Friday, February 17, 2017

Leu Botanical Gardens (again!) ~ Friday 2/17/17

Brrr. It was 43F/6C this morning and really foggy in my neighborhood, yet the main road to the high school was nice and clear.  I covered my son in a blanket on the way to school.  The traffic seemed a little lighter and there was a Lake County Sheriff's Office car posted at the drop-off, but traffic was also steady so I'm thinking the vast majority of students will be attending despite the threats that were found last night. They weren't reported in the news, as far as I can tell.

Greg slept in a little because he was up part of the night with a stomachache, and then the kittens who were cuddling with him. Explorer tried to wake me up again last night, on several occasions, starting at 2 a.m. I'm thinking of closing my door to any kittens tonight.

My daughter and I have planned to  visit Leu Botanical Gardens in Orlando today and we were supposed to leave at 10 a.m. but now I'm thinking we might go later (eat lunch on the way?) if it's still too cold outside. Our high is supposed to be in the low 80s so perhaps it'll be OK by the time we get there.

I read more of the John Le Carré biography last night, which is very poorly written, I'm sad to say.  It's as if the biographer thought he ought to include every scrap of information gained about John Le Carré's life and every rumor ever heard, plus his own interpretation of facts that might or might not have happened. Ugh.  I'm on page 165 of close to 600 pages and I don't think I can take much more. What a disappointment.  Good thing I borrowed 2 more books to go with that one.

Not much will be done today again, but I'm posting my To Do List to keep myself aware and accountable for what I'm not doing :)

  • Make turkey soup DONE
  • Sweep Cat Room
  • Sweep breezeway
  • Sweep exercise room
  • Make my bed 
  • Sort coupons
  • Turn bread heels into bread crumbs
  • Earn Microsoft Rewards credits  DONE
  • Input weight into WHBRHC  DONE
  • 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)  
  • Fold the laundry (probably on Friday as I watch "Spy in the Wild")
  • Put the laundry away (Thursday or Friday)
  • Clean fridge - cleaned the bottom shelf, cleaned the "main" shelf
  • Sweep the downstairs bathroom
  • Vacuum the upstairs bedrooms
  • Sweep/vacuum the main stairwell
  • Make a dermatologist appointment for Youngest Son (after pediatrician apt)
  • Download all January pictures from my phone and camera to external drive
  • 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)
  • Find USB drive (NOT an SD card!) and clear it so Teen librarian to put photos of Youngest Son on it
  • Move missing Music files from External Drive to my Laptop 
  • Move/reinstall missing software on new laptop in progress, moved all the files to the External Drive
  • Trying syncing my phone on new laptop
  • Back-up my phone
  • Reset phone to factory settings
  • Upgrade to newer iOS
  • 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
  • Inventory the pantry
  • 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
  • Try to hit my 1st Daily Goal on Swagbucks  DONE
  • 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
  • Track Greg's paycheck in my spreadsheets DONE
  • Email librarians about Son's D&D volunteer hours DONE

  • My son packed a lunch to take to school.

  • I packed leftovers for Greg to take to work, although I gave him salad and a turkey wing, not realizing that there was a container of mashed potato and a whole turkey drumstick that he probably would have preferred. Ooops.

  • The thick fog was only in our immediate neighborhood but but of the trip to the high school was nice and clear and the traffic seemed lighter than on other days. Drop-off went well and I was heartened to see a LCSO car at the drop-off area.

  • It's too cold to open the windows but at least we don't need the AC this morning.

  • Swagbucks always seems to raise the 1st Daily Goal at the same time as they take away easy ways to earn SB... today my 1st goal is 118 SB and the JunGroup videos are unavailable and the auto nGage videos are only 1 SB per set (which they have been for several days). So I'm playing those but not earning much. I'll try some surveys shortly.  My team is dead last in the Team Challenge so my bonus will only be 10 SB and I still need about 250 SB to be able to redeem SB for a gift card.  Wow, this all sounds like a failure, not a success, but it's free money to me so it's actually a big success, lol.

  • Starbucks emailed me an offer last night whereby if I buy a beverage or food item this weekend and pay with my app, I'll get a coupon for a free hand-crafted drink to redeem in the next 7 days. Hmm, I suppose I could stop by and get my daughter a snack... I have about $9 left on my app.

  • Our bank automatically transferred $80 to our "New Car Savings" account since I've set it up to do that everytime Greg gets a new paycheck. It corresponds to his 2016 raise. I've decided that from now on, we'll automatically save any pay increase so we keep on living on the same income, which is more than adequate.

  • I unlocked several new rebates on various rebate apps.

  • I earned the daily Microsoft Rewards credits.

  • I entered my weight into Walgreens' Balance Rewards for Healthy Choices and earned 20 B points.
  • My daughter and I went to Leu Botanical Gardens in Orlando. I drove the Focus for better gas mileage.  We first stopped by RaceTrac in Clermont to gas up the car and I charged it to my Discover card for 5% back in Rewards.  I earned loyalty points on my app, gained a new receipt which will get me a freebie, and redeemed a survey rewards code for a free apple crumb muffin for my son's after-school snack.

  • Since we went through Clermont, I saved some money on tolls.

  • When I parked at Leu Botanical Gardens, I somehow hit a curb in the parking lot (!) that resulted on a hub cap popping out.  I was worried that I might have damaged the tire but it seems OK and I was able to push the hub cap back in place.

  • We gained free access to the Botanical Gardens as I used my annual pass (so I guess it wasn't really "free"!) and a complimentary guest pass for my daughter.

  • We spent an hour walking around, slowly, sure, but it was exercise anyway. However, I forgot to use my RunMeter app to measure how far we walked :(

  • We couldn't spend too much time there because my daughter confessed she had a lot of school work to do but hadn't wanted to reschedule the outing.  However, we did stop by one of our favorite places for lunch, First Watch.  My daughter enjoyed a Belgian waffle with bacon, and I had Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedicts and Home Potatoes.  I drank water.  It was really delicious and I charged it to my Amazon Visa card for 2% back in Rewards.

  • On our way out, we grabbed a couple of complimentary mints (I brought one home for my son) and also 2 creamer cups from the table. 
  • The restaurant was located in the same plaza as a Fresh Market and I wanted to go check it out.  It was smaller inside than it looked. I didn't intend to buy anything, just look around, but we came upon their pastry display.... and I treated my daughter to a Strawberry Napoleon and bought my son an éclair.  We also looked at their European cheeses and they did sell Stilton cheese (yum!) but at $21/lb, it remained at the store :).

  • As we left the pastry area, I saw an open box with full size cookies in them so I asked the attendant if they were free samples and he said yes and to help ourselves. So my daughter and I each took one and gave them to my son when we got home, lol. He was in heaven, having received so many goodies :)

  • I charged the pastries to my American Express card for 3% back in Rewards.

  • We spotted this funkily-decorated electric box while we were waiting at a traffic light.

  • On the way home, I decided to call my mom so I spent about 50 minutes catching up with my mom. However, I made the mistake of asking her if she still wasn't talking to my brother from Marseille, forgetting that she had never told me she wasn't talking to him anymore! He was the one who had told me about not getting along on their trip to Corsica last August.  Crap. Oh well.  She was happy that we got to speak and I warned her that I didn't know if I'd be able to come to France anytime soon and she said she completely understood.

  • My daughter checked the mail when we got home and I found a coupon for a free can of Pillsbury biscuits in it, yay!

  • My son came home from school. Contrarily to what I had thought, he reported that about 3/4 of the students didn't show up, so they didn't do any work, which he deemed "stupid because now they know it works and they'll try that stunt again." He's so right.

  • For dinner I made turkey soup with the rest of the turkey stock, the rest of the turkey meat, 2 carrots, half an onion, some celery and 1/2 cup of white wine from Aldi. I let everything simmer for an hour and added some egg noodles close to the end.  It was good!  I served it with wedges of naan bread.

  • After dinner, I was able to take a Peanut Labs survey for 96 SB, thus helping me beat my 1st daily goal.  Woohoo!

  • Gas:
    • to drive my son to school
    • and tolls for Greg's commute
    • and tolls to drive to Leu Botanical Gardens

  • Lunch with my daughter (we could have packed a picnic).

  • Pastries for the kids.

  • In talking to my son this morning, I realized that he hasn't been logging his D&D hours as volunteering. He was surprised to hear that it was indeed volunteering although I'm not sure why that's a surprise to him since we had discussed him creating the D&D club with the express goal of earning more volunteer hours!  He's been leading it most weeks (I think they missed only 3 or 4 times at the most) and for 2 hours each week, plus all the preparation he does for that since he designs all the adventures himself!  So I emailed the 2 librarians who are involved to make sure he gets the credit.

  • I updated Ibotta and it's TERRIBLE!  I used to say that Ibotta was the rare app that got better with each iteration but this is completely the opposite.  They've put everything in all the screens, now you have to scroll past tons of stuff you don't necessarily want to see, it has become such a time waster. Grrr. I left a very poor review.  Plus they still don't allow you to sort your favorite stores in any particular order, and their categories are STILL not sorted alphabetically, which really, really bothers me.

  • In the mail today, I received something weird.  Apparently, the girl that I thought still owns the house next to ours (the neighbors we don't talk to although the young couple who are there right now are really quiet and I think are renting the house and I really appreciate their quiet ways after several families with shrieking kids or dogs that they would leave out barking at night sometimes!) is applying to become a police officer in a nearby county.  I received a form from the community college she is attending, asking me for a "neighborhood reference" as part of a background investigation. It asks several questions such as did she get along with her neighbors, did she appear to control her temper, did she seem to get along with her family, would I recommend this person for a position as a law enforcement officer, about her driving habits, and so on and so forth.  I'm supposed to sign the form, fill out my name (they already have my address) and send it on. If I don't know the person, they still want me to return the questionnaire and state that I don't know her.  Well, I don't know her but I did have a pretty negative encounter with her while she lived next to us because of her barking dog.  Her dad was (is?) a police officer in our town and when I told her that I would call the police the next time she left her dog out barking all night, she screamed "My dad is a police officer, I AM THE POLICE!" and I walked away.  But I complained to the police chief about this and have no idea what happened after that. I was really happy when she moved away.  Anyhoo.  It's been about 7 to 9 years (the form indicates that she lived in that house at that time) and people change. I don't want to get involved, but I don't want to lie either. No, I wouldn't recommend that person she was 7 to 9 years ago as a police officer, but maybe she changed.  I'm not aware of any law stating that I have to reply so I won't. But I think it's really odd, isn't it?  Have you ever gotten such a form for background investigation on a neighbor?

  • RaceTrac: $10.89 (gas for the Focus)
  • First Watch: $35.25 (lunch with my daughter)
  • The Fresh Market: $7.65 (pastries)
  • Tolls: $25 to replenish the family car's Sunpass account and $25 to replenish Greg's Sunpass account

  • an apple crumb muffin from RaceTrac (with survey reward code)
  • three mint and 2 creamer cups from First Watch
  • two cookies from The Fresh Market
  • a coupon for a free can of Pillsbury biscuits
  • If you're into genealogy and have ancestors from England, be aware that Ancestry is opening their UK records for free for 3 days only starting today, 2/17.

  • Fed the kittens
  • Packed Greg's lunch
  • Prepped his breakfast
  • Drove my son to school
  • Woke Greg up :)
  • Started working on my Rewards programs
  • Updated my Ibotta app
  • Gassed up the car
  • Visited Leu Botanical Gardens with my daughter
  • Lunch with my daughter
  • Got snacks for the kids
  • Spoke to my mom on the phone
  • Chatted with my son
  • Cooked dinner
  • Cuddled with a kitten
  • Cleaned the upstairs litter box
  • For the LCSO's presence on campus today
  • For a great field trip with my daughter
  • For a conversation with my mom
  • That I didn't damage the car tire when I hit the curb
  • Encouragement from Bonnie :)
  • My son received a 100 on his big AP Human Geography project, woohoo!


Tabby Kitten showed up in the kitchen with his favorite toy... one of Greg's socks!  We have socks all over the place, I really ought to be folding this clean laundry before he hides all of them!

Explorer cuddling with me earlier today

And Princess cuddling with me tonight. It was kind of hard replying to comments while she was lying across my forearm :)

Same thing, from another angle, and then she put her little paw on my hand, maybe to make me stop typing altogether, lol.


We wanted to go back to Leu Botanical Gardens this month because the camellias and azaleas are blooming right now.  The Gardens boasts of over 100 varieties of camellias!  We did see a lot of them so consequently, I took a lot of camellia pictures today :)

Azaleas. They were so pretty, they looked like orchids.

The gardens are having a dinosaur exhibit.  There were lots of moms with little kids visiting today!  All were very excited about the dinosaurs :)

A view of the house that used to belong to the Leu family... and other families before them.

I love how the camellia buds unfurl into beautiful flowers!

Orchid, I think.

I really loved this border of ornamental cabbages.

How pretty!  I wonder if they're edible?

A variation of the same thing, in white.

Oh, they are so appetizing!

Trumpet tree

I would love this sculpture in my garden!

We visited areas of the garden we hadn't visited before, including this gazebo.

I love this alley bordered by the trees and the Mondo grasses.


White azaleas

More azaleas!

Beautyberries!  I always seem to be able to spot a beautyberry bush wherever we go :)

We spotted a woodpecker.

Another kind of trumpet tree

This is my favorite tree. It has white and purple/blue blooms in clumps, it's so gorgeous!

The rose garden. They had pruned half of it but this half was still flowering.

This bush intrigued me because I couldn't tell whether the yellow was flowers or leaves... so I got closer.

They turned out to be leaves1  The bushes were very striking in the sunlight.  They're "Sunshine" Chinese Privets.

They're training this plant (tree? bush?vine?) to grow alongside the fence It's pretty!

Huge collard greens in the vegetable garden.

Interesting concept to keep the weeds down, I suppose.

How do they get broccoli heads when mine only ever produce a tiny cluster?!

My former FFA Forestry team member daughter tells me that this is a fishtail palm tree.
I had never seen one of those before!

Very pretty but apparently invasive in Florida?  This is the first time that I see one myself.

How was your Friday? Any plans for the weekend?


  1. Your son is so smart! I know a lot of teens, and not many would have seen the bomb threat his way. That sculpture is lovely. Pallet gardening is a concept a lot of people up here do. I have raised beds.

    1. He has a good head on his shoulders. I'm quite irked that the kids who did show up ended up the ones being penalized, in a sense, as the teachers didn't conduct regular classes so it was a waste of time for everyone. They should have just cancelled school, then...

      Will you post pictures of your raised beds this Spring? I'd love to see what you're growing and how :)

  2. I love visiting botanical gardens and think this one ranks right up there with others I have seen. Thanks for sharing.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it too, Live and Learn!

  3. How come I've never heard of First Watch before? I had to google it and found there are all sorts of locations around (though none in Lakeland). Their menu looks delicious (as does your lunch)! And then the goodies at Fresh Market...drool. I love Fresh Market.

    Camellias are my favorite flowers. I had never seen one until we moved to South Carolina. The town park where we lived had tons of Camellias and I would frequently go there during lunch and just take pictures.

    1. They don't have First Watch in Lakeland?! And here I thought you guys had everything down there! The only thing we don't like about it is that they close at 2:30 p.m. Many times we've wanted breakfast and we were near a First Watch but they had already closed. Grrr.

      Camellias are gorgeous flowers indeed. I was surprised that they didn't smell like anything yesterday, though.

  4. The gardens are beautiful; I really love camellias!

    Re: your former neighbor. I'm sure that you don't have any actual obligation to return the reference. But I wonder if writing exactly what you did above, making sure to comment that you understand that 7-9 years have passed and perhaps the applicant's outlook has changed. Only because I think the comment regarding police is worrisome and perhaps indicates a learned outlook from her father and/or an inability to assess criminal/dangerous activity to what she may consider a threat to her power or "top dog" position in the situation? Again, the long time between when your incident occurred and this reference request does mean that things could have changed. But if it's a pattern of behavior, your comment might be helpful.

    1. I'm really torn about what to do about the neighbor reference. I'm annoyed that they're even asking me because it was so long ago and I don't like to lie or to be put on the spot either. Is that going to be part of a public record that can be accessed by the candidate or other law enforcement personnel (such as her father, I don't even know if he still works for our police force or not)? They just don't say. I don't know why they can't just ask her current neighbors, I think that would be more indicative of the person she is today.

      If I were in the reverse situation and a prospective employer sent neighbor reference forms about me, they'd probably be bad because I've called the police on several neighbors because of their barking dogs of blaring music. Do I think that this should prevent me from getting a job? No. I'm a good person and a great worker, I just happen to not like my peace and quiet (especially at night) to be disturbed by uncaring neighbors and I'll call the police if they refuse to do anything about it. She was a young adult at the time, and by my observation quite immature. I don't know that my one interaction with her, however unpleasant it was, necessarily needs to be brought up, I guess. The nastier part of me would love to have that karma come back and bite her in the butt, but maybe she was a nice person apart from that, I just didn't have any other interaction with her. If it had been a pattern of some kind, I wouldn't think twice about it, but it was one interaction. Similarly, I couldn't recommend her because I only talked to her that one time, I'm pretty sure. Thanks for your feedback, though, Laura. I appreciate you taking the time to write it!

    2. Ah, your explanation clears things up. I somehow thought she was already out of school when she was your neighbor. And I didn't think about it being a part of public record!

  5. Congratulations to your son on his excellent project grade! Woo hoo! He put in a lot of work, but so did you, taking him to places to get his pictures, etc. So, give yourself a pat on the back, too. :)

    Such a beautiful garden! Lovely flowers! I planted azaleas in my garden and they all died and I think my camellia is as good as dead, too. :( The pallet garden is a very interesting concept! I guess it would help keep the soil moist, as well, and maybe keep the stray cats away from the plant beds? I should look into it.

    Your breakfast looked so delicious and I don't even like smoked salmon or eggs Benedict! But it made me feel hungry! And then, I drooled over the pictures of the pastries and the cookies! Yes, I know they won't taste good to me, but they looked so good! I got so hungry, I had to make myself a bowl of salad! It wasn't quite what I wanted, but I'm not hungry anymore. But I'm still craving dessert! Wah!

    1. LOL at the thought of you drooling at the pastries and fixing yourself... a bowl of salad?! But that's what I should be doing too so I don't know why I'm laughing. I'm sad that you still can't enjoy sweets, but since losing the weight has allowed you to be healthier, I'm also a little envious.

      Ah, I didn't think about the pallets keeping the stray cats away, good point.


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