Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rushing to Finish February on a High Note ~ Tuesday 2/28/17

I didn't sleep well last night, I felt like I tossed and turned all night. I must have, because the kittens didn't come cuddle until 5:50 a.m. even though I'm sure at least one of them was sleeping with me.  The new pillow isn't helping at all and I didn't even use it last night.

It was foggy this morning when I drove my son to school and my mind felt foggy too, due to the bad sleep, but one thought was clear: today is the last day of February and my last day to try and knock some February goals off my list!

So let's get to it...

  • Work on shopping list
  • Fold the laundry
  • Put the laundry away
  • Research state park for a hike this weekend
  • Give a driving lesson to my son with the stick shift (next week) 
  • Mop bathroom
  • Clean bathroom ceiling
  • Vacuum living room DONE
  • Make my bed DONE
  • Turn bread heels into bread crumbs - We ended up eating them!
  • Earn Microsoft Rewards credits DONE
  • Input weight into WHBRHC DONE
  • Sort coupons
  • Set 15 minute timer and try to accomplish as many chores as possible in that time  DONE
  • Do the dishes by hand, drain/dry in the dishwasher (AFTER DINNER) DONE
  • Watch "Spy in the Wild"
  • Clean fridge - DONE
  • Sweep/mop the downstairs bathroom
  • Vacuum the upstairs bedrooms - Swept mine
  • Vacuum living room DONE
  • Vacuum the exercise room DONE
  • Sweep the cat room DONE
  • Sweep the breezeway DONE
  • Make a dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son (after pediatrician apt)
  • Back up external drive to its own external drive!
  • Start a list of the electric outlets that I want to get replaced
  • Do my foot exercises DONE
  • Exercise at least 35 minutes on my bike  (weekdays only) 
  • Read one of the library books
  • Clean upstairs litter box  DONE
  • Add Osmocote plant food to rose and hibiscus bushes
  • Put away the clipped articles from Kiplinger's magazine 
  • Read new issue of Kiplinger's in progress
  • Wash kitchen windows
  • Vacuum the fridge's coils DONE
  • Inventory the pantry
  • Inventory the freezers
  • Reorganize the gardening supplies area in breezeway DONE
  • Purge file cabinet Finished the bottom drawer
  • Take RaceTrac surveys 
  • Take my measurements
  • Look into transplanting hyacinths in garden - Moved them outside since Explorer has started to jump on mantelpiece :(
  • Scrub patio pavers with bleach (wear old clothes and shoes, gloves and goggles)
  • Finish decluttering exercise room shelves
  • Call my bank to consolidate my IRA accounts
  • Sit down with my daughter and show her how to file her taxes DONE
  • Start on our tax return FILED!
  • Schedule an outing to P.E.A.R. Park and ask them about the trees from my backyard or look at the Audubon site that Pixel shared.
  • Write letter to my great aunt, with pictures
  • Mail letter to my great aunt
  • Schedule credit card payment
  • Summarize February Food Expenses and post DONE
  • Update French blog
  • Mend sliding door window screen
  • Finalize and mail letter to UPS CEO (add Amazon's comparison)
  • Plant and water the tree 

  • Youngest Son packed a lunch to take to school.

  • I packed leftovers for Greg to take to work.

  • Despite my fatigue and the fog and my being impatient (see: "Failures"), the school drop-off went, in fact, well :)

  • I opened the windows as soon as I got home from the drop-off. Starting today it will keep on getting warmer so I don't expect that I'll be able to have them open past noon-ish :(

  • I started working on Swagbucks when I first got up by playing some videos.  At 10:30 a.m. I have earned 41 SB out of the 99 SB I need for my 1st goal.  I won't pretend that I'll try to reach it, but I don't mind running the videos.

  • As soon as I finished opening the windows this morning, do you know what I did? No, I didn't go sit outside on the patio. No, I didn't sit down to have breakfast.  I.... (drum roll)... gathered all my tax folders and commandeered the kitchen table (I left a small spot for Greg to have breakfast) and started working on our tax return!  Woohoo, me!  I was really dreading it and starting on it was a February goal so I figured that I should just jump right in.  Greg left for work as I was already growling at the instructions... taxes, fatigue, I have PMS, the kittens kept on jumping on the table and counters so they could better see what I was doing... he was quite happy to be able to escape to the office today!  I feel bad for my daughter, whose room is right above the kitchen, because there was much yelling going on this morning, between the stupidly complicated tax return and the kittens' behavior!  I'm doing the taxes by hand again this year so I can save the TurboTax charge (last year, I got frustrated with them because their software wouldn't let me correct a number that I had input incorrectly, no matter what I did).

  • A few minutes after Greg's departure, I called him to say I probably wouldn't be able to finish them today because we didn't get a 1099-B from our brokerage firm and their instructions said that if we were to get one, we'd get it in "early March". I had no idea whether we would get one or not (we did last year) so I figured I should stop and wait.

  • However, I thought better of it immediately and decided to keep going. I figured that if we weren't going to get the form, at least the taxes would be done and if we did, at least I would have gotten the practice again.  In the middle of continuing (I hate Schedule D and the various stupid worksheets with a passion!), I decided to send the brokerage firm an email to ask whether our account would be getting a 1099-B or not.  Then I finished the taxes. Barring any huge mistake that I might have made (knock on wood), it looks like we might get a nice return. But I suck at math, which is why I'll redo it again and then redo the calculations for Greg and then maybe it won't be such a nice one :)

  • Once I was done, I checked my email and they had replied that we won't be getting a 1099-B so wow, if so I'm very close to being done with our taxes and really hoping I didn't make a mistake!  I'm taking a break (worked on those for almost 3 hours!) and then will have to continue.

  • The CVS Consumer Advisory Panel sent me a survey. I qualified for it and was able to complete it so I should be getting a $10 ECB Reward in the next couple of weeks.

  • While I was doing my chores, I started wondering about my Amazon packages so I pulled up the MyUPS notices and they said the packages had been delivered at 4:27 p.m. yesterday.  Heck no, I'm 99.9% sure that I checked the front door, where I found them presently, last night and again this morning. (We actually have 2 front doors, the one to what looks to be the main part of the house, that we never use, and the one in the front covered porch at the top of the driveway, which is the one we use). But at least I have my packages. 

  • I told my daughter that I wanted to show her how to file her taxes today so we spent some time going over that.

  • I helped her reinstall the wifi printer's drivers on her laptop as she was having problems connecting to it.

  • For lunch, I had the last of the butternut squash soup, the leftover salad from last night, and an egg and avocado sandwich. Dessert was 2 clementines and a cupcake.

  • I transferred $166.66 to Savings, as my goal is to put $2,000 in our regular emergency savings in 2017.  (We have "Catastrophic Savings" set aside at a different bank, which equal to 12 months of barebone expenses, in case Greg were to lose his job or become incapacitated), and "Emergency Savings", which is our regular savings account, which we use for car and house repairs, for instance, that we can't "cash flow" out of checking).

  • I went to redo our tax forms so Greg could sign them tonight. Only I realized that I had miscalculated some stuff, and then I started doubting whether I should fill out some forms or not, so I decided to check what TurboTax told me after all.  It took me another hour to get everything imported and reviewed.  I'm glad I did it as they told me that even though Greg's IRA contribution isn't deductible, I could deduct mine since I wasn't covered by a retirement plan (woohoo!).  And also I had miscalculated our total income and I was going to fill out schedule D when, in fact, we weren't required to do it this year.  Woo!  I called Greg to get his OK to file.  We're going to be getting $5,700 back... since I always fear that we're going to owe something, that was very nice!  I had set our allowances to 0 on his W-4 so we would have fewer chances of owing anything. Next year we won't be claiming my daughter so it'll be a different story. 

  • I went through USAA to access TurboTax which saved me $20 :)

  • I earned the daily Microsoft Rewards credits.

  • I entered my current weight into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices and earned 20 BR points.

  • For dinner, I cooked a box of spaghetti (60 cents at Publix), meatballs (bought on BOGO with coupons) and a loaf of garlic bread (free after coupons). It was delicious!  I really want another piece of bread, though.

  • We finished watching Season 1 of "The Jim Gaffigan Show" tonight. I'm glad it's over, it was excruciating.  But I had bought it so I felt I ought to watch it.

  • Greg and I agreed to send our tax refund to the mortgage company when we get it!
  • Gas:
    • to take my son to school
    • and tolls for Greg's commute
    • for my daughter to go to her college class

  • I realized this morning that I really need to be more patient when I do the school drop-off. I wasn't listening to classical music today and my lack of patience manifested itself when I grumbled between my teeth about the stupid driver in front of me that was accelerating and braking in an odd pattern, taking turns way too slowly (like a turtle!) etc.  When we got to the school drop-off, instead of a student coming out of the passenger side of the car, it was an older woman (about my age)... and then the driver exited too and it was a young teen. Doh! I had been driving behind a teen learning how to drive!!!  I should know better as I'm teaching Youngest Son how to drive (although I don't feel comfortable with him driving to school in the mornings yet).  I was instantly ashamed of having cursed her (to myself in the car).  Yeah, I need to be more patient in the mornings!

  • Tax Filing: $24.99 (TurboTax)
  • Tolls: $25.00 (Greg's Sunpass replenished itself)

  • I earned $10 in ECBs by completing a CVS Advisory Panel survey (should get it in a couple of weeks)

  • Fed the kittens
  • Packed Greg's lunch
  • Prepped his breakfast
  • Worked on Swagbucks
  • Dropped Youngest Son off at school
  • Aired out the house
  • Worked on our tax return
  • Emailed the brokerage firm
  • Turned the timer on for 15 minutes but did chores longer than that!
  • Made my bed
  • Cleaned the upstairs litter box
  • Swept the upstairs landing
  • Swept my bedroom
  • Finished cleaning out the bottom drawer of the file cabinet
  • Turned the AC back on
  • Reorganized the gardening supplies area
  • Swept the exercise room, the hall, the breezeway, the cat room, and the laundry room
  • Cleaned the fridge's coils
  • Cleaned the fridge
  • Showed my daughter how to do her taxes
  • Filed my taxes with TurboTax
  • Organized tax paperwork and left myself notes for next year
  • Brought the trash cans back up from the curb
  • Texted Oldest Son to wish him good luck on a big audition I heard he was having
  • Worked on my February Goal Recap post
  • Cooked dinner

  • For all the birds singing in the neighborhood this morning. I love that we can hear so many of them.
  • For checking TurboTax and not stubbornly insisting on trying to file by hand this year :) I would have missed that I could deduct my own IRA contributions!
Have you done your taxes yet?

Food Expenses: February 2017

My official 2017 weekly grocery budget is $100/wk for 4 people (2 adults, 2 teens) but I would really like to spend $50 or less.  This ONLY includes food and drinks, nothing else.  My weeks go from Wednesday-Tuesday so my monthly budget isn't always the same, month to month.

Eating out/Ordering In food expenses are separate and ideally would be either none or would amount, together with what I spent on groceries to what my monthly food budget is. It's been suggested to me that I actually budget for eating out/ordering in separately, but even though I am tracking each penny that we spend, we don't have to count each penny that we spend. I just like to.  So I don't feel necessarily compelled to make sure we never eat out. There will be times when I don't feel like cooking, or months when we have a lot of celebrations or socialization to conduct.  **shrug**  I'm not going to completely obsess about it. However, I do want to keep track of where it all goes so that we can never say "I don't know what happens..." or blame it on someone/something else.


My budget for February was $400.
  • We spent $248.17 out of pocket, including all rebates, on groceries alone. 
  • We spent $242.17 in eating out/ordering in expenses.
  • So altogether we spent $490.34 on feeding ourselves (and others at times), still more than the $400 I would have liked to stay under, but less than we spent in January. Still, according to the USDA's website, our family of 4 should be spending $684.40 on the "thrifty plan" so I think we're doing quite well despite our splurges!
Detail of grocery expenses ($248.17)
  • Baking supplies: $0.00
    • I didn't need anything
  • Beverages: $2.76
    • (3) 12-packs Diet Coke with Lime
    • (1) 2 L Diet Coke
    • (1) box peppermint herbal tea
  • Breads: $12.86
    • (8) white bread loaves
    • (4) packages naan bread
    • (3) 8-ct hamburger buns
    • (2) loaves garlic French bread
    • (10) large flour tortillas
  • Cereals: MINUS $2.00
    • 2 boxes Rice Krispies
    • 2 boxes Cocoa Puffs
  • Dairy: $28.86
    • 3 gallons whole milk
    • 34 cups yogurt
    • 3 packages American cheese slices
    • 2 canisters grated Parmesan
    • 4 packages string cheese
    • 1 package blue cheese slices
  • Dry/Pantry/Frozen: $33.22
    • 1 jar pesto
    • 5 bottles Truvia Nectar
    • 8 cans soup
    • 1 container coarse black pepper
    • 1 container oregano
    • 1 bottle ketchup
    • 1 bag potato chips
    • 2 boxes saltines
    • 2 containers Italian bread crumbs
    • 6 40-oz jars crunchy peanut butter
    • 13 boxes pasta
    • 16 oz egg noodles
    • 6 jars minced garlic
    • 1 jar grape jelly
  • Produce/Juice: $84.38
    • Vegetables
      • 12 ears corn
      • 3 avocados
      • 1 crown of broccoli
      • 1 cabbage
      • 4 lbs carrots
      • 4 cucumbers
      • 9 Romaine hearts
      • 1 bag collard greens
      • 5 lbs gold potatoes
      • 10 lbs russet potatoes
      • 1 lb Roma tomatoes
      • 4 cans diced tomatoes
      • 1 tube cilantro paste
    • Fruit
      • 1 pint raspberries
      • 8 lbs strawberries
      • 2 cantaloupes
      • 13.13 lbs papaya
      • 11.76 lbs bananas
      • 11 lbs apples
      • 2 6-packs applesauce
      • 10 lbs red grapes
      • 6 lbs mandarins
    • Juice
      • 1 bottle apple juice
  • Proteins: $67.57
    • 5.95 lbs spare ribs
    • 2 dozens large eggs
    • 4.00 Butterball Smoked Sausages
    • 5.04 lbs boneless chicken breasts
    • 4.76 lbs skinless, boneless chicken thighs
    • 2 boxes Barber Chicken
    • 2 lbs bologna
    • 2 lbs Black Forest turkey
    • 1 lb Black Forest Ham
    • 1 bag chicken nuggets
    • 10.00 lbs ground beef
    • 3.91 lbs corned beef
    • 2 12-oz packages bacon
    • 4.25 lbs pork loin
    • 2 cans tuna
    • 1 package chipotle chicken sausages
  • Snacks: $20.52
    • 2 layers cakes
    • 3 mini bags gummy worms
    • 3 bags pretzels sticks
    • 4 boxes Swiss rolls
    • 2 packages PB crackers
    • 2 bags marshmallows
    • 1 box donut holes
    • 4-ct chocolate pudding cups

Eating Out/Ordering In Expenses ($242.17) categorized by:
  • Laziness/Cook's Night Off: $43.94
  • Dates/Socialization/Celebrations: $168.22
  • Treats: $30.01
  • Travel: $0.00
  • Groceries: 
    • I was able to use a gift card at CVS (earned via our American Express Rewards program) and at Walmart (earned via Swagbucks) to lower my OOP this month.
    • I stocked up on a lot of pantry items this month, including crunchy peanut butter, pasta, and canned soups.
    • I also stocked up on proteins. My freezer is full!
    • Even though I tripled what I spent on snacks last month, I still think I bought fewer snacks than I used to.
    • Our string cheese expenses were up since Greg has discovered he likes it!
  • Eating Out/Ordering In:  
    • I only took 1 night off from cooking and that was back on January 31st! However, since I had already closed the January books, I'm counting it as a February expense.
    • I did a lot of socializing with the kids this month:  we took my daughter out to dinner to celebrate being admitted to UF and my son out for a snack to celebrate his qualifying for the FBLA State Convention Competition, I had a Mommy date with each the 3 younger kids
    • I ate out with a friend.
    • Greg and I mostly packed picnics when we went walking but we did go out to lunch once and we bought snacks a couple of times
  • Goals for March: My budget will be $400.  My freezers are still full so as long as I don't go overboard on snacks and shop at Walmart with my Swagbucks gift cards, I should be able to keep expenses down:) I want to buy some seafood this month. I will go out to lunch with a friend for our monthly date and we also have Spring Break for a week so I might drag the kids on outings, in which case we might go out to eat. But I also need to get back on the wagon with my diet!
How did you do in February? What is your budget for March?

Recap: February Goals Vs. Accomplishments

I'm checking in to see how I did on my February Goals.  I'm going to sort them into Completed, In Progress, and Failed/Not Accomplished for Personal Goals and Financial Goals.

Analysis: even though I didn't get to cross everything off my list, I'm very happy with my progress!

  1. Purge my T-shirt drawers 
  2. Reorganize the gardening supplies area in breezeway 
  3. Call my mom   on 2/17
  4. Send a V-day card to a friend
  5. Send V-day email to Oldest Son's GF and Oldest Son 
  6. Schedule lunch with Middle Son He came for dinner and a visit on 2/20, I went to visit him on 2/24
  7. Schedule outing with Daughter Leu Botanical Gardens on 2/17
  8. Schedule outing with Youngest Son Batman LEGO movie on 2/19
  9. Go on a walk every weekend with Greg every weekend indeed!
  10. Visit at least 2 new state parks, with or without Greg - DONE! We visited 4 new state parks in February and also went back to one we had already visited.
  11. Have lunch or visit with each of my two IRL friends 
  12. Read at least part of my dSLR camera manual Read most of the manual for my new "bridge" camera.
  13. No screens past 11 p.m. 99% of the time
  14. Vacuum fridge coils (last done in late January) on 2/28
  15. Mend at least 2 items from the mending basket Did all the mending
  16. Drop off donations at thrift store 
  17. Look for a reasonably priced white noise machine for my bedroom 
  18. Inventory what I need to make new self-watering bins (spend less than $50 total) I just needed soil, but I won't buy it until I'm actually ready to plant something.
  19. Water the garden once a week when it hasn't rained It rained several times, I didn't water at all save for when I was dumping cooking water in one of the rose pots!
  20. Move all missing music files from external drive to my laptop
  21. Try syncing my phone on iTunes 
  22. Reinstall programs that I copied to external drive on my laptop 
  23. Reinstall fonts that I copied to external drive on my laptop Decided I didn't need them

In Progress/Partly Accomplished
  1. Purge file cabinet Purged half of it (bottom drawer)
  2. If/when we go out to eat, drink only water and order salads and other low-calorie meals  Mostly done.
  3. Lose another 5 lbs (for a total of 13.8 lbs total loss since 1/1) I only lost 2.6 lbs this month, but 11.4 lbs since 1/1 so I'm still on track to lose 5 lbs per month, on average :)
  4. Make a list of my local elected officials and how to contact them in progress
  5. Start contacting my local elected officials and letting them know what I think about their voting record Emailed the congressman and both senators.
  6. Set a 15 minute timer everyday and try to do as many housework chores as possible during that time I did it only 4 times "formally" but having it as a "to do" actually helped me be more productive with my chores.
  7. Unload the dishwasher every morning and reload it during the day dishwasher failed in mid February. Doing the dishes by hand.
  8. Mop/fake mop the kitchen once a week fake mopped on 2/7 and on 2/27
  9. Vacuum or sweep the rest of the house once a week vacuumed down/stairs on 2/6, swept main stairs and the whole downstairs on 2/22
  10. Read:
    1. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (e-book borrowed from library) Book expired, didn't like the beginning much
    2. Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker (ebook on loan from Amazon Prime Reading) Tried to read it, was terrible, gave up
Failed/Didn't Do
  1. Write a letter or card to my great aunt
  2. Drink at least 32 oz of water a day 
  3. Exercise on my recumbent bike every week night for at least 35 minutes 
  4. Schedule eye doctor exam to ask for trifocals 
  5. Wash kitchen windows
  6. Scrub patio pavers with bleach on a cool day (wear old clothes!)
  7. Turn the compost bin at least once didn't do it because of the squash seedlings growing in there
  8. Have Greg unhook the hose from the house and set it up with new hose reel! He didn't do it even though I asked him to do it on several occasions and he promised that he would!
  9. Wipe old laptop of confidential/personal information
  1. Add $166.66 to our Emergency Fund
  2. Continue to collect tax documents and start filing out the tax forms Filed on 2/28!
  3. Earn at least one $25 gift card in Swagbucks DONE, earned 2
  4. Earn two $5 gift cards in Microsoft Rewards 
  5. NO MORE THAN ONE COOK'S NIGHT OUT this month! - Already done on 1/31 (counting it for Feb)
  6. Buy fewer snacks I'm very happy about this!
  7. Continue to track all expenses in my spreadsheets 
  8. Report all expenses on the blog, daily 
  9. Continue avoiding food waste as much as possible and reporting on Food Waste every Friday 
  10. Calculate our Net Worth on 2/1 
  11. Gardening expenses to remain under $50 I didn't spend anything on gardening
  12. Read the latest issue of Kiplinger Magazine 
  13. Make sure Greg assigns cash sitting in his IRA to actual funds 
  14. Continue tracking Greg's paystubs in my spreadsheets 
  15. Continue tracking all of our expenses 
  16. Stay on top of RaceTrac surveys I took several surveys and I have survey reward codes ready to be redeemed.
In Progress/Partly Accomplished
  1. Continue to try to spend only $50 per week for food - I tried :)
  2. Continue avoiding going out to eat: pack picnics, plan meals taking into account what's going on on certain days and how I'm likely to be feeling about cooking on those days work in progress
  3. When eating out/ordering in drink water and order low-cost, healthier foods Drank water and ordered healthier foods in most cases, but didn't pay too much attention to the cost.
  4. Continue to try to purchase as many items from the thrift store as possible Didn't need anything from the thrift store this month.
  5. Set dates and a budget for summer road trip We have tentative dates, I hadn't set a budget.
  6. Continue passing on items and coupons to my BFF in progress (gave her cat food and treats on 2/2, mailed her coupons on 2/7)
Failed/Didn't Do
  1. Call my bank to combine the two IRA accounts

Bring on March :)  Did you set goals for February? How did you do in meeting them?

    Monday, February 27, 2017

    I'm Throwing Myself A Party: 3-Year Blog Anniversary! Monday 2/27/17

    ... because it my blog's third anniversary today!  Where does time go?  It's been so much fun writing about my days and then re-reading all about them once in a while, sharing ideas about frugality and other things, chatting with regular readers, and it's become a much larger part of my day than I anticipated! I have fun doing this and I'm thankful for the wonderful people I've "met" through blogging.

    I'm not supposed to have cake so I guess I won't be baking one as scrumptious as the one in the picture, but I do want to bake something for my son's after-school treat so I'll probably make muffins or cupcakes. It'll clear the pantry a bit too as I think I have a mix. Yeah, I'm not fancy this way.  And sorry about not having any giveaways. I don't monetize the blog and I don't have anything to give away except dust bunnies and cat hair :)

    I really want to go sit on the patio because there are tons of birds singing this morning!  But it's Domestic Monday and I have a s***load of stuff to do, including trying to knock off some of my February goals, recap my grocery spending for the month, etc.  Waaa, I'd rather play with the birdies!

    • First:  inventory fridge DONE
    • THEN draft a menu for the week DONE
    • Defrost meat for dinner no need, I'll use up leftovers
    • Bake muffins or cupcakes DONE
    • Work on shopping list  in progress
    • Do the laundry DONE
    • Fold the laundry
    • Put the laundry away
    • Research state park for a hike this weekend
    • Give a driving lesson to my son with the stick shift (next week) 
    • Mop bathroom
    • Clean bathroom ceiling
    • Vacuum living room
    • Make my bed DONE
    • Turn bread heels into bread crumbs
    • Earn Microsoft Rewards credits DONE
    • Input weight into WHBRHC DONE
    • Sort coupons
    • Set 15 minute timer and try to accomplish as many chores as possible in that time  DONE 
    • Do the dishes by hand, drain/dry in the dishwasher (AFTER DINNER) DONE
    • Do this weekend's dishes DONE
    • Watch "Spy in the Wild"
    • Clean fridge - cleaned the bottom shelf, cleaned the "main" shelf
    • Sweep/mop the downstairs bathroom
    • Vacuum the upstairs bedrooms
    • Vacuum living room
    • Vacuum the exercise room
    • Sweep the kitchen DONE
    • Sweep the cat room
    • Sweep the breezeway
    • Make a dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son (after pediatrician apt)
    • Back up external drive to its own external drive!
    • Start a list of the electric outlets that I want to get replaced
    • Do my foot exercises 2X
    • Exercise at least 35 minutes on my bike  (weekdays only) 
    • Finish moving/reinstalling missing software on new laptop DONE
    • Read one of the library books
    • Clean upstairs litter box  DONE
    • Add Osmocote plant food to rose and hibiscus bushes
    • Put away the clipped articles from Kiplinger's magazine 
    • Read new issue of Kiplinger's in progress
    • Wash kitchen windows
    • Vacuum the fridge's coils
    • Inventory the pantry
    • Inventory the freezers
    • Reorganize the gardening supplies area in breezeway
    • Purge file cabinet in progress (through "credit cards")
    • Take RaceTrac surveys DONE
    • Move fonts from external drive and reinstall on new laptop I decided that since I haven't needed them in 3 months, I probably can do without them :)
    • Take my measurements
    • Look into transplanting hyacinths in garden - Moved them outside since Explorer has started to jump on mantelpiece :(
    • Scrub patio pavers with bleach (wear old clothes and shoes, gloves and goggles)
    • Finish decluttering exercise room shelves
    • Call my bank to consolidate my IRA accounts
    • Sit down with my daughter and show her how to file her taxes
    • Start on our tax return
    • Schedule an outing to P.E.A.R. Park and ask them about the trees from my backyard or look at the Audubon site that Pixel shared.
    • Write letter to my great aunt, with pictures
    • Print new car insurance cards DONE
    • Schedule credit card payment
    • Record receipts into spreadsheets DONE
    • Summarize February Food Expenses and post in progress
    • Update French blog
    • Email my mom DONE
    • Email my brother to ask about the house hunt DONE
    • Mend sliding door window screen
    • Plant and water the tree 

    • Youngest Son packed a lunch to take to school.

    • I packed leftovers for Greg to take to work.

    • The school drop-off went very well and I was home without a hitch!

    • Daughter is at her dad's until this afternoon so I'm saving a little bit of money by not feeding her breakfast or lunch today.

    • I opened the windows to air out the house this morning since it was nice and cool (in the mid 50s). It'll get warmer this afternoon (81F).

    • My 1st daily Swagbucks goal is ridiculously high (135 SB) but they're celebrating their 9th anniversary today so there's a special Swago board that gives you spins on a Spinning wheel and you can earn extra SB this way.  I might try to participate but I have so many things to do, I don't know if I'll have time.

    • I reused a newspaper's plastic sleeve to collect and dispose of the contents of the upstairs litter box.

    • I washed Greg's bedding in cold/cold. I'll spread it on the patio furniture to air dry.

    • I used our thrifted Brita pitcher to filter water for the cats (cheaper than buying spring water as we have very hard water which I think contributed to Male Cat's urinary blockage several years ago).

    • I scraped the inside of the jar of peanut butter almost clean and made myself a PBJ for breakfast with 2 heels of bread and some peach preserves that have been in my fridge too long.

    • I scrapped the inside of a jar of Gatorade powder that Greg wouldn't have scrapped and used my thrifted  Green Canteen metal bottle to mix water 14 oz of Gatorade that I shall drink this morning.  I need to drink more liquids and I wanted to use up the Gatorade powder (even though I don't care for it) = win-win!

    • I saved 2 bread bags to use to clean the upstairs litter box later on this week.

    • I organized the dirty dishes to wash them later on.  I bought 2 sink pans last week on Amazon, and while they're smaller than I thought they would be (well, I knew the dimensions and my sinks are kind of smallish so I couldn't get larger ones, but I thought they'd be much deeper), I fill one with hot soapy water and the other one with just hot water and wash the dirty dishes in the soapy water while rinsing them in the plain water pan, before air drying them in my out of order dishwasher.

    • I boiled 8 eggs to use up a carton of them. I love egg salad sandwiches and they're cheaper than buying lunch meat (although I do buy that for Greg and our son). I can also eat the eggs as a quick protein snack so I really like having hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. I'll reuse the water to refill some of the indoors pineapple jars once it's cooled off.

    • I set out the drying racks on the back patio so I'm less likely to get lazy and decide to use the dryer!

    • I harvested several grape tomatoes and a couple of serrano peppers. One of them was already rotting, though, so I composted it.

    • I hung Greg's bedding outside to dry on the patio furniture.

    • I noticed that one of my patio guest vincas (they replanted themselves in between some of the pavers and  have left them there!) has developed a flower!  Woohoo!  I was just looking at them a few minutes ago and thinking that they might not flower at all.  So that's a good surprise and they're 100% free!

    • I just peeked at the over-the-air TV listings (I shouldn't because I have chores to do! Oh well!) and Law & Order: Criminal Intent is on in 25 minutes!  I guess I'll be taking a break :)  I'll do something on the laptop while watching it, though. Update: well I missed the first 10 minutes because I was busy commenting on other people's blogs and then I went to inventory my fridge and switch the laundry... so I guess I'm not really watching it, lol.

    • I did a large load on cold/cold for the clothes that will go in the dryer on the Auto Moisture Sensing setting (Greg's T-shirts and the bath towels).  All the other clothes and laundry was washed in one "super" load on cold/cold and I'm going to hang them outside to dry once my show is over :)

    • I inventoried what was in my fridge and took a quick look at the freezer to determine what I need to use up this week and what I might be able to use for meals.

    • I noticed that Explorer was sitting on top of the shredder (itself perched on top of a 3-drawer plastic chest that I am storing on top of the coffee table in the exercise room!) so I was trying to take a picture of him (he was reaching up to something on the ceiling!) when I heard the shredder kick on!  I rushed to rescue him before he shredded his own tail or something!  I guess the shredded had been left on the "auto" feeding mode! Silly kitten. He was nonplussed, just looking down and wondering what the noise and hoopla was all about!

    • I wrote a dinner menu for this week, using up mainly what I already have on hand.  I just realized, however, that I forgot to take into account that my son and I will be gone on Thursday night so I might need to revise dinner plans for that night. Or cook it in the morning. We'll see.

    • I hung most of the laundry outside to dry.

    • I made Maple Brown Sugar cupcakes, using up a box of Pillsbury Cake Mix I had bought on clearance at SuperTarget either last year or in 2015, I can't remember. I've had half a can of the maple brown sugar frosting (also bought on clearance at the same time) in my fridge for a year, so I will use that to frost them.  I used a muffin tin that had been given to me by a friend when she moved out of state and silicone muffin cups that I had purchased. I like them. It cuts down on the paper liner waste (although I still have plenty of those to use up!) and the cupcake don't stick to them last they do with the paper liners.
    Mine didn't look that good, though :)

    • For my lunch, I heated up a bowl of leftover butternut squash soup, made a hardboiled egg and guacamole sandwich (using a Sandwich Thin bought on sale with coupon, the guac was free after sale and coupon, the egg was free with gift card) and had the 2nd half of the papaya (bought on sale) that I had cut on Saturday. I ate my lunch while "The Rockford Files" was playing on over-the-air TV and I caught up on more blogs and the news.

    • My daughter texted to ask if she might be able to come home after dinner so I agreed.  So that's another meal I won't feed her, which means more leftovers for Greg's lunches :)

    • I earned the daily Microsoft Rewards credits and reached my goal so I ordered a $5 Amazon gift card, which was emailed to me immediately. Woohoo!  Greg wants to order a squash racket so this will help bring the cost down.

    • I entered my current weight into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices and earned another 20 BR points.

    • I input all my receipts from the past few days in my spreadsheets.

    • I earned 100 KFR points by entering bonus code FREE-PTSW-ARMU-PNOW in my Kellogg's Family Rewards account (exp 3/17) thanks to a poster on Slickdeals.

    • I unlocked new offers in MobiSave and Ibotta.

    • I printed a few new coupons via Swagbucks and fired up the old laptop to print a few more.

    • My son borrowed my bike to go to the library for his volunteer shift. Exercise for him, gas savings for me :)

    • I took 3 RaceTrac surveys (for 3 different stations) and earned survey reward codes that I will redeem for 3 freebies.

    • So I'm in the middle of an a major meltdown about a UPS driver once again claiming that they can't find my house to make a delivery (See "Failures"). In the middle of all that, Amazon gave me an extra month of Amazon Prime to make up for the fact that I'm not going to be getting my packages on time. (Who knows if I'll get them tomorrow!). I replied that it was very nice of you but this wasn't an Amazon failure but a UPS failure and that they should put pressure on UPS to get this solved because it's starting to affect their own bottom line. It's such a small drop in the ocean, I'm sure no one will care, but it's bothering me. However, after reading my "Failure", can you see why I'm writing to the UPS CEO?  It's not even Amazon's fault and they're giving me a month of Amazon Prime and apologizing, while the UPS "customer service" rep talked over me, didn't listen and hung up on me... and that's after they failed to deliver my packages and lied about the reason why!

    • I used the tomatoes that I harvested from the garden and a few I had harvested last week in the salad I made tonight.

    • After dinner, Greg and I watched a couple more episodes of the Jim Gaffigan Show (since I had bought, we feel we kind of have to finish the season).

    • Gas:
      • to drive my son to school
      • and tolls for Greg to commute
      • and tolls for my daughter to come home

    • Electricity:
      • to run the dryer for Greg's Tshirts and the bath towels
      • to run the AC again starting at 2:45 p.m.

    • A cat has been throwing up this morning and I don't know which one. I hope it's not Princess. She threw up a couple of times last night but it looked like she had a small piece of tinsel caught in her throat that she eventually hacked out.  But then her little nose felt warm and she was cuddling more than usual so I don't think she was feeling good. I worried about her all night, especially when she woke me up at 2 a.m. by crying from under my bed, but I think her claws might have gotten caught in the plastic mattress cover (we store a spare twin mattress under my bed).  Anyhoo, eventually she got in bed with me and she was acting fine this morning. But now I've found more throw-up (although this time it's food and the older cats tend to wolf their food down and then throw it back up again, at times) and I don't know which cat isn't feeling well :(

    • I killed the first roach (i.e. Palmetto bug) in our house for 2017. Ugh. I hate those but we don't spray pesticides inside the house (or outside, save for wasp and hornet spray) so we have to live with "nature". I texted a picture of it to Greg who replied "it's Springtime!".

    • I noticed that the kittens have managed to scratch the sliding door window screen so badly by attempting to climb it, that there is a large hole developing about waist high. I'm going to have to research how to mend that.  In the meantime, I'm leaving the sliding door closed. Sorry, kitties.

    • I got another notification from Amazon that my package was "undeliverable", just like it was a couple of weeks ago when my daughter was expecting hers. I'm on the phone with UPS because it's unbelievable that the same driver might be at it again! This time, I'm complaining to the national number and she said she would arrange for it to be re-delivered today, but then she put me on hold and said the local customer center would call me back within the hour, which means I'll speak to the same woman I had last time, more than likely, who had defended the driver by saying that she didn't "see" him trying to get out of work and questioned just how easily it was to find my house.  Have I mentioned that I'm PMS'ing?  It's not going to be a pleasant phone call. I hate incompetence and especially when people lie to hide their incompetence or laziness.  Update: well that call didn't go well at all. I couldn't remember if the lady who called back was the same one I had talked to the last time or not, but I suspect that it was as we went beating around the bush again about my house number and so on and so forth.  She kept on talking over me (oh, I HATE that) instead of listening and when I asked if they could at least research whether it was the same driver as the last time, she ended up hanging up on me!  And then I realized that my problem is actually affecting TWO separate packages from Amazon so I have drafted a letter to the UPS CEO, waiting to see if the packages are delivered tonight or not (I'm 100% sure they won't be, there is no way that driver is going to show his face once that lady calls him to tell him I'm a bitch). I've also contacted Amazon to report the problem and explain that it's not an Amazon problem but that it's affecting their business so they need to contact UPS and find out what the heck is happening. Oh I am so pissed off about this.

    • I threw away a mostly full bag of organic rye flour that had a sell-by date of 2012. It was rancid!

    • No Spend Day

    • Earned 3 freebie codes from RaceTrac by taking surveys for 3 different stations.
    • An extra month of Amazon Prime because Amazon is an amazing (ha!) company and apologized for a situation that isn't their fault!
    • My daughter brought back some pizza from her dad's because they had bought too much for dinner :)

    • Fed the kittens
    • Packed Greg's lunch
    • Prepped his breakfast
    • Cleaned up cat vomit
    • Drove my son to school
    • Aired out the house
    • Chatted with Greg
    • Charged my camera's battery
    • Worked on my Rewards programs
    • Made my bed
    • Cleaned the upstairs litter box
    • Collected the trash and recycling from upstairs
    • Washed Greg's bedding
    • Aired out the upstairs and my son's room
    • Collected dirty laundry throughout the house
    • Filtered water for the cats and refilled their bowl
    • Organized the dirty dishes to wash them later on
    • Boiled eggs for my lunches this week
    • Cleaned the kitchen table
    • Set out the drying racks on the patio for later on
    • Inspected and photographed the garden
    • Harvested some tomatoes
    • Killed a roach
    • Caught up and commented on blogs
    • Inventoried the fridge and surveyed the freezer
    • Put away my dSLR camera in its case
    • Rescued a kitten from shredding his own fur
    • Wrote a dinner menu for the week and printed it for myself
    • Hung the laundry outside to dry
    • Baked cupcakes
    • Input receipts in my spreadsheets
    • Replied to blog comments
    • Contacted UPS about the missing package
    • Did the dishes
    • Frosted the cupcakes
    • Swept and fake mopped the kitchen
    • Brought the dry laundry back inside
    • Contacted Amazon about the missing package
    • Wrote a letter to the UPS CEO about all the missing packages
    • Printed coupons
    • Moved more documents from my old laptop to my new one
    • Took Customer Satisfaction surveys
    • Cooked dinner
    • Took the trash can down to the curb
    • Remade Greg's bed with fresh linens
    • Put the dishes away
    • Did the dinner dishes
    • Watched a show with Greg
    • For Middle Son finding a used car to purchase and my ex lending him the money to do that
    • For my Daughter's safe return from her dad's


    I had to recharge my new camera's batteries this morning (my replacement batteries come in today, so happy about that!) so I grabbed my Canon Powershot 4500 to go photograph the garden.  I kept hearing a hawk in a nearby tree but didn't catch a glimpse of it, but the other birds have fallen mostly silent :(

    I guess the roses didn't mind that I pruned them so much!

    We have a ton of those beggarticks in the front and backyard, which means that Greg is itching to mow them down :(

    The bean plants that wouldn't die. They're not very plentiful though, probably because I have
    been very lax with the watering.

    The pineapples are coming along.


    Princess taking a nap next to me this morning.

    Explorer has an obsession with Greg's socks. This morning he was bored with the 2 pairs
    that he brought downstairs in the middle of the night, so he got himself a pair of black socks :)

    I was airing out the house and somehow Princess got into the upstairs bathroom and squeezed herself behind the bottles of shampoo so she could keep a better eye on me in the garden down below!

    Did you have a productive Monday?  Are you ready for March to start already?

    This Week's Dinner Plans: Monday 2/27 through Sunday 3/5

    Each week I peek in my fridge, freezer, and garden, to see what needs to be used up and I take a couple of minutes to think of ways to use up those ingredients in the next few days...

    MONDAY:  BBQ Pulled Pork and Rice with Side Salad
    • From the freezer: nothing
    • From the pantry: white rice
    • From the fridge: leftover BBQ pulled pork, lettuce, cucumber, dressings
    • Need to harvest: grape tomatoes
    • Need to make in advance: nothing
    • Need to buy: nothing

    TUESDAY:  Spaghetti and Meatballs with Garlic Bread, Side Salad
    • From the freezer: meatballs, garlic bread
    • From the pantry:  spaghetti
    • From the fridge: lettuce, Roma tomato, shredded carrots, cucumber, dressings, grated Parmesan
    • Need to harvest: nothing
    • Need to make in advance: shred carrots
    • Need to buy: nothing

    WEDNESDAY: Open-Faced Baked Reubens (with Mashed Potatoes and Cabbage)
    • From the freezer: Corned beef
    • From the pantry: potatoes, caraway seeds, onion, red wine vinegar
    • From the fridge: cabbage, onion, chicken stock, light mayo, ketchup, butter, coleslaw dressing
    • Need to harvest: nothing
    • Need to make in advance: Russian dressing, ** needs to bake for 2 to 3 hours**
    • Need to buy: rye bread, Swiss cheese slices

    THURSDAY: Grilled Chicken Chipotle Sausages with Buttery Green Beans and Corn on the Cob and Potato Rosemary Rolls

    • From the freezer: chicken chipotle sausages, green beans
    • From the pantry:  salt and pepper
    • From the fridge: corn on the cob, leftover garlic bread, butter
    • Need to harvest: nothing
    • Need to make in advance:  Make rolls in breadmaker in the morning
    • Need to buy: nothing

    FRIDAY: Pumpkin Soup and Grilled Ham and Cheese Sandwiches
    * I'll follow the Butternut Squash Soup recipe and substitute pumpkin for the butternut squash. I'll use plain yogurt instead of cream too.
    • From the freezer: chicken stock
    • From the pantry: nutmeg, cinnamon and ground cloves
    • From the fridge: plain yogurt, bread, 
    • Need to harvest: nothing
    • Need to make in advance: cook and purée the pumpkin
    • Need to buy: onions, American cheese slices, Black Forest ham (already on the shopping list!)

    SATURDAY:  Roasted Chicken and Cheese Ravioli with Spicy Mustard Greens with Cumin
    • From the freezer: chicken roaster (in small freezer), cheese ravioli
    • From the pantry:  can of mustard greens, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes, cumin, minced garlic, Ten Things Farm Seasoning
    • From the fridge: grated Parmesan
    • Need to harvest: nothing
    • Need to make in advance:  roast the chicken takes longer than an hour!
    • Need to buy: nothing

    SUNDAY:  Burgers and Caribbean Rice and Side Salad
    • From the freezer: ground beef
    • From the pantry: Zatarain's Caribbean Rice mix, homemade Montreal Steak Seasoning
    • From the fridge: American cheese slices, hamburger buns, guacamole, homemade zesty pickles, condiments, lettuce, Roma tomato, cucumber, dressings
    • Need to harvest: nothing
    • Need to make in advance: nothing
    • Need to buy: nothing

    What's cooking in your kitchen this week?

    Day Book: Monday 2/27/17

    Outside my window... the sun is up at 7:13 a.m., the days are definitely getting longer!  It's chilly outside, in the mid 50's (about 13C) but it'll get up to 81F/27C today.

    I am thinking... that today is the 3rd anniversary of my blog! Already?! Time flies!

    I am thankful for... all of you readers who have been so kind to me, and all of you bloggers who share a slice of your life with us!  I'm a blog junkie, hahaha.

    From the learning rooms... today Youngest Son takes the FSA Writing Test, which is the state-wide writing assessment.  On Thursday night he gives his speech to our district's Optimist Club membership for their annual Oratorical Contest.  I hope he does well, I'm nervous for him as it is the first time he does this. He is not memorizing the speech (unlike his sister) but other candidates have read theirs before. Footnote: he's only participating because I'm making him (there are cash prizes and usually few participants so the odds are very good, and it would be another accomplishment for his college application) and only participating in the oratorical contest because he wrote the speech thinking it was for the essay contest that had a different subject and didn't want to rewrite another essay.  I'm not sure what my Daughter has going on this week, probably her regular classes.

    From the kitchen... Ugh. I didn't do the dishes at all this weekend so now they're waiting for me. Good thing it's Domestic Monday.  I also haven't written a menu or inventoried anything.  I'm going to be busy today!

    I am wearing... I've decided to wear my walking capris as much as I can as they are so comfy!  So I'm wearing black and silver walking capris, a black V-neck Tshirt and my walking shoes.

    I am creating... this week I want to write a letter to my great-aunt. I will do so in Powerpoint so I can include pictures and place them among the text (easier than using Word) and print it in color to mail to her to France. She's 89 and doesn't have a computer.

    I am going... to bake, clean and organize today. Otherwise, nowhere.

    I am reading... Florida Wildlife Magazine online.

    I am hoping... that I have enough energy today to do all the things that I'm thinking I want to get done!  It's the end of the month and I should really try to hit some more of my February goals, darn it!

    I am hearing... birds singing their little hearts out throughout the neighborhood!

    Around the house... here is the difference between the kittens and the cats: when I open the windows, the kittens run everywhere excitedly, like a teen at their first job.  The older cats, upon hearing me open the windows, get up from their beds, arch their backs, yawn, stretch, and then amble towards the open windows like old-timers going to punch their timecards for the nth time and wishing for retirement already.  If you don't understand half of what I wrote, you're too young :)

    Anyhoo, the kittens and cats are at the windows, Greg is getting ready to go to work, Daughter is still at her dad's and I just dropped off Youngest Son at school.

    One of my favorite things... Arrgh, I thought of something last week and now I can't remember what it was!  So I'll go with my new Panasonic Lumix FZ-300 camera :)

    A few plans for the rest of the week... it's kind of a mundane week: Domestic Monday and trying to hit my February goals, grocery shopping, Oratorical Contest and then fishing and hiking this weekend with Greg.  Possibly LARP sparring with Youngest Son if he wants to do that, and then we also should go ask the local gaming store if they still run a D&D game locally. Oh and work on our taxes, argh.

    Here's the picture I'm sharing... I took this picture of Princess last week and I shared it with my French family along with the following caption: "In America, even our cats drink soda!".  Ha.

    Have a good week!

    Sunday, February 26, 2017

    Hiking at Hillsborough River State Park ~ Sunday 2/26/17

    Those darn kittens... I need to get better and darkening drapes for my bedroom. Now that it's brighter earlier, Explorer just won't let me sleep past 6 a.m.  He's trying to open the blinds, jumping everywhere, meowing... mind you he has food and water and the bedroom door is wide open so he could go downstairs where there are only curtains in the living room (no blinds) or in the Cat Room where there aren't even any curtains at all and 3 different windows!

    But no, he just wants to bug me, I guess. And then he wakes up Princess who gets restless to and then Tabby Kitten shows up in my bedroom and they all start playing. Arrrgh!

    So I got up at 6:45 a.m. today and I'm not a happy camper.  I'm PMS'ing (again!).  Also, I weighed myself while I was half asleep at about 5:45 a.m. and I'm not good with numbers so in my half awake state, I convinced myself that I had lost over one pound this week and I was ecstatic.  Only when I woke up for good, my brain kicked on and I realized that I had lost... 0.6 lbs only.  Well, it's really better than nothing since once again I was lousy with my diet and didn't exercise save for the walk I took on Friday with Middle Son, but it was a disappointment nonetheless. Stupid brain.

    Also, after being up for less than an hour, this happened:

    She went back to sleep!  And she has her little paw on my forearm as if to say:
    "Shhh, Nathalie, don't type! You're making noise and I'm trying to sleep!"
    Today Greg and I are supposed to go visit a new state park and I have picked Hillsborough River State Park in Hillsborough County. Once again, it's about an hour away from our house.  I hope it's nice!  The weather is only supposed to get up to 72F/22.2C, which should be quite enjoyable.  Our son has homework to do and doesn't want to tag along today, so he will stay home and provide support to our cat unit :)

    I'll post my To Do List for continuity and hope that maybe I'll accomplish a couple of tasks before we leave...

    • Start dinner in crockpot DONE
    • Pack picnic lunch DONE
    • Inventory fridge first
    • THEN draft a menu for the week
    • Make check-off list for hikes/fishing trips on phone DONE
    • Give a driving lesson to my son with the stick shift (next week) 
    • Cook, purée and freeze 1 pumpkin
    • Mop bathroom
    • Clean bathroom ceiling
    • Vacuum living room
    • Make my bed DONE
    • Turn bread heels into bread crumbs
    • Earn Microsoft Rewards credits DONE
    • Input weight into WHBRHC  DONE
    • Print coupons DONE
    • Clip coupons DONE
    • Sort coupons
    • Set 15 minute timer and try to accomplish as many chores as possible in that time  
    • Do the dishes by hand, drain/dry in the dishwasher (AFTER DINNER) 
    • Watch "Spy in the Wild"
    • Clean fridge - cleaned the bottom shelf, cleaned the "main" shelf
    • Sweep the downstairs bathroom
    • Vacuum the upstairs bedrooms
    • Make a dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son (after pediatrician apt)
    • Back up external drive to its own external drive!
    • Start a list of the electric outlets that I want to get replaced
    • Do my foot exercises 2x
    • Exercise at least 35 minutes on my bike  (weekdays only) Went on a hike
    • Finish moving/reinstalling missing software on new laptop 
    • Read one of the library books
    • Clean upstairs litter box  
    • Add Osmocote plant food to rose and hibiscus bushes
    • Put away the clipped articles from Kiplinger's magazine 
    • Read new issue of Kiplinger's in progress
    • Wash kitchen windows
    • Vacuum the fridge's coils
    • Inventory the pantry
    • Inventory the freezers
    • Reorganize the gardening supplies area in breezeway
    • Purge file cabinet in progress (through "credit cards")
    • Take RaceTrac surveys
    • Move fonts from external drive and reinstall on new laptop
    • Take my measurements
    • Look into transplanting hyacinths in garden - Moved them outside since Explorer has started to jump on mantelpiece :(
    • Scrub patio pavers with bleach (wear old clothes and shoes, gloves and goggles)
    • Finish decluttering exercise room shelves
    • Call my bank to consolidate my IRA accounts
    • Sit down with my daughter and show her how to file her taxes
    • Start on our tax return
    • Schedule an outing to P.E.A.R. Park and ask them about the trees from my backyard or look at the Audubon site that Pixel shared.
    • Write letter to my great aunt, with pictures
    • Plant and water the tree 

    • I weighed myself and have lost 0.6 lbs this week for a total of 11.4 lbs total since January 1st and 2.6 lbs for the month of February. Well short of my 5-lb goal for February though, but a loss nonetheless and considering that I didn't really "diet", drink water, track my food, or exercise regularly in February, I'll definitely take it.  I'm going to do a reboot in March though.

    • I remembered to write a checklist of what to bring when we go hiking/fishing, because I always end up forgetting something.

    • I also printed a copy of a picture guide to animal tracks in Florida. I have a copy on my phone but sometimes it's hard to look at it in the sun.  I'm fold this one and put it in my fanny pack.

    • I realized that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission puts out a digital magazine called "Florida Wildlife Magazine" so I subscribed to their updates via email and plan on reading the back issues... one of these days!  It's free :)

    • I'm running Swagbucks videos to earn a few SB this morning (1st goal 87SB and I'm ignoring it!)

    • I earned the daily Microsoft Rewards and should be able to request a new $5 Amazon gift card tomorrow. Woo!

    • The Sunday paper was already waiting for me in the driveway when I got up at 6:45 a.m. and there are 3 coupon inserts today plus a couple  Publix store coupon inserts too. It's like Christmas :)

    • I uploaded digital coupons to my Publix and CVS apps.

    • I printed a few coupons, including some via Swagbucks (very few, which is great as it won't take me long to clip and sort them!).

    • I entered my weight into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices and earned another 20 BR points.

    • I got lazy for dinner and just threw the pork loin roast (after cutting off the fat) into the crockpot with a bottle of BBQ sauce and set the crockpot for low, 8 hours.  We'll have pulled pork sandwiches and rice or potatoes, depending on how tired I am tonight.

    • I packed a picnic to take on our hike as we really enjoy eating lunch outside before we start walking.  I also packed a whole bag of grapes from Aldi so we could enjoy them as snack afterwards as well. It was nice and refreshing!

    • I remembered to wear sunscreen today and put it on before leaving the house. It's a good thing that I did that because I would have forgotten to do it again otherwise!

    • There were no tolls to drive to the Hillsborough State Park and we enjoyed discovering a part of Florida (driving through Pasco County into Hillsborough County) that we don't know well at all.  We used our annual State Parks pass to gain entrance ($6) to the state park.

    • After our hike, we also visited the Interpretive Center of the park, for an informative exhibit about the 2nd Seminole War.

    • On our way home, we stopped by McDonald's. I grabbed a medium Diet Coke (instead of the chicken nuggets I was really craving!) and Greg got a Shamrock Shake, which was free with my app ("free McCafé item with any purchase" coupon that expired today). He loves the Shamrock Shakes so he was really happy!

    • We also stopped by RaceTrac right before getting home so Greg could refuel his truck for this week's commute. He earned loyalty points on his RaceTrac app, paid with Discover for 5% back in Rewards, and we gained another receipt with which we will earn a freebie.

    • Meanwhile our son said he was able to do a lot of schoolwork this morning, folded his laundry, and then did some research on LARPing. He ordered himself 2 foam swords from Amazon so we can better spar without hurting one another (!) and waited for us to come home to get some guidance on the shipping since he was confused by the options.  I showed him which one to get so he wouldn't have to pay for shipping OR a trial of Amazon Prime and he paid for the swords with one of his many Amazon gift cards. Family members have been sending him those gift cards for Christmas or his birthday but he rarely buys anything so he has quite a balance accumulated!

    • For dinner, I decided to serve the leftover beans and rice that I had cooked earlier in the week, along with the pulled pork. It actually went pretty well together!

    • Gas:
      • to drive to Hillsborough River State Park and back

    • A Diet Coke for me

    • None

    • McDonald's: $1.59 (Diet Coke)
    • RaceTrac: $34.59 (gas for truck)

    • Florida Wildlife Magazine is available for free online 
    • A medium Shamrock Shake from McDonald's (with any purchase) with coupon from my app

    • Weighed myself
    • Fed the cats
    • Retrieved the paper from the driveway 
    • Worked on Rewards programs
    • Created a checklist for hikes/fishing trips
    • Located and printed animal track guide
    • Subscribed to Florida Wildlife Magazine
    • Read one issue of the magazine
    • Printed and uploaded coupons
    • Cuddled with Youngest Son
    • Cuddled with a kitten
    • Clipped coupons
    • Packed a picnic
    • Packed my fanny pack for our hike
    • Went on a hike with Greg
    • Texted my Daughter
    • Helped our son place an Amazon order
    • Served everyone dinner
    • Watched "Bob's Burgers" with Greg and then "Columbo" on my own

    • For a beautiful day in another state park with my honey!
    • For the smell of BBQ Pulled Pork cooking when we got home!

    FIELD TRIP: Hillsborough River State Park, Hillsborough County

    I wasn't super happy with my pictures today, a lot of them ended up being blurry when I looked at them on my laptop. I'm not sure why I didn't notice that "in the wild", but maybe it was due to the dappled sunlight?  It was disappointing, though.  Then at the end of our hike, several pictures have a smudge in the same place. I believe I touched a flower with the lens as I was trying to take a macro picture :(

    Hillsborough River County State Park is located just south of Zephyrhills, off SR 301.  To get there, we had to drive through parts of Sumter County, Pasco County and then Hillsborough County, so it felt much farther than it was. It's about an hour away from our house.

    A first for us, the ranger actually asked us for ID when we presented the pass.  Good for them!  The park impressed right from the entrance because you could tell it was well maintained and the ranger was organized.  It doesn't take much to impress me, lol.  She asked whether we'd been there before and whether we would be hiking, and gave us a map of the hiking trails (incidentally the same map that I had printed earlier this week at home and forgotten to bring along!) and also told us where to park. There are actually 4 parking lots at that very popular park!

    And it was popular. It wasn't crowded by a long shot, but if felt like we said "hi" to people non-stop!  Even on the trail itself, I think the longest stretch of time we didn't cross another hiking party was about 10 minutes.  As I have mentioned before, I really like it better when we don't see anybody so it was a little annoying but the beauty of the park kind of mitigated my annoyance (plus I'm PMS'ing so I get annoyed easily!).

    You see, the Hillsborough River runs through the park and we hike alongside it for quite a while.  Its water is very clear, just like a spring and the banks are high so the terrain was super interesting, for Florida!

    We were very excited to see so many fish!  They were mainly catfish, but they were large and you could see them very well and fishing is allowed at the park.  I was convinced that Greg would want to fish after our hike, but he was tired and decided we should come back early next weekend and fish then. Well, OK but he rarely gets up early on the weekends and there's an hour drive so I doubt we'll get there any earlier than we did today, LOL!

    We parked at parking lot #3.  There was a nice bathroom right off the parking lot, and several pavilions, along with many picnic tables and barbecue grills. There was a nice playground too and everything is nestled under tall trees so it was shady.

    Before hiking, we ate our picnic.  I had pictures of the picnic table but I don't know what happened and a few of my pictures turned out blurry even though I had the camera on the automatic setting. Huh.  As soon as we unpacked our cooler, fat squirrels started coming down the trees and towards our table!  They weren't afraid of us at all so I guess people have been feeding them, despite the warnings not to feed the wildlife.

    "Excuse me, sir, could you spare a little bit of food for a hungry little squirrel?"

    To get to the trails, we crossed a suspension bridge over the Hillsborough River, that had been built in the 1930's. The park itself was built in the 30's by the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, that had been established by FDR after the Great Depression to provide jobs and whose mission was, among other things, to replant forests, fight forest fires, and build campsites, roads and lodges for national and state parks. About 800 state parks were developed by over 3 million CCC "enrollees" from 1933 to 1942.

    We are so going to use our kayaks here once we have them!  This gentleman was coming up the river.  There are rocks here, that make that a little tricky.  Further up the river, there are category 2 rapids, but we didn't see them. I want to go look at them next time.

    The first trail we hiked was a short one, the Baynard Trail, that was only 1.1 mile.  It was nice and easy to walk, but very narrow.  It did have several nice boardwalks (unless the very rudimentary "boardwalks" from De Leon Springs State Park last week) and you could tell where there would be several creeks during the rainy season.

    Greg looking at the river down below...
    To give you an idea: the riverbank on the other side of the river.


    Resurrection ferns growing on a huge oak tree

    Screenshot of a zoom on the resurrection ferns

    All the boardwalks and bridges were really well made and maintained!

    I spotted a lone, white flower...

    It's an Atamasco Lily (Zephyranthes atamasca). According to my "Wildflowers of Florida Field Guide",  it is listed by the state of Florida as threatened. It also states "all parts of the plant are poisonous, one reason why it shouldn't be transplanted from the wild."  This was the only flower of its kind that we saw today.
    Then we hiked the "Florida" trail, which is identified on newer maps as the Seminole trail.  It was 3.4 miles but felt much longer, for some reason.  The first part of it had just walk alongside the river, so we were able to observe many more fishes, most of them being catfish.

    Yes this is my reflection in the glass cover of the map. No, I'm NOT that that large or pregnant, I was just carrying my large
    fanny pack on my belly, LOL.

    There are several spots alongside the river with stone steps where people fish from.  We couldn't figure out why they weren't
    fishing from the trail side, as there were several suitable sites and the fish were just sitting there in shallow water right near the river bank.

    Like this! I think this is a brown bullhead catfish

    And another one... we saw many of those and also a couple of basses.

    Walking alongside the river. We walked the trail in the order designated by the map, but everyone we
    met was walking the other way!  We never caught up to anyone else walking the same way we
    were nor did anyone else ever caught up to us.  There were many people walking their dogs on
    that trail.

    A large oak tree growing over the river.

    Can you spot it? Another hiker told us he had seen it and then took us to the exact spot.  I'm not sure we would have noticed
    him because he was in a bend...

    I was puzzled by several of those holes in the forest, as if they were placeholder for trees!

    Later on I realized that they showed where palm trees used to be. The wood must be really soft and decompose very well, hence only leaving the hole in the ground that is lined with bark.

    Once again, there were many roots growing across the trail and we tripped several times.
    Luckily, we never fell.  There were also several trees that had fallen across the trail but you
    could go around or over them. It was that that made us so tired after only walking 4.75 miles today,
    I think, because we had to constantly focus on the ground in front of us and couldn't really look
    around or we would trip immediately.  

    I could have sworn that at one point I had been able to identify this plant but it's not in any of my books that I can see `1and I
    can't find it online either. So I shall continue to call it the "limp penis flower". Sorry.

    Southern Dewberry

    Wild Petunia

    Creeping Wood Sorrel/Yellow Wood Sorrel

    I think this is Yellow Star Grass

    Some kind of bracket fungus.  I like its deep orange color!

    When I first spotted this on the forest floor, I thought it was a Coke bottle cap, lol.  But it was the cap of a Lactarius indigo, or blue milk mushroom.  Apparently they're edible.  You couldn't pay me enough to eat a blue, slimy mushroom!

    Another kind of bracket fungi
    After the end of our walk, we drove all the way around the park back to Parking Lot #1 to visit the Interpretive Center, where we learned more about the Second Seminole War.

    We had a good time trying to find the Clermont area on this old map of Florida (print date of 1839) showing the location of all the forts in Florida and several battles with the Seminoles.  We love old maps.

    I hope you had a nice weekend, whatever you did!  Mine ended up being way busier than I had planned but I had a great time :)