Wednesday, December 13, 2017

It's Always Something...

Well darn it, if I hadn't started blogging again yesterday, I would had had to start today!

It was 43F/6.1C this morning. Youngest Son and I got into the Focus to drive to the high school and he just couldn't get the car into gear. He's had trouble in the past putting it in reverse but usually succeeds on the 2nd try and then the car drives fine. But this morning, it just wouldn't get into any gears that he tried. I had him step out and tried it myself, to no avail.  So I told him we'd take Greg's truck but he said he'd just take the bus since the bus hadn't come yet.  Such a good boy!

I went back inside and waited for Greg to get up. I looked up the problem online and, while several people reported the same problem, there wasn't any consensus as to the repairs. Some said it was a clutch problem and a cable was loose, others claimed they had replaced their entire transmission to the cost of over $1,000 and still had trouble.  Ugh.  One person mentioned being able to put it into 5th gear and from there being able to put it in reverse so I went to try that and it "worked" but then wouldn't go back into 1st or 2nd gear so I was afraid that if I rolled down the driveway into the street, I wouldn't be able to drive forward to park it in the grass where my daughter usually parked it.

After Greg's shower, I asked him to help me push it  into the grass (so I could use my SUV since the Focus was parked right behind it, giving me no room to maneuver) but, Smart Guy he is, he just rolled it backwards into the grass on the OTHER side of the drive. Duh and this is why I'm glad I'm married to him because sometimes, my brain just doesn't work :)

So I called our regular garage and they'll look at it but they don't work on manual transmissions.  We're hoping it's "just" a clutch problem and, if it is, they might be able to fix it.  If it's the transmission, we'll need to find another garage. My friend Juliet had recommended one closer to my house, actually, but I'm not sure they work on manual transmissions either. I guess I'll just wait to see what my trusted mechanic tells me.  I called USAA and had the car towed there.

Today is Wednesday, which means Shopping Day.  It's going to be expensive this week as i'm going to buy several items meant for our Christmas Buffet. I can't get it all this week since I need to make room in the freezer, but I'll get most of it, I think.

In other news, it looks like Roy Moore was defeated in AL, which makes me happy, but I expect many shenanigans from him and his team so it's not over yet (he wants a recount).  The difference wasn't all that high, not surprising but at the same time, yes, surprising.  Almost 50% of voters voted for him... proof that it won't be all that easy to get rid of Trump and his ilk come 2020. Honestly, if the Democrats pick a blonde woman with blue eyes as their candidate (Kirsten Gillibrand), I think it'll be a big mistake.

I wrote this paragraph hours ago and this graphic that I found on NPR about who voted for whom in this election proves me right, I think:

Anyhoo, on to the usual blog fodder:

  • No fleas jumped on my socks last night when I went upstairs, or this morning.  Woop woop!

  • I ended up going to bed at 9:15 p.m. last night!  I got almost 9 hours of sleep.  

  • I set the heat to come on at 66F instead of 67F because Greg had reported having a headache the previous night.  So it saved us a little bit of money?

  • I packed leftovers for Greg to take to work and Youngest Son packed himself a lunch.

  • The car towing is covered under our USAA Roadside Assistance plan.

  • I remembered to grab all my reusable shopping bags out of the trunk before the car got towed!

  • I spun the KFR wheel and earned 50 KFR points.  I haven't bought cereal in ages though because YS has pretty much stopped eating it.  Then someone posted a code on Slickdeals (HOHO-HOLI-DAYB-ONUS) that earned me another 25 KFR points.

  • I looked at the new ads for Save A Lot and Aldi online.  I found a couple of items that I can get at Aldi that my men can gift me for Christmas.  There's nothing that I need from Save A Lot so I'll skip that stop today. I'm also skipping CVS and Walgreens. The only thing I would have bought would have been a bag of candy for YS that's on sale at CVS for $2 and would have gotten me a $2 ECB but since I'll be driving the SUV, I'll just save myself the gas.

  • I made 4 stops on my shopping trip: Kohl's, Aldi, the garage to check on the car, and Publix.
    • Kohl's: they had sent me $10 in Yes2You Rewards for my birthday and i also have a 30% off code right now. The thing is, as usual, we don't need anything. I couldn't even think to get anything for Christmas for the kids or Greg from there, so I spent almost 45 minutes walking through the store. Arrgh. Finally, I decided on a pack of 4 pairs of socks for myself. I don't really need them but eventually I guess I will.  They were over $10 so the "free" $10 still cost me money ($2.05). Wouldn't be nice if the Kohl's cash didn't expire so we can just save it and use it when we actually need something?
I gave them to Greg to put in my stocking, lol.
    • Aldi: I spent! I did get 4 jugs of cat litter, some kitchen trash bags, gift boxes for Xmas because my old ones are starting to fall apart, a 24-pack of AA batteries, and several items that Greg and our son can give me for Christmas.  Then I bought a bunch of stuff for our Christmas buffet and brunch and then the regular groceries that I needed for the week but I also stocked up on certain items.  I did use the last $5 coupon that they had given me when they reopened, but my OOP was still $218.81!!!  I charged it to Amex for 3% back in Rewards.
      • Non food items for the house/pets were $29.17
      • Christmas presents were $40.44
      • Christmas buffet/brunch foods were $88.53
Food for our Christmas debauchery
      • Regular groceries were $60.67 and include 4 lbs of butter since it was on sale for $2.29.  It also includes groceries that I'll need for next week's menu.
"Regular" groceries. The blackberries are $0.99 this week and Greg declared that they were "the best blackberries (he) has ever had!".  I bought bagels and apple juice for my daughter since I'm guessing she'll be coming to spend some time here.  Her last classes are Thursday.
    • Garage: since I was passing it on my way home, I stopped by to make sure the car had gotten there and check on the progress.  It was there, they were still working on it to figure out what the problem was. They were thinking it was a problem with the clutch's hydraulic system so they were flushing it and my mechanic told me that he'd call me when they knew more. I really hope they figure it out and are able to fix it (they don't work on manual transmissions if that ends up being the problem).  So right now it's 12:45 p.m. and I haven't heard back from there.

    • Publix: I'd left my coupon organizer in Greg's truck (see "Failures") but thanks for procrastinating on clipping the coupons that I printed last week, I still had the ones that I needed for my Publix trip.  Plus I ended up being able to use a surprise digital coupon at the register too.  I bought a large bottle of Ortho Home Defense insect control so I can spray the rest of the house and the outside too at some point ($12.62, it might have been cheaper at Home Depot or Lowe's but I didn't think to go there to check!). I bought a box of Melba toasts for the Christmas buffet ($2.39), a deli salad for myself because I was famished and didn't feel like eating old leftovers ($7.48) and then spent another $15.30 on groceries that I mostly don't need this week or next so it was almost all stocking up items.  
Publix shopping.  The pork tenderloin was on sale at 5.99 and a $1.00 digital coupon was deducted from it too, the Celentano cheese ravioli cost me $1.83 for both bags, the Kentucky Legend ham cost me $1.49 for both packages.  The Melba toast, pot roast and flea killer weren't on sale, though :(  
    • So total "regular" groceries between Aldi and Publix: $75.97 that's not so bad, considering that my budget is actually $75 and that I have bought food that should last me 2 weeks at least.  Of course, I'll go out next week and buy more anyway but I'm still pleased with my total after all.

  • When I got home I turned off the heat and opened some windows.  The temp is down to 65F/18.3C in the living room but there's a small breeze so it feels colder. We'll see how long I last!  I put on the Smooth Jazz Christmas station on Pandora so it helps me withstand the cold a little more. Those of you up North are probably snorting right now that 65F with a breeze is swimsuit weather for you but we're Florida wimps down here!

  • The computer repair store called to say they got the fan in today and have already replaced it in my laptop. Hooray!  I'm waiting to hear from the garage to make only 1 trip to pick up the laptop and pay for the car repair (keeping my fingers crossed) and then Greg and I would need to go back to the garage when he gets home, after hours, to get the car.  

  • I took my phone off the  "Do Not Disturb" mode earlier today in case the tow company was going to call me (my phone won't ring if the number calling isn't in My Contacts) but I noticed that instead of ringing when I got a call, my phone would only buzz and vibrate. It was really irritating because I don't hear it if it's not sitting right next to me on the couch. I'm so fat now that I don't even feel it vibrate!  Anyhoo, I've been having other small issues with the phone so Greg, once again, suggested that I just get a new phone. But I don't want to spend a few more hundred dollars on a phone so I just googled "my phone won't ring after having been on Do Not Disturb" and picked a result at random. The first suggestion was to make sure that the ringer was actually ON (on the iPhone 5S it's the little toggle switch on the side) and, sure enough, that was my problem! I had put my phone on mute when I went to the dermatologist with my son several weeks ago and totally forgotten about it!  I feel very dumb but also very relieved that at least that was NOT a problem with the phone itself, just the operator. Phew!

  • Redbox emailed me a couple of BOGO rental codes that expire tomorrow so I offered them to Middle Son, but i think he's working. I also texted him to ask whether he thought he'd be able to sign us in to Epcot or not since he never got back to me last night.

  • Youngest Son gave me $8 for the Christmas present that he will be giving me that I bought this morning at Aldi! I had asked for $7.50 but he didn't have the change and doesn't want the coins.

  • I checked the rebate apps that I use and was able to claim a $0.25 "any item" rebate from Publix and then was happily surprised to see that Checkout 51 had a $3.00 offer for Red Lobster if you spent at least $30 on food. We spent much more than that last Friday night so I submitted my detailed receipt (so glad I remembered to grab it, Greg usually only takes the credit card receipt!) and that should be just over the $20 I needed to cash out.  Yay!  I also checked to see if Ibotta had "any bar or restaurant" offers on the Stella Artois beer that Greg drank that night, but they don't.

  • I was supposed to cook a pork roast in the crockpot for dinner but it was still frozen even though I put it in the fridge to defrost yesterday!  So I'm going to make a corn, ham and scallion frittata instead (I had frittata on the menu for tomorrow night) and i'll serve it with a salad. Serendipitously, I bought cubed ham at Publix today for a song, on sale and with a coupon, sadly the coupon was worded that I could only use 1 per person and per day, or I'd have been able to get the ham for free since it was on BOGO, poop.  I'll use a can of no salt added corn and I harvested 2 green onion tops from my garden. Those free green onions that I had gotten from Target at least 4 years ago, used up and replanted are still going strong!
This is a recipe I had clipped in All You Magazine several years ago.

  • Ibotta and Checkout 51 credited my account super fast! So I cashed out my Checkout 51 account and I should receive a check within 5 to 15 business days for $20.30.  Woohoo!  I'm relieved that i was finally able to cash out because I rarely ever redeem any rebates on CK 51 anymore. I "only" have $44.29 in my Ibotta account and I want to wait until I have $45 so i can order a $20 Walmart gift card and a $25 Home Depot gift card.

  • I also requested a payout from SavingStar. I asked for it to be deposited to my checking account and it should happen within 3 days.  I'll get $35.89 from them.

  • The mechanic called me at about 3 p.m. and the repair was much cheaper than we had anticipated: about $107.  Hopefully the problem won't reoccur but if it does, he told me what to try before I bring it back. More details under "Splurges".

  • My laptop is so quiet now, hooray!  I did have to reinstall some files and shortcuts. The shortcuts had disappeared from my Start menu, and I don't know why.  Then my external drive couldn't connect again but after I rebooted the modem/router/external drive and my laptop, it connected fine. Phew!

  • Yesterday, an alert appeared on a bunch of tech blogs that a lot of HP laptops were vulnerable to having a keylogger malware installed on them.  The first article I read said "but don't worry about it, unless someone has your admin password, nothing will happen because they need to manually activate it." Well, OK but my laptop was in the hands of a stranger who did have my admin password! So I was worried about it and the first thing I did was apply the security fix for my particular model.

  • I was able to earn the Microsoft Rewards bonus for using Edge (I couldn't earn the bonus on my old Windows 7 laptop since I didn't have Edge installed on it).  Yay!  I earned the rest of my reward credits this morning, along with very few Swagbucks.

  • The frittata turned out really good, just like in the recipe picture, and I made a salad with the remnants from last night's salad, the rest of a cucumber that was getting a little soft, another small Romaine heart, and an avocado that I had left to ripen on the counter for a couple of days.

  • A week ago I bought a sweet potato pie on clearance at Save A Lot for $1.49.  We'd never had sweet potato pie so I figured we'd try it. I have yet to try it but Greg did and doesn't like it. However, he's been eating a small piece every night because he says "he feels bad for the pie that no one likes!". Ha.  

  • P&G emailed me a code good for a either a free 8x11 wall calendar or a free easel calendar from Shutterfly. If you're interested in the code, shoot me an email.

  • The heat was on again last night as the temps dipped into the low 40s. The high today will be in the low 60s so I think I'll keep the heat on.

  • I bought several items for our Christmas Buffet (cheeses, prosciutto, cider, etc...) so my grocery bill was way be higher than it should. Oh well. And also, I still need to get more stuff that I'll get next week.  When I say "Christmas Buffer", though, it actually usually feeds us for a couple of days so that's still bad but also not so bad :)

  • I also purchased several Christmas presents that YS and Greg can give me.
One of the gifts "from Greg". It's a heated foot massager. I want to
use it after our walks, when my feet hurt so badly.  It was only $17.
The rest of the presents are mostly German Christmas cookies from
Aldi.  I've given them to Greg to hide so I don't eat them before Christmas!
  • I was starved by the time I got to Publix so I bought myself a Southern Cobb deli salad for $6.99. I should have just gone to Hardee's and ordered one of those $5 meals if they still have them. Oh well.  The salad itself is my favorite; lettuce, tomatoes, blue cheese, apples, cranberries, glazed pecans, fried chicken breast chunks and the dressing is a balsamic vinaigrette.  So, so good!

  • I'm counting this as a splurge instead of a failure since it was an expense I couldn't avoid but it also was much cheaper than I had thought it would be: the clutch repair.  So in the end, they think that air somehow got into the clutch's hydraulic system. It's not supposed to since it's a closed circuit, but it can happen sometimes when you push on the clutch the system will suck in some air and they think this might have happened. Once again he suggested making sure the mat isn't under the clutch pedal (I think I'm going to get rid of the floor mat on the driver side altogether).  They took the clutch's hydraulic system apart and "bled" it to get rid of all the air and it's working fine for them now but it could happen again.  If it does, he told me to just keep on pumping on the clutch, which should have the same effect of flushing the air out of the system so we can put the car into gear and then drive it. However, it could also indicate that the clutch master cylinder is bad. If it needs to be replaced. the part is about $70 and he quoted me about $225 in labor and they could do the repair there. If that doesn't solve it, it more than likely would need a new clutch and that's a big and complicated repair that would probably run us about $1,200 (and I don't think he'd be able to do it there, I forgot to ask). But for today, the repair is $107. I'll drive it back from the garage later on and see what happens.

  • At the computer repair store, I spent another $20 on top of my repair bill to buy a laptop "desk" (one of those trays you sit on your lap on which you put the laptop), because when I asked the tech what could have caused the problem, he said it's not like they got a ton of those repair requests so it doesn't seem to be a systemic part failure due to poor quality and he mentioned that perhaps the air vents didn't let enough air in and that sometimes it's caused by our clothing when the laptop is on our lap (and mine is 99% of the time on my lap!) so he suggested I get one of those laptop desks.  Since he was so nice and I was happy with their service, I bought it from them. I'm sure I could have paid half the price on Amazon but I like supporting local business when they deserve my patronage. We had a nice chat too since he guessed right away that my accent was French, something that people never do, although I now realize that he had the advantage of knowing the spelling of my first name.

  • The Focus has less than 70K miles on it so I'm not ready to already have major repairs done on it, darn it!

  • Hmm, I just realized that my post that was scheduled to be published last night never was published... so I had to do it manually. I wonder what's going on with Blogger. Maybe it's cross with me that I abandoned it for so long.

  • I left my coupon organizer in Greg's truck on Friday night by mistake so when I went shopping this morning, I didn't have my organizer with me!  Good thing I wasn't planning on going to Walmart or CVS (since my gift cards are in my organizer).  I sent myself an email to remember to get it out when Greg gets home tonight.

  • Looking at my Aldi receipt, the cashier charged me for 3 cans of sweetened condensed milk even though I only bought 2. My receipt was very long so I didn't look at it in the store (plus the 3rd can appears a few lines below the 2 that I did buy) so I'm out $1.19 :(

  • Food waste today included 4 small potatoes that I had steamed a couple of weeks ago and completely forgotten in my fridge, and a small wedge of cheesecake that I had bought on clearance back in November and that no one ate (Greg and I were keeping it for our son who, unbeknownst to us, wasn't too crazy about the flavor so he didn't eat it either).

  • It's almost 2:30 p.m. and I still haven't heard anything about the car and I'm feeling so anxious about it that I can't seem to concentrate on anything. I should be folding my laundry since I didn't get to it yesterday.  I also didn't do the dishes, again. So now I have 2 days piled up on the counter and in the sink.  Update: they called me a little bit later, the repair cost less than I expected and I did fold the laundry!  I'll do the dishes in the morning.
  • Packed lunch for Greg and made his breakfast
  • Picked up cat barf from the Cat Room
  • Put the recycling outside for collection
  • Researched causes of car problems online
  • Called garage
  • Organized car towing
  • Earned rewards
  • Worked on Shopping List
  • Did the grocery shopping and some Christmas shopping
  • Went to check on the Focus
  • Put all the groceries away and separated the Christmas items
  • Figured out why my phone wasn't ringing anymore
  • Analyze YS's PSAT results
  • Submitted a couple of receipts for rebates
  • Went to pay for the car repair and pick up the keys
  • Picked up my laptop and discussed possible causes and solutions with tech
  • Folded the laundry and put it away
  • Applied HP security patch to my laptop
  • Updated Windows
  • Rebooted everything so my external drive would connect to the laptop
  • Cooked dinner and set the table
  • Tomorrow will need to be a Domestic Thursday because I have quite a bit of chores to catch up on!
  • After dinner, Greg and I gassed up his truck and went to pick up the Focus from the garage.
  • Retrieved my coupon organizer from Greg's truck
  • I'm going to take my shower tonight before going to bed, because when it's cold in the mornings, I never feel like taking one
  • That Youngest Son was gracious enough to offer to take the bus to school
  • That Greg used his smarts to make moving the Focus out of the way a non event!
  • That we have USAA Road Assistance and that I was home, once again, when having car trouble!
  • That my laptop is already ready fixed!
  • That my iPhone didn't need to be replaced and that getting it to ring again was a super easy "fix", lol.
  • That YS scored very well on the PSAT this year. Unfortunately he didn't qualify for the National Merit Scholarship program (so close though!) but there's always next year since he has to take it again then.  His equivalency score for the SAT is very close to what he would need to qualify for the highest level of Bright Futures Scholarship too, so I'm grateful that we got this information now so that he has the time to make sure to study appropriately to start taking the SAT and ACT next year!
  • That the car repair was far less expensive than we had thought.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Trying to Get Back to Normal

I've been in a weird frame of mind for weeks now, where I miss blogging so much but at the same time, I don't miss it at all...

I guess I don't miss the actual act of blogging throughout the day, but then I re-read posts from previous months or years and I realize how grateful that I am that I consigned my boring life to my blog back then because I really really enjoy re-reading my posts. And that makes me feel like blogging again.

Also, blogging is a huge time suck but at the same time a huge motivator for me.  I really didn't accomplish much of anything during my extended break so it's not like NOT blogging helped.  I ended up recreating my To Do List in Word and printing a new version of it every day so i could get motivated to do some chores and tasks and physically cross them off.  So it's not like I was a couch potato 100% of the time, after all i did manage to keep up with the dishes and the laundry (and also Swagbucks and Microsoft Rewards!) for the most part, but I did watch an awful lot of TV and I wasn't very good at being frugal during that time.

So I need to get my blogging mojo back because not only it will provide memories in the future, but also, weirdly enough, spending (wasting?) time blogging actually encourages me to be productive too!

So with this, I'm returning to my old format of listing successes and failures, splurges and gratitude, as well as accomplishments.  Today's post will catch up with what's being going on for the past 4 days.

  • I'm able to type this blog post despite my laptop being out of commission!  How?! By some miracle, my old laptop is still working and so far the electric tape is succeeding in keeping the power jack in place.  Yesterday my "new" (as in purchased only a year ago) laptop wouldn't stop making that really loud noise that it's been making intermittently for months already but that i could usually make stop with some special incantations.  Greg told me that I should buy a  (another!) new laptop but it's a lot of work to move things from one laptop to the next and, darn it, it's only a year old!  So I took off the personal and financial documents from it, signed off most of the websites that I visit all the time, and took it to a local computer repair place yesterday afternoon.  After hearing the noise, the attendant agreed that it sounded like the fan and not something more nefarious and asked me to leave the laptop so they could run diagnostics on it to make sure that was the only problem.  Cost of the visit: $40 but that would be applied to any repairs. Today he called me back to confirm the only problem they could find was the fan and that the total cost of the repair (including the $40 that i already paid) will be $125.  Still cheaper than a new laptop!  I'll actually also be paying an additional $17 to get the part expedited since they needed to order it because I want my laptop back by the weekend. I need to pay some credit card bills pronto but first I need to reconcile the statements with my Excel spreadsheets... and my old laptop no longer has MS Office installed on it and the spreadsheet is too big to be converted to Google Sheets.  He assured me that I should be all set by Saturday at the latest.  So, despite having to spend $140-ish, it's much less than buying yet another laptop. I'll count that as a success. Also; as i said I'm able to use the old laptop to surf the web, earn MS Rewards, and post on Blogger. Phew!

My old HP laptop. So glad I procrastinated a whole year. I was supposed to wipe it and take it to the dump!  Well, now I'll be keeping it in case I need a back-up again!
  • I decided not to bother with Swagbucks in December. I earn a few SB here and there but I'm not trying to meet my 1st daily goals and not participating in the Team Challenge that started yesterday (although i did sign up for it but I won't be able to redeem the Swag-up anyway since I'm far from having 2,500 SB).  I am, however, keeping up with Microsoft Rewards and I earned another $5 Amazon gift card this weekend.

  • Then i promptly spent it this morning when I saw that Amazon was offering a coupon for $5 off a printed $15 book.  I did have a couple of non-fiction books on my Christmas wishlist (books that my library system doesn't carry and they still have reinstated Inter Library loans) so I ordered one of them, applied the coupon and my Amazon gc and I only had to pay $5.72.

  • Greg and I are finally over the flu. We still cough once in a while but I think it's now due to allergies and also because we have the heat on (it's been cold for a couple of days).

  • I qualified for a 10% discount at the vet's on Friday since we brought all 3 kittens to be examined at once.  They also clipped their nails for free.  I had expected them to offer to do it but I told them no, they charge me too much (last time I fell for it they charged me $11 for one cat!) but the tech told me that it was free if done during the "annual check-up" so then you didn't have to tell me twice!  Also, they got a clean bill of health.
Tabby Kitten and Princess waiting for the vet.  Explorer was... exploring!
  • I spent several hours on Friday vacuuming most of the house in an effort to get rid of as many fleas and eggs as possible.  It seems to have helped, especially upstairs, where I was finding a lot of them.  Then yesterday I went to Publix and bought a spray bottle of Ortho Home Defense and sprayed it upstairs, where the kittens no longer go.  At night, I only picked up 2 fleas when I walked in the hall and then 2 more when I walked into my bedroom (they're attracted to my white socks) which is a 90% reduction compared to past evenings!  However, there are also fleas in Greg's bedroom so I sprayed there this morning and I've have to see if it worked tonight. I have a plan in mind to treat the rest of the house but I need to try to at least get rid of them upstairs first! It's frustrating but I hope I'm on the right track. The Ortho spray doesn't have a smell, which is nice. 

  • Greg's work Christmas party was scheduled for Saturday but, as usual, we didn't attend. I don't even know where it was this year, but it's usually in a large hotel an hour away from our house. We missed out on free food but neither of us is interested in Christmas parties, and that way we saved money on tolls and gas, and i saved myself the agony of not knowing what to wear and then of being uncomfortable wearing shoes that aren't my sneakers, lol.

  • Greg, Youngest Son and I went Christmas shopping together on Saturday afternoon.  Although we did spend money, it was actually not a lot.  We spent about $40 at Target, which included a gift for YS and one for my Daughter, as well as chocolates for myself and Greg. YS also bought some gifts there with his own money. I used a Cartwheel offer to save 30% off the gift for YS and I paid with our Target Mastercard to receive a 5% discount off the total. I had also brought 2 of my own bags so I received 10 cents off and my son saved 5 cents since i gave him a bag as well.  We did see that they were giving away free samples of S'mores but we weren't hungry so we didn't partake.  We then went to Dick's Sporting Goods, where I spent about $30 on a couple of small gifts that Greg wanted and something for me too, and YS also bought his dad a present there. I presented my Dick's Rewards card to earn some loyalty points but their program stinks so it'll take me forever to earn a coupon.

  • At Michael's, I used a 40% off coupon to purchase something for my daughter.

  • Greg and I spent lots of time together this weekend, it was lovely!  The only frugal thing we did, though, was going to walk at P.E.A.R. Park in Leesburg on Sunday morning. There is no admission fee.  I'll add pictures at the end of this post.  We went there, however, because he wanted to go back to the Blue Bayou Farms Bootlegging stand in Yalaha to purchase their tomato and leek pies for lunch, and P.E.A.R. Park was the closest walking location.

  • I started dinner in the crockpot early on Sunday so we didn't go out to eat. Hooray! (we also ate at home on Saturday night). 

  • At Valvoline on Sunday, I gave Greg a $15 coupon to present for the synthetic oil change. I had received it in a ValPak mailer earlier in 2017 but there wasn't an expiration date on it.

  • Greg had wanted to get the truck through the carwash on Sunday as well, but they had closed early due to their Employee Christmas party so we saved $6 :)

  • Greg and I each took a nap when we got home!  I slept for 90 minutes on one of the futons while he dozed for an hour or so in his chair. It's official: we're old farts!

  • Yesterday I managed to write 2 weeks worth of menus. Woohoo! It's been a while since I had an official menu. I mostly used recipes for ingredients that I already have.

  • Redbox emailed me 2 separate codes for free rentals yesterday, that were good either for DVDs or Blu-Rays. Middle Son is a movie buff so he was happy to take them off my hands :)

  • I had a check-up at the dentist yesterday. They took some x-rays to make sure my bone grafts had taken and he was very pleased with the results.  I'm going back in mid-February for him to reopen my gums and install a place holder for the implants. Then the implants will go in March.  After that, it'll be time to start working on the upper right jaw.  I didn't have a co-pay yesterday.
The waiting room at my dentist's. Their new building is so much nicer than the old one they used to rent!
  • After the dentist visit, I stopped by Publix to get some flea spray. I remembered that I had several digital coupons for freebies so I redeemed them: Fage yogurt, Arla strawberry cream cheese and a box of Quaker multigrain flakes. I also used a digital coupon to get BOGO Pillsbury cookie dough (in case I don't feel like making my own!) and one to save $1 off coffee filters.

  • I was really tempted to either get a Publix deli salad or stop by Hardee's for lunch yesterday, but I made myself drive home and ate leftovers.

  • KFR is offering a "Spin the Wheel" promo through 12/21 and I just won 100 KFR points today.

  • I received my "big fat check" from Ebates in the amount of $7.25 and deposited it right away into our checking account. This will offset one of the Christmas gifts we just purchased this weekend :)

  • The weather warmed up a bit today (although it'll be cooler again tomorrow), so i turned off the heat in the middle of the afternoon and opened some of the windows both to air out the house and also to provide entertainment for the cats, who really enjoy it.

  • Earlier today I texted Middle Son to ask whether he might be able to sign Greg and I into Epcot next week when Greg is on vacation and he said "sure!". Yay!  He needs to check his schedule and also make sure that it's not part of any "blacked out" dates for employees though.  I should know tonight, I think.  Greg and I love Epcot, we just like walking around and sampling foods and drinks from the various countries.  Personally, I like seeing the Disney parks all decorated for the holidays :)

  • AARP didn't waste any time after my 50th birthday and has already sent me paperwork to get started on my membership. I'm strongly considering joining so we can get hotel discounts during our trip next summer.  The 1-year membership is $16 and i can get a card for Greg for free and I'll get a "sporty tote" as a joining present.  I haven't worked (save for few months in 2009 and 2010) since 2004, so I guess I'm qualified as a "retired" person, aren't I?

  • I packed leftovers for Greg to take to work today and YS packed his lunch.  I also had leftovers for lunch.

  • I was able to claim a code for a free 8 x 8 photobook from Shutterfly and I emailed it to Bonnie, one of my readers who uses those codes all the time.  I hope it's helpful.

  • I had promised my son that I would bake him some cookies yesterday and I did... and managed not to eat them all too!

  • Despite the frost we had in the yard yesterday morning, some things are still alive in my garden (but not the hibiscus, it's definitely dead.)
You can't really tell but it's a little cover of frost on the grass...

The roses that I pruned back are already making a come-back, as they did last December.

I was surprised that this eggplant flower wasn't damaged by the frost...

And never were the serrano pepper blooms

The in-ground pineapple plants did suffer though, both from the lack of water as it hasn't rained much and i haven't been watering and from the frost.

The papaya tree seems OK, i hope it is!

Right as I was thinking that I had finally gotten rid of all the sweet potato vines... I saw this one pop up!

The pineapple tops in jars are OK but I really need to plant them!  I have zero motivation for gardening.

Explorer and I admired this beautiful, plump, male cardinal at the bird bath this morning.  I don't see many birds anymore so I was happy to see him!

  • I went to replace the batteries on the large stars on the front porch tonight and was pleasantly surprised to find that in one of the stars, the batteries still worked. I guess perhaps there was a timer function after all. But in the second star, the batteries seemed dead and the star did light up again after I replaced them. Each star takes 3 AA batteries. So I only had to use 3 instead of 6 tonight and i put a daily reminder on my phone to turn them off every night at 8:30 p.m. since they're mostly for Greg's benefit and he gets home at about 7 p.m. I'm leaving them on a little longer in case others enjoy my minimalist decorations.  Our neighbors across the street have decorated their house but Jeff and his wife never decorate and the couple next to them only puts their tree in the window, I think.  

  • For dinner I'm cooking a link of turkey kielbasa (I found it at Aldi, I need to remember that they carry it!) in a jar of sauerkraut that i dumped in a pot. I added some caraway seeds to it. I steamed 4 medium gold potatoes in the microwave and I'm baking some dinner rolls that I had bought at Save A Lot last week. The whole meal took 10 minutes to cook.  The kielbasa was $1.99, the sauerkraut was $1.69 for a large jar, I think. The rolls were $1.19 and I only used half of them. I packed leftovers for Greg's lunch tomorrow.

  • On Friday afternoon, Youngest Son and I took all three "kittens" (who are no longer kittens but we'll keep on calling them that forever1) to the vet's for their annual check-up. It ended up costing me over $400, even though I got a 10% discount for bringing 3 pets at once.  On top of their examination, the rabies and distemper vaccines, I also had them wormed since they've been having fleas, and bought 6 doses of Frontline.  Advantage II doesn't seem to be doing much of anything and my vet insisted that I'm probably getting counterfeit "Advantage" from Amazon so I decided to try Frontline on her recommendation but, shit, 6 doses was over $120 (last time I bought Advantage through them it was close to $90 but for 8 doses and Amazon is charging me about $5 less per dose). So after all of that, about $420 had to be paid. OUCH.

  • On Friday night, I didn't feel like cooking and suggested to Greg that we should go to the local Mexican restaurant. He loves it so he was excited.  We grabbed Youngest Son and drove there but it looked very very busy so we ended up driving to Clermont and decided to go to Red Lobster because we usually don't have to wait for a table there. Dinner at Red Lobster is never cheap and once i saw the prices, I declared that this might as well be my 50th birthday celebration since we hadn't done anything.  We ordered mussels as an appetizer, Greg had a couple of bears, I had some tropical drink (but which came with a glass that I was able to take home), YS had a strawberry lemonade. And then I ordered the filet mignon and lobster tail and i insisted on YS ordering a full order of the chicken Alfredo linguine so he would have leftovers the next day (it was only $4 more than the half portion). Greg had salmon and lobster. Honestly, the food was OK but not great. I gave Greg my lobster, which he took home in a box, along with half his salmon, and had for lunch the next day.  I used a $50 gift card that I had purchased earlier in the year (to take advantage of a $10 Amex statement credit offer) and paid for the remaining $75 with our Amazon Visa for 2% back in Rewards. OUCH! Yes, pricey! But it was my 50th birthday dinner... We had a great time chatting and joking, all 3 of us. It was a delightful experience all in all.

  • On Saturday morning, Greg said he really wanted to go out to breakfast at Flapjack Johnny's so we did, just the two of us (YS was asleep and would prefer sleeping to going out to breakfast).  It was packed and we had to wait for people to leave so we could park. I had warned him it would mean we would have to wait for a table and then for our food but he didn't care. And we did wait but we had a great time together.  Our bill was just south of $30 including a 20% tip and we paid with Amazon Visa for 2% back in Rewards.

  • After our breakfast, we drove across the street to Habitat for Humanity ReStore because Greg wanted a reading lamp for his bedroom. I moved the leather recliner that he had salvaged from his parents' RV from my bedroom to his and he loves it there but doesn't have enough light to read.  We found a table/lamp combination that was just $12 so it came home with us. It's in pristine condition and he loves that there's a table to put his drink too.  

  • Before we got home, we stopped by RaceTrac so we could redeem our coupons for a free mini container of edible cookie dough. We're keeping it for my Daughter since she likes eating cookie dough.

  • During our Christmas shopping expedition, Youngest Son wanted to check out Hobby Lobby for miniature supplies and despite my loathing for that company, I agreed to go this one time only.  I did find huge sparkly pompoms for the kittens so I made Greg buy them (ha!) and YS found a couple of small items that we will be giving him for Christmas. Greg also purchased a couple of gifts for family members.
Look at those, they're HUGE!  I can't wait to see the kittens react to them. They might be afraid...
  • After our walk on Sunday, Greg and I drove to Yalaha. We first stopped at the Yalaha German Bakery, thought of Pixel, and ordered some pastries to go, as well as a loaf of pretzel bread with cheese.  Again, we paid with Amazon Visa and hope it'll earn us 2% back in Rewards!

The bakery

I love the details painted on the fa├žade! Pixel, who is German, said that it looked exactly like a German building.
Once again it was hard deciding what to get!  I picked the Black Forest cake again because it's always been my favorite. We got a huge croissant filled with chocolate mousse for YS and Greg picked a chocolate mousse pie which he also enjoyed.
  • After that we went next door to the Blue Bayou Farm Bootlegging Company and purchased 2 tomato and leek pies for lunch. We had tried them the last time we went there and Greg really loved it so that this time he wanted his own!  We brought them home and ate in front of the TV. I think we watched a couple of episodes of Norsemen on Netflix, a Viking comedy in English (but it's a Norwegian show) which is pretty funny.

Hmm. I forgot to take a picture of the pies. We bought Southern Pecan Blueberry Moonshine the last time we visited and we haven't opened the bottle yet so we'll do that at Christmas.  Since they only have a distillery license, they can only sell 6 bottles of moonshine per person per year and they track your ID. They also make their own blueberry brandy.
  • In the afternoon, we drove to Valvoline to get an oil change for Greg's truck. We use synthetic oil since he has a little over 170K miles on the truck. It's pricey on a truck (over $100!). They alerted us that one of his brake lights was out and he elected to get them to replace it (I think it might have been cheaper for us to do it on our own but he didn't feel like going to a parts store and dealing with it) so it cost us an additional $13.  Getting the oil changed somewhere else might have been a little cheaper but Valvoline is always very quick for us, we get to stay in the car, and the staff is always super super nice. So we prefer to go there.

  • Due to NHS activities, YS missed the bus home two days in a row so I had to go pick him up. I did use the Focus (better gas mileage plus he got driving practice home). Yesterday I had him drive us to the computer store to drop off my laptop and today I had him stop by the library on our way home to return the book that Greg had finished.

  • It got cold on Sunday so we've had the heat on for a couple of days. This being Florida, though, our temps will be back in the high 70s by the end of the week.

  • At Publix yesterday I bought 2 small jars of caviar that Greg and I always enjoy at Christmas. At $6.99 each, they're definitely a splurge, but they're actually cheaper than usual. They're usually more expensive. I still have a lot to buy for our Christmas buffet!
I mean, it's lumpfish eggs, not beluga caviar, but still it's fish eggs so that qualifies as
caviar in my book!
  • I spent another $20 to purchase a 20-drawing Florida lottery ticket because you don't win if you don't play.  I like the excitement of checking my lottery ticket when I go to Publix, what can I tell you?

  • I managed to write a couple of Christmas cards and get them sent yesterday.  I might send a card to my siblings too, I'm not too sure. I don't believe that they sent me one last year so I might just skip it.  I would use some of the same cards that I've sent them in the past anyway as I still have a couple of boxes of them.

  • Once again I used the dryer for the laundry yesterday, because of potential fleas in the towels that I was washing.  The heat kills them along with their eggs.

  • I haven't bothered with my usual rebate apps for the past couple of months.  I probably could claim the $0.25 any item rebate on Ibotta most weeks, but in truth I mostly shopped at Save A Lot when Aldi was closed, and SAL doesn't qualify for Ibotta. I need to get back to checking the rebates, just in case.

  • We could have saved 10% at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore if Greg had a copy of his military release papers on him but he doesn't so we couldn't get the military discount. Poop.

  • We're still spending way too much money, especially in the Eating Out/Ordering In category.  I'm way over budget in groceries as well. It's really time for a reboot. I need 2018 to get started now, lol.

  • I haven't stepped on the scale since I was sick last week but I've put on weight.  Arrgh. And I'm afraid to look. So very afraid.

  • I've had quite a bit of food waste recently.  Yesterday I had to throw away about 2 servings of Black Eyed Pea soup that I had made before Greg and i were sick, and also 2 quarts of yogurt that I bought but never used. They were a couple of months past their sell-by date so I had to throw it away.  I have yet to look at my veggie "drawer" in the fridge but I did compost a tomato yesterday too :(

  • I decided to throw away the shaggy rug that we had in our upstairs hallway. I suspect it was flea haven since the kittens used to sleep on it. I had tried vacuuming it, but we still had fleas in the hallway after that.  I see it as a failure because apart from that, there was nothing wrong with the rug. Arrgh.

  • PinchMe emailed me to say that I could claim free samples today and when I first logged in to my account, it looked like I could claim the three samples below. However, it took me a minute to take a screenshot for the blog (since I no longer have my preferred screen capture program installed) and by the time I had done that, the samples had all been claimed I guess. Grrr!

  • I didn't do the dishes this morning even though there were very few and I didn't get on the recumbent bike either. I feel exhausted even though I haven't done much of anything today.  I wonder if it's my body still recovering from the flu or something else... I think I might go to bed early tonight. I usually head to bed at about 10 p.m. but I don't think I'll make it to 10 today.

  • As I checked last week's receipts for tonight's dinner prices, I realized that I was charged full price for the dinner rolls that were on 50% off clearance!  Ugh. I have to get back into the habit of checking my receipts before leaving the stores. I've been remiss in doing that these past couple of months.

 Greg and I took a walk at P.E.A.R. Park on Sunday. We really didn't see much of anything but it was quiet and the weather was cool so we enjoyed it nonetheless.  I saw a lot more butterflies than I expected and a ton of small birds that were all too quick for me to capture with my camera, though.

Most of the grasses and flowers were dead but the trees were still green in places.

Deer moss

The Palatlakaha River looked red in the sunlight, because of the tanin from the trees.

I liked the triangular shape of these spent flowers.

Resurrection fern on an old oak tree

It was chilly so Greg wore his windbreaker. I had a jacket on as well.

Greg spotted the beautyberry this time!

Nobody but us...we saw lots of little birds but they were too quick to photograph.

I think this might have been a kestrel. It's part of the falcon family.

I don't know what tree this is but I'm calling it "Florida Snow".

Those delicate light purple "puffs" were all over the ground in places...

Finally, some color!

I need to do more research to find out what plant this is but I liked the shape of it and...

The contrast of the curly tendrils with the straight leaves with sharp edges!

A small island of yellow flowers in an ocean of brown grass.

Some kind of squatic bird in the distance on the pond. I zoomed to take this picture and I can't see enough details to recognize the bird.


By the end of our walk it was past noon and the sun was shining so Greg took off his jacket. 
It wasn't a long walk and i forgot to fire up my app right at the beginning so I need to add about a quarter mile to the distance noted up here, but it was enough for that day.

  • For being over the flu for the most part.
  • For a lovely time with my family this past weekend.
  • For hopefully making a dent in the flea situation upstairs!
  • That the kittens are used to sleeping downstairs now and leave us alone at night! 

  • That my daughter taught herself how to bake macaroons because I'm going to make her bake me some next week!

  • For my kids' sense of humor :)

  • For scented candles on a cold December day!