kitty would.not.like.it.

On to my To Do List for today. I gotta think... Hmm, it's now 10 a.m. and I keep adding to my list but I haven't even showered yet and my energy level isn't very high so I may not be as productive as I should...
  • Bake bread
  • Write a menu for the week, using what I have in the fridge
  • Enter receipts in my spreadsheets
  • Wash the kitchen litterbox
  • Dust the Cat Room
  • Dust the kitchen
  • Sweep or vacuum the Cat Room
  • Clean the windows in the Cat Room
  • Fold the laundry
  • Put away the laundry
  • Clean the downstairs bathroom toilet bowl
  • Ask my son to help me put the futon cover back on the futon
  • Make a list of what I need to buy when I go in town (Christmas)
  • Dehydrate apples
  • Wrap some presents
  • Unload and reload dishwasher
  • Refill pineapple jars and water indoor seedlings
  • Go to Clermont to run some errands: freebies, get a car wash, do some holiday shopping (need to get a gift card for BFF) - Didn't get the car wash
  • Make Dr appointment for son's annual check-up
  • Check his back and make dermatologist appointment if needed
  • Make vet appointment for New Kitty's annual check-up
  • Take batteries out of fans and store them until next hurricane season
  • Make appointment for son to take permit test
  • Replace solar rechargeable batteries in lights in front planter
  • Vacuum fridge coils
  • Declutter the printer stand
  • Bake cookies for library staff (some time this week)
  • Go through receipt bucket and archive what needs to be archived, file what needs to be filed
  • Take RaceTrac surveys

  • The kittens didn't chew on the St Nicolas stuff!

  • My son packed a lunch and rode the school bus.

  • I loaded the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher next to yesterday's dishes and ran it. Once again it was so nice waking up to a clean kitchen, I've got to keep this up!

  • I ran the dehumidifier in the downstairs bathroom as soon as Greg was done with his shower. This helps keep it mildew-free.

  • I got the last of the bread dough from the fridge out to rise.  I've been eating a lot of homemade bread with brie and vanilla blueberry goat cheese, yum!  Not good for my waistline (wait, what waist?!) but cheaper than getting French bread from Publix (which I did last week, gulp).

  • After I finished baking the Grape Nuts last night, I left the trays in the oven as it cooled off, which makes them extra crunchy. They're never as crunchy as the store-bought stuff, but this helps a lot. Plus it takes much less space than to have them cool off on the table and now I don't have to worry about the kittens mistaking them for a litter box!  Anyhoo, this morning, I got the trays out of the oven and stored the Grape Nuts in their Rubbermaid container.  It'll last Greg a couple of weeks or so.

  • Greg's having a business dinner tonight so free food for him and Breakfast for Dinner for us!  I'll make pancakes, eggs, bacon and breakfast sausages.

  • Last night, I dropped my Food Network digital meat thermometer. It didn't break but it stopped working. Well, sometimes it flashes at random so maybe it's just the battery that got dislodged?  It's in a metallic case so I don't think so but I'm going to fiddle with it a bit and if I can't fix it (grr), I guess that's what I'll use my $10 Kohl's promotional gift on today.  Update: well, I pushed the battery a little since it felt a little loose and lo and behold that did the trick and my thermometer is now working again. Phew!  It was the 2nd time that I have dropped it.  I'm getting butter fingers with old age. Now I can apply the $10 in Kohl's cash to the memory foam pillow that Greg has requested.

  • 9:31 a.m.: it just started raining!  It's almost already over, I can tell, though :(  (it rained on and off during the day but never a really good hard rain).

  • I spent 3,400 KFR points to order (4) $1.00/1 cereal box because I need to spend $5 more in Kellogg's products by tomorrow to qualify for the $5 Saving Star rebate.  
  • I also input a code for 50 KFR points that I received via email today and another code for 25 KFR points that I had received last week.

  • So it's 11:38 a.m. and I still haven't done anything because... I had been catching up on Feedly and saw a post on Slickdeals about Newegg having a promo sale on 2-year Xbox Live memberships with a discount code.  The price per year is what we paid last year but I haven't seen them cheaper this whole year and usually it's through some 3rd party vendor that I haven't heard of or through eBay (I'm afraid of scam artists).  I had uploaded an Amex offer to my card where I could get a $25 statement credit if I spent $200 on Newegg.  So after texting back and forth with Greg, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered (2) 2-year Xbox Live memberships (Greg's expires in January and then next year he'll get the Xbox Scorpio and give the Xbox One to our son so I got our son a 2-year membership too) for $160 and then ordered a digital copy of the game that Greg wanted for Christmas (Civilization VI). It was still $59.99 but factoring in the $25 statement credit, it only cost us $35.  Greg was waiting until the 10% off sale on Steam but this is a better deal and now I have something (well, the printout of the code!) to give him at Christmas time, woohoo. Me always jumping to the wrong conclusion right away panicked when I saw that Newegg split my order in 2 because I suspected that I wouldn't qualify for the statement credit from Amex so I did a live chat with Amex right away. The rep checked the offer and said "well, good news, it does not say that it has to be 1 transaction so why don't you wait until the charges clear and then we'll see..."  And then 10 minutes later I got the email from Amex telling me that I had used their offer so woohoo!  All this stress for nothing, as usual. It's exhausting to be me! I went through Swagbucks too and I'll get 1% back.  Hopefully that won't get screwed up from the order getting split into two but I think it will...
  • A funny thing happened on Slickdeals because I commented in the thread to thank the poster and explain what I was doing, in case someone else might like to use Swagbucks and have the same Amex offer.  So this (presumed) gamer said "new Xbox? what new Xbox?  Microsoft just put out the Xbox S this year so there's no way they'll put out a new Xbox next year!"  They weren't exactly snide about it but I still was very satisfied when other gamers came out right away to point out that HE (or she) was wrong and that the Xbox Scorpio is indeed scheduled to come out next holiday season.  AH HA!  Take that!  And I'm not a gamer :)  So I replied that my husband was going to be so impressed that I knew something that another gamer didn't know, lol. In all fairness, that user came back and apologized and acknowledged that he/she didn't know about the new Xbox.  Again: AH HA!

  • The "Florida Wild Edibles" book is waiting for me at the library!  So I'm really not going to do anything today as I put together a long list of errands I want to run today and it's noon and I'm still unshowered and in my PJs.  So I've got to go do that this afternoon. 

  • Ah, I'm thinking I'll just go to the library, after all. I'm no longer in a shopping mood and now it's raining. And I'll go to the library tomorrow. So yeah, I'm having a mental health day today and not doing anything.

  • I put an audio book on hold at the library!  I typically do not like audio books, but this is "Food: a Love Story" by Jim Gaffigan, my very favorite comedian, and I think it'd be way better to hear him read it (because his deadpan delivery is awesome) than to read it myself. It's coming in CD form so I'm going to burn it on my laptop and then upload it to my phone because I think the kittens chewed through the speaker cables from my stereo.

  • My lunch was Greg's leftovers: the rest of the Black Pepper turkey tenderloin (very good!) and the ear of corn that I had steamed last night. It is so sweet that I ate it plain!  I also had 2 clementines (I stole one from my son's St Nicolas plate since I put on on there in memory of my grandmother but the kids actually don't really like clementines anyway!), the rest of the bread I baked yesterday (there was only a tiny bit left) and a piece of brie.  And also some Christmas cookies from Aldi.

  • I completed the daily Bing Rewards and redeemed my points for a $5 Amazon gift card :)

  • So I almost redeemed it right away to buy the 1st season of The Middle on DVD because I love that show and it's only $9.96 for Amazon Prime members right now. However... I think I'll wait until the Complete Series is out once it gets cancelled because it'll always be cheaper to buy it like that than season by season.  The library has season 1 so I can borrow it whenever I want to rewatch it.

  • I earned a few Swagbucks.

  • I found some boxer shorts for Greg on the Kohl's website. They're on sale and there's a 25% off code but no free shipping and you can't pick them up in-store either. I'll wait until 12/11 when the next 30% off code will be active as there should be a free shipping code as well. Also I checked the $10 promotional gift that I have and I CAN redeem it online for once, so I'll use it for this purchase as I ended up buying Greg's pillow at Target this afternoon.

  • The kids came back from school and we chatted for a while and then I decided that I wanted to go run those errands after all so I asked my daughter if she wanted to come as she wasn't planning on studying in the afternoon. She did so we took off, even though I didn't really have a specific plan, which is always my enemy.  I wanted to redeem some freebie coupons and also get some ideas for gifts. We were gone for close to 3 hours!

    • I stopped at the Ace liquor store and found some alcohol-filled chocolate mini bottles for Greg. We love those and I usually get some for him at Christmas.   I used a $5.99 debit card received as a rebate to pay for more than half the cost, woohoo!

    • We went a long, long time at Super Target, looking at a lot of things and I was able to buy a few gifts, including some for my daughter who assures me she's as forgetful as I am so she won't remember that I got her what I got her :)  She also got me some stuff that I pointed out and made notes of other things that I liked so she'll take my youngest son shopping for me :) I'm really excited that I got several things for Greg. I was able to use one measly 10% Cartwheel rebate off one item and I used a $5 Target coupon that I had received in a mailer, and received a $5 Target gift card for buying some Old Spice sprays for Greg.  I used up the rest of my Target gift card that I had bought last Christmas so most of the money had already been spent and I tried charging the balance to my RedCard but I couldn't remember my PIN. Arrgh. Instead of holding up the line, I just charged it to my Amazon Visa. I think it's only 1% back.

    • I ordered my free bagel from Panera via the app and we picked it up next (asiago bagel, yum!).

    • Next stop was CVS.  They only had 1 tube left of the  Arm & Hammer Radiant Toothpaste that was on sale for $3.99 with a $3.99 store coupon so I got a raincheck for the 2nd one since I have 2 coupons, but the coupon expires on 12/10 so the rain check is useless anyway.  Oh well.  I also got some make-up that my daughter wanted, she'll get it for Christmas as well. I was able to redeem a coupon that had printed at the kiosk, a store coupon sent to my app, $2 in ECB from a previous trip and a $3 ECB that they had sent me for my birthday and I received $3 back in ECB. I paid part of my bill with with a $10 Visa gift card that I had received as a rebate and the balance with my Amazon Visa card for 2%  back in rebates.

    • We then went to Wawa so I could redeem my freebie coupon for the day via my app (a free Reese's cups bar I gave it to son) and buy a gift card for my BFF. It sounds like an odd gift but money is tight for her and her family right now so I figured she could use to to buy gas OR treat herself to some coffee or a sandwich since she and I like hanging at her local Wawa when we meet up. I wanted to put air in my tires but it was dark and we were tired so I decided to do it another day.

    • The last stop was Publix. By then it was close to 7 p.m. so I called my son and told him I'd be picking up dinner from Publix instead of cooking breakfast for dinner. He was absolutely fine with that :)  I got us a Publix Fried Chicken Family Dinner for $12.99 and was able to get a free 2L bottle of Diet Coke with a store coupon. I also got a free cup of Dannon yogurt with a store coupon that they had mailed me.  My daughter grabbed some soup and a sandwich from their deli for her dinner, and I also bought 4 boxes of Kellogg's Mini Wheats. They were on BOGO at $3.99 and I used (4) $1.00/1 coupons so I paid $3.98 for 4 boxes and will receive $5 back from SavingStar since that put me over the amount needed for the $5 rebate. Phew!  I paid for the whole OOP with the Publix gift cards that I had earned via our USAA Visa card Rewards program so the whole thing was free to me, woohoo :)

    • On our way home, we drove up one block past our house to admire the beautiful light display put on by some neighbors who went all out this year. It's really pretty.  We decided that one of these nights we will make hot cocoa and go find a neighborhood to drive around to admire their lights. We do that every year and every year we're disappointed because fewer and fewer people decorate or just put out one strand of light.... says the woman who doesn't decorate (and when she does, it's only some lights on the front porch since we don't have an outside outlet!)

  • Back home, I fed the kittens and went to hide all the Christmas presents. I had to take pictures first to take notes later (I keep a list of what I bought for everyone in a spreadsheet as I aim to spend the same amount for each child). 

  • Then I submitted my rebate to SavingStar. It expires tomorrow so I didn't want to forget!

  • I also realized that I could submit my CVS receipt for a $0.10 rebate from Mobisave. I don't mind that it's only a dime :) I was curious to see how much money I had in Paypal thanks to Mobisave so I checked my Paypal account and saw that my $5 donation to Wikipedia had been covered by those little MobiSave rebates AND that I still have a little over $6 in my account. Woohoo!

  • I submitted my Publix receipt to Kellogg's Family Rewards. I should be earning something like 320 points, I think, along with some punches on my virtual card towards a 1,000 point bonus.  Oh, and I just saw an email from them telling me that I'll get a 200-pt bonus with my next purchase and the email was sent before I uploaded my receipt so I should get that bonus as well. Woo!
  • My daughter requested a Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 camera for Christmas. It's one of those like the old Polaroids, it prints photos right away.  The film is expensive (about $1 a print!) and you can't save the photos digitally so I'm not crazy about it but that's what she wants so that's what I just ordered her via Amazon. I got her the pale pink one since the blue or green one that she would have also wanted can't be found anywhere, along with an accessory pack and a 4-pack of the film.  I'm almost done shopping for her now!  I didn't have to pay tax or shipping so I was happy about that. I went through Swagbucks but I don't think that any of it qualifies for any SB.  I charged the OOP to my Discover card for 5% back in Rewards and I also redeemed $2.42 in Discover Rewards and the $5 gift card that I earned on Bing Rewards earlier today.

  • I had a nagging feeling that I had some kind of photo paper she might like so I checked my stack and I found a brand-new, never opened pack of HP Social Media Snapshots (sticky-backed photo sheets that you print from an app on your phone) that I had gotten for free from Staples last year (or the previous one, I don't remember) so I'll stick that in her stocking as well.

  • Tonight I noticed that one of the 2 solar lights that had stopped working is working again!  I think that might be the one that I took apart last night, hoping to change the battery before I realized that I didn't have AAA rechargeable batteries. So tomorrow I will take apart the 3rd light, maybe the battery got knocked its enclosure off by the move into the shed?  I'm hoping it comes back to life as well!

  • I spent $219.99 on Newegg.com BUT: no shipping (all digital codes) and no tax, got a $25 Amex statement credit, will get 1% back from Swagbucks, got a Christmas present for Greg, a Christmas present for our son for NEXT year and something that Greg was going to need come this January anyway. Woohoo.
  • Christmas presents from several B&M and Amazon today! They're not really splurges since I am within budget, but they're not items I would usually purchase.

  • Dinner, since it was later than I had planned when we got home and I was tired and didn't want to have to cook, even something as easy as breakfast for dinner. But I used gift cards so it was free to me.

  • I forgot to pack a lunch for Greg!

  • And there wasn't a catered lunch after all so he had to buy lunch: $8.51.  Arrgh. It's my fault but he could have also reminded me!

  • Fed kittens
  • Got St Nicolas plates ready
  • Cooked breakfast for Greg
  • Baked bread
  • Ran dehumidifier in bathroom
  • Ran dishwasher
  • Worked on Xmas shopping list
  • Texted Middle Son and my BFF
  • Spent way too much time on placing an order on Newegg and then dealing with the Amex thingie
  • Texted back and forth with my BFF
  • Put a library audio book on hold
  • Washed the kitchen litter box
  • Brought the large trash can back up the driveway
  • Researched more Christmas presents online
  • Called the dentist to confirm tomorrow's appointment
  • Went Christmas shopping with my daughter
  • Put everything away
  • Submitted rebates
  • Ordered more Christmas gifts online
  • I going to take the recycling down to the curb and then load the few dishes that are in the sink into the dishwasher after I hit the Publish button on this post :)

  • For starting to climb my way back to feeling "normal" again
  • For a lot of laughs with my daughter today. I love her.
  • For kisses and cuddles from my kittens
  • For Greg telling me that I needed to blog about my Newegg/Amex adventure this morning because my readers "missed me". OK, now who's been emailing my husband?!  Ha.
  • For a great day of shopping that was pretty stress-free and the fact that I'm almost done with Christmas shopping and it's only 12/6. Now comes the wrapping but it shouldn't be too bad.
  • For not struggling to make the mortgage payment each month.  I see a friend struggling like this and I feel terrible. Hindsight is always 20/20 and I'm actually grateful that I'm as conservative in my financial choices as I am (and so is Greg) because we could be much better off possibly if we took more risks, or we could have taken a lot of risks and been in my friend's position right now.
  • For all of your kindness and encouragement. I appreciate every comment and email you have written, even though I have been very remiss in publishing them and/or answering them. Please give me some more time... I'm not out of the abyss completely yet. December is a very cruel month.
I hope your holiday shopping is going well.