Thursday, December 22, 2016

Visiting Ferndale Preserve in Lake County, FL ~ Thursday 12/22/16

Good chilly Thursday morning!  It's 65F/18C in my living room this morning at 11:00 a.m. and my feet are cold.  11:00 a.m.?!  I just had to do a double take.  Yep, 11 a.m.

I stayed up late last night since I didn't have to wake up to see anyone off to school or work. The kittens and I made ourselves comfy on the futon by the light of the Christmas light string that's hanging on my mantle and listening to Christmas music very softly, and we re-read my blog entries from last December.  Every time I do this, I think to myself that I was wittier, more frugal and more productive than the current year... anyhow, we stayed up reading until 3 a.m.!  Well, I stayed up because two of the kittens were nestled on me and the 3rd was playing around.  At about 1:30a .m. I moved to my bedroom and I left the door open a little but apparently not enough because a kitten started crying behind the door so I felt guilty and opened it a little more and soon I had two kittens snuggling with me in bed while the 3rd went to sleep with Greg.

So my night wasn't as great as the previous one because they were playing and wanting food at 6 a.m. and then crunching very loudly and playing some more,  Sigh.  I did manage to sleep until about 9:45 a.m. when my BFF texted me because she had received my Christmas card with her goodies and wanted to thank me.

So far I've done nothing but play around on the laptop with reward programs, read the news, catch up on emails, enter sweepstakes...  but hey, it's vacation time!  I do have to do the dishes and wrap Christmas presents, enter my receipts in my spreadsheets...  but honestly, I don't feel like doing any of this.

I texted Middle Son to inquire as to when we might be able to have our Christmas lunch next week the two of us but no answer so far, he must be at work. Or sleeping.

  • Make butternut squash soup and freeze (make sure I have proper containers) 
  • Dust the Cat Room
  • 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
  • Wrap the new Christmas presents (ugh)
  • Unload and reload dishwasher
  • Make Dr appointment for son's annual check-up and for daughter
  • Make dermatologist appointment for my son
  • Take batteries out of fans and store them until next hurricane season
  • Make appointment for son to take permit test
  • Vacuum fridge coils
  • Declutter the printer stand
  • Go through receipt bucket and archive what needs to be archived, file what needs to be filed
  • Take RaceTrac surveys
  • Recalculate our 401(k) contributions for 2017
  • Work on Net Worth document
  • Clean upstairs litter box
  • Check my passport's expiration date
  • Input receipts (paper and email) in my spreadsheets
  • Move my music library to the new laptop
  • Install software programs on new laptop
  • Sync my phone with the new laptop
  • Wipe old laptop of all confidential info
  • Take old laptop to be fixed
  • Prep cookie dough to be baked over the next couple of days - I defrosted butter!

  • Ibotta deposited $1.00 in my account for the Chili's rebate.

  • I earned the daily Microsoft Rewards credits. Also, I had a 1,000 credit bonus waiting for me as a "sorry" for their problems last weekend. Some people only got 500 credit points, I think probably those who are Level 1. I'm Level 2.

  • I was able to order a $5 Amazon gift card from Microsoft Rewards, woohoo!
  • I earned a few Swagbucks. My 1st Daily Goal is 50 SB and I did get a $15 SB Search Award first thing this morning but I don't think I'll bother trying to make it to 50 SB.

  • CVS emailed me a $6 off $30 purchase coupon that I uploaded to my ExtraCare card, although I have no intention of setting foot in the store again until next Wednesday, which is past the expiration date of the coupon. But you never know.

  • I also got an email from their Customer Service people confirming that my enrollment in the Beauty Club is working fine. I had emailed to ask whether I was accruing the rewards properly because I hadn't been credited for several beauty purchases I had made, towards the $50 threshold to get a $5 ECB. But of course yesterday they had showed up on my receipt. Apparently it takes several days for them to be accounted for. Anyhoo, I had also asked what exactly constitutes a "beauty" purchase and this is what they sent me. I need to print this and save it in my wallet or better yet, at the bottom of my shopping list!

  • I didn't have specific plans in mind for dinner tonight but when I opened the upright freezer to get butter out, I had a really hard time opening the door as the chicken I had bought from Aldi yesterday was blocking it. Finally, I got it to open but there was no way that frozen chicken was going back in there so I'm defrosting it for dinner.  We have corn on the cob that I bought last week and that I ought to cook so I'll make that as a side.

  •  I'm also softening some sticks of butter and defrosting some more as I plan on prepping several doughs today and possibly even baking some cookies. I'll probably spend the next couple of days baking several kinds of cookies.  I asked the family for requests and both my men replied that they would be happy with any kind of cookie that I bake, so I guess it's the same kind that I bake every year: peanut butter blossoms, buried cherry chocolate treasures, raspberry linzer cookies and this year I might try to make some kind of chocolate nutty coconuty bars. They look easy. We'll see how motivated I am.

  • My late morning snack/lunch was a chipotle chicken salad sandwich. I bought it last week and it's good but not great so it's taking me a long time to finish the container. I'm thinking I might freeze the rest of it so it doesn't go bad.

  • As our high will only be 75F/24C, I'm hoping that we won't have to turn on the AC at all today. I'll open the windows in a little bit, right now I'm still kind of chilled, even though it's noon already. Already?  Oh no, my chicken might not be defrosted by cooking time! I warned Greg we might be having a late dinner.

  • I printed a few coupons that Betty Crocker emailed me.

  • Greg proposed that we go on a walk and I suggested we go somewhere else than our regular haunts so we drove 20 minutes to the Ferndale Preserve, in Montverde.  Parts of it overlook Lake Apopka. It's a county preserve so free access :)  Pictures at the bottom of this post. As usual, our son declined to come along. My daughter had already left to go to her dad's, so it was just the two of us. We brought tap water along.

  • On the way home I was dreaming about donuts so Greg offered to stop by Dunkin' Donuts but I turned him down after thinking about all the food we have at home.

  • However, since I didn't get to make my cookie dough, we have no cookies to munch on... or so I thought, until I remembered that I had bought some fancy chocolate wafers from Aldi last week so we all shared a box of them.  There are 2 boxes left.  I'm tired after our walk and I'm sipping on a bottle of hard cider so the cookie dough might not get done until later tonight, if it gets done at all!

  • Greg had a 500 bonus in his Microsoft Rewards account, even though he's also level 2, so I don't know why I got 1,000 and not him. He redeemed enough credits for a $10 Xbox gift card that he will use to buy a game, of course.

  • Our son walked to the nearby park to get some swinging done for the day :)

  • Greg checked on the chicken that I had set out to defrost and at 4 p,m. it's still less than halfway defrosted, so he defeatedly asked: "So... Chinese for dinner?" and I kind of agreed but then I added water to the bowl where the chicken in defrosting, in hopes that it will speed up the process, and I also came up with a plan to cook omelettes instead of ordering in.  We have 4 dozen eggs in the fridge!  Maybe I'll make a fritatta.  I should go harvest some lettuce to make a salad but right now I'm comfy on the couch and I don't feel like moving.

  • I printed 2 copies of a cereal coupon that Kellogg's emailed me.

  • For dinner, I cooked a big omelet in which I threw some potatoes O'Brien and ham. I offered to make the boys some toast to go with it but they didn't want any.

  • I had said I would wrap the extra presents that I bought tonight after dinner but after a short night, a walk, and a spat with Greg tonight (see "Failures"), I feel very tired so we're watching Bob's Burgers again.  So I didn't do much cleaning, didn't prep any cookie dough, and didn't wrap the presents today. Sigh.

  • Gas and tolls for my daughter to drive to her dad's.. I need to add all this up, as he's supposed to refund me for those trips.

  • Gas to drive to the Ferndale preserve and back.

  • Not a serious failures at all but I woke up feeling like today was Monday and in the back of my mind we still have a whole week ahead of us before Christmas. But no!  I have to snap out of it because it's THURSDAY and in the next couple of days I need to have wrapped the rest of my presents (and I wanted to go buy another one as well) and bake a bunch of cookies. Argh. I need to get my butt into gear!

  • I saw something that I wasn't supposed to see last night, through no fault of my own.  I'm mad at myself because I love surprise gifts.  I managed to forget about it overnight (see how forgetful I am?!) but this morning I read some headline that reminded me of it and I was mad at myself all over again. Now I need to act surprised and I hate doing that because I don't like lying. But if I reveal that I saw it, I'll make someone mad.  Ugh. I'm gonna drink a bottle of hard cider to forget :)  Also: no driving for me today as one small bottle of hard cider is enough to make me feel woozy! I'm a very lightweight, very occasional drinker. Hey! At last something in me is "lightweight". Snort.

  • My daughter called from her dad's to say that we had stopped at Wawa to get air in her tires and noticed a big nail sticking out of one of the back tires that was also very low.  So her dad took her to a place he trusts and they're checking to see if the tire can be fixed. If not, he'll call me to get a price on new tires.  Arrgh.  He did say that he thought the tread was still pretty good so we're hoping the tire can be fixed.  Update: I ended up speaking with the garage directly and the attendant explained that the tire couldn't be replaced and recommended that we replace both tires since the tread was low, according to them.  Greg and I got into a short argument because he only wanted to replace the one tire, but in the end agreed to replace both at a cost of $156.  He's still pretty miffed about it, but my daughter drives at night a lot for an hour each way and I didn't want her to be stranded. He thinks she should have paid for the tire herself but it's our car, not hers so I don't necessarily agree.  She'll charge it to my Discover and it should be done tonight.

  • Fed the kittens
  • Texted with my BFF
  • Tried to schedule "Christmas" lunch with Middle Son
  • Earned rewards on my Rewards programs
  • Entered sweepstakes
  • Cuddled with a kitten
  • Defrosted chicken and butter for future baking/cooking plans
  • Went on a walk with Greg
  • Cleaned the upstairs cat litter box

  • For not having to get up early this morning
  • For the warm blanket that Oldest Son and GF had made for me last Christmas because it's keeping my feet warm as I'm too lazy to get up and put some socks on!
  • For kitten kisses
  • For a lovely walk with my husband
  • For this picture, published on the Birds & Blooms blog, that made me laugh :)  I think Bless (if she's still reading, *waves to Bless*) will enjoy it. Hahaha.  This is going to be with the Christmas "buffet".

  • For being told that Greg and I were "handmade card worthy" by Susan, lol.  Thanks for your lovely card, Susan!  Greg was amazed when I told him that you make your own cards. He asled me how you do it and I told him that it was very complicated and it took lots of patience and skill so he doesn't start expecting that I become a crafter too.  Because I truly have no patience and I have no crafting skill. None. My cards would come with lots of fingerprints on them and strands of glue and everything would be askew.  Susan is very talented!  The card looks wonderful on our mantelpiece!

Ferndale Preserve, Montverde, FL.

It was a lovely day and we didn't see a soul, which is always nice as we are people who enjoy our own company.  The preserve has a very nice playground right at the entrance, I wish that preserve had been open back when our kids were young enough for playgrounds!

There were 2 trails: a 1.5 mile equestrian/hiking loop and a 0.5 mile one-way hiking trail. We hiked both.  The terrain is extremely sandy, especially on the equestrian trail, so it was like walking on the beach, downhill and uphill since the preserve overlooks Lake Apopka. I had sand in my shoes before long.

The vegetation is mostly brown and dry right now, but we did spot a few splashes of color here and there.

The brochure promised much wildlife, but we didn't spot much of it. Still. we saw more birds than we've seen on the other trails/preserves that we've visited this fall/winter!  I didn't manage to capture most of them on "film" though.  I spotted exactly 1 lizard and we saw lots of centipedes.

We did see coyote tracks and scat.  And also some weird trails that we deducted were from tiny snails crossing the trail, or perhaps the centipedes, now that we think about it.

I can't wait to go back in the spring, I'll bet it's very pretty and colorful, then.

Hmm, we think this is a map of what the preserve's trails will look like when it's completed (there was an article in today's
paper discussing "future improvements" to the preserve being discussed starting in January).  We only got to walk the solid yellow equestrian trail and maybe half the solid white one, all the other areas were clearly marked off limits.  It will be nice to be able to get closer to Lake Apopka in the future.

The playground and swing areas

Pretty mysterious entrance to the equestrian/hiking trail...

Ooh, this looks very inviting!  I like hiking in the shade.  It was quite warm in the sun.  However, the shady
area didn't last long.

Cacti. Probably Prickly Pear.

They all look like Mickey Mouse to me. Must be my 15 years of working for the Mouse earlier in my life.

Once we were out of the woods, it was mostly overgrown agricultural/pasture land. Part of Lake Apopka can be seen in the background.

It looks pretty flat there but the terrain was very uneven with very soft sand, it was like walking
on the beach. I ended up with lots of sand in my shoes and lots of burrs too.

There were a lot of little pine trees growing there.

They all looked like little Christmas trees to me!  We don't have a tree this year due to our kittens
being pests so I amused myself by decorating this one when I got home :)

This is horse poop. Fascinating, no?  I took a picture just to remind myself that next time I ought to bring a bucket and shovel to pick it up so I can spread it on my garden. I wonder if it would frown upon.  Greg wasn't too enthused about the idea.

A splash of color in the middle of an otherwise dead-looking bush.

Greg calls those birds that we see flying "hultures" because we never know if they're hawks or vultures, lol.  It's probably a vulture.  I wasn't fast enough to photograph the other tiny birds that we spotted.

You can't really tell but we were going downhill at this point.  The preserve, at its highest point, is something like 162 ft above sea level. which is pretty high for Florida!  This picture was taken looking back, towards the top of the hill.

There were lots of bright green passion fruit vine that were regrowing everywhere. I wish mine had survived the transplant.

A couple of citrus tree were interspaced here and there.

Then I spotted this at my feet and was wondering what it was... some kind of exotic egg?!

But not, it was some kind of wild melon!  There were quite a few of them, actually.  I wonder if the past farmers had planted them or if they just grew wildly.  

A couple of ways you know you're still in Florida: the oranges, of course...

And palm trees!

Near the woods there were loads of acorns on the floor, many of them that had been gnawed on, I read last week that Florida oaks are experiencing a "masting season" right now, which is when all the oaks divest themselves of their acorns. It only happens every few years, apparently, and during those years the hunting is very good since the animals are all attracted to come out and eat the acorns.  Then, according to the article, the oaks go through several years of not dropping acorns. I don't know if it's true because our driveway and cars always seem to be covered in them!

A live centipede (or millipede?) that Greg spotted.  We saw lots of dead ones but only a couple of live ones.

This picture didn't turn out but I think the while bits are what's left of old dead millipedes.  They were everywhere!

Some of the grasses were very pretty, even all dried up.

There were several splashes of yellow flowers here and there.

Not sure if this was owl pellets or some other animal's scat, but it ate some kind of a bird because you can see the feathers pretty plainly.  My kids and I used to have fun dissecting owl pellets when they were little.

The trail was covered, in part, by this creeping vine that had pretty small, red flowers.

A wasp nest up in a tree.

We kept on seeing those strangely straight tracks criss crossing one another, everywhere!  A lizard?

It's hard to tell in the picture because of the sun exposure, but there were small blue flowers and more red flowers there. It was nice to see some color since everything is pretty much brown at this point. We've had a drought for several months.

This was the hiking trail, It was flatter and easier to walk on than the equestrian trail!  Eventually we should be able to take it almost to the shores of Lake Apopka, in the distance, but for now it stopped pretty much where the black shadow is cast across the trail and you can look around a little. We didn't see much.

This flew across our path and took refuge in a nearby tree.

There, you can see it better when I blow it up!

I spotted small shells like this near those straight trails that we were wondering about and figured that the snails had made the trails, but when we got home, Greg and I decided that it was probably all those millipedes.  It's still a mystery!

We enjoyed our walk at the Ferndale Preserve.  We'll return in a couple of months when there's hopefully more colorful pictures to be taken!